Birthdays as the kids get older

As kids get older, many things change. No longer do they need you to get them a snack or pick out their clothes. As you would expect, their tastes in TV shows and books change as do their friends as they grow up and experience more.

So it is no wonder that birthdays also change. Many parents throw birthday parties for their kids when they turn one. The party of course is more for the parents as the baby has no idea what all the fuss is about. They are all about playing with the boxes and smashing cake with their fingers.

We never did big parties when our kids turned one or two. In fact, they only had parties with us and the grandparents until they turned 5. Then it became parties where you invited their whole class. I use to like doing them at party places as they seemed to be less of a hassle, and I got to enjoy the party rather than run it. (I even wrote a post about that. Click here to read it.)

The inviting the whole class worked for a few years. And then we would just invite the boys or girls – depending on if it was Jase’s or Lexie’s party. And three years ago, we moved to having the parties at home. It gave us more creativity with their themes.

Jase did an awesome Army turned Lego party followed by a How to Train Your Dragon party. Last year, he just invited a couple of friends over for science experiments, video games and a water balloon fight. His birthday is tomorrow. We celebrated with family yesterday, but he is going with some friends to a bowling/laser tag place this coming weekend to celebrate.

For Lexie’s home parties, we first did a Minecraft themed party and this year it was Pokemon. Next year, we will probably try to scale her party back to maybe just a few friends. Or perhaps she will have a sleep over.

Jase next year will be in middle school. And with that, I imagine parties will end. Of course, Lexie is quick to point out that teenagers can have parties too. I just don’t think we will be making that a yearly thing.

I know college students and adults who still throw parties for their birthday. And if the kids want to do that, I am not stopping them. It just isn’t something I have every done. My last birthday party was when I turned 21. It was also my only surprise party. (And the day I got engaged.) I’m perfectly happy celebrating with a dinner out with the family. But we will see as the kids get older what they want to do.

Advertisements

A Pokemon Birthday party for my 9-year-old daughter 

Though she may love pink and puppies and spends her time singing songs from Disney’s Moana, Lexie rarely chooses a “girly” theme for her birthday parties. Last year, she chose Minecraft. This year it was Pokemon.

Like last year, we decided to have this party at the house. A quick look at Pinterest brought a slew of ideas. But after a few years of going all out on the kids’ parties, we toned it back a little this year.

Invitation – I always design the kids’ invitations. Since Lexie loves pink and Pikachu, I combined them for this card. We printed them at Wal-Mart. She invited her whole class plus three other friends. Thankfully, everyone didn’t show up. We had eight kids (not counting Jase, who decided to introduce/explain all the games instead of participating.)

Decorations – We kept this pretty simple – mostly white and red crepe paper. This included hanging the crepe paper from the ceiling to make a giant Pokeball design. We also printed out some Pokeballs to affix to the walls.

Our Pokemon table covering was pretty easy. You just take one red tablecloth and one white tablecloth and attach them in the middle with black duct tape. Throw in a white plate in the middle (outlined with black tape) and ta da, you have a Pokemon tablecloth.

I used red plates for the cupcakes and then bought some Pokemon plates and napkins for the pizza. Our goodie bags were white Kraft bags with red and black paper glued on them to make them look like Pokeballs.

Food – We decided to keep it simple this year. We just served pizza, water and Rootbeer for lunch followed by cupcakes. Each cupcake had a different Pikachu on it.

Games/Activities – Again, we kept it pretty simple. The biggest challenge was that it rained on her birthday, and we had to move all outdoor activities inside.

Decorating Masks – I traced two different masks onto light yellow paper. The first was a Pikachu design, and then I did a generic mask for those kids who might not be into Pokemon. We put out different color markers for them to decorate them.

Pin the Fire on the Charizard – As a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, I printed out a Charizard with the flame on its tail missing. The kids then had to land a cutout of the fire on the spot.

Water Balloon Target Practice – I printed out various Pokemon characters – assigning each a point value based on how big I printed the character. We originally were going to attach them to the fence, but since we had to move the game inside, we taped them to the inside of the garage door. The kids used water balloon to throw and accumulate points. Since this was a water game, I laminated the Pokemon cutouts.

Pokeball hunt – I saw this version of an Easter Egg hunt on Pinterest. You decorate ping-pong balls to look like Pokeballs and then hide them throughout the yard for the kids to find. This would have been great in our big backyard. Instead, I had to go hide them while the kids were doing the piñata in the garage. I hid them around the living and dining room. I missed seeing how well this game worked as I was out picking up the pizza while they played.

