So this is one of those posts where I am strickly looking for your advice and opinions.  Coming up very soon, Super G will be having a birthday (man he is growing up fast!) and I find myself having the yearly birthday party discussion with him.  What kind of party do you want? Where do you want to have it?  Do you want a theme?  Who do you want to invite?  And of course his answers are as crazy as he is.  He wants a "Legends of the Guardian" party (seriously, who even knows what that is?  I think we are the only family on earth who has repeatedly watched a movie about owls) in his back yard with everyone he knows including his teacher from kindergarten. (shout out Courtney!  you made the cut!)  And then there is the whole question of a pool party since we do have a big ole' swimming pool in our back yard.  Y'all are welcomed to call us a bunch of fuddy duddies if you want, but swimming parties make me a nervous wreck.  I just never know who can swim at what level, whose parents are actually watching them and not talking, who would sue us if their kid drowned, etc., etc.  And it doesn't help that we had an incident already this summer where I had to jump in with all my clothes on and pull Destruct-o-girl out of the water.  Let's just say that will make you a little gunshy.

    So all that being said, I really began to do some hardcore thinking and internet searching last night.  The thing is, neither sets of grandparents and extended family live here in town and we always do a party with both sets at the grandma's houses - so that's two parties already.  When your mom is oldest of four and dad is second of five and you already have 9 first cousins, it doesn't take much to make a for-real party.  Then, when you add a party here in town, it's a lot of cake and presents.  At what point do you tell a kid "we're not going to have a party this year"?  You all know that once you get school age, there are birthday invites constantly, and even if you want to go, you just can't make them all.  Everyone is busy these days.  My first grader alone is now signed up to do piano, soccer, art lessons, scouts, and a junior leaders class at church, all this semester.  You just cannot do everything.  So every single party is not feasible for us or you.  Which then begs the question, what in the world would I do if we plan a party and then no one really shows up?  How devastating to my kid.  I know that is a tad bit extreme to worry about, but I actually have a friend whose son it happened to years ago.  How hard to explain to a little boy.  Anyway, I was just wandering, have you made a birthday decision?  Do you skip the party and just do something special?  And then is it fair if smaller siblings still get parties because they haven't had as many as the older kids?  It feels like a stupid thing to stress out over, but I'm the type that invites worry.  It's what I do. I figure lots of you don't do parties every year.  Have you never done them?  If not, when did you start/stop?

    The next question I have for you is, "if we do have a party, how do you feel about the movement of gift-less parties?".  I think it is a wonderful idea.  We have such a large family that Christmas and family birthdays alone cause our playroom to burst with stuff.  Our playroom looks like the bowels of the earth with stuff exploding in every direction.  But Aaron disagrees.  He thinks if we are going to have a party, then we shouldn't take away the childhood experience of getting to open gifts.  I don't know.  I love the idea of no gifts or donations to a charity in leiu of gifts.  Is there something to be said for having less and appreciating it more?  Is there something to be learned from graciously accepting gifts even if you don't love them?  Will it make more people show up if they don't have to buy a present or will it make people feel bad if they still allow gifts for their kids?  This is also not an earth shattering, world peace type issue, but I was reading some articles about it last night and thought it would be a question worth posing.

    So if you ever were a kid or have any kids now, please, share your experiences with me.  I didn't have a party every year growing up and neither did Aaron, and somehow we managed to grow into functional adults.  What do you do?  Have you heard of the "no gift/donation parties" before?  Have you done it?  How did it go over in your world?  Advice?  Suggestions?  Any birthday horror storie?  Lay 'em on me.

Love you like a back-yard, owl themed, night, swimming party with your kindergarten teacher,
Cassie
Denise
8/19/2011 09:43:10 am

Hi Cassie,
You know, you stress like I do. I like the idea of a night owl themes party for him. I think you could really do something cool, outside the water. I'd make it simple, like barn for the owl to hide in (and the kids as well) and then pull things from the movie to incorporate. Is say do a party for the ones his age and then just do something ultra-simple like pizza and Netflix for the family. The older ones are going to talk in the kitchen and/or fall asleep on the couch anyway. :) I did do a charity/donation party for Landon and am planning on doing one for Braydon next year. I did it for the friends party. we donated money or school-type supplies to an orphanage in Ghana. When Landon gets older, I really want to do a baking party and bake food (probably bread or sweets) for needy in the community. This year I did the full-on guilt, no-stop large party for Braydon. Landon had had 2 large, full-stress, full-creativity parties and Braydon zip. So I did it and only had a few kids show up. Braydon had fun and that was all that mattered. I think if you choose an unusual time, then possibly more kids will show up. Just my thoughts. I have no idea when to stop parties...mostly because I feel like it is a make-up for the whole full-time working mom who doesn't get too creative in-between the laundry and dishes. I think they can stop when the kids are ready for them to stop, until then, my creativity can run wild and I can goggle search galore. :)

