We like to party.

We like to party…we like, we like to party.
I apologize for invoking the Vengaboys, but even after 18 years, I STILL hear that song every time someone mentions a party. It’s terrible, but catchy as hell.  You’re welcome for the ear worm.

It’s true though, we do like to party. We just have to manage things a little differently than we used to.

Or, from time to time these days, though I hate to admit it, we avoid them.

When we do bail, it’s generally a combination of situational factors (e.g., number of people, if there are kids, if the place is going to be filthy with pizza and ice cream, if there are little old ladies with good intentions trying to give our kid ice cream), and location (e.g., an Italian restaurant, an indoor playground smeared with years of pizza and ice cream residue, a cottage or camping event where emergency services may be unreliable).

We’re not any less social than we used to be. Life is busy, but we love the people in ours and we want to actually see them in a social capacity.

However, sometimes it feels a little overwhelming.  Layered in with the factors above, is how much effort we feel like putting into prep and surveillance.

The prep, I’ve talked about before. (See Sesame Seeds of Doubt with regards to events at restaurants, and Excursion Essentials for going pretty much anywhere else.)

The surveillance is something all parents do when we’re fresh to the job and helicopter-y, but it generally fades as kids get bigger and more independent.  With our son, we’re at a point where the right party, at the right house, allows us to release him into a toy-filled attic or basement along with all the other kids and it’ll all turn out ok. Our daughter is two and a half so she’s gaining a little independence, but usually wants to stay nearby, and we’re ok with that because the eight-year-old kids aren’t quite babysitting age (though some of the eight-year-olds we know are waaaayyy more grown up than some of the 38 year-olds we know).

In general, we’re pretty relaxed and will team up to check on the kids, bring them in line if needed, feed, water, change, etc.  However, in certain crowds, at certain events, we have to kick things up a notch.  Not surprisingly, when food comes out, our roles…intensify.  While we haven’t gone full secret service yet (those ear piece communicators are expensive), we lock eyes, exchange hand signals for placement in relation to our charge, and establish clear sight lines around the room.

Once a cheese board or a bowl of dill pickle chips (yup…dairy in those) hits the coffee table, our daughter has a shadow: Someone to cut her off if she approaches the snack table. Someone to scan the room for used napkins or those tempting tiny plates that inevitably get sprinkled all over side tables and the arms of couches. We also scan for orange Doritos residue, chocolate or cookie crumbs, fruit that looks harmless but has been served near yogurt dip…you get the picture.

We do it as subtly as possible, but it’s a delicate balance between trying to keep an eye on her, attempting to maintain adult conversation, and tactfully executing a wipe down of any kids (or cuddly adults) who might make contact with the little one or things she’s likely to touch. If she ever goes into show biz, she’ll be well accustomed to the “starlet at a bar with a body guard” routine.

We hope it’s not creepy or weird or intrusive for others at the party.  We don’t want to dictate how parties are thrown, or what’s there, or how others have to celebrate when we’re around.  We don’t want people to groan when they find out we’re coming and that they have to accommodate us. We also don’t want people to make a huge deal out of it when we have been accommodated. I want to make it clear that we ALWAYS appreciate the good intentions of people making the effort, and the work it takes to do so. But…it can really feel like you’re putting people out when there’s a big “todo” about separating and substituting, or when kids are told “You can’t have that today because R is here.” We want our daughter accustomed to real life and real situations. But, man can it ever suck the fun out of a gathering when it becomes the focal point of your night.

HOWEVER, we are exceptionally fortunate, and New Years Eve this year was a heart busting reminder of that. We have amazing friends who, for several years now, have hosted a two-stage party where the kids get to celebrate a ball drop at 8pm and the grown-ups celebrate in a second shift once the kids (and some partners) have gone to bed.

Without really bringing it up, without fanfare, and absolutely without eye rolling or groaning, this amazing group of people (hosts, guests, and kids) quietly sorted out a snack menu that was completely safe and completely satisfying.  There were fruit and veggie trays, and home made bread. We were asked to bring some dip to contribute. Friends brought guac and nachos. More friends showed up with locally made dairy-free tomato pizza. The hosts went out and found cashew-based “cheese” that was safe (only peanuts are an issue) and really really good.  Packages were casually brought over for a quick inspection as needed. It wasn’t a thing.  It just happened.

