posts tagged with 'party'

Halloween details

I was too tired last night to write much about our celebration; I'm still pretty tired now, but I can't let the words go unwritten! So here are some more details.

The Costumes

The boys planned their costumes a long way out this year, but then didn't do much about it and mostly forgot about their plans. But they were pretty certain on what they wanted to be, at least: a bat, a ninja, and a wizard. Lijah's bat costume was along the same lines as Harvey's from last year, and just took a hooded sweatshirt and a half-hour of sewing (on Leah's part this year, thank goodness) to add ears and wing membranes. Zion was a ninja last year as well, but lost every part of his costume; he does own black clothes, but Leah had to make him a new mask and sword belt, while I crafted a pair of wooden katanas. I did that Wednesday, so when he broke one within the first two hours I could glue it back together. Leah made an incredible black hooded cloak for Harvey; under it he wore his Easter jacket and sweatpants cuffed up to look like knee-breeches. And he had a wand. Then yesterday was warm enough that he could go barefoot, to be a hobbit wizard. I wish I'd taken better photos.

The Trick-Or-Treating

Despite the terrible forecast the weather was actually great for trick-or-treating. It was mild—hot, even!—and the rain mostly held off. Despite the warnings we didn't head out until nearly 6, which was as soon as we could get our gang together. We had thirteen kids between the ages of 4 and 12, with one of them in a wheelchair, so there was a wide range of speeds; but with some encouragement we mostly stayed together, and the slower kids didn't have to skip more than one or two houses. There were lots of other groups out after dark, and with that and all the decorations in our neighborhood it felt very cheerful and celebratory. The kids got lots of candy.

The Party

We had a potluck with all the folks who went trick-or-treating with us, plus a couple others. There was tons of food, and despite no planning or communication before hand it was all thematically quite unified: chili, chicken tortilla casserole, quesadillas, and Spanish tortilla. Also a couple soups and bread and biscuits. Not that any of that was really relevant to the kids; all they wanted was to get at the candy. They brought it all upstairs to trade (and eat, of course), and after the party Leah and I were witness to the devastation they had wrought. The wrappers you expect, but there was also a good bit of half-eaten—even partially chewed and spit out—candy all over the rug. I guess that's how you know it was a party!

The Glow-sticks

Since all three of our kids were in costumes that were almost entirely black, Leah ordered an awesome collection of glow-sticks. We wore them with pride on our trip around the block, and the other kids took lots of them home, but after the party there were still plenty left for us to play with. So we turned out the lights, put on "Thriller", and had our own little family dance party. Super fun. (That was before we found the candy mess upstairs.)

All in all, it was a terrific celebration. Lots of work—besides the costumes and cleaning I think I did more cooking than I do for an average Thanksgiving!—but well worth it. I'd be happy to do things just the same next year.

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happy halloween

We celebrated the heck out of Halloween today. Costumes and baked goodies at homeschool coop, visits from both grandmas (treats direct to our door!), a giant party at our house with all of the friends we hadn't already hung out with, and a family glow-stick rave to end the day. And of course the trick-or-treating.

lots of kids in costumes posing on the street at dusk

most of the kids

A wonderful day. Happy Halloween everybody!

is it still a party when nobody comes?

Last month when we were discussing the future of our homeschool coop I got carried away and said I'd organize a gathering in December to play board games. A couple days ago I realized we were rapidly running out of December, so on Sunday I sent out an email inviting everyone to come over this morning for play games, run around, and have brunch. I don't know if what the lateness of the invitation, the business of the season, or the fact that we just aren't that cool, but nobody took us up on it. Never mind! The boys and I enjoyed the quiche and the apple muffins (well, only Harvey and I had quiche actually) and spent a happy hour playing Dragonwood together.

