Tag Archives: birthday

The “How to be a Super-Hero” Party

130510 - The Batman

Like most boys his age, Big Brother loves super-heroes. He’s not too fussy about which ones, although Spiderman and Batman are probably his favourites. So his answer shouldn’t have come as a shock to me when, a few months ago, I asked the fateful question: “Shall we have a birthday party for you this year?”

“A super-hero party!” Big Brother said, with the type of enthusiasm usually reserved for… well, super-hero parties, I suppose.

“Sure,” I said, in that Mummy-tone way that actually means: “I’m not sure, actually. But it’s a few months away. And maybe you’ll change your mind between now and then.”

But he didn’t. So, two weeks before his birthday, I had to actually admit to myself that it was going to happen. We were going to have a super-hero party for him and his school friends.

The trouble is, I suck at children’s parties. I’m no good at running party games (as I discovered a year ago, when Big Brother turned five). And the idea of a group of five and six-year-old boys running pell-mell around the house without direction or parental control fills me with the kind of dread usually reserved for… well, children’s parties.

But do you what I don’t suck at?

Storytelling.

So the challenge was: How do I turn Big Brother’s 6th birthday from a super-hero party into a super-hero story?

As it turns out, it was easier than it sounds.

We had the birthday party in a local park on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago. (Several hours after Big Brother woke me up by excitedly yelling, “Mummy! It’s my birthday! And I’m six years old!!) Four of Big Brother’s school friends were there, along with their parents and three little sisters.

“Do you like super-heroes?” I asked the children. “And would you like to be a super-hero?”

With two resounding answers of Yes!, we started the day’s activities.

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All the children sat down, and I gave them each a plain white t-shirt and some fabric markers to design their own super-hero costume. When that was done, they moved to the next table to colour in their own super-hero mask.

The children loved it. So did the parents — some of whom spent more time designing the costumes than their children did. (If I did this again, I’d definitely have adult-sized shirts on hand as well!)

We had a Neo-Flash, a Neo-Batman, a Neo-Superman, Z-Man, and the Golden Arm of Justice. (Also a couple of Princesses and Fairy Queens.) When the children were dressed in their costumes, they super-heroed around for a while until everyone was done. And then we moved on to the next part of the party.

“Do you like stories?” I asked.

Another resounding Yes!

So I gathered the children together, and we sat down in a circle on the grass for a story.

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“This is the story of Rocky the Rabbit,” I began. “Rocky the Rabbit was a very special rabbit. He wasn’t a flesh and blood rabbit living in a field. No, he was something much better. He was a money-box rabbit living in a playroom. And at night, when all the children had gone to bed and the toys came out to have their own adventures, Rocky the Rabbit dreamed of being a super-hero.”

And then I told them the story of Rocky the Rabbit — a story I wrote for the occasion.

Rocky the Rabbit wanted to be a super-hero, but he didn’t have any super-powers. But during the course of the story, he rushed to try to help everyone who needed him. And at the end of the story the toys all gathered together to throw a party of Rocky.

“But I’m not a super-hero,” Rocky said. “I’m not super-fast, and I’m not super-strong, and I can’t even fly.”

“You may not be super-fast,” said the toys. “And you may not be super-strong. And you certainly can’t fly. But when you heard someone calling for help, you hop-hop-hopped over as fast as you could, and you found a way to help them. And that’s what makes a real super-hero.”

And then the toys presented Rocky the Rabbit with his very own shiny cape. And from then on, every night after the children had gone to sleep, Rocky the Rabbit would put on his cape and hop-hop-hop around the playroom, looking for people to help. Because he really was a super-hero.

The children loved it.

And when the story was done, I presented each of the children with their very own shiny cape. We attached them to the back of the super-hero shirts, and off they flew to do super-heroic things.

Soon after, we gathered the children together so Big Brother could open his presents. And then we had cake.

130505 Or cakes. With an s.

For some reason, I decided on the spur of the moment that cupcakes would be a better idea than a large cake.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to decorate 30 cupcakes?

A long time.

