Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simple = Success

Eclair had a birthday! What can I say? August is a big month for us. Neither of our childern who where born in August were DUE in August. One came three weeks late just out of contrariness. He should have been born before my birthday in July. The other came two weeks early solely to make the kindergarten cutoff. She thinks ahead, that little girl. And now she's (count 'em) nine.

But I digress. We were discussing ANOTHER birthday.

I SO COMPLETELY LOVE THROWING PARTIES. Kid parties especially. I was even asked to teach an evening class on kid parties at the local JC many many moons ago. So. Completely. Love them.

I think too many of us over think and over plan children's parties. Spend HOURS of time preparing for them. And way too much money. I've seen parties on the internet that make me ill. Where hundreds of dollars are spent, weeks are spent on preparation, and the kid is only two, and won't remember a thing. Is this party being thrown for the child? or the other attendees the parent would like to impress? I have thrown a few whopper parties (someday I'll blog those, just to contradict this post, k?) but they are the exception, not the rule.

I truly believe that, especially for younger children, simplicity is the key. So let's review Elclair's party as an example.

Start with homemade invitation, sent out about a week in advance. Two invitations, actually: one handwritten with crayons, mostly illegible, made by birthday girl, accompanied by a card that mommy made with the most important information that parents might like to have (like date, location, time, etc.).

As we were making the invitations, we discussed what we wanted to do at the party, and came up with a list of possible activities. We may or may not use them all, and all require little planning.

The day of the party, I baked a homemade cake at 8:30 am (it is August, you know, just trying to beat the heat).

I roused the sleeping troops and gave cleaning instructions. Only Hubby got up and starting helping. Screamapiller eventually joined him, Thing One left for work and abandoned us to our fate. Thing Two was difficult to rouse. He eventually arose and grudgingly participated (why yes, he was the contrary child who was born three weeks late now that you mention it....). Luke Skywalker was absent, gone with the scouts to spend the previous night camping on top of Timpanogos in the rain. The birthday girl was singing and playing on the computer,using her feet to type for some unknown reason. She's excused from chores in honor of her birthday.

At 10 am, Eclair left and went to a party at the church. Thing Two and I went out and acquired provisions: beach themed gift bags & leis from the dollar store, treats & balloons from the grocery store. And buying the TOP SECRET present from us & grandma & grandpa.

Pickup Eclair and take her out to lunch, return home and finish cleaning kitchen, start decorating cake. Assign tasks to 2 children & hubby to finish prep for party. Eclair puts together 20 gift bags - when we realized we needed 20, we decided to include only a can of Country Time and a Little Debbie treat -- because all they really care about is taking a goodie bag home -- they don't particularly care what is in it.

At 2pm guests arrive, Eclair gives each a lei, and exclaims in wonder over the wrapped present, and takes the guest to the slippery slide which is our gathering activity.

The idea behind this was "Everyone isn't here and arrivals will be staggered, so lets just slide and play until about a quarter after." Yeah. Great idea. Couldn't pull them away -- so this lasted about 35 minutes. As you can see, no one is having any fun yet. Poor Kay, above, is being tortured as you can see.

Then we played a game I had not heard of before. Screamapillar found it on the internet and thought looked like fun. Throw a bunch of   ice cubes  into the kiddie pool and make them pull them out again -- USING ONLY THEIR TOES.

This was a lot of fun. We had so many kids that we had to take turns -- Unfortunately, it was August -- in Utah.  And the ice cubes didn't last long. You can see two feet on the right there trying valiantly to grab the last couple of surviving ice cubes. They really enjoyed this, I recommend it big time.

Next up was a game Eclair chose, which she calls "Drip, Drip, Drop." Think "Duck, Duck, Goose" with water. Eclair has a bucket full of cold water, and a very large sponge. Drip a little on each child, then squeeeezzeee out the sponge on whoever you want to "goose."

There's Eclair in her saggy baggy bathing suit (why did she not wear the cute one?) dousing little Jazzy. Jazzy pursues Eclair, and then takes a turn herself. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. This game, also, was loved so well it was hard to move on to the next one.