It was fine. We do lots of things with other people; it's nice to not, sometimes. Still, it was a little disappointing. One of the reasons I hadn't managed to get the invitation out earlier was because I was worried that it wouldn't get an enthusiastic reception, and I wasn't interested in dealing with rejection. Given the choice I only want to invite people to things I know they want to come to! That's the best thing about planning with friends: you can establish first that, yes, you want to do something—then work on the details as you go. When I'm thinking about coop events I wish I could check in with everybody ahead of time about their availability and what they're into, but of course that's not how it works. So sometimes we strike out. Now it's someone else's turn to organize!

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Harvey's Lego day

Harvey blowing out his candles amongst a delighted throng

happy birthday

Last Sunday Harvey celebrated his birthday with his friends. He wanted a Lego theme, and he was only interested in inviting five peers—which meant that, with siblings and parents, we had 14 kids and eight adults sharing the fun. As a group of mostly homeschoolers, the kids would have been fine entertaining themselves, but a themed party needs activities and I was there to make them happen. We started off with "brick tag" (blob tag, but more thematic), and then I invited anyone interested to try and spell out "Happy Birthday Harvey" with the big pile of Duplos we'd dumped out on the lawn. They managed it, and even added an exclamation point!

many of the kids on the stage with the Duplo

saying happy

Up next was dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. After we ate it was time for the main event: the building contest. The kids got together into teams—well, mostly; the bigger kids all chose to work alone—and I asked them to think of a theme they'd like to focus on for the contest and write it on a slip of paper. Picking out of a real hat, I drew "castles", and they were off!

kids building with lots of legos on the living room and playroom floor

the best kind of work

Harvey picks his friends well—almost all of them, ages six to eleven, could have kept building indefinitely. As it was I let them go for about an hour, which gave the adults some nice quiet conversation time to themselves outside. Unfortunately, the judging process—which I left to them—was a little disappointing. They didn't entirely appreciate the energy and effort the kids put into their creations, so the prize delivery was a little underwhelming for the kids. Still, Harvey and Ollie's flying castle-ish pirate ship quite deservedly won best in show... and then we had cake. I wished I could have gotten the frosting on a little smoother, but even with the indifferent texture I'm still going to go ahead and say it was the best yellow one-by-two brick cake anyone there had ever seen. And pretty tasty too: chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and buttercream frosting. Harvey approved.

Harvey, Zion, and the gang with the Lego cake

Legolicious

So he's totally eight now. And we have even more legos in the house. Maybe we should have given some away as party favors?

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Zion's baseball party

Zion and his baseball cake

birthday boy in his new cap

Now that the kids are school age it's harder to schedule the birthday parties. Everybody has so much going on—and we want to make sure the important friends can come! So we waited a little for Zion's big 6-year-old baseball party. Saturday was the big day, and it was lovely.

The day was cool and overcast but the rain stayed away, and it wasn't so chilly that we worried about having the whole thing outdoors. Of course, nothing was going to stop the baseball game part of the affair. We played two and a half innings, and Zion loved the whole thing—even if he is a little more enthusiastic about batting than fielding.

Zion sitting in the grass in front of his birthday banner on the fence

relaxed outfielder

All seven friends that he invited made it for at least a couple minutes, which was great. We moved up the cake-eating a little bit to make sure one early-departing guest could have his portion, which was fine with everyone.

Zion taking a deep breath to blow out his candle

ready to blow

I actually made two cakes, because I was halfway through a chocolate layer cake when I suddenly remembered Zion had asked for a yellow cake. Oh well, this way we could cater to all tastes. Plus there was vanilla ice cream from Bedford Farms, so nobody went hungry.

some of the kids eating cake at the picnic tables

having cake and eating it

We actually ended up with a ton of food left over, because the adult attendance was lower than expected. And several of the kids barely touched the lunch proper—hot dogs and cole slaw—because they filled up on Zion's special request, Doritos, in the hour before lunch.

With the baseball and the cake out of the way we couldn't hold Zion off from his presents. So the last part of the party was playing with them: first a big game of wild catch with a new big fabric throwing disc, and then—what the birthday boy had been waiting for all day—with the new legos.

Zion and Nathan building legos on the schoolroom rug

finally

Zion reports complete satisfaction with the day; he has now been fully celebrated!

