Ben’s balloons

Last year I did 3 events at The Tar Pit, our now shuttered bar and restaurant, called Cocktails and Crayons. An especially big hit on mother’s day it featured great food and drink for all ages, and the best balloon artist I have ever seen. Ben Gordon is a sweet heart. He is a tall young man who is really skilled with balloons. My mom remarked that his creations would make great centerpieces.
At the Tar Pit events after he had doled out characters to the kids adults would would ask if he would come to their table and do something for them. Perhaps part of my fascination is that this takes the kind of crafty, spatial arrangement skills I was not born with. He is very patient with kids, and adults who have had a few drinks.

I asked him to make a house call for Rex and be interviewed in the studio.

Ben is available for parties- young or old—and if you are in the LA area I highly recommend him. If you mention coolmom he will give you a discount to boot. Check out his FB pager after the vid.

Momversation: Do You Feel Birthday Party Pressure?

It’s very easy to bemoan the excess of a kid’s birthday party. Does that make sense to spend money on balloons, pony rides, catered food? And I say, Why not?  If I had endless money this year I think I would be fine with treating Vivien’s 4th like she was the child of 1930s movie star. You know why?

1) It helps the economy. The balloon company is a small business that is struggling this year, and the guy wrangling the ponies probably can’t afford health care. Helping small businesses stay in business is charitable. And will do more for the economy that that waste o’ money TARP and all the other money given to banks who don’t pass on the largess to their clients who need a small business loan or their mortgages reduced (argh, don’t get me started).

2) It’s fun.

Now, the only downside I can see to this (if money were no object) is the kid could become a big jaded, spoiled brat, and it puts a lot of pressure on mom to top herself every year.

When I was little there was a cool kiddie amusement park in LA (long gone, sadly and replaced by a disgusting mall that has the architectural integrity of a lump of poo). At Vivien’s age, I had my whole class there in a castle setting. We had jelly beans and cake and orange drink (who knows what it was). Then my mom gave us a long line of tickets and we were off. The tilt-a-whirl was my fave.

After that place closed down, my birthday parties never seemed as fun again. I think it’s great to have a wild, fun special day once a year.

In this Momversation, I ask the moms from our newer perch, not as little kids, but as moms, do they feel pressure around kid parties?  I got a bit weepy (kind of like Hillary in New Hampshire, it might not seem weepy to some). I didn’t mean to, but my issue is size. We have downsized this year… forced to by the people who stole from us. I have set aside the money for Viv’s party a long time ago, but a little perplexed at how I can give her what she wants in our spatially challenged new environs.

To take some stand like “Hey, let’s go give this money to kids who have less, and you can eat this small cake with me” would be insincere. Not that gearing a party toward charity isn’t noble or something I would like to do in the future. But it has more to do with not wanting her to feel like she is a victim of crime more than she already has been forced to. Of course she doesn’t know that now, but I do.

And that’s the point.

And The Winner Is…

…No, not the Emmy Awards. I couldn’t watch more than 20 minutes – just wanted to see the clothes.

I’m talking about the winner of the 3rd Birthday Present award. Out of all of the super cool gifts Vivien got this week, so far the one that has made her the most gaga is this Music Box. It arrived this morning from her friend Mercy (via her mom, of course).  She was absolutely mesmerized by this good, old-fashion keepsake. Vivien insisted on taking it to school where many of the kids were also enchanted. It plays “Beautiful Dreamer” and is from Enchantmints.

Music Box

She also really liked the “decorate your own crown” from her friend Charlie as well as playing with the t-ball set with dad last night. But today, the music box has been kept near.

Can’t blame her. I still have my little log cabin music box I was given at about 5 or 6. I still get a kick out of it when I open it and it plays “Edelweiss.”

Those G– D— Party Favors!

Vivien’s third birthday was Sunday. Naturally, what started as a small gathering in our backyard grew larger and similar in price to the Fed bailout. Invite a few kids, with parents and my relatives, and it was about 30-plus folks. That’s okay: I handled the food (ordered from my husband’s restaurant, naturally), got balloons, rented a couple of tables for outside, had a kid-entertainer who took Viv’s sour morning mood and made her harmonica-playing happy – literally. And I ordered a yummy cake (sidebar: from the most inept bakery, with the worst customer service – Sweet Lady Jane on Melrose in LA). But here’s what got my panties in a bundle: The party favors!

Daphne and Viv at School

I delayed getting them until the afternoon before the party, so I was overwhelmed at the task. And I found one site that said I should “make the favors memorable.” Oh, for the love of Pete!

It used to be that favors were the same junk you found in piñatas: A little plastic whistle, some candy. Now they are real toys. At a party a few months ago, one mom gave each kid three toys in a bag – I’m talking good Melissa & Doug toys. I think the biggest reason to have favors is to help parents get the screaming kid out the door. “I know you don’t want to leave, but here is a present for you, if you do!”

I called my mom and asked her what to do. She said, “I can’t help you. When you were a kid we didn’t have to give favors.” True, the favor at my kiddie parties was a small paper cup of jellybeans that the kids munched on before cake. In a couple of years, it won’t just be favors. Soon, at kiddie parties they will have gifting suites.

And another thing: At the party, three separate kids came up to me and asked, “Where is the piñata?” I sai, honestly, “No piñata: I don’t like them.” Little kids waving around a big stick and finally some dad has to step in to whack it? The whole thing stresses me out.

Free Time Poll

The strangest thing happened to me the other day: I had free time. My husband had taken care of Viv in the morning, so I was able to get work done. While she was at school, I got my exercise in. Then, later in the day, I dropped her at her grandma’s nearby. She loves her grandma and wanted some playtime with her.

Then I drove away, with about 90 minutes to kill. What to do? Go home and hang? Well, normally I would, but during her nap, I had managed to watch Hardball. Meet up with my hubby for some lovin’? Got that in at naptime, too. So what was left?

I always crave downtime, then I got some and I didn’t know what to do! I texted a friend, and she said, “Just go relax somewhere.” Hmm… just go relax somewhere?

What did I end up doing? I went to the bank, ate at a taco place, then shopped for Vivien’s birthday and for some of her friends who have upcoming birthday parties. My big treat was going into a bookstore, but I barely looked for me and made a beeline for the kids’ sections, where I bought Vivien books about being a big sister, not hitting, and potty training. And I got a hot chocolate.

So in this week’s poll, I want to know what you would have done: Continue reading