Thursday, June 11, 2009

Everyone Loves a Party

(This entry is cross-posted from my essay site, Reflectology. I don't plan to make a habit of cross-posting (new content every time, I say), but the subject matter seemed too perfect for the blog this time to pass it up.)

So as of last Sunday, I have survived hosting yet another kid birthday party. It was a blast. Some of you have already been asking about it, because I have a bit of a track record of planning crazy shindigs--Nate’s Food Fight Extravaganza comes to mind--so I’m going to attempt to make a whole post of it. Let me know if I succeed in entertaining you (but be warned: there will not be a magician or anyone making balloon animals).

The truth is, I love throwing my kids birthday parties. I’m not sure why this is, because quite honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the adult variety, and never have been. I always prefer a small, intimate gathering over a raucous bash, but that fact seems to fall by the wayside when the guest list is geared to the under-10 crowd.

Maybe that’s because their parties are simply more fun. I mean, you can’t have a bouncy house at a wine tasting gala, but you know you secretly want one.

In preparation for this post, I thought back, consulted photo albums, and made a list of all the kid parties I’ve thrown over the years.

One-Year-Old Parties:

1. A park picnic with a potluck lunch, bubbles, and a cute red wagon. (So modest! So innocent!)

2. A lakeside bash with a huge BLUE cake. I have no idea why I selected blue, but that‘s all I remember about this party now, because it stained Calvin‘s face for two days. Nothing like pumping your one-year-old full of artificial coloring!

3. A small family party. I think we had spaghetti. I have no recollection of the cake. Poor third baby! Mommy was tired.

Two-Year-Old Parties:

4. A Gymboree “Event” (which meant I didn’t have to plan, run, or clean-up…see, I was nine months pregnant at the time). Nate got a lifesize Gymbo which still scares the hell out of both of us to this day.

5. A Thomas the Train themed bash in the backyard. A brand new Percy served as cake topper. Calvin licked frosting off its wheels and may have gotten a sliver.

6. An Elmo theme at the local children’s museum. I remember Toby got two cakes, because someone (me) forgot to pick up the one she ordered on the day before the party, necessitating buying a whole new one at the last minute. Did I mention Mommy was tired? We got the original one the next day (already paid for) and ate cake for a week.

Three-Year-Old Parties:

7. A pool party at the coolest YMCA ever. It had toddler slides, squirt guns, and a foam turtle the kids could climb on in the water. We had a fish-shaped cake and I served goldfish crackers, which I thought was quite clever. Lookout, Martha Stewart! I remember we were moving out of state the next day, and everything was rushed and stressed!

8. A Luau party (a theme the three-year-old birthday boy didn’t even understand!) This was our first combined party (for Nate’s 5th and Cal’s 3rd). We had leis and punch in plastic sippy cups shaped like coconuts. The kids decorated their own visors and took home beach balls.

9. A small family party with dinner. No recollection of the cake. Sorry, third baby! Oh, the guilt!

Four-Year-Old Parties:

10. A sport-themed park party with tot-sized basketball courts, wiffle ball, and soccer. There was a football-shaped cake. There was also a Diego pinata, because the birthday boy insisted. That pinata gave me fits, because it didn’t match the theme. Tell me: why did I care?

11. A race car party with the most awesome figure-eight race track cake made by my mom (gives her her due). I bought feet upon feet of MatchBox plastic track and PVC piping, which I handed out to the little boys with tape to make ramps and tunnels and jumps. Then they competed with their new MatchBox cars, which I also handed out. This one worked out great, although the boys mostly gave up on the track and raced their cars off the backyard slide.

12. A pajama bedtime party…I finally summoned the energy to give the third baby a cool bash! He loved it, poor thing. The kids showed up after dinner in pajamas and carting pillows and bedtime stories, and we decorated pillowcases and played games and then snuggled up to stories, read by Nate and Calvin. It wasn’t as relaxing as it sounds.

Five-Year-Old Parties:

13. The Luau (see above). I bought the boys Hawaiian print shirts. Cuuuute.

14. A waterslide party, at a local lakeside waterslide attraction. This one was easy, except that I seem to recall it being about 105 degrees. Seriously. Good thing we were in water.

Six-Year-Old Parties:

15. A dinosaur dig party! This was a fun one. We found fossil-shaped molds, and used them to make plaster bones, which we buried in the backyard. Yes, seriously. Then we roped it all off like an excavation and gave the boys maps and lists of which bones to hunt for. We still find Stegosaurus femurs every once in a while when mowing the lawn.

16. A karate party, at the local studio where Cal is now a blue belt. This party fueled his love for martial arts. The karate instructors ran the party, but what I remember most was the deafening noise level inside the small party room they sent us to for cake and present opening. I mean deafening. Too many six-year-old boys for one non-carpeted, glass-walled room, I suppose.

Seven-Year-Old Parties:

17. Nate’s infamous food fight party. One of the best. Every kid who came to this party went home begging to duplicate it on their birthday. Not a single one of them were allowed. I can’t quite blame their parents: at the end, there was food everywhere in our backyard (and in all the kids‘ hair). They made sculptures out of mashed potatoes, threw cold spaghetti, and pelted each other with whipped cream pies. They were in heaven. So was the dog.

18. A Fourth of July fireworks sleepover! Yes, we set off fireworks. And I know what you’re thinking, but no one got hurt! The boys had planned to spend the night in their sleeping bags outside on the trampoline (this was July) but got too scared. They all ended up in the family room.

Eight-Year-Old Party:

19. A Native American/Indian party. The boys selected Indian names and made headbands with feathers. They created paper canoes and played in a teepee and whooped from trees they found to climb. We ended it with an archery contest with a real bow and arrow (yes, we’re insane). Parents hovered nervously while the arrows flew. It was a very PC party, as you can imagine. Trust me, eight-year-old boys do not care about such things.

Nine-Year-Old Party:

20. A water fight party. After the wild success of the food fight party, we decided to try it with a less messy medium. But we had several hiccups with this party: when we got to the park where we were hosting it, we found the water was shut off. We had kind of been counting on that, considering it was a water fight party. We ended up filling up buckets and hauling them over. Also? Filling up 200 water balloons with a garden hose at home is harder than it would seem.

Which brings us to this year, which was another combined bash for Nate (10) and Cal (8). We hosted it at the local community center, which has a room called the YAC (Youth Activity Center). What you get for your rental fee: A full-sized air hockey table, a foosball table, a pool table, eight video game consoles including Wii, Xbox, and Gamecube all with giant wall-mounted flat-screens, and one teenage staff member (looking bored stiff) to run it all. He was actually invaluable. We had twenty boys in there, and they were all happy as clams. We set up air hockey and foosball tournaments and had a prize box (because I like prize incentives, you know) and culminated the whole thing with a pool table cake and a make-your-own-sundae bar, which was only tricky because no food was allowed in the game room. We pulled the kids all outside to eat, and the bored staff kid even put my ice cream into a freezer so it wouldn’t melt. I only had to ask him three times. Above and beyond, I tell ya.

I’ll leave you with just one image from this year’s hoopla, because I'll admit I didn't have the time to find all the photos I wanted on various computers and disks. And it’s not even of one of the birthday boys, and it’s blurred, but I think it’s worth it…Toby, getting down with Rock Band:

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