Saturday, February 7, 2004

The Wizards have Dispersed.

2/7/04: I'm exhausted. Probably has something to do with being up until past 1 a.m. last night and I blame the bid list. And guess what, the girls' party was a success, but better than that it's over.

Ok, I didn't really mean that. The Harry Potter party went all too quickly, and I believe the kids had a good time.
This morning we did the final touches. Cutting out the rest of the wizard hats and putting yarn through the holes for tying, blowing up decorative balloons, filling Hedwig water balloons, setting out plates and napkins, turning on the Harry Potter soundtrack and making sure all was ready for the guests.
The invitations were scrolls written in purple ink, and clearly encouraged parents to stay and help out. About 10 did which helped immensely. A couple of newcomers to Manila fit right in and helped out too.
The first guests arrived right around 11:45 and eventually the floor was covered with kids, black paper, silver paper, pipe cleaners, star stickers and wand sticks. The crafts took way longer than I anticipated as the stickers wouldn't stick (!?) and the kids needed help to twist the hats and wrap the sticks. The floor was covered in glow in the dark star stickers by the end. Everyone knows how to make a wizard hat, but I wanted to mention how we did the wands.
Our trees drop these perfect wand sticks, so over the past month we've been collecting them and letting them dry. We then trimmed them to all about equal sizes. I'd bought some rolls of thin silver paper and had cut them into strips about the length of the sticks. Also part of the craft were long multicolored pipe cleaners. Here's how to put them together... get a stick, a piece of silver and a pipe cleaner. Wrap the stick in the silver strip (either roll it or wrap it on), then while holding it on, take the pipe cleaner and twist it around the stick. Voila. That's it, and they look pretty cool if you ask me. No glue, no tape, no mess and inexpensive. Some kids used several pipe cleaner colors, others added some to the end of the stick then made them curly so it looked like magic sparkles coming out from the end. Nifty, huh?
So, the wands were made, the hats were made, kids lost their hats, new wands were made, hats were retied, stars were glued, balloons popped and amidst the chaos, 5 large cheese pizzas arrived. Blankets were layed out on the patio and everyone hunkered down and had some lunch. Time was passing while parents made chit chat and the kids magically split to the girls blanket and the boys blanket. Insert *sigh* here.
Time to head to the playground with all our gear. A sorting hat (provided by Elise) split the kids into their 4 houses, and parent volunteers led their "students" in the games. First up, broomstick races. Racing and weaving between evenly planted palm trees was the hit of the party from my perspective. We did it in heats, with Ravenclaw racing against Hufflepuff (Ravenclaw won) then Slytherin vs. Gryffindor (Gryffindor won). The race between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor ended with Gryffindor just barely taking the prize. Everyone earned Quiddich stickers and they could all be proud of running a good race. Even the little girl who would run but refused to use the broomstick.
Following the broom rides, we had a Hedwig water balloon toss. Whitish balloons were markered with owl eyes, ears, beak and feet and were tossed between the two rows of kids. Now, I'm guessing that kids here don't quite get a water balloon toss because it was a mess with balloons flying everywhere at all times until everyone's feet were soaked. It was worth it to offset some of the heat though. While it had been raining through the morning (it hasn't rained in weeks, and before that in months), the afternoon proved to be quite a scorcher with plenty of humidity. Next time (what am I saying!?!), we'll have 80 water balloons and just let the kids throw them at each other.
A short break at the playground (more about that later), and we had the spider game. Earlier in the week we finally discovered how to make nifty little spiders by putting 2 mini tootsie rolls together (yes, still wrapped), cutting some black pipecleaners into little legs, then electrical taping (hey, it's black) the whole mess together. The treat at the end of the game for all the participants would be, of course, the tootsie rolls. OK, I made this game up myself, so bear with me while I explain how it went. We had our four teams. In the center I'd put down a large doily that looks remarkably like a spider web and in the middle was a foam tray trimmed with cotton balls in a spider web shape. Think of it as a spider receptacle. Each of the teams was at a compass point, in a line facing the web. Crab crawling, they would put a spider on their tummy and crawl it to the bowl, drop it in, then run back to their team to tag the next person to carry a spider in. Kids from all 4 sides moved at once and it didn't take long to fill up the bowl. The only thing was it went so fast!
Granted we didn't even have time for our final game, a Catch the Snitch game involving multi-colored bouncy balls and more kids on broomsticks, but time just flew. By now it was 1:30 and parents were planning on picking up their kids at 2 p.m. We had to have our cake and eat it too. Harry Potter cakes were not to be found, so I had let the girls pick their own specialty cakes from the Red Ribbon bakery. Katherine chose a fancifully decorated Rocky Road concoction and Rebecca chose a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. The kids who had turned down pizza didn't think twice about cake, so after a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday we dug in, outside on the patio again. Cool! Paper napkins! Empty pizza boxes! Empty cake boxes! Paper and plastic plates and cutlery! Disposable cups and bottles! We were a landfill nightmare! But an easy to clean house dream. All but those blasted stars stuck all over the floor.
