Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Great Birthday Party Camp-Out Extravaganza

Yesterday (October 27th), was my daughter Cailyn’s 10th Birthday.   I generally try to throw some sort of shindig for my kids on their birthdays, with mixed success over the years.  Generally, my basic theme is “Fun but Cheap!”  Yes, I’m classy that way.  

Last year Cailyn had a really successful Harry Potter themed birthday party.  It was tons of fun, but ended up costing WAY more $$ than I had originally intended.  I blame the Quidditch pitch.  Some photos from last year:

Yes, this Quidditch pitch doesn't look like it should cost much,
but I had to buy enough plywood, and PVC pipe,
and fittings and hula hoops for six hoops.  It added up!

Potions!  Kids LOVED this one.
And check out Hermione!

So this year, still shooting for the “Fun but Cheap” theme, we decided to do a backyard camp-out.   Being the tomboy that she is, Cailyn has as many, if not more, guy friends as she does girls, and wanted to invite all her friends.  I figured since they’re only 9 and 10, we should still be relatively safe from boy/girl type naughtiness, but just to be safe, we’d have a boy tent and a girl tent.  

I’m still a little vague about how the numbers shook out, but we ultimately ended up with 17 freaking kids at this party!  17!  Happily, only 13 stayed the night.  (Only 13!)  Of course, those included my 3 and the 3 grandkids, so it really wasn’t too out of control, right???  Yeah. 

Our little home away from home. 
Anyway, back to party prep!  We own an 8-man tent approximately the size of a NYC studio apartment, but without a kitchenette or loo taking up valuable real estate inside.  Another friend was kind enough to let us borrow their 10-man tent for the party.  Their tent was awesome!  I question its’ classification as a 10-man tent, as I think it was smaller than ours, but it was plenty big enough for all us girls, and the best part??  It was a pop-tent, which set up like magic in less than 5 minutes.  For realz.  Our tent is not quite so user friendly, but I’ve set the sucker up enough times that I know what I’m doing and even it doesn’t take too long, provided you have a second set of hands to help out.  Plus, my oldest son has his own 3-man tent (seen in a previous post, set up in my dining room), which he intended to use for the evening with his “nephew” and buddy, Caleb. So, tents? Check!

Going along with the “Cheap” portion of our theme, I had planned to bake the cupcakes myself, with a little help from Duncan Hines, as I don’t pretend to be much of a baker. But when Saturday rolled around, and I had already set up three tents, and was still in the process of cleaning the house, folding laundry, and washing bedding, my enthusiasm for saving a few bucks by baking the party cupcakes myself flew out the door.  Happily, my kids are awesomely (is that a word?) laid back, and Cailyn was completely fine with me bailing on her and buying some Publix cupcakes.  Only problem was we were too late to special order anything, so we ended up with Halloween Cupcakes, for the win!  So happy my daughter is completely cool and wasn’t bummed to not have a “theme” cake or something.  So, cake? Check!

When my daughter begged me to take them to Phantom Fireworks to pick up some smoke bombs, I thought, why not?  I figured it’d give the little hoodlums something to do until the sun went down and we could get the campfire going.  Maybe not one of my wiser decisions, in retrospect.  Because we didn’t just get smoke bombs. We also got firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers.  Yes, the foreshadowing is strong here.  Do you get a feeling of doom?  Do you get the even stronger feeling that I’m completely insane???

 How I Met Your Mother photo Cuckoo.gif

When a bunch of the kids had arrived, we hustled them outside to preserve the sanity and noise levels in our house, and they began doing the fireworks. Even though I was out there supervising, it got nuts! Too many kids.  Too many fireworks.  It was a crazy 15 minutes or so and I spent the time trying to control the chaos and limit the number of rockets going off at once and generally making sure the neighborhood didn’t go up in smoke.  There were some close calls.  And (I have to admit this is funny in retrospect), one mom showed up to drop off her son right in the midst of the worst of the chaos, and she had 3 smaller kids, who were all a little wild-eyed at the noise, and the poor mom seemed to be questioning her judgment in letting her kid stay the night.  I tried to be all mature and reassuring, but was also trying to supervise the craziness.  As I alluded to above, in retrospect, 10-year olds and fireworks at a party?  Not a good idea.  But we all survived and so did the neighborhood.  Yay!

By then, I calculated that everyone had arrived that was coming, so we hustled everyone back inside for the cake, ice cream and presents.  Nothing like sugaring up the lot to get ready to party!  And, I should say that Cailyn was LOVING being the center of attention.  She was lapping it up.  I was happy about that, though I calculated I’d only narrowly escaped a nervous breakdown during the firework portion of the proceedings.

My daughter with her badass tatoo sleeves.  She's unconventional!
Onward to the campfire! Smores! Our telescope! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the darned thing to focus on the moon.  It’s a relatively cheap telescope and wobbles a lot.  Plus, there just wasn’t enough peace and quiet to try and set it up properly. There were kids all crowded around, trying to see through. I was bummed, though; it would have made a good teaching moment!



Ultimately, we tried to get everyone to start settling down, with limited success. It was funny, throughout the early portions of the night, the boys kept trickling inside for one reason or another. Finally, all the boys were inside, and all the girls were in the "girl" tent.  Except Cailyn, who ended up sleeping in her bed - what can I say, she's an early-to-bed-early-to-rise type and was tired! I was outside with the rest of the girls, and though we all stayed up WAY TOO LATE. It was fun.

I was actually up until about 2:45 am, and God’s honest truth?  I think that’s the latest I’ve stayed up since my singleton party days.  And back then there was usually large quantities of alcohol and dancing involved.  Ah, the good old days!  This time I was trying to prop up in the tent, reading on my tablet (you didn’t think I was without my technology, did you?) and doing my best to convince six 9-12 year-old girls to stop chatting and go to sleep already!

But though I didn’t get enough sleep, it was a good party.  I think everyone had a good time.  Maybe even me.  We’ll see if I have selective amnesia the next time I propose another one like this!