Not quite bluegrass. But there was livestock involved.

After the last several years of annual Grady Bluegrass events to celebrate the survival of our firstborn, anything less than a full-on Appalachia themed event seems like a walk in the park for the Critter's seventh birthday party.

But this year we had moved, and we weren't exactly sure how our Yankee neighbors were going to receive an infusion of Southern culture. (Let's not talk about how we've twisted our daughter's mind into thinking that having a live bluegrass band at a little girl's birthday party is normal. These are the things that make parenting fun.) But still, even without banjos, we stuck persistently to the bbq theme. This year: chickens.

The whole party was themed around the chicken. The invitations had chickens on them. The cake had a chicken on it. I schleped a few chickens up to the patio for the kids to pet and look at. And as you can see, my bride got the bright idea of making little chicken-on-a-stick cupcake party favors. But because she's a dark and twisted soul, she made the bodies of red velvet cake before dipping it into melted yellow candy coating, making each bit a bloody festival of sweet and tasty party takeaways.

I got suckered into prepping the sticks. There were a lot of kids to prepare for. More on that in a moment.

The whole week leading up to the party involved rain and cold. Fortunately, the afternoon before, the sun broke through, and the day of the party dawned bright and warm. The food involved was our standard birthday party fare: fried chicken, brunswick stew, tomato cobbler, collard greens, corn pudding, etc. We lit the grill for some hot dogs and hamburgers, threw juice and sodas and beer into the coolers, and raised a ridiculously large bouncy castle in the yard, and told all the parents and siblings to hang out as well. Because that's how we do the parties where we're from.

When the kids got too hot jumping on the bouncy castle, we laid out a couple of giant buckets of water, and some of our home-made sponge balls. Imagine a koosh ball. Made of strips of sponge tied together. Now dunk them in water and throw it at your neighbor. Sounds like fun, eh?

We lined the kids up, girls vs. the boys, and told them to throw until they couldn't throw any more. They seemed to enjoy it.

After about 5 minutes, the girls stopped throwing. The boys didn't. Soon, the boys realized that they had no more sponge balls. The girls had collected them all, hording them for a massive assault, to which the boys had no defense.

This repeated itself two or three times. One of the boys looked at me helpless and a little confused as to why the girls kept getting the better of them.

Consider it a life lesson, my friend. This is only the beginning of a long road ahead of you...

All in all, it was a great start to the summer. I was particularly proud of the Critter, who chose to ask her friends to donate to the Lowell Humane Society, rather than bring presents. She had enough stuff, she decided. At least for now.

Well done, little girl of mine. I love you.

- Daddy.