Less is more
LOVE LUCY - LOVE LUCY By Lucy Gomez () - October 5, 2003 - 12:00am
Juliana turned 3 last September 8 and, as is always the case, only got to celebrate her birthday via a children’s party almost two weeks later. The reason why we never get to hold the party on the date itself is because Richard’s sports competitions and/or training abroad are always scheduled around that time of the year. And whereas she had big celebrations in the last two years, this one was markedly and deliberately different. It was much more intimate, and as I soon discovered in the course of the preparations, so much more fun and enjoyable. I am not saying I did not enjoy and appreciate the ones that came before but I would readily admit that holding smaller parties in smaller venues is so much more intimate and meaningful than grander ones will ever be.

Primarily, Richard’s and my concern was that Juliana is of the age when everything she sees and hears around her are easily and readily absorbed. I was talking with her Teacher Joyce recently and she was explaining to me how a person’s memory works. As adults, our human brain classifies information on the basis of its importance. Do we need it or not? Those we think we have no use for, we subconsciously trash. On a parallel note, we retain those we think we may need. When it comes to children, they do not have the ability to classify information and stimulus that they are exposed to – and like sponges they just absorb and absorb.

That said Richard and I felt that we did not want her to look back to her childhood birthday celebrations many years from now and be bored and jaded. It is healthy for her to be exposed to both sides of the coin, so to speak. I remember a friend of mine, used to the grandest of grand celebrations, saying that it came to a point when nothing seemed to excite her son anymore. Any child, constantly exposed to too much of the good things in life, will most likely not be appreciative of the simpler ones in the same way that she may even find luxurious ones lackluster. Worst yet, the child may think that is the only normal situation. It is the responsibility of the parents to provide and strike a balance.

Since she has already started school it seemed only logical that the party be held there. With that decided, every other birthday party preparation thereafter, had a pat of serendipity. Disney had just recently introduced Nemo so that naturally became the party theme. I could not find Nemo invites so I ended up purchasing some other brightly colored generic ones. As luck would have it though, as I was writing down the names of each child, I soon discovered I did not have enough. For the 12 or so that I lacked I ended up making my own invites out of colored construction paper, rubber stamp, fluorescent markers and colored pens. The party was all set for Friday the 17th but on the eve of the 15th, Richard and I found out we had to fly out to Hong Kong for the Jerry Yan interview. There was no other date.

I took a chance and asked the teacher in school if the party could be moved to Wednesday of the following week. No problem. I called Pinky Yee of Goldilocks who was going to prepare the food if there would be any problems on her end. Don’t worry about it, she said. Thank God. I never thought canceling and rescheduling would be that easy.

We flew in from Hong Kong on a Sunday and that evening I busied myself with the new invites that had to be given out the following day. Because I had so much fun doing the "accidental" 12 invites from the batch before I set out to happily make all of the 50 that I needed. Unbelievably it took me only all of three hours to make!

I tore construction paper in assorted happy colors in two sizes. On the smaller one I rubber stamped the chubby figure of a little girl. I had lying around in my craft box one of those rubber stamp pads that come in strips of three colors per pad so depending on what colored paper I was stamping it on it had different color effects. I thought they came out really pretty – they looked like those basic, uncomplicated figures that were straight out of my first few coloring books. Directly below the figure of a chubby girl I wrote out in my own shorthand Juliana’s name using a fat, flat-tipped fluorescent marker in green and pink, tracing its edges further with fine black sign pen for definition. I then asked Richard to print out the party details using the kidprint font on bright green paper. I tore off the edges again to get the unfinished look that I wanted and sooner than I expected I was ready to assemble them, using my reliable 1/4-inch double-sided tape. I made it a point to combine different colors so I ended up with a crude but happy looking bunch. It was easy and so much fun to make. It was also liberating because I did not use scissors and neither did I follow specific measurements. Working with one’s hands really is therapeutic. Not only did it bring me back to happy childhood memories, it was something I was able to enjoy with Juliana who was my self-appointed little helper. She would peel off the double-sided tape for me and I pretty much allowed her to tear off the edges of the colored paper as well. It was a nice time to bond. And there was a beam of pride in her face each time I told her she was doing a great job.

