Monday, August 26, 2013

Harriet is Eight...and Wonderful

This particular list has been hanging off our fridge door for about two months now.  I only recently took it down because, you see, Harriet turned eight years old last week.  She also had her birthday party and generally has no need for the list any more. 

But how adorable is it?

I do hasten to add that hiding a new house, complete with three bedrooms, was a little tricky this year so we might leave that off for a while.
Some of you already know that Harriet had requested a 'book party' theme this year.  Not any specific, particular book but just generally books.  Which didn't really help me when scouring the internet for inspiration.  So instead of looking out, we sat down at the table during dinner one night (well we always sit down at he table for dinner but hell, you know what I mean) and looked right where we sat for ideas.

One of the ideas Harriet latched on to was the idea of a pinata.  Now to say that I dislike pinatas is an understatement.  It is aligned with my deep and abiding dislike of Pass the Parcel (which you can read about here, just scroll down to the paragraph after the photo of Ted with his purple cake).  However this particular pastime is also combined with potential mortal injury.  So while I groaned deep, hard, long and loud on the inside, I sucked it up and followed through with what Harriet wanted for her party.

I found a video tutorial for a box pinata which definitely appealed to my visions of Ted + papier mache - ie: vanquished them completely.   However it did leave us with the issue of acquiring a box.  We don't really buy things in boxes I rapidly realised, and when we were down to just a couple of days before the party, I had to bite the bullet and purchase something in a box.  But what?

Well let's just say that when we went to pick up Harriet from school that afternoon the very first words out of Ted's mouth were "Harriet!  We bought CEREAL!  Remember like we had when we went camping with Nana and Gangpa?".  I'd also like to point out that Teddy was remembering an event that occurred when he was this big.  Harriet didn't get a chance to discuss what it had actually been bought for until Ted had told her all how the cereal was made from this and that and blah blah blah.  Honestly, you'd have thought he'd just been introduced to chocolate!

We emptied the box into an airtight container, and proceeded to fill it with about seven pages of newspaper words that James and I had cut out, glued on to pages, laminated and then cut up - more on that later.  Harriet also insisted on placing chocolate in there as well.  Sure.

 Then we all set to work to transform the cereal box into a reasonable facsimile of her favourite book, Wonder.  I've mentioned the book before, once or twice. Testament to how many times she has picked up this particular book is how well she was able to reproduce the cover without referencing it at all.  Scary stuff.  In fact Harriet did briefly flirt with the idea of having her party as a dress-up-as-your-favourite-character party but when she promptly followed that idea with a discussion on dressing up as August, and attaching potatoes to her ears, I jumped in to dissuade (hey, I could only imagine the tears when those potatoes failed to be quite as monstrous as desired, and kept falling down during the party.  Deformity doesn't strike me as a particularly easy costume to withstand the rigours of a party).

And here is the finished product - awesome, non?  Harriet was rightfully proud.  

We had a very low-key party in terms of preparation.  The take home bags were brown paper bags, filled with a sturdy book-clamped night light, some paper bunting with their name on it, and a little sweet from the famous local Lebanese pastry store.

The biggest effort really was with the decorations.  I made the little 'book leaf tree' you can't really see here on the table.  Just some branches I cut from the tree in front of our house, stuck in some playdough at the bottom of a hurricane lantern , then I cut out some leaf shapes and stuck them on at various intervals.  It was quite pretty up close.  Piles of Enid Blyton books on the table, book flags for the muffins and ends of the fruit sticks and err....that would be about it.

James did do some work on pulling apart these white paper fluff ball decorations to hang around outside.  They looked so pretty that we've left them there for now.  I also made some hanging flower decorations from an old Dick and Jane book and hung them in a line from our back door. 

Harriet had specifically requested helium balloons and since we usually eschew them, I thought we could probably handle it this time since we had agreed to them for Ted's purple party.  At the base of each helium balloon was their anchor - a book for each guest wrapped in dictionary pages (I totally massacred an old dictionary I found, poor thing was a hollow vessel by the end).

Harriet loved it. She was thrilled to have a party really, since last year she didn't have one due to issues with her being between classes with her acceleration and not really feeling up to the social demands of the thing.  This year she reveled in it and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

 I think I've written about it before, but we always make sure our children open their presents at the party and in front of their friends.  I think it is a really important step in the circle of giving.  I know my children spend a lot of time thinking carefully about what sort of gift their friend would like, we buy it together and then wrap it and they write in the card, only to dump it in a big pile of presents from other friends and never be heard from again. 