But the children loved them, and that’s the important part. In fact, the hard part was getting the children to leave them alone until after the candles had been blown out and the birthday song sung. Then they attacked the cupcakes with gusto, everyone grabbing the symbol of their favourite super-hero.

So I count the decorating as time well spent.

After cake had been consumed, it was almost time to wrap up the story party. So I called all the children over and told them we had a little present for each of them to say thank you for coming to Big Brother’s birthday.

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Once the children had all lined up, excited faces and hands outstretched, I tried to open the box of goodies.

But it wouldn’t budge.

“Oh no,” I said. “It seems to be stuck.”

I tried again to no avail. “Wait. There’s a letter here.”

The children watched with wide eyes as I read it out.

Dear super-heroes,
Ha ha ha. I have locked your presents away in this box and sealed them in there with my magic power ring. I’ve hidden all the other magic power rings in the world, so now you will never get your presents. Ha ha ha.
Your sincerely,
Super-villain X.

“Oh no!” I cried. “What will we do?!”

The littlest super-heroes got it straight away. “We have to find the magic power rings!”

And off they went, running as though their presents lives depended on it. They searched high and low, around trees and benches and fences. And before long, they all had at least one magic power ring to their name. (Some had as many as six. Trust me, you can’t have too many magic power rings.)

When the children were all back, I got them to all line up. “Maybe if we all point out magic power rings at the box and say the magic words really, really loudly… Does anyone know any magic words?”

“Abracadabra!”

“Monkeys!”

“Please!” (Bless. Not my child, but he had the best magic word of them all.)

We worked out a combination of magic words, and then all the children pointed their rings at the box and yelled and –

130505 - Power Rings– it worked!

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The box opened.

And I gave everyone their party favour: a real Rocky the Rabbit money-box.

Complete with cape.

The children flew their Rocky the Rabbits around for a while, and then it was time for everyone to go home.

It was a great morning, and everyone enjoyed themselves.

As everyone was leaving, one of the parents said to me, “This was great. I can’t wait to see what you do next year!”

Right. Next year.

You mean children have more than one birthday?!

What have I gotten myself into…

Have you had any particularly good (or bad) children’s birthday party experiences?

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Happy Birthday to Me

I love birthdays.

You know how they say that when you get older, birthdays aren’t so exciting? I’ve never found that to be the case. Admittedly, I might change my mind in the future. But right now, I still love them.

I love waking up and knowing that it’s my birthday. I love opening presents (even when I already know what they are). I love the handmade cards Big Brother makes me. I love the feeling of being another year older, and another year further along in my goals. I love feeling like I can put the last year behind me, the good and the bad, and start with a clean slate.

(As a note, that’s also why I’ve always loved Mondays.)

It’s my birthday today, and I’m excited. I’m not going to tell you how old I am. But if you’d like to guess, I can give you a clue.

Ready?

It’s a multiple of 12…

Oh, wait. That’s too easy. Okay, try this one instead:

It’s a multiple of 3.

Yeah, that should do it. Unlikely anyone will ever guess my age now!

Do you still look forward to your birthday? Do you like getting older and/or wiser, or do you dread it?

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An Affair to Dismember

On Friday I packed Big Brother and Little Brother into the car after school and drove 500km (310 miles) to my parent’s house. (Sadly my husband had to work all weekend and couldn’t come.) Sunday morning, we climbed back into the car and drove home. By the time we got back last night, I was exhausted. It’s a really, really long way to drive for one day. Especially with two children and no other adults.

But we did it for a really important and exciting event.

Today is my Dad’s 60th Birthday. 

On Saturday the whole family (minus my husband) gathered to celebrate it in the only way we know how: with a loud, exuberant game, plenty of alcohol and not a lot of sleep.

 

We started the celebration with presents and a cake.

(The cake was delicious.)

One of the presents was the evening’s entertainment.

We’d chosen characters a couple of days in advance, and organised our costumes. (All except Dad. This was a surprise to him, so Mum had organised his costume for him.) Once dinner was mostly prepared, we all went to get ready. Then out came the drinks, the cameras, and the posing.

