Welcome to the shooting range!
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Way back at the start of summer, Emily and Jenna bought bow-and-arrows sets from a local craft fair. They loved them so much that it sparked the idea for Emily's archery party.
Emily made her own invitations. It's not a rule that we handmake our invitations, but it gives her something to do in the weeks before the actual day. I cut the bits out and she assembled everything. She drew up her guest list - it was more than 20 at one point and we whittled it down to 15. She was also given the job of keeping track of who responded with a yes or no so I could make sufficient archery sets for each kid to have one.
Incidentally, Gavin didn't make the shortlist. Poor Gavin. We had to exclude all the boys, to be fair to all the girls who needed to be there.
We called Grandpa Desmond in Singapore and told him the party theme (he was very excited) and enlisted his help in the planning. I always wish this particular pair of grandparents didn't have to miss all the kids' birthdays so whenever there is an opportunity to get them involved, even from thousands of miles away, I jump at it. Grandpa's job was to design the quiver; provide, via skype, distance-learning archery coaching to Emily, Jenna and Kate and plan the games (we reminded him that these were inexperienced kids, not his actual students, so he had to make them really EASY).
The day itself was sunny and blustery. Many of the games Grandpa designed couldn't be carried out because of the wind (bah) but otherwise, it was perfect.
The kids started with a pizza lunch. Emily loves having lunch with her friends, so her parties always begin this way. This was followed by pie. Not cake. Ever since we discovered this particular creamery that makes astounding gelato, we've always opted for ice cream pie for our celebrations. This one was a chocolate gelato and fresh raspberry sorbet with fudge and an oreo crust. To die for.
At this point, I feel obliged to warn new readers that this party is devoid of color-coordinated decorations, drinking water bottles with personalized labels and anything printed with a Silhouette machine. Sorry. Our parties are not like that. In fact, half our napkins were unmatching - in both size and color - leftovers from previous parties, and the other half were plain white ones we grabbed from our own kitchen table. The cups did not match the plates and the cake wasn't even a cake, let alone home-made. Emily summed up the feel of her parties best: "They're like huge playdates once a year!" Ah, yes. Slightly manic but loads of fun.
Next, we opened gifts. We learned a couple of years ago that the food, the cake (pie) and the presents were the most important things at birthday parties and now always do them first, before the crafts and games and whatnot. This gives us enough time to satisfyingly ooh and aah over the gifts and let the givers enjoy Emily's appreciation of them.
Then it was time for the crafts. We set out foam stickers, duck tape and permanent markers.
And we brought out the bows. The looks on the faces of the kids when they realized they were getting their own bows? Priceless.
And so the decorating began. The kids colored, taped, stuck, and chatted. They shared scissors and took turns with the duck tape. It was wonderful to see them interacting with each other and the adults as they crafted. It reminded me of ladies at a knitting circle (not that I've ever knitted or been in a Circle, knitting or otherwise :)).
When the bows were done, the kids picked their arrows.
Bundles of threes- each bundle containing identical arrows but distinct from the other bundles. When there are almost 50 arrows flying through the shooting range, you need a quick way to identify your own. To be extra safe, we had the kids autograph their arrow shafts with permanent marker.
Finally, they picked their quivers, personalized the name tags and learned how to buckle them on their backs. Some of the kids had already shoved their arrows down the backs of their Tshirts before realizing they didn't need to. Emily and I secretly giggled at them.
Then, (literally) armed with their goodies,
they ran off to practise and hold competitions among themselves.
We'd hung target hoops all over the yard for the kids to shoot their arrows through.
Almost all the kids were first-timers so Emily, Jenna and I gave lessons as best we could. Yes, even Jenna. Jenna is an awesome archer.
By the end of the party, most of the kids were pretty good shots- and very proud of themselves.
Towards the end of the party, we bashed the pinata. Emily and I had talked about a hollow, paper-covered target that the guests could shoot at and puncture to release candy but I wasn't convinced it would last long enough for everyone to have a turn. So we went with the traditional cardboard sort.
Hardier, perfect at releasing candy in small batches, but heartbreaking to watch being beaten up. It was, afterall, cardboard. And I have a soft spot for cardboard. Sniff.
When everything was over, we handed out target cookie medals.
Quite a few of the kids left with just the ribbons left around their necks. Burp.
These were the uh... goodie bags. They're supermarket paper bags and they're empty. The guests filled them with their own bow, arrows and quiver to take home. Bit more fun than plastic trinkets, we thought!
And look -we did have boys join in the fun in the end - we made enough archery sets for the boy cousins, who visited after the party.
In the days following, Kate kept on practising.
She's gotten quite good, flouncy girly skirt and all :)
This is, hands down, my favorite birthday party and my absolute favorite theme so far. Not just because it was ungirly, but because 8-year-olds are so much fun and effortless to manage! It was actually relaxing! I love seeing the same bunch of kids (like Emily's preschool friends) a year older and more mature each time we meet. It was especially lovely to visit with them now that they're older and familiar enough with me to just chat as I'm slicing pie or tearing pieces of duck tape. It was also a treat to get to know more of Emily's new friends as she navigates each subsequent grade at school. I love all these kids. It feels like being a teacher again. I can't wait till they're teenagers!
Many readers have asked about the various aspects of this party and requested tutorials. Of course I'm doing tutorials. Everyone should have their own archery party, duh! So in the next few posts, I'll deconstruct everything and then link back to them in this master post so you can find them all from here in the future.
Tomorrow: The Bows!