About a month out, I started looking into venues and panicked - most were completely booked and extremely expensive. Other parties we'd been to or been invited to didn't seem right either - lots of bouncy houses, mud parties, and trampolines that I knew he just wouldn't enjoy. Finally, I found the perfect thing - a company of musicians that did party entertainment, and a local church rec center that was available. We booked both, and then I made invites for the class based on his two current favorite things - music and trains.
the invite sets the theme - cute right?
he was very excited about this part of the invite
Once over one hurdle - the next began, as I panicked about the rsvp's. Unfortunately, we had accidentally scheduled the party on a three-day weekend (didn't realize they celebrated memorial day here), so we had a few immediate "No" responses because of travel. A handful of "Yeses" came in, and then there were a bunch of "No Replies". I was very concerned that we wouldn't have a critical mass and the whole thing would be a disaster.
I ordered a number of train-themed supplies, plates, napkins, decorations, and party favors, assuming about 8 kids would be there. The expectation here is that the kids get a full meal, but there's nearly nothing for the adults - so we planned lunch boxes for the kids but also wanted a few adult snacks. I ordered grocery delivery for the day before, and started working on the cake.
In fitting with the train theme, I researched train cakes on pinterest and had a decent plan. I had two boxes of cake mix - one vanilla, one chocolate- and two bread loaf pans. The vanilla mix was spread evenly between the two pans and baked for train cars. The chocolate was poured first very thinly into one of the pans, baked briefly, and then rolled up into a small swiss roll cake for the front of the engine. The rest of the batter was baked into a really tall cake, that I then cut in half for the back of the engine and a caboose. Everything got a few layers of icing and Oreo wheels, and then I built little foil-covered boards out of a spare box to carry it. In the end, it was clear what it was meant to be- even if it didn't look exactly as I imagined it.
cakes getting ready for icing
the engine coming together
the whole cake (minus one train car that got left at the house)
The Last Minute
Late the night before the party, we got 3 more RSVPs, which put us up to 10 kids confirmed, with 2 more that had never replied. We panicked, since there weren't enough food boxes or treat bags. Spouso ran out to a local party store and bought a whole lot of crap - that we then frantically packed into the treat bags, while putting together the lunch boxes and snack trays. The kiddo at this point decided he wouldn't take a nap (clearly too much party build up), so we got behind schedule. We were allowed half an hour to set up - and arrived at the place 15 minutes late, with parents already waiting outside.
Thankfully - the parents turned out to be good sports. The few early arrivals helped us set up - blowing up balloons while we tried to pour a few drinks and put out snacks. The kids were fine just running around chasing the balloons for a while, until the entertainment showed up. I imagined that she would entertain the kids while the adults stood in the back, but it was clear that everyone had to be involved. Again- thankfully, everyone was a good sport - and all the parents joined the circle to sing and dance and generally be silly. Most of the kids had a great time, ours especially, but a few needed coaxing.
sitting right up front - eating all the oreos
all the parents and kids jumping around
all the kids under the parachute - a big hit
After her hour was over - we moved to the table where the kids ate while the parents lumbered awkwardly behind. Everyone seemed to get enough to eat and drink. Then there was the cake - which is usually just for the kids, so the adults seemed to appreciate actually getting a slice. Everyone hung around for a bit longer, and then made their exits, taking a favor bag and a book (another thing we've seen at a lot of parties). We quickly cleaned up and got out of there.
lunch boxes getting eaten
the kids form a train with small chairs by themselves
the party wagon ready to go back home
This was a very different party than his last two. It was nice to have so many kids, and really felt like a special event by being in a different location with entertainment. It was worth the fee to have people not in our house. Sadly though, with so little set up time - most of the decorations never even got hung - and the food was pretty half assed - just bags of chips opened up on a table. It was nice to just be 2 hours and done with.
In the future - as a guest, I will definitely be better about RSVPing well in advance (and let's be clear that means both yes and no responses!). As a host - I would definitely buy extras in expectation of late or non responses. It would be great to build in extra prep time if possible. Otherwise - it was a success!
We spent the rest of the weekend slowly opening the gifts, eating the massive cake and many leftovers, and relaxing.
ice cream shaped bubbles!