The Big 5.0

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2008

“I’m so happy that today is my birthday!”

As I slept, a wide-eyed Elizabeth marched into our bedroom, stood next to me, and announced those words loudly on Saturday morning.

Elizabeth had three birthday parties this past week -- two at home and one at school. I realize this establishes an expectation of endless super-party-fantasticness that her future boyfriend will never hope to match, but that’s his problem. She also had a Preschool Graduation Party last Thursday and has been practicing this song all week for their graduation presentation:

So long, it’s been good to know ya.
So long, it's been good to know ya.
So long, it's been good to know ya.
Glad you could come! Adios and Goodbye!

(sigh) Yes, it's a time of great change and celebration. Needless to say, we’re pretty partied out.

However, birthday party No. 1 -- the BIG Party -- was on Saturday, and with her joyful morning proclamation, the horns officially sounded and the birthday festivities began.

Well, not really.

To Pinata or Not to Pinata?

It actually began a week earlier when I set out to buy party supplies. I finally learned my lesson and agreed to supply a pinata for her birthday. How could I forget last year’s party when the ever-exuberant Marco asked, “What time is the pinata?” To whom I replied, “There ain’t no pinata, kid,” (or something like that) and watched him walk away slowly with a confused look on his face as he tried to comprehend the possibility.

But this year would be different. This year my kid would have what the other kids had -- whether I liked it or not.

Here’s the scene at Party City:

Me: So, do you have any pinatas that are more... generic?

(blank stare from Party City Guy)

Me: You, know -- pinatas that are more like shapes?

(blank stare continues)

Me: A pinata that doesn’t have a character on it -- something that’s not cute. Because I really don’t want to beat up Curious George, if you know what I mean. It just seems wrong.


At first Party City Guy didn’t believe that such a pinata existed. But after standing on tip-toes I spied the “alternative” pinatas sitting high on a shelf waaay in the back of the store. The Party City Guy grabbed a ladder and looked through them.

PCG: There’s a cake... a birthday hat... big numbers...

Me: What? You see a bunch of them?

PCG: No, there are big numbers.

Me: Oh -- they’re expensive?

PCG: (sighs) No, BIG numbers.

He holds out his arms and points toward a giant pinata in the shape of a number three. All I can think is: Not only am I a pain in the ass, I’m an idiot. Are there any Melissa pinatas up there? Because I’d really like to whack one.

Eventually I settled on an ice cream cone. Yea, I could beat up an ice cream cone. Sure. However, the look on Elizabeth’s face when I showed her the pinata told me it was not the right choice. No. Not by a long-shot. Clearly I was not the person to select a pinata, so the next day she returned to Party City with Daddy (a much more suitable pinata-purchasing companion), and returned with a doomed-for-destruction blue shark.

Forgive me, shark-lovers. I tried.

Mom Scores, Bigtime

The truck arrived at 9:30am Saturday morning. Elizabeth was busy playing Disney on the computer. As she clicked her mouse and played her games, two young men pulled a dolly into the backyard carrying a large purple object. They dumped it into the backyard, unfurled it, plugged it in, and watched it grow and grow and GROW.

“A bouncy-house!”

Samantha peaked through the vertical blinds to see the enormous multi-colored bounce-house-slide combo inflate.

“Shhh!” Michael and I said in unison. “Don’t tell Lizzy -- it’s a surprise. Want to watch?”

The three of us watched with much anticipation, and when it was all set, Michael grabbed the video camera and videotaped Lizzy as we revealed her surprise. Her response was what every parent hopes for when planning such things and I couldn’t help thinking, Score one for Mommy!

Of course, I injured myself immediately. But not in the expected way -- I didn’t break a leg or hurt my back. The entry to the bounce house was rather small. I don’t know why -- maybe the Bounce House Company had some crazy notion that adults would not be jumping in there. Who knows. But that tiny opening tempted me immeasurably. I decided to dive into it and shoot myself through to the other side as I imagined Buffy the Vampire Slayer might do in such a situation.

What I didn’t count on was the sun... beating down on the reflective yellow first step. As I dove, with my arms extended before me and my elbows down, I immediately felt the sizzle-sizzle-burn of flesh on tarpaulin. Gah! I can’t believe how much that dime-sized wound hurt -- indeed, still hurts. I washed. I disinfected. I bandaged. Yet I still can not rest my elbow on anything, including air.

