Monday, 26 July 2010

Mario Party 6

My son is turning six on Wednesday. We celebrated his birthday yesterday, in SUPER style! It was probably the best birthday party we've thrown to date. Certainly the most work. Our inspiration stemmed from his simple request, "Do you think I could have a Yoshi cake this year?" The idea was fueled and we started planning.

Alex is currently in a bit of a Super Mario obsession. Cory taught him how to play Mario Party on the Wii several months ago. When they got bored of that, Cory introduced him to Super Mario Galaxy. He's been hooked ever since.
I, myself, am "Old School" Mario. Galaxy is a bit to trippy for me. I like the 2-D running and stomping the goombas, from when I was a teenager. Galaxy makes me dizzy, to be honest. But between the generations, all that's really changed is the graphics. You still have to rescue ditzy Princess Peach (come on... where's the girlpower in that tired theme?) from Bowser. You still have to defeat the boss at the end of each world. And you still collect coins. Even the music of Wii Mario is reminicent of the music from the "good 'ol days".

Mario Party, on the other hand, is a refreshingly goofy game where the woman can be heroes too and everyone has the chance to be a winner! So, that was the inspiration for our Mario Party 6.

Step 1: The Invitations:

The first step just may have been our most challenging one. I gave Alex the opportunity to create the guest list. The first time I haven't just invited "my friends with kids" to one of our children's parties. Alex has school chums, now. So... he gave me a list of seven friends.

"I'd like to invite Jason, Madison, Vance..."

Umm... last names? Phone numbers?

"I don't know!"

Sigh. A little prepwork before school let out would have helped. But the one phone number Alex did bring home from Kindergarten was "not even close", the boy's mother later told us. Lesson, don't trust 5 years olds to exchange phone numbers correctly.

So, armed with the school year book and the phone book, we actually managed to track down all seven families. I felt a bit stupid cold-calling strangers and asking "Are you Madison's Mom?" But everyone was pretty good about it. Ava's great-grandma pointed me in the right direction, as did Tiara's Aunt... one of the perks about small town life is that everyone is related and everyone knows everyone else.

Step 2: The Prep Work

After officially invited a group of strangers over to our house, my next challenge was to get ready for the party. So I've spent my evenings creating the "props" and my weekend tidying the house. I know its a farce, but I still want people to think I have everything under control. I hit a few snags... the vacuum cleaner died, but a wise woman suggested I use the shop vac, and voila! Works in a pinch! Then the lawn mower wouldn't start. Then the weedwacker ran out of cord. So our yard looked pretty overgrown, but I decided I had to just "let it go!" Yesterday morning we spent an hour "decluttering" by basically throwing all the excess stuff into laundry baskets and hiding it in our bedroom. Then a quick sweep, vacuum and dust and voila, perfect housekeeping! Just don't open our door...

Here's a sampling of the fun prep work:

The Yoshi Cake, the inspiration for our theme. My Mom baked and decorated it. Not bad for her first attempt at a cartoon character cake huh? Thanks a million, Mom!

Party Hats - I made a dozen of these.
The "Yoshi Eggs" The "Magic Mushrooms".Goody bags... well, coin blocks, of course! The assembled "stuff".

Step 3: The Mini Games

Mario Party is basically a game where you run around like crazy collecting coins and occasionally squaring off against each other playing mini-games, from which you collect more coins.

So, that's what we did!

My kids' share of the "loot"

Divide the kids up into two teams - Team Luigi and Team Mario --- unfortunately everyone wanted to be Mario (Luigi always did get the shaft) so our teams were uneven and eventually abandoned for a more free-for-all style of game play.

Game #1 - An obstacle course:

Don't forget to invite the fun Aunty who still has youth and agility... well, youth, on her side! :)

Thanks for the help, Lindsay!

Even the youngest party-goer can have fun on a well-executed obstacle course! :)

Game #2 - Mario/Luigi says

No explanation needed, think of Simon Says, but picture a short, round Italian man with a bad mustache and bad fashion sense...

Game #3 - Pin the Moustache on Mario

Or on the kids...

Game #4 - "Bean Bag Boo"

Connor demonstrates the overhand throw

Fun for all ages! We all gave it a whirl after the kids left. Here's my Mom showing Dad how it's done!

Game #5 - The infamous (Yoshi) egg on spoon relay:

And yes, I did hard-boil them. So sue me, I'm a softie!

Step 5: The filler

Five mini-games was enough for the day. The kids are still pretty young and don't have that competitive attention span required for too much structure. So we also had some "down-time" activities that the kids enjoyed during transitions between activities.

