This week I started planning for the kids' birthday party. It's not this month, or in October, or even in November. Their birthday is in December.
Now it may sound like I'm jumping the gun a bit, but there are so many things to consider and arrangements to be made.
First, we had to pick a date and, since we're not crazy enough to have a party for dozens of first-graders at our house, hope that the place we wanted wasn't already booked. The popular places can book up quickly, so that's a big reason for me to start early.
This year the kids wanted to have their party at Kids Castle in Burbank. If you haven't been there, it's like a mini Las Vegas casino for the under 12 crowd. It's a little bit dark, with a cave-like feel to it, and loud, with lots of noise from all the game machines. The only things needed to turn it into a kiddie Caesar's Palace would be to have waitresses serving Shirley Temples and a really bad lounge singer. We passed on this venue.
There are lots of other places that are happy to host a birthday party, where they will take care of everything. There are children's gyms, indoor playgrounds, bowling alleys, skating rinks, dance studios, riding stables, miniature golf, go-karts and video game arcades.
While a perk of having twins is that we only have to do one birthday party a year, it means twice as many guests and the cost for using one of these party places would rival what I paid for my first car. We chose to have our party at a local park facility, which is cheaper, but means more work for me.
The next thing to line up was the entertainment. I don't know how the teachers at school keep the kids engaged for hours, but I knew I'd need professional help. Again, there are an innumerable amount of choices. You can go traditional and choose to have a character like a Disney princess or clown, face painting, or have a magic or puppet show. Or how about something more unusual like a fencing party, a mad scientist show, or a reptile petting zoo? We went old school and chose the magician.
Another important thing to plan for is the food. We've been to birthday parties that looked like a catered wedding banquet. I can understand having pizza or maybe sandwiches and a veggie tray, but not needing multiple six-foot long tables just for the food.
We will keep it simple with a few munchies and, of course, birthday cake. Since our twins are a boy and girl, we will need two cakes. One will be very girly and the other will likely involve a superhero.
The last big item to plan for are the goodie bags for the guests. In Hollywood, these are known as swag and might contain thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. I'm not sure where this idea came from, but I'd love to have a chat with the person who thought it up. We attended one party where the goodie bags obviously cost more than the presents brought by the guests. How does that make sense?
Now that most of the details are taken care of, I can relax until the day of the party. I'm sure all of the preparations I've made will make the day go as smooth as silk. Really, it will.
SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at email@example.com.