Party Planning step one ….. decide on a party theme …..

I know that “rite of passage” to mommy-hood is being able to pinterest the crap out of your child’s upcoming/planned/anticipated birthday party.

I think I have commented before that I am a bit less excited about my own children’s birthday parties, because they overwhelm me so much.

I get stressed right at the planning stage.  By the time we move to the RSVP’s and the parents who do not respond by the indicated date, I am about ready to throw back 10 Zolofts and wonder about the sanity of it all!!

Birthday parties are not happy occasions for me.  They are stressful and I usually just want to count 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississipp until it is all over.

I have no idea how moms who throw parties manage to look so composed and that they are enjoying it all.  Eleven years in, and countless parties, and I still find a pap smear more enjoyable.

Connor has his birthday in December, so he is almost guaranteed hot and sunny weather.  Except on the dates where we plan an outdoor party that is weather dependent  then sure as nuts are sweaty, it will rain or be windy, as it has for the last three years – except the movie party, because on that day it was sunny and 36 degrees.

I have passed the torch of  “Connor’s birthday parties” to Kennith and he has been organising these for the last three years.  Though granted he forgot to get a cake last year, but let’s not hold that against him.

June is the birthday month for the girls. Sadly Isabelle has never actually had a birthday party – she is overshadowed totally by her sister every year without fail.  This year will be no exception.

I was planning on using an indoor venue for Georgia’s party this year, but she is turning 8, and she is at that age where indoor venues are a bit young for her.

I then thought I would look at a Pamper Party for her, but nothing I have seen fills me with much hope.  To be honest two of the potential party places never got back to me, so I am not exactly filled with hope and exaltation when we can barely get out of the starting gates.

Third plan was to have her birthday party at the Aquarium, and do a mermaid party.  But if you have 15 kids, it might just be cheaper to buy a live shark and put him in your pool and then the kids can throw fish at him.

Right now we are back at the idea of having a home party.

Georgia is at the age where the kids are drop off and go.   It is great on so many levels.  I do not have to cater for the parents, and  to this also means a reduction in awkward small talk. Right now I just need to prepare to say “hi there, lovely, wonderful, see you at about 16h00 okay?”

The rest of the time at least the only social awkwardness is me and a room full of eight year olds.  But if it is a late afternoon party, then at least I can drink wine, and that sometimes helps.

I had to first explain to Georgia that we were no longer doing the mermaid party.  I had hyped it up a bit to sell her on the idea. That was a bit of a challenge and an exercise in disappointing a seven-year old, but now she seems to be on board with my new idea.  More or less.

My new party plan (for this week, check in at the end of March for a revised new plan) is that we will throw a “Born to be an Artist” party.

Kids will do canvases and painting and stuff ….. I have no idea yet, but that is the rough overall picture at the moment, and that is pretty much all I have got.

I am thinking of painting a portion of the floor in the garage with chalk paint and the kids can draw on it.  I am thinking we can “frame” one wall in the garage and the kids can paint that too.  The options are endless, as long as it stays in the garage!

I am off to pinterest as soon as I finish this post.

Strange things happen in social situations …

I have a bit of a social phobia – social anxiety is probably a better term.

It has it’s ups and downs, and generally I can imitate “reasonable” functioning when I need to.

When I am going through a particular difficult anxiety/panic or depressive exercise, then socialising is very difficult for me.  I tend to want to avoid it and duck for cover.

Of course I handle alcohol like someone who shouldn’t be allowed to drink.  At all.

When I am in a socially-making-me-nervous situation I tend to drink more.  The more I drink, the more comfortable I feel.  But the reality is I do not feel more comfortable.  If anything it makes me more anxious as the more I drink then the more I worry I am about to do something socially inappropriate.

And the more I drink increases the chances of me saying something inappropriate – and often something I do not really feel, but it is what is running in my head.  Drinking = stop valve in head not working = emotional puking on the table.

There are always a stream of socially inappropriate things running through my head.  All the time.

It is a bit like having this gnawing feeling to say something, but knowing that you shouldn’t.  The more you are under pressure (because you are in a social setting) the louder the gnawing becomes and the more you just want to say something.

