With Halloween behind us, I guess I can’t deny the encroachment of the holidays any longer. And that means, of course, the beginning of parties. This year, in addition to the normal Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities, I’m attempting to have an actual birthday party for Ruby, who was born on Dec. 21.

Her first birthday took place when I was still in Missouri –– and on the day before the party that I had lovingly and obsessively planned, three things happened: Ruby got kicked out of day care for being “too active” (before she could walk!), we got 7 inches of snow, and Ruby spiked a 104 fever. “That’s what I get for having the hubris to plan a birthday party for a 1-year-old in the middle of winter,” I decided and resolved to go low-key from then on. So her second birthday was a simple affair with a handful of family friends and a purple cake, and last year, she had hot dogs, ice cream and Tinkerbell everything with one friend her age and a bunch of her grownup friends/fans. They were both nice, sensible parties. But this year, God help me, I somehow let her talk me into a big blowout with everyone from school, a bounce house, party favors, food, cake, face-painting …

She wanted everything to be My Little Pony-themed. Pony plates. Pony cups. A pony cake. Pony games. I ordered some cute My Little Pony invitations and placed them in all the kids’ cubbies at school. And then just yesterday, she was telling a store clerk all about her party.

“That’s right,” I said encouragingly. “All your friends will be there. And what kind of party is it going to be?”

The Little Mermaid!!!” she screamed.

“Oh, how cute,” said the clerk, as my jaw literally dropped. “I love Ariel.”

“I love Ariel, too,” I managed. “But Ruby, I thought you wanted a My Little Pony party …?”

“No,” she said. “Ariel.”

OK, so another lesson learned. Next time: generic invitations.

In addition to her birthday party, Ruby made her debut last night with me at a “grownup party,“ the WYES celebration for the premiere of Peggy Scott Laborde’s latest: New Orleans Restaurants With a Past (premiering on WYES-TV on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.). I have so many memories of being at “grownup parties” with my mom, who worked at the Contemporary Arts Center –– parties with wine and art and cheese cubes and adults acting ridiculous. Ruby was initially reluctant when I asked her if she wanted to go –– “No, Mom,” she said. “I’ll smell like grownups for the rest of the night.” And honestly, I knew exactly what she meant, that mix of cologne and alcohol and cigarettes that seems to cling to adults at festive events. But pretty soon, given the new information that there would be cupcakes, she decided that she would go. I have to say that the WYES crowd is tamer than the CAC crowds circa 1988, but Ruby behaved much like I did back then: She ate finger sandwiches, said cute things, blew kisses to Errol and Ian and fell asleep in the car on the way home. All things considered, I am not nearly as friendly and social as Ruby is, and she does it without the benefit of three decades and a glass or two of champagne.

So Ruby survived her first grownup party, and I’m sure we’ll both survive her Pony-Mermaid-Who-the-Hell-Knows-What-It-Will-Be Party next month. In the meantime, any been-there, done-that tips from parents who have planned big parties would be appreciated.