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In Praise of the Old-Fashioned, DIY Birthday Party

C with her birthday cake.

I don’t know what the kid-birthday-party-culture is in your own neck of the woods, but around here, parties for little kids are increasingly held somewhere other than at home. And to be sure, my children have loved attending some of the superfun and amazing destination birthday parties to which they’ve been lucky enough to be invited over the years. They’ve been to birthday parties at pools, ice skating rinks, beauty salons (for little girl makeovers), jewelry-making and pottery studios, and gymnastics training centers.  They’ve had a blast at each and every one of these parties, and a couple of times, I’ve planned birthday parties in special places, like J’s 8th birthday party, which was held at the barn where she spent most of her free time for most of her childhood. That party was one of my favorites ever. Henry’s 11th or 12th birthday party was held at the paintball field where he loved playing, and that was a great time as well.

However, as fun as these special parties are, both Jon and I prefer having our own children’s birthday parties at home. We just like how relaxed at-home birthday parties are, with the other kids in the family helping to decorate and blow up balloons. Birthday cakes and cupcakes for our DIY, at-home birthday celebrations are usually made by Jon’s mother Janice, who is kind of famous for her made-from scratch carrot and red velvet cakes, or sometimes from our beloved neighborhood bakery, Magpies, which is owned by an old college pal of mine. This year, as we approached C’s 5th birthday – a big year for a little girl when it comes to planning a birthday party – I worried that she would be disappointed if we had her party at home – that she would find that underwhelming and boring, given that she;s had the chance to go to such great birthday parties for her friends at places like Chuck E. Cheese.

So I tried to think of a way that we could make her at-home party a little more exciting, and I remembered how much fun everyone had a few months back at my friend Jillian’s at-home party for her adorable little guys. In addition to cake, ice cream, and gifts to open, Jillian had also rented  an inflatable bouncy house for her yard, and the kids were just thrilled.

So I asked C if she might like to have a bouncy house at her birthday party, and she couldn’t have been more excited. She’d already explained to me that she wanted her party to have a princes-slash-fairy theme (same as last year’s birthday party), and that she wanted her grandmother to make a carrot birthday cake with pink decorations. The bouncy house, she excitedly announced, would make her 5th birthday party absolutely perfect – exactly what she wanted.

So I got on the phone and called all over town pricing and sizing inflatable bouncy houses, trying to find one at the best price that would be big enough to enjoy but small enough to fit in our small yard. I discovered pretty quickly that there is a very wide variation in how much these things cost to rent dfor a party. The first place I called was going to charge $270, but after asking on Facebook if anyone could recommend a reasonable local rental place, I found one that was just the right size for only $135 with tax, including delivery, full set up and take-down.

SCORE!

In the 24 hours before the party, C and 2 year old G were so excited that the bouncy house was going to be coming to our house that it’s all they talked about. G couldn’t actually say “bouncy house,” so she kept running to the door and looking out to see if it had arrived yet, happily asking, “bumpy house? bumpy house?” over and over.

And the party was a big success! The “bumpy house’ arrived that morning, and a very nice young man got it all set up for us. My four kids and several of J’s friends who were hanging out that day got to play in it for a while before the other guests arrived, and the teenagers enjoyed it as much as the little kids. I think G loved it the most though. She dragged  my mother into the bouncy house immediately, and then corralled Jon’s mother to climb in with her as soon as Janice arrived at the party bearing C’s birthday cake, and insisted that she stay in the inflatable house with her for almost the entire party (which awesome grandma that Janice is, she was happy to do).

C said it was the best birthday party ever, and that made Jon and me super happy. The weather was lovely, and it was so wonderful to have so many friends there. It was just a great afternoon. The only unhappy moment came when the party ended, and little G realized that the man had come to take “the bumpy house” away. Her big brother tried to cheer her up, but she was VERY unhappy about that inflatable house being removed from her yard, and for several days following, she kept hopefully asking us again and again when “the bumpy house” was coming back.

Here are some pix of C’s special day, including G’s beloved BUMPY HOUSE!

nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’29′

  • G, her grandmother and other kiddos in 1 of 15
    G, her grandmother and other kiddos in
  • Awesome cake by Jon’s mama. 2 of 15
    Awesome cake by Jon's mama.
  • Lighting the candles. 3 of 15
    Lighting the candles.
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 4 of 15
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
  • Babble blogger John Cave Osborne hanging out in the bounce house with two of his triplets. 5 of 15
    Babble blogger John Cave Osborne hanging out in the bounce house with two of his triplets.
  • Big brother E, perched on my lap, uses his pocket knife to help C open one of her gifts. 6 of 15
    Big brother E, perched on my lap, uses his pocket knife to help C open one of her gifts.
  • Kiddos playing in our garden. 7 of 15
    Kiddos playing in our garden.
  • Kids in the garden 8 of 15
    Kids in the garden
  • Birthday girl! 9 of 15
    Birthday girl!
  • Happy C gets ready to blow out her candles 10 of 15
    Happy C gets ready to blow out her candles
  • The El Twins! 11 of 15
    The El Twins!
    Cousin El gives E (her "El Twin") a squeeze. They're 9 months apart in age, and E was actually in the room when El was born. They're crazy cute together.
  • Babble blogger John Cave Osborne with kiddos 12 of 15
    Babble blogger John Cave Osborne with kiddos
    John has baby Luke on his lap, and those are two of his adorable triplets bouncing nearby.
  • G with not one but TWO grandmothers 13 of 15
    G with not one but TWO grandmothers
    G managed to lure both my mom and Jon's into the bouncy house to play with her.
  • Happy, jumping birthday girl 14 of 15
    Happy, jumping birthday girl
  • E tries to cheer up G 15 of 15
    E tries to cheer up G
    E worked hard to cheer up his two year old little sister, who was NOT HAPPY when she realized that the man had arrived to take away the bouncy house.

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So how about you? Do you prefer throwing your kids’ parties at home or at a destination locale?? Tell me about the best kid birthday party you’ve ever thrown, and what made it a success, and I’d also love to hear about any you’ve attended with your child that you thought were really fun. Let’s talk kid birthday parties together in the comments below. 

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READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)

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