Yesterday was TJ’s 2nd birthday party. It was also the family party/get-together for Chris… and my brother. And my nephew.
My brother didn’t actually come, which he probably enjoyed very much.
It all started with the knowledge that my parents were visiting Canberra that weekend. With four family birthdays around the same time, I had a think about the unique challenges of doing something all four (turning 2, 11, 36, and 37) would enjoy, and came up with the legitimately brilliant idea of going to Skyzone trampolining.
The trampoling bit:
My poor nephew is six years older than the rest of his cousins, so he generally has a pretty boring time at any family events. THIS, however, he enjoyed. Epic win.
TJ is pretty easily pleased, but he really, really liked this. Epic win.
Chris injured his back during the night, and tends to get mildly depressed by his own birthdays. That + an attempt at jumping = epic fail. But he had fun anyway. TJ was hilarious.
After taking about fifty photos, I realised that our camera was changing its settings every time it was turned off. That was less than ideal, but at least I know now (and I’d taken some video since jumping pics are tricky at best already).
One of the cousins, looking artsy:
I was really pleased to have all the grandparents there so they knew how TJ handled it (it’s VERY likely that the trampolining will be an annual family tradition). TJ was nice enough to pay special attention to my in-laws who really only showed up for him and Louisette. Epic win.
Cost: high ($16/jumper) but ameliorated by saying, “No family presents”. (The grandparents still gave gifts, naturally – I chose most of them, and chose VERY well. Gifts for 2-year olds are so much fun!)
Planning: I asked staff about their busiest times, and chose 3-4pm as a result. It was noisy and crowded, but because almost all our kids were aged 0-5, we were able to go in the “littlies” area, AND have it almost entirely to ourselves. (And we had enough adults that the 11-year old was able to do his own thing and still be connected to the family.) Epic win.
When I found out not all the family would be coming, I decided to combine the “family” and “friends” birthdays, and (after checking it was okay with my mum and sister) I chose two kids to invite as TJ’s best friends. TJ loves them, and so do I (two REALLY nice, cheerful, and chilled-out little boys who are sufficiently flexible/confident to have fun at a noisy trampoline place), and I really really like every member of their family too. Both kids came, with was really cool. And they both had fun*. And I had zero anxiety about inviting a bunch of adults I’d never met before. Epic win.
For my kids, I generally have two special days for their birthday – a party, which is all about community, and a birthday day, which is all about the actual kid. (This mattered much more when they were turning 1. Most 1-year olds cry through their entire party – but “what the friends/family/I want” and “what the kid wants” are still often distinct.)
Surprises: Chris’ back injury wasn’t actually anyone’s fault. He didn’t have a great birthday (it was his birthday day, which was a bit sad – who wants to run a kid’s party on their own birthday?) but he’s taking Monday off for TJ’s birthday (the plan is to give TJ some attention and then ship him off to daycare) which will actually be a great day for him.
The kids and Chris were all quite grumpy all morning. (Louisette and I are always miserable before and after big events, which is unfortunate but at least I know it’s coming these days.)
A random girl decided TJ was in her way and she knocked him over and then was busily pushing him into the path of a pair of bigger kids that had come into our area by mistake. Chris spotted them and ran to intercept, getting there before TJ fully realised what had happened (or was jumped on). One of the four-year old girls with us saw the whole thing, and told Louisette that TJ had been bullied. Louisette immediately came and told me, and I assured her it was dealt with, and that she’d done exactly the right thing – which she had. Given how much I myself wanted to punch the bully, I was really impressed with the behaviour of “my” girls.
This entire weekend half of New South Wales is flooding, so my assumption of bad winter weather was extremely wise! Epic win. (Except the parking suuuuuuucked. I warned everyone that sessions started on the hour so they should be early, but my lot was the only group that arrived vaguely on time. I felt bad that they’d wasted so much money, but it’s not like it was my fault.)
*Some strangers had one of those mall ride-in cars parked nearby. One of TJ’s friends spend half an hour trying his best to flee the trampoline, meaning that his mum and I were unable to sit down but were constantly crash-tackling and wrestling him (which was fun too, but not exactly what we were aiming for). Eventually/wisely, she asked the random strangers if her son could sit in their car. Fortunately they said yes, and the kid was thrilled. After ten minutes in the car, he was able to enjoy the trampolines. #Random #alwaysonekid
Shoulda, coulda, woulda: Next time, I definitely need to bring water for the kids to drink!
Cake: I made an ice cream cake (thermomix for the win!) despite the season. It’s easy to make (essential when Louisette REALLY wants to help) and can be prepped quite a quite a while in advance. It’s also much yummier than regular cake (and actually neater to eat – spills are simpler to clean than crumbs, and travel less far from the table). Epic win.
I also made cupcakes with Louisette and TJ on the day. Like any sane person, they enjoyed the raw dough more than the finished product. (Louisette is obsessed with cupcakes, but only ever eats the top.) #worthit
I put a candle on every cupcake, so each kid got to blow out (and thus spit on) their own cake. It was really easy for me, and really fun for them (and reducing birthday jealousy by a lot). Didn’t sing “Happy Birthday”. I hate that song. Epic win.
We didn’t eat at Skyzone, which was definitely wise. Everyone came back to my house for cake etc (the promise of cake made the kids happy to leave Skyzone). Most of the guests had their own set of keys, so the two cars that arrived before us didn’t have to wait in the rain. Three potential catastrophes averted.
