I’m short of sleep.
On Sunday night, I was up till midnight trying to finish the book.
On Monday night, I was up till I don’t know when, actually finishing it.
On Tuesday night, I was up till 11-ish, baking.
On Wednesday night, I was up till midnight taking photographs.
Last night, I was up till midnight fighting a battle with a small fridge, large quantities of leftovers, and a vast cake.
Yep, it’s that time of year again. The twins turned five yesterday.
Despite it being a weekday and not even a Friday at that, we had their birthday party in the evening. This meant three levels of preparation. Fudge and cookies for school; cakes for daycare; and snacks and dinner for a few friends in the evening. All to be organized on a working day.
I was hoping to do lots of fudge and no cookies for school, but even three cans of condensed milk turned out only 60-odd pieces of fudge. Not enough. So I sighed and started on the cookies at 8.30 on Tuesday evening. All would have been fine if only I’d remembered that the butter paper I had at home was not proper butter paper. I laid out one set of cookies and popped them in the oven and ten minutes later I saw the mess – the “not proper” butter paper had melted into the cookies. Great! Twenty cookies down the drain. They’d have to make do with the remaining 45, which I hastily transferred into greased baking tins. Ten broke while extracting. Now we were down to 35 cookies. It’d have to do. I spent an hour wrapping the fudge and cookies nicely on Wednesday night, in between keeping an eye on the cakes and helping Amit with putting up a nominal amount of decoration.
The kids wanted all sorts of cake for their birthday – Spiderman, Ben10, Winnie-the-pooh, Cars, Mickey Mouse and whatnot. I can’t do that stuff at home. And at 450 per kilo, with a minimum size of 3 kilos, I told them if they wanted a fancy cake like that, they’d have to settle for one cake between the two of them. They agreed and settled for a close-up of the face of Spiderman, 2.5 kilos.
That was for the evening party. We’d also planned to buy two smaller cakes for cutting at daycare. But the daycare co-ordinator told us on Wednesday evening, when we were discussing plans for the kids’ birthday (apparently Mrini had announced at least four or five times that it was her birthday on Thursday, so we know someone was excited about it), that commercial cream cakes were causing illnesses in kids – throat infections and stomach upsets. I don’t really see the connection between cream cakes and throat infections, but on the spur of the moment I said, “Ok, fine, I’ll do the cakes at home myeslf.” Which is why I wound up running out for eggs at 8.30 in the evening and taking the last of the baking out of the oven around 11 p.m. while finishing up wrapping and tying 45 pieces of fudge and 35 cookies.
Decoration was supposed to be Amit’s department, but since when do men know how to do birthday party decorations? Obviously, I was roped in. Once the decorations – such as they were; I don’t know much about birthday party decoration myself – were in place, the cakes were out and cooling, the fudge and cookies were wrapped and the gifts and clothes had been dug out of their hiding place and placed carefully on the dining table, it was time for a photo shoot.
At five, you’d think the kids are too old for stuffed toys, wouldn’t you? So what’s that horrible teddy bear doing there? Well, ever since we can remember, Mrini has had her baby, a stuffed panda called Pranav-the-Panda (though he wasn’t always called that). A long time ago, Tara had a baby which (or rather, who) was a stuffed teddy bear without a name. When the girls started pulling the stuffing out of him by the fistful, we threw him out. This year, when we asked the kids what they’d like for their birthday, they didn’t have any real ideas. Then Tara said, you know Mrini has her baby Pranav-the-Panda? Even I want a baby teddy bear. I don’t have my teddy bear any more.
Here’s a photo of the kids with the panda and the teddy bear from three years ago.
Well, when she says it like that, we don’t have any real choice in the matter, do we? So a teddy bear was duly found and christened Zazu. (I don’t know why – maybe because they’re five years old, that’s why?) Interestingly, he was christened the day he was bought, even though he was “born” only yesterday. Their other gift was a jigsaw puzzle apiece. It’s interesting that though Tara got two gifts – a puzzle and Zazu – and Mrini got only one, Mrini wasn’t in the least put out by this.
For birthday clothes, the kids had a pair of dungarees each with an accompanying T-shirt, and one of those frilly “princess” frocks each. Obviously, I wanted them to wear the frocks to school. Obviously, Amit wanted them to wear the frocks at home in the evening. One girl wanted to wear the frock to school and the other wanted to wear the dungarees. I exercised my powers of persuasion to the utmost, with the result that both girls decided to wear the dungarees to school. I pointed out the difficulty they would have going to the bathroom, but to no avail. They got into their dungarees and put on their new shoes which were completely inappropriate with the dungarees (since they were intended to go with the princess frocks). Since I don’t believe in forcing them to wear something I want them to wear, I cribbed and complained and mumbled under my breath but let it be. They usually take the school van, but out of some vague idea of parental pride (which would have been much better suited to the princess frocks, in my opinion) we had decided to drop them to school, along with their bags of goodies. That done, they were on their own till we picked them up at daycare in the evening.
Fortunately, I was working from home yesterday. Most things had been organized, but I did have a dozen or so balloons to blow up. If you go to one of these commercial birthday party venues, you’ll find hundreds and thousands of balloons but they’ve got it all wrong. Balloons are not meant to be strung up to look pretty. That’s ok for about five minutes. After that, they should be pulled down for the kids to play with till they burst. And for that you don’t need hundreds of balloons – something between 10 and 20 will do. At least, that’s what I thought while blowing up the balloons the hard way.
At 4, I left home and picked up paper plates and bowls, salty snacks from Nilgiri’s and the Spiderman cake from Sweet Chariot, and deposited everything at home. Then I raced off to pick up the kids from daycare. Getting them dressed for the party was the usual chaos. Then our friends turned up and for several hours there was even greater chaos. The biryani we ordered at 7.15 turned up spectacularly late at 8.45, prompting some people to leave almost without eating. Apart from that, things went according to plan without any significant spillages or breakages. It’s true that it took us an hour and a half to get things sorted out and put away after the party was over, and that we collapsed in bed around midnight… but it’s also true that – at some point of the day – we looked and felt like this.