Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When losing is winning and everything is backwards

Blowing out the candles on the cupcake cones; A slice of ice cream and a scoop of cake in a cone, with a chaser of Seven Down, which is SevenUp with a hold punched in the bottom of the can and a straw inserted
Organized chaos? Controlled madness? Fun and sweet and crazy all at the same time? I'm not sure which describes it best, but all I know is that my sister did a great job organizing entertainment for 18 first-graders on Sunday. Eighteen? Was she nuts?

When asked what kind of birthday party my nephew wanted this year, he chose not to go for bowling, laser tag or mini golf. That had been done before. Instead, he opted for the old-fashioned house party. Which is fine and great, but it requires planning. You can't just show up, write a check and expect a pre-planned party package to take care of the needs of the kids.

First, the guest list. A house party demands you invite children from the neighborhood. You also need school friends. And what about the kids on the football team? Needless to say, the list got large. But that's OK, there's plenty of space, plus grandmothers, aunts and uncles were recruited to help supervise.

A house party also requires a theme. My nephew's choice? A backwards theme. OK, so backwards it is. Then my sister hit the internet to look for ideas.

Invitations were mailed. Names were rendered in reverse. I was "Auntie Yelah". The party details were printed backward (you had to hold it up to a mirror to read it -- great idea, but word of warning, some people had a hard time with it).

When "Uncle Evad" and I arrived at my sister's house a half-hour before the party, the garage was decorated. (We used the garage because it was gorgeous outside and it gave us access the big front lawn and driveway basketball hoop.) Balloons had been turned inside out so that Happy Birthday read backward. Table cloths were laid with the reverse side up. Everyone turned their clothes backward or inside out. Guests were greeted with "Goodbye".

As the children arrived, it was apparent that some of the kids totally embraced the theme -- one even wore his boxers on the outside of his pants -- but one boy refused to do anything backward, unwilling to even turn his T-shirt around. That was OK, too. Each child is different.

We started by serving the cake and ice cream first. We sang Happy Birthday to You with the lyrics reversed, and served a scoop of cake in a cone and a slice of ice cream on a plate. We booed when we would have applauded. Then we moved on to presents. Some of the parents had reversed the paper, others had used wrap for other holidays.

When it was time for games, we shot hoops backward, did backward balloon races, and played silent musical chairs, where the children sat down when the music started. Now there was a sight: 17 chairs lined up so that 18 children could play at once. When the first person lost, we declared her the winner. That led to problems the next time, though, as four different kids refused to sit down, all wanting to be the next person eliminated and therefore a winner, too. OK, they were all out and a rule clarification was issued: the next winner will be the traditional winner, which is last person with a chair.

Then it was time for pizza, served in a bowl, of course. Then we looked at the time: only 75 minutes into this party and 45 more to go. What next? A reprise of the games. And a silly string fight on the front lawn (not backward, I know, but fun none-the-less).

When the parents returned to pick up their children, each child was given party favors in the form of a wrapped gift to take home. All the adults collapsed into chairs, the yard a mess of folding chairs and silly string, and we marveled that 18 kids could wear out seven adults in the span of two hours.

Yeah, I know. It was a ratio of fewer than three kids per adult. School teachers do it everyday...

Top left: the birthday boy; Top right: The entire backward crew; Bottom left: silent musical chairs; Bottom right: Getting hit with silly string

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