Friday, June 3, 2011

Oscar's Birthday Week

Psychedelic birthday cake. Designed and decorated by Oscar.

I am a bit fearful that a dangerous precedent has been set. One birthday. Three birthday parties. One week of sugar induced toddler debauchery and a wardrobe covered in frosting. The kid just turned three years old. Yes, it is every exciting, but judging by the amount of fanfare surrounding the big event, you would think he just married the princess of England.

First, there was the school party. A nutritious lunch was swapped out for a gooey chocolate birthday cake. Toddler approval ratings were high and the change in routine was greeted with rave reviews:

Of course we had to have a family party at home. We added a few friends and had Oscar's favorite meal- pesto pasta with chicken and kalamata olives. When people arrived he kept opening the fridge and asking for his "happy birthday." "When is my happy birthday?" I soon realized that he was referring to the dessert and the singing. Most of what he has grasped about birthdays is 'dessert on fire'. Not a bad start.

Wanting a contrast to the cake he ate a few hours ago at school, I combined a banana split and a sundae: homemade banana chocolate-chip ice cream, sprinkled with salted peanuts, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Hmmm... a dreamy helping of childhood nostalgia. Diving into this salty, sweet, bitter chocolate, treat transported us all to our happy place.

But the real showstopper had to be the kid-tastic birthday fiesta. Because we are moving back to the US in two weeks, uprooting Oscar from everything he has ever known, we went all out-- Mexican-style. Kid birthday parties are a major event here. The phone book has pages and pages of listings for event spaces solely for kid parties. They are equipped with bounce houses, trampolines, a rig for the piñata, and play structures galore; some have stages for a Backyardigan or Toy Story performance. All provide lots of  tables and chairs and a large counter space for a extensive food buffet.

 Bounce house: Check.
Look at the way he steps into the swing. Clearly it is not his first piñata bashing.

Why the tables and chairs? Kids don't sit still long enough to eat at a party. And a buffet table? Don't you just need a table big enough to hold a cake and perhaps a tub of ice cream? That is all the kids are going to eat, right? In Mexico, when you invite a child to a birthday party, you are inviting the whole family-- sisters, brothers, parents, cousins, uncles, grandparents, the neighbor who is over playing that morning, etc. They all come. And they expect to be fed and watered. So, those fifteen invitations that went out to Oscar's classmates could bring in 150 guests. And the kicker..... no one ever RSVPs.

So from someone who foolishly tackled it..... if you are ever faced with the challenge of cooking for a large mystery number of adults and children, I suggest you don't. Just call in a taco truck, order the largest cake at the bakery and get your bounce-house on!

In my memory, growing up in the US, birthday parties lasted two hours MAX at this young age. Parents jumped for joy at the sight of a birthday invitation and quickly scheduled their massage, golf game, etc. Kids were dropped off not one second after the designated time. Now….Mexican-style. Two hours in and the party is just getting rolling. Entire families are still arriving. Naps are not an issue in Mexico and a sleep-deprived breakdown is treated with another slice of cake. Guests plant themselves at the tables and settle in for the afternoon. It’s an event. It truly is a celebration; a reason for everyone to get together. My guess is Oscar is going to want the entire town and their extended families at his fourth birthday—and, of course, a piñata!


  1. That's where you went! Swallowed into a black hole of pudding-tastic witchcraft. That, and preparing to move back home sweet home. Those "desserts on fire" look awesome! Big kiss for the now-3 Frijole and good luck with the move. Love ya princess. x

    ps. our Montenegrin mulberry harvest is prolific. Ben's baking up mulberry muffins as I type, but if you know any recipes involving mulberrys or feel inspired, let us know!

  2. What a great birthday! I love the fiesta party and the crazy cake.

  3. Elated to know about this birthday week. Few weeks ago, I arranged a BBQ party with my friends at one of the lovely NYC venues. Invited all my friends for this party and we had an amazing time there. Enjoyed this party a lot and had yummy food.