We went to the party, prepped and ready to break out our dark suits and hand signals…and promptly put that shit away and simply raised our glasses. When the kids went to bed, the grown-ups busted out the dairy (and maybe a little more booze), but while our daughter was there, we literally had nothing to worry about.

It may seem like a small thing to them, but the fact that it was thought of and done without hoopla or hullabaloo, or highlighting again and again what was being done because our daughter was there, was EVERYTHING. As I type, I’ve got warm, happy tears in my eyes because our friends are fucking fabulous.  We love them dearly and it was so so so good to start the new year with the feeling that things were indeed, fine and dandy.

So, as we ring in a new year where the world in general is feeling less than warm and fuzzy, I leave you with the following message, originally put out by the Vengaboys, but dedicated to the people in our lives who so clearly have our backs:

Hey now, hey now, hear what I say now

Happiness is just around the corner

Hey now, hey now, hear what I say now

We’ll be there for you

You know the rest. Happy 2018!

Small victories.

Tonight some friends were visiting from out of town with their kids and everyone was meeting at a local dive bar that daylights as a family friendly restaurant. It’s a place we generally avoid, but we’re trying hard to navigate social situations with food.  It’s becoming a bad habit to avoid them.

So, I picked big brother up from afterschool care, popped in at home to pack little sister’s Yumbox and grab colouring books, and walked over to the restaurant, anticipating meltdowns, or reactions, or confrontations with servers.

But…it all just worked. The kids coloured and little sister ate her food. Grownups talked loudly over the kids and drank mediocre beer.  It was all very civilized.  There was a moment of tension when big brother’s food arrived and sis wanted some chicken fingers and fries, but she accepted the explanation that they would make her sick pretty graciously.

It was a good night, a nice night, and one we no longer take for granted.  Thanks universe!

Soup is for suckers.

I miss eggs.

Not so much as a food, but as a concept.

I miss their convenience. I miss the nutritional bang for your buck. I miss having something that can be prepared and ready to consume in a 10-minute window of time (without having to spend an hour prepping and freezing it ahead of time).

Scrambled eggs are friggin’ delicious and fast and kids will eat them when you throw them on a plate with some toast and baby carrots.  They are SO easy.

We did not have scrambled eggs tonight.

We had soup. It was made from scratch, from wholesome ingredients. It was lovingly simmered over several hours and then frozen in reasonable portions for a quick weekday reheat.

Obviously, nobody ate it.

They ate toast and pickles and we had cereal an hour later before bed time.  Sigh.

We rolled in late from work/school/daycare pick up with low blood sugar and quick tempers. After a weekend full of ear infection fun and a blistering fever virus (that two doctors said was NOT hand foot and mouth disease, but almost definitely WAS hand foot and mouth disease), meal prep did not happen.  Consequently, the delicate juggling act of using what we have and making sure food gets ON the table that won’t be thrown OFF the table, kinda fell apart.

On the way home, with two whiney kids, I would have given almost anything to just cruise through a drive thru for deliciously terrible burgers and fries. People would have shoved food in their face and maybe felt gassy and bloated later, but for 20 minutes or so, everyone would have been happy and quiet and eaten something at the same time. If it came with a toy, I’d have another 5-10 minutes of peace to eat my own slop.

Alas, that could not happen.  My daughter is old enough now to know when she’s getting the shit end of the stick, and it’s no fun to watch everyone else get the goods while you get apple juice.  I’d still have to make her food anyway, AND do the toxic cleanup protocol to purge the kitchen of allergens after everyone else ate theirs.

So, we went home, and I heated up the stupid soup. There were tears (and semi-silent mom cursing) before the bowls even hit the place mats.

Eggs would have hit the spot, but since they’re off the table, I ran through my fast dinner options:

  • If anyone liked baked beans, I’m sure beans on toast would work, but nobody likes them, including me.
  • I know I can scramble tofu with turmeric or something, but my kids can detect tofu a mile away and that would go over even worse than soup.
  • Mac and cheese is deadly for my daughter and my son absolutely rejects all forms of non-tomato sauces anyway. My daughter, of course, won’t eat any tomato-based sauces, so spaghetti is no help.
  • Hot dogs…hot dogs work…but they didn’t make it back onto the grocery list.

As a parent, you make a lot of choices that are purely based on getting through the moment…so, toast and pickles and cereal it was. The soup was kind of gross anyway.

Next Tuesday, I’m leading with Cheerios.

bowl of cheerios
Definitely not soup.

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