Pikachu Says – To fill in time while I was getting the pizza (it took longer than planned), the kids played this version of “Simon Says.” They liked it so much that they did it again after pizza and cupcakes.


Pinata –
The last few years I have made the piñata for the kids. But since Lexie didn’t want a Pokeball piñata which would have been easy to make, I bought a piñata at Wal-mart and simply added pictures of four different Pokemon to the outside.

Lexie declared the party was great. All of her friends seemed to have a good time too.

My son turns 11 today

On this date, eleven years ago, I gave birth to my first child, Jase. Man…it is hard to believe that it has been 11 years since I first held him in my arms. Sometimes it feels like he has always been a part of our lives.

Our tradition of celebrating birthdays is ever-evolving.

From the first birthday through the fourth, we just celebrated with family. That included going out to dinner and then eating cake and opening presents at home.

On their fifth birthday, the kids started having birthday parties where they could invite their friends and classmates. For birthdays five, six and seven, each child had their party at a party location – Chuck E Cheese, Funtastic Playland, Inflatable Wonderland or Pump It Up. (Less work for Mom.)

Then on parties starting in second grade (eighth for Lexie and ninth and tenth for Jase), we let the kids have a party at home. We went all out with working with their themes. (Legos, Minecraft, How to Train Your Dragon)

But it is getting where it is not as practical to invite the whole class to a birthday party.  Jase is not friends with everyone in his class. He now has a select group of boys that he hangs out with. So we decided instead of inviting everyone or just the boys like we have done in the past, we let him pick 2-3 close friends to invite over for some birthday fun.

On Saturday afternoon, he had two friends over to play. (He invited three kids but one couldn’t make it.) We tried to make it a little less structured than our typical home birthday parties but did plan activities to keep the boys occupied for three hours.

We started off with a few science experiments.

  • Right after the "rocket" took off.

    Right after the “rocket” took off.

    Chalk Rockets (aka Exploding Chalk) – this is simply liquid chalk (corn starch, water and food coloring) placed in film canisters. You drop in some Alka-Seltzer tablets (or in our case powder), replace the lids and stand back and watch the canisters take off. It leaves an interesting pattern on the driveway of chalk too.

  • IMG_1735

    Right before they set off all 3 bottles at once.

    Mentos and Diet Cola – this is a classic experiment. You drop Mentos into a 2 liter diet cola bottle and watch it erupt. My husband made devices to drop the Mentos in that also allowed the soda to fountain even higher than normal.

  • IMG_1743

    Our first and only race.

    Balloon Racers – this was a simple one too. We put a string through a straw and then tied one end to the deck and the other to the fence. Actually we did this three times so each boy had his own string/straw. The boys blew up balloons. Once taped to the straw and let go, the balloons would race off toward the fence.

Unfortunately, it started to rain as we did the balloon racers so we had to postpone some of our other outdoor activities. While we originally planned on letting the boys have a “war” with Nerf guns, we moved inside for some video game action. (And a snack of popcorn and sodas.)

IMG_1754After a few different video games, we let the boys decorate their own cupcakes. That was a messy but fun project. I let them use as much icing and sprinkles as they wanted.

Then since it was still raining, we decide to move the Nerf Gun war into the house. We placed the guns and extra bullets in different locations and let them have fun. They could go anywhere but Lexie’s room. (She was at a friend’s birthday party and had specifically said they couldn’t go in there.)

IMG_1775aTo top off the afternoon and run off some of that sugar, we went back outside for a water balloon fight. We tried a new water balloon package that allows you to fill 120 water balloons in 60 seconds. It worked great and was well worth the money. (For Jase’s ninth birthday we had a water balloon fight and it took my husband and I quite a while to fill and tie all those water balloons.)

The boys all had a great time. Jase then got to celebrate on Sunday with the family. We went out to dinner (Olive Garden was Jase’s choice), and then opened presents and had cake at home.

And today, on his actual birthday, Jase is going with the other fourth graders on a field trip to the state capitol (Austin). They left at 8 am and won’t be home until 5 pm – two and a half hours after school is over. Add in that we had him celebrate his birthday at school last Friday (donuts for the class) and he has had a great four days celebrating his birthday!

A Minecraft Birthday party for my 8-year-old daughter

Lexie turned 8 this month. When asked what type of party she wanted, her answer was simple: Minecraft.

modloader-for-minecraft-02-700x406For those of you who don’t know, Minecraft is video game that allows players to build and construct a world out of textured cubes. Players can play in an open world where they can build and explore or opt to play in survival mode where players are required to build certain things such as a shelter to protect themselves and to hunt for food.  It is a VERY popular game.

