Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Very Late Birthday Party

Thing 1 has the great misfortune of having been born in the middle of the summer. When she was very little, I thought this was a blessing for her and only an easily forgettable hardship for me. The last month of any pregnancy is uncomfortable at best, but when it is spent in sweltering heat without an air conditioner, it's really miserable. Also, I don't recommend spending the first month of motherhood like that if you can help it - two bodies in contact for 30 minutes straight, sweating profusely, every two hours (nursing) can lead to pretty intense heat rashes, for both.

But summer birthday parties are fun, right? Thing 1 has had outdoor parties involving water balloons, carousels in the park, elaborate relay races, and kite building and flying. Yes, the options are limitless when the outdoors are available for a kid's birthday party. So what if you have a small apartment - you can still invite the whole class!

Just don't expect them all to come.

We've always had a few friends out of town when Thing 1 celebrated her special day. But when we moved to New City, it became a serious problem. The year after Thing 2 was born, we had our first indoor party, at a local kid hot spot, to save myself all the work of organizing it all. We had worked and reworked the guest list, since there was a limit to how many guests we could have. Less than half of the children we invited could attend, and I resorted to encouraging those that could make it to bring siblings along so the venue wouldn't feel empty.

I'm not sure if it is because parents of school aged children are more likely to plan their vacations/traveling to see family during the summer break, or the change in the crowd we roll with. Back in Old City, we lived in a neighborhood that was in the process of gentrification. When we moved in, the nearest laundromat had recently burned down, and I learned not to buy any fresh fruits or vegetables at the nearest supermarket, because they would be rotten by the next day. We moved there because the rent was cheap, and the apartments reasonably sized but it was still relatively close to the center of things. And though the next neighborhood over was often in the news for poverty induced violence, our neighborhood was quiet. After we had Thing 1, we quickly came to appreciate the many playgrounds and parks nearby, and the neighborhood got better every year. We met many other families that moved in and stayed there for the same reasons, so most of our friend were not taking all that many trips, because, like us, they just couldn't afford it.

When we moved to New City, I asked around about where to move so we could feel good about sending Thing 1 to public school. By the time I knew where I had been accepted to graduate school, it was already too late to apply for private school in New City, and I didn't want to sacrifice her education for my own. Lucky for us, we could just afford to move into an area with excellent public schools that is very close to the campus of my school. It would be no different from staying in our old neighborhood and scraping together enough money for private school tuition since the local school had not yet caught up with the property values. Maybe better, since my commute would be so easy. And the schools are great, and no application (or tuition) is required. Though we have met other families in a similar position, there are many who are much more well off than us, for whom a summer vacation is a month away at some summer house, possibly in another country, and there are other trips scattered throughout the year as well. So people are just not around during the summer.

This year Thing 1 wanted to have a sleep over, and we agreed that she could invite her three best friends, since our place is small and the Things share a room. So, of course, she wanted them all to be able to attend. This means that, even though her birthday is in late July, and we started trying to find a date in late June, we ended up waiting until this weekend for everyone to be in town all at the same time. And though we celebrated her birthday as a family on the official day, I don't think she really felt like it had happened until I carried the cake in tonight and we all sang "Happy Birthday".

I think we'd better start planning now for next year's party.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of School

Thing 1 started fifth grade today. She informed me yesterday afternoon that I would be permitted to walk her into the building this morning, but that for the rest of the school year, forget about it. Just keep on walking past the door, mama.

As we approached the school, she reached over and took my hand. I suppose it was the force of habit - I have always liked to hold the kids' hands when we walk around town rather than constantly turn around in circles checking that they are still with me. But after two steps, she brushed my hand away and picked up her pace to get a couple of steps ahead of me.

I got to meet her teacher and catch up with some of the other parents I hadn't seen all summer. She settled into things quickly, quite pleased that there were not assigned seats. She dubbed the cluster of desks she and a few friends occupied the "cool table" and I barely got a hug from her before I left.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September Scientiae Carnival

is up over at Lab Cat's blog, and it's a great read. Check it out!

I know I'm a day late in announcing this, but I spent all day yesterday doing home improvement tasks I've been meaning to do all summer.

Isn't that why they called it "Labor Day"?