Fall Back

November 6, 2010, was Rachel's 10th birthday. Last year she had a slumber party and it was crazy. This year, I just wanted to have her party somewhere other than my house like we used to. Every year since she was born we had parties at places that host parties for kids. "Let them do all the work" I used to say. But now that she is 10, I feel like I'm running out of time on kid parties for her. I considered Chuck E. Cheese perhaps. "Let them clean up the mess." But she wouldn't have it. Been there done that for her. She wanted something different. And since her birthday fell on a Saturday this year, it was perfect, in her mind, for a sleepover. So I started to think that if the girls were going to trash my house at night anyway, I might as well have the party at my house.

Being a November baby living in CT, she has never had an outdoor party. We had one for Mia years ago, but her birthday is October 21 and you'd be surprised what a difference those two weeks make in weather. But this year we decided we would throw caution to the wind and go with an outdoor party. Everyone would just have to dress warm. As long as it didn't rain, we would be all set.

I started putting together the agenda for the activities. I looked outside and had a streak of brilliance hit me. Now, before you judge me, 1) keep in mind I'm getting old and 2) I live in a forest. I looked out at the yard full of leaves and said to myself, if I'm going to have 10-11 year olds here, I might as well get them to help rake the leaves. Genius, right? I thought so. So I went and bought rakes, tarps, and gloves.

The only thing that would ruin my ingenious plan of free child labor was the weather. At the beginning of the week I started watching the forecast. They were predicting snow flurries for Saturday. That's okay, I thought, they can still rake in the snow. But a few temperature degrees difference and that meant rain. I'm cruel, but I'm not THAT cruel as to make them rake in the rain. So all week I monitored the situation. Not only did it not have to be raining on Saturday, but it couldn't rain the days leading up to Saturday as well because I didn't want the leaves to be wet and heavy. That wouldn't be fun.

It poured Thursday and Friday. I thought I was going to have to cancel the party on Friday and go with the rain date which was Sunday. Come Saturday morning, we went to Rachel's last soccer game in East Lyme. It was freezing. The sky was full of thick black clouds that threatened rain. I wondered throughout the morning if I should call it off and move it to Sunday. But in the middle of the game, a blue streak in the sky started to shine through. I tried to estimate if the blue was heading towards Ledyard or away. At a certain point, I didn't have a choice. It was too late to call it off and we would just have to make do with whatever the weather was going to be.

As it turned out, by 2:00 that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful. The air was crisp, but not cold. The sky was deep blue with no clouds in sight. Perfect.

At 2:00 the party was scheduled to begin. Here is Bluepurr and Swiffur waiting for guests to arrive.

Poor Bluepurr was manhandled for 22 hours by little girls all wanting to hold her and pet her. Sometimes playing tug-of-war with her. She hasn't been the same since. But this one isn't about the cats.

To pull off my work-can-be-fun trickery, I couldn't just hand the rakes to the kids when they got here and say, "Go rake!" No, no, no. This had to be disguised as entertainment somehow. Weeks prior, looking through the Oriental Trading catalog, I decided to go with a scarecrow theme. And this is how it all played out:

The party started inside the house, with each child posing with Rachel in a scarecrow banner as we took pictures. Then they signed the back of the banner with well wishes to Rachel as a keepsake for her. The pictures taken with the birthday girl would be distributed to each child and serve as a party momento.

Next, they decorated frames with foam self-adhesive leaves, to keep with the fall theme. The pictures taken were printed out and inserted into the frames.

A neat party favor I thought.

Then it was time go outside. We all bundled up and went outside to find blue skies and 50 degree weather. It was perfect!

We started with a donut eating contest. I figured if I filled them up with sugar first, I would get more out of them. The video of this event is more amusing, but here are some shots of the donut eating contest.

As Lauren Mikkelson pointed out, the video of this event should be the preview movie at my next Annual Movie Night. She may be right.

Anyway, just when the children were lulled into thinking this was going to be a fun party, this is when I went for the kill...

How to Get Cheap Child Labor in the US

Step 1

There were 10 kids in all. I broke them into 3 teams. I gave each team a head-sized pumpkin and a scarecrow pumpkin decorating kit and told them to work as a team to decorate the best head with what they had. The one with the best decorated head would win free fries from Burger King.

