It is the summer of 2005 and my mom would be celebrating her 65th birthday on July 26th. Another milestone birthday! My dad wanted to have a surprise dinner party with about 16-20 of their closest friends. Dad and I had worked out the details and agreed that it would be best if it were at our house and we would have it catered. And, we picked a date – Saturday, July 30th. Perfect!
The caterer – where to begin? Okay, my dad has a cooking gadget habit – it is really bad. You cannot take the man near a gourmet store that sells expensive cookware and spices without him going in and dropping $50 !SNAP!, like that. He is like Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City) and shoe stores – I mean it! Anyway, he knew the owners of the Corner Gourmet (which has since gone out of business – R.I.P.) since he frequented their cooking classes (usually with me or mom in tow) and bought stuff every time he was in there! When dad walked in, they had to be thinking, “Cha-ching!”. The owners did not have a robust catering business, but they knew how to cook and dad asked them to cater mom’s birthday bash. The owner hesitantly agreed to do it (he was out of catering practice)! We picked the menu and we were good to go!
The New Puppy – Jasper
I had resisted allowing a dog to become a member of the Engledow household for a long time (we had 3 kids and we were BUSY). However, the summer of 2005 was different. My husband had had it with my attitude about the dog. “I want a dog, the kids want a dog, damn it, we’re getting a dog!”. Well, okay then! I guess we are getting a dog!
If we were going to make that leap, this was the summer to do it because Mike was on sabbatical due to a job change combined with a non-compete clause. He was staying home with the kids and could train the puppy. So, long story short, we bought a 1st generation golden doodle from a breeder in Jasper, IN (don’t ask us how much we paid for this puppy!). The dog was a surprise for the girls (Ages 8 and 11). They were at church camp for a week and were coming home on Sunday, July 24th. Mike, Sue (my sis-in-law) and little Jack picked up the dog on Saturday, July 23rd. Of course, Mike and I were awarded Parents of Year on that Sunday!
For Maddie, this was the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. Mrs. Hill needed some volunteers to take care of the class bunny, Napoleon, over the summer. The plan was to have a different child watch the rabbit each week of the summer. [Is it just me or does this sound like a really bad idea?! I’m picturing a completely psycho bunny by the end of the summer, aren’t you?] Maddie’s Napoleon week began on Saturday, July 30th!
My lovely, independent, stubborn, beautiful, strong-willed, high-spirited, 8-year-old daughter was (and still is) a force to be reckoned with. I have no doubt in my mind that Miss Maddie will someday rule the world, but unfortunately for her, her time is still yet to come. She has the Engledow dictatorship to deal with now (she does try to topple this regime every so often; however, we have prevailed thus far!). She was SUPER excited to get this bunny (I have denied her long-term bunny ownership because I am allergic). She asked if she could play with the bunny, and I recall saying, “No, because we have to get ready for the party”, but she disputes this memory and says that I allowed her to play with the bunny. We are still on the waiting list to appear in front of Judge Judy to resolve this matter.
Let’s review the timeline, shall we???
July 23rd – added Jasper, the golden doodle puppy (Age, 8 weeks!), to the Engledow household
July 30th –
Mid-Afternoon (3:00 pmish): added Napoleon, the class bunny, to the Engledow household (albeit only for a week, but why this week?)
6:00 pm: Mom’s Surprise 65th Birthday catered affair also at the Engledow house / guests to arrive no later than 6:00pm, Birthday Girl to arrive at 6:30pm.
July 30th – Day of the Surprise Party
Okay, Napoleon arrives in the late afternoon as stated above. Mom’s dearest friends, the Nancys (Nancy M. & Nancy F.), came to my house early (around 4 – 4:30pm) to help me set up and decorate. The caterer is supposed to arrive around 5:30pm.
Maddie is upstairs “not” playing with her new bunny; the dog is going insane trying to get into Maddie’s room to eat Napoleon; Rachel, the Nancys and I are cleaning, straightening and decorating. I think my husband is out with Jack somewhere because I don’t recall him being in the house until later (I’ll get to that). So, all is going according to plan until .. . . . . .
“Mommy? Can you come upstairs?” (now it is about 30 minutes prior to the arrival of the caterer and 1 hour until showtime!)
I go upstairs into Maddie’s bedroom and I’m not sure I can describe this accurately, but there are rabbit droppings ALL OVER EVERY SQUARE INCH OF MADDIE’S ROOM!
Picture this EVERYWHERE all over the carpet in your kid’s bedroom!