Allow me to introduce…

Glumda, the Wicked Witch of DePressed:

Dr. Angela Deth, Psychotic Dentist at Large:

Madame Garlique, the Flamboyant Clairvoyant:

Lizze Bordeaux, Goth and Bride-to-be:

The Mummy of King Aldrinktotat:

The Monster of Rogersandhammerstein:

and Hannibal the Cannibal:

With my husband unavoidably absent, we needed an eighth person. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to rope in a dummy.

(Big Brother was there too. He was dressed up as The Boy Who Really Wanted to Play But Was Forced By His Mean Mother to Go To Bed Even Though It Wasn’t Fair.)

We had a great time. We ate, we drank, we solved a murder. It took us until 2:30 in the morning, but by gum we did it!

(Also, we ate pavlova.)

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Sixty years young today.

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Family Traditions: Just Say No

I’ve been reading through parenting advice recently, and I’ve come across something important. Something I hadn’t even realised was important. Apparently, as a parent, one of the most important things I can do for my family is to establish positive, meaningful family traditions. This will enrich the life of my children and ensure they have a solid grasp of who they are and where they belong.

It’s time to get me some family traditions!

But where do I start? I’d like to draw on the family traditions we had when I was a child, but sadly we didn’t have any.

(I’m beginning to feel un-enriched already.)

But maybe I’m missing something. Let me think back to my childhood days…

Christmas was always special. The three of us kids would wake up early (really, really early) and quietly go through the goodies in our Christmas stocking. Then, at 6:00am, we’d bound into our parents’ room, wake them up, and exhort them to hurry, hurry, hurry, get up, get out of bed, and come out to the tree, and see the presents, and let’s get started! We’d sit around in our pyjamas, eating chocolate and lollies from our stockings, and open the presents. Dad would sit by the tree and hand them out one at a time, all of us sitting and watching and waiting to coo over whatever gift was unwrapped. We’d draw the process out as long as we possibly could. (Seriously — if there was a gift that required batteries, the batteries would be wrapped separately. That’s TWO gifts instead of ONE.) When the presents were finally all opened, Dad would go into the kitchen and cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. We’d eat at the table, then go off and play with our presents while Mum and/or Dad prepared lunch.

We did this every year, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just Christmas.

Birthdays were always a big deal. You got presents, and a cake, and your siblings had to be nice to you all day. And (and!) you got the ultimate treat of the year. The Birthday Boy or Girl got to choose what we had for dinner! It could be anything. Pizza? Sure. A three course roast meal? Absolutely. Ice cream with sprinkles? No problem. We would agonise over this decision for weeks before our birthday as though we were choosing our Last Meal. And, the funny part? Mum would often ask us what we wanted for dinner at other times of the year, but it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t.

Choosing birthday dinners was a big deal, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just something we did on our birthdays.

I have memories of sitting down in front of the TV to watch Young Talent Time (for the US readers: think Mickey Mouse Club) with my parents every Saturday evening at 6:30pm.  When that show stopped broadcasting, we moved on to watching Hey, Hey It’s Saturday at the same time. Every week we’d all stop and watch TV together and enjoy the family-friendly programming. It was a special treat — something to look forward to.

But it wasn’t a tradition. It was just Saturday night.

Every night, us kids would set the table and all five of us would sit down for dinner as a family. There would be a fresh pot of tea on the table, which we would pour for ourselves (using a strainer to catch the tea leaves). We would eat dinner and dessert, talking about the things we did that day and the plans we had for the next day. We told jokes and argued and debated and shared. And when dinner was done, one of us would help with the dishes while the others went to do our homework.

This is one of the strongest memories I have of my childhood, but it wasn’t a tradition. It was just dinner.

… As you can see, there’s not a single family traditions to be found.

We may have done things together, but I don’t believe for a moment that my parents ever sat down and discussed ways they could establish positive, meaningful family traditions.

You know what, Parenting Expert? I say “No” to establishing positive, meaningful family traditions.

I don’t have time for that nonsense.

I have to go ask the kids to set the table for dinner and spend a few minutes reflecting on my day so I have something interesting to talk to them about. Then I need to think about which movie we’re going to rent on Saturday for Movie Night. Plus, I’ve only got 10 weeks until my birthday and I have no idea what I want for my birthday dinner.

