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Planning a 5-year-old's birthday party is not child's play

March 4, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
You haven't lived, let me tell you, until you've planned the birthday party of a 5 year old.

For a year, Emma has wanted a unicorn-themed birthday party. Actually, it's been more than a year, because I distinctly remember several days before last year's horse-themed party (which she had been excited about for at least six months), she announced she wanted a unicorn party. "Next year," I said, and Good Mommy presented her with a giant unicorn balloon at her party anyway.

About three weeks ago, I said I was ready to plan her unicorn party. "Oh, I want Rapunzel!" You do? "No, Emma, we've talked about unicorns for a year. You're having a unicorn party," Mean Mommy said. So I proceeded to look for unicorn party supplies. Non-exis-tent. The only unicorn-themed item I could find was that same giant unicorn balloon I got her from Factory Card Outlet last year. I won't lie: I thought about buying horse plates and napkins and drawing horns on all of them ,,, maybe adding some glitter. Then, I thought better of it. The kids might get ink or glitter poisoning.

I broke the news to Emma, and surprise, surprise, she didn't get upset. "You want a princess party?" I asked. She nodded. "How about Rapunzel?" I said. And she did her happy dance.

Theme set. Now I had to figure out whom to invite. This is the first year Emma has been at "school," so she has classmates who invite each other to all their parties. There are two 4-year-old classes and a 3-year-old class. Do I invite all of them? I know one mom who did. That would be about 45 kids! At the Children's Museum, where the party is going to be, they charge 3 bucks a head over 15 kids. So 45 kids was out.

If I invite only the 4-year-olds, though, that's still 26 kids. Not that they all would come, but still — it was plenty of cash to rent the museum! (I already had to pay extra for the "family rate" because more than two or three adults will be there. I don't get that stipulation. None of the adults are going to play in the rice or climb the mini rock wall!)

OK, so I'm down to Emma's class only. Thirteen kids. But what about so-and-so in JK3, I thought? Emma is friends with him! And that adorable little girl in kindergarten who also is in dance with her ... I want to invite her, too. Would that be wrong? Emma's teacher said it wouldn't be, but whisper-suggested that I should mail the other kids' invitations instead of handing them out at school. Of course I would do that anyway, I thought. But then, I hesitated. Was I making this too difficult? Naturally. I really should just stick with Emma's class. Decided.

But what about a family party? Even though we paid the "family rate" for the museum party, I couldn't think of one family member who would want to go, no matter how much they loved my daughter. But we want to celebrate our little girl's only 5th birthday with family, so we'll have to do that on a different day at our house. Ugh, I thought I was going to get out of having to clean the house by having the party at the museum! I set the date for the family party and Facebook messaged everyone.

But what about Emma's longtime, out-of-school friends?! I mentioned to my hubby I wanted to invite Emma's other friends to the family party and he said: "They're not family." Well, nooooo, but practically! OK, I had to rethink it. Got it. I decided to invite Emma's out-of-school friends to the Children's Museum party. Why didn't I think of that before? So I added seven more kids/families to the list.

Of course, they didn't have Rapunzel invitations at Hallmark. I was shocked at the poor selection, actually. The other one I would even consider had three other Disney princesses on it. It was a Thursday after work, the invitations had to be addressed that night, and I was not dragging Emma and my crabby self to Wal-Mart. Non-Rapunzel princesses it is. I addressed them while we watched Scooby Do that night. They were covered in so much glitter I think I was blowing it out my nose for two days. So much for avoiding glitter poisoning.

It was about this time that Emma whined, "I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese for my birthday party."

I inwardly grimaced. All she had talked about since attending three other parties this year at the Children's Museum is wanting her party at the Children's Museum! "Next year," I said and changed the subject.

OK, invitations sent. Family notified. Themes and locations decided. Things were looking up. Which is good, because her birthday is right around the corner.

Now, you should know I planned my whole pregnancy around a March due date. The main reason: the dreaded summer. I could think of very little worse than carrying an extra 35 pounds during the long, hot, humid days of July and August. I hadn't thought about having morning sickness at that time. Fail! Anyway, yes, a March birthday. Emma's is March 12. Fine. Except .... Mommy plays the bagpipes. And what's the busiest time of year for pipers? St. Patrick's Day, which occurs a mere five days after my darling's big day. This year, the Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day falls right smack on her birthday. And it's not as if we can make it a family outing; she'd probably end up kidnapped by a drunken reveler and sold for a pint of Guinness. In addition to the parade, the Wheeling Celtic Celebration is this Saturday. What does it all mean? It means between work and band, Mom has NO TIME to plan and execute birthday parties!

Ah well, 'tis what it is.

Squeezing in trips to the store after work seems to be my best chance at getting anything done, but matters are complicated with a little thing called "bedtime." The ritual at our house begins at 7 p.m. If I don't get out of work til 5:30, which is all too common, it makes a family dinner nonexistent. And we all know if you don't have family dinners, your child will grow up to be a mass murderer! I guess I'm going to have to take my chances. Last night we "family dinnered" at McDonald's inside the St. C Wal-Mart before heading to the party supply aisle to buy Rapunzel cake plates and napkins that will be seen for 1 second after which a cupcake is plopped on them and frosting and slobber is wiped on them and they are tossed in the garbage. For that, I paid $22.

So, the extended family party is this Sunday. Against my better judgment, Emma, Dave and I are having a cake-baking session tomorrow night — an elaborate castle cake Emma has been ogling for months from her Dora and Diego cookbook and that Daddy promised her he'd make.

I'll be prepared, though. I swear I will be ready when, as we place the last gumdrop on the iced ramparts, she says, "But I wanted a butterfly cake!"


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