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our Easter day

suited and barefoot Zion on the steps with a basket full of eggs

the egg hunter

Yesterday was Easter, and it was full and celebratory. The weather was beautiful all day, and we enjoyed sharing the day with lots of friends. But first—before breakfast or even Easter baskets—with the photoshoot:

the boys in their Easter finery

celebratory clothing

Unfortunately, the rising sun was in the subjects' eyes, but you get the idea. At least they weren't dirty. This is the first year since Harvey was born that Leah didn't make new clothes for the boys the holiday—she's a little busy—which meant that they had to make due with hand-me-downs, or, in Harvey's case, awesome African duds from Auntie Nelly. They still looked sharp.

At church we all got right to work either setting up an awesome, welcoming service, or freaking out at all the rush and business—as appropriate for the age or general coping skills of each of us. When it was apparent that there was going to be enough food, and enough eggs hidden, and enough greeters, I could relax. Leah couldn't quite as much, since Lijah's freak-out was only magnified by the above-normal crowds. So he had some quiet time. Then there was the egg hunt. Sadly, due to its early start I missed seeing Harvey and Zion hunt, but I did make it in time to see Lijah at work (he was drawn out of seclusion by the prospect of candy).

Lijah holding up an egg on the church playground

green egg and bunny

And, of course, I caught up with Zion afterwards to get a load of his haul, as pictured above (he made a mockery of the eight-egg limit, but he was their early to help hide them so maybe it's ok..).

There was another service after that but everyone was exhausted, so Leah and the boys headed home to set up for our egg hunt and party. I was on the clock so I had to stay. And I enjoyed the second service; then enjoyed the hot bike ride home, an hour when I didn't have to talk to a single person. The boys had a more conventional rest, so they were raring to go when 4:00 rolled around and our egg hunt opened for business.

Harvey saluting with his basket on his head

pre-hunt high spirits

It went well; I think there's not more than a dozen unfound eggs littering our yard today.

Kamilah reaching for an egg

like you do

We didn't have many kids join us this year—just six hunters counting our three, and three babies—but there were lots of us old folks, plus one special guest.

Harvey making friends with a puppy

making friends

The second-graders there were glad to share their obsessive sorting and categorization of prizes; I think they made some trades too.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana sorting eggs on the stage

checking the loot

Zion is in that picture too, but he also played; the other two sorted for like, an hour. Maybe more. They love sorting. In their defense, there were lots of cool things in the eggs this year: dinosaurs, Peanuts dog tags, Squinkies (if you don't know, don't ask). Not so much candy, but that was fine—we had plenty of treats available.

lots of desserts on the table outside

just desserts (and drinks)

The party ran on cheerfully until darkness, light rain, and too-far-past-bedtime drove our guests away, and we went to bed dreaming of the next adventures. Today was just as full and exciting; maybe I'll manage to write about it tomorrow.

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Christmas, Hanukah, and New Years

a present for Leah under the tree

sample present

We're still not back to our regular schedule—snow delayed Nelly and Nisia's flight out for a couple days, so we abandoned school work to go sledding with them. But the holidays are undeniably over, so it's past time to say a few words about how they went. For future reference.

We were a little distracted and scattered around the present preparation this year—most of us, anyways. After we got home from church at 10:00—from cleaning up and locking up, at a service where we also opened the doors and set up—I got to work on presents, as seems to be my tradition. New this year, Harvey joined me! The ship he was making for Zion wasn't done, so he wanted to put in some time to show he really does care.

a present with a big card Harvey made for Zion

present explanation

Never mind how many things were unfinished, Christmas morning saw delight all around.

Zion smiling over a big present

Christmas excitement

Of course, no one could be as delighted as Lijah after he got a gun and a giant candy cane in his stocking.

Lijah smiling with his gun and candy cane

yet more Christmas excitement!