I was mildly concerned Louisette would ask for party games, but she was so busy she didn’t think of it. (Her favourite is pass the parcel, which is a nightmare to produce and another nightmare to adjudicate). Two catastrophes averted.
The main reason it felt so busy was…………..
……The climbing frame.
Our calendar has photos taken roughly a year ago (each month) so this month has a pic of TJ’s party last year (including the climbing frame). TJ saw the photo on the calendar and indicated he wanted to play on the climbing frame again. Since it was so extraordinary for him to have the ability to articulate any wants in advance, I was determined to comply (plus it’s a really great way to suddenly jazz up a homebound, housebound party).
I forgot to pick it up from the in-laws in advance of the party, and it was clear that every adult thought I was insane for insisting on it. It’s a fairly complicated thing with instructions that are only barely in English (and in quite an illogical order too), and about half the pieces are missing their labels. It’s also moderately difficult to take apart – even with the right tool, it hurts your fingers (and we didn’t have the right tool – we know someone who’s lent it to us twice before, but since I didn’t invite them to the party I chose not to request it this year).
On a good day it takes twenty minutes to put together. With seven kids around, it suuuuuuucked. I sent the four pre-school girls to another room, and was really impressed with their obedience. The process still sucked, and no one could really help much. But TJ really enjoyed the building process – and when it was done, he had an absolute blast climbing it (and so did the remaining kids).
For the kids, that was definitely way more exciting than the cake (or party games, for that matter).
Surprises: I knew Louisette was fascinated by building and construction. This was the first time I saw that TJ has the same inclination. Next time, I’ll build the frame before the party and involve TJ and Louisette and Chris.
But TJ LOVED it. Epic win. #worththepain
Surprises: The last two kids had a bath with mine, because they left well after bedtime and having a bath at our place meant they could go straight to bed. Their mum and I sat around a corner from the bathroom, after telling the pre-school girls to yell for us if anyone fell under the water. We listened carefully to them (patterns of speech and laughter and splashing) but at one point the girls yelled for us, and we came running. TJ had fallen under the water, and they had done exactly what we’d told them to do. (TJ had sat up again by himself – he actually does that a lot and has always gotten himself back up – excellent training for a real drowning crisis.)
I’ll remember this party as the moment when Louisette stepped up as a big sister. (Not that I’d actually use her as a babysitter, but my trust in her good sense and awareness has increased dramatically.)
(Not a great photo, but I kept it for Louisette’s facial expression mingled pride and watchfulness.)
Recovery: I’m quite sore today – back, feet, legs, arms, wrists (I’ve taken nurofen for the arthritis and will have a hot shower and then bandage my wrists soon). There are two bits of good news on that front. First, my pain is symmetrical, which is “normal” pain (as if I’d been moving house rather than just running a party, but no injuries). Second…no migraine! The meds I’m on are making me extremely drowsy (and unco), and I’m sleeping up to 14 hours per day BUT they do seem to be stopping the migraines. I get mild headaches some evenings, and the occasional flash of pre-migraine “aura” (visual weirdness which is a strong warning of impending migraine)….and that’s all. I’d expect three days of strong pain after a kids’ party. But maybe that time is over. Maybe I can actually do stuff – like driving, going outside, and exercising – without being wiped out for days afterwards.
The tips of my fingers all hurt from putting together (and partially taking apart) the climbing frame.
Psychologically, I’m in the black pit between anti-depressants (an unfortunate necessity for the new migraine meds) and it’s been very very bad for the last month or two. Stuff like thinking I need to give my children up for adoption. I feel a bit traumatised by the party, but the therapy I need is relatively simple: 1. This blog. 2. Sorting through the photos to prove to myself it was a good party, and special for the kids. 3. Some thoughts about adjusting expectations in future (some of the adults happily breezed through the party while I and one other person – a single mum who deserves to sit down and chat with grown-ups more than anyone else at the party – did 95% of the serving, cleaning, and supervising). If I know my friends think of the party as a social occasion for adults (a notion that believe is sometimes possible with all pre-schoolers and older, but never possible with toddlers), then that changes how I set things up.
And I intend to have a thorough whinge-fest with Chris once the kids are asleep. (It should be noted that he attempted to help with the climbing frame but was gasping and moaning in pain so I told him to stop.)
Conclusion: Chris needs a day off – without kids – for his birthday. Otherwise, Skyzone is the biz, and is going to stay awesome for many years to come. When the kids are a fair bit older, we’ll probably invest in a full-scale party (Skyzone provides cake and food and a party room) one day, but will probably do something unclassy to ameliorate the expense (like making people pay their own way, as with this year).
I’ve been to a party at the other trampoline company (in a giant semi-converted warehouse in Mitchell that was less nice as a facility), and Louisette is still talking about it a year later.
All I really should have done better is:
(a) Take water to Skyzone. (And keep in mind that everyone will be late no matter what I say.)
(b) Build the climbing frame with my kids and husband, in advance.
(c) Have something lazy-but-fun for before and after big events when the bad mood strikes – maybe a new Pixar movie for all of us to watch together.
In fact I left the climbing frame half-assembled (not fully assembled because TJ’s climbing strategy lacks self-preservation and I knew Chris and I would both be dopey this morning and therefore unable to supervise safely), and have decided to rebuild it with my kids momentarily, and leave it up for TJ’s birthday day tomorrow.