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Family Matters: The 'Simple' Birthday Party

A birthday party for an almost-seven-year-old can't be that hard, can it? Sure.

Those of you who have had, have, or will have a daughter turning seven have already or will soon realize that their birthday parties, no matter how you try to keep it simple, can spin out of control.

Or was that just me doing the spinning?

It all started so innocently: let’s invite a few girls over to our house for a pajama party on a Saturday evening. We’ll play games, do a craft, eat dinner, watch iCarly, sugar up and go on home. But since that could pretty much be any Saturday night around here, we amp it up a little. Let’s invite all the girls from class. Oh and a couple from Girls Scouts. And don't forget the couple of friends from soccer. How did the list get to 15? That’s OK – maybe some won’t be able to make it.

Well, 13 are able to make it. Trying to be sneaky by sending the invitation late backfires. But it’s alright: I heard there’s a nasty cold going around, just hopefully not around our house.

Since we are having all these girls over, we should probably find some activities for them. I learn quickly that the only thing harder than having 13 kids in your house for 2 ½ hours is taking your almost-seven-year-old daughter to Michael’s Craft Store.

After two hours of “that’s cute!” and “oh can we make that?” and “don’t we need more stickers/markers/stampers/beads/yarn/paint/notebooks/calendars?” we find some suitable crafts, including a soap-making kit. All kids use soap, so why can’t they make it too? Sounds great.

Having never made soap before, I decide that maybe I should try to do it before attempting it with 13 first graders. Two minutes later, the soap is made. Guess we need to figure something else out, unless we change the end-time of the party to 5:02.

The day of the party, I realize that we have no decorations. So I take my daughter to her second favorite store, .

As she bounces up and down all the aisles planning not only her party which begins in two hours but the appropriate party for every other person she has ever met.

"Don't you think Daddy would like that football pinata for the Super Bowl? Oh, and Mommy, red is your favorite color! Those red plates would be perfect!"

Another $50 down, we head home ready to decorate with every shiny, tacky wall hanging in the store, her favorite the red shiny "Fringe Door Curtain" for the entry way. I kind of liked it, too, red being my favorite color and all.

As the guests arrived on that icy evening, the disco ball spinning, music pumping, girls screaming, I looked at my watch and saw that is was already 5:15. Two hours and fifteen minutes to go, I thought.

Freeze dance, Coke and Pepsi, hot potato, Valentine Making, dinner. OK, now it's 6:00. Jewlery making, soap making (all two minutes of it), iCarly episode. Finally, dessert and pick-up. The last girl hadn't even left and my husband was already vaccuming the kitchen.

Present opening, new clothing fashion show. Meltdown from little brother. It's 8:30 at night and it felt like midnight, the next day. And this was supposed to be an easy house party?

"Mom, I am so excited I can't go to sleep!" proclaimed my daughter when I ushered her into bed at 8:45. "The party was so short we barely got to do anything! We didn't even finish the iCarly episode!"

"I know," I soothed, "I know. It was very short." I squeezed in her twin bed with her and noticed how comfortable her pillow pet is.

Four books later, I had her calmed down enough to go to sleep. Or was that me about to fall asleep?

As we rebuilt our kitchen, living room and family room, my husband sweating from doing a Tasmanian Devil clean through the house, he looked at me and said, "How much money do you think we saved doing it in the house?"

"None," I said, as I scrounged for unopened packages that I could return to Michael's. This time, though, I would go there solo.

"Hmmm," he replied, scraping soap off the kitchen counter.

"But didn't she have such a great time?" I attempted.

"Sure!" he replied, in the same vain.

"Same time next year?" I joked.

He didn't answer, as he was already on his way downstairs to rebuild the basement.

I immediately found the number for the Rec Center and booked the gym for my son's birthday party, six short weeks away. I think it's someone else's turn to spin for a while.

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