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Moms Talk: Party Training

A bird's eye view into children's birthday parties

I had always envisioned a huge birthday extravaganza for my twins when they turned a year old. I’m talking pony rides led by circus acrobats, a manic rendition of "Happy Birthday" led by all four Wiggles, and couture baby favors in vintage Valentino diaper bags.

But alas, my dream was obliterated when a close family member planned her wedding that same week and had the gall to ask my husband and me to participate. Not only could I not have my (uh, their) birthday party, but I had to wear a shiny red bridesmaid dress that literally spotlighted all the areas of my lingering baby weight. (Can you still call it baby weight a year after the birth? How about ten years after? Maybe we’ll save that for another discussion.)

I planned to make it up to them (me) by hosting an epic birthday bash for their second birthday, but by then I was just too dang tired. At two, those boys were running full tilt all over the place, and I, as the mother, was obligated to give chase. We were also preparing to move out of state and I was in the process of dismantling the entire house into tiny boxes. (How was it that despite being so crazy busy, I still had all this baby weight? Definitely, another article.) Still, I put in a good effort. I decided on an English tea party for the adults and Sesame Street themed entertainment for the multitude of toddlers attending. I whipped up cheddar and chive scones from scratch and feverishly shredded chicken for the chicken salad with almonds. For party favors, I made homemade play dough in red AND blue. I even made my poor husband wander around sightless for an hour in an ill-fitting, knock-off Big Bird suit. Ask anyone who attended the party and I’m sure they’ll gleefully describe the moment we gathered all the kids at the front bay window to watch as my game spouse (pun absolutely intended), all decked out in seven feet of yellow feathers and size fifty-eight bird shoes, blindly stumbled around the corner of the house clutching a bundle of 30 balloons. He immediately ran into the one and only tree in the whole yard, cursed loudly and inappropriately, and lost half the balloons along with one of his bulging Styrofoam eyes. The deafening, high pitched, collective scream of ten, terrified, terrible-twofers (say that three times fast) will be imbedded in my brain forever. I am sure my children will spend hours on a professional’s couch some day trying to figure out why the color yellow sends them into a panic.

After that party ran afoul (yep, intended) we limited future birthday parties to smaller family affairs where the boys each chose their own cake and dinner menu. As they grew older we let them include a friend or two for a movie or pizza. This past year we decided to start a new tradition. My children were born in December and so instead of a traditional birthday party, we invited a large group of their friends over for a holiday gift exchange. Each child brought one age-appropriate gift and at the end of the night they drew numbers from a hat and grabbed the coordinating gift from under the tree. It was a hit. Of course, 15 eleven-year-old boys in my house at one time created no small amount of anxiety, but it was nothing a few glasses of wine and the support of the fellow moms who stayed with me couldn’t fix. Everyone left with a gift and a smile. I didn’t have to make play dough and no animals (especially big yellow ones) were harmed in the making of this party.

So what do you think?

