So, Saturday was (I think) about the most sensible kid's birthday party I've attended in a very long time. This is, of course, in Falls Church, VA, where my brother (Kumar), sister-in-law (Sowmya), nephew (Vinyakak), and niece (Nithya), along with their neighbours the mom (Shobha), dad (Rajesh), daughter (Neha), and son (Rishul). For reference, Nithya is 8, Vinayak is 6, Neha is 6 and change (or is she 7 already?) and Rishul is 5 (turned 5 last week, and was having his birthday party on Saturday).
We went about an hour out of Falls Church to some tiny little town with a bunch of trees and fields and such. I guess they need a lot of space for this play place, because it was enormous. Essentially, it's a giant room full of bouncy castles, bouncy obstacle courses, and bouncy slides. Everything is bouncy. And there's a music in the background, a rack where you dump your coats, shoes, etc., and pretty decent carpetting everywhere. The mix of children were pretty decent, so they actually liked playing together, and there weren't any (that I recall) tantrums or the like.
For the better part of two hours solid, you've got the children running, jumping, climbing, sliding, and laughing their heads off. Add to that the fact that the facility encouraged parents to go join their children, and you've got a clear recipe for every child in there really giving it their all to take advantage of fun time. When mommy and daddy (and a fair few of the parents did partake of all the festivities, as well as Steve and I) are crawling through the obstacle course, or sliding down the enormous slide, or jumping in the bouncing room, it somehow amps up their energy even more.
Fortunately, a lot of fun for the nephew and niece is having their uncle come watch them do something or other, so I could happily park myself somewhere, make appreciative faces, cheer when appropriate (yes, that really /was/ an impressive jump), and make sure nobody's trying to do something dangerous (rare, because everything is soft and bounces). After a good two solid hours of this, it was time to get everyone in the room to eat pizza and cake. Steve and I had eaten at home, so we were fine by then.
Anyone who's been to a child's birthday party can generally forsee how things will end up. Someone is going to get into a screaming tantrum at some point. That one screaming and fussing is going to rile up the rest. Then, nobody really wants to sit and eat, so the parents fret, because now they know the child is going to come back like 30 minutes later to whine that she/he is hungry, and why can't you get me something NOW NOW NOW.
No. Nothing like that here, thank you. After spending two hours running and giggling like loons, one tends to be ready to sit and eat. Then, once your tummy is full, and you've seen all your friends, and had a good time in general, you'll take your cake, your goody bag, and your balloon (Kumar saw to it that those got handed out to each child). There was minor fussing, but that was mostly tiredness and a readiness to go home and get some sleep. I'm very sure that the other parents had just as easy a time putting theirs down for sleepy time as we did.
Sunday was Halloween, and my mother's birthday, as well as the eve of Sowmya's birthday (her birthday was the reason that I had planned the trip that weekend). Steve's friend Rehmah was going to come over, because she lives in DC area, and it's a lot closer to hit up the train for like 30 minutes or so, than to get on a bus for 5 hours to get to New York.
Sunday was also trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving day. Sowmya, being wary of those enormous pumpkins, snagged fairly small one for the children. Each child got one that would be carved by one of the adults. No harm, no foul. First came the cleaning out part. That in itself can take a fair bit of time. Then came the carving part. I hadn't a clue what I was doing, so as soon as Rehmah came in, I promptly conscripted her to the task of carving Vinayak's pumkin, while Somya and Shobha made quick work of Nithya, Neha, and Rishul's pumpkin.
Then, off to scatter for changing, shower time, and costume putting on. Because the two houses were so close, there was the inevitable ferrying back-and-forth of various pieces of make up, hair product, and the rest. By around 6~ish, everyone was ready. We all trooped over to Shobha's house, for Sowmya's surprise party. Her friends were over, there was a small cake, but Rajesh and Kumar weren't back yet. So cue the children playing and carrying on for a few minutes until the fathers did arrive. Once Kumar and Rajesh came back bearing dinner from an Indian restaurant a short distance away, Rehmah, Steve, and I headed back to my brother's house to pass out treats from there, and the rest all went off for their door to door thing.
Apparently, the mothers on this block plan it so that said trick or treating starts promptly at 6:30, and ends in about a half hour, give or take. The efficiency was stunning. Seriously. When you have all the children in a two block radius descend for treats in a 30 minute period, it leaves you much more time for socialising, and hanging out. I sincerely doubt that it's even about the candy, because the parents are pretty good about keeping a keen eye on how much sugar the children are guffing down. Essentially, the limit is one piece per day, full stop.
We got plenty of children coming over. Sowmya didn't pass out candy, but instead had a large selection of spider rings, bracelets, stamps, pencils, mini puzzles, all sorts of things. Neat thing is that the children /were/ excited by it. Other neat thing is that Sowmya had bought a /lot/ of the stuff, so she said, "Be generous. Let them take however much they want. I don't want it sitting around my house, so get rid of as much as you can." Happily. When you see a child's face light up at being told, "Take as much as you can carry", it makes you remember back to when you were that age, and a stamp or pencil or some other junky toy was the Coolest Thing Ever at that moment.
Once trick or treating was over, everyone trooped over to Shobha's house for the cake (see how they planned it? cake at the end of the night, so you're done eating, running around, and playing, then you're ready for sleep). Once that was all done, and clean up was finished, we went back to Kumar's house to settle the children in for bed time, and for Steve and me to get packed for the trip back to New York.
After all the excitement for that weekend, Vinayak was more than happy to settle in quietly with his book, as I was with mine. For about half an hour or so, we read quietly. Then, we joined Sowmya, Nithya, Kumar, and Steve in the living room to park in front of the TV for a bit. I had Vinayak next to me, and he conked out promptly in five minutes. Nithya and Sowmya followed suit soon after.
For what happened after this, the previous entry tells about our adventures on the journey home.