When we first started having birthday parties for our children eight years ago, they were big affairs. We would have around 50 people in attendance. Everything would be coordinated; napkins, plates, etc. We even had centerpieces on tables. I would spend weeks de-cluttering and cleaning before hand. I would make special food from scratch and then hire entertainment for the kids. It was a ton of fun and a ton of work. The guests had a great time, but I found myself running ragged and not being able to visit with anyone.
About a year ago I realized that *I* should be enjoying these celebrations of my children getting older too. There was a way to have a birthday party, or any party, where everyone has a great time. The first step was cutting the guest list to only those people we were closest too. Those that we would lean on in a crisis and rejoice with when we have good news. And since those people are our absolute closest friends, they want to pitch in for the party too. Someone brings balloons, someone else brings the dip, we all pitch in. I have found that if you spend a few bucks on new toys from Oriental Trading Company the kids have an afternoon of fun and entertainment. Us parents sit by the street to make sure everyone is safe, then we can just relax.
This time it was a joint birthday party for William and Alexander, whose birthdays are 10 days apart. The theme was barely thematic - green, balls, and puppies. The cakes were a green puppy cake for William and an orange and brown A for Alexander. We ordered pizza and had chips and dip and fruit. Grown ups relaxed witha beer and the kids had planes, crafts and balls to keep themselves busy. We pulled the cars out of the driveway so the kids could ride scooters. The 17 children in attendance had a blast and a half. There were few fights and lots of rambunctious fun.
But then the grown ups had some fun. It started when Caskey opened a shook up soda on Melanie, spraying her with diet coke. Then there was some ice, then some more ice down the back of a shirt. But was really started it was when Lainy Ann was brave enough to drop ice down her daddy's shirt. Caskey grabbed the water hose and readied himself for war.
At first he sprayed at the children, after all who wants to have to drag home a bunch of soaking wet kids. But then they started taunting him, dashing in and out in front of the hose. Caskey was careful to not spray the littlest kids, but the bigger kids were drenched. Then he started spraying the grown ups, just a tad, but enough to elicit squeals from the moms. We all started keeping our distance from Caskey at that point - no one wanted to get too wet. Then I heard hushed whispers trying to get my attention, you know the yelling kind of whisper, "LESLIE". I looked across the yard to a movie moment. Melanie was taking big tip-toe steps towards Caskey, who was facing away from her. In her hands was a jug of ice cold water. The whole thing happened in slow motion for me, just like in the movies. Step, Step, Step, SPLASH! CHEERS! APPLAUSE! Then more squeals. Everyone was so excited to see Caskey 'get his' that we let out a roar and applause. Then he sprayed all of us for cheering. Mindy was the next to sacrifice herself - she ran into the stream of water and cinched the hose while John searched out the spigot.
The game was over. Everyone was a little wet, some people were drenched. And Lainy Ann, who essentially started the whole thing, remained dry. It was great fun having our closest friends celebrate our lives with us. They stayed, ate, drank and played. They loved on our kids and we all shared stories of our lives. Some of these people I have known my whole life and the person I have known the least amount of time I have still known for over 5 years. I know it wasn't my birthday party, but I felt like it was. These women, these families, . . . . we love each other. They are my village. I feel so grateful that we were all able to celebrate life together today.