How do I keep from going completely mad before a party you might ask... (Oh I am SO glad you asked!)
We put the kids in charge of their own party! This idea came from a Family Fun article about a millennium ago. In times past, I was not as footloose and fancy free as I am now, no way! I would spend days, sometimes a month or more prepping for an extravaganza of a lifetime.
We would invite ALL of the kids friends and create fantasy birthday parties. One year we created Thomas the Tank Engine's train yard and had the children (20 of them) move from activity to activity through the train yard. By the time the party rolled around I was tired, on edge, and just a tiny bit crazed. Then there was the clean up from these three-ring-circuses, um..I mean parties... that would always take two to three days.
In addition to the friend party, I come from a really big family who all happen to live close by and my husband's family is also here. So we would have the friend party, a family party with his family, and a family party with my family for every single birthday! (That equals out to 18 parties in 5 months for our family of 6.)
One June I realized I had overspent the household budget by about $200. I tracked down the culprit and it was the birthday parties! That was when I decided something needed to change.
Starting that year I gave each of the kids a $50 budget for their party. They could "take the money and run," they could use the $50 to throw the party, or they could throw the party of their dreams as long as they provided the funds above and beyond the $50.
I would assist them in coming up with ideas for the party and in making sure no details, like food or activities were missed, but they would be responsible to plan and shop for their party.
This plan has worked out splendidly! They get to have what they want and I always stay in budget. They have learned to bargain shop and have come up with some pretty outrageous parties for $50. There was this Harry Potter extravaganza that would have blown you away...
We also put a limit on the number of children that are invited. The kids can invite as many friends as the number of years they have lived plus one, so for instance, with this last party my daughter was able to invite 11 friends.
I also have simplified my preparation for these parties. Below is the order that I prep the house for a party:
- Clean the entry way and clear the walk-way. (5 minutes)
- Sweep the kitchen floor and spot clean if needed. (10 minutes)
- Empty all the garbage cans. (10 minutes)
- Spot clean the toilet and bathroom sink. (5 minutes)
- Put out new hand-towels in the bathroom and kitchen. (> 5 minutes)
- Check the soap dispensers to make sure they are full. (> 5 minutes)
- Wipe down kitchen counters and table (10 minutes)
- Pick up any additional rooms that activities are going to be in - Spot vacuum if necessary. (15 minutes)
- Put up decorations
- Get myself ready
- Unload the dishwasher (That way clean up is really easy)
- Put out food
- Start some music
The question I ask myself as I prep is, "What will my guests see or use?" I plan on being completely prepped for the party about 30 minutes before guests are due to arrive. That way if something goes horribly wrong or they arrive early, I am not stressed out. Then I completely relax. The point of having a party is to have fun and celebrate!
Party on Dude!