Home on the Range 

I just went to a great Halloween party, the third I’ve been to in three years of living in San Antonio. The kids enjoyed fresh-baked cupcakes, clever decorations, personalized party favors, and the opportunity to go wild with hardly any fear of reprimand. The adults enjoyed good food, wine, and conversation — albeit conversation occasionally interrupted by the sugar-spiked shrieks of diminutive costumed people. And as I was leaving, I had the same thought I always have: Please keep inviting me to your Halloween parties so I don’t ever have to throw one myself.

The world of mothers is a world divided. (OK, I could say the world of parents, but let’s accept that it’s generally the mothers driving this particular crazy train and the dads who are just trying to avoid the third rail.) No, I’m not talking about the so-called “mommy wars,” that philosophical catfight between working mothers and stay-at-home moms. I’m referring to the chasm between those who bake cupcakes and those who buy them at H-E-B. Those who make Halloween costumes and those who buy them on Ebay. Those who throw holiday parties and those who gratefully attend. Those who use “scrapbook” as a verb and those who haven’t even used it as a noun since they were 7 or 8 years old.

Some women feel guilty about falling into the latter camp. I don’t. I accept that I’m neither baker, candlestick-maker, nor laminator. Indeed, I had thought the only people who needed their own laminating machines were the ones making fake IDs — until I started seeing what some preschool moms were passing off as their kids’ art projects. And while I didn’t actually consider making my daughter’s Halloween costume this year, I did figure I could improvise a passable Wendy-from-Peter Pan outfit with a blue nightgown and ribbon. But do you know how hard it is to find a blue nightgown that doesn’t have some wan princess’s mug on it? Impossible. So of course I had to drop 40 bucks plus shipping on the only Wendy costume available on the internet that wasn’t, ahem, a “sexy Wendy” costume. (Honestly, is there anyone in the wonderful world of Disney characters left unfetishized? Is Sneezy the object of impure longings?)

In a nutshell, when it comes to cooking and crafting, I’m a little bit lazy and a little bit busy and maybe my priorities — not to mention talents — lie elsewhere. I do feel like a slacker on the party front, however. Once upon a time, in my previous life in NYC, I lived to throw parties — mixed drinks and mixed tapes, conga lines and lampshades on the head, that sort of thing. One of the last was a celebration of my elder daughter’s first birthday, attended by roughly 25 adults and exactly three children. But the adult-to-kid ratio shifted dramatically when I moved here, which is making me realize that I ought to get over my qualms and have a party, because when everyone you know has kids and perhaps not the most reliable babysitting options, you might as well seize every birthday and child-centric holiday as an opportunity for a little adult socializing.

From what I’ve observed of my hostess friends in action, pleasing both child and grown-up often just requires a subtle tweaking of the menu: Maybe a platter of spring rolls sits alongside the PBJ while an ice chest of beer is tucked behind the juice boxes. Venue, of course, is critical. If you decide to do a Saturday-morning birthday at Inflatable Freakout Land or High-pitched Squealing and Jumping World, you can be sure only one (embittered) parent is going to show up with his or her child. Basically, the concept doesn’t work unless you throw open the doors to your own home, at which point it’s also helpful to have the hostess gene that enables you to maintain sangfroid as 27 Power Rangers and Disney Princesses run amok in your living room.

Next month, I have the perfect chance to find out if I’m up to the challenge. My second daughter will be turning one, and since she’s not exactly old enough to have her own set of demands or friends to invite, this could be my moment to bust out the Go-GURT and boxes of wine. But then again, I’m thinking I could just wait and see if anyone else is throwing a holiday open house and discreetly piggyback her birthday on to that. Hmm … would that be so wrong?




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