How to Pull a Birthday Party out of Thin Air

Wow. I hate when I forget something. This time it was one of my day care kid’s birthdays. I don’t blame myself totally because between basketball playoffs (extra games plus extra practices!), buying a new car, teaching a class, preparing tax info for five other families as well as my own, and a flooding basement, I’ve got a lot on my plate. But I still felt like a total fool when a mom walked in on Friday and said, “It’s Miss A’s birthday today!!”

Crap crap crap! How did I forget? OK we already covered that. I apologized profusely and told the parents that we’d have the party first thing next week. And then I thought, No, I’m not going to let this linger. Her birthday is today, we’re celebrating TODAY.

That meant I had to re-examine what I expected to get done today. Scratch the normal schedule and add cupcake-baking and the birthday party routine (there are decorations, books and games, but I have to get them out of storage).

And, oh dear. I don’t have a gift. I was just at the store last night getting shoes for the boys, WHY didn’t I think of it? (We’ve been over that. Stop judging me!)

I decide that since I’ve only got four girls, I can make it through the drugstore. I’m an optimist.

So it’s time to bring the big kids to school. I tell the littles it’s their last chance to pee before we get in the car and there is a stampede toward the bathroom. Miss M is on the pot but she’s having trouble with her overalls so I go to help her. Then I hear Miss S in the living room yelling, “Amy? Can I walk the baby?”

You may have a mental picture of a baby on a leash right now. Let me clarify. Miss A, the birthday girl, has just started to walk holding onto someone’s fingers and the bigger kids get a big kick out of doing this.

I know that Miss S’s question is more of a courtesy to me than anything else, and she is not going to wait for permission, but rather she is going to walk the baby right now. And I know that the baby is in her walker so she is being yanked out of it by a child who is not strong enough to lift her, and her legs are being stretched and OH GOD MISS S HOLD ON I’M COMING!!!

I run to the scene and sure enough Miss S has the baby by the armpits and is trying to pull her out of the walker. The baby is actually ok with it, she loves any attention she gets from the bigger kids, and she’s smiling away while Miss S mauls her. I step in and lift her myself, firmly reminding Miss S that she is not allowed to pick babies up and can you tell me why Miss S? I get her set up to walk the baby and then hear Miss M, who I left in the bathroom, dumping the pee out of the potty and “into” the toilet.

Another thing that I have explained to the children that they are NOT allowed to do because it is Amy’s job.

We manage to drop the big kids at school without any further mishaps and head to the drugstore. I see my friend Natalie’s car parked in the lot, and the thought crosses my mind – I can wait for her to come out here and watch them while I shop. I don’t have to drag them all into the store.

I think we all know darn well what I chose. I won’t shirk my responsibility. I set myself up for this, I’m going through with it. Plus there’s way too much fun involved in herding four small children around a store – I’m not bailing on that!

I put Miss A in the baby seat of the shopping cart and only one twin fits in the front, but that’s OK because the other one is happy being a big girl and walking. Miss M also walks alongside, though she’s mad that she can’t get in the cart and I explain that she is the BIGGEST girl, so she has to lead the way.

She quickly (and excitedly) runs for the opposite end of the store.

Then she realizes she lost me so she starts yelling “Amy! Amy!” She’s not scared so much as exuberant, and I tell her that we don’t need the whole town to know my name and will she please follow me? By now Natalie realizes we’re here and has a blast laughing at helping me through the rest of the adventure.

We actually did fine. Grabbed a few toys in the baby care aisle and we were off. Then it was home to bake cupcakes. Natalie helped me load the girls back in the van and stayed to chat for a minute, and I wanted to drag her back home with me. “I want a friend to play with, too!” I told the kids, who were yelling at me to hurry up and leave.

We get home and the baby is screaming for a bottle now. She usually has one as soon as we drop the kids off at school so I try to explain to her that it’s because of her birthday that her bottle is late and she’s hungry! I don’t think she gets it.

So I kick off my snow boots and run into the kitchen without putting on my sneakers (I am very Mr. Rogers when I get home, totally, sweater and all) because I need to get that baby fed (she has a very piercing cry, and it’s OK for me to say that because her mother says so too).

All the girls follow because they’re excited about BAKING! I put the baby in her walker with her bottle but she wants me to hold her, so she’s doing that thing that babies do when they want out of the walker: she is stalking me. Bash into my shin. Bash into my ankle. I’m grabbing muffin tins, ingredients, and “SPOONS!” that the girls can’t wait to stir with.

It is when she runs over my toes that I decide I really need to get my sneakers on.

I run to get the shoes and run back to the kitchen because I don’t like to leave kids alone in there. The oven is heating, the mix is in the bowl, it’s time to add the eggs. The girls can’t wait to crack them but when Miss M spills a little on her hand and on the table she goes ballistic. I try to leap over the walker in the direction of the paper towels and trip on the shoelaces I never got to tie.

Don’t worry, despite almost eating it face-first on the cold, hard edge of the kitchen sink, I come away with no broken bones. There is a strong ability to avoid broken bones in my family. I’ll just call it “athletic grace” rather than “good luck despite total klutziness.”

We get to stirring and it’s going great. This usually takes a good deal of negotiating because they all want a turn immediately, but they’re doing a lovely job and even offering to pass the bowl without me asking. Miss A has settled down in the walker and I’m amused that she’s trying to open the cabinet door that she’s pushing against. Everything is calm for the moment, and I breathe deep as I pour the batter into the paper cups that the girls have carefully laid in the baking pan.

As the kids sleep I wrap the presents and get out the decorations. They wake up, we go and get the big kids at school, and come home for a party. Older Son is mad that we baked without him (which I find funny, since he hasn’t baked with me in months despite my asking) and I tell him how could we if you were at school? Oh, that was the point. He was at school, and we were here having all kinds of birthday fun without him.

Should I bother to show him the bruises I sustained during the cupcake baking extravaganza?

Older Son happily puts the cupcakes on a platter and brings them to the birthday girl. We try to get her older sister to blow out the candles without touching them, while the twins try to help and lots of spit gets all over the cupcakes. I choose to eat one that was left in the kitchen. The school kids sing the birthday songs they’ve learned from Miss Chris, the greatest kindergarten teacher in the world, who all of my kids have had. After years of hearing this song I know it too, and we go through it with gusto, though I can’t tell if the baby is pleased or a little scared.

The birthday girl gets a cupcake and she rips it apart very curiously though she isn’t that interested in eating it. I don’t let her unwrap her presents because I want to prove to her parents that they were actually bought for her, and not re-gifts (but don’t think that idea didn’t cross my mind while I was in panic mode this morning).

The sugar rush hits and we do what we always do when that happens – dance around to “Birthday” by the Beatles.

Later Miss A’s mom thanks me for making the day special for her, and that makes it worth every minute.

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2 thoughts on “How to Pull a Birthday Party out of Thin Air

  1. Love it!! I always called these my “epic errands.” Taking 6 preschoolers to the library, Big E, theatre at Williston, anywhere else we could walk to.) Not easy, very tiring, but sometimes really fun! You captured it perfectly. I am very impressed at all the things you do to make your birthday child feel special, too.

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