Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Simple Plan

Oh my, I've been a slacker. I didn't post my last columns from the Observer. I met a lovely woman at the Blue Mountain Plant Swap today who told me that she loves reading my blog and was disappointed there hadn't been a post in a while.

Here's to you, Lisa!

If I disappear again for the next week, it's only because I am immersed in "Back to the 80's" madness.'s high school musical time! It's been a journey but we're almost there. I'm so proud of our group! But for the next week, my husband and son will be scavenging for food and clean laundry will be a vague memory. Why can't my husband do these things? you ask. Because we've also started a MAJOR renovation of our yard (new siding, deck, re-grading...)

Hence the title...

A Simple Plan

By Andrea Cameron

Someone in my life just turned four. Two weeks ago, I started wondering how we would celebrate. A small family gathering? A clown performance complete with balloon animals and terrified children? A giant blow-up jumpy castle? There are so many ways to mark the birth of our children--some celebrations and subtle, and some are, well, not-so-subtle.

Children's birthday parties can be crazy. Sometimes the child's entire class is invited. Sometimes families spend hundreds of dollars. I've heard of loot bags that rival those given out at the Oscars.

Children's birthday parties are like weddings. We attend a lot of them and vow to do things differently--usually more simply--when our turn comes along. However, as with weddings, simple can be elusive.

That's why we decided to have a picnic with a small group of friends. What could be more simple than a picnic?

For my son's previous three birthdays, we've had a few friends and their children over for dinner. Really, we probably enjoyed the party more than Kieran did. Now that he's four, it's harder to pull off a dinner party. He started dreaming about his special day weeks ago, thwarting my efforts to downplay the day.

I knew I was in trouble when, at breakfast a few days before the birthday picnic, he announced that he wanted a Merry-Go-Round with real horses at his party. Oh, and he clearly expected a troupe of dancing chipmunks. Then, for a while, he demanded a surprise party. Go figure. As the day drew nearer, and such imaginative possibilities continued to grow, I remained steadfast in my plan to keep things simple.

I'd read all kinds of suggestions to minimize the stress children's birthday parties: one guest per year of the child's age, keep things moving along, limit the party to two hours. I adhered to these low-stress rules. I even made gluten-free vanilla cupcakes so we wouldn't have to worry about plates and forks.

As my son continued dreaming about his ideal party, I remained resolute. Then, the night before the big day, my almost-four-year-old looked wistfully out the window and declared that he couldn't wait to taste his chocolate birthday cupcakes.

Note that I had originally made vanilla cupcakes. This is where simplicity melted away like an ice cream cake left in the sun. Common sense pooled into sticky puddles on the patio stones.

And so, I found myself in the kitchen at midnight, surrounded by two thousand bags of different gluten-free flours, stirring chocolate cupcake batter. Before going to bed, my husband stood in the doorway, shaking his head in pity. I had succumbed to the insanity.

That night, I dreamt that I was corralling six horses onto a carousel. Okay, that's not true, but my original laidback attitude transformed into Mother Bear anxiety. I even ran out the morning before the party to buy some disposable Mickey Mouse cups and plates despite my proclamation to make the picnic waste-free.

But on Sunday afternoon, as the sun sparkled on the river, as children chased each other laughing, my priorities realigned. I may have been a little sleepy from my late night baking spree, but I was glad I stayed (almost) true to my original intention.

At the close of our little party, Kieran sat on a lawn chair smiling up at me, chocolate cupcake all over his face. In that brief moment, I remembered him four years earlier, the morning I first saw his tiny curving ears and little bow-tie mouth. That's what the celebration was about.

And he didn't even mention the absence of real horses.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Thanks for the shout out :)
    You seem like such a gentle mama:)