You know how those of us who are not so computery might try to solve every problem by restarting the computer, and on one hand the computery people might roll their eyes but on the other hand this OFTEN WORKS? Another one I’ve recently learned is clearing the cache. I don’t know WHY it sometimes works, but it sometimes does. I couldn’t add pictures to posts, and the link button wouldn’t work, and I kept trying to find out why, but I didn’t even know what to ASK, let alone what the answers meant (“Just insert this code between…”). But I saw a couple of people mentioning they started by clearing the cache, so I thought, “Well, I don’t see what good THAT could do, but I might as well try it”—and it fixed the problem. So! Make a note: to solve most computer problems, first try restarting, then trying clearing the cache.
In other happy news, I am now 80% done with all the 10-year-old birthday parties I will have to throw! Both parties went well, and I am ready to submit my report.
Edward’s party was first. The original plan was to take friends to an arcade, but it ended up being one friend (three other invited friends couldn’t come, or else didn’t RSVP and didn’t come). At first I had my feelings hurt on Edward’s behalf, but it turned out that just one friend was the PERFECT way to do it: they spent a lot of time together, or playing on separate machines near each other, and Paul (Paul is the one who took them to the arcade) said he thought Edward would have been overwhelmed if a bunch of friends were there. And the friend he chose was a super nice kid, AND then later we found out they’ll be in class together next year, so that was even happier.
Because the arcade is about half an hour away and the guest was from our town, we had his parents drop him at our house. We had the cake and presents at our house first, and then Paul drove the kids to the arcade and then back again; then the parents could come back and pick up the guest here. This was inspired by all the times I’ve driven a child to a party half an hour away, and then there isn’t enough time to be worth going home so I have two hours to kill in East Nowhere. I don’t resent it (it’s not like there’s a good way around it if the party place JUST IS half an hour away), but it’s so pleasant to be able to avoid it when possible.
The party itself was a big success: the two boys came up with a cooperative game-playing method that got them SO MANY TICKETS. Edward had been meh on the idea of goody bags so we didn’t do them, and I was extra glad we didn’t because both boys were able to buy SO MUCH STUFF with their tickets. You know how it’s typical to play arcade games all day and end up with 74 tickets, and then you go to the ticket counter and a Tootsie Roll is 10 tickets and the dumbest sunglasses ever are 100 tickets? Edward and his friend had, like, 6000 tickets between them and got GREAT stuff, like a flashing sword, and a lava lamp, and huge inflatable dice, and candy, and really it was a triumph all around. And THEN, there was another party group nearby that had some no-shows so they had extra goody bags, and they offered them to Edward and his friend, so that was even happier.
Elizabeth’s party was FAR more stressful for me, since it was an at-home outdoor party. She had a theme in mind, but it was such an unusual one I don’t even want to say it, because it’s the kind of thing where someone might genuinely accidentally find it with an online search. As a stand-in, I will say it was a woolly mammoth party. So for games, she wanted to play Pin the Tusk on the Woolly Mammoth (she drew a big woolly mammoth on a sheet of posterboard, which we tacked to the fence), and Sabertooth Sabertooth Woolly Mammoth (i.e., duck duck goose); and she wanted to have a table set up with a bunch of craft supplies so people could make woolly mammoths out of felt and/or paper and/or pompoms. We went to a craft store and pretty much bought anything brown (fur) or white (tusks, ice, snow) or blue (general coldness/ice/water). The craft supplies were one of the larger parts of our party budget.
We looked in a couple of party stores, but you will not be surprised to hear none of them had anything woolly-mammoth themed. Instead we continued to go with colors. At Target we bought paper plates and napkins and tablecloths and balloons in shades of blue (I’d thought brown and white would be more woolly-mammothy, but Elizabeth disagreed). On the day of the party, we went out and bought two dozen helium balloons in brown and white and blue—but if I were doing it again, I’d skip those. First of all, they popped, just one after another, throughout the party. Secondly, they actually didn’t look better than the non-helium ones, which I’d tied to tree branches from short strings, so that they dangled down over the party. (This worked GREAT, I thought. I highly recommend, if you have low-hanging branches like we do. It gave a sort of fairy feel to the party area of the yard.)
Seven girls came to the party. She had invited thirteen girls. As of a week before the party, we’d had five RSVPs: four yes and one no. In the days before the party, we got two more yes responses; we also assumed one yes response because the child told Elizabeth she was coming and mentioned that she’d bought the present. It is very difficult to SHOP for a party when you don’t know how many people are coming. Should we buy ONE 8-pack of party hats, or TWO? ONE 10-pack of goody-bag bags, or TWO? TWO 4-packs of sparkly rings, or THREE? It was exasperating. Really, RSVP. “RSVP” doesn’t mean “Tell me if you ARE coming,” it means, literally, “Respond [to this invitation], please.” If I ever throw another party, I’m going to write “Please let us know if you’re coming or not by [date].” What we did this time was wait until the last minute to shop, which felt frantic and unpleasant, and then I worried all the way up to the start of the party that we wouldn’t have enough goody bags. My kids were scoffing and saying, “Hey, if they didn’t RSVP, they don’t get a goody bag!,” but I didn’t agree AT ALL: it isn’t the KID’S fault the parent didn’t RSVP, and I didn’t want to punish the kid OR make it awkward for the kid. But no one unexpected came.
The party itself went fine. None of the other parents stayed or seemed tempted to; I had them put contact information on a pad of paper before they left. The craft table was popular and took up probably the entire first half-hour; I should have let it go longer, but was starting to feel as if we needed to move on to the next thing. Then they played the two games. Then someone suggested playing Murder Detective, where you sit in a circle with one person in the middle, and one person is the murderer and winks at other players who then play dead, and the person in the middle has to figure out who the murderer is. Anyway, they called it Woolly Mammoth Detective and that took up a little more time.
While they were doing that, I set up the food table. We had cupcakes, cookies, cheese puffs, potato chips, candy, and little bottles of water. The mother of the girl with a food allergy contacted me ahead of time and said she’d bring food for her to eat. The girls ate almost nothing: I was prepared for them to raze the table to the ground like a flock of locusts, but the table looked almost the same after they went through as it did before. I left it all out in case anyone wanted to come back to it later, and there were a few times when someone took a potato chip or a cookie, but we ate leftover party food for the next week or so. (The suffering! The suffering!)
Then Elizabeth opened presents, and I used the idea of having the gift-giving child sit next to the gift-opening child, and that was a great idea and I will do that for every party for the rest of my life. GREAT photos, and we DID end up having to use them a couple of times to remember who gave her what.
At that point, we had about 20 minutes to kill. So I let them suck the helium out of the balloons that hadn’t yet popped. I also let them take turns popping all the balloons I’d tied to trees, which doubled as me getting some clean-up done ahead of time. Then parents started arriving and we handed out the goody bags (cheap crap or not cheap crap, the goody bags were Elizabeth’s number-one priority so we did them) and it was over. We cleaned up, and then I had a large drink and then got into a long shower.