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Children are icing on cake at holiday parties

Sunday, December 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:41 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

This is the morning after. My house is eerily quiet and fairly clean. My refrigerator has lots of odd food. I have four boxes of cream cheese, several bunches of green onions, two packages of wontons and a ham bone. Today is the day after my annual Christmas party.

For the past few years, I’ve opted to cancel our usual cattle call of inviting people I only see when I’m hosting the party. In days gone by, at these parties held after dark with lots of liquor, there was always at least one incident of someone becoming inebriated and causing a scene. So, I decided to host a party in the afternoon where children are the focus. I let my grown children invite their friends and their own children.

I will admit I had some anxiety about 20 or more rug rats tearing through the house, leaving a trail of half-eaten chocolate cookies on the living room carpet and sticky hands on upholstered furniture. But I needn’t have worried. When my little darlings get dressed up in party clothes, they become miniature adults (although I do have one grandson, the 2-year-old, who could be wearing a tux and he’d still be a little terror.) When they went to the buffet table, they carefully selected items and then, as if carrying a plate filled with diamonds, they navigated their way to the kitchen table that was reserved for kids.

This year, I had a special treat for my guests: a chocolate fountain. The night before the party, I awoke in a sweat. Had I lost my mind?

Carrying a plastic plate filled with finger food is one thing, but liquid chocolate is quite another. I had visions of chocolate smeared walls, drapes and furniture. I was one phone call away from canceling the surprise.

When the owners of the fountain arrived they just chuckled and said everything would be fine. It wasn’t children who made messes, it was the grown-ups who could cause havoc — especially those who like to drink and eat dessert.

When my grandchildren saw the fountain, they were dumbstruck. They couldn’t believe that they could have all of the chocolate their little tummies could hold. Although they were very careful not to drop any chocolate on the floor or their clothing, the bottom half of their faces were covered with the rich, brown cocoa concoction. I placed a roll of paper towels on the table, and each child dutifully wiped as much of the chocolate off as possible. After the initial chocolate attack, the kids forgot about the fountain and returned to the kitchen with plates of chicken and ham sandwiches.

Another fun thing about a children-oriented Christmas party is the talent show. It’s never the same. It all depends on what instrument my grandkids are learning the current year. One year it was a trumpet trio. The next year it was a piano recital. That year was especially fun because after my two granddaughters played beginning, one-handed pieces of “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells,” a little boy asked if he might play something. When he placed both hands on the keys (remember the girls were just beginners) I knew we were in for a treat. What happened next was magical: This youngster, not even 5 feet tall, was a budding Liberace. He regaled his audience with three or four melodies that had the paid professional pianist staring in awe.

This year, we sat and listened to a sax, clarinet and drum trio followed by a flute duet. The highlight of the entertainment was a dance performed by five of my granddaughters. Imagine a line of young girls, the shortest not quite 4 feet tall and the tallest, my 13-year-old (also the choreographer), standing at 5-foot-8. The chorus line performed to “Jingle Bell Rock,” not necessarily in unison. But by the hoots and whistles at the conclusion, it was obvious the audience was delighted.

By the end of the party, all of the food had vanished (a first!), the 2-year-old had a melt down (I blame the strawberries), my house was intact, and I think all of the guests had a great time.

My youngest granddaughter thought the party was so much fun she would like another in a few weeks. I think once a year is ample.

If you have a comment or want to know more about chocolate fountains, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net


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