Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Birthday Parties, Layovers, and a Postscript

I have a few weeks' worth of catching up to do here, I know. The problem is that I can only recall the details of events that are 10 days old are less. I blame aging. And children. Also laundry. And don't forget the heat. So we'll start with Flamingo Joe's and Dez' combined birthday party, held 10 days ago, here at Casa Flamingo.

I knew ahead of time it was going to be boiling hot, so I made an executive decision to hold the party indoors instead of out as we usually do. We already know how to do outside parties: clean up outside, set the wooden tables up, move all the chairs and the grill wherever the hub of the party will be, and hook up the outdoor speakers. There's a routine to outdoor party preparation that wipes Flamingo Joe completely out because he's in charge of the outside preparation and I'm in charge of the little bit of inside cleaning that gets accomplished and making sure we've got food under control (though Elsie pretty much handles arranging pickles, tomatoes, cheese slices, etc. prettily on trays -- that's her spiritual gift).

When I sprang it on FJ that I'd decided to have the party indoors, he looked at me askance (love that word) and shrugged. The main floor of our house is chopped up into smallish spaces, so I know he was trying to figure out how we were going to fit 30 people in here comfortably. It was simply a matter of moving tables and other things out of the way and cramming more chairs in. But because the party was indoors, it did eliminate some of the work FJ had to do to get ready . . . which is only right, given that it was his birthday. He cleaned off the porch and mowed the lawn (taking the obligatory 2 hours to change the belt or something on the mower when it broke halfway through). But he did not have to move chairs around outside or mess with the grill at all.

Here's the thing about indoor parties -- if people are hanging around inside your house instead of outside your house for 3 to 4 hours, they are more likely to notice the windows covered in wee-sized handprints, the cobwebs in the ceiling corners, and the pile of papers sitting off to the side of a desk stuck in a corner, not to mention the six week old sippy cup with solidified chocolate milk on the floor under that same desk. So I had to clean all that, plus a few other things that never get cleaned in my house unless there's an indoor party, such as this:

And this:

And this:

And no, that wall did not get painted before the party. It's been sitting there unpainted for over two years -- why would I paint a wall that I eventually hope to tear down at some point in the next 10 years after we get through our Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover? 'Twould be wasted effort, 'twouldn't it? Let's not be wasting effort that could be spent creating Allocated Spending Charts.

But I digress. We had a wonderful time at the party -- Dez opened her gifts:

Flamingo Joe opened his:

. . . with Ben's help. Heidi's son Ben loves cars -- to the point of being able to identify make and model of most cars driving down the road. After meeting you the first time and learning what kind of car you drive, he will always remember your car. And heaven forbid you drive something different the next time you see him because he will ask you where your Ford Expedition or Toyota Corolla or Kia Sephia is until he has gotten a satisfactory explanation out of you. Joe calls him a "Car Savant". All of Joe's gifts were cars -- we wanted him to get as many sports cars as possible before embarking on his mid-life crisis years. So Ben helped him unwrap and identify every single one. Joe loved it -- I think he's going to try to sneak over to Heidi's one night and switch one of our kids for Ben. Don't tell Heidi. Or our kids.

The party ended as all parties should: with raucous singing of praise and worship music. It's extremely difficult to structure a party so that it naturally flows from appetizers to raucous singing of praise and worship music -- so you really do have to be prepared to bully people into bringing their guitars and making them play. Or bullying people who didn't bring their guitars into playing the guitars of the people who did. Which is of course what we did -- and it is always handy to invite people to your party who, when asked if they have a capo, can pull one out of their front pocket. It also helps if you serve adult beverages and arrange a pretty sunset.

So the rest of the week following the party was pretty nice because my house was so clean -- no guilt, you know. Then early on Thursday morning I took a flight by myself to Memphis by way of Atlanta to help with some family things going on up there. It was a quick trip and I was supposed to be home by Friday night at 8:30. But because of bad weather pretty much everywhere in the southeast my flight leaving Memphis left an hour or so late and I missed my connection in Atlanta and had to sit there until 11:50. That gave me three to four hours to kill in the airport, during which time I talked to six total strangers, cried through the last chapter of The Shack, bought a new book that I realized one chapter in I'd already read, stood in the middle of the concourse and cried with my mother on the phone, ate dinner, and changed clothes in the airport bathroom just to have something else to do. I am not a good airplane traveler because, you know, I'm not flying the plane. But on that last leg of the journey, as I was waiting to (finally) board the plane, I looked over at the pilot, who happened to be standing next to me, also waiting to get on the plane, and realized it was a friend of ours from a church small group we'd been part of several years ago. I was practically giddy when I realized he was flying us home -- I knew that if he crashed the plane and we died, at least Joe and the pilot's wife (who would of course be drawn together in their grief after the crash) could get married and my kids would have a good mom. He and I chatted for several minutes before he got on the plane and before he walked away, he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down all their phone numbers so we could all get together again sometime.

It totally looked like I had picked up the pilot -- my six new friends were insanely jealous.

{a postscript -- but first, a warning -- if you do NOT want to read about dead rats, stop reading now; if you DO want to read about dead rats, please continue: When I finally got home Friday night, I stepped through the front door and said, "I smell dead rat." Joe drooped and said, "Yes, I think we have another one." Before I left for Memphis, I started smelling dead rat and Flamingo Joe and Howell, our mechanic friend (who was here fixing the Expedition -- YAY!) had found that first one, which was really the second one, because the first one I almost stepped on down by the trash cans under the house. So those cute little mice I thought that we had scampering around under our house were actually nasty, hinge-headed, filthy rats. Flamingo Joe had put out poison over the weekend of the party and the rats started crawling into the space between the ceiling of our "basement" and the floor of our main floor and dying. It's been a gory week for Joe, who keeps pulling insulation from the ceiling and dodging dead rats as they come falling out. My office still smells like dead rat. My poor assistant, Lesa, is traumatized from having to work in such conditions. I'm sure she only stays for the glamorous perks of the job -- she gets to park under the tree outside and I bring her a Coke from upstairs whenever I remember to get one for her from the fridge. My hope is that the Great Rat Infestation of 2010 is subsiding now and that you don't think less of us at Casa Flamingo for it.}

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