(Now, if you have not read any of my prior posts, I need to briefly describe that I’m type A, like things organized at all times and wound tighter than a drum before people come over to my house for parties.) Okay, so I am speechless with anger, then I find my voice and ask her what the heck happened? Of course, this is where the dispute occurs over whether or not she had permission to get the rabbit out (we really need a ruling here!). I calm down a bit and realize that at this point it doesn’t matter who had permission to do what – the important thing was that we needed get that damn rabbit back in the cage before the guests arrive! I can’t have that rabbit up there pooping ALL NIGHT IN HER ROOM while we are downstairs enjoying a nice dinner!
Do you remember how I said that the rabbit had been man-handled by different families for the 8 weeks prior to us getting this rabbit? Well, of course, now this thing HATES people and probably, most of all, little people! At the time, Maddie had two twin beds in her room which were against walls in an “L” shape (can you picture it?) and the rabbit was hiding under one of the twin beds just pooping away! UGH!!!!
After about 30 minutes of trying to catch this rabbit, I had to give up. I mean, I had a caterer coming any minute! I explained to Nancy M. and Nancy F. that we had a major problem – they were so great and I’m really glad they were there. The Nancys and Rachel had been working very hard while I was upstairs trying to catch a rabbit! Of course, we had Jasper and he had to be watched very carefully because, well, he was a puppy and not house-trained AND he wanted to meet Napoleon as soon as possible (at this point he had been ours for only a week!).
Mike finally comes home from wherever he had been (I can’t remember!). I hysterically told Mike about the rabbit problem and he promptly went upstairs to do his manly duty and trap the animal. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the caterer (and waiting, and waiting, etc.)
Where was the !*&^#%! caterer?! Why hasn’t my husband come back downstairs yet?
Well, I resisted going back upstairs to check on the Napoleon Wars, but I did. What I found has been indelibly written on my brain. I will try to paint you a picture. After fending off Jasper who wanted desperately to get into Maddie’s room, I open the door. Every single book in Maddie’s room (she has a TON of books) had been pulled from the shelves and propped against the sides of the twin beds (bedrail to floor). I think this was to prevent the rabbit from going under the beds. AND, there is rabbit poop everywhere! It was hard NOT to walk on it. EWWWW!
You have to picture this – one of the twin beds had been completely sealed off by princess stories, Junie B. Jones books, etc. Mike, was laying on his stomach on the other twin bed with his head by the foot of the bed with a big book in his hands – it was the only opening available to Napoleon who was trapped under the bed. The funny thing was that they had made a walled path the led to the rabbit’s cage – the walls were made of stacked books. So, if the Rabbit came out from under the bed, it would be forced to go toward the cage or back under the bed. It clearly had taken the 30 minutes to construct this “Rabbit Trap” of sorts. His plan was to seal the opening with the big book once the rabbit came out from under the bed. He said that every time he tried to cover the entrance, the little bugger would sneak back under the bed. Apparently, rabbits are really fast!
I took over at this point and asked Mike to go downstairs because I needed something to distract me from the fact that the caterer was STILL NOT here! Okay, so now I’M laying on the bed on my stomach with big book and BAM! Napoleon came out, I sealed the opening to the under-bed hiding spot and coaxed him into the cage – a total of 5 minutes! Now, I will admit that Mike did set up the “trap”, but I must be faster than a rabbit!
Of course, now there is the complete MESS that is Maddie’s room. How are we going to get all of that rabbit poop from under the beds? What about all of the books? Maddie might have to sleep with her sister tonight!
After congratulating myself and grabbing Jasper, I headed downstairs because the guests are finally arriving, and the caterer? Well, he finally showed up! He saw multiple cars at our next door neighbor’s house and started unloading at their house instead of ours! I guess that was why he was late. Well, he had about 20 minutes to get set up before the Birthday Girl was due to arrive (my father is NEVER late). The caterer was going on about how he got lost, went to the wrong house, blah, blah, blah! Just hurry up and get the food set up!! I don’t care about how you got lost! Really!
The caterer was just finishing the food set-up (after everyone helped him get all of the “catering stuff and food” into the house) when the birthday girl arrived (right on time, I might add!). Now, to mom and dad, everything looked perfect! Whew! If it weren’t for the ingenuity of my husband, the hardworking Nancys and my daughter, Rachel, this day could have ended up a disaster. Mom was truly surprised and the party was a great success.
BTW, the Rabbit lived and we gladly passed him along to the next family that following Saturday. . . . . . . . .Good luck!