7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 180)

July 13, 2012 | 40 comments

— 1 —

This is a big week for me, folks. Tomorrow I will venture into foreign territory, a land so fraught with danger for people like me that I have had the good sense to stay far, far away from it for my entire life. But I can no longer avoid it. The time to fulfill my destiny has come:

I am throwing a children’s birthday party.

— 2 —

It’s not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, I’m me. I have the anti-charism of cooking, and also an anti-charism of working with young children. On top of that, this is one of our two daughters who are only a year apart in age, and whose birthdays are only four weeks apart — so I’ve spent hours agonizing over the guest list so that we don’t have everyone show up to one party and not the other. (I mused aloud in front of one of the grandmothers that maybe we could just do one party for both of them, and she looked at me as if she were wondering if she should call CPS now or wait until I was out of the room.) My normal party planning strategy is to just keep adding alcohol until everyone is having a good time, but I hear that that’s not an option with six-year-olds. Then there’s the fact that Kathryn Whitaker is going to be there. Just look at some of the parties she throws! Maybe I’ll tell her that I’m trying out a new casual-relaxed party motif I found on Pinterest, on a board called When You Just Can’t Deal Anymore. I’ll show her around by saying, “You see that over here we have the Goldfish station, which is…a plastic bowl of goldfish crackers. Over in the living room my children are playing a game called Take the Toy from Your Sibling and Scream, and out back the boys are trying to see who can stay outside longest without collapsing from heat stroke. We’ll sing Happy Birthday in an hour or so. Have fun!”

— 3 —

Okay, in reality, I’m sure it will be a perfectly lovely time. We’re having a friend who’s talented in all the ways that I’m not come over to run a cookie-decorating station, and she’s also making some cake pops that are delicious to the point that they should probably be illegal. I think my problem is Pinterest. Every time I think of how great it will be, I type in birthday on Pinterest and see parties where it looks like Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and the Ringling Brothers circus came together to throw the event. Worse, occasionally one of my daughters will be looking over my shoulder, and she’ll point casually, as if ordering off a menu, and say, “I want that for my birthday party.” (I might let these kids have cell phone or Facebook accounts in their early teens, but they’re not allowed to be on Pinterest until they’re out of the house!)

— 4 —

I want to congratulate myself for the fact that I made it through an entire post last week without complaining about how hard it was to find those Skeletoes shoes in my size. Perhaps my magnanimity was simply due to the fact that I remember well the last time I bought running shoes, when the purchase meant interacting with real people instead of clicking buttons on my computer and making vague angry noises.

Back in 2001 I had one of my bi-annual “I’M GOING TO GET IN SHAPE SERIOUSLY THIS TIME” spasms, and I went to one of our great local RunTex stores to get custom-fitted shoes. The salesman was a recent immigrant — I believe he said his home country was Kenya — and he could not have been more helpful. He examined my gait, took a close look at the shape of my foot, and then took my measurements. And took my measurements again. Then again, just to be sure. He scratched his head, and said he needed to check something in the back. I was the only customer in the store, and so I could hear the conversation in the back room that ensued. He said something about needing a ladies’ size 12, and a female voice responded with a correcting tone, as if she were helping him articulate himself in English. “No, is a WOMAN, ” he insisted. More murmuring from the female voice, the gist of her comment being that only a man could wear a shoe of that size. “No, WOMAN. LADY. Is WOMAN.” A mild argument ensued, in which I gathered that the person he was talking to seemed to think that they were having a frustrating language barrier issue. Finally, both of them walked out, collecting themselves as if trying not to give me any hints of the discussion they just had.

“Hi, ma’am, I just need to check your size quickly, ” the female manager said. I put my foot on the metal plate, and she slid the measuring device down until it rested on my big toe. Size 12. She seemed to suppress a gasp.

“I told you, is WOMAN!” the salesman said.

