Friday, March 9, 2012

Dear Birthday Party

Dear Birthday Party,

You are only fun when you belong to someone else.  If I have to throw the birthday party, the only fun I have is making sure I have enough Xanax to get me through the weeks of planning, especially the week of the party.  Fretting begins at least 6 weeks prior to actual party date.  Blood pressure returns to normal at bedtime on party night.

For our kiddos' birthday parties, my goal is to throw a good one without breaking the bank.  Meet my party planner, Miss Bea StingyMiss Stingy is always on the quest for going about it the least expensive way possible without seeming so.  I guess that takes some extra work here or there.  Here is my Top Ten list of birthday party planning to-dos. 

10. Party site.  These days, it seems like if you don't book the party site by six weeks out, you blink and it's gone.  So first things first, book the site and worry about everything else later.  This is usually where most of the cost goes.  But you know me: OCD sufferers simply cannot host a party of pint-sized people in one's house.  So I pay for this and try to save on everything else.  Miss Stingy approves.  #payingyoutoclean

9. Invitation list. "Who would you like to invite from your class?"  "Everybody."  "No, we can't possibly invite your entire class."  Sorry, kiddo, says Miss Stingy.  "Should we invite X?"  "Yes."  "Do you play with X?"  "No."  Well, then.  We do lots of cutting, adding, shuffling, and tossing before the final list is done.  #kindalikeasalad

8. Evite.  I use Evite to eliminate postage and addressing envelopes.  Miss Stingy likes to be green.  Myth: it's just easier for everyone.  Truth: it is somewhat unreliable so I always have to followup to make sure people got the invite.  #rsvpalready

7. Theme. You'd think this is an easy task for the birthday kid to choose.  It turns out that it takes about 8 conversations, 14 suggestions, 32 changes, and 53 maybes to reach a verdict.  And, the theme for the next 4 birthday parties have also been decided, or so the birthday kid likes to think.  Are you writing that down, Miss Stingy?  #sameroutineeveryyear

6. Cake.  One year we bought a birthday cake for $80.  Yes, 80 friggin' dollars.  Miss Stingy vowed to never do that again.  On a related note, Miss Stingy also happens to be a fantastic twice-a-year cake decorator.  For years now I have been buying a Costco cake, stripping its buttercream, and redecorating it with fondant to match the theme of the party.  I've done Thomas the Train, Pikachu the Pokemon, Spider-man, and iCarly iPod cakes.  This year, I got a different request, to which I must rise to the challenge: CUPCAKES!  (And that's the AWESOME purchase I made for them in the photo above!).  I'm also doing buttercream frosting instead of fondant on the cupcakes, so the kids won't have to peel off a layer of play dough before eating the cake.  #bakingmarathon

5. Food.  How many kids' pizza birthday parties have we all gone to?  I want to serve something else, but Dear Husband says kids like pizza.  So okay, we'll compromise with pizza for kids and sandwiches for grownups.  My job: coordinate on-time delivery of food from two vendors and supply our own cake, drinks, fruit plate, and chips.  Why?  Miss Stingy wants to make sure that the party site does not charge me an arm and a leg to serve cardboard pizza and artificially-colored juice boxes.  #booyah

4. DecorationsAnother one of Miss Stingy's DIY projects.  We make birthday banners ourselves.  I have a roll of those restaurant table papers I bought years ago for the kids to draw on.  Each year, I write HAPPY BIRTHDAY in big letters, put the banner on the floor, and let the kiddos go to town with it.  They bring out their markers and crayons and whatnots, and spend a good hour or two quietly coloring and decorating the banner.  #musictomyears

3. Goody bagsMiss Stingy skips store-bought ones and makes her own.  We use brown paper sacks decorated with a theme picture.  The kids get in on this project, too.  They love to fill the bags like an assembly line.  #morefreechildlabor

2. Transportation.  We look like we are going on a week-long road trip with the amount of things we pack into the car for a two hour party.  DH gets all the credit in this department.  After all, Daddy has to do something for the party, right?  Miss Stingy agrees.  #otherthanpayingforit

1. Thank-you cards.  The one thing that I do not skimp on is the thank-you cards.  Miss Stingy clocked out on party day.  These I do actually hand address and stamp, because we do want to thank everyone who came to the celebration as well as for the presents they brought for the birthday kid.  This includes friends and family from out-of-town as well.  The birthday kid writes or signs every single one.  And if one's hand gets tired, well, we'll write more later.  A stack of thank-you letters is the completion of a birthday party and the last item on my to-do list.  #hallelujah

As I approach the week of the party, and panic sets in while I realize that I haven't done even half of my list (breathe in, breathe out), I just have to remind myself that cake will be eaten, lunch will be served, presents will be opened, and fun will be had, even if I Miss Stingy goofs a little here or there.  So, Birthday Party, you challenge me twice a year to be your host as you turn my life upside down for a few weeks each.  But unbeknownst to you, each time I get a reward all to myself that is utterly priceless: seeing the expression on my birthday kid's face at first sight of the birthday cake/cupcakes.  Those looks are what make all the blood, sweat, and tears worth the trouble.  But I still cannot wait to bid you farewell until next year.



  1. Ms. El Cheapo sounds terrifico and i have it on good authority (my own) that she is!!!

  2. Helen, What can I say? Ms. El Cheapo gets the job done! Thank you, and right back at ya!

    1. Editor's note: Ms. El Cheapo's name has been officially changed to Miss Stingy, just in case anyone feels finds it politically incorrect. =)