I'm in party prep mode today. Chi-Chi turned the big number 6 earlier this week, but the official celebration takes place tomorrow. We opted for a small intimate dinner with grandparents the evening of his actual birthday, but I think he's looking forward to getting together with his buddies for some fun.
Birthday parties are tricky business these days, especially for a mom who cringes at the waste and excess, yet finds herself unconsciously being a full participant in it. Now that my boy is getting older, it is getting harder to manage expectations as he is well aware of what a party can entail in this day and age. I'm hoping to strike a balance this year by attempting to stick to my guns on some issues, without being a party pooper! Hubby tells me I overthink everyhing, but that's my nature!
Food is an easy one for me! Cake and ice cream make a perfect treat and any junk food beyond that is really not necessary. I opted to have a morning party this year. I feel that children (and adults!) are at their best this time of day and is makes more sense to have everyone in good spirits when dealing with a large crowd of excited and energetic little boys. Snacks and nibbles will therefore be breakfast-like in nature as I'll be offering healthy options of fresh fruit, mini bagels and cream cheese and apple juice or milk to drink.
The cake is always my favorite part of party prep! I'm certainly no gourmet chef, but there are lots of fun things you can do while still keeping it simple. Since the theme this year is knights and dragons, I'm making a couple of basic dragon cakes from scratch. I find with parents often sticking around, one cake is simply not enough. Chi-Chi wanted banana and I did up another in chocolate zuchinni. I actually baked and assembled them lastnight and popped them in the freezer. Tomorrow morning I will frost them while they are frozen to limit the frustrations of crumb-filled frosting.
The "entertainment" offered these days at parties can be a bit intimidating for parents who want to keep it simple and host in their own homes. It seems that most parties involve a pool, bowling alley, magician, bouncy castle...the list goes on. My invitations advised parents that "His Royal Highness will be sending the knights on a secret quest. All noble knights are requested to come prepared for inclement weather (i.e. rubber boots and rain coats!)". Rain or shine, these boys will be heading outside to burn off that cake! King Hubby is in charge of this portion of the party. The boys will be lead on a treasure hunt through the woods which will result in the discovery of goodie bags. I did this last year, and it was a huge hit. The treasure in the previous year was a pinata filled mostly with candy. I was trying very hard not to be a party pooper when Chi-Chi requested that pinata - but I will never do another pinata. The candy was excessive and I hate the frantic scrambling that goes on. Muffy vomited twice afterwards - enough said! After the treasure hunt, they are free to play outside until the pick up time.
I've never been a fan of the traditional win/lose party games with prizes. I picked one quiet activity to get them settled at the table before snack. This is probably a bit over the top, but I decided it was something they would all love and it would have a use later instead of ending up in the garbage bin. Each child will get a bit of Lego for a "build your own dragon" activity. I designed a tiny dragon myself and purchased the invidivual pieces. I'm not giving instructions, maybe some samples to look at and they can do as they please.
The gifts are the trickiest business of all. I appreciate the generosity of people, but I feel like it is such an overload of stuff. Last year I put a lovely note in the invitations that gifts were not necessary, but if they wanted to bring one, a book would be perfect. Chi-Chi truly is a bookworm....but he was upset! I'm still getting flack about the fact that he didn't get any toys from his friends. He may be forgetting that we bought him a goalie helmet and both grandparents bought him Lego. I thought it was all appropriate, but this year I'm just letting go of things. I don't want to be a party pooper. Some people have asked for suggestions so I mentioned Lego and science-experiments. I read a great article once that stated we have 364 days a year to teach our children about limiting waste and giving to others, and that on that one day we should just let go and have some fun. So hard, but I'm doing it (:
The guest list is another tricky item. I really, really, wanted to keep it small and not too overwhelming for him. I'm at 11 right now, which I think is manageable, but still on the heavy side. So many people these days invite the whole class, which is sweet and generous, but I just couldn't do it.
I was doing great at keeping it sweet and simple. Here is where I went off the rails a bit and I always do! I love, love, love making things, so I could not help myself on this one. I wanted them to be "properly outfitted" for their adventure so I made little knight costumes for each of them. I'll show these in a later post, but they were very simple to make. I bought some pillow cases and cut out arm and head holes. I cut strips of red fabric for belts and sewed simple head pieces out of glittery fabric. I left the edges rough on everything, no hemming to save time and effort. Hubby told me there was no way we could have a knight party without swords. I tried making some out of foam and cardboard, but knew tears and injuries were inevitable. So......I bought some horribly junky blow up swords that don't hurt when you get accidently sliced in the head with them. It killed me to do it.....(still trying not to be a party pooper). I'm at least hoping the costumes will have some lasting value for imaginative play beyond the party.
So, now that I'm reading this over, it's looking way more complicated and excessive than I had dreamed of. See how it gets away on you, even when you are conscious of it? Is this all a sign that I'm getting old! Am I already of a generation that feels that times were simpler..."back when I was a kid"? My mom would host a handful of kids over to our house for a few simple games, a homemade cake and that would be it! I have a good friend who skipped the party, popped an ice cream cake in the trunk and invited a few families for an evening of skiing. I think she had the right idea! But I'm going to roll with it this year...