Thursday, October 12, 2006

How We Totally Rock Birthday Parties

The birthday person in question was Child 2, who, on being asked, said it wanted an 'Alaska' birthday party. When it comes to things like this there is generally a strict division of labor. I, as a rule, come up with the design for invitations, with the party favors, and most of the games. Kirk would tweak the games, adding refinements that made them either more dangerous or more difficult - usually both. I then spend two months hand crafting game supplies, and the aformentioned favors and invitations. That's because I'm insane. Kirk runs everything else.

So for the Alaska party we decided to hold the thing outdoors at a local park - nice flat area that used to be a quarry. Luckily this was the slightly less rainy season (note, Moss Beach has two seasons - slightly less rainy, and constantly rainy) so while we had the emergency contingency plan that involved more insanity and our living room we weren't called upon to make the sacrifice. It meant that decorations could be minimal, and all we had to do was pack all the gear from the parking area to the party site.

On the day itself, we met the party-goers down by the car, and Kirk began hiking them up the trail. He told them most of his favorite bear jokes (yes, the one with the poop and the bear bells was a big hit) and had the whole crew ready to prove themselves real Alaskans by the time they arrived.

First, he said, they had to provide themselves with shelter. Theoretically this should have taken ten minutes since it just meant pitching a couple of very simple tents. But this was a whole herd of pre-teens so with intense concentration and a certain amount of lively discussion (and adult interference) they managed to get both tents up and nearly stable in a mere half hour.

They foraged for food as well - berry shaped candies hung in green paper cones around the site (each child assigned its own ribbon color so we didn't break out into sugar-induced violence or anything).

Next up was fishing. I'd made some bright foam fish (and an octopus or two because I like octopi, and I was bored with fish and besides you never know) and fixed them with magnets. Kirk had rigged very long fishing poles with string and more magnets and the kids had to 'hook' themselves a fish while Child 3 made things more interesting by agitating the 'water' and generally making a nuisance of itself.

Meanwhile, and this is the bit I thought was the most genius, Child 1 was established as the proprietor of the local general store, who would buy the fish with gold (spray painted rocks - cheap and amazingly effective). The party goers could then use their gold to buy favors of their choice - 'moose poop' (those little round versions of candy bars, like Butterfinger B-B's and things), small toys, little journals and other things. Child 1 added its own refinement by randomly changing its prices. A fish that brought in two large nuggets one round would barely get a small bit of gravel the next - Child 1 claimed a glut on the market, it wasn't its fault it said.

It took them ages to tire of fishing out the fish, selling them off, flinging them back in and starting all over again. The whole time Kirk was right in the middle, egging on Child 1, telling outrageous fish tales - somehow managing to keep the fun going without tipping things over into chaos.

Finally, thoroughly stocked with moose-poop, the whole crew vanished into the tents. Except for the tell-tale wobbling and the explosive whispers the camp site seemed deserted. Kirk joined me on the picnic-table bench and stretched his legs out.

'Well, I think that went pretty well,' he said, in satisfaction. 'Not one meltdown the whole afternoon.'

'Which do you think was easier - entertaining those kids for three hours or briefing a roomful of generals?'

He thought for a moment. 'Well like I said, not one meltdown the whole afternoon, so I'd have to choose the kids every time.' He paused, admiring his hiking boots. 'But they both like my bear poop story!'


jenvictoria said...

That was the best story! Your birthday parties sound legendary :).

Dee said...

Thank you for sharing Kirk with me. He sounds like he was a wonderful person. I am sad that I will never get to meet him.


Lori said...

My children have voted and it seems they want to go to your house around their birthday times. They were cursed with a mom that doesn't do birthday parties. Think of it! Six more chances to be fantastically creative! I almost envy you.

For Kirk said...

Ah, well remember I only PLAN them and make the stuff - Kirk was the actual life of the party! So, send me your themes (or heck, I'll come up with one) and I'll have a party craft, two or three games, food, invites, decorations and a couple of hints in case something goes horribly wrong. But actually putting the party on? Well....