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That Time I Nearly Killed 12 Girls at a Birthday Party

Have you been so passionate about something, so laser-focused on it that you lost sight of your peripheral realities and then the whole thing bit you in the ass? One such passion for me was the weapons-grade outlandish theme birthday parties I threw for our daughter, Alijah, when she was growing up.


If you'd prefer to watch a video of this post rather than waste your precious time and brain space moving your eyeballs across the page and decoding words, please take a gander at the video here:


Most of her parties were a blast. Like the rock concert party for her 8th birthday where we built a 16’ replica of U2’s Vertigo stage in our backyard with a full karaoke system, inflatable guitars and custom concert t-shirts for all. It was epic (photos below).

Or her Spiderman-themed party, where we rented a Velcro wall and suits so the kids could climb the wall like Spidey only they were too small to make themselves stick so we had to pick them up and hurl them against the wall – that was a win for parents and kids alike.

Of course, they weren’t all wins. Sometimes, too much focus on my theme led to safety concerns. For Alijah’s ladybug themed second birthday, I released 2,000 live ladybugs into a class full of toddlers only to find out that ladybugs BITE. Did you know this?! I did not.

It went from brilliant theme party to crying, chaotic failure in the flitter of four thousand tiny, polka dotted wings. Yet even then, there was a part of me that did not want to give up on my theme party. I looked around at the weeping mayhem and thought these kids really need to nut up. I mean, seriously, how hard can a ladybug bite? 🐞

I proved that I learned nothing from that experience when 12 years later, one of my theme parties nearly became fatal. Alijah turned 14 at the height of the Hunger Games craze when every female on the planet wanted to be Katniss Everdeen, the bow and arrow wielding heroine of the story. In the Hunger Games, 24 children are chosen at random for a survival battle -- fought to the death -- in a 500 square-mile forest and the whole thing is televised for the viewing pleasure of the twisted residents of the Capitol. It’s dark and it’s brilliant and I was hopelessly bent on recreating every last appalling detail of it for the party.

This meant taking a dozen 13-year-old girls for a sleepover in a cabin near Roosevelt National Forest where we could hold our own Hunger Games. We did training exercises all day including a way-too-serious archery competition and then came time for the reaping – the ceremony where the unfortunate competitors names are drawn. We set off for our designated clearing, deep in the forest, all of us in full costume.

My costume was Effie Trinket, the ridiculously flamboyant woman who escorts the children to their deaths. I was wearing a fuchsia dress, cotton candy pink wig and 4” high heels – in the forest. The girls wore camo and flag football belts. The idea was that they’d run around hiding in the woods, conniving ways to snag each other’s flags without getting theirs snagged and whoever was the final girl to make it back to the clearing with her flag was the winner. Fun, right? We chose all their names in the reaping; I delivered Effie’s tagline “May the odds be ever in your favor,” and the Hubby and I released the girls into the wilds.

We watched them disappear into the forest willy-nilly, smugly congratulating ourselves on being The. Coolest. Parents. Ever. Then we started planning what to do when they got back because it would be getting dark soon.

It would be getting dark soon.

We turned to each other in horrified slow-mo: “Wweee didn’t tellll them WHENNN to come baaaaack!” There could only be one winner of the Hunger Games – the last girl standing.

Without a set time for the game to be over, every one of those ruthless little maniacs would stay out there until she was 100% sure she was that winner. The whole point of the game was to NOT return for as long as possible. Let me remind you, there’s no cell service in the middle of the national forest. Basically, we had all but guaranteed they would become hopelessly lost in the dark and either die of hypothermia or be eaten by the enormous wolves whose tracks we had seen earlier that day. I had turned them into helpless, wandering wolf-bait.

My first thought (and this will tell you everything you ever need to know about me) was, “When the news vultures come with their camera crews and spotlights, I am going to have to tell the world I sent 12 eighth-grade girls to their deaths ... dressed as Effie ... fucking ... Trinket.” I resolved right then that I would do the entire news interview in Effie character and voice so that later, at my trial, I could plead insanity.

Hubby was more level-headed. “Let’s give them 15 more minutes and then call the authorities.” At 14 minutes, 47 seconds, five of the girls came stumbling and giggling into the clearing and my heart started again. Eventually, all twelve girls returned safe and sound, oblivious to the danger I’d put them in, and I heaved a sigh of relief that they hadn’t been quite as passionate about a theme as I was.

Some theme party memories :

Sadly, there are no photos of the Hunger Games party to be found. I distinctly remember both taking and posing for them, but somehow they did not end up in 2012's carefully curated scrapbook album. Yes, I make an album for every year. Stop judging me. It's a passion.

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