Here are the three heads they came up with:

AKA Curly, Moe, and Larry

Step 2

I gave each team a rake, a tarp and a pair of gloves and told them they had to work together to gather as many leaves as they could, to form the biggest pile. The team that built the biggest pile would win free fries from Burger King. And like a charm, off they went to rake. They all had their own little system. In one team, one person raked the leaves onto the tarp and when it was full, the other two would carry the tarp full of leaves to their pile. Another team took turns raking. The other team skipped the raking part for a while and just picked up bundles of leaves and dropped them onto their tarp. I didn't care how the leaves got moved from point A to point B, just as long as they moved them. Strategically, the piles were placed right next to the spot where I rake all my leaves to every year. (Follow me?) Here are some pictures of the kids working to build their piles:

Step 3

That week, I had gone to the Goodwill store and bought the largest size men's pants I could find. We're talking Jared-the-Subway-guy-BEFORE huge! I dug out a bunch of old shirts I never wear anymore and old shoes from my closet. I put them in a laundry basket outside. I told the teams to pick out the clothing they wanted to build a scarecrow with. Abby Edelman grabbed her set of clothes and went running for the leaf pile her team had built. No, no, no. Stop right there Missy! Or more accurately, at the beginning of the party I had asked the kids what they wanted me to say to get their attention if I wanted them to stop. Ethan Rankowitz suggested, "Ten-hut!". I liked it and went with it. Although when they started to salute me, I must admit, the power did go to my head. Anyway, as Abby went running to her already raked leaves in a pile, I yelled, "Ten-hut!" and they all froze in place. I defined the rules clearer for them. The leaves in the pile that had already been raked to their final destination, I mean their pile, could not be used for this task. "Groan, moan, you're kidding?!" And that was just Dianne saying that! They all got their rakes and started in the back yard to rake more leaves for their scarecrow dummy's stuffing.

Now parents, as you are reading this, you're experiencing one of the following emotions. You're either mad at me for exploiting your child to do work for me under the guise of calling it Rachel's Birthday party, OR you're jealous that YOU didn't think of doing this in your yard!

When the kids were looking weary, and had enough raking, I called time to judge their scarecrows. What would be the prize? You guessed it. Free fries from Burger King. Here is what I had to judge from:

They all worked hard and when all was said and done, they all received a Burger King free fries coupon. Amazing what they will do for fries, isn't it?

We returned inside the house where they washed up and had ice cream cake. The party officially ended at 5:00. But as I mentioned, Rachel wanted a few friends to stay overnight. So once half the kids left, with goody bags in hand...

(Aren't these cute?)

...the other half stayed and more activities took place. We got pizza and watched, "How to Train Your Dragon" on the big screen that I set up in the living room. We blew up air mattresses and the five remaining girls laid quietly watching the movie.

Now you would think that with all that raking they did, they would be exhausted and would want to turn in early, right? Wrong. After the movie was over, I said, "It's 9:00. Time for bed." One of them, I can't remember which one, but if I do remember, she won't be invited back next year, reminded me that it wasn't 9:00 but rather, due to daylight savings time, it was actually only 8:00. Holy mother of God! An extra hour of this?! I was ready for bed 3 hours ago!

Okay, so we'll watch another movie. And actually it was the movie I had intended for them to watch anyway. Rachel and I had recently watched the 2010 remake of "The Karate Kid" and it got me thinking about the original movie. So I purchased it with the full intent of the girls watching it. Hearing that it was indeed 8:00, not 9:00, we made some popcorn. (Lauren HAD to have popcorn. She reminded me it was on the invitation. Funny. She's a string bean sized kid who did nothing but ask me what we were going to eat next. Definitely going through a growth spurt. She almost ate me out of house and home. I loved it!)

