Operation 6th Birthday Party: The Reckoning

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Well after all that stress, it went smashingly. PHEW! I didn’t end up taking many photos though – I never do when I have a party at home. Too busy running around organising stuff and making sure everyone is having a good time.

We were setting things up right up to the start time (and a little beyond). Hubby did an amazing job rigging up one tarp for a shady seating area, laying out the other at the end of the yard to minimise mud, and just generally cleaning up the outdoor space. I also improvised some extra shade by pegging some old curtains across the Hill’s Hoist and filling the gaps with draped streamers and balloons so the wading pools could have some extra cover (we’d found the curtains during the big clean up last weekend and I almost threw them out, but decided at the last minute to give them a wash and see if we might use them for something after all. Score 1 for hoarding tendencies!). Then we put a few trays of chalk down the side passage next to our house for a quiet arty space and filled a bunch of plastic spray bottles, to add to the tub of water balloons I’d prepped the day before.

My parents had given us a little extra cash towards the party so I threw the idea of a tight budget out the window and bought everything at our local supermarket, even the cake (at the end of the day, kids don’t give a shit how gourmet your cake is. They just want it in their faces right now!!). Given my propensity to over-cater I basically bought only slightly more food than I normally would for a much smaller party and hoped for the best.

I got a platter of veggie sticks, rice crackers, grapes and dips sorted and upended a bag of popcorn and some mixed lollies into bowls. I also had a cheese platter, baby franks, watermelon and chips held back in reserve, plus a bunch of wrapped lollies and chocolates for a piñata and, of course, the birthday cake – which I put together two hours before the party started and hid from prying eyes (actually pretty chuffed about this as I’m normally getting it on a stand and looking for candles in the middle of the party).

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Kids started turning up bang on the start time while I was still filling the wading pools and getting the first wave of food out. Thankfully I had my mum and another good friend around to help set things up as hubby was still out getting ice and extra cups for the drinks. The kids didn’t mind though – they went straight for the wading pools and started splashing around. Someone put our little slide over the edge of the bigger pool and the kids happily formed a line to take turns sliding into it while I grabbed some ball pit balls and plastic tea party sets to add to the mix, along with another big tub of water with watering cans and other pouring tools.

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I took a moment to relax and chat with the other parents and cuddle my Little Miss who – true to form – had not napped and was super sooky and clingy through the whole thing. We ended up going inside and setting her up on the couch with the iPad and a bowl of chips so I could keep doing stuff, as I had yet to make my piñata bags.

I really wish I’d taken photos of them! Basically I laid out four alternating squares of coloured crepe paper, piled the sweets in the middle and tied them into bags with ribbon. Then I tied them to two arms of the Hill’s Hoist and handed out big sponges. The kids then tried to hit the bags with wet sponges while I spun the clothesline in circles. It was SO MUCH FUN, with water going everywhere – they grabbed spray bottles and water balloons to try out too. I just wish I’d had more layers of crepe paper, as they burst open far sooner than I would have liked. Not that the kids minded when there were sweets to be scavenged all over the ground.

I then set up the sprinkler and tried to get a game of limbo going, but the kids just weren’t interested so I left them to their free play. Unfortunately unbeknownst to me somebody had flipped the clam shell pool over and one of the kids put her foot through it as she tried to jump off. No major damage done (to her foot anyway – the pool was totalled!) but I figured that was a good time to do the cake and set up the slip’n’slide.

The cake was SPECTACULAR.

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My oldest lost her shit when she saw it! I’d grabbed a few of her favourite toys to swim in the M&M and Kit Kat pools along with the piggy candles I’d found. I just wish I’d bought two chocolate cakes rather than one chocolate and one banana – a few kids missed out on their first choice once the chocolate one ran out. Kicking myself a bit over that one.

Still, they all got over it once the slip’n’slide was up and running! Hubby bought a bottle of dish liquid to get it super slippery and some of the parents pitched in to drag the kids along for extra fun.

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I got Mum to put the rest of the food out and then started putting together the “party bags” in the kitchen. I’d bought a bunch of disposable coffee cups with lids and put a small bottle of bubbles (the type you blow, not the type you drink), a few stickers and a handful of water balloons in each. The plan then was to invite the kids to grab some lollies to put in – but there were none left! So I popped in 2-3 jellybeans each from our small stash and figured the parents would thank me for that anyway.

Slowly it all started winding down as people decided it was time to leave. The general consensus was that it was a heap of fun and the perfect day for it. I couldn’t be happier! The best bit? My Birthday Girl had a fantastic time, with no tears or meltdowns, and wants to do it all again next year.

Things I improved on compared to previous years:

I started thinking about it and planning things out way earlier than normal. Hello? Paper invitations? Activities? Party bags?! I have literally never been organised enough to do these things before!

I had a slightly more realistic view of what I could achieve and had no qualms about dropping things as necessary.

We actually physically did things a day or two *in advance* (filling water balloons, covering the clothesline, cleaning) rather than just thinking about it.

I was able to stop and enjoy it at times and any tasks that I needed to do throughout the party went smoothly thanks to me having a clear, simple vision about it.

I hardly micromanaged my support team and just enjoyed the help rather than itching to “do it right.”

Pretty much nailed the amount of food we needed – in fact, could’ve done with slightly more. Am also really stoked about having the cake ready before things started. I cannot emphasise enough how rare that is.

Things I still need to improve on

Completely blew any budget out of the water – it actually would’ve been cheaper to hire a play centre or something. If my parents hadn’t stepped in and given us that buffer it would have been a far more stressful experience.

Generated so much rubbish, what with all the disposable cups and water balloons and crepe paper and stuff. Plus we had heaps of leftover supplies, including a bunch of plastic forks we didn’t end up using for the cake and all the spray bottles and sponges. Sure we can use/reuse them in the future but it still isn’t ideal. I’d like to be more eco-conscious next time.

I’d like to get even more stuff done in advance next time so I can properly enjoy the party in the moment. I barely talked to any of my friends there. Plus it would really cut down on the pre-party panic attacks!

We didn’t cull any of my daughter’s toys beforehand and now have a serious glut of extra stuff. I really must get more on top of it before Christmas!!

Take more damn photos next time!

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