The end of the party arrived and everyone was ready. As party favors, I'd gone a little overboard. For the 2nd graders I'd purchased boxed sets of J.K. Rowlings other 2 books _Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them_ and _Quiddich Through the Ages_. OK, lest you think me mad, I bought 10 boxed sets then split them so that each child got one book. For the younger set, I'd bought out the toystore of their Scabbers the rat stuffed animals and some Mrs. Norris stuffed keychains. For all the kids, I'd bought a pound of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, counted them out into mini candy bags so each kid got about a dozen, photocopied the flavor guide and included those in the bags, then tied the bag around the rats' necks and tied them onto the books. Got all that? So when the kids were leaving we handed everything out, and are left with several extra books. There weren't 20 older kids, but even so, everyone wanted the rats. Go figure. Elise had also included with her costume hat and cape that I wore for the day, a gumball machine with fortune gumballs. The fortunes were much like a magic 8 ball (fortunes like "time to chill"), but edible, and were quite the hit. Katherine was rather protective of the machine.
Even though I'd included in the invite that we did not expect gifts and just wanted the kids to have fun, gifts came anyway. Puzzles, snacks, origami paper, backpacks... you name it, the girls got it. Thank goodness some of the parents listened otherwise we'd be swimming.
Several of the parents commented that we'd put a lot of work into the party. It was more organization than anything. We kept it all extremely simple. I had no intention of cooking anything, and ideas were nixed relative to how complicated they were. Initially I'd planned on having the kids paint glitter glue on their wands. Can you imagine? I was going to create a scavenger hunt for the kids. Ugh. I tossed out the idea of making robes from oversized black t-shirts... the kids would have died from heatstroke and I didn't need the hassle. The party could have been much more elaborate, but it wasn't, and that was the point. My whole idea was to make it nothing like the Filipino way, and everything like the American way. I think we succeeded. Ian did loads today and there was no way I'd have survived without him stepping up and doing everything that needed to be done while I was doing the other half of what needed to be done. Kudos to Ian.
So, for anyone contemplating any of this for their own party, want to know roughly what I spent?
Hats: $5 for the black paper, $30 stickers (easily the worst idea, glitter pens would have worked just as well at well below the cost), yarn from my stash, staples and tape.
Wands: free sticks from the yard, $3 silver paper, pipecleaners I had.
Spiders: $2 for tootsie rolls, pipecleaners I had, tape
Spiderweb: tray, cotton balls, doily.. all I had already
Pizza: $50 for 5 four-cheese
Plastic plates: $4 for 75
Plastic cutlery: from our move here
Water: $10 for 40 bottles
Cakes: $16 for 2
Balloons: $5
Brooms: $5 for 4
Rats: $30 for 11
Bertie Botts: $25 for a pound (I -really- wanted chocolate frogs too, but I wasn't going to pay the shipping fee and I couldn't find a frog mold)
Cat keycahins: $5 for 5
Rowling books: $70 for 10 sets
There's a rough guess, as I don't have receipts anymore. Grand total of $270. Figure that's for both my girls, to treat about 30 kids and 10 adults. It's more than I thought, but in the grand scheme of things, not too shabby.
Things I'd have changed:
I'd have allotted specific time to just let the kids play at the playground. Several of them kept wandering off to the moneky bars and slides that letting them have 30 minutes before the games to run around would have done wonders for keeping them focussed on the activities.
Had more water bottles and made sure to label them all, not just have the intention of doing so. I'd bought 40 individual sized water bottles to be drunk and reused, but after lunch loads of them had been "cleaned up" and tossed mostly full directly into the trash. I appreciated the help cleaning up, but what a huge waste. My fault though, I should have insisted on the labelling. Kids love having things with their names on them.
Had each of the teams run through twice for the spider game. It was a good game, but over too fast.
Had loads of water balloons instead of just enough. Water balloons are fun and who needs a game to use them?
I'd highlight the party times in the invite to avoid the child who joined 1/2 way through at the playground and the other who walked in the door as most of the people were leaving. Honestly, he came at 2 p.m. thinking that's when it started. And he'd brough his 2 younger sisters too who we were told were extremely excited about coming. He had some cake and got his favors, but what a bummer for him. Oh BTW, that was Wendell Macapagal. Remember the kid who had Katherine invited to his birthday party in May but we had NO idea who the heck he was, and we didn't go? He's in her class this year.
Was it fun? Yup. Was it worth it? Yup. Will I do it again? Uh....
Next year... maybe a sleepover.

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