Thankfully, however, my rather inelegant injury was the only one obtained that day (aside from a Dad who acquired a similar elbow injury while going down the slide), and no children bonked their heads or twisted their ankles or vomited uncontrollably as they hurled themselves in and out and up and down the bounce-house slide.


Themeless Saturday

Transformers and Hello Kitty goody bags. Dinosaur figurines and a shark pinata. Speed Racer stickers and a pastel bounce house/slide combo. My head was spinning with the visuals.

“So what’s the theme of Elizabeth’s birthday party?” someone asked.

Hell if I know.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Elizabeth did have a theme, but it took an open, zen-like mind to perceive it. It wasn’t girly or boyish, pink or blue, Hello Kitty or Lightening McQueen.

It was all of the above.

I’m used to this now. In the past we’ve struggled with her grab-bag approach to fashion and design. But I’ve grown to love this about Elizabeth. How liberating! How free! How... hard to grasp. But just as one can not easily pin her down, one can not pin down her ideas. They flow and burst forth with conviction, and as long as they are allowed to run wild, she is happy.

Therefore, to put it simply, her theme was: Stuff Elizabeth Likes.


I bought yellow plates, purple plates, pink plates and blue plates. I put Speed Racer stickers in Hello Kitty gift bags and dinosaur stickers in Transformer gift bags. She wore a rainbow-colored summer dress and black tights with silver sparkles around the trim. And she didn’t wear socks.

Yet somehow, somehow, we all survived.

The Green Monster

Throughout the lengthy birthday festivities, Samantha was an angel -- supportive of her big sister and ready to party. But the tide turned when Elizabeth opened Grandma’s present to reveal a sparkly pair of Ruby Slippers like the one Dorothy wears in the Wizard of Oz.

The look on Samantha’s face said it all. She stared at the fabulousness of those shoes and made a supreme effort to Keep. It. Together. She was crestfallen.

“She’s never going to share those with me!” she wailed.

This was definitely one of those “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” scenarios. Indeed, Elizabeth may like the Wizard of Oz, but Samantha loves shoes. When Samantha comes home after a hard day of play, she relaxes by putting on a dress and a pair of Princess shoes. High heels are fashion comfort food to her. Just last week I bought her a pair of tennis shoes because I felt she needed them. After all, you can’t kick a ball in high heels. But after I pushed the sneakers onto her feet, she tore them off and said in exasperation, “Ms. Quinn won’t like my shoes!”

Of course that was ridiculous. Ms. Quinn (her preschool teacher) loved them and said so. What is significant is that Samantha cared what Ms. Quinn would think of her shoes. Later, Ms. Quinn told me that Samantha had remarked about another classmate’s shoes saying, “She always wears those shoes.”

Oy. I better start the Shoe Fund, now. It’s only going to get worse.

This is why giving Elizabeth the Ruby Slippers -- and not Samantha -- was simply unthinkable. Needless to say, Samantha wore the Ruby Slippers for the remainder of the party (thanks to Lizzy’s generosity), and Grandma promised Samantha a pair of her very own slippers which will be delivered sometime this week by winged monkeys.

The Booty

I have a theory, so please hear me out:

What if Liberace and Little Richard were birds, perhaps a Flamingo and a multihued Macaw. And let’s say they were small, perhaps the size of a Pepsi can. And what if those birds accidentally mistook a discarded tube of glitter for worm meat. And let’s say they were having some serious stomach issues while flying over Barbie and the Bratz Girl as they took Barb’s new blue convertible for a drive.

If all that were true, then I’m thinking this would be the result:


These, along with the aforementioned Ruby Slippers, were just some of the wonderful gifts Elizabeth received for her birthday.

She also received some wonderful artistic gifts: Celtic coloring books, paints and colored pencils, a spray-painter, drawing instruction books, pads of paper, and airplane kits. She spent most of the afternoon busying herself with her new projects after the party while sporting her new strawberry tattoo. She also received some really cute clothes, but because you can’t do anything with clothes, she curled her upper lip and said, “Uh, I thought it was going to be a present.”

The Love Triangle

When Diego arrived at the party in his red soccer uniform, Lizzy ran up to him, hugged him tightly, picked him up off the ground, and kissed him on the corner of his lips. He wiped it off.

When Marco arrived at the party, he ran up to Elizabeth, hugged her tightly, and kissed her on the cheek. She wiped it off.

Ahh, love.