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8/19/2011 11:06:22 am

I'm not sure you were looking for advice from the mom of a kid who has had ONE friend party in her 3 year old's lifetime, but I thought I'd chime in something I've thought about--invite the best friends over for a really awesome party. And leave it simple.

I have no idea what this owl movie is you speak of, but you could play on the uber popular owl theme right now and turn it total outside boy themed around your pool. I mean if he has 3 friends over to spend the night, that gives you only 4 kids to watch (5 if you count Turner, I guess). Stick up lights outside! Throw up that inflatable screen and projector and let the boys sit outside in tents, watching the movie. Decorate with owls everywhere. What about that? Check out Hostess with the Mostess link...

http://www.hostessblog.com/2011/03/a-camping-inspired-birthday-party-adventure/

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lindsey
8/19/2011 11:07:54 am

I love the no gift thing. Honestly, we get so many invites that I have become creatively cheap on gifts. I love my kiddies friends but that's a lot of dough, usually $5-10 at a time.
I did the no gift thing, some people ignored it. I did it on a joint party I had for both my boys. I didn't want someone to stress over getting Zac a gift if they were Zanes friend.
No trauma in skipping a party. We just did family this year. A new business & my new job left no time! We r so stretched that we haven't mowed our yard in too long to mention. I came home yesterday & a good samaritan or fed up neighbor had done it for us!!

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8/19/2011 11:08:25 am

Free owl printables...

http://www.hostessblog.com/2011/07/ridiculously-cute-owl-cookies-printables/

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deana
8/19/2011 12:04:03 pm

We did a donation party two years ago & are doing again this year. Last time we did Doodlebooks for pediatric wing @NMMC. that was fun bc it was colors, crayons, books, etc. This year we are doing st. Jude. They sent a list of suggestions. We took A with us to deliver items last time & will do again this time. Of course she knows she will get gifts from family so she doesn't completely go without but also does something for others. Friends of ours collected money to build wells in foreign country. That went over real well too. I think charity is always a generous idea. Plus helps keep toys under control!

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Jennifer
8/19/2011 12:33:43 pm

Cassie,

I've started doing a friends party every other year and the off years we just do family. Let me tell u it was so nice to not have to worry about the Planning and what not this year. The years they do have a friend party I think I will try letting them invite as many friends as the year old they are turning. This year theme wise I just let them tell me what kind of cake they wanted and we did something special with the fam. I love the no gift idea. It however for me only applies to guests so they still get gifts from parents.

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Jill Hayes
8/20/2011 12:40:20 pm

Hey Cassie. For Shelby's 6th birthday we did a big party with her entire kindergarten class and had a magician come and perform. Everyone donated a toy/game/other item to our donation box and we took them to Riley Children's hospital. I truly don't think I had ever seen Shelby glow with so much pride other than the day when she got to hand deliver all that stuff to the hospital for those kids. Since then, she has had small parties with friends, sometimes just a playdate and this year a sleepover. She loves them just as much as the elaborate ones, and from now on we'll only have "big" parties on milestone birthdays. Good luck...whatever you decide he's sure to have a blast!

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Amanda Hays
8/21/2011 01:31:15 pm

I don't have much experience in this department as I have only had 1 birthday party so far so I'm not sure that my advice will really help you much, BUT I am thinking of doing a no gift thing for big birthday parties. The funny thing is that I have never thought about the fact that it might make someone else feel bad because their kids get gifts at parties but that is a good point. I actually was just thinking it would be easier for people to come and not stress over the perfect gift. Besides, surely most people that have kids understand that they already have too much. The donation idea is a really good idea too, especially for his age....not so much for a 2 year old party :)

And, don't stress...he will have a good birthday no matter what you decide!

On a side note, if you do decide to have a "big" party, I have a friend who does really cute invites...just throwing that out there!

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