Zoe celebrated her fifth birthday last week and really, really wanted a birthday party. So much so that she began planning it sometime around December. So far, we have celebrated the girls’ birthdays with a family get together, or a very small gathering of a few friends (following the rule of thumb “as many guests as the age you are turning.”)
I’m not a big fan of parties for little kids. I don’t think children should receive a ton of gifts, and especially not all at once; I don’t think kids really enjoy each other’s company in such a large group in a hyped up setting; and don’t even get me started on party bags. But Zoe has a cluster of girls at preschool whom she adores, and I allowed her to invite all 9 of them to our (very small) home to celebrate. The challenge was to hold a party that meet Zoe’s expectations for what a party is supposed to be, but was also true to our family values.
Cool and rainy weather meant we needed to plan indoor activities. I really didn’t want to play games that would lead to someone, or everyone, crying, and I didn’t want to do any crafts that involved lots of plastic, um, crap. So, we started by gathering in a circle and singing four songs of Zoe’s choice. While I played guitar, my husband Keith recorded the girls singing. He spent the rest of the party burning cd’s for each of the girls to take home as a party favor. Then we made necklaces out of noodles that the girls and I had colored the day before with food coloring (see that nice spread up above?) and Ella, my six year old, invited each child to make a spin art painting.

Zoe decided she also wanted to play pin the something on the something, but had a terribly hard time deciding what exactly she wanted pinned onto what. (At one point, she stood across from a sidewalk construction project and suggested we play “pin the cones on the road.” Really.) Finally we landed on “pin the flower on the stem.” In a moment of real inspiration, I drew a stem for each flower, (instead of that one donkey butt), so everyone had a chance to “win.”

May I also boast about my homemade ice cream cake? I grew up on carvel cakes, but when I stood at the supermarket, staring at these $20 cakes full of ingredients that are better suited for a science lab than a child’s tummy, I decided to make my own. A tray of brownies, a half gallon of vanilla ice cream, and a few crushed m&m’s later (did I mention some homemade whipped cream on top?) we had a delicious cake for less than half the price with ingredients we could both pronounce and digest.

We ended the party with a paper bag pinata decorated by the girls, filled mostly with newspaper, and some (forgive me for sounding self-righteously and nauseatingly pc here) fair trade organic earth shaped chocolates that went into the party bags, along with the cd and the spin art.

In the end, it was a lovely little party that stayed true to most of my values. While I still think nine presents is too many, Zoe was very gracious and is sharing everything quite nicely with her sister. Tonight, she sent this to her guests.

And if you think I’m under any illusion of being the perfect mommy, know that I am blogging instead of paying attention to my girls who are supposed to be in bed, but are instead jumping up and down upon the bed.

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