Monday, April 22, 2013

Derek & Griffin's 6th Birthday

I love children’s birthday parties!


On Saturday, Derek & Griffin turned 6, and my friend Alicia (their mom) asked if I would help direct the games for their party that afternoon.


Our friend Amy was out of town on women’s retreat, so I picked up her two youngest kids Noah and Aislynn to bring them to the party.  Their aunt Andrea was watching them at their house.  Noah is 9 and wasn’t originally on the guest list, but Todd (the birthday boys’ dad) had sad a couple kids had called in sick unable to attend the party, so I brought Noah along too since he has no problem getting along with kids younger than him.  Noah is so sweet and tenderhearted, he asked three times if he was really invited when I asked him if he wanted to come too.  For a kid that is normally the most distracted and slow to get ready to go anywhere, that kid changed clothes faster than I have ever seen him do it any other time.


We arrived at the party, and I wished Derek a Happy Birthday and promptly asked Griffin why he was at Derek’s party.  I love that Todd and Alicia (more Todd’s influence) have raised these kids with such jocularity, so a joke like that didn’t result in tears.


There were three other kids at the party: only child Emma, and brothers Caden (6) and Coleton (4).  Emma’s parents were there, but the mom of the other boys wasn’t able to stay for the party.  We also had Alicia’s parents Steve & Joann visiting from New York.


I got started with “Pin the Tail on Perry,” a Phineas & Ferb spin-off of the traditional game.  I have never seen a whole episode of this show, but I have learned an impressive amount about this show from the kids I hang out with and watch periodically.  This game included cardboard Agent P eyes blindfolds instead of requiring us to use a bandana.  However, the seal over the eyes wasn’t perfect, so all the kids got suspiciously close to the target spot by just tilting their heads back.  After we had let the first kid go, we realized it was too late to change process, so lesson learned for next year.  Emma ended up winning.


Then we moved onto some variant of Bingo with monsters.  This apparently referenced another T.V. show because the kids knew these monsters by name.  Spaces were called to mark off by rolling two paper-fold-yourself dice: one with the BINGO letters (plus a wild) and another with the six different monsters represented.  Noah won the first round.  A couple kids cleared their boards in defeat before we could announce that we’d keep going for 2nd, 3rd, etc. places (Todd and Alicia had a lot of prizes).  So we played again.  Emma has the potential of being a professional gambler.  She was jones-ing for another win.  Every roll was “I just need [“G” and “Cy(clops)”].


Then we brought out the cakes.  Derek’s was a Captain America cake, and Griffin’s…I can’t remember.  It might have been baseball themed.  Both were white cakes, but  Derek’s had strawberry filling and Griffin’s had raspberry.  I made sure we got pictures of just the cakes and then the boys with their cakes before I started cutting into them.  Todd loaded the ice cream while I did the cakes.  Since I didn’t have any kids coming home with me, I let every kid have a piece of each cake if they wanted it.  I don’t normally try to sugar kids up, I just rationalized that I’d burn off their energy later.  Even with feeding the adults, we didn’t cut more than halfway into each cake.  The most phenomenal statement of the day came from Noah, “I’m full.”  All of Amy’s kids are ravenous eaters, but Noah probably out-eats the other three and is still pretty lanky.  I’ve never heard him admit defeat to more food before.  So now I know the formula: one scoop of ice cream and two pieces of cake.


We let the kids run around for awhile so that we could clean up the food.  It took some maneuvering, but I am pretty impressed with how I got the cakes non-precariously into Todd & Alicia’s fridge.


Then we brought the kids back to the table to watch the boys open presents.  I have finally come to the realization that I don’t need to buy presents for every kid’s birthday party.  I hate shopping, and I never know what they want, and if I did, a grandparent is probably already getting it for them.  And parents don’t want more needless toys around.  So I just like to help out with the party and occasionally throw kids up in the air and catch them.


When that was done, we took the kids out to the empty field adjacent to Todd & Alicia’s property to play kickball.  Coleton wasn’t playing, so I split the kids into two teams of three and then put Emma’s dad and myself each on a team.  For the most part, the kids did pretty well kicking from my pitches.  Except Emma, who I later learned has never been exposed to sports.  Every encounter was a meltdown moment, from kicking to base-running.  Because the other kids were all pretty patient it was easy to coach her through next steps, but she did not like getting tagged out and that resulted in running over to mom.  We finally got her on board with running to each base in the proper order, and each arrival was met with an out-of-breath choking through tears.  Noah was a solid kicker and even beaned me square in the face all the way out past second base.


The kids made it through two innings and then were all clamoring for shade, so we took them back to Todd & Alicia’s backyard (they have a huge covered semi-enclosed patio with fans that stays really cool.


That was the end of official activities, so the kids just played from that point.  Todd and Alicia have a huge yard with a lot of cool things to entertain kids.  They played with their party favors, the boys’ presents (including a rocket launcher that resulted in Todd doing some roof retrieval), and over at the goldfish pond.  Emma and Caden & Coleton left soon thereafter.  At one point, Derek came running up to me to report that Aislynn had said “D*mn.”  I called her over in a lecturing voice only to see her arrive in sobbing tears proclaiming that it was an accident.  For as rough-and-tumble as she is with her brothers, she turns sensitive and feels remorse pretty quickly if she really knows she’s done something wrong.  She’s a pretty open book, so I know it authentic because she will still claim it’s an accident but tries to pull off the cutesy “I was just kidding” if she doesn’t feel remorseful.  So I made sure she knew that I still loved her, wanted her to speak better words, and we decided “Oh shoot” or “Aw shucks” would be a better choice the next time she’s going to blurt something out.


My kids were having fun playing with the birthday boys, so I just stayed to hang out & talk with Todd, Alicia, Steve & Joann.  I figured Andrea would appreciate the break.  We ended up ordering pizza, so Alicia picked up the pizza while I went out for some paper plates from the dollar store.  It was hard to get the kids to stop playing and eat, but they finally did.  We had a small incident where Aislynn ran up to say that Noah fell and “wasn’t kidding this time.”  I ran over to find that he had fallen through the jungle gym and was lying in the fetal position on the grass.  I lifted it off him and he was able to crawl out.  I checked his visual tracking and overall mobility, and he appeared fine, so he got right back to playing.


The party started at 2p, and was scheduled to end at 4p.  We ended up going home around 7:30p.  Now that’s a happenin’ 6th birthday party!

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