— 5 —

Have you seen this photo meme that Cari Donaldson does, where she has people submit pictures for every hour within a 24-hour period? I think this is one of the most creative linkups out there. It gives me chills every time I see it. There’s something deeply comforting about seeing intimate shots of other people’s lives, and being able to know what you were doing at that exact moment. I think that’s one of the things that always intrigues us about moments that capture an entire nation’s attention, like, “Where were you on 9/11?” or “Where were you when you heard that the Challenger exploded?” Where were you? is such an incarnational question. It’s rooted in our desire to orient ourselves in space and time on this earth, and speaks to how the moments we share can make us feel connected to one another, even if we’re not sharing them in the same physical place.

And now I have gotten myself way too far into the philosophical deep end, and will wrap it up by saying that there’s something very cool about Cari’s meme and you should check it out.

— 6 —

Three is not my favorite age. I mean, it’s good in the sense that they’re “de-blobbing” (my husband’s affectionate term for a child developing from babyhood to kid-hood), and you see more and more glimpses of the awesome human being this kid is becoming. The downside, though, is that they have all the willfullness and lack of self control of a two-year-old, combined with the strength and loudness of a four-year-old.

This morning I was trying to get all the kids ready for swim lessons, and my three-year-old refused to get dressed, as usual. Every time, day in and day out, both morning and evening, it is as if we are encountering this activity for the very first time. She turned to run away — which would then be followed by throwing herself on the floor and kicking violently as if to symbolize what would happen to anyone who got near her with items of clothing, per our kabuki routine — but then she had a thought. She stopped, turned to me, pointed her finger, and demanded, “Be Wobot Mommy!” This is a concept that amuses her endlessly, when I use a monotone voice and jerk around in sharp movements as Robot Mommy. I wasn’t really in the mood; in fact, I was tired, and hoping to just get this over with as quickly as possible. But then I noticed that she wasn’t running away, and hadn’t even fallen down on the floor yet, and in fact seemed to be quite enchanted by this prospect. And so I responded, “ROBOT. MOMMY. SAYS. TIME. TO. PUT. ON. SWIMSUIT.” And, per my instructions, I continued to lurch around the house, my arms bent at the elbows, my head moving only in side-to-side or up-and-down movements, all through breakfast.

It’s clear who’s in charge here.

— 7 —

Your wine tip of the week: If you’re in a hot climate, before you drink your red wine, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. I once heard somewhere that red wine was meant to be served at Mediterranean room temperature (which is different than central Texas summer room temperature) and so we cool our reds down by just a few degrees before drinking. It makes a surprising amount of difference!

And on that note, have a great weekend!



  1. Annette

    Hmmmmm…two birthdays a week apart and you’re NOT having one party? My boys are 4 years apart with the same birthday and when they were small we would have one big party with two themes. Talk about a madhouse! Half the room decorated for pirates and the other for Bob the Builder. Two cakes, two sets of friends, two completely different cakes and ice cream and lots of drinks for the mommies. My husband is an identical twin so at least our boys were used to seeing two people in the family have birthdays on the same day. Add to this the fact that the holiday season went like this: cousins father and uncle’s B-day, three days later grandmother’s B-day, one week later cousin’s B-day, two weeks later Halloween, one week later their B-day, two to three week’s later Thanksgiving, two week’s later another cousin’s B-day, and three week’s later Christmas. It’s a present-palozza! I vote for getting it all over at once! Annette

  2. Mary

    So this was one of my favorite QTs of yours. I spend much of my time bemoaning the age of 3. I might have to try that highly sophisticated parenting technique of wobot mommy. And you had me laughing with your shoe story 🙂 Hope you have a great party!!!

  3. Lisa Schmidt

    I mentioned to Kathryn earlier this week that I see the hospitality charism in her. Throwing great parties flows from that. Thank goodness she shares all her great ideas for those with the hospitality anti-charism. Good luck & have fun!

    I stand with you on the wine tip. I was taught to do the reverse with whites, too. Take them out of the refrigerator to warm up a tad before serving. Makes a big difference, too.

    • Kathryn

      Y’all give me too much credit! Lisa, I loved the article you sent, it was awesome. Jennifer, my kids bring an extra gift of mayhem with them. You’ve been warned.