Originally the idea was just to have Minecraft invites and a Minecraft cake at a party location as we have always done Lexie’s parties away from the house. But two years ago when Jase was in second grade, we started doing his parties (Lego and How to Train Your Dragon) at home so it seemed fitting that Lexie should get to do hers at home too now that she is in the second grade.

She was excited and had so many ideas of what she wanted to do. A quick look at Pinterest brought a plethora of ideas on everything from decorations to food to games and activities. It would be easy to go all out on this party.

minecraft inviteInvitation – Since I use to design invites on Etsy, I already had a Minecraft invitation done. Lexie had me change up the animals on the card. We then printed them out at Wal-mart. We invited her whole class plus 6 other friends. Thankfully everyone didn’t show up. We had 12 kids including my own two.

IMG_1824Decorations – Decorations for a Minecraft party are easy. You want everything to be square so square plates and bowls were in order. Decorating in lime green and brown would be an obvious choice but we pretty much just stuck with lime green. IMG_4272My husband also 3D printed some Minecraft Ore Cubes which he added lights to so they would glow. And Lexie insisted we have lava. (A red plastic table cloth cut to fit the floor of the arch between our living and dining room.)

Food – It was easy to get ideas online for food to serve based on Minecraft. I made my own food tents to let everyone know what they were having to eat.

IMG_1313

Snack Bar – sorry the apples and watermelon were not out when I snapped the photo.

Snack Bar – We offered Minecraft themed snacks: carrots (Cheetos), sticks (pretzels), apples (sliced apples), melon (watermelon), IMG_4269water (blue jello), lava (red jello), obsidian (Oreos), cookies (chocolate chip cookies) and of course the drinks: Creeper juice (apple juice), potion of swiftness (bottled water) and potion of healing (Root beer).

 

 

IMG_1312Candy Bar – As part of their goody bags, we let each kid fill a snack size plastic bag with candy. Here is what we had: gold (Rolos), fish (Swedish fish), coal (Nestle Crunch bites), redstone (cherry Lifesavers), Diamonds (blue rock candy), Emeralds (green rock candy) and TNT (red licorice). I also had some mini-candy bars wrapped with a “Thank You for coming to my party” message.

IMG_1307Cake – You can’t have a party without cake. I looked at many online before coming up with this cake. It is two boxes of chocolate cake mix baked in 9” x 13” pans and then cut and stacked to resemble a Minecraft scene. We used Minecraft figures that the kids already owned for decorations. Since I wasn’t going to write Lexie’s name on it, my husband 3D printed her a Happy Birthday sign which she painted herself.

Games/Activities – Again, Pinterest offered a lot of ideas on games. It was tough to narrow it down.

Making Necklaces – My husband 3D printed some Minecraft swords and pick axes. We had the kids color them with markers. Add a bit of string and poof, you have a necklace. It was a simple activity but the kids loved it. (As a second craft, while we waited for all the kids to arrive, they decorate their own goodie bags using the markers or some Minecraft items I had printed out.)

Feed the Tamed Wolf – Lexie came up with this as a version of Pin the Tail on the Ender Dragon (which we had seen online.) I simply printed a large tamed wolf  (photo above with decorations) and some bones (with the kids names on them). The object is while blindfolded to land the bone perfectly on the wolf’s open mouth.

IMG_4273Creeper Bean Bag Toss – Again, something from Pinterest. It is simply a cardboard box painted green with a Creeper face cut out of it. The kids tossed bean bags through the openings to earn points. (The smaller eye holes were 20 points and the mouth was 10 points.)

IMG_4274Creeper Tower Block – This was made out of floral foam blocks that I bought at the Dollar store. I then drew Creeper faces on them. We stacked the blocks and had the kids shoot arrows to knock them down. (We had covered each block with Modge Podge to help protect them from the arrows.) The bow and arrow was from the Dollar Store too. This was the hardest game because most kids couldn’t shoot the bow and arrow. I probably would change this game to either a bean bag toss or get a better bow and arrow.

Creeper Tag – Lexie insisted on having a game called Creeper tag. I had to hone her ideas down into something that would work for a party game. In the end, we took the blocks from the creeper tower game and placed them at one end of the yard. The kids had to retrieve them without being tagged by one of the “creepers.” If you were tagged, you became a creeper.

IMG_1347Enderman Pinata – One of the best things about having a party at home is the option to have a piñata. I made my own – something I started with Jase’s Lego party. I simply take a 24 can soda box and cover it with crepe paper streamers. My husband created a wooden Minecraft sword for the kids to whack the Enderman. As always it was a hit.

