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     Volume 5 Issue 86 | March 17, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Party Time

Nadia Kabir Barb

Having just survived yet another birthday party for my youngest daughter I think I can pat myself on the back and metaphorically put my feet up till the next one, which is about a month away! There are many challenging things in life but arranging children's birthday parties is quite an achievement! For those of you who have yet to be initiated into the world of organising kiddie parties, take it from me that it is not as easy as it seems. I speak from years of experience; in fact my husband and I were calculating that having three children aged seven, ten and twelve, we have actually managed to coordinate a total of 29 children's parties! Come on that must make me a semi professional party planner of some sort.

As I mentioned, the most recent party we had was for our youngest daughter on her seventh birthday. After a lot of debating trying to figure out what kind of party to have and where to have it, she announced to us that she would like a bowling party. Luckily there is an ice skating rink and bowling alley five minutes down the road from us so we were quite relieved that we would not have to drive across the entire length or breadth of London in search of a bowling alley. I was also personally thankful that she had decided against having it at home. However much I may love my children and want them to have a special day, the thought of having to entertain 17 children for a few hours in the confines of my house terrifies me. Most kids have a very low boredom threshold. Once again I speak from experience.

It was relatively painless booking the place at the time that suited us and they even sent us the invitation cards to distribute to the girls. Everything was going so smoothly I should have realised that there had to be a hitch coming up. Having had a party for my son at this venue a few years ago, I had an idea of what to expect but it was only by chance that I asked them what food they were serving as we had one girl who suffered from nut allergies and another who was a celiac (was on a wheat free, gluten free diet). Previously the children had been served burgers, nuggets and fries etc which always seems to be successful even though it is not exactly the most nutritional fare. But for some reason the Catering Manager had changed the menu and was serving a platter of sandwiches which included ham in some of them. I mentioned to the lady on the phone that we did not eat pork and asked her if we could bring additional food as I was concerned that the kids would go home hungry. I was told that I would have to speak to the manager and as he was not in, to call another time.

So I spent a few days chasing the very elusive catering manager until he finally called me back to tell me that I could not bring in any additional food. This was not the response I was hoping for and immediately took exception to the fact that there was no logical reason or explanation for this ban! I told him that I really could not see why it should be a problem as it made no difference to them in terms of expenses. I also reiterated that I felt highly uncomfortable with the thought that the girls might end up going home not having eaten properly. An hour later I got a call telling me that it was alright to bring in a couple of extra items. I guess my stubbornness paid off. People who know me will take great pleasure in telling me that these are the times that I show glimpses of what a control freak I really am at heart. Not that I could disagree with them.

However a few hours before the party my husband and I were wondering whether it was a wise decision to take a group of six to seven year olds bowling. We were not even sure if they could pick up the bowling ball in the first place let alone roll them. When we got to the party venue we had no time to worry as the kids started arriving and soon we had three rows of little bowlers having a blast. I had obviously underestimated the girls as they were doing incredibly well and some of them scored like seasoned bowlers! One thing I have learned is that you still need to encourage the children in whatever activity they are engaged in as some are better than others or have better luck. It does not take long for a seven year old to get disheartened. It was good exercise to run from one team to the other, cheering some on, helping others, rushing some to the toilet or getting them juice. But the look on their faces when they managed to knock down a few bowling pins was priceless.

As the party was not on the actual day of my daughter's birthday, we had already had two birthday cakes, one for school and one at home. So I decided to cheat and buy one from the shop. My daughter chose a calorific but delicious looking chocolate cake and it was only when we came home that I realised that one of the edible decorations shaped like a bottle had the word 'champagne' inscribed on it! In crisis like this one must improvise and I decided to take the attention away from the chocolate bottle by decorating the rest of the cake with gold and silver edible decorations. I also managed to find candles that spelt out happy birthday thus filling a large part of the cake. However, I do no think any of the girls would have even noticed had I left the cake as it was and not been utterly paranoid about the incriminating bottle!

I have to admit that the hour of bowling passed by relatively quickly and soon we were being ushered to the area where they had laid the table for the children. To my surprise the staff not only brought out sandwiches minus the ham, they also added chicken nuggets and fries as well. Adding to that the food we had brought, I was optimistic that no one would be going home hungry. My husband suggested that my incessant harassing of the manger had driven him to provide the extra items just to get me off his back. Hey! Who's complaining?

But as they say there's no rest for the wicked --- now I have to figure out what to do for a thirteen year old…

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