Friday, September 30, 2011

School Party

We had a school party this year! One week after real school began here in Minnesota.

When Emily told me months ago that she wanted a stationery-and-school birthday party, I was thrilled. I loved it because it didn't involved a licensed-character and it wasn't princess/fairy/rockstar/rainbow/dress-up/pink/girl. I loved that it was about something so completely normal and age-transcendent. Over the next few months, we talked over a multitude of ideas, which included everything from feather-pens and post-its and poetry competitions (Emily's) to electrical circuitry and chemical and solar experiments (er... mine). We both wanted to live out our teacher ambitions - my past ones and her future ones. Oh, how I wanted to have the guests make their own night lights from circuit components! Can you imagine the fun we'd have, and how proud the kids would be to bring home a little gizmo, knowing they'd made something themselves that actually lit up and worked? I came to my senses soon enough though - this wasn't my party, after all. And eventually Emily and I drew up a happy plan that was quite a bit less curriculum and fantasy, and quite a bit more celebration and fun.

For the fourth year in a row, we were blessed with magnificent weather on the birthday weekend. We set up, in our yard, tables of all shapes and sizes, including that lovely table Grandpa and Grandma built for the kids.

We hung our pinatas

and mounted a welcome sign (and agenda) on our easel.

We got out our brown paper grocery bags

and set up cubby holes for the kids. This we learned from past parties - kids need a place to stash the stuff they collect (like prizes and candy) and discard (like the sweaters they wore in) throughout the course of the festivities.

We decorated the driveway with pictures and directions

and then welcomed the guests!

The first thing we did was eat.

We ate pizza, and then had cake.

I am proud to say that our cake was pre-ordered at the supermarket bakery, the pizza was made by the guys in the pizza shop, and we had no fancy decorated cookies, or coordinated decorations. I've learnt that when you throw a party for kids, they are really here for the cake and the presents and the playing and the hanging out with old friends. 

I have also learnt that because the presents are the most important thing to both the birthday girl and her guests, they should be given due attention before any of the other things like crafts and games and whatnot. So we reversed the traditional order of proceedings and opened the gifts first (well, first after eating, anyway).

It felt good to sit and take our time and really enjoy the gifts and their givers.

And then, we smashed the pinatas (we had two shorter lines rather than one long one),

sent the kids out on a treasure hunt,

till the parents arrived to pick their kids up.

And everyone visited and played and colored, 
in the dappled shade of our backyard. 
A very happy day. 

Just a few more behind-the-scenes photos - our parties are always slightly zany because we so enjoy the preparation and excitement in the days leading up to it. I usually have the kids do as much of the work as possible, to channel their enthusiasm and energy towards something useful and less dangerous than getting under my feet. Jenna, bless her heart, painstakingly made a 2D party hat for each guest

but we didn't actually hand them out on the day itself, because she only finished two in time for the party and the rest, only a few days after.

Now that the party is over, there was just one last task for Emily: writing out her thank- you cards. We hand-make a lot of our party paraphernalia simply because we're so used to doing it that way.

Happy birthday, little one!

And here is where we leave you today. Tomorrow we'll be back to take you behind the scenes!


  1. What a lovely, lovely day you all had! I love parties that are about THE KIDS! Not about competitive parents. Kudos to you and yours : )

  2. Well said Melanie! I love how you involve your children in all aspects of party planning and fun. While those themed-to-death parties might be nice to look at oh Ohdeedoh, I always have the feeling that the parents put them on more to receive praise and compliments for themselves, not because a three year old really appreciates color coordinated water bottles and an Amy Atlas inspired candy table. I think the themed parties have gotten out of control and blog coverage has turned parents into competitive, DSLR wielding nutsos, and it's nice to see a wholesome, simple and FUN party with a grocery store cake and pizza!

  3. Melanie and Jan: I totally hear you about the MarthaStewart-esque parties. I am always inspired just looking at the photos. So much talent and artisticness! But I also always find myself asking, "Who takes the photos? Do they have extra adult helpers (like a professional photographer) just to stand around and take photos of the gorgeous decor and water bottles while the other adults are hollering and directing traffic and giving directions on the phone to parents who got lost, or helping kids with getting the glue caps off, or trying to find so-and-so's ziploc bag of piñata candy, or showing someone to the bathroom?" I want a team of helpers! My husband did photography duty that day (and we let him off all other duties except pizza pickup and piñata hanging) and even he couldn't capture every single thing that was going on.

    All that said, I cheer for all the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles (etc) who've ever thrown a party to celebrate their little ones, just to see their eyes light up, knowing they are loved. For some of us, it's a homemade cake (that would not be me at this point in my life), for some it's the Silhouette machine cupcake toppers (that would not be me at this point in my life), and for some of us it's brown grocery bags and recycled pizza boxes (me, at this point in my life, and hopefully forever).

  4. Great party!! I love that you put the cake and presents first! We moved to an area where nobody opens presents at the party and my kids get so disappointed every time.

  5. Jenna looks like your photocopy!

  6. Wonderful party idea!!! Love where you took it and all the details. And i sooo agree that the party should be about what makes the kids happy not a beautifully laid out table of 20 desserts on the perfect serving dishes.

  7. Great party!! Can you share where you found those little apple boxes?

    1. Yes - the link is in this post:


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