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LIFE & TIMES / WENDY MILLER

Taking Worry Out of Kids' Birthday Parties

March 17, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

If you have been there once, you never forget it. The smells. The screams. The anguish. The carnage.

We're not talking about a homicide scene; we're talking about a children's birthday party at home. Those two hours that seem like a week. A week in Bedlam.

And afterward, you are happy if a post-party inventory of devastation uncovers only three broken heirlooms, half a dozen grape juice stains on the carpet and two sets of chocolate hand prints on the wall.

Hey, I'm happy if we only have to repaint the place and don't have to get involved with drywalling!

Free-lance writer Barbara Weldon Tone was the perfect candidate to do this week's centerpiece on out-of-home birthday parties. She has the experience and the battle scars of a kid birthday veteran.

"I had my last home birthday party for my daughter when she was about 5," Weldon Tone said. "It was a disaster. First of all, the children didn't want to play any of the games I had. It was just pandemonium. They were running in the house, out of the house."

The next year, she said, she took 24 kids to a place specializing in kids' birthday parties.

"They had a ball. We've been doing it this way ever since," she said.

Weldon Tone, who offers a list of party options around the county, was surprised that a happy time could be had by all--including the adults--for a reasonable price.

"I found that it was not any more expensive than having it at home, and in some ways it was cheaper. At home, you can spend a fortune on party favors alone. But at these places, the children are kept more entertained, so parents don't have to spend as much on games and prizes," she said.

"And some of the places provide crafts that can be taken home. They are lovely, and the kids make or at least decorate the items themselves."

And the paint job is someone else's problem.

One place parents probably wouldn't throw a birthday party would be at a sewage treatment complex. But after reading Jane Hulse's Jaunts column this week, they might. The sanitation operation in Ventura doubles as a wildlife refuge, and it has been attracting intrepid bird watchers from around the region.

More feathered creatures--and other animals--visited 250 of our children gathered in Foster Park last week for an "Earth Summit." According to Earthwatch columnist Richard Kahlenberg, relations between the young humans and representatives of other species, which included pythons, birds of prey and sea cucumbers, were--despite occasional exclamations of Oh, creepy"--quite cordial.

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