I tell my friends and family every year that this will be the year that I scale back on the birthday party. Now, I am by no means a pro at this, BUT I have to admit do get a little out of hand with the idea that everything should be made by hand and from scratch. I have this idea that I want to stick within a budget and, at the same time, invite every friend that my child requests to be there. In Ari’s case, the list is a combination of the kids her aide at school tells me are extra awesome with her and the kids that I know Ari loves and that have loved Ari for years. So, if I am to invite 50 (yes fifty) kids to a birthday party for the twins, it demands a little creativity.
Birthdays are a special time for me as a mom. They are a time to take pause and reflect on the years that have passed – always too quickly – and be thankful for all the time with my children and the memories that we’ve made together. It serves as a reminder that their childhoods are so fleeting and to enjoy every precious moment that I can with them. Their parties are also a time when I make up for lost time. Life gets to be so busy and the weeks are jam packed with soccer and tennis and therapies and cheer and riding and swim and homework and dinner that we don’t get to spend as much time having as many play dates as we would like to have sometimes. Over years of birthday parties – ours and those of other kids’ – we have had the amazing opportunity to get to know so many people in our school community very well. At the parties, we parents meet, we reconnect, we laugh and bond and watch our kids play. I get to know each child more each time and get to know a side of them that they don’t let out at school. I know this is called community, but even the word community doesn’t seem to cover it. It sounds too formal and not warm enough. For us, we are extending our family.
So, even though I may not get any sleep in the nights leading up to the party; at the conclusion of the event, I am always left with a blissful and satisfied feeling. A glow even. As I am cleaning up and feeling almost too exhausted to take one more step, my heart is swelling and as I reflect on some beautiful interaction that I witnessed as the kids played. I am remembering how Ari took off in her power chair alongside her friends without even a backwards glance in my direction. I am remembering how my kids and their friends laughed and smiled their wide-mouthed smiles the whole evening. I feel gladness remembering a heart-to-heart I had with some other parents. I feel overwhelmed with such deep gratitude for the children that are growing up alongside my children and for the people who are raising them. It is so good for the soul, I am telling you. For Jake and I, birthday parties do that and more.
So, for me, it was well worth it to go balls to the wall with the cupcakes and bake five dozen of them from scratch and decorate them to look like movie theater popcorn. I’ll make the soft pretzels from scratch while I’m at it and not read the directions when I start at 11 pm and it requires 3 hours of rising/baking time. Why not use the abundant lemons on our tree to make fresh squeezed lemonade in the middle of the night too? You see where I’m going with this. It’s a flipping TON of work, and thankfully, I have had my sister to help me, because she knows me too well and she takes pity on me in my hour of weakness while I’m separating tissue paper poms and whatnot. I can also thank a few friends for volunteering their time to snipping five hundred mini marshmallows three times each or dipping magic pretzel wands in two-toned melted white chocolate (the year before). I am reluctant to accept help, so if I did accept your help, it is because I love you and I know you won’t judge me too harshly for asking you to tediously make food look like other objects. Also, thank you to Harkins Theaters for donating the movie trays, because they rocked, and the kids loved them because they were authentic and I loved them because it made clean-up so much easier!
I served hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls, soft pretzels, fresh popped popcorn, veggie cups, nachos, lemonade, hot cocoa, movie theater candy, and of course, cupcakes.
Harkins donated the trays, which was amazing because the cup holders held two drinks, and each kid got to have their lemonade/hot cocoa/water bottle and their food all in one place. I used color-coded tickets to represent each item that they could “buy” by trading in their tickets. For example, red for hot dog, orange for nachos, yellow for lemonade, etc etc.). There were ten tickets given to every kid. Ten different colors. It was kind of cray cray of me to do that, but the reactions from the kids made it so worth it! They took that ticket system super seriously and darn near would not accept food or drink without “paying” first!
We watched Nacho Libre, because my kids requested it, and it’s hilarious. It’s also only PG, which was a pleasant surprise when I saw it again.
We let the kids run amok until the sun set. Before the movie started, we showed a slideshow of the twins as babies :).
I’m sure that we broke some trampoline safety regulations.
I have a saying that I made up. It’s “full backyard, full heart.” It’s true for me, and that’s all I can say.
I am not always sappy and sentimental. Sometimes, I can even be quite the opposite. But birthday parties and times like these, I let it show… let it show… can’t hold it back anymoooore.