Instead of the usual games I opted to prepare for the kids creative activities that would bring out the artist in them. Goldilocks has a Cookie Decorating Package where the children are given individual styropore trays to work on, a couple of baked plain butter cookies, and an assortment of colorful icing in pipe bags. They then have a free hand to decorate the cookies as they please. Also provided were candy sprinkles to adorn their finished product. Pinky Yee who has also seen and helped us through the first two parties of Juliana, brilliantly thought of using mamon as well so that the kids would have the flexibility of a larger area to decorate. The nice thing about it is that the kids get to bring home their edible "artwork" to show off to their mommies and daddies.

We had prizes for the best decorated cookie and the best decorated mamon. Although we had a few games, among them the cult favorite "Bring Me," the kids seemed to find a great deal of satisfaction and fun in their decorating prowess.

They must have been so hungry, busy as they were decorating their edible canvas that they polished off the spaghetti, lumpiang shanghai, and Purefoods TJ Hotdogs quicker than I thought they would. They were also thrilled when the TJ Hotdog mascot made a personal appearance at the party.

In keeping with the theme, Pinky helped me source out fishbowls and live goldfish to serve as giveaways. It’s really neat because the fish are securely contained in individual plastic bags with the treated water and they can stay alive there for up to 12 hours. The fishbowls, in the meantime, I filled with Bench Bytes that included Choco Mallows and soft candies in strawberry, grape, and melon flavors. There were also hard candies in my favorite lychee-mint flavor. (All that the kids had to do was just transfer the live fish into the empty fishbowl soon as they got home.)

Aminor booboo was when I asked my brothers to get me party favors from Toy Kingdom to put in the fishbowl. I specified that I wanted jelly balls, slinkies, whistles… the usual. Guess what they both came back armed with? Creatures of all kinds and some funny-looking figures I later found out were the relatives of that cartoon animé. How can I relate those to Nemo? Members of the animal kingdom? Nice try. Nemo’s friends? Could be. Apparently, they did not take my instructions to heart and simply shopped like little boys would, choosing what they would want to find in their lootbags if they were also three years old. What about the little girls in the party? They will surely enjoy the candies, they sheepishly replied. By then we were dissolved in fits of laughter. Salvation came in the form of colorful large fish-shaped cookies given by my friend, Denise and made by her sister Carla. Plopped into the fishbowl, it gelled together every mismatched thing inside.

After all of the activities, there was the usual blowing of the cake (also by Goldilocks, a yummy chocolate). Goldilocks is one of those food companies that has home written all over it. Even better is the fact that it is purely and proudly Pinoy. Other all-time favorite Goldilocks treats include their mocha cake, pancit palabok, and puto. And if you have forgotten all about their famous dinuguan, find time to rediscover it again. They serve one of, if not, the best dinuguan in the country. Another treat that I recently stumbled upon? Their freshly-baked dinner rolls. Super good. If I don’t make a conscious effort I can easily finish off half a pack.

I would also like to share with other parents a habit that I developed after Juliana’s very first birthday party. She was swamped with many gifts and contrary to what I would have normally done, I chose to make her open one gift a day, sometimes even two days, apart. Some I even keep for months on end and only on "special occasions" do I allow her to open another one. "Special occasions" include times when she keeps her toys after playing, when she finished her vegetables, or when she shares her toys with her playmates. She is already so used to it that it is a habit she carries on even at Christmas time. It really works better because not only do they appreciate and maximize the use of the toys more, they also learn to discover and enjoy it thoroughly. Another policy I have is the one-in, one-out rule. If she has a new toy, she has to choose one that she is willing to give and share with the less fortunate. Not only does it make someone else happy, Juliana is regularly exposed to the heart of sharing, and the chances of running out of storage space are less.

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