Lehr and I let Eli have an indoor soccer party, ran by us, complete with a more extensive guest list than we're used to, chosen by him. This was the first time we let him dictate the list 100%, and it was also the first time we didn't include all siblings. That would have been fine, but Lehr and I decided to complicate things by making take-home shirts for all of the kids. Sounds great, but in reality, it was difficult to get the shirts ordered in time with the guest list responses, and then a few last minute changes threw us off. Not a huge deal, but it made me sad that a few kids didn't get tee-shirts (though they were probably fine with it.)
The party was to start at 11AM. We arrived just after 10:30 to find a locked door. This didn't shock us too much, as the venue is not a party place; it is a large warehouse-ish soccer field that is used almost exclusively by adults in the evenings. We rented it out for a few hours, but we knew that they would be just opening it up for us, so 11AM might be the time the doors got unlocked. 11AM came and went and a few families had arrived by this point. Now we're all baking outside in the hot, sunny parking lot. Somewhere around 11:15, a man comes and unlocks the door. Not that it was much relief because (as we knew) the inside was obviously shaded, but not under AC. The kids didn't care. We got everyone suited up in a shirt and let them loose with 5 or 6 balls. Several moms and dads stuck around, so there were plenty to keep the kids occupied on the field. Several moms helped me quickly assemble a make-shift table that was not nearly big enough to house all of the kids. I put the finishing touches on the cake and then we were all able to join in the game. The kids played each other first and then we had an adult vs. kids game. So fun. The only 'injury' I know of was Maddux who took a ball to the face right out of the gate, but after one kiss from D, she was fine. All of us worked harder and sweat more than we though possible at a kids' birthday party, but we loved it. We quickly transitioned to the over-crowded table for lunch and cake and then it was over.
Eli had asked his guests to bring money for soccer balls instead of gifts. Several still brought gifts, but we were so excited to see many of his friends dropping coins and a few bills into the box Eli had made. (Our church sends a group to Kenya each year to work with a specific orphanage we partner with: Tumaini. Soccer is a big part of the 'community' time they share, and they always bring a bunch of balls over. Eli wanted to buy some balls to send to the kids in Kenya, so that is what the money is going towards.) It was really cool to see Eli making the box this morning and getting into the spirit of HIS gift to the kids in Kenya. And even cooler was the generosity of Eli's friends: he has enough to get at least a dozen balls.
So what did we learn?
- Better communication when it comes to less 'birthday-type' venues.
- More forks (or spoons). We anticipated 18/19 kids so I thought a 24 pack was enough. Not so.
- WAAAAY more water. When you have kids (and adults) running around in the heat, you cannot have too much water.
- Skip lunch/dinner time birthday party if possible. Heavy snacks and cake are always better, and easier. Lehr wanted something other than pizza, so we did sandwiches and almost none of the kids ate them.
- If we do special order anything (i.e. shirts), indicate so on the invite so that we can get correct ordering done in time.