Honestly, we don’t have time to establish positive, meaningful family traditions. We’re too busy being a family.

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Goodbye Baby, Hello Little Brother

The day Big Brother started school was a momentous day for another reason. It was also Baby’s first birthday.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since he was born. It seems like such a short time has passed, certainly not a full year, but I can’t even begin to imagine life without him.

To celebrate his graduation from Baby to Little Brother, I give you this pictorial tribute to his first year.

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My Sister Jak: A Birthday Wish

I remember it well, the day my sister was born. I’d just turned six and my brother was nearly five. Dad picked us up from school and made the announcement:

Mum’s in the hospital, we’ll go and visit her now. You’ve got a little sister! Also, Bounce had kittens.

Amazing, right? We hadn’t even known our cat was pregnant!

So off we went to the hospital, where I met my new baby sister, Jak, for the first time. I remember looking down at her and thinking: I can’t wait to see the kittens. 

You know those Hallmark cards you get, where there’s a long verse about the special bond between sisters? Well, from the day Jak was born, I wanted to take one of those cards and hit her with it. Repeatedly. The only kind of “special bond” we had, was the kind that grows between tormentor and victim. Some kind of warped Stockholm Syndrome version of love.

I’m not kidding — she spent her entire childhood tormenting me.

Admittedly we got off on the wrong foot right from the start. A few days after Jak was born, my parents explained to me that, although the demanding, crying, boring baby was going to be a part of our lives forever (and ever and ever), we had to get rid of the kittens. I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten over that…

As a child, Jak was passionate, creative, independent, strong-willed, and determined to follow her own path.

Hold on, that’s what she’s like as an adult. Let me try again.

As a child, Jak was intense, messy, selfish, stubborn, and completely unwilling to compromise. 

The Jak Stare - Age 3

By the time she was two years old, she’d developed the “Jak Stare”. This stare was the bane of my childhood; a vaguely amused and superior look she would get when she couldn’t decide whether you could possibly be that stupid/ignorant/clueless.

I remember one of the first times she gave me the Jak Stare. I was eight and she was two. Mum called us to the table for lunch, and I raced in and sat at the table, waiting for Mum to finish making my sandwich. Jak looked over the scene, pushed a chair up to the kitchen bench, and proceeded to make her own sandwich. Because no one else would do it “right”.

Did I mention she was two years old?

(I have it on good authority that she would do the same thing today. Minus the chair.)

When Jak was 14, my parents had to move interstate for a year. Rather than disrupt Jak’s schooling, I volunteered to look after her. Much to my surprise, they agreed, and I moved back into the family house and took on the role of guardian to a teenager. It was then that Jak and I actually started to bond. (Although I still didn’t escape the Jak Stare.)

The Jak Stare – Age 17

Now that we’re adults, I can read those Hallmark cards in a whole different light. Rather than thinking they’re all crap, I read them and think: Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like to have an amazing sister!

Of everyone in the world, Jak is the one person who I know with absolute certainty will understand and listen to me — even when she doesn’t agree with me, and even when she’s about to bestow upon me the adult version of the Jak Stare.

Jak is one of only three people who will ever understand what it was like to grow up in the family we did, and one of the few people who understand what it means to be “normal”, the importance of having only half a banana on a sandwich, and why Plebian the turtle has a removable shell.

But Jak isn’t just my sister and my friend. She’s an inspiration.

My sister is passionate, creative, independent, strong-willed, and determined to follow her own path. She’s open-minded and curious, interested in people and places and experiences, and endowed with an almost childlike sense of fun and adventure. She’s wise beyond her years, but young at heart. She’s generous, brave, and cynically idealistic.

Wait… what?

Bring cynically idealistic isn’t possible, you say?

Then you haven’t met my sister.

 

 Happy birthday, Jak.

Have a great night celebrating. Have a drink (or two) for me.

P.S. You’ll notice that, even though you called me a day late for my birthday, these birthday wishes are on time.

P.P.S. I’m not sure if that actually means that I’ve “won”, or if it just proves that I’m unwilling to go through with my threats…

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