Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stick Fort & Nature Party

On a cold, rainy day back in October, Shaggy and J built a stick fort in the woods.  The cardboard club house wasn't faring very well, so we tore it down to make room for what we hope will be the beginnings of a more permanent structure. 
We'll see how it evolves over time.
J was pretty excited that he could almost stand up in it.  The old fort was only good for crouching.
And he took great pride in clearing a path to the fort so that the kids coming to his birthday party would be able to get to it without trouble.

This party was terribly fun to put together.  It certainly helped that we weren't in the middle of a cross country road trip and we weren't still unpacking.  But we also just happened to have the perfect location for the theme.  Nature.  Which surrounds us here in all her awe-inspiring glory.  And which my nature-loving boy just can't get enough of.

It's been too long since I could just enjoy being in party planning mode without too many other stressful things hanging over my head.  But a home with 5 children, house guests and hurricanes is still pretty busy, so I kept the planning simple.
I taped some pictures up on the window.  It was meant to be more than decorations, but we sort of forgot to explain the game to the kids.  We were having too much fun chit-chatting with their parents.  So once the party was over, we broke out the nerf guns and had target practice.  Those suction cup darts are great fun, especially when you're allowed to shoot at the windows.
Grammy helped me paint these egg cartons for our nature scavenger hunt.  Almost all of the items are indigenous, but we did have to plant the seashells and geodes.  Which ended up being somewhat of a disaster because I accidentally used some of K's coveted collection.  She let us all know in no uncertain terms that it wasn't ok and she wanted them all back.  Which got a little tricky for the kids who had already discovered the geode cache.  But through the tears and apologies, we managed to re-collect all her favorites.  Good job, mom.  Add it to the list of serious mom issues and remember when's (typically followed by examples of grievous mistakes.)
But the party-goers managed to have fun hunting with or without their original geodes.
I think J enjoyed being the expert regarding the possible whereabouts of various nature items.  But I'm sure he would never admit that little fact.
The hunt was pronounced a great success once everyone had filled each spot with the designated nature treasure.  And we all went inside to have some snacks.
For many of our parties, we skip the snack table entirely and just go straight for the cake.  But J really wanted one and the snacks were simple enough to throw together.
Especially simple for me because I assigned the big girls to make these cute little acorns.  Mini Nilla wafer + Hershey's kiss + choco/butterscotch chip.

We left all the rowdy, snacking kids under the watchful eye of S and a mom who stayed (she's in the primary presidency so she totally rocks with keeping children in line) so that Shaggy & I could run around outside hiding the jars of little prizes for the treasure hunt.
The kids each grabbed a bag so they could collect their prizes.
Then we read the first clue and they had to figure out where they should go search for the jar of prizes which also held the next clue.
I always make Shaggy write these kinds of clues.  He's really good at it, so I suppose I'll forgive him for always complaining about doing them.
We had those kids running all over the place to find those jars.  They were pretty triumphant when they found one.
One boy even hopped into the water to be the first to claim this one.
We had to modify the way we gave out the prizes because it was turning into a free-for-all.  See, now if I had been in the primary presidency, I would have thought of that ahead of time.  But sadly, I did not. 
Everybody managed to maintain their equilibrium about it . . .
except for R.  Who had meltdown after meltdown about this color bug or that shape of sucker.  It's tough to be five.  Her previously easy-going, happy-go-lucky personality is giving way to drama over the smallest things.
We managed to either trade or pick through the extras for a few items.  But when she began crying about all the options, I began giving out hugs instead of fixes.  That seemed to work a little better and her smiles returned.
I admit that her stormy reactions during the party surprised me.  I was expecting them from J who sometimes struggles during parties.  The easy thing would be to just stop having them for him.  But then he would have no opportunity to improve.  So I keep planning them for him, trying to help him work through some of his socially unacceptable party responses.  And I try to prep him for the tough spots so he has the best chance for success.
For this party, we recruited him to help plan both of the hunts, which gave him the chance to focus on making the party fun for his guests instead of being worried about himself.  It worked out beautifully.  Amazing, really, considering that most of the kids we invited were ones that he barely knew.  But he was a decent host and totally kept his cool during all aspects of the party.  I suppose he really is growing up!
Surprisingly, his favorite part of his parties are the gifts.  (That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it.)
But sometimes the curiosity of the kids towards said presents causes a whole lot of anxiety for him.  We talked about that and it seemed to have sunk in.  He did great.  Not a single shriek or grunt or hiding of a gift.
He was even smirking as all the kids looked over his gifts.  That's great progress, I tell you!
And then we whisked everyone inside for cake and ice cream.  No sense pressing our luck.
This one was fun to make.  Not very stressful.  Not too time consuming.  And I will continue to attest that cakes like this are easier than they look, even though no one ever believes me.
Of course, it helps to have an artistic hubby to delegate sign making to, and an artistic daughter to delegate fire sculpting to.  The trees are simply sugar cones stuck on pretzel rods with some green frosting accents.
But I think my favorite part was the stick fort that I nearly forgot to add at all.
Crazy that he's eight!
But I will revel in the fact that the most interesting thing he can think of to do with a girl is to examine bugs.  And I hope that he continues to find friends that love exploring nature as much as he does.

Happy Birthday, (not so) little bug!!

Gone Fishin'

This boy loves everything about fishing.  He hasn't exactly come close to catching anything, but that does nothing to deter him.  He was super excited to learn that there was a lake really close to home that was stocked with fish.  Almost as excited as his dad.
Who gets a little more discouraged about the lack of catching anything.  But always tries again another day.
This is what J requested to do on his birthday, after his baptism.  It still helps him to have something positive to help him push through his anxieties.  And as he says, "Even if we don't actually catch a fish, it's still fun to go fishing."
He's learning all about casting, reeling . . .
and baiting.

As is his littlest tag along sister.
B loves fishing so very much, that she does her very best to hog the fishing pole and not allow R to have a turn.
Which is something R does not appreciate.  B is still very much a fan of the Toddler Property Laws.
See her nice, crying face because we insisted that R get a turn?
Luckily for everyone within earshot, R decided that she would rather go swing than continue fishing next to a screaming sister.  So the tremendous trio got to fish in peace.
 And I got to play around with some action shots.  Which is always fun because you never know what you're going to get.
Or maybe I should say that it's a hair-raising experience.
 We were having so much fun that B even decided to lay down her coveted fishing pole to join us.
I want to go back and take more pictures let my kids swing some more.

We did a little more fishing on the pier.
Where J taught his big sister about casting.
And where B did her best to fall into the water.
And on our way out, we saw this duck with beautifully coiffed feathers.
As they say, a bad day fishing is better than a good day of work.  But, I think Shaggy and J would attest that there's no such thing as a bad day fishing.