Diego’s Dad told us how kind Elizabeth has been to Diego who could not speak a word of English when he arrived at daycare about a year ago. They worried that he would not be able to make new friends, but what they didn’t count on was The Thunderbolt. Apparently, Elizabeth dropped her former rebel heart-throb Brixton like a hot potato when the spectacle-wearing, dark-haired Diego arrived. I knew something was up when I saw her writing his name. Mommy, how do you spell Diego?

Marco has been with Elizabeth from the beginning -- literally since Room #1. He’s an adorable, energetic young Austrian who sported a head full of curly hair when he was a baby. Apparently, he is the “friend” in this scenario, but he has always greeted Elizabeth with affection and enthusiasm. I imagine that one day, when all the “crushes” have fallen to the wayside, he will be the one she marries.

To which Michael despairs, “Isn’t she too young to have boyfriends?”

To which I roll my eyes and think, He just doesn’t understand.

So Long

Finally the party’s over and we’re down to the original four -- Michael, myself and the girls. Elizabeth is coloring and Samantha is wearing the Ruby Slippers. I’m starving because I didn’t eat much during the party, so I reheat some pizza in the oven. It’s 5:30 as the truck pulls up to remove the Bounce House.

Elizabeth and Samantha sit on lawn chairs and watch like little Queens as the two young men pack it up. The lead guy, Cory, is an incredibly nice and patient man. He walks atop the deflated Bounce House to push the air out and immediately the girls run over to help. The three of them talk as they casually put it back together.

“Let me know if they’re getting in your way,” I say.

“No problem.”

When he tells the girls to move aside, they do. He folds it over and tells them he needs their help again to push the air out. They join him and with their dresses pulled up to their knees, the girls look like they’re stomping grapes for wine.

The sun is getting low and a cool breeze is blowing. It’s quiet now that the blower is turned off. I can hear birds again. Cory folds the Bounce House over and over and the girls lean against it, pushing it with all their might until it’s rolled into a relatively small, purple bundle. He fastens it with thick straps.

“You guys want a slice of pizza and a Pepsi?” I ask.

“Thanks, I will,” says the assistant. Cory declines.

With the Bounce House back on the truck, I bring out the pizza. Shortly after, Elizabeth joins me with a slice of pizza just for Cory. (I like to think of her getting a plate, opening the pizza box, and picking out his slice.) She stands there and waits for him to eat it, and of course he does. The four of us chat like grownups on the front sidewalk until it’s time for them to go.

In this moment Elizabeth is my buddy -- my big, 5-year old friend. Later, she will be my little girl again and I will threaten a multitude of time outs for all the things she doesn’t do such as listen, put her toys away, or sit still at the dinner table. But now she and I are buddies and we wave goodbye as the two men step into the truck.

“So long, Bounce House! It’s been good to know ya!”

The tune sticks in my ears and I can’t help but sing in my head:

So long, 4-year old girl.
It's been good to know ya.
Glad you could come. Adios and Goodbye.

I put my arms around this beautiful, growing 5-year old and we walk back to the house.

“Can I play with the paint-sprayer?” she asks.

“Well, maybe tomorrow...” I say and sigh.

Happy 5th birthday, Elizabeth!


Don Mills Diva June 12, 2008 at 8:41 AM  

Happy birthday Elizabeth!

BTW, adopt me?

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare June 12, 2008 at 10:13 AM  

Yes,I think you will have to adopt all of us. "Stuff Elizabeth Likes"....couldn't think of a bettertheme. Happy Birthday to her and congrats on pulling it all off!

Dawn June 13, 2008 at 6:31 AM gave me goose bumps. Daelyn will be 4 in August and I'm not ready for it. And you completely rock. Wanna fly over and plan my tots parties? Seriously.

Dawn June 13, 2008 at 6:31 AM  

Oh, And I like the new header picture. I laughed when I saw the eggs.

Rima June 14, 2008 at 5:47 PM  

We actually OWN one of those bouncy houses and it's instant fun every time we blow it up.

For the V-meister's last birthday party, we got a pinata in the shape of a number four. This seemed to please her very much, and no cartoon characters or donkeys were harmed, but four got the crap beat out of it, (much like it is beating the crap out of me.)

Chantal June 21, 2008 at 7:15 PM  

In my culture it's very important to
celebrate the "bigi yari" That means
"Big year" The first "Bigi yari" of Facienne is on the last day of the year.Yes! 31 of december we hope to be in Suriname,because here on the island of Virgin Gorda,there are no fireworks and that's a big difference
with my country Suriname.Fireworks from 12 noon to midnight. So the bigi yari of Facienne will be with a lot of Fireworks. (No pinata)

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