Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Party On!

Alex turned 8 last week. In the blog world, that means I'm supposed to write a sappy birthday post, reminiscing about his chubby baby cheeks, cutely mispronounced first words, preschool antics, etc. Forget that. We had what was essentially a three-day birthday party, and it rocked. You get to hear about that instead.

It all started with his disco party on Friday night. Six months ago, Alex became obsessed with disco balls. I have no idea where he had seen or heard about them, but he decided he wanted one--immediately. I got him one, with the stipulation that he would have a disco party for his 8th birthday, whether he was still into disco or not (I do not have a Donna Summer alter ego that would make a disco ball an otherwise logical purchase).

Fortunately, Alex was still down with the disco party. We invited nearly 20 friends to a dance party at our house. Yes, I am crazy. Every time we have a birthday party at our house, we swear we will never do it again. But the mighty dollar sign always wins out--we did not want to pay to rent a facility that may or may not have been appropriate for an 8-year-old's disco party.

Don't all discos have a fish tank?

Anyway, back to the party. Almost everyone we invited was able to come. A few even dressed up, as the invitation requested. Kudos to the mom who managed to find platform shoes for her 9-year-old son. The kids were wild from the start. Not in a bad way--just in a high-energy way. I roped them in with the limbo, followed by a dancing competition. We ate some pizza, and after that, it was pretty much a free-for-all. Sorry, neighbors. It was 75 degrees at 8 p.m. on a late September night, and there was no way I was keeping the kids cooped up inside. There was some air guitar on our play set's "stage." Running with glow sticks. A lot of "Macarena" action on our patio, followed by an impromptu performance by Alex and his two backup dancers. We did not even get around to serving cake until almost 8:30, when the party was supposed to end (cake made by me--cue pat on the back). None of the kids wanted to leave. That makes me a cool mom, right?

I think Alex likes being the center of attention. He is certainly not shy ...

... no, not shy at all ...

The next day, we hosted our first tailgate in our RV (ultimately christened "Betty"). Despite being a bit "hungover," Alex played the perfect host, decked out in a Penn State apron and Santa hat (because, as he will tell anyone, he is WEIRD). Little cheerleaders cheered, Alex and his buddies tossed a football, and lots of adults ate way more than necessary. Alex got to blow out a candle on another cake (again made by me!) before heading off to the game.

The real excitement during the game was in the RV, not the stadium. Well, at least for a group of 3-year-olds. Lauren and her friends decided to have what she called an "underwear party" and proceeded to strip down to their skivvies and spend two hours jumping on the bed. That gave me a chance not to watch the game, but rather play endless games of Solitaire on my iPad, an undertaking I find infinitely more enjoyable than football (sorry, Dad).

There was more eating and football-tossing after the game, and then I embarked on my twelve hours of "freedom," because both kids spent Saturday night in the RV with Brian. I spent eight of those hours sleeping and two of them running 12 miles.

Alex's actual birthday was on Sunday. By that point, admittedly, I could not believe we were still celebrating. An 8-year-old, however, especially a party-hardy one like mine, was not going to let the actual day go by without doing something special. We went out for dinner and then to my parents' house to open gifts. Gift-opening was preceded by more "Macarena"-ing with some interesting gyrations that Alex may regret later, thanks to the video capabilities of the trusty iPhone. And then more cake (I can't take the credit for this one). In a sweet display of his lingering "little boy-ness," Alex was ecstatic about the battery-operated Disney monorail playset that he received from my parents.

And finally, the weekend was over. I'm confident Alex's 8th birthday is one he will remember for some time to come, from the glittering disco ball (still) hung in our basement to the crab cakes he requested but did not eat for his birthday dinner. During his first week as an 8-year-old, I have not had to call him "Alexander Joseph Marshall" once. I'd say his year is off to a good start.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bessie the Behemoth

Well, hello, blog. It's been awhile. That's because I have been busy with a capital B, squeezing in some end-of-summer fun. Trips to amusement parks. A weekend jaunt to the Big Apple. Back-to-school shopping. I could tell many stories about Lauren's diva-esque behavior or Alex's ongoing angst, but instead I'm going to focus on something that has been front and center in my family's life--mainly because it's 35 feet long and parked in our front yard.

That 35-foot-long entity would be an RV. "Recreational Vehicle," for those who aren't hip to the acronym. It is Brian's "baby." I will provide food for tailgates and VERY occasionally sleep in it, but that's about it. Brian plans to do the state park circuit with the kids while they still get excited about the prospect of camping with their dad.

I admit I was more than a bit surprised when Brian told me he wanted to buy an RV. He called me at work one day--keep in mind our workday conversations typically focus on kid pick-up logistics--and after some pleasantries, said he wanted to ask me something. O-kaay. And then he dropped the bomb. He had been interested in purchasing an RV for about a year and found one that he wanted to check out. After a moment of speechlessness--unusual for me--I questioned the reasonableness of making this kind of major purchase. I told him I had been hoping we could save up to go to Europe next summer for our 15th wedding anniversary. Without missing a beat, he said we could still go overseas. So I said he could get his RV.

He and Alex spent several weeks traveling around Pennsylvania looking at various used models. In typical Brian fashion, he had done extensive research, and knew exactly what he wanted. He ended up purchasing a 1996 Bounder. That probably does not mean much to you--it certainly does not mean anything to me. It seems like he made a good choice. The interior "decor" (does an RV have a "decor"?) is not too bad, and overall the vehicle is in really good shape. It sleeps five, although there are seat belts for seven people. Meaning Brian can take an RV-load of kids camping and then sleep in a tent outside.

Never in a million years did I think I would own an RV. I am, for the most part, a princess. Not in the "I am snooty and people must wait on me" sense, but in the "I am not outdoors-y" sense. In my mind, having an RV implies that you like being outside. I don't mind it, but I get bored just sitting around, breathing the fresh air. Recycled air in a mall is fine with me. In fact, in an attempt to show my willingness to occasionally participate in camping trips, I asked Brian to look for campgrounds near outlet malls (yes, they exist).

Along similar lines, I don't mind hiking, but I would rather end the hike at a hotel, where other people do the cleaning and cooking, rather than an RV, where you have the same "chores" you have at home. Camping does not seem like a vacation to me. Sure, you escape from some parts of your everyday life, but you're also crammed into a small space with certain people--in other words, your kids--who know how to get on your last nerve. That's why I need to be able to escape to a mall.

Brian and the kids already spent one night in the RV, along with two of our neighbors. They had a great time. No, Brian did not lead them in songs around the campfire. He was able to get a wi-fi connection in the "master bedroom," so he hung out there while the kids played Old Maid and Go Fish. I fulfilled my motherly duties by bringing them homemade zucchini bread in the morning.

We are planning our inaugural tailgate in the behemoth (Bessie the Behemoth? I think the RV needs a name ...) on September 25. Until then, it will most likely remain parked in our front yard, inviting lots of snide comments from our neighbors. Although they won't admit it, they're probably jealous.