Justine has just celebrated her fourth birthday in lavish Child of the 90s style. Festivities stretched for an entire week. Piece De Resistance was the cute Himalayan Persian kitten she named Zoe.
Other gifts included the new party outfit, new clothes and video from Nan and Pa, assorted books, a visit to the circus (how considerable of them to be in town just for us!), a cake shaped into a four at childcare, numerous cards and booty from distant relies with the whole extravagance culminating in THE birthday party extraordinaire.
Now as every Super Mum knows you must really steel yourself for such an act of fortitude and courage when a dozen little darlings in party mode descend.
With Numero Uno I went through the dreaded Healthy Food Phase and even tried it on at his third birthday party. Be warned. Kids can sniff out carob and wholemeal a mile off. What an abysmal failure. Mountains of nutritionally sound food left untouched while the token fairy bread was eagerly devoured by the discerning party animals.
The next year I caved in to pressure and swung to the other extreme with full-on artificially coloured cordial, jelly, lollies, sickly cakes...the works. "Thanks Mrs Priestley, that was just great," muttered mothers picking up their green-around-the-gills kids, gearing up for the big heave when they got home.
You will be relieved to know I have now settled on the moderate, middle ground with a few simple foods; the traditional mini frankfurts and sausage rolls, the essential fairy bread interspersed with a few happy plates of celery and carrot sticks, cheese and fruit.
I put Andrew in charge of party games, him having had frontline training as a primary teacher. Play Musical Chairs at your own risk. With older kids it tends to get extremely rough as the killer instinct is triggered by the scramble for the scarce. I once played this game with a room full of manic adults hell-bent on proving their personal law 'I must win at all costs'. I was left in with one other ageing desperado. Both in a lather of sweat with deadly focus on the sole remaining chair, we made a reckless dive. He won. The rat. I will never forget or forgive.
Anyway with four year olds, the opposite happens. Players tend to drift out of the game leaving an excess of chairs and the competitive edge is somewhat blunted. The game just sort of flopped with everyone getting a prize for well sort of being in it.
Pass the Parcel can whip up a frenzy of excitement with the mystery prize becoming an object of wondrous desire. The Birthday Girl couldn't stand the fact that someone else won (it being HER special day) and made off with the chocolate giving it a devilish squeeze.
Silly Dancing to their favourite music was great except that mum won the prize for the silliest dancer. How embarrassing. I do tend to lose control when I hear the strains of Playschool's One Grey Elephant Balancing.
Well we survived for another year with the usual earnest vow to do it on a smaller scale next year. Sure we will.