When I am at my less than ideal stages, I opt to go to the bathroom and then I talk to myself in the mirror.  I blurt to myself in the mirror as then I hope by blurting I can join a social situation and nod-and-smile like everyone else. Strange much?

I know it sounds grade-3-and-Sally-just-cannot-keep-a-darn-secret, but there we go.

The interesting thing was that few weekends ago I was at a birthday party.  I knew some people, was comfortable in the location, as I knew it.  But I still felt a bit out of synch.  I was quite stressed when I arrived, and I tried to calm down a bit, but I remained anxious.  It is a kids party, so really what do I have to be anxious about.  Nothing.  But that does not stop me being anxious.  Over nothing.

It was an early day thing, so I would not have my wine crutch.  Though I knew a few people, I was still nervous/anxious/stressed- and when I am nervous, I try to find a quiet place away from the crowd.  I really struggle with multiple conversations, people and trying to tune in to everyone’s social ques and it is like my brain is trying to play pick-up-sticks (remember that game) in the dark.

The day went along and it was all quite nice as parties are, it was lovely and sunny and I could sit on the grass.  I find that I am less socially awkward if I can give myself a task to do – move furniture around, do the dishes, take photographs … you know that sort of thing, so I am distracted from myself.

We stayed after the party for lunch – and again it was very nice, I decided not to drink more than one glass of wine as I was already feeling “heady” – I was just wired from the day and being in company and feeling socially awkward.

I got home in the afternoon, and I felt like I had been drinking all day – I was drained and I felt my head was woozy, and I was wrecked.

The thing with social phobia – for me – is that what is meant to be a relaxing situation becomes fraught with anxiety and tension over nothing, and by the time it is over I feel like my adrenaline has been pumping two gallons to the dozen (I have no idea if that is a term … just thought of it) and by the time I get out of a social situation, I am lie on the bed exhausted.

Years ago I did a really interesting Myers-Briggs personality test, and one of the issue was whether you are introvert or extrovert.

The focus was not whether you like people or socialising, the issue was “where do you take your energy from” – and for me anything social is totally energy sapping.  Some people move into a room full of people, and the longer they are there the more energised they feel, whilst other people (me) start edging towards the bar, away from people, then trying to find a place to lie down and go to sleep.

Again, this falls into my stuff that I do, even though I don’t always want to, I try to socialise more than I probably feel I want to.  There is value in appearing normal in main stream society, for one your kids get more invitations to play dates.

Social phobia = social pariah = alone at home = not so great after the first 3 months!

Children’s Birthday Parties are a Health Hazard!

I am sitting watching Scared Mom/Charlotte updating Facebook and her blog with all the work she is doing for her daughter’s birthday party – it feels like I am watching a nervous breakdown in process, or at the very least someone who is one Mickey Mouse ear away from going postal.

Charlotte is planning a party – her child’s party and that is about as painful as an enema with VIM.

Watching Charlotte spinning out of control and turning Mommy-Partyzilla is mildly amusing, but a bit unsettling because I am exactly the same, so it is resulting in some post-trauma flash backs to my own experience with me planning and orchestrating parties.

For me parties stop being about the kids who are coming to the party and all about how I am going to outdo myself from last year.

The parents who I need to impress.  The right cake from the right bakery.  The outfit my child will wear.  The photographs.  The organising.  The lists.  The party packs. It all gets too much, too quickly, and I spin out of control, as I add another stupid thing to the list of things to do and to stress about.

And so it goes on – my 6 week stress run up to my kid’s parties strip the life and the joy out of them for me. Every last morsel of joy.  Sucked out.

I hate kid’s parties.

No, you misunderstand, I like coming to YOUR kid’s party.

I HATE arranging, organising, paying way too much, stressing, getting annoyed with stupid people who do not rsvp, wanting to yell at people who rsvp on the morning or the night before to say they are not coming, or “oh yeh, do you mind if we come….” and the worrying that everything will not go to plan.

I hate the associated stress that comes with organising my kid’s birthday parties.

It is January, and you know what?  I cannot tell you the joy I feel that the next time my “turn” pops up is June.  I get 4 – 5 months of happiness and raucous party abandonment and do not have to give it a second thought.

