Sunday, April 2, 2017


Tyler wanted a Minecraft Birthday Party. Of course he did. He eats, breathes and lives Minecraft. He identified potential party guests based on their affinity for Minecraft. I reminded him it's also nice to invite other friends, too. We invited the kids from his Little Dragons class, who we see each Saturday, say hello to the parents each Saturday, and then barely speak to each Saturday - each parent/couple sits to themselves, and alternates between looking at their phones/laptops and watching the kids. And yet we genuinely care for each other's kids, and celebrate their successes. And when we attend each others' kids' birthday parties, which always take place on Saturday afternoons, we greet each other with hugs. And cluster together for the duration of the party. But never hang out other than that.

Of course we invited our good friends, the Bushmans, the McNamaras, and the Eaves, who have moved away but we still invite, even though they can't make it. And Tyler's long-term best buddy, Eileen. The newbies were Tyler's school/Minecraft friends, Chris and Joseph. One of the weird things about Tyler's school is that they really don't foster any kind of relationships. If they have a school directory this year, they haven't advertised it. I signed up to get one, and never heard back. I had no intention of inviting the entire class. So I had to plot how to get in contact with two kids I didn't know.

Chris was easy - his dad arrives for pick up at about the same time I do. So I just stalked them, and had Tyler wait for them to leave the school gate and approach them with an invite. I had a feeling they lived far away, so was nervous that they wouldn't want to drive so far on a Saturday, when this was a Minecraft Party, and it was clearly so important to Tyler that Chris be there. I was thrilled when his dad texted that they could make it.

Then Tyler started talking about his friend Joseph. I coached him to ask for Joseph's number. Day after day, he came home without a number. I sent a piece of paper with a clearly printed note and a line for Joseph's number. Tyler came home with a partial address. I tried sending a note to Joseph to ask his parents to please call or text me so we could invite him over. That note kept somehow not ever leaving Tyler's backpack. Finally, Tyson suggested we bend the rules and send the invite itself with Tyler. I coached Tyler on how to give it to Joseph on the playground before school, explaining that it's rude for other kids to find out they aren't invited to a party. Tyler delivered the invitation, proudly declaring that he was stealth in delivering it. "In the morning before school?" "No. After school, in line for Late Bird." Ummmm well we didn't hear anything about it, so guess it's okay. I think during the last week of school I'll go in and try to buy a directory and try to negotiate a discount.

If they even made a directory this year.

Joseph's parents texted their rsvp.

Tyler's designs for his birthday keep growing more elaborate each year. This year I thought I was getting off light on the cake, that I could just bake a square chocolate cake, leave it unfrosted on the sides, and put green frosting and coconut on top, and call it Minecraft. Yeah, no. Tyler wanted a Steve Cake. I was so bummed! I talked him down to a flat cake, not an erect Steve. And warned him, it was just going to be Steve's head. Second year with fondant. I am not a perfectionist by any means, and fondant requires extra steps - seriously, you still have to frost the cake first??? But it makes it a lot easier for someone with severe limations in artistic ability to get the idea across.

I did a dry run cake on Thursday for Tyler's actual birthday. Anne Marie had bought a bunch of box cake mixes on sale a few years ago that went unused because they weren't the flavor Tyler or Tyson liked. So I used them now. Even though they were old :). I tried to dye the fondant skin color. It turned peachy orange and was marbled. The eyes and mouth weren't right. I realized I should use graph paper to sketch designs for the official cake. Tyler kindly told me, before I'd even begun to frost the cake, "It doesn't have to be perfect. I know you worked really  hard on this cake. You tried your best, that's what matters." Wow.

Our family party consisted of pizza and cake and family presents. Meanwhile, that night I baked the party cake, with newly bought cake mix. Friday morning I made blue and orange batches of jello to represent water and lava. Tyler was pumped about that, especially the lava. But then I never figured out what to do with them, so they went unused. Ooops.

Last year was our first year having a birthday party at our house instead of the park. I'd thought it would save us time and that we could prepare everything ahead of time. I forget why that didn't work out last year. But it didn't really work out this year either. Parents from previous years make comments like, "oh, I can't WAIT to see what you do this year!" On the one hand, I like that the parties are memorable. On the other hand, it adds pressure.

Anne Marie always helps me decorate, and she often finds ways to accomplish projects I'm having a hard time with. She offered to help again this year.  I suggested that we stay up late and work on decorations Thursday night to get a head start, thinking then I could clean on Friday night. Thursday night Tyson made the Creeper Bags - green backs with black faces stenciled on them. I baked the next cake. Anne Marie played with Tyrien. I was surprised when she left after the kids went to bed. Sadly, I lost my motivation to continue preparations in her absence.

