Boo turned 7 at the weekend. Like 7-year-olds should be, she was more than a tad excited about her party, which had been in the planning (in her head) since the day after her 6th party.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t in on the plans…not great considering the plan was for a mass of children to have fairy and pirate fun and games.
I had thought maybe turning to the professionals would help and bought Pippa Middleton’s party book. I just didn’t quite get around to actually reading it in detail. Let’s compare and contrast shall we? Gluestick Mum: once again making the mistakes so you don’t have to.
It’s All In The Planning
Eight weeks in the planning? Pah! Boo knew what she wanted to do for her party since the day after her last party! A big party in the park. And it was an idea she stuck to.
Mind you, Pipa may be right, because plans can get bigger and bigger over a 12-month period. At points I wasn’t do sure whether she had a birthday arty in mind or a big fat gypsy wedding.
The invites were out 3 weeks ahead on the dot. I did also put an RSVP date on the invites. Not that everyone did RSVP. Tsk. Pippa doesn’t mention what to do under those circumstances. Do you discount them and risk running short of food and favours if they turn up? Or figure they’re likely to show up and possibly waste money on sandwiches and plastic tut?
Oh, and I also thought I was doing well ordering party supplies a week in advance. Until I found out that 5 working days wasn’t long enough to guarantee delivery from just about everywhere. Not without paying extortionate postage fees. Receiving an email with an estimated delivery date that’s after the party is NOT a welcome sight. Receiving said email from each and every Amazon seller is a one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown! Thankfully each and every package arrived in good time, but it was a tense wait.
More on the rest later. This far I was getting a bit twitchy.
That bit about ‘with your child’s input’ – not such a great idea. In my mind: maybe 10 friends. In Boo’s mind: every single child she’d ever met, even if she didn’t know their name.
And what about brothers and sisters? For my sanity I wanted parents to stay – we were going to be in the park after all. I didn’t want parents turning up at the end only to discover that their child had slipped off unnoticed. Siblings were going to have to be invited too.
The compromise was a guest list of 30. That’s a class size. Having taught in the past, I could handle that. Just as long as it didn’t rain.
The Sunday on/after Boo’s birthday, every year for the past 7 years has been gloriously sunny. The ONE YEAR I didn’t have a robust wet-weather contingency plan Hurricane Bertha’s impact could be felt on British shores. But of course.
And so on Thursday I had a little panic and postponed the party until the 17th.
Except, obviously, it wasn’t that easy. In these days of mobile technology and social media I still didn’t have any way of contacting some of the parents. Unless they called me (I had had the sense to put my number on the invitations) there was no way to put them off. The only solution would be to hold a mini indoor party on the original date and a second for most kids a week later (when space at home wouldn’t need to be an issue – hopefully!)
But it was now getting complicated. The fact that my text wasn’t immediately clear as to exactly what I meant wasn’t a help. Some were ok with the change. Some had other plans. (Including me one friend reminded me! Oops!) Some got confused. And some just didn’t reply. At this point I wanted to cry. The party on the 10th could have anywhere between 5 guests and 16! That’s some margin of error to plan around.
Now, back to that schedule…
Two days ahead I should have a lot of the food sorted and the cake made. In theory. Not happening when in actuality I was driving across the country, back from my sister’s house, in thunderstorms…
…and then going out for a boozy meal with my dancing friends.
No party preparation was happening on the Friday.
Worse, the day ahead, when I should have been on it in terms of being organised and pre-prepared, I had a mad dash into town looking for party favours before heading to my cousin’s baby shower. Sitting in the sunshine cooing at teeny tiny baby shoes may have been lovely, but it didn’t help with my own party prep.
In the end I sat up until 3am making cakes of various shapes and sizes, filling party bags and drawing a pile of treasure maps by hand, because technology never does as it should in our house and I didn’t have the know-how or patience to set the scanner up to the laptop without throwing something (possibly myself) out of the window in rage. Still, the maps looked ok.