The party went well. All the kids had a blast. Lexie declared it was her best birthday ever. Whew….

 

A How to Train Your Dragon birthday party

My oldest turned 10 this month. We began having parties with friends when he turned 5. The first few parties were thrown at party locations. But last year, we did a Lego Movie party at the house. It was an awesome party complete with an obstacle course, target shooting and a water balloon fight. We obviously set the bar high with that party.

HTTYD invitationThis year, Jase wanted a How to Train Your Dragon party. (The invitation I created for him has been very popular on my Etsy store.) Jase had a pretty good idea of what he wanted done. It was up to my husband and I to make it happen. Soon our biggest concern was not the party but the weather. It poured during the week but on party day, we lucked out with no rain.

Here’s a rundown of his party…

Shield Decorating

P1040567What Viking doesn’t need a shield? My husband cut out these round shields from thin sheets of wood and painted them grey. He attached leather straps on the back and made some dragon stencils. The kids (six boys and two girls) had fun decorating them.

Treasure Hunt

2015-05-16 09.25.26Next we sent the kids on a treasure hunt. We divided them into three teams and gave each one a dragon egg (actually, it was an Easter egg painted either gold, black or grey). Inside was the clue to their next egg. The next clue led to another egg but also had the first number to the combination securing their treasure. They gathered three eggs – each with a number to their lock.

I had written the clues and created a map that would help them figure out where in the yard I might be talking about. I had worried about my clues would be too hard (or even too easy), but they turned out just fine. The kids had a blast working together. Their treasure boxes held candy and leather wrist bands that my husband had created.

Obstacle Course

P1040587At last year’s party we created an awesome obstacle course. This year’s course was a little shorter, but the kids had a blast. First, they balanced on the zig-zag beam (while the other kids threw balls at them – hey, they needed to use those shields for something). After that they weaved through a series of “trees” and hopped on stones over the “lava.” Then they dodged two fire balls before jumping over the sheep hurdles. Discarding their shields, they had to toss two fish toward a dragon’s mouth (laundry basket) before lofting a battle hammer. They then struck two different targets before crossing the finish line. Most kids ran this in less than 30 seconds.

Pizza and Cake

IMG_3274Next came pizza and root beer. We had planned for them to eat outside, but it was so humid, and the kids were hot from running so we opted to have them eat inside at the table where they had decorated shields. After that was the cupcakes that I had made and topped with How to Train Your Dragon rings. I made the butter-cream frosting from scratch and that will be my recipe of the month in June.

Sheep Toss

2015-05-16 12.10.57My son wanted to have a game with sheep – perhaps chasing them. My husband had the idea of shooting stuffed sheep out of his air cannon. What we ended up with was me creating 30 sheep (29 white sheep and one special black sheep) out of poly fill and panty hose. (This idea came from my snowballs from their holiday party.) I attached paper legs and faces with googly eyes. (Template for the faces from this website was reduced by 65% to fit my sheep.)  They were super cute. We threw them in the air for the kids to catch. The kid with the most sheep won, but the black sheep counted as five. The first time we did it, the black sheep was hidden in the yard but on the following rounds, it was tossed into the air with the rest of them.

Sword Play

P1040620At the end of the party, we just released the kids with some foam swords and their shields to have some free play. Some of the swords didn’t survive, but they just came from the dollar store, so I wasn’t expecting them to last.

Each kid went home with their goody bag, shield, wrist band, the red basket from the sheep toss and a sheep (or two) and a dragon egg if they wanted them. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the birthday boy was happy. This party was a lot of work. Next year, I think we will go even smaller and just have Jase celebrate with his two best buddies.

Adding a Lego-twist to an army-themed birthday party

After Jase’s birthday party in 2013, I decided that we were done with throwing a party and inviting the whole class to some sort of party place. As Jase gets older, I want to scale back his parties. So we started talking about doing one at home or maybe something with just a few friends at another location.

When we first brought this up, Jase was really into army stuff, so we started talking about an army themed party. I did some research online, and we came up with an obstacle course and a shooting/target practice game.

(Disclaimer – we started thinking about this WAY early. As in months before the party which of course means the theme changed as his interests changed.)

Jase 9 invitationIn February, my son saw The Lego Movie and loved it. Suddenly, he wanted a Lego Movie invitation which of course meant the theme was shifting from army to Lego. But he didn’t want to change the activities so we just added Lego bricks and figures to our original activities.

Obstacle Course

CIMG2822This was quite easy to add a few Lego touches to. We started off with a balance beam (adding “Lego bricks” to hold it over the “lava”). After that was the climbing wall which of course resembled a Lego brick. The only other Lego touch was more “Lego bricks” as they leapt over the “lava” in another section. (We also had a tunnel, hurdles, a swing over a “river” and a rope area to jump through like tires.)

