Wednesday, 6 December 2017

not quite nine







Recently, life has bee a blur of activity and I feel utterly zombified. Work in particular has been very busy and I have been working long hours, evenings and some weekends, too. Christmas thankfully is not a major cause of stress. I am by no means a grinch but I don't usually get sucked into the Christmas vortex. I'll tell you about our plans another day because today I want to share Alistair's fun birthday party with you.

Alistair's birthday party sneaked up on and I was not ready for it. In my mind, it was weeks in the future. Then, all of a sudden, it was upon us. Alistair did talk about it plenty but it didn't compute with me. Anyway, he is going to be nine later this month but we decided to have a party nearer the beginning of December. It is not fun for a child to have a birthday so close to Christmas and usually, his friends are too busy with family gatherings to come and help him celebrate. I am a bit tired of birthday parties to be honest, there have been many over the years... but I don't want to punish James and Alistair for my kid birthday party fatigue. I sometimes feel guilty because they didn't have all their birthdays with us. That's silly of course and I can't blame myself for birthdays missed. I don't actually know in any detail how the boys birthdays were celebrated when they were still in care but I know Alistair and James were loved by their foster family and I am sure they had fabulous celebrations. I am my own worst enemy, I know, always overthinking. I am digressing.

The thought of having another birthday party in the house was just a bit too much. I also couldn't face the prospect of spending two hours of my life in one of those dreadful children party places that the children seem to love. Think smelly soft play centre or bright and noisy bowling alleys that are sure to give you a migraine. I asked our older children's scout leader if he would help us organise an outdoor party. He is currently trying to build up an outdoor adventure business for children and young adults, which also offers birthday activities. James participated in a week long adventure camp and said it was amazing. I thought it would be fun for us and the children and good for marketing for the scout leader.

An outdoor birthday party in December is a bit of a gamble of course and some fun activities were not realistic given the short days and frequently miserable weather conditions. We decided on a bushcraft party that would include building dens and making fires. Everybody likes to make a fire. Through the connection with Scouts, we could use the Scout hall and the land on which it stands. It is quite wild, considering we are in the middle of a large city. It was good to know we could play games in the hall if the weather was too awful.

Alistair invited 11 children and 9 could make it. We based the number of invites on past party attendance numbers and we expected about 5.... maybe it was the lure of a fire that was so attractive. We made sure to ask parents to dress their children adequately and most children had at least a warm coat. You'd be surprised how many children don't have appropriate winter outdoor clothing. We were lucky with the weather, it was not too cold and it was dry.

The children had a den building competition. They split into a girl team (with one boy) and a boy team (funny that, we encouraged them to mix). The girl team won with a den that gave shelter from the rain and even included a couple of old tyres to "store stuff" and to sit on. The boy team was fannying about and made a rather less useful den but they did have a flag pole with a colourful flag made out of a broken football they had found, to mark their territory.

The children then learned to make fire with flint and steel. Every child managed to ignite cottonwool balls that were slathered with petroleum jelly. They practiced in the fire bowl part of Kelly kettles. which we then used to heat up water for hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was a bit yuck if you ask me (I prefer mine made with full fat milk) but the children didn't complain. The kids then went on to  build a proper fire to make popcorn and to toast marshmallows. Both were delicious, even the slightly singed popcorn. There were some great marshmallow toasters in the group.

We didn't offer much else in terms of food and drink. Just some diluting juice to quench thirst, mini sausage rolls and pieces of fruit for those that were still peckish after eating their own body weight in popcorn. Of course we also had the Maltesers cake that Annie made.

Before and after practicing survival skills, there was a lot of vigorous running around, climbing trees and swinging on the tyre swing.

I have to say, it was one of the easiest parties ever and I think everybody had a lot of fun. We did pay for the privilege of using the Scout hall and having a outdoor adventure man lead the activities but of course an outdoor party can be completely free. James (who went to the climbing wall for his birthday) already said that he fancied going hillwalking with his friends next year, or kayaking. I imagine either will be nice. There are many hillwalking opportunities around Glasgow and the canal 5 minutes from our house is ideal for kayaking with young children.

That's the last birthday party of the year ticked off. Of course we still have the actual birthday to celebrate. But that's in the distant future and I shan't worry about this just yet.

Do you have or had birthday parties for your children? Do you have birthday parties for yourself? I might, next year.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hello, it is lovely to see you. xx