The bouncy castle. The kids got this for Christmas. We've used it twice, at Kirstin's birthday party and then at Alex's. It's pretty fun and I do believe Santa got a bargain on it because of it being off-season.The swing-set... always a classic! I think they were trying to see how many kids they could cram onto one swing... kind of like the whole clowns in Volkswagon type thing.And the yard toys. Here Connor is trying to see if Gold coins make good replacements for the eye stickers he peeled off last year.

Step 6: The food

We'd originally wanted an Italian menu, but because cooking pizza in the oven would have heated up the whole house, we chose something simpler. Cold cuts, buns, veggies and dip and chips. Nice a simple and fantastic for leftovers.

Short on tables, we found ourselves improvising!

Step 7: Opening gifts

Step 8: The cake and the song

And that's it. The party ended at two o'clock. A week and a half of preparation, three hours of crazy Mario fun... hopefully a lifetime of memories.
Happy 6th Birthday Alex! :)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

My Anthem

It's Saturday afternoon. I've cooked two meals already and am procrastinating on starting meal number three. I've washed 4 drainboards of dishes, done 3 of several loads of laundry, swept and washed the kitchen floor, mowed the front and back lawn, and hauled the garbage to the dump. My husband picked up all the clutter in the living room, kitchen and hallway, (now I feel compelled to vacuum and dust before the clutter migrates back) and washed the grubbiest of the walls in the kitchen and the cabinets.

I find myself sitting here contemplating the fact that Saturdays are always like this around here. I spend my days off cleaning the house. And I go back to work Monday morning feeling unrested and unrefreshed.

So, I've decided to adopt an anthem, because every time I hear it, it makes me smile. This song just speaks to me! It's Rebecca Lynn Howard's "I need a vacation". I don't know how to embed a youtube video, so I'm just copying the link for you to click on. It's a silly video compilation, so ignore the clips, just focus on the lyrics and enjoy! :)

I'm interested in hearing how other Working Outside of the Home Parents juggle the 9-5 schedule with domesticity? Cause right now, it ain't working...

Friday, 2 July 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Just some photos of our day yesterday! We went to the city to celebrate "Canada Day in the Park". It's been the same since I was a kid, hundreds (maybe thousands yesterday it was INSANE) of people perched on blankets and lawn chairs watching the dancers and singers at the bandshell, surrounded by an international food festival, craft booths, and wandering mascots.

And yet, going as a parent this time, and not a kid, was far less relaxing. In fact, by the time I'd done the hour drive home and tucked the kids into bed, I was exhausted. Mentally. It was so crowded at the park that I couldn't let my guard down for a second. I actually envied the people who had their kids on leashes rather than scoffing at their animalistic approach to child supervision. It didn't help that the day was punctuated by announcements of lost children looking for their parents, and parents desperately searching for their kids. I found myself thinking, "Hmm... maybe dressing my kids in white and red wasn't too smart..." I can imagine trying to describe a lost child to the police, "Oh yes, she's about 3 feet tall, in white pants and a red shirt, you can't miss her." What was I thinking? Everybody was 3 feet tall and wearing red.

Anyway, we survived it, took some great photos and had a good time. My Mom came along for the visit (or to help me keep track of the kids really, I'm not sure we did any visiting) and despite the chaos, the long lines, and the noise, it was a decent day. The temperature was perfect, the sun was out but not blazing, the clouds were hanging around but not dark and ominous, and there wasn't a drop of rain. It's good to be Canadian! :) Hanging out on the picnic blanket waiting for Alex and Grandma to return from the lunch lines. Alex, not wanting to miss out on the International fare, returned with hot dogs for his siblings. Umm... they must have gone to the American food booth, I guess?
Polynesian Dancing

Just a smattering of the people that showed up.

Meeting Safety Bear --- cool, stickers and coupons for free slurpees!

When my kids ran ahead to look at the river, I didn't realize that there was such a sharp drop off! We didn't spend much time looking at the river after that.

Patriotism... start 'em young. Maybe they'll take their own kids to the park in thirty years!

Latino Dancing. Hey, I went to school with her! That's Benita! Hey Benita, over here! Glad to see that not everyone that graduated from PGSS, class of '94, lives in Vancouver now :)

My kids and their fantastic table manners! "Hey, Grandma, you get to be the judge, which one of us is uglier?"

It was a tough choice... we had to award both boys the title a different times. Kirstin tried, but she missed the spirit of the game. Even when she tries to be ugly, I think she's adorable! :)

... and after supper we returned to a much emptier park to let the kids run off some steam (burn off the cotton candy I let them eat) untethered. A nice end to a nice day! :)