I NEVER enjoy my kid’s birthday parties.

I am too busy, too exhausted, too frazzled to pay attention to what is going on.

Mentally I have a checklist and I am too busy ticking off what needs to be done and when, to actually have a normal conversation.  Logically I keep telling myself “it is only a kid’s party, calm the hell down…” but then I do not. I blow it out of proportion, and when I start booking the ponies, the jumping castle and the magician, then I know I have gone too far.

Problem is I can’t pull myself back, and the only way to behave when you are going OVER THE TOP is to step it up and see if you can book a bucking bronco as well.

Trust me, when my turn comes, I will be thrown in amongst the non-sensical-crazy-blubbering-saliva-on-your-chin-RAMPANT-madness that infects nearly every mother when they know their child’s birthday party looms.

Why is it that fathers do not seem to have their “I am fkn losing my mind” party gene?

Next time around I would like testicles – as they seem to be linked to a relaxed mood and party planning – this ovaries and oestrogen lark is really a bit much.

Good luck Charlotte.

I will be there with my brood, and some screw top wine – for me, not my brood, they can get their own.

If you opened a bag of marshmallows and Flings and threw them on the lawn and let the two-year olds fight it out, they would probably have an equally as good a time, but I know that once Mommy-Partyzilla fever hits, it is just downhill and an anxiety attack from there on in.

Good luck!!!

The politics of “parties at school” ….

I am dragging this tired old subject out of the cupboard again and re-airing it, so that maybe I can get some consensus on the issue. It is a bit of an awkward one to chat about to the “mommies in the parking lot” group.

In the beginning I got really excited about my kid’s (or kids’) birthdays.  Like psycho excited.

I wanted to throw a humdinger at home or at a venue.  I invited all the kids in the class.  Spent my pension fund money and threw a party that made my head spin. It would usually end with Kennith and I having a “moer” of an argument about two minutes before the guests walk through the door.  Ah the joy.

Most of the kids in Connor’s class would come along and kids in general would have a good time.

That is a party.

Connor changed schools in Grade R mid-year.  At his previous school I never experienced a “school party” – all parties were big things done on weekends.  But in the Boerewors triangle it appeared school parties were the norm.  (maybe it was an area thing, or maybe it was a sign of the times, I am not sure)

My kids are both in schools where “parties at schools” appear to be the way things are done.  Invite gets sent.  But it is not really an invite as there is no RSVP and the party is during school times, so is it a “real” party ?

The first year of “parties at school”, I sent presents for EVERYONE.  If I knew the kid, if I did not know the kid, what ever, I sent a present along.  Made sense, cost a bomb. (2 kids x 25 kids give or take each year …..)

I then decided to throw a “party at school” Connor (or Georgia or both – I can’t remember).  I had no mentor to explain how it worked.  I did invites, and party packs, and balloons and cake …. and a snake show … as you do.  I made almost as much effort for the “class party” as I would for a home party.

Let’s say there were 25 kids in the class.  I catered for each of them individually.  I asked each parent to RSVP so that I could make individual things for each child – most parents didn’t.  I still made individual thingss for each kid.

I noticed that Connor/Georgia probably received presents from 10 kids when it was their “class party…”  Yes, it is not about the presents, but it is a bit. Or that is just me.

The accepted rule of society is “you go to a party you take a present” it is just what is done.

I realised “school parties” are actually not “proper kids parties that appear to fit the norms that kid’s parties stick to…”.  They  fall into the cold hinterland of parties which are not quite parties… people do not rsvp, you do or don’t send a present, and as the party giver appear not to expect one … or do you …. so I am totally confused with the rules.

Georgia gets really upset when she brings me an invite for a “class party” –  she whines and yowls that I must send a present, and gets really upset.

I have started saying “Georgia it is not a real party, it is a party at school …. you do not have to bring a present and if I had a party at school for you, I would not expect presents …..”

I realise I might be standing in the firing line on this issue, but I am seriously over spending a fortune on presents and making an effort for birthday presents for “class parties….” when the entire concept confuses me.

I might be the minority and other moms might think class parties rock the daisies.  I think they are a great solution when you do not want to go through the effort/chaos/expense of a party … and is it the norm not to send presents, and realistically for the child (parents of the child) to not expect presents?