  4. el-e-e

    I love it! My relative (from Texas, incidentally) spent our mutual vacation chilling his/our red wines and I thought it was just his own weirdness. I did like the cool reds, but turns out it’s recommended?? We were in FL so the same climate applies! Awesome, I’m in!

    also, what is this, a MOMMY blog?? 😉 Good luck with your party and your three-year old! I’m using ROBOT MOMMY.

  5. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    My feet are not a size 12, but when I was in China on an exchange program, my first encounter with one of my host families was when I couldn’t even get my feet into the sandals they’d bought me to wear inside the house, and the dad, who didn’t speak that much English, looked me in the eye and said, “Do not worry. I will go out and buy the largest shoes.”

    Which were still too small.

  6. Dymphna @ the Well

    Ah, kids’ parties. I miss them. I miss the energy I used to have when I threw them. I was lucky my kid’s birthday was in the summer so most of our parties could be outside.

  7. Anabelle@Written By the Finger of God

    Goodness, your post had me laughing at 6 in the morning. I hear you about the insecurity of throwing birthday parties next to those Oscar worthy parties. I can’t imagine if I got on Pinterest, I’d need therapy.

  8. Kathleen Basi

    It sounds like you NEED some red wine! LOL First I have to say I laughed out loud when you said “de-blobbing,” because my husband says babies are blobs too! Must be a man thing. 🙂

    Also? ADORE the birthday party stuff. Hilarious! Good luck!

  9. melody

    My 12-year old daughter has size 12 feet and she is fervently praying that they are done growing. I am also fervently praying that they are done growing. Shopping for age-appropriate shoes in that size is rough. And pricey. She is hoping to be six feet tall someday so that her height will match her feet. “It just wouldn’t be right for me to have such big feet and be short, Mommy.”

    I am also currently planning a birthday party for my 5-year old… and yes, I have spent the last two weeks glued to Pinterest. In spite of having 6 children, I don’t throw big birthday parties… ever. So this is a big thing. It’s not that I’m not talented enough to do it, just that I’m not talented enough to do it and simultaneously keep up with the dishes and laundry and everything else in my life. 🙂 Have fun at your party!

  10. Cari

    Thanks for the Snapshots shoutout, Jen! And just in time for me to start organizing this month’s round!

  11. Kathleen

    Key to kid party success: beer and wine for adults.

  12. Dwija {House Unseen}

    I cannot BELIEVE you are throwing two different birthday parties. We throw, max, 1 b-day party per season. And mostly it’s for the adults anyway and the kids play Mario Kart or chase the chickens. Everyone born in the spring gets one party, summer gets one, fall….you get the idea. 2 birthday parties just weeks apart and they’re both full of 6 & 7 year olds? Oh, the humanity!

  13. Rosita

    Totally relate to your view of 3 year olds. Have one right now, and the volume…

    Also understand your feelings on birthday parties. Bad part is all of ours are currently in winter, so it either means having them at our house and everyone indoors (=not happening) or hosting them somewhere (=expensive). So we limit them to one every few years.

  14. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    I have never thrown a bday party for my kids. I’m not sure if this makes me unusual, or lazy, or smart, but I don’t intend to start now. We just eat ridiculous amounts of cake and they seem content with that.
    Ah, three year olds. My first seemed to use up all her “three-ness” between like 2.5 and 3.5. My second has been going strong since about 2, she’s now over 4 and the general craziness associated with three-dom is still there.
    Thanks for the wine tip. I may have to try that. Tonight.

  15. Mark L

    Antisemitism posted as a Quick Take? Are you serious? What kind of Christian supports this?

    “The Jews are, in general the antichrist people and the actual antichrist will come from them. So, Zionism is actually support for the system of antichrist.”

    I read this as a Quick Take posted here by:

    Hatred disguised as deeper truth.

  16. Steph @ Moving to MD

    We’ve been chilling down our red wine all summer too. In past summers we just bought white wine, but we get tired of it pretty quickly. A nice light red wine chilled down a few degrees is just as refreshing.

