I don't often get called effortless: In fact in a stand up contest with a one legged emu I reckon I would still come off looking more awkward. It's a natural gift of mine, my hair is never tidy, my clothes are always creased and I never, ever look like I have my shit together.
This is especially true of birthday parties, which for some reason terrify me beyond all reason. It's a completely illogical reaction which combines a fear of social awkwardness, failing as The Perfect Pinterest Mum, and oh man, I don't even know what any more.
But the good news is that even someone as haphazard as me somehow managed to pull of what was damn near the perfect party.
And by perfect, I mean nobody got hurt, nobody went hungry and everyone left smiling.
So to remind myself in future years, when I inevitably feel like no good will ever come of pushing my luck, here are the things that made for a great party.
Choose The Right Venue
I can take no credit for this one; my initial idea was to have people over to our house for a BBQ. Fine if you live in the sort of house where the walls aren't covered in fake panelling and there's a lingering smell of old person, unfortunately we have both. Luckily I am married to a genius, and he suggested we hire out an amazing local aquarium which is half filled with touch pools for children to squeal over. The volunteers there were amazing and the children had the chance to feed the fish, as well as getting their own private show from the comedy octopus.
Choose The Right Food
This is normally the point at which my brain goes into complete meltdown and I want to weep into a corner at how deprived my children to have a mother who works all day and doesn't have the time to make starfish shaped sandwiches for their parties. Or set fish into blue jelly in some weird fishbowl creation. Or even make blue jelly. Instead I bowed to the superior local knowledge of the stay at home dad and we ordered some tray pizza from the local Italian eatery. Then (because I am Mediterranean and cursed to over cater horribly for any social occasion) I spent a day torturing myself on Pinterest and then went to three separate shops in search of colourful, fun, but still "healthy" food. I nailed it on colourful and fun, and then I did my parental duty by cutting veggies into batons just so they could be universally shunned in favour of sugar.
Get Decent Entertainment
Some parents go for clowns (evil parents who hate their children), some go for Elsa impersonators; we elected to have a comedy octopus. OK so it was a total accident but he was worth the hiring fee alone. The good people of the Baithouse Aquarium house some rescue octopus, and children, being grizzly creatures, enjoy seeing them being fed live crabs. They also enjoy seeing the tiny holes that these aggressive swimming ball sacks can fit through when tempted by a live crab. In the case of the house octopus, he was all kinds of done with the fitting through holes trick, he had skipped straight through to aggressive and hungry. So when a gaggle of small children gathered round, they were treated to the sight of tentacles erupting over the side of the tank, and jets of water fountaining over them by an increasingly pissy octopus. I will let you imagine the screams of glee that erupted, pantomime like, from the assembled audience.
Invite Awesome People
Our invite list for the weekend involved nine of the children's mutual friends, their siblings and parents, and their favourite teachers from school. It was a pretty large group of people, most of whom know each other from nearly daily encounters at the 'school gate', which also made it a really easy group to be around. After turning up late for social events, and missing the parent/ teacher meetings altogether I was wondering if I was going to be that one awkward and slightly too loud family member who ends up picking through left over plates of food for the last gummy bear. Then one of the other mamas made a joke about the benefits of sugar crashes, and another turned out to be the serial Last Man Standing at home time and I got fair misty eyed with the joy of kinship.
Next time, I might even relax enough to look forward to the whole hoopla.
Did I just say next time?