There were also lots of legos, the first batch of which had to be put together before breakfast.

the three boys working on legos at the kitchen table

getting right to work

After we ran out of presents for Lijah to open we packed up what we had left and headed over to Lexington. They had a few more there.

the tree at grandma and grandpa's house

presents for all ten of us

We spent a lovely relaxing day leisurely opening presents—the kids needed to pause and play with each new one extensively—and eating constantly. (We did take a little walk in the middle to keep from dying.) It was nice to get to spend Christmas with the Africa Archibalds for the first time in a few years.

The day after Christmas we celebrated Hanukah with the Bernsteins. It was also charmingly relaxed, as pictured previously. There were more legos, and more weapons for Lijah, so it was a success. Harvey handled the dreidel work with aplomb.

We hadn't planned anything for New Years Eve, but when friends asked us about it we told them they should just come over. Then we said the same thing to more friends, and some relatives. So we ended up with quite a few people and had a very festive evening—one which ended before 10:00, which was great. And some of the guests even helped to clean up, which meant we started the new year well-rested in a clean house. Expect great things from us in 2017!

Clean as it was on 1/1, we (which is to say Leah) put in some more serious cleaning time in advance of 1/2, when we threw a brunch party for relatives who had never visited us before—and one of whom cleans other people's houses as a hobby. There was some tension leading up to the event, but in the event it was fun and easy, and seeing nine Archibald cousins (well, second cousins... and some of them are DiBellas) running around was a great way to spend the bonus federal holiday day.

Then we just had a week of hanging out with Nisia and Nelly, which was super fun. And now it's now!

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lights, food, music, and friends

the illuminated tree and the buffet table

party night

We threw our party last night—never mind the rain and thunderstorms promised by the forecast and the morning's red sky. And it was great!

In a departure from our usual practice, we were just about ready as the last half-hour before the 5:00 start ticked by. Parents and friends who came early to help set up were able to relax and chat as the other guests arrived; the kids hanging around were able to join in the piano sound-check and warmup. The flowers on the table were picked and arranged by Harvey at 4:35.

the party lawn

dining area and dance floor

It was an all-grandpa musical performance this year. After last year's bravura effort Ira and Leah have their act down pat, and barely needed any rehearsal this time. They put on an early set for one friend who could only stop by for a minute at the beginning of the affair.

Leah and Grandpa Ira performing on stage, with Lijah alongside

seasoned performers

Then it was the turn of Grandpa David and the Disney Movie Singalong. He did a great job fending off the eager hands that wanted to touch the piano, and the kids sang along with spirit to tunes from our three most recent animated favorites: Frozen, Aladdin, and Lion King. What a kind grandfather our boys have, willing to subject himself to that sort of experience, and on his birthday too! I have all the songs pretty well memorized to I did my bit to keep the vocalists roughly together.

Grandpa Dave playing piano, accompanying a crowd of kids on some Disney movie songs

cast of thousands

Harvey and Zion actually practiced their parts quite a bit this year. Zion was too shy to stand up at the mic, but Harvey had no such resistance and sang up loud and proud. Megan is always happy to see a microphone.

Harvey and Megan singing with the mics

star turn

Of course, it wasn't all music. We didn't manage a bounce-house this year, but the boys and I set up the badminton net and the kids had great fun with our seven rackets and three birdies (at least until a darkness-related accident made it seem more prudent to take down the net). The hammock was also very popular, as was the ride-on tractor. And of course there was lots to eat.

lots of food on the table, lit in the darkness thanks to lamps above

enough to go around

The lights are always a key ingredient of this party, and this year I was very proud of myself for including two clip-on desk lamps in the setup: one to light the food, and the other behind the stage so the musicians could see their papers. Because of course the music went on long into the night.

Ira and guitar, from behind on the lighted stage

the evening's headliner

Despite some initial demurrals, Ira put on a great show. Besides several songs with Leah (and Lijah), he also treated us to some Beatles numbers (and other hits of the 60s and 70s), and even played backup for Jack's spirited rendition of the alphabet song.