    Love Robot Mommy. Maybe the whole birthday party could be a robot mommy party? It seems to keep the kids entertained… 🙂

  17. JQ Tomanek

    Funniest yet! Perhaps a book of these funny stories would do very well.

  18. Judy Dudich

    You’ve heard of impromptu dates…impromptu parties…impromptu field trips, etc…well…our pastor likes to “throw” impromptu “Masses”…and recently, when he did this…the poor recent high school graduate asked to lector walked out into the sanctuary in SKELETOE SHOES! I ALMOST D-I-E-D of suppressed GUFFAWING. I have 2 daughters named Mary. Both are born on June 28th but are 4 years apart…that said, they LOVE having double-birthdays together…once, we asked if they would each like a separate celebration and WE got the same looks that lady gave YOU! My hubby and another daughter are one day apart, in September…and they ALSO love having double-parties! I guess it’s a “to each his own” kind of thing…collectively-speaking.

    Have fun! And, Happy Birthday with God’s Blessings on top to your sweet children!

  19. Jeanne G.

    I feel your pain on the shoes. I only wear a 10 or sometimes an 11, but when I was about 12, I was sold men’s shoes because the man at the shoe store said that they didn’t have women’s shoes so large. I was only 12! I wasn’t the type to argue with an adult. When my dad found out, he was livid. We went back to the store and bought women’s shoes IN MY SIZE, for the love of Pete.

  20. Jamie

    Kids’ birthday parties leave me weak in the knees with exhaustion. They are just not an introvert’s scene. Maybe I should tell my kids that they are only allowed to befriend other introverts, and then we can all enjoy the party by sitting around the living room and reading.

    Good luck!

  21. melissa

    Ah, the pain of wearing size 12 shoes. I hate shoe shopping with a passion because the only two choices are the ridiculously ugly size 12s that the cheaper shoe stores have, or the ridiculously expensive size 12s that the good shoe stores have. For some reason, most shoe manufacturers believe that size 10 is the upper limit for women’s shoes.

  22. Barbara C.

    The kids each get a Big party with friends when they turn six. The older two both chose to have their parties at Chuck E. Cheese so far. Our house is just not big enough to host six to eight kids plus parents and siblings. Otherwise we go to their favorite restaurant (usually Chuck E. Cheese), get a simple cake, and only family are invited (usually just grandparents).

    And I hear you on the 3-year-old thing….three-year-olds are completely INSANE. They look like big kids but they are really still babies in their brains. My husband is always going about how perfect our 2-year-old is, and I’m like “Just remember that next year when she is throwing a giant fit because you didn’t give her the blue straw with the pink cup while you stand on your left foot and wiggle your ears.”

  23. Smoochagator

    I just hosted my first kid’s birthday party for my son (turning 2) and stepson (8). Their birthdays are three weeks apart, and although all of my friends/neighbors hadn’t met my stepson yet, I figured he would feel left out if we had a party and DIDN’T include his birthday. I kept it super low-key: the only activities I had were food (hamburgers & hotdogs, and of course cake & ice cream) and a pinata. The theme of the party was Despicable Me, so I had the movie playing throughout the party, which was probably cheating, but whatever. It made it so no one (least of all the eight-year-old who didn’t know anyone) would feel obligated to make awkward small talk. I told folks that presents weren’t necessary but they could bring a side dish if they liked. All in all, it was a lovely day and everyone seemed to have fun. The only problem was I WAAAAAAAAAAAY overestimated how much food we would need so we had to throw away a lot of it. (Even I can only eat so much leftover cake.)

    Maybe next year I’ll introduce more activities, but… no, probably not, because next year I should have a three month old. At that age of babyhood I’m in my bare-minimum mode, and I don’t entertain when trying to keep my head above water. Maybe we’ll take the older boys to Chuck E. Cheese and let them burn off some energy while the baby and I people-watch and drink beer. I LIKE THIS IDEA ALREADY.

  24. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I love to chill red wine all the way. It makes me feel like I am drinking white – which is what I wish I was drinking when I drink red.

