Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Birthday Party Realities

We had the boys' birthday party this past weekend. Their first "kid" party. When your son looks up at you and says "can we have our friends instead of your friends at our party this year?" you realize that yes, you have to do the kid party.

Most of their friends and cousins have done things at various bounce house places, a farm, a gymnastics place -- in other words, somewhere other than their house where everything is provided, you don't have to clean up and it costs lots of money. So naturally, D. and I decided we should have the party at home. A good old-fashioned home party like the kind we remember having as kids.

We set the guest list: 3 school friends each, 2 cousins, 2 mutual friends. With the birthday boys that made 12 kids. We set the theme: super heroes! and asked all the guests to think about their super hero name and power. We got the craft/favor: decorate-your-own canvas capes from Oriental Trading and masks from Party City. We set the menu: hot dogs, pizza, various chips and juice boxes. We ordered the cake: yellow with raspberry filling, with red, white & blue icing with yellow stars, very superheroish. We got ice cream skippy cups for the birthday boy who doesn't like cake. We organized the activities: decorating said capes, training exercises (an obstacle course in the basement play area), a graduation ceremony where they get their capes and mask, a scavenger hunt for glow stick necklaces (power magnifiers), and a rescue from a burning building (a decorated wardrobe box). Everyone rsvps yes and we're good to go.

Here is my planned "schedule" for the party:
3:00 guests arrive, have their identity "scanned" and decorate
their capes
3:30 everyone goes downstairs for the obstacle course while I heat-set the designs they've drawn on their capes
3:50 Everyone comes up to eat pizza & hot dogs
4:15 We have our little graduation ceremony and everyone puts on their superhero garb and I get lots of photos
4:20 We do the scavenger hunt for glow stick necklaces
4:30 We do the burning building rescue of stuffed animals
4:45 We have cake and ice cream
5:15ish Everyone departs

Here's reality:

3:00 Guests arrive and some have their identities scanned (most did not get this at all). They begin to decorate their capes. Some do not want to decorate their capes but want to play with our many toys. Husband and I express surprise at how many parents elect to drop off and leave. (We have had this conversation before at bounce house places, etc. and have come to the conclusion that we are just hyper-hawk paranoid parents.)
3:20 A pack of cape and mask wearing superheroes commence running all over the entire house, including the upstairs which is off limits.
3:30 Said pack goes downstairs and begins training on their own. Husband realizes this and goes down to supervise.
3:40 Half the pack comes upstairs and starts doing puzzles, art, taking out trains, etc.
3:50 Everyone comes to table for pizza & hot dogs. Listen to many voices saying they don't like pizza or hot dog or this kind of juice box, etc. etc. Most eat or drink something with only a few dissenters wandering around.
4:00 Pack runs around for 10 minutes while food is cleared.
4:10 Scavenger hunt for glow sticks begins. Some do not get the concept of "find only one" while others do not want to find any at all. Some wear them, some do not.
4:15 Commence burning building rescue with stuffed animals. Have conversation about how it doesn't matter that animals can't talk or call for help and why they are in the burning building in the first place. Everyone does at least one "rescue," some grudgingly. Several do 5 or 6 rescues. Everyone has an opinion on which stuffed animal they want to rescue. At this point the box begins to break because you have cut too big a door into it along with a window on the opposing side and 12 crashing 6 year-olds take a toll. The ones who do not want to rescue more than once resume their previous activities: running in pack, art, puzzles, toys, jumping around downstairs. Simultaneously supervise potty trips & coax wanderers from upstairs.
4:40 Cake and ice cream. Singing of the happy birthday song many times as well as blowing out the relighting candles. Have to microwave skippy cups for 5 seconds each as they are frozen solid and plastic spoons are breaking.
5:00 More playing and merriment.
6:00 Last guest departs.
6:05 You and husband exchange a look and simultaneously say "Next year, bounce house."
7:00 Eat rest of pizza and hot dogs with in-laws while cleaning up.
7:30 Convince birthday boys to open gifts. Thankful for gift receipts, separate gifts into 2 piles, keep and exchange.
8:45 Two happy birthday boys express delight at party and fall asleep content.

Did our moms just make it look easy?

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