I had to work Friday til 3:30 and had to pick up both boys, and was getting sick. I had to work Saturday morning and then attended Tyler's green belt ceremony. The weather was not conducive to setting up early, and I wasn't sure whether we'd be able to be outside at all. It was windy, forecasting rain and a high of 64, which to Tucsonans, might as well mean a blizzard. I conveyed to Tyson that his attempt last year to keep the kids out of the house failed miserably, and that this year we should plan to let them in, and might even have to let them eat inside. And that I would not be doing a thorough cleaning of the house because it would just get messed up. He agreed.

Saturday I cleaned the house thoroughly.

Anne Marie helped. I drew the line at mopping though. Tyson said he'd spot mop. But then he went outside and worked in the yard for hours on end. You see, he didn't like the way I pruned the bushes and jammed as much brush as I could into trash cans and left the rest on the ground next to our mailbox. But he didn't just deal with all that. He decided to eviserate all the thatch that has been building up for years, and rake all the dirt and the winter and spring debris and sort it into compost versus trash, and make all that happen. Anne Marie asked about mopping, I told her "Tyson said he'd spot mop." "He's going to be upset if we don't, it'll put him over the edge." "Eh." Sure enough, a few minutes later, Tyson was upset.  I ended up spot mopping. Laughing about it. I told Anne Marie, "Ok, now we know, not only does the house have to be clean, the yard does too!" Next year, I need at least one full day off before the party. And to not have to work the morning of. And to take echinacea and zinc the week prior!

I made a Creeper out of two large boxes, green tissue paper, and black construction paper. Anne Marie and I made Ghasts out of white balloons, white tissue paper, and black construction paper. I made an enderman out of two black balloons and streamers. I coached Anne Marie on making a spider out of one black balloon and black streamers. I told Tyler I couldn't figure out how to make an ender dragon. He was devastated. Anne Marie figured out how to make an ender dragon. I made the enderportal out of black tissue paper, and black and purple streamers. I added a blacklight and a treasure chest full of white, black, and aqua pearls, with aqua pearls being the enderpearls. We hung the decorations from the ceiling and closed all the doors, making it a dark hallway.

Outside, we hung the ghasts and stationed the Creeper. I scattered Creeper bags around the yard, but they blew around. So I rescattered them behind the iron bars on all our windows. I scattered popsicle sticks. When the guests arrived, they had to locate the popsicle sticks, then use craft glue to craft weapons. Then they had to locate the Creeper bags. Meanwhile, Brooke and I hid fondant covered rice krispy treats for the kids to find, and then encouraged them to craft shelter. I left to go hide the minerals - gold, iron, obsidian, lapis lazuli, emeralds, and the rare and highly coveted blue diamonds.

The kids somehow could not find the blue diamonds. They found everything else though. I then had them barter with the villagers to acquire bows and arrows - the kind with the suction cups on the ends. I was surprised that the bows needed assembly. Delegated that task to the villagersI loved seeing some of the parents negotiating with their kids - "I'll do it for THREE pieces!" and then eating their kids' candy.

I lined the kids up to have them take turns shooting the Creeper. It turns out, using those bows and arrows is not intuitive. That exercise was kind of a disaster. I should have drawn lots of targets on the wall so all the kids could have practiced at the same time instead of taking turns.

I thought I could kick back and take a break, but Tyler asked for the next activity. I tried to set up Shrinking Islands outside, but it was too windy. I tried setting it up inside, and couldn't fathom having 12 kids in my living room at once. I came outside and the kids were shooting their arrows at each other and at the sky. Again, I thought I could take a break. But I saw the bow and arrow situation was getting out of hand.

Someone had opened the sliding door between the kitchen and hallway, so kids had seen the streamers and blacklight. They deemed that door "The Death Door" and kept asking about it. I couldn't get them to break for dinner. So I gave in and took them, two at a time, through the enderportal. They walked down the hall, avoiding touching the enderman, enderdragon, and enderspider, and then retrieved one pearl, being unable to discern whether they were getting a true enderpearl, a black pearl, or a regular pearl. If they touched anything, they had to drink Healing Potion. I thought it was anticlimactic, but instead they wanted to do it again and again. I had to stay in the hallway with them to supervise. I didn't realize all the Little Dragons kids were leaving without cake. Tyson alerted me to the situation. The only kids left were the family friends and Eileen and Chris. I toasted, "To the Closers!" and rewarded them with cake. Tyler selected and placed his own candles, including a pink trick candle in the middle, so he had to blow it out over and over. Tyler later asked to open presents, and began playing with his toys. I put on youtube music videos for the kids to dance to. Tyler mostly worked on Legos with Leo and Auggie, while Penelope, Izzy, Ruby, Tyrien and I enjoyed the music.  Meanwhile Anne Marie worked her ass off cleaning up, despite Tyson's efforts to get her to kick back and relax. She was the true closer. I don't think she left until after 11pm.

Tyler and Tyson stayed up playing Star Wars Battlefront. Today Tyler spent the day building legos. Tyrien and I alternated betweein cleaning up and playing outside with bows, arrows, and balloons.

I laughed to discover that after everyone had left, 10 bows remained, and  4 arrows.

 Happy Birthday Weekend, Tyler!

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