We watched the Ralph Macchio version of the movie. Parents, if you are reading this, here is where I owe you an apology. My memory of "The Karate Kid" original movie was slightly off. The movie was rated "PG" but had some colorful language in it. The first time he said the word "ass" none of the girls said anything. But I heard it loud and clear, and if I did, I knew THEY did. I let it slide hoping it wouldn't make them go home and call their siblings an ass. "Where did you hear that word?" "At Rachel's house." Ugh! Then he used the word "bastard" and I almost had to stop the movie in fear of what else might happen. I guess "PG" was different back in 1984. The girls mostly ignored it, but did mention it at the end. There was nothing inappropriate, thank goodness, other than the swearing in a few places. So if they mutter under their breath, calling you a bastard because you told them to make their bed, you know where it came from. Damn Karate kid.

Then it was lights out. Tell me. Do they look tired?

The next day they woke up at 7:30 a.m., which was actually 6:30 a.m. because I had forgotten to reset the clock back. Drats! I fed them breakfast. Well, I fed Lauren breakfast because those were the first words out of her mouth. I made homemade almond blueberry ginger croissants and Dianne made bacon. It was yummy.

I had told their parents to come pick them up at noon so we had a lot of time to kill. They played Wii for a while. But you'll never guess what they really wanted to do. They wanted to go outside and build a pile of leaves to jump in. "YES! We can rake more leaves! Let's do it!" And so we did. They got the rakes and gloves and we all built a big leaf pile. Here are some of the pictures of them jumping in and just having good old-fashioned fun. No electronic games. No big elaborate bouncy houses. No glitz and glamour of flashing lights at Chuck E. Cheese. Nope. Just jumping in leaves.

Even I reverted back in my mind to when I was ten and took a dive myself. Paying for it this week, but it made the girls laugh and it was fun.

My Kaneclusions: The clocks weren't the only thing falling back last weekend. We all fell back in time with watching the original "Karate Kid" movie; I fell back in time, remembering ten years ago, having my wonderful daughter and wondered what I would be doing without her in my life (nothing worth any meaning); and the girls literally and physically fell back into a pile of leaves as if they never knew how much fun that could be.

Falling back, like playing the "trust" game:

When "The Karate Kid" was over, I reviewed the movie with the girls and asked what they thought. Particularly, I reviewed the part when Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel Son "Wax on and wax off" the car, and makes him paint the fence and the house. Initially, Daniel thinks that Mr. Miyagi is just using him to do all the chores for the older man. When in essence, Mr Miyagi was teaching him the movements he needed to know for karate. All learning lessons.

Me: "...And see kids, when I had you raking my lawn this weekend, it wasn't for MY benefit, it was for YOUR benefit. You learned how to work as a team. And learned that nature can be fun, right? Am I right?"

Them: "Yeah, whatever, Miss Kane..................ass."

In all seriousness, one of the kids called this week and asked if she could come over again and rake more leaves and jump in piles. "Why, YES! You're always welcome!...Should we call you when our driveway needs shoveling? I mean, when we want to build a snowman?"

P.S. Parents, if you're offended by any of this, it seems you, too, could learn a lesson. Feel free to come here and rake the leaves that your kid didn't get. I'll buy you fries.

Maybe my favorite picture of all - my double digit daughter.


MaryEllen said...

I laughed my ass off...ha (that must be where I heard it from) Glad the girls were good for you, want to host Tessa's party?

Dianne said...

I can attest to the actual fun the kids had! Who says that fun can't be constructive? It was a great idea and an awesome party! Legendary! If only you could have kept them for another week, the whole yard could have been raked.

By the way, those are Tim Horton's donuts on that pole...

Sharon Kane said...

Who knew those would be the last Tim Horton Donuts we would ever have? No wonder Collin ate his off the ground.

Host Tessa's Party? Why, do you need your house painted or something? I can get those kids to do it and think they are having fun!

Seriously, it was a lot of fun. And had raking the leaves been the sole purpose, I wouldn't have had to spend all THIS weekend out there raking. Thankless job! My next residence will be a condo.

Sharon Kane said...

Oh, I forgot to say, Curly and Moe were organ donors and became pumpkin soup and 2 pumpkin pecan pies this weekend. That'll teach 'em for losing their heads.

Jocelyne said...

Nice Sharon, the pictures say it all! :-) This is one party RNK will definitely remember! Sabrina had a blast.