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Slumber parties

Currently, we are planning a slumber/birthday party for our middle daughter, Anna. There will be board games, cake, cookies, sandwiches, chips and dips, video games, movies (and a few things for the kids, too).

By now, one would think that we would know better. "This ain't our first rodeo," as the saying goes. Actually, I would rather go to a rodeo (or compete in one) than host another slumber party, and for me, that's saying something.

Birthday parties for my girls have become more and more elaborate over the years. Whatever happened to the birthday parties of my childhood (an hour with a few friends being assaulted by wasps and fire ants at a city park or wearing little paper hats while being terrified by a creepy clown at McDonalds)? Life was simpler then. Partly in jest, I suggested a McDonalds party to Anna for this year, and she wouldn't speak to me for the rest of the day. She was already annoyed that we wouldn't allow her to invite every pre-teen girl in the Ark-La-Tex to the slumber party.

If you've ever wondered what it feels like to host a slumber party for adolescent girls, perform that experiment where you drop a package of Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Coke, but this time, place your mouth over the opening of the bottle immediately after dropping in said Mentos. If you've ever wondered what it's like to try to get anything resembling sleep (or even rest) at a slumber party for adolescent girls, stir up a large anthill, and try to take a nap on it­­­ - naked.

Other than the chaos and sleep deprivation, I'm always amazed at certain aspects of slumber parties. For example, the amount of other people's laundry that is left at our home once everyone is gone is staggering. I could outfit an entire Girl Scout troop with the number of garments that we find strewn everywhere (if only they left cookies, too). I'm actually surprised that anyone leaves our house fully clothed. Sometimes I wonder if it's a ploy by parents to get us to do their laundry and deliver it to school the next week. I am also amazed at the amount of bacon girls this age can eat. At our last slumber party, Hormel had to go into emergency overdrive to meet our demands. They have now placed us on a rationing program. This time, since we don't feel like financing a pallet of bacon from Walmart, we are not planning to serve it for breakfast. I hope there isn't a riot.

I have several goals when we host a slumber party:

1. Keeping everyone alive

2. Keeping the house and our belongings from being destroyed

3. Salvaging the plumbing

One would think the #3 wouldn't be a problem with these petite females, but it is, especially when they bother to flush. At a previous slumber party, I encountered an unflushed toilet in our guest bathroom, and I was astounded. I immediately wondered if I was actually hosting a convention for retired Sumo wrestlers, rather than a slumber party for adolescent girls. #2 is the most challenging of my goals, mainly protecting the carpet. I always ask that everyone take off their shoes when they are in the house, put shoes back on if they go out back to play, take shoes off when they are on the trampoline, put shoes back on when they get off the trampoline, and take shoes back off before they come back in the house - easy, right? Why, then, does the carpet always wind up looking like the grounds of a sale barn? So far we are perfect on #1, although I've considered taking a dirt nap myself a few times.

My favorite part of the slumber party experience, other than when parents arrive to pick up their children (minus most of their clothing), is bedtime. I always insist that although I can't force them to sleep, they must remain prone and in one location at all times during the night - unless they need to get up and go destroy the plumbing. Although this strategy works well most of the time, at a past slumber party, the lights had been turned out, and I was blindly stumbling through what appeared to be a refugee camp in my living room in order to kiss my daughter goodnight. Well, you guessed it, I mistakenly kissed someone else's daughter goodnight, which invoked an eruption of maniacal giggling from all present, including my wife. We are still hoping for a speedy trial and a sympathetic jury.

When I tell people stories like these, they often look at me compassionately and say things like, "You're such a good dad," "Your girls are so lucky," and "You need medication." Kids do grow up fast, and I want to do as much as I can to make them happy because I know that someday, their childhood will be only a memory. In the meantime, though, I've got to run. I hear Lowe's has plungers on sale.

- Jase Graves

Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of Longview, Texas, and a Texas A&M Aggie. He teaches English and serves as the department chair of language development at Kilgore College. Along with his professional teaching position, he teaches children's Sunday school. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective in his blog, "What's Wrong With Daddy?" Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.

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