As I write this, it is about 10:30 am on a Saturday morning, and because I am not busy flipping my pillow for the cool side, and I’m wearing pants, something is clearly amiss. Yes, I am currently in a haze of exhaustion brought on by a slumber party hangover, having once again sacrificed my natural slothfulness for the birthday party of my eldest (and most expensive) daughter Ally, but this wasn’t just any slumber party. It involved horses. Yes, two of my greatest nemeses (Is that even a word?) conspired into a legion of doom bent on ripping the word “leisure” from my vocabulary. Feel sorry for me yet?
Since I was unable to convince my insurance company that a 24 hour session of general anesthesia was a medical necessity, the party began on Friday afternoon with a trail ride at the ranch where Ally has her large, dangerous mammal riding lessons. My wife Susan was conveniently still at work actually making us a living. The nerve! Thankfully, only two services were required of me. One was taking photos until Ally was sufficiently embarrassed and annoyed to the point of denying that she knew who I was. The other was monitoring the activities of my other two daughters and their two friends. (Why not a few more girl-children to keep alive?) While Ally, her friends, and their saintly trainer were trail riding, there was lots of flower picking and skipping around the pastures (while the other girls watched me). Finally, I could put them off no longer, and we decided to look at a few horses. At this point, my main goal became avoiding physical contact with any equine by-products, a virtual impossibility in this environment. Apparently horses cannot be toilet trained or convinced to use air freshener. After the girls had petted exactly 500 horses, the trail riders finally returned, and Susan arrived to join me in my desperation. So began the next leg of my endless quest for parent-pick-up time.
With twelve girl-children fresh from a warm and sweaty afternoon at the horse barn, complete with 5 tons of sleepover luggage, our combined vehicles were like a third world gypsy caravan (only smellier). I had given Ally the choice of restaurants with menu prices that might not thrust us into squalor, and to my horror, she chose Chili’s. Yes, Chili’s, the chain restaurant where everything on the menu tastes like a stack of seasoned, warm, wet napkins. In complete defeat, I squeezed through the Chili’s microscopic waiting area and requested a table for 17. In Longview, Texas, when you show up at a restaurant with more than four in your party, the host staff looks at you as if you just asked for their first born children, and they frantically dive for the emergency action plan manual. Once the staff had apparently performed an operation in quantum mechanics to push three tables together (and I had grown a beard), we were seated and eventually served our warm, wet napkins-spicier than I had remembered. Since Susan wouldn’t agree to my forcing the children perform musical numbers at each table for tips, I took out a seven year financing plan for the bill, and we headed out to make our next poor financial decision.
Instead of a simple birthday cake (how mundane-and relatively inexpensive!), Ally asked if we could all go the local build-your-own-pile-of-fake-ice-cream-topped-with-an-avalanche-of-sugar-products-to-make-you-forget-you-are-eating-fake-ice-cream place, Diddy’s Yogurt Shoppe. This is the place where your dessert is weighed in front of you before you pay for it to display what a pig you truly are. And I don’t know about you, but I am still suspicious of this whole frozen yogurt phenomenon. I mean, have you ever eaten “real” yogurt -you know, that runny, lukewarm abomination in the grocery store next to other inedible dairy products like cottage cheese? Apparrently, if you freeze the stuff, it turns into a delicious ice-cream imposter. By the time we had finished squandering our life savings on so-called yogurt, and I couldn’t think of any more free activities to keep us away from the house, we headed homeward for the “sleepover” phase of this saga.
When we got home with our mob of girl-children, I assembled them and went over my footwear/hedgehog/bedtime sleepover policies in the tone of the least convincing drill sergeant in history. For my footwear ordinance, see my previous “Slumber Parties” blog post. The hedgehog regulations are a result of our daughters’ attempts to transform our home into a small rodent-like-creature wildlife refuge. My daughters have successfully cajoled me into allowing each of them to own a hedgehog. Yes, we have three hedgehogs-inside our house! (A whole other story.) But, of course, that isn’t the half of it. They also have a collection of hamsters, mice (yes, I know) and a Siamese cat who thinks we are all insane. I simply tell our slumber party guests that if they get any of the small animals out of their cages without permission, the animals will explode (reasonable, I think). The bedtime ordinance states that all girl children must be prone and silent by midnight. So far, I have avoided invoking the obvious coffin analogy. I basically tell them to treat our home like a sensory deprivation chamber.
Everything seemed to be going perfectly until about 1:00 am when Susan and I were jolted out of our sleep by the familiar, ear-splitting giggle-screams of the American teenaged girl-child. Apparently we had a sleeptalker/walker who had managed to run into a wall. Thankfully the wall was undamaged (the girl-child, too), but any chance of my sleeping soundly after that point was not only fat, but morbidly obese. I kept envisioning one of my daughters’ sleepwalking friends standing over me wielding an exploding hedgehog.
For breakfast, we provided a nutritious and well-balanced medley of fresh donuts and chocolate milk, the breakfast of champions (and very lazy parents). Hey, a couple of the donuts purported to contain blueberries (or at least some kind of artificial blueberry-flavored chemical). Nutrition is important in this house! After rounding up random garments, sleeping bags (the product with perhaps the most ironic name ever), hair accessories, smart phones, selfie-sticks, (ok, I’ll stop, but I could go on . . . ), we loaded up and headed back out to the horse barn for that miraculous moment of every sleepover, parent-pick-up time. It was beautiful!
Since I have obviously failed to convince my family that children should only have a birthday party twice in their lives (age 1 and age 100), I know that we will have more sleepovers (if my daughters’ friends’ parents will allow it after reading this), and I really don’t mind that much. I love my kids more than anything, and their friends are pretty great. In the meantime, though, I need a nap, during which I’ll be dreaming of my girls’ smiling faces, their joyful laughter, and the inevitable exploding hedgehog.