Shooting Practice

CIMG2854My husband built a shooting board which I printed out micromanagers from The Lego Movie. Using a laser, the kids would shoot at the micromanagers. Lights and a twirling devise would activate when they hit the target. (My husband had all sorts of plans to have this game outside and have it count the number of hits but because nothing is ever as easy as it seems, we had to go with this incarnation of the game. The kids were still impressed.)

Piñata

CIMG2825I decided to make my own Lego piñata. After reading a few blogs, I choose one of the easier methods that did not require Paper Mache. We used an empty Moutain Dew box that I covered with tissue paper. The bumps on the Lego were just plastic cups covered with tissue paper and then hot glued on. It looked very good but only lasted for about six kids before it broke.

Cake

They simply don’t sell a Lego cake anywhere here in San Antonio. (Ok, some bakery might make me one, but I want an inexpensive cake – and one I don’t have to bake/decorate myself.) So after finding nothing, we decided just to order a cake from the grocery store and have Jase decorate it with some of his Lego figures. He and Lexie had a good time doing that and everyone thought it was cute.

Water Balloon Fight

CIMG2876The big finale of the party was a water balloon fight. Every kid got 10 water balloons to start. (There were 12 kids total at the party). After they used their balloons, they could come and snag a few more in our “reserves” pile. I think we originally filled around 150 of them. The fight lasted longer than I thought it would as the boys held onto their balloons until they had a good shot. Then they broke out the water guns that I had bought in lieu of goodie bags and had a blast chasing each other around the yard.

All in all, I think it was a great party. Several of the boys claimed it was the best party ever. The birthday boy was happy, so I guess that is what matters most!

The thing I hate most about party planning – the RSVP

Throwing a party for your child can be a lot of work. I don’t mind the actual party or even the planning of my kids’ parties. In fact, I love designing their invitations. What I hate is waiting for people to RSVP.

alexa 6 invitationNowadays, so many people don’t RSVP, or they wait until the last minute. I invited 14 girls to Lexie’s birthday party at the beginning of the month. Three days before the party, I was still missing more than two-thirds of the RSVPs.

By the time of the actual RSVP deadline, I had heard from 65% of the attendees. In the past, I have ended up sending out a reminder to parents I have not heard from.

“Hi – Lexie’s birthday party is this Saturday. I know she would love (insert child’s name) to come her party. We hope you can make it.”

This typically gets me some extra responses, which are most often a “No. We can’t make it” but does garner a few “Oh. I meant to RSVP.” For Lexie’s party, I didn’t resort to sending emails as I had eight girls coming and decided not to bother with garnering responses from the others. I just sometimes don’t know why people don’t RSVP to parties or wait to the last minute. Are they waiting for something better to come up?

I only received two “No. We can’t make it” messages. I think people really don’t think they need to send a “no” reply. I admit there have been times that I don’t send my regrets when we receive an invitation. Of course, with Lexie’s party, I was a little nervous. Days after we had passed out the invitation, I saw a few of the kids walking around with the invitations at school. I began to worry that the invitations weren’t going to make it to their parents.

As it turned out, I had eight girls scheduled to come but only five of them actually showed up. One girl was sick the two days preceding the party, and I had spoken with her mom about the possibility that she might not be there. The other two were just no shows. This, in my opinion, can be as bad as people not RSVPing and showing up to a party. We had planned for those girls to be there. We had goodie bags ready for them and depending on the party place, sometimes you have to pay for those you say are coming whether they show up or not. Luckily, Chuck E Cheese gives you up to 4 no shows, so I only paid for the kids who actually attended.

For me the worst part is just waiting for those RSVPs. Because so many people do it at the last minute, I end up worrying that we won’t have a good attendance at the party. I think this fear that no one will show up is what has kept my husband and I from throwing our own parties. Of course now that we have kids, parties for them are inevitable.

I know parties aren’t supposed to be a popularity contest, but it is almost impossible for it not to be. It is hard when you go to one party, and nearly every kid invited shows up and at your party, you get only five kids.  I don’t know why there is such a difference in attendance. Maybe it has nothing to do with popularity, and some parties are just at better, more convenient times. I do know that when Jase turned 5, he had very few kids from his class come to his party. He didn’t care. He had a blast.

As for me, I just want people to respond to those RSVPs!

This is the second in a three-part birthday series. Last week was birthdays that fall during a holiday or vacation. Next week – searching for that impossible to find gift.