The cupcakes seriously sunk in the middle however, but could possibly be rescued with shrewd icing in the morning. No way was I going to tackle a piping bag at 3am though. It only would’ve ended in tears and I’d already had a Bake Off moment when I realised I’d forgotten to add a third of the flour to the main cake. (As it turns out, it’s ok to add it 10 minutes after the batter’s gone in the oven, although the resulting bubbling can look a bit worrying. Eve commented on how light the cake was though when she ate her slice, so maybe, actually, I’ve stumbled on something, although I wouldn’t recommend it.)
Needless to say, on the day itself I was behind. I iced the cakes. The fairy cupcakes actually looked all right.
The main cake looked a little more (not in a good way) ‘special’, although I swear it was to Boo’s specifications.
The rest of the morning was spent making sandwiches, chopping salad and doing a very very last minute dash to the out-of-town supermarket for donuts and helium. Juggling a sandwich on the move with trying to get hold of a friend who was being particularly needy, I ended up running out of time to blow the balloons up with the helium. Oh well. The giant TinkerBell poster made up for a lack of balloons. (Although that may not be such a good thing as the way Husband has nailed it to the living room wall I can see it being a feature wall at least until Christmas.)
Knowing that Husband is pretty much a chocolate teapot when it comes to all matters relating to parties, I knew that I was pretty much going to do it all single-handed. However, due to the change of location and the inability to let all the guests know about it, I needed someone to head over to the park to round anyone who arrived bemused at a lack of party. Funnily enough, no one was overly keen to attempt to approach strangers in a park. Nevertheless, the task fell to Husband as the person least likely to need a CRB check in the future, so being suspicious in the park was less of a risk for him. I suspect however that he may have just hidden out in the pub, sending only one family our way.
Total guests for the party, not including family: 4. That’s quite a difference from 16, let alone 30!
Now, having been a party entertainer in the past, here I’m ok. Still with a stash of equipment and an ability to twist a game to fit a theme I felt confident.
– Having only 6 children in total a lot of the games became a bit trickier. Especially when three of the six were toddlers without a clear appreciation of rules.
– Noodles freaked out at the parachute games, thus taking the numbers from six to five.
Still, the others enjoyed themselves. Handing out lots of tiny prizes and not eliminating kids from games seemed to do the trick.
Here I was with Pippa. Lunchboxes seemed like the way forward when it came to the food. Easy!
But Pinterest had tempted me with TinkerBell-themed edible treats. Who wouldn’t want to tuck into marshmallow and apple toadstools…
…or Jumbo Acorns?
Except time, money and ability restraints meant that instead our little guests got a sandwich, Babybel cheese, crisps, crudités bag and mini donuts. It seems Boo isn’t the only one who can dream big, only for reality to end up being far more mundane. Maybe when I’ve got that duplication machine I can duplicate Mary Berry and Martha Stewart. Or maybe I should change my name to something beginning with ‘M’ and I’d instantly become a homemaking, baking creations marvel.
The prospect of a fridge-full of leftover delights would have been a lot more tempting than 10 individually-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches too.
A year in the planning, prep into the early hours and more money spent than I intended, after two hours the party was over.
Just one last issue: the handing out of party bags. Guest and weather issues aside, what to put in the party bags gives me the biggest headache, not helped by Pinterest having gorgeous ideas like these:
But which I can’t then source. And I’m buggered if I’m going to spend most of the party budget on things that end up in the bin. When planning for 30 kids, that racks up far too quickly.
Not least when you think you’ve scored a result in Claire’s Accessories buying two stacks of glitter (or in our world ‘pixie dust’) only to realise the lid of one pot was the base of the pot on top if it. Truthfully the parents should thank me for my mistake/their near-miss as the glitter has been all over our house since.
I guess it’s easier when your parents own a party supplies company (as Pippa Middleton’s do). But for all the frustration and faffing on my part, everyone had a good time, not least of all Boo, who actually copes better in small numbers, rather than large groups.
And I think I’ve just about recovered…except I’ve got to do it all over again on Sunday! I really just hope it doesn’t rain! The forecast has literally just changed from ‘sunny’ to ‘cloudy’, so I can but keep my fingers crossed.
And next year I’m definitely making sure I have everyone’s phone number. Or at least not holding the damn thing outdoors!
What makes Pippa Middleton such an expert at throwing kids’ parties? I’m not sure, but her appearance in Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby! by Martha Mumford has to be the best representation of her ever: