Chaos & quietude
Blending Serenity and Mayhem since 2019
We recently celebrated one of our kid’s turning 11. Birthdays are a big deal in our household and without spending a fortune; we’ve been known to throw some decent parties, from the perspective of an eight year old at least. Though our festivities involve many of the elements of your typical party; presents, cake, etc, we also incorporate a few novelties shared below to help make the survivor-of-another-year feel extra appreciated.
Attention to Orders
The fanfare begins with the birthday kid (or parent) being spoiled throughout the day. On the farmstead, this means foremost that their standing assigned chores are divided amongst the rest of the family. The VIP also gets to pick the meals and deserts for the day, dictate most ancillary activities, and are excused from attending to their studies, a benefit of homeschooling. I expect these things listed so far are predicable, but we go beyond that. In a transfer of power rivaling monarchs of old, the birthday celebrant also has the statutory authority to issue commands to other family members. I don’t remember how this tradition came about, though I’d guess it was inaugurated on the spur of a whim just stuck. In any case, our girls delight in being able to say“I birthday order you to do xxx ” to their siblings. There are parental limitations imposed, but for the most part, the privilege is not abused and is undertaken with playful goodwill by both sides.
A great time-killer that has been popular with my own kids and typically with guests is to let the kiddos take turns riding a sled (there is usually snow) pulled by our tractor or snowmobile. I can take three or four at a time and though a few young’uns have been too intimidated, most seem to really get a kick out it as a novel experience. There is the added benefit that giving rides affords me a productive excuse to circumvent small talk with folks I don’t really know that well. I should mention however, that to avoid potential unpleasantness, I’ve made a habit of obtaining permission from the moms before offering these rides but have yet to find one unwilling to let their offspring participate.
Treasure Hunt with a Whack
What kid doesn’t enjoy a treasure hunt? I put one together once as a side amusement, and to my chagrin, it has become an expectation ever since. Methods, themes, and styles change from party to party, year to year and the clues have ranged from party balloons with directions inside them to poetically versed hints hidden throughout the acreage. A simple method is just to take a bunch of quick pictures of various objects throughout the house and property, ideally of objects with a special significance to the birthday kid, then print off reduced versions. These images are then fastened and usually hidden to these objects in the desired order of discovery. The key is to not attach a photo of an object to itself, which would result in a dead-end, but arrange them so that one leads to another. Tying clues to live pets and/or livestock can make things a little more interesting, and I’ve occasionally been inspired to lay booby-traps or an ambuscade with fireworks to spice things up even further. The one constant so far with these treasure hunts is that I have always had them end with a real treasure; that is to say they lead to a piñata. Stuffed with candy, party favors, small denominations of money, or most recently seed packets, the piñatas have been another hit. We’ve made them ourselves some years out of decorated cardboard or papier-mâché, but most often they get purchased online. Some brands can really take a whacking to crack open, but pull-string varieties are an option too which is helpful when younger children are around. It can be a challenge to keep a dozen excited children away from the candy-laden prize, even when another kid is wildly wielding a club in its vicinity.
All these things take a bit of effort, but in the scheme of things they have been worth it. While we can’t take our girls to Paris or even Disneyland, we can certainly deliver a few pleasantries to shape satisfying memories.