Stanford E-Quad. Perfect. Grand porticos, long, wide paths, spacious lawns, grassy knolls, ancient tree in an arena.
Part III: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
5:00 p.m. Kids arrive; free time
5:15 p.m: Kids assemble sandwiches to eat later.
5: 30 p.m. Treasure Hunt
5:50 p.m. Eat sandwiches, unveil and eat cake
6: 15 Light saber combat instruction
7:15 Free time
7:30 The End
Part IV: Gang aft agley
Which is to say, "Often go awry"--I'm quoting Scottish poet Robert Burns, from whose poem "To a Mouse" the line comes: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft agley". (Brainy, but I can't take credit. I remembered Robert Burns and his poem thanks to its appearance in a wonderful book called The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery. It's the second in what I think will be a three-part series, Part III of which I am eagerly awaiting. If I get a spare hour (hah!) I'll write about it.)
But I digress. So. Gang aft agley:
4:35 We get a very late start. RT rushes off to Diddams to pick up balloons and some extra paper plates, and takes Johnny and Dan with him. I rush off to Stanford to hide the clues for the treasure hunt before everyone arrives.
4:50 I enter the quad and am greeted by Dan's first guest, who has arrived early. So I only hide a couple of clues.
5:15 All but one of the guests has arrived, with the birthday boy still nowhere in sight. I call RT and (oops) tell him over the speakerphone that everyone is here, and when does he think they will arrive? Which makes Dan refuse to get out of the car when he finally arrives 25 minutes late to his own party. Poor guy. I would have wanted to hide and cry, too. It was absolutely, totally RT's and my fault.
5:25 So despite feeling terrible, I threaten Dan with bringing all his friends over to see him if he doesn't get out of the car, and he finally emerges, only to retreat again when he realizes that everyone has brought scooters, (as we had asked) but us. Boy, did RT and I screw up. Disaster looms.
5:30 But miraculously, thanks to a couple of his most understanding and convincing friends, Dan finally comes out and starts having fun.
5:35 I decide to scrap the treasure hunt--the boys are having the time of their lives just running around playing Cops and Robbers, of all things. Yay, me, I think. I'm being flexible.
New plan: sandwiches and cake at 5:45. I begin setting out the sandwich fixings.
5:40 I realize that I have forgotten the lunchmeat at home. All I have is two loaves of bread, most of a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and three bags of Cheetos (my other big concession to the junk food industry).
My fabulous friend J says, "So just don't tell them. They can all have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They won't mind."
5:45 So that's what we do, and guess what--only one kid eats a sandwich. Everyone else claims not to be hungry, or not to like PBJ, or sandwiches, or Cheetos.
Okay. Okay. So just cake.
6:00 Which goes well. All the boys are suitably impressed, no one thinks the frosting is weird. So what if the wind makes it impossible to light the candles and the lighter eventually stops working? We just pretend, and Dan (thank god) goes along with it with a smile. He blows out the pretend flames with a big razzberry much to the delight of his friends, and all is well.
Part V: The world rights itself
6:15 At which point, the Entertainment arrives.
Tai's Lightsaber Combat teacher (yay, Los Altos Parks and Rec) comes with little Jedi tunics and out-of-this-world lightsabers and takes over.
I don't even have to write about it. The photos, I think, will speak for themselves:
7:25 One last panicky moment when I realize that I have forgotten to fill the party favor bags, a few frantic minutes spent stuffing them full of stuff, and the party is over.
Phew. By and large, the party was a success. The parents oohed and ahhed over our choice of venue. The boys had a good time. Everyone went home tired and happy (though probably hungry). Bonus: Dan and his across-the-street friend TM tried (and failed) to eat a whole bag of Cheetos on the way home and now Dan doesn't like Cheetos anymore.
My big takeaway: Kids outside will take care of themselves. No need to hyperplan or bring any food except for cake. Just frickin' relax, already.