Just before 9:00 the rain finally came on, just in time to encourage the guests to help clean up and then hit the road.. perfect timing! It was great seeing so many friends and neighbors; I feel grateful for each person who came to spend time with us. And none more so than my parents, especially my dad on his birthday.

my mom and dad sharing a cuddle listening to the music

happy birthday Grandpa David!

Maybe we'll do it again next year.

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back to fall

We celebrated the fall equinox today in quiet style with a day at home. The bigger boys and I took in the sunset outside, enjoying the beautiful crisp fall air (Leah was inside trying to put Lijah to sleep—the first attempt of several for a boy who took a two-hour-plus nap this afternoon). The reason we didn't much leave home is that we're having a big party tomorrow evening.

the invitation for our 2016 fall party

yes, you're invited too!

Pretty much the same as last time, but we're not so organized this year, so things are a little more haphazard than in years past. It doesn't look like we'll get a bounce house. But the lawn is (mostly) mowed, the lights are (mostly) up, and we've sort of planned with some people to have some music. Plus we've made and obtained lots of food: pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, cake, veggies, chips, 56 hot dogs, and some other things I can't remember. Pretty good for an event that's supposed to be a potluck...

Our organizational failures may also have led us to forget to invite you. Sorry! If you're free tomorrow evening—that may be today, it depends when you get around to reading this!—do stop by between 5:00 and 9:00. You don't even have to bring a dish to share.. we've got plenty!

Fall's looking pretty good so far.

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happy birrrrthday, Zion!

On Saturday, we finally finished up celebrating Zion's birthday with a party for his friends. It was our first ever themed party.

the presents harvey and I wrapped for Zion, and a treasure map

embracing the theme

Since we'd never done one before, our friends weren't sure how we'd manage; and their concern was warranted, since especially in our destroyed-by-tiredness state we weren't really on the ball with forward preparations. For example, I had no idea what I was going to do for a cake until Friday morning. But in the end I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

a cake: blue sea with island, sea monster, and pirate ship

it looked bigger in real life

Of course, not everything had to be pirate-oriented. Rather than jerked meat we had plain old hot dogs, along with mac-and-cheese and chips. General kid food.

hot dogs cooking on the fiery grill

think it'll be enough?

Not being used to themed parties, the kids were all happy running around after lunch, like they would any other time—the only difference is that lots of them were in pirate hats. I really had to work to get their attention for the planned activities. First they painted telescopes and treasure chests.

the kids, many in pirate hats, sitting on the grass painting

do pirates concentrate on their work?

Next up was a treasure hunt—two treasure hunts, actually, since I didn't want the older siblings to take over all the thinking for the birthday boy and the three other kids he actually invited to the party (there were ten kids total). So the older kids had a picture-based scavenger hunt, while the five-year-olds got to do a real treasure hunt with digging and everything! They only hit each other with the shovels twice (by accident!).

Zion and friends digging by the shed

collaborative digging

The treasure was bead necklaces and chocolate—those Hershey miniatures that look like gold bars. That was Leah's idea, and it was a great one. Finding the treasure stirred up Zion's acquisitiveness, so then we went inside so he could open his presents.

Zion opening presents with friends watching

what is it?!

There was some good stuff, including a stomp rocket that occupied the crowd for the next half hour.

Zion airborne about to land on the stomp rocket

ready, go!

Then his new lego sets took over Zion's attention; lego-building is less communal, but they made it work.

Zion assembling a lego set on the front porch with a crowd around him

riveting

Some of the kids—like Harvey—really really wanted to help, but Zion wanted to do it all himself, and we managed to make it happen. He also blew out the candles himself (in three puffs). But we all could share the cake!

Zion blowing out the candles

mid-blow

And also the apple pie that I made on Zion's request, only to have him say, at the table, "actually I meant pumpkin". Oh well.

The party started at noon and was still going pretty strong at 5:00, when we packed up and moved venues—rather than making dinner we thought we'd just head over to another party we were invited to. We brought what was left of the cake and stayed until almost 8:00. So I trust Zion now feels properly celebrated, and can start acting like a five-year-old!

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