My husband’s hopelessly romantic marriage proposal is easily a top-10 highlight of my life. Our short and sweet engagement, on the other hand, only ekes in at around the top-20 mark, although not because the wedding planning wasn’t wildly enjoyable — it was, mostly thanks to my mom’s kind, inspired and generous guidance at every turn — but because there was hardly any pressure on me to perform a Martha Stewart-like miracle in just under eight months.
I have just as much of an inner DIY-craft-goddess in me as the next 30-something-year-old white, middle-class suburban woman who thinks the Pinterest founders are worthy of consideration by the Internet equivalent of the Nobel Prize board. (Have you ever witnessed how strategically hung tissue and crepe-paper floral pompoms can significantly elevate the elegance of a dinner party?)
But I am also equal-part Oscar Madison. And when it comes down to sleekly découpaged boxes vs. habitual dirty socks next to but not in the hamper, the latter visually distracts from and therefore beats the former every time.
When I flipped through bridal magazines during the period of my betrothment, my eyes got all starry at the prospect of tree-bound escort cards and muslin pouches filled with sailboat-shaped sugar cookies and saltwater taffy tied together with grosgrain ribbon. But my eyes also crossed and head throbbed at the thought of trying to make every last tiny detail meaningful. After all, I believed that the day was meant to be bigger than signature plates and topiary wedding banners.
The gloves came off, however, when I had kids and those kids started having birthdays. What I didn’t do — and don’t regret not doing — at my wedding, I now feel the itch to do to my daughters’ birthday parties.
Weddings are about having loved ones witness you affirm an eternal commitment. Children’s birthday parties are a straight-up competition in which the goal is to make other moms whose weddings were likely more crafty than yours feel less motherly than you because you knew even back when you were exchanging “I dos” that it was all about saving it up for the kids one day.
After almost every birthday party that I attend of a child who is not mine, however, I leave feeling less motherly than the mom who threw the party. That’s why I have a few days left to decide if I’m going to make my older daughter’s fourth birthday extravaganza one that makes Tori Spelling’s daughter’s over-the-top, Martha Stewart-style fourth birthday party look as inspired as the Spice Girls performing at the Olympic closing ceremony, which is to say, washed-up and full of more unnecessary chemicals than a pink Hostess Sno Ball.
The only problem is that the lazy, sloppy part of me just wants to throw up the decorations I bought at Walmart, slap a few candles in a bakery-made cake and call it a happy birthday.
Our party’s theme is Minnie Mouse, although we didn’t know that when we sent out the invitations. That’s why the invitations speak to neither a mouse nor anything mini. Instead of having the post office deliver sparkly, handcrafted keepsakes to each guest, we e-mailed free Internet invites. (While they’re as clever as the piece of cardboard that comes with pressed shirts from the dry cleaner, the RSVP rate is much higher because all invitees have to do is click “Yes” or “No” from the comfort of their smartphones.)
I didn’t have to buy Minnie party hats. I could have made them by combining specialty paint, headbands and colored ribbons with a glue gun, X-ACTO knife, patience and imagination.
Instead of getting a generic Mylar Minnie Mouse “happy birthday” banner, I might have created one out of Minnie Mouse silhouettes with my daughter’s name spelled out in letters glued on with glitter.
I suppose the menu could consist of Hot Diggity Dogs, Oh Toodles Noodles, Banana Puddin’ and Minnie Moo Muffins, all of which one crafty website boasts as recommendations for a Minnie soirée, but we decided instead to serve pizza (choice of cheese or pepperoni), cut-up fruit and supermarket cake — mostly because the birthday girl is a vegetarian (save for the occasional slice of bacon) and also because as creative as I like to fancy myself, even I can’t justify wrapping up hot dogs in parchment paper and finishing them off with a little tape, as the site suggests. And not just because I haven’t a clue what washi tape is.
The fact of the matter is that the party was supposed to be last weekend, but the birthday girl fell ill, and we had to reschedule for this weekend. And while she was mildly crestfallen that it was postponed, she was mostly just interested in knowing if she could play with the 79-cent bottle of bubbles that we found in our coat closet.
That means I think I can get away with the Walmart-bought décor for another year and justify it with my head held high to the more motherly, innovative moms by telling them the theme is actually White Trash Chic. Either way, I’m hopeful my mini-Mouseketeer will include the party in her top 10 life events to date, even if the loot bags don’t end up being Minnie-fied.
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