I have had several years of them, and I have still not quite “got the rules” …. maybe you can explain them to me, or you can just let me know what your thoughts are, and then we can see if there is a consensus.

Connor turns 10 this week …

I am a bit stuck in the past on that issue.  In my head he is still 5.  I have just got used to him being 9, barely and now I need to do another adjustment.

Connor turns 10 this weekend.  I CANNOT BELIEVE HE IS 10!

Kennith has planned a fishing party for him.  It is the first time, ever, that I have not been involved in party planning.  So I get to look forward to my son’s birthday without all the stress and the anxiety of stupid party planning!  It is unbelievably freeing.

Connor is on his way to Grade 4 in 2012.  Grade 1 – 3 being “the foundation years” so he wears a “relaxed” school uniform and shoes are optional.

Next year he is in a white shirt, and grey pants.  He will be a big boy in a big boy school uniform.  I am amazed that time really has flown by with him, and really find myself staring at him and reminiscing that he is no longer the baby I held close, and cried over, but now he is a big boy, who throws his towel on the floor, wants to talk about fish and play tv games and dive bomb his sister in the pool.

Connor is such a good kid.  Originally I struggled with him.  But then I realised it was not him that I was struggling with, it was me. I was struggling.  He was actually a divinely easy baby and toddler.

Connor is such a sweet boy with a gentle kind soul.  My biggest concern for him is that he cares too much, and might get hurt because he is such an “open” soul.

Before Kennith and I had Connor, we used to read the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip – and this particular one was one of our favourites – we sat there with tears gushing out of our eyes because this made us laugh so hard.  What does make it funnier for us, is that Connor has become Calvin in many ways, and this is pretty much how a normal photo session go with him.  I tend to get this range of “faces” under normal circumstances.

<if you have never read a Calvin and Hobbes comic book, oh my heavens, then you are in for a treat …. today is really a great day for you ….>

I took some photographs of him this weekend and I quite liked how some of them came out.  I miss Connor’s long hair.  Kennith cut his hair very short at the beginning of summer, as most of the boys at his school have “razor short hair” and they were making fun of Connor because his hair was longer ….

What is the age divider for moving from a  little boy to a young man ?  8, 12, 16, 21?

Boy to man … almost

It is Connor’s birthday tomorrow – he is turning nine years old.

I cannot believe that nine years ago today he will still firmly incubated where my spleen, liver and large intestines are now resident.

I recall how afraid I was when I was pregnant.

Well, not afraid in it’s true sense, more in the “well, if I do not think about that then it will not occur” – so it was more a denial type of afraid.

I was fine with the pregnancy, and was lucky enough to experience a really easy pregnancy (if it is any consolation I will have two subsequent pregnancies that definitely showed me the ying and yang in life.)  The pregnancy part with Connor brought very little change to my normal life.

I did not experience morning sickness, nor much in the way of aches and pains.  I gained very little weight (oh we laugh now, we do), and it was all quite jolly.  It sort of just ticked by with it’s own time clock – as things if you ignore then tend to do.

I was not terribly opinionated about what I wanted, and was happy to go with the flow (to a large degree).

The one problem I had with the pregnancy, is that my mind’s eye could not (or would not) see past when I was not pregnant any more.  Pregnancy fine, seeing me with baby, not so much.

I was good with picturing the pregnancy.  Not so good with what would happen when I was not pregnant anymore.  I just had no idea.  My mind was using a super coping mechanism of “well, let’s ignore it totally shall we!”

I was really happy with the pregnancy, but had not spent a moment picturing how they were going to get the baby out. (Notice how I had outsourced that problem to someone else, and deemed myself the innocent unconcerned bystander)

I had not pictured cuddling my baby and bonding with him – I had nothing, and I was sort of comfortable with that.

People kept saying “You must be really excited that it is nearly over hey?” And of course I would raise an eyebrow and go: “Not really hey. Much easier in that out I am thinking.” Which would leave them confused and they would shuffle off.

I was not panicking about the “after pregnancy” because I had not given it any thought what so ever, I had not allowed it to come into my head.

Connor did arrive, and I think because I had no clue, I worried and panicked less.