    Also, I just noticed this at the bottom of your site: My Husband’s Site. I’m going to have to check it out!


  25. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    I always drink my red wine chilled! I didn’ know I was so cool until now.

  26. Colleen

    We put ice in our red wine which is of course the classy way we yankees do things 😉 Do you wear socks with those skeletoe shoes? And if I wear them to kickboxing classes will I get made fun of?

  27. Jenny

    Oh dear that pinterest idea is spot on. How bout another board called ‘the dull, slovenly state of my children’s adorable nursery’ or ‘the unbalanced carbfest I called dinner last night’? Anyone?

  28. Alishia

    Number six resonates with me so much that I must state that I am in total agreement. Three-year-olds are NIGHTMARES. I’ll take a two-year-old any day of the week. And, also, thank You, Lord, for all my kids even when they’re three. Thanks to Josemaria Escriva, though, I can remind myself:
    “Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.’ Amen.

  29. Heather

    You ABSOLUTELY can throw one party for two kids!!!

  30. Cristina

    I can’t wait to hear how your party turns out! My advice is to not set the bar too high….you get ambitious and build one giant cardboard train and then they start expecting one for every birthday….I think I know one four year old who will be mighty disappointed come August 🙂

  31. JaneC Duquette

    We have 3 family birthday’s in 7 days. My husband’s comes first (he usually does not want a party) the 4 days later my oldest daughter. She ALWAYS is ready for a party but often has more difficulty making and keeping friends. Finally, my very introverted 2nd son who everyone seems to think is his very best friend.

    When my son turned 6 he thought that he NEEDED to invite everyone who had been in his kindergarten class plus his friends from church and old family friends. When I called or pizza to be delivered there were more than 40 kids running thru our yard. The birthday boy was upstairs under a desk in his room quietly playing with Legos.

  32. Christine Falk Dalessio

    “My normal party planning strategy is to just keep adding alcohol until everyone is having a good time, but I hear that that’s not an option with six-year-olds.” – This is why I keep coming back for more 🙂
    Good for you for delving into the deep end of party planning.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      WHOA! It’s been years, but I think that might have been him. Wow! Thanks for sharing that info.

  33. Amanda

    I think I have the one freakish 3 year old on the planet. He was soooo pleasant and nice and FUN almost the entire year he was 3. Seriously, it was golden! Then he turned 4 last month and holy cow it’s like invasion of the body snatchers! 2 was more physically exhausting, but 4 is so much more mentally exhausting! But then I’m finding 99% of my friends disagree and found 3 to be hell and 4 to be bliss. So again, my oldest son is apparently a freak.

    And having just survived my first real kid birthday party I have to say it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I kept it outdoors and offered plenty of candy…plus we do family parties here so not just a bunch of 4 year olds. One of the joys of the homeschooling crowd, it’s socially acceptable for 10 year olds and 2 year olds to hang out together 🙂

  34. Karianna@Caffeinated Catholic Mama

    Oh, embracing the love I feel for my fellow size 12 wearing ladies!! I wish the cute shoe makers would notice that there are sizes beyond 10 and that we too love cute shoes! I’ve been living in Birkenstocks and Danskos only because I can get those large enough… and heels, don’t even start me on those.

    DD2 will be 3 in September and she’s already intense. Luckily, DD1 just turned 5, so there’s a little less crazy in our house.

  35. nicole

    Our 3 big kids had joint birthday parties for a few years, and they are two boys and a girl, birthdays in October three years in a row. Then we stopped having birthday parties with little friends and moved to a family party. We call it Scottoberfest because we have 4 October birthdays in our family and our last name is Scott. We invite family and godparents and eat barbecue and visit and have fun. Some people bring presents for the kids, but we are trying to minimize that. Of course, my kids go to school and have been to lots of birthday parties now. So we have a sleepover birthday for their 10th birthday. That’s it. No individual parties every year. I imagine we’ll also do something to mark a 16th birthday. I’m sure it was/will be a success.

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