I dearly hope this year, when my awesome little red-haired middle child turned 8, will not go down in MotherMirth history as the birthday with the puking and the nits.
The year started out so well! A few days before her birthday, we had our family-only party with Grammie and the big awesome so-grown-up cousins! And then, on the special day of 8-ness, we had a Harry Potter birthday cake and friends over to sing the song. But I had grand plans to make Laurel’s big, official birthday party (scheduled a few weeks later, for optimal post-winter holidays’ attendance!) the bestest birthday party she had ever had. To make up for my parents’ totally breaking my newly 8-year-old heart by telling me I couldn’t have a party. Because having kids is all about getting over your own childhood disappointments and traumas, right? It’s all about me! Right?
Ahem. Anyway, Laurel’s 8th birthday party was going to be epic. It was planned to occur at the Boston Museum of Science–the coolest place for a birthday party ever. I ordered nifty stuff from Oriental Trading for the goody bags. We invited 20 small humans, arranged transportation, and did the math for a good kid/grown-up ratio. Laurel sorted kids’ names into groups so she could spend time with all of her guests in different parts of the museum. I planned the logistics for bringing in an awesome cake. We were about to buy tickets for the butterfly garden exhibit. When THE SICK started happening.
About 10 days before the party, Noravirus exploded all over the Boston area in all its projectile horror. Laurel awoke Thursday at sick-o-clock, AKA 2am, and spewed all over her pretty pink comforter in her bunk bed. We immediately canceled plans for our traditional geeking-out weekend at Arisia–the Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention in Boston. Instead of learning new Jedi lightsaber moves and kicking some Dominion ass, we all 5 took turns sticking our faces into the throw-up bowl. The birthday party, scheduled for the following weekend, was scrapped. Most of our social circle were likewise afflicted with intestinal armageddon. The month of January, sadly, passed without a party for my disappointed 8-year-old.
In February, lice invaded our household, making it impossible to have a bevy of children frolic in party-time splendor at our house without fear of sending them home with goody bags and buggy hair-hitchhikers. It took weeks, a quart of vinegar, 4oz of tea tree oil, and thrice-daily combings to convince the hair horde that this was not friendly territory for their kind. And then we all got sick with the upper respiratory oh-gods-when-will-the-phlegm-cease infection. To sum up, February is where things crawl off to die. Not a good month to celebrate the awesomeness of being 8.
Finally, March happened. And in a fit of health and inspiration, I proposed a SCIENCE party at our house, and the 8-year-old agreed. I think, secretly, she would have preferred an art party, but we’re in the midst of trying to inspire her toward different expressions of creativity and motivate both of the older kids more toward the sciences. Because artists starve. Science is where the money is, and someone has to care for us in our old age! (OK, I’m totally kidding here! Rachel Mello is so going to come to my house and beat me over the head with pointy art supplies!)
Science is really quite out of my comfort zone. Really really. Art is easy for me. I have boxes full of art supplies–felt, beads, every color of glitter, yarn, string, paints, charcoal, clay, sculpting tools, sewing stuff, playdoh, stencils, markers, 3 different kinds of glue…. To me, science is something I attempt in the kitchen, when I’m trying to make something edible happen out of overcooked shoulder roast. I am no scientist.
Science. Takes. Work. I obsessed for 10 days on what experiments to run. What our Laboratory would look like. Seriously. My spouse talked to my vacant stare about, I’m sure, all kinds of fascinating pop culture crap and goings on in the world while I contemplated Alka-Seltzer rockets, baking soda/vinegar volcanoes, solubility tests, and how to pull off a science party that had a good balance of educational and fun.
Because overwhelmed girl gets overwhelmed with large groups, we only invited 6 other kids to join us.
We ordered personalized lab coats for Laurel and her sister. Amazon sent us test tubes, pipettes, petri dishes, and safety glasses. We set up the living room as the lobby, with experiments and posters all around the room to look at, and the dining room transformed into a science laboratory. Allen and I, with the help of a few awesome parents who stuck around, talked a little bit about scientific method, ran a few experiments, and set up a free-form experiment table with supplies and let the kids make their own experiments. I prepared for 6 experiments because I’m, as you know, totally compulsive. But we had time for only 4. Kelsey ran the Diet Coke & Mentos explosion in the backyard while I set up the snacks and drinks, and then we all ate Portal cake.
Diplomas were awarded. Kids dispersed. Allen and I lazed around for the rest of the day while we allowed Phineas and Ferb to entertain our 3 kids for a few hours. We had pizza delivered, got kids pajama’ed and teethbrushed, and threatened them into bed by 8:30.
And a happy and content Laurel went to sleep feeling loved and officially very much an 8 year old.