Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

Urgh. I'm very tired.

It was one of those things that just seems to happen. We planned a simple tenth birthday party for Elder Son, themed around 'Science Fiction', with a bit of a retro kick. And here's a shot that'll give you the idea:

From left to right: Younger Son is the Robot Sidekick. The Mau-Mau was utterly delighted to be painted green as the Small But Intensely Annoying Alien. (Yes. She loved that bit the most of all.) Elder Son, the star of the show as it's his party, is resplendent in the silver helmet and lightning-bolt T-shirt of Rick Steele, Space Hero. And on the end there is The Time Traveller, who has come forward from the Victorian era - or some equally moustachioed point in history.

It should have been simple. I had a couple of games sketched out. We had the snacks laid on. And we planned to finish up with a really retro SF film on TV so we could all point and laugh at the dopey 1950s stuff.

Well. First, my oldest friend in the world turned up with his wife. They came all the way down from Far North Queensland, where he and I grew up, and they stayed with us Friday and Saturday night. Which of course meant they were here Saturday afternoon and evening, yep.

Now, my old friend Kev is from a big family, and his various brothers and sisters have done themselves proud in the brood stakes, so he gets along well with kids. Very well, actually. That was handy, certainly, because it meant I could slough the Robot Sidekick suit onto him: he and Younger Son spent a couple of cheerful hours in the morning with spray paint and cardboard boxes and scissors and duct tape and sparkly pipecleaners - and Kev's wife Sue kicked in with glue and pictures cut out of various catalogues and magazines.

The real problem was more in the guest list. Y'see, it happens that most of Elder Son's invitees were part of multi-kid families. Families we get along with. Families whose kids play with our kids. And so, instead of inviting, say, TWO kids of roughly his own age from these families, it was only proper that Elder Son invite a total of seven. And then there were the singletons from elsewhere.

So: ten kids who know each other well and play together frequently. (The Mau-Mau's two bestest friends were included in that group. Just to enhance the potential for kid-based disaster.) Plus parents who also drop in on each other a lot. Plus a couple of old and dear friends whose sense of humour closely parallels my own.

In the end, it was barely controlled chaos.

The kids rocketed around on their own for a while. When they showed signs of boredom, I broke out the padded lightsabre/swords, and introduced 'em to the game I called Use The Force, Luke.

In this game, you have two teams of two competing at a time. You could have more teams, but I only had two padded safety swords. One player is the Padawan, who wears a blindfold and carries a padded sword. The Padawan's job is to whomp five kinds of crap out of the opposing Padawan, who likewise has blindfold and padded sword. Each Padawan has their very own... uhh... fuck it, can't remember the Lucas-speak, so I just called 'em "Obi-wan". The job of an Obi-wan is to shout directions to his particular Padawan, so the Padawan can zero in on the opposition.

Of course, that implies that the 'Obi-wan' types are capable of thinking about left versus right for someone else... and that the Padawan players are prepared to listen. What really happened was that the two Padawans would stagger around, waving their padded swords until they hit something. Usually a bystander, but occasionally a tree, a dog, or even a house. At this point, the Padawan would flail away violently while everyone else laughed themselves stupid. Eventually, the two Padawans would finally (generally by accident) blunder into one another, and thwack away until one was declared dead.

Seriously: I nearly choked when a young Darth Maul-painted lad staggered too far sideways, and thwacked the Robot Sidekick. Because, of course, poor Younger Son in his Robot costume had bugger-all peripheral vision, and therefore no real idea of why he was suddenly being clobbered with a padded stick. Young Darth Maul was not to be put off by that, though: he just kept pounding away until somebody managed to drag him off and point him at the proper opposition...

The sun went over the mountain about then, and the temperature plummeted. Natalie started a small cookfire. Meanwhile, the boys decided that even if the game was officially over, they didn't want to play any other sissy party games. Not even with the official Frisbee UFOs I'd bought for the party. Nope. What they wanted to do was go on beating the snot out of each other with padded swords, but this time, without blindfolds.


That went on until Natalie's cookfire got going, whereupon everyone charged off to singe marshmallows and wieners. Of course, now that Elder Son is ten, he and some of his older friends are capable of making off-colour 'wiener' jokes that are actually kind of funny, so when you've got a dozen kids and half a dozen adults jostling for position around a small fire, trying to toast wieners...

Actually, the moment that nearly killed me came when I was headed back into the house. One of the younger kids who was quite innocent of all this 'wiener-joke' stuff bumped into me. And he had a complaint. You see, one of the other kids -- his older brother, actually -- had rather maltreated him during the cookfire. The quote went like this: "He whacked my wiener off, and it fell in the fire!"

That really didn't help me with the beer I was trying to drink. When I managed to breathe again, I consoled the youngster, pointing out that we'd have no more whacking of other people's wieners at this party, because that sort of thing is just weird...

The temperature just kept plunging, though. We ducked inside, and turned on "This Island Earth" for laughs. I made a lot of popcorn, and we watched an appropriately square-jawed and deep-voiced scientist get kidnapped by aliens who closely resembled older, taller Oompa-Loompas. These 'Metalunans' had the immaculately forced curls of the Gene Wilder Oompa-Loompas, except their hair was white, not green. But they were tanned to almost the same shade of orange. They also had dangerously epic foreheads.

The movie was satisfyingly crap, yes.

At the end, some youngsters left. But some remained, as did parents, and friends. So we decided to extend festivities to a dinner party. Very nice, yes. By this time, the remaining kids had worked out that Kev was a total sucker, so the four boys were continually jumping on him, trying to clobber him with whatever weapons they could grab. I offered him all the support he could expect from an old friend: I got him beer. Sometimes.

Finally, once we'd finished dinner and cake and stuff, Natalie dragged out the Wii and "Lego Rockstar". And oh, dear. Did I mention my friend Kev is one of the most thoroughly tone-deaf and rhythmically deprived people I have ever heard of?

Let's put it this way: when he got the microphone and began singing, pretty much everyone stopped to stare. Keep in mind that this is 'Lego Rockstar', which is kid-friendly and pretty noncompetitive. And that the difficulty was set on 'Easy'.

Given those pieces of information, you will understand my assessment of Kev's musical talents more thoroughly when I tell you that at the end of his session, he had scored a total of 3%.

Yep. Three percent.

Never seen the like of it before or since. I'm planning to make him a T-shirt that says "Mister Three Percent", just as a reminder.

Anyway. We drank and sang and thumped on drum-simulators and twanged toy guitar-analogues and had a damned good time for a whole lot longer than the kids should really have been awake.

Never mind. Elder Son had himself a fine tenth birthday party. Various parents had a damned good evening. Kev and Sue -- who have now gone on to Cradle Mountain, where they will be freezing their tropical little arses off right now -- seemed to enjoy their visit too... and once I get a solid night of sleep, I expect I'll feel a lot better as well!