J March 07, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Oh, lord - what a FUNNY article. Made my day reading about your twin's reaction to the "yellow bird coming around the house and running into a tree." Great stuff. I'm the queen of hosting birthday parties for just a few friends (5 max) someplace other than my own home...a museum tour, picnic at a nearby beach/park, tickets to a theater performance. Not sure I have any amazing recipe's to share, although I do think a Duncan Hines super moist yellow cake with chocolate frosting is pretty darn delicious, and a lot less expensive than a cake from a bakery. Here's something I'd like all everyone to promise...stop with the gift bags. They're not necessary and it's usually stuff that breaks within 30 seconds of playing with it. Save the stress and your money.
tara March 07, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Nothing like a mascot gone wrong to make a lasting memory! For my kids parties, we always use skewers (the plastic kind with rounded edges) and make fruit pops. You can just use strawberrries and call it a day, or make fruit shapes from pineapples or melon balls. You can also dip the fruit in melted chocolate and granola. They're fun to make with the kids, and everyone always devours them! A great local bakery for cupcakes and cakes is Party Favors on Beacon Street. They also sell invites and favors. A bit costly, but the cakes are worth it.
Rubylee Shuman March 07, 2011 at 07:59 PM
although it was many years ago --- my secret of successful birthday parties for boys, was to have sons born in the summer ---- therefore, all activities and wild games can be played outdoors --- even the cake and icecream --- now that your boys are older, I think you should "rent out" your husband as I'm sure by now he has mastered his "fowl" attire !!!
Adrienne Kerman March 07, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Here's my playdough recipe. I used the noncook version, but many of my friends use the "cook" version. Go to www.playdoughrecipe.com for all kinds of playdough recipes, including everything from peanut butter, to berry, to coffee playdough! 1 cup of flour 1 cup of boiling water 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar a half cup of salt 1 tablespoon of oil Directions: Simply mix all the ingredients together! Be careful as it can be quite hot.
caro March 07, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I had a party for my third grade son at the pool at the highschool. We had pizza brought in to the lobby area after the swim. The less advanced swimmers could play basketball and other games in the shallow pool, and the swimmers could use the lanes. It wasn't too costly, and we had the event in the winter when the kids could use a little activity.
Leslie Johnston March 07, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Does anyone have any tips for sleepovers? We're planning our first one, 5 or so third grade girls. Help!
jp March 08, 2011 at 12:07 AM
i've had great success having craft parties, like pottery at the clay room or a bead party at a bead store.
jp March 08, 2011 at 12:08 AM
manis and pedis!!!!! with lots of colors of polish ... they'll have a ball.
maryd March 08, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Cupcake cones! Fun to make, decorate and eat. Go here for a recipe http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/ice-cream-cone-cupcakes-recipe.htm
Libby Berke March 08, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Be prepared to sit in the room with them until they fall asleep. It's the only way I've found to get them to conk out when it is way past bedtime and they can't stop the giggles.
annalyn March 08, 2011 at 01:29 PM
My five-year old daughter wants a dress up party. Does anyone know where I can get decent costumes and accessories for cheap, like tutus, boas, tiaras, hats, masks, etc. I live in Brookline and don't have a car ... Thanks!!
annalyn March 08, 2011 at 01:42 PM
PS, I'm not crafty, so I need them ready made. Any ideas? I know of party favors, but I'm looking for something more economical. Thank you.
Michael & Nomi Burstein March 08, 2011 at 02:22 PM
There are a variety of websites that sell costumes and costume accessories, and even Amazon.com sells costumes (or works as a portal for costume companies). We'd suggest trying a web search and see what pops up.
Sarah S. March 08, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Try the TJ Maxx on Harvard. I always see tutus and colorful stockings, hats, and accessories like scarves, (which can be used like boas,) in the clearance aisles. You probably won't be able to get everything, but I bet you could find some fun additions to the party wardrobes. Also, now is a good time to look for Mardi Gras beads, you can find those almost anywhere, even at CVS.
J March 08, 2011 at 02:57 PM
http://www.orientaltrading.com/
caro March 08, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Also, try lillianvernon.com
emmasmom March 08, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Does anyone know how, or even if, I can rent a costume of the Red Sox mascot?
Libby Berke March 08, 2011 at 05:18 PM
A few thoughts... -Lots of these little ones already have stuff, so you could save some money by asking them to already come dressed up. We had a "halloween in june" party once that the kids loved. -You could have plain tee shirts that they decorate (if you do that - have them sign a shirt for the bday child - such a sweet keepsake). -You can also save money by facepainting - always a hit even if you just put little hearts, flowers or rainbows on their cheeks. -Avoid the boas if you can, every one we've ever had has been a poorly made nightmare leaving neon feathers throughout the house. -Avoid shared hats if you can - 5 is the perfect age for lice. -There is "Urban Renewals" thrift store in Allston that is pretty easy to walk or bus to. They have tons of kids clothes,so you could find some dress-up stuff cheaply there if you don't mind used.
Libby Berke March 08, 2011 at 05:27 PM
I don't see anything online. They may be very protective of his reputation. :) Maybe you could do something like this lifesized decal (pricey) and take the kids' pictures with him and have a cool item for your child's room.... http://republicjewelry.com/boston-mascot-wally-green-monster-p-7901.html
Libby Berke March 08, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I'm sure it is very expensive, but here's how you book the actual Wally... http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/fan_forum/wally_party.jsp
annalyn March 08, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Thank you for all the great ideas. I'm excited to get started! I wasn't aware of the Patch before someone told me about his column. It's a nice idea to have a forum just for Brookline parents. I think we can be our own best resources!

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