When they did hand him over to me. I then felt the panic start to creep in, as I really had no idea what to do with him – I had not really held a baby before him.

The fact that all the nurses at Panorama Medi Clinic appeared so efficient made me really panic.  They were more from the Gestapo-school-of-nurse training that the Elizabeth Anne school, so they made me a little scared, feel very insecure, and well cry a bit (a lot.)

I realized as I watched them handle him with confidence, that I was well and truly out of my depth.  It took me about 30 minutes to change his nappy – and that was using about 4 nappies as I kept mucking them up, and there would be bum cream pretty much all over him, me, the bedding, the nappy bag, the nurse’s button!

I did not struggle with breastfeeding, but had no clue what I was doing, and that might have helped it just go better.  I stuck him on and then left him.  Great, but the bleeding nipples, not so much.

As the day drew near where I had to leave the hospital, I realized that now I was going to have a full fledged panic.  I called the nurse over and asked in my “you might have overlooked this detail” customer voice: “Er, when will you be giving me the manual.  There is one available right?”

Oh she laughed.  Bless her.  Of course I then had a bit of a cry as I realized there was actually no manual.  Which does appear like a huge oversight.

I received an instruction manual when I purchased a George Foreman Grill for goodness sake, but nothing when I expel a baby from my uterus.  Seems like “someone” is not realizing what a big deal this actually is.

The problem is that when you start crying after you have had a  baby, well you actually never stop.  I proceeded to cry for about three months, and then some.

Ah good times.

So today I reflect on all that and the distance I have travelled (in my head) since December 2001.

I was not sure I wanted any children.  However of course when I was pregnant and had Connor it was clear that we were going to be joined for life through this connection of mother and child/son.  Since then I have had two more, and would have another tomorrow if Kennith would just think it was a good idea.

Connor isn’t a baby anymore and probably has not been for some time.  It is difficult to look at him and see that he is on his way to being a gangly lanky boy-man who will throw a pre-pubescent fit about something and go around slamming his door.

I look at him physically and his development and I think that there is not much time between now and when he starts to sprout wiry hair on his body, and starts to do strange things in his room with his door closed.

I like that he still likes to come and get a cuddle from me – albeit when his friends are far away from him and don’t see him.

Last night when I asked him something he answered by going “WORD!” in an American slang accent, I was not sure whether to laugh or smack him against the side of his head.

Last night I caught Georgia out doing something  wrong, and I heard him comment in a low voice “busted!” and that made me laugh.

Connor has grown into a sweet, soft-hearted loving child, who is a bit OCD about fishing.  He is friendly and caring about others, and really has such a genuine pleasant nature.

Wow what an incredible nine years! It is hard to fathom that in another 9 years he will be 18 and then might retract his statement about “I am never going to have a girl friend, girls are yuck!”

So humour me this little pictorial meander down the road that is Connor.

Connor being born – 10 December 2001.

All red lipped and puckered in the incubator …. he really was a beautiful baby …..

Connor 6 months old …. he dribbled from birth …..

3rd Birthday … notice how long his hair is …. people kept saying things like: “what a beautiful girl…” and then Kennith went to cut his hair, about a week after this photo.

Connor 4 years and 6 months (his sister had just arrived on the scene)

Nearly 5.  He had just cut his own fringe, and the only solution was to cut all his hair off really short to try to make it look like we really wanted a hairstyle with big chunks of hair missing from the front.

5th Birthday – we always open presents after everyone has gone or even some days the day after.

Connor 5 1/2 at Zevenwacht with Georgia ….

Connor 5 years and 10 months ….

6th Birthday party … a boy on a boat with his mates, what could be better?

Connor 6 and a half ….

Connor turns 7 – this is the school party at his Pre-Primary ….. (and the teeth starting leaving the scene)

Connor’s first day of school …. I have no idea what is going on with the pose ….

Connor’s 8th birthday party …. as you can tell wildlife, snakes and so on feature quite heavily in our lives due to Connor’s little obsessions (I think we all go through the stage of two HUGE front teeth)

Connor 8 and a half … sort of starting to lose that gangly little boy thing and the little man is starting to show through.

Nearly nine ….