Harriet opened her presents when everyone had arrived and they each got to ooh and aah and talk about what they had thought when they chose that gift.  James, with fair grace, wrote down the gifters so that thank yous can be handed out (err...and I'm on to that now, only a week out.  The shame, the shame!).

The thank you cards are photos from the 'photo area' I set up along the back fence.  I received this phenomenally awesome old annual from a friend for my birthday, and it proved to be the perfect prop for Harriet's party theme as well.  I made sure I snapped a shot of each guest wearing a pair of glasses and pretending to read the book.  Oh man, the hams in her friends!  They lapped up the chance for a little over-the-top play for the camera and made me realise that Harriet's reticence may very well be the result of my camera.  *oops*  Ted had no problem stepping up to the plate to act for the camera, however.  His pretend glasses fell off his face, but that didn't stop him.

Harriet had initially been requesting a book cake from Dr Funkylamb, but luckily at the last minute, she excitedly realised that the Cow and the Moon made cakes.  A whole cake!  Obscene!  So here Harriet is watching the lighting of her popcorn and passionfruit gelato cake. And honestly, don't knock it until you've tried it.  Popcorn gelato is AMAZING and I don't like iced confection of any type.

Once the cake had been consumed it felt like the official 'start' to the party.  So, on to the craft!

I let loose some eight year old girls on to an array of  craft 'stuff' that I had assembled.  They informed me on their preference for which paper, I dutifully cut it to size, and then they set to work on decorating their bookmarks.  A few people made a couple.  All was good.

I can hear you - you're all expecting a 'but', aren't you?  Ah yes, you know me too well.  And so I then moved on to a group demonstration on how to make origami boxes.  Unfortunately I realised the error of my ways in attempting to demonstrate a new craft skill too late.  I was being peppered with rapid fire questions and demands until I had to assemble an orderly queue for 'box construction assistance'.  But by the end, everyone had their own origami box or two, their own bookmark or two and all had been placed in their take home bags so that we could move on to the next stage - pinata bashing!

As was predicted, the pinata  managed to elicit gasps of terror and heart palpitations from all as serious injury was only narrowly avoided on each bash.  I particularly love Tiger's dramatic anguish in this photo.  Luckily Poppy had arrived by this point, bringing with her the able-bodied and similarly pinata-averse Todd, who managed to corral and control the swarming masses.

I'm not too sure what it was that drove me away from the pinata (survival instinct, perhaps?) but I missed the moment of final impact.   Words flew, chocolate fell and having discussed the tenets of the game to follow, the girls swooped upon the words like authors at a buffet, eager to be on top of their game.  Ted, however, swooped solely upon the chocolate and the role of chocolate dispenser was then encouraged.  Somehow it ended up that not long after, all guests and family members were happily munching on one of their two chocolate squares, clutching words and ready to make silly -

because the game was silly sentences.  I had a stopwatch and the children had to make as silly a sentence as they could in one minute.

Note to self: close the back door to prevent wind gusts causing sentences to become even sillier.

The final and favourite game of the party was Enid Blyton or Harry Potter?  It's not an actual game, just one I made up.  But it was the equivalent of Heads or Tails - if you thought the quote I was reading out was from a Harry Potter book, you had to stand tall, with arm aloft as if prparing to cast a spell.  If you thought it was from an Enid Blyton book, you had to sit down as if you were about to have a picnic with lashings of ginger ale.

This really was the hit of the party.  They loved it!  There were screams of "More!  More!" at the end of each quote, demonstrations of bold individualism and the quiver of the coerced.  It was real fun, and everyone got involved, even those who hadn't read the books in question.  Mark one for me, inventor of games!

And literally, just as I was reading the final quote, the first of the parents arrived to pick up their child.  Perfectly timed.  And within about ten minutes after that, everyone had left except Priya.  And of course the idea of spending a langorous afternoon with her family in our backyard after the party was the perfect way to end our day.

Harriet  changed into her new t-shirt after everyone left.  She loves it...oohh...just a a little.  Is it too weird for me to nab a matching one?  Is it not the best?

Harriet, my sweet, wonderful, amazing and inspiring child.  She has left me breathless at the person she has become.  It seems like only last week that she was screaming and scowling over some imagined slight.  And here she is, thoughtful, considerate, intelligent, capable.  Every day I love her more than I can express.  Happy eighth birthday, Harriet.  I just know you will be amazing in it.

1 comment:

Bec Hall said...

This honestly looks like the best party ever! I love your (and Harriet's) originality and imagination. Happy Birthday Harriet. What a wonderful 8 year old you have grown into. xx