Bear had her 9th birthday party on Sunday afternoon in what turned out to be one of the coolest locations ever. We’ve only hosted parties at a few businesses — most of the kids’ parties have been at our house — but this one far outshined every other place we’ve used so far. The staff was attentive, professional, helpful, and efficient. And that’s sure as hell saying something when they’re doing their job surrounded by jacked up kids and parents losing their minds.
A lot of you may have seen the melty (yeah, sure, I meant for it to look like that) star and moon cake posted earlier this week. What you haven’t seen is the part that (kind of) turned out as intended.
This was the first time I tried doing anything other than a two layer cake, so leveling the layers and putting them together was an adventure. (Baking tips for today: Cakes don’t bake with flat tops so you end up trimming off way more cake than you expect. Also, building a cake like this alters the cake to icing ratio. This used two cake mixes and three full tubs of Betty Crocker icing. “Full” as in right up to the last minute I thought I’d be cracking open the emergency fourth tub to finish.)
At any rate, we held Bear’s party several weeks after her true birthday. I’d like to say this was by design, that we’d decided earlier in the spring that a June party would work better logistically. The reality is that May was kind of insane.
When the calendar rolled out of April and into May I found myself knocked off my feet by Teacher Appreciation week. (Yes, despite the fact that Teacher Appreciation week is observed nationally the first week of May every single year, it still manages to take me by surprise. EVERY SINGLE YEAR. At least I’m consistent.) Then we had some family crises that pretty much sucked the life out of me, so by the time I had regained my wits enough to start planning Bear’s party we were almost upon her actual birthday.
Bear decided she wanted to have her party at a nearby trampoline park, and when I googled it I have to say that it looked pretty darn cool. This was the year that I was aiming for easy (if you can call prepping for the party during end-of-school time “easy”) so I was on board with this plan. Let’s book it!
The first glitch we ran into was the party day. This particular trampoline park is extremely popular (see the “pretty darn cool” description above). There was a note on the website itself stating that weekend party dates fill up fast so you should book your party several months in advance.
Oops. This wasn’t looking good.
I had a brief burst of optimism — maybe they say this kind of thing as a disclaimer, or to encourage people to book parties instead of dawdling over decisions — but that hope was swiftly quashed. Scrolling forward through the calendar showed that they did indeed book weekend parties out several months in advance. Time for plan B.
Lucky for us, there’s a trampoline park about 30 miles in the opposite direction. (I know, what are the odds, right?) It wasn’t Bear’s first choice but hey, it had trampolines and beggars can’t be choosers. Plus there were dates available. Score! Eventually we settled on our Sunday afternoon in June, booked the party, and put the whole thing on the back burner so we could finish out the school year.
Our second glitch popped up on the drive to the party. We’d left the house and about ten minutes into the drive I turned to BrightSide in horror, as an enormous (and entirely forseeable) problem occurred to me. One of the kids attending eats gluten-free. This is not simply a lifestyle choice — he’s become violently ill eating any sort of wheat product which, it turns out, is in practically everything. So we were driving down the interstate when it struck me: he won’t be able to eat a single thing we’re serving. Pizza. Potato chips, Doritos, and cheese puff balls. Plus, for good measure, a homemade cake. All of which screamed gluten! gluten! gluten!
So BrightSide helped me get checked in at the trampoline park and settled at the party table before leaving to find a supermarket. We were hoping he could pick up some fruit (and that the trampoline place wouldn’t give us trouble about bringing “outside food” into their facility). It was shortly after he left that the aforementioned child, upon hearing our plan, announced that he’d had fruit for breakfast, lunch, and snack that day. Bless his heart.
BrightSide’s emergency shopping run was an experience in and of itself. Despite the fact that the trampoline park was located on a main road, the closest store we spotted was called Li Ming Global Market. I guess the name should have been our first hint…BrightSide walked in hoping to find some kind of produce section where he could pick up strawberries or grapes. Instead he discovered tanks with live fish and found himself surrounded by the sound of cleavers whacking off fish heads left and right. He stumbled upon barrels of fresh bamboo shoots (do those have gluten?) floating in a mysterious liquid as he searched for anything vaguely resembling a food that wouldn’t send this kid to the hospital.
It didn’t take BrightSide long to realize how fruitless (HA!) this endeavor was. Thankfully, there was an Aldi’s right across the road. Apparently it wasn’t much better as far as selection goes, but at least he was able to find a few fruit options there. (Side note: the gluten-free kid didn’t end up touching the fruit, but the others gobbled it up like Halloween candy. I think kids may be a lot more deficient in those vitamins and minerals than we know.)
Glitch three was the cake decoration fiasco, but I managed to absorb the shock of seeing my Starburst masterpiece melting with a few under-my-breath oaths and some ridiculously pointless spatula work.
After this point things ran fairly smoothly. The kids loved this place, and it’s easy to see why: picture wall to wall trampoline squares along with slanted trampoline walls to bounce off of. There was also a foam pit to bounce into, a dodgeball court, and a basketball hoop section. Every kid there was flushed and covered in a sheen of sweat, but they were grinning from ear to ear.
Pizza and soda and cake (AFTER the jumping was done) made Bear’s party a blast. She hit it out of the park with this one, glitches and all.