Joe-Henry turns NINE tomorrow, and because we just had a huge trip, we decided to keep his birthday costs down by doing it at home. I was nervous about it because last year we went to the super cool bowling alley arcade, and he kept saying initially he thought it might be - what was the word he used? Oh yes - STUPID. But I planned and plotted and schemed and it turned out to be a truly memorable, hugely fun, and most important - COOL party. I had to come up with something that both boys and girls would like, and we had kids ranging in age from 4 to 6th grade, so I wanted everyone to feel good about being here.
We decided on a "Secret Agent" Theme. The invitations went out inviting friends to help with a secret mission. And instead of giving out goody bags at the end, we gave them at the beginning of the party because they had things they might need to complete the mission - black sunglasses, little magnifying glasses, notebooks and pencils, compasses and whistles and tiny flashlights. I just used plain brown lunch bags and found these cool little clipboard notes at The Dollar Tree. All the goody bag stuff I got at either Oriental Trading Company, Dollar Tree or Office Max.
The kids were given a password (NINE), and then taken into Joe-Henry's room where they could choose a disguise if they wanted one. They all loved dressing up in all kinds of stuff - a witches hat, a football shirt, an apron, etc. I had downloaded a bunch of "spy" music: Theme from James Bond, Get Smart, Mission Impossible, etc. which played throughout the party. Then I took them all into the living room, where they were told they were on a mission to help with a birthday mystery. We would be doing several "training exercises" before we could look for clues. The first exercise was to help their powers of deduction. They were all given a secret identity taped to their backs and had to figure out who they were by asking a partner questions.
Then we did a memory boosting training exercise. They took out their notebooks and pens, and looked at fifteen items on a tray for 30 seconds. They then had to write down as many as they could remember in two minutes or less.
The next exercise was "pin the sunglasses on the secret agent". I had drawn an outline of Joe-Henry on a big piece of paper and cut out black paper sunglasses. They all had to put on a blindfold and who ever got closest won. Later on they could write messages to Joe-Henry on the outline.
Then we went to the backyard to do a disguise relay. The kids were divided into two teams and each team was given a backpack with a disguise (a big t-shirt, a hat, gloves, glasses, and a lei), a nerf gun and darts. Each person had to put on the disguise, run to the line and shoot a dart at the targets, run back, repack the bag for the next person, who would do the same thing, the first team done wins.
Then my FABULOUS niece Heather, who had been helping the WHOLE TIME (and truly, the list for all the things I owe her for is so long I don't know how I'll ever pay her back) donned her black trench coat and sunglasses and delivered a secret message for Agent McQuary. It was the first clue in a scavenger hunt to find all the goodies for a birthday party. The last clue was next door at the neighbors, and it was my brother's cellphone number. They had to call and tell Bugsy to "deliver the package". He had parked across the street with two dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. We have the best family EVER.
After they were all jacked up on donuts, we played one last game called "Diffuse the bomb". Two people with one badminton racket each had to take a black balloon to the next two people who had to carry the balloon between them without using their hands or arms to the last person who was in charge of the diffusing box (a box with toothpicks sticking up inside it). When they closed the box the balloon popped. We went through lots of balloons and they got lots of that sugar out of their systems on that game!
They then had just under a half hour to just play, and it was so much fun to hear them laughing and screaming. It was even more fun to hear how quiet the house got when all the parents showed up to take them home! But it was such a blast and for some of the kids I think it was the first time they went to a party without their parents. Judging by the smiles and how disappointed they were when their parents came, I think it was a success.
After it was all over, we let JH open a present from his Aunt, because we knew it was a video game he desperately wanted. And then Charley and I took a big, drooooooly nap.
Happy Birthday, Joe-Henry. You're my favorite secret agent ever.