Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Pirate's Life For Me

Jarrah is not a princess-y girl, thank heavens, so when she mentioned that she'd like a pirate theme for her birthday party, I was pleased. In the aftermath, however, I told David: "Next year, the theme of her party is going to be 'Happy Birthday.'" "That's a great theme," David agreed. "They probably sell tons of stuff with 'Happy Birthday' on it."

The party had another theme of sorts because we held it at the gymnastics academy where she had camp this summer. Right now my theory about birthday parties is that, until she complains, they will all include a portion devoted to running around and screaming, because the day will come when she thinks that's lame. Until that day, gym-related venues fit the bill.

This year it was hard for me to plan the party, because I wanted to invite my friends and just hang out, but Jarrah had some definite ideas about who she wanted there, including her entire preschool class. I mean, hello, is she paying for it? The very idea. By the time I'd invited everyone on her list, we were at the maximum. I rationalized that at least Jarrah would know everyone there.

The pirate theme got a significant boost when David mentioned it to his co-worker Jake, whose family (for reasons not divulged) collects costumes and stuff relating to costumes. One mention of pirates brought a thorough list from which we were invited to pick our favorites. A flag, sea lantern, treasure map, chest, anchor, chains and CD of pirate songs later, we were the best-kitted out kid's party in San Diego.

A toast of gratitude must be raised to my dedicated staff, without whom I'd be no one. While I enjoyed a great relationship with our contact, Crystal, before the party, we started having communication problems when we arrived and found that the 30 minutes we'd been promised for set-up had become 20. Which was more like 10. My sister Lindsey, and future BIL Thomas, quickly departed for ice cream and ice and a stain stick, since in the car I'd managed to dip my boob into the buttercream-frosted cake. (Oh, the cake. David and I made it ourselves--isn't it cute?)

Also on the scene 30 minutes early: Mary and Joy, and Stephanie, Shaun and Nathan, all of whom reported for duty with a cheerful attitude about being put to work transforming the room into a pirate wonderland in 10 minutes (and extra kudos for blowing up all those black skull-and-crossbones balloons--I raise a glass of mead to ye.) Another shout-out to Melissa, official Bagel Organizer, and Phoebe, mistress of Dixie Snack Cups.

Only about six kids were accounted for at the official start time of 1:30, but the sour-faced babe who came to escort them to the gym was hardly flexible. "Oh, you're welcome to wait as long as you like," she said sweetly. "Just know that we'll finish at 2:30 no matter what time you start." Em, okay then. Eventually all the kids made it down there. Parents were not encouraged to join their children on the mats, but we could watch from the upstairs observation deck, and clearly the coaches were well-prepared and had planned a lot of fun for the kids. There was a very involved obstacle course, sprints down the running trampoline into the marshmallow pit, a jump house, and a giant parachute. They looked like they were having a blast.

Meanwhile, the parents upstairs (that's my mom and dad and sister in the photo) were enjoying a little downtime to schmooze and eat a bagel (though when we headed home at 4:00, I suddenly realized I hadn't eaten anything since that morning) while we set up a ring-toss that caused a sensation when the kids returned--nothing says "free for all" like a blanket covered in unwrapped prizes. I repeated, "Sweetie, can you wait until we play the game?" so many times, I got a little light-headed. The actual playing was adorable, though--David was impressed how each child graciously accepted the item their ring landed on, and we all cracked up when Jarrah's class bud Amelia knelt over her chosen item, carefully placed the ring over it, then looked at us like "Got anything to say?" Not at all, ma'am. Have at it.

Then it was time for cake (none of the kids took an interest in the freeze-dried fruit and string cheeses I had put out for them) but, whaddaya know, a car jammed to the roof with party stuff had apparently not had room for one teeny ol' box of matches. Shaun saved the day by heading out for a lighter (another reason the location bugged: no matches? At a place that hosts several birthday parties a day?) After the singing, scooping and gobbling (I swear I was sweating from all that slicing), we had another game that David had made: Pin the Eyepatch on the Pirate Girl. Most of the kids enjoyed being blind-folded and spun around, but Hannah was especially competitive, going back four times to perfect her previous score. Which was fine, since we weren't looking for a winner per se. All the kids got to dip into the treasure chest for Mardi Gras beads and gold coins after their try. It was pretty cute seeing them all in their sparkly necklaces.

