Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved birthday parties. Every year she had a birthday party with a different theme, and she got so much pleasure out of making her party fit that theme, from invitations to decorations to games to food, that the whole family loved to chip in and help her, just to see how happy she was.
Of course, it didn't bother her mother terribly much when this little girl grew up some and could do MUCH more of the planning and prep work all by herself!
For instance, guess who baked this entire cake all by herself? Who assembled it and decorated it completely independently?
The birthday girl herself!
Matt carved the watermelon into the shape of a crown, and I assembled the fruit wands:
My plan had been to use those watermelon cut-outs there as the wand toppers but let me tell you--cut watermelon is MESSY! It was dripping sticky juice down the entire wand, and while I'm not squeamish about kids getting messy when they're at my house, the line must be drawn somewhere.
To round out the dinner, we also made a tray of cheese sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches, all cut out with a crown cookie cutter, and then some chips and mini un-iced cupcakes (from the leftover birthday cake batter). The party guests demolished the lot, so I think they liked it!
When the children arrived, I taught them how to make balloon swords--
--and another kid knew how to make balloon dogs, so we all happily played with balloons for a very long time before I was able to heard them into the playroom for our first game: Pin the Kiss on the Frog Prince:
Matt drew the frog, Will painted it, and Syd drew and cut out all of the kisses. Competitive games stress Syd out, so the kids just took turns for fun, and there were no prizes.
One of my favorite things about Syd's group of friends is how engaged they are. They love everything! Every activity you introduce, they're super into it. Every game you play, they give it their all. And what's more, they're so connected, as well--they love watching every other kid take her own turn, shouting advice as she wanders way to the left of the frog, laughing when she puts her kiss on its butt, congratulating her when she takes off the blindfold, over and over and over, for every kid, for every single turn. And some kids took several turns!
After giving that frog prince many, many, MANY kisses, we broke for dinner, and then came back to the playroom for the game that I had been looking forward to the most:
Yes, we played Toilet Paper Princess!
This game was just about the cutest thing that I have ever seen. We had enough guests to make three groups, each with a princess and two ladies in waiting. The ladies in waiting had approximately ten minutes to dress their princess for the ball, and then we had a princess fashion show.
I had planned on doing this once, but you know we ended up doing it three times in a row. Surprise, surprise--all the little girls wanted a turn at Princess!
And here's the token male, sitting in the corner looking bemused:
This game took a full hour, and after all of that shrieking and giggling I am not ashamed to tell you that I sent every single one of those children outside, taking the dog with them, and told them not to come in until they were ready for cake.
Of course they were all in and out and all around, shrieking and giggling and fighting with balloon swords, but it gave me time to swallow some ibuprofin and sit down in the kitchen with Matt for a while. I'd had a nice, long break by the time the pack of them came barreling in for good, reporting that there'd been some drama with the Freeze Tag game, and I declared that if there were some tempers that needed to be sweetened, then it must be time for cake!
I can't get over that perfect, perfect cake that she made for herself, all by herself:
And her sweet face, surrounded by her family and friends, just having been sung to, just about to make a wish:
She couldn't have had a better birthday--
--or a better bunch of kids to share it with.
I'm curious how her birthday parties will change as she gets older. The last time that Will requested a birthday party, she was nine (and there were also balloon swords at that party, and a kid-decorated castle cake, AND the candles on this cake are the same ones that I made for that first castle cake!). I'll happily have giant birthday parties for Syd as long as she wants them, then, with the sure proof that one day, whenever that day may come, she will no longer want her mommy to throw her a birthday party. I did suggest to Syd, though, that perhaps next year she might want to host her birthday party all by herself, without Mommy to organize the games and demonstrate the craft.
As soon as I said that, though, I bit my tongue in regret. Because sure, I'd have an easier week the week of her party, if I didn't have to do the prep work for games and activities, and an easier day the day of, if I wasn't cutting out a million little sandwiches into cute shapes and making fruit wands and watching yet another balloon sword-making tutorial on YouTube, but to not be there to watch every single kid take her turn at kissing the Frog Prince? To not be the emcee for the Toilet Paper Princess runway walk, for every single princess?
Not having to take double the dose of ibuprofin that night would NOT be worth missing out on all of that sweetness.