We’ve just had another birthday in the household. My eldest turned 8 years and despite my hopes, decided she definitely wanted another party at home. Aaarrgghh, the memories of last year came flooding back. I tried ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t want us to take a couple of friends to the cinema and then for pizza?’ She answered ‘No, mummy, I want a party like last year with these games’ which she then listed. I smiled brightly, whilst blinking back the tears and admitted my fate. On the plus side all the children seemed to have a fab time, but it was a loud, exhaustingly manic two hours of my life that I’ve been working on blocking out. After the event I’d spent the evening staring into the middle distance, hugging a bottle of prosecco whilst the trauma subsided. Also, we live in an upstairs flat and our neighbours moved shortly after the event. I’m sure it was just a coincidence. We do get through a lot of neighbours.
It transpired that the lovely friend that helped me last year, suddenly had a ‘work thing’. I mentioned it was a Saturday. ‘Yes’, she replied, ‘What are there chances?’ Her story happened to be true by the way. I wanted to make that clear in case she reads this. Not that I rang up the conference centre to double-check or anything. To be honest after last year, I’m lucky she hasn’t blocked my number and moved away.
The birthday girl loves making things and so we decided on a craft party with a few games. This did mean less children, due to the space restrictions of our kitchen table, which was the designated craft activity area. My daughters amazing artistic and creative abilities do not come from me. I’m still slightly scarred by the memory of a paper mache Roman soldier we had to make as a homework project at high school. Mine was a paper mached balloon with a face drawn on and wool stuck on as hair. It wasn’t quite in the same artistic league as the other entries, which we will call ‘sculpted masterpieces’. The whole episode was very embarrassing and now I was meant to be organising a craft party. After a great deal of googling and posting on forums, the chosen craft was decorating jewellery boxes. A stack of ceramic owl shaped trinket boxes and porcelain paint pens were ordered. I had never heard of a porcelain paint pen this time last week, but am now quite the expert on these. Maintenance, drying times, oven baking temperatures – you name it, I’m now educated on this subject.
Obviously, none of it arrived. To cut a very tedious story of package chasing short, I was told I could pick the stuff up from the depot which was a ‘short way’ from where I lived. This ‘short way’ turned out to mean a 40 mile round trip to the edges of Kent. I live at the opposite side of London. Er, no I’m not doing that, we might be sticking googly eyes and wooden hair onto wooden spoons instead. More visions of my school paper mache creation flashed before my eyes at this point. A second package was despatched – and happily for everyone, it arrived.
I like to make their cakes. ‘What kind of cake would you like?’ I asked. ‘A mermaid’ came the reply. Hmmm. Right. I remembered a conversation about this a few years ago and contacted the friend in question for tips and a photo. This together with some more googling and I was armed. I cast my mind back to a christmas cake decorating evening at church a few years ago. This was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on roll-out icing that wasn’t already on a cake and learnt how to dye it. Little had I known, how useful a skill this would prove to be. I figured the rest was like play dough and gave the children some each to make sea creatures. It worked. We had a friend staying over, she got roped in and played a vital part sticking on the sea creatures and arranging seaweed. Vital. OH ended up making the tail. He got a bit protective of it, truth be told. But the end result was worth it. The day had started with me standing alone full of ambition, but with very little idea, surrounded by ingredients, baking stuff, pinterest boards and a niggling feeling I should have sorted this sooner and paid someone else to do it, to 16 hours later having a cake with a mermaid sitting on a rock surrounded by sea stuff. The feat involved involved three adults, three children and two bottles of wine. We opened another to celebrate. Not really, it was the party the next day.
We have form in our house for unexpected dramas right before large amounts of children arrive for a party. Back in February, my OH had decided to pop out to the shop for a few extra party food supplies 30 minutes before ten 5 year olds arrived, and the entire lock suddenly came loose, meaning it could only be opened from the outside, therefore locking us in. A hammer, a chisel and a screwdriver later we were free five minutes before party time. Seven months later and another party. What could possibly happen this time? Well, it involved a much beloved toy ‘accidentally’ being thrown out of the top of a window and landing on the kitchen roof. Cue screaming 5 year old, the owner and thrower of toy, and a frantic hunt for the key to open the bottom window, so we could reach it. We couldn’t reach it from the open top one off course, because that would have made life far too easy. The key had been put in a very safe place and we spent the next 35 minutes pulling out every drawer and cupboard that we might have used as a very safe place. What you might be picking up from these stories is that getting into our house is fine – getting out is a whole different matter. It was found, this time with a whole 25 minutes to spare. We are getting better at scheduling our dramas.
Party time. Well, I’m pleased to report that the porcelain painting of ceramic owls was a massive hit. It was calm and quiet, children shared pens and even my four year old son and his friend decided to join in. It turns out that owl shaped ceramic trinket boxes are great for holding various super hero and action man accessories. It lasted an hour. An hour!!! This was better than hoped and did lead me into a false sense of security for games playing – which was the opposite of calm and quiet. We also did some pizza-making and then some extra games, games and more games. There was loo roll (the mummy game), raisins, chopsticks, blindfolds, a homemade pin the nose on Olaf, lots of games based on music stopping, the human chain and a sprinkling of the classic ‘Simon Says’. We got through it. It had all worked out well, my head was now free to think about other things, such as how long before there’s another ‘To let’ sign in front of the ground floor flat. (Our latest neighbours have only been there two weeks.) There was just one thing that I couldn’t quite shake out of my mind; a parting comment from one of our young guests which was both lovely and fear instilling. She told me how much she was looking forward to coming back again next year. I’m off to find a longer craft project.