Almost always, when we have friends for dinner, there comes a point when Andy turns to me or vice versa and says “Should we check on her?” And by that we mean, should we try to lure back whatever guest has walked in our front door only to be whisked upstairs to Abby’s lair for a “tour” of her room. It’s not that we don’t think our seven-year-old is doing anything but charming the pants off her, but receiving a personal introduction to all 8,000 of her Littlest Pet Shop Pets is a task I believe only a mother could love — scratch that — I mean, a task only a father could endure, and definitely not in the job description of “dinner guest.” Unless you are my friend Lia that is, who, oddly, seems to like my children as much as I do. Last Friday, she came over for some minted pea dip (with potato chips…mmmm) and tagliatelle, but spent the first half hour locked into conversation with the girls as they all crafted Papertoy Monsters together from the book she bought them. To the point where I felt bad interrupting them to, you know, catch up with my friend. I should’ve known Lia would show up with a gift that killed. When Abby was at the height of her Hello Kitty obsession, she came with a fleet of Hello Kitty books, calendars, and magnetic dolls. Last year, she arrived with two kids’ umbrellas from Pylones. And as if this isn’t enough, she is almost always armed with Magnolia cupcakes, chocolate chocolate for Phoebe, and assorted for the rest of us. Believe me, this is all any guest ever needs to do to a) win my friendship forever b) warm my heart or c) be invited back.
The Papertoy Monsters book was in heavy rotation long after Lia left — not just making the monsters, but playing with them, too. If you are visiting a family for dinner this Memorial Day and there is a 6 to 10-year-old in the house, I highly recommend picking up a copy along with a bottle of rose. If you have any suggestions for hugely successful host gifts for kids, please enlighten!