There was an impromptu balloon battle, which made me think "Note to self: no need to over-plan these things. The kids take care of it." Wonder how many more years of parties before that self-evident truth sinks in? In the mean time, I learned (once again) that I don't really have the personality for the barely restrained chaos that is a preschool party. "You're a good planner," David corrected me. "But you're right--you're not calm." I can accept that, since I don't think there's a rehab for it.

Sour-faced girl came in again to say--in her best passive-aggressive style--"Just wanted to let you know you're welcome to stay as long as you like, but we'll charge you 15 dollars per 15 minutes starting at 3:30." I was dumbfounded. 3:30 was the official end time.

"But you're not going to charge us to clean up?" I asked, rhetorically I believed.

"Actually, we expect that you're sort of cleaning as you go and ready to leave at the end of two hours," she said. HUH? I'd never heard of this at any other 2-hour kids party venue.

"Well, you should really mention that up front," I said. "And there's no clock up here. We didn't even know it was 3:30."

"It was in your contract," she continued, really pushing it.

"I guess I didn't read the fine print," I said. My loyal team sensed the change in mood (thankfully, most people had left or were leaving by then) and began breaking down the set, and with their help we had most stuff packed up in 15 minutes. And I must say we left the place very clean.

I guess that Crystal, my original contact, felt bad about the altercation because when it was time to leave, she apologized for the mixed messages, and may have charged us a bit less to put it right. I think I was pretty gracious about it; hopefully I didn't convey any of my annoyance to the guests. There was also a classic moment when Sour Girl asked Joy if she was the birthday girl, and I said "No, this is," pointing to Jarrah, and SG looked baffled and said, "Wait. Really? Why do they look alike?" and I growled, not even trying to disguise my annoyance, "They don't--they're just both Chinese." As the pirates would say, ARRRRRR!

It sounds like I'm doing a lot of bitching here, but I do think that Jarrah and the other kids had a lot of fun. It was a great venue for a party, just a little controlling (like a police state.) The real problem is me. Next year, I'll be looking for a place where all you have to do is show up.

Oh, and here's a little indication of how important the pirates were to Jarrah. When David and I were shopping at Party City, and had just spent the bulk of two hours feverishly arguing about the virtues of different styles of eye patches and were finally on the way to pay, Jarrah announced, "Mommy? I want Sponge Bob party."

"Just keep walking," I murmured to David. "Pretend like you didn't hear her."


erin said...

That looked like so much FUN! I was just about to post pics from my now 6 year old's birthday party we had here at our house with only four guests and a rampant strain of the flu decimating the birthday girl....but now I think I might not...
Jarrah is beautiful!

Sam said...

Thanks, Erin! Next year, I'm thinking 4 guests and our house, too. Maybe not the flu, though. :)

Jen said...

What a fun party (despite SG). That cake was adorable! And you got some wonderful shots of Jarrah. Congrats to you both on pulling off another amazing party!

Miss J

Anonymous said...

Everyone had a great time! Heck even SG's comments became a little humorous in the end!

Aunt LoLo said...

Oh, it sounds like a great party.

Mrs. S said...

Well it looks like it turned out GREAT!! And that cake is awesome!! y'all are so good!

Anonymous said...

Well done! So impressed with the cake! Wish we'd been there to help celebrate. I can 'Yo,ho,ho' with the best of them.
Love Nanna

DrSpouse said...

That looks like so much fun - thanks for showing us...

dena said...

The cake was great, but I LOVED the pin-the-patch on the pirate girl game! Too cute! You guys are amazing.

Glad Jarrah had a fun-filled birthday with all her pals there.

The Wades said...

I, too, was annoyed with the whole, "Wait. Really? Why do they look alike?" crack. Some people! Sounds like someone doesn't like her job and is a big, fat power tripper! (Yikes--was that harsh?)

Your cake was awesome, decorations cute, and Jarrah precious.

Side note--loved seeing your family. Fun for me. :)

MelADramatic Mommy said...

Happy Birthday Jarrah! It looks like it was fun.

Amanda said...

Looks like the kids had a lot of fun!
Sorry you had adult drama though.
And thanks for stopping by, I love reading your blog!