One party that happened to be many suburbs away at a professional party venue, took us almost as long to get there and back as it did to attend the actual party. It has resulted in a new in-house rule: Only attend parties close to home.
I love seeing kids at parties so excited and happy. Dressed up with faces painted, treasure hunts and pass-the-parcel, cakes and balloons - there's a lot to love! And for every successful party, there's inevitably some exhausted parents in the background. Whether they've embraced the whole: pay people to do it all; or kill myself pulling it off on my own - most seem to come away tired but pleased they've been able to celebrate their child's milestone in a way that has been fun and imaginative.
Here are the kids dressed up for a Butterfly themed party. Existing fairy wear and face paint were put to good use. Cheap butterfly transfers made for great instant face art, and I was super-pleased that even my eight-year-old (BOY!) got in to the spirt of things and agreed to dress up as a cool (soccer-shirted) dragonfly.
Another party Mim attended recently was a Princess High Tea. The mum, a professional cake decorator, (soon to leave for Africa with her family as missionaries! See Jo's website for more details: http://www.cupcakegallery.com.au/) did an amazing job on the teapot cake and exquisite finger food. The table was set with real floral fine-bone china and it was a delight to behold. The girls had a ball!
I've talked to a lot of parents at these parties and a few things are evident: You've got to play to your strengths. Don't attempt something beyond your time constraints/budget/talents. The resulting angst can be enough to kill your party-enthusiasm for years to come otherwise. Know what to outsource to save your time/strength (for example, this sushi platter - pre-ordered and picked up that morning from the local sushi bar was an excellent way of feeding the adults and kids too).
The internet is a great party resource of ideas. Pretty much any theme you can think of has been done before, and someone has blogged about it. People WANT to share their experiences of what works and what doesn't. And for heaven's sake, don't feel inadequate in the face of other parents' phenomenal talents - just accept that some things are not your forte. Last year's dinosaur party for Jesse was pretty great, except for the abject failure of my dino-swamp cake. The fudge base was like concrete, the icecream top melted away before our eyes, the slime layer was liquid instead of jelly and I ended up telling the boys to throw the sloppy mess into the garden. (We served icecream cones instead.) Yes, it was disappointing (Jesse and I saw the humour in it, eventually). But what he remembers most isn't the cake. It was a great time with friends; his Dad organising a dino-treasure hunt and semi-violent (but fun!) backyard games; and sending every boy home with a genuine fake dinosaur fossilised egg and archaeological tools to chisel out the bones...
Sometimes the whole party thing is more than we as (tired) parents can cope with; if that happens don't be afraid to instigate the 'party every two years (or five years!)' regime. No one needs to have a party held in their honour every single year. Sometimes inviting one or two friends for a trip to a museum or on a bushwalk might be the go. With Jesse's birthday fast approaching, I'm mighty relieved that the most we are facing is a trip to the Powerhouse Museum and a baked dinner at home. Now that I can pull off no trouble!