Into two circles this time, for "Hot Potato." Our water version was a little bit different. And wetter, of course. Use a pin to poke a hole near the knotted end of the water balloon, causing it to spring a leak. Pass around the circle until it deflates or bursts.

Laugh and giggle because "Look! It's peeing!!!"  This one was great. They loved it! Then they had the bright idea of adding a second balloon. And a third.

Then it evolved all by itself into the next planned activity: Water Balloon Fight. Timing determined by kids having a good time. I think. Look below and judge for yourself.

Well, Sallie looks a bit startled and wet, but everyone else looks happy. This is the point of a party. Or at least it should be. Not how much you spent, or which exclusive clown or cowboy you hired. Not which kid's parents think you're a Martha Stewart clone.

Those smiling faces are why I love parties.

The next activity was "Picking up expired water balloon carcasses from the lawn," which they did quickly and happily because I promised them cake and ice cream.

Okay, so here's where you think I'm insane, and I am. There were 16 kids, including Eclair, at this party. I don't recommend this unless you also are insane. And you are throwing the party out of doors. Because it got REALLY CROWDED at cake time.

This is why we had 16 kids: Eclair is different. She's our PDD kid, and has some social issues. She is fortunately friends with some VERY AMAZING KIDS. Who love her despite her disabilities. Our family rule had always been to invite as many kids as you are old, and it has been a pretty good rule until Eclair came along. It would break her heart if she had to turn a friend away. So she invites EVERYONE. Luckily, some of the many friends have other commitments and keep our numbers from getting out of hand. A few hours before the party, I got a call from G's mom. Apparently, a fight had broken out at her house because of this party. She has four children ages 4, 4, 6 and 7. G is the 7 year old, and a close friend of Eclair. She argued that the invitation was for her, and only her. Everyone else claimed that it was an invitation for all, because they all love Eclair and are her friends. Guess what? All came and were welcome. Only four of the children in attendance didn't bring a sibling who was also invited.

We are very very blessed in the friends who love our daughter.

Here is the cake. One of the favorite ones I have ever made. Slop on some blue icing (poorly mixed so you get dark blue, light blue and white so it looks kinda like water) with an assortment of sea creatures piped on. Lots of sea creatures: two octopus, one squid, three crabs and a lobster, fish, coral and seaweed everywhere else. Because everyone wants a piece with eyeballs. Extra icing in decorating bags on the side in case I need to add additional eyeballs to cut pieces of cake. Look: they're still not having any fun.

After the cake & ice cream have been consumed, we remember there are presents to be opened. I love this photo:

Eclair is examining the little pet. The two girls in orange leis, who have given it to her, are looking for Eclair's reaction. The two girls behind Eclair on the couch are just a little excited about the amazing present. Everyone enjoys the opening part, especially the givers. Eclair is the youngest of five children. None of them play with toys. Eclair has fallen heir to ALL of their toys. We don't need any more. But none of the parents listened to me and everyone brought too many presents. Eclair was elated.

Parents arrived to take happy wet children home with their gift bags. And I was wrong about the gift bags: they did care what was in them. The boys refused the bags with pink cans of strawberry lemonade and came back to trade me for the yellow regular lemonade ones. Whew. That was rough. A note on gift bags: I don't get lots of annoying whistles, cheap toys & sugary candy for the bags because I love my friends, the parents of these children. It's the least I can do for them to not send a bunch of garbage in a bag to their homes. The idea is to find something NOT JUNK to put in the bag. So you're not spending your hard earned money on stuff for the purpose of filling a bag, stuff that's going to be in the garbage can tomorrow.

I call it a success. Eclair and Company had a great time. Got wet. Laughed, giggled, played games, and ate too much cake and ice cream from generic party plates.

And she spent the rest of the day shooting me with a squirt gun "FILLED WITH POISONOUS WATER!! YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!!!"
 The games never end.


Ellie said...

Cute party idea! Great for summer birthdays.

Aubrey said...

This is why you are one of my best friends ever. Nothing like good old commom sense in a culture that is nutso. I needed to escape my life...I'm reading blogs and yours is great as usual. Love ya.