Friday, June 19, 2009

Backyard Birthday Party: Ideals vs. Realities

The glorious event I envisioned for my daughter's fourth birthday did not take place. We still managed to have a good time anyway. Including our family, there were 12 kids and 6 parents who came to celebrate.

The Vision

I planned to have my daughters set up stations for games and activities in the back yard hours ahead of time. I had numerous dishes and desserts planned to feed the party goers. I hoped to make more party treat bags,like this eco-friendly gift bag, from cardboard boxes and Sunday comics, for each of the kids who came.

The Reality

In case rain forced us from the backyard into our tiny, not-so-spotless house, I made a birthday sign. I taped it on a wall in our house to cover over pre-existing "artwork." The good news was that it didn't rain and we could stay outside. But then the time and effort on the birthday sign was made irrelevant. No one even saw it.

There was plenty of food, even without the additional variety of foods I had thought of serving, Predictably popular was the crock pot full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. We also served hot dogs in a blanket, grilled chicken, bean and corn salad, and strawberries. I had to put off my plan to garnish dessert with chocolate dipped strawberries for another day.

Treat bags? Time was running out and I realized that making 12 eco-friendly bags would take too much time. So I found printable bags and customized them for our party. They turned out well, but making a dozen took quite a while. Coloring the designs was a fun activity for my daughters.

The pinata was fun to make and the kids enjoyed filling it before the party. I did take about 3 hours to create it (I have since developed a quicker 2-hour version, seen here). We used an empty frozen pizza box and newspaper, which we covered with fringed tissue strips. The kids did enjoy breaking the pinata, however, which was gratifying.

Other games and activities were not prepared before the guests arrived. So we had a couple of random game attempts after the meal, which involved beans and paper plates. The beans were a conflict-filled disaster never to be repeated. Paper plate frisbees proved slightly more amusing.

The kids were eager to sing "Happy Birthday" and taste the ice cream cone cupcakes we had made (which I had hastily frosted while my daughter was freaking out during the bean game). My four year old finally came back to join the party on about the fourth round of the "Happy Birthday" song. Thankfully the celebratory spirit of her friends helped get the party back on track.

The Upshot

Will we do another party at home? Certainly. While I recognize the allure of hosting a party elsewhere, we think it is valuable to extend hospitality at our home. It is not easy with young children, but worthwhile. Next time we just need to start preparing further ahead of time. This was the second time for me to make a pinata, and I wasn't sure it was worth the time. But it could be a special tradition in our family, so perhaps we'll decide to continue doing the pinata at our backyard parties. With three kids, plenty of opportunities to improve our party planning and management are still to come!

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