"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Army Party

Evan's the kind of kid who knows what he wants. When it comes to birthday parties, he wants the Real Deal: a theme of his choosing, decorations, games, activities, cake, party guests, the works.

He's also the kind of kid who knows what he likes. He's an introvert that doesn't really like big crowds (or even small groups of people when they're in his space). For birthday parties, then, that means that the "party guests" portion is a carefully curated list of a very small number of friends. We've tried a few variations on this theme and, this year, got it just right. He invited three kids...two buddies from his class and one neighbor...which was a totally manageable number for him (especially because, as you might imagine, Max and Molly wanted Full Participation Rights at the party as well).

He wanted an Army Party, which, at first, had me imagining a Nerf battle. I didn't love the idea, though, and didn't know how the guests' parents would feel about that (or how Evan would feel about all of his Nerf darts being used outside...he has enforced a Darts Stay Inside rule for his Nerf stash...like I have said before, Evan is a pretty particular kind of kid).

So instead of a Nerf party, I talked him into an Army Boot Camp party. There was a little running and a few push-ups involved but mostly, this was an Obstacle Course birthday party. And it was awesome.

Here's the course we came up with:

#1: Run a Lap around the house.

#2: Drop and Give me 5, Soldier

#3: Quick Step

I wanted tires for this activity but didn't have any lying around and, frankly, didn't really feel like going to the trouble of finding any (or hauling them in and out) just for an afternoon. String and dowel rods worked just as well.

#4: The Beam

We live in a new and growing neighborhood with a lot of construction happening all around us. Sam did some dumpster diving and found a ton of perfect wood being thrown away. We put it to good use.

#5: Barbed Wire Crawl

The "barbed wire" is actually star streamers, but the effect was perfect.

#6: The Wall

#7: Laser Cross

During the walk-through of the course, we talked about how, after boot camp, some soldiers go on to be Infantry Guys. Some, however, go on to become Special Ops Guys. (I actually have no idea how boot camp or the Army or anything military-related works, but the kids all nodded in agreement on this distinction, so we went with it.) If you're going to be a Special Ops Guy, you'd better know how to do some super sneaky maneuvering (again, just go with me here, I'm literally just making things up). 

We strung crepe paper streamers all throughout the play house. Their mission? Enter Door #1, maneuver through the "laser beams" and exit through Door #2 without getting zapped.

 #8: Hurdles

More string and dowel rods could have worked here, too. But we just happen to have a little bit of an online shopping problem a few boxes lying around, so we put them to work.

#9: Grenade Launch

I found these great grenade water balloons on Amazon (here). Once armed with a water balloon, the kids aimed for a target 10 yards away or so. I was pretty impressed that the kids stuck to the task...this definitely could have turned into a water balloon free-for-all.

#10: Target Practice

Finally, the kids picked up a Nerf and aimed for the target.

Then, run around the front of the house and start over again!

After the kids ran through the course a few times, it was agreed upon (by the party guests) that they had graduated from their training and had achieved Army Man status. They continued to use the course, but it had now become a battlefield rather than a Training Facility. It was then decided (by the birthday boy) that his (unloaded, of course) Nerf guns were just what real Army Men needed. So it turned into a Nerf party after all, but happy kids are the goal at any party, right?

They were so happy, in fact, that I had to beg them to come inside to eat cake before their parents came to pick them up.

Evan, the Goofball, gave us a Birthday Song Dance before blowing out his candles.

And then, cake for everyone!

Thanks to Duff for this awesome Camouflage Cake Mix! I found this on Amazon, too (here--although when I went to grab this link, the cake mix was listed at $11!! I certainly didn't pay that, so wait it out for a better price!).

Lesson Learned:
If you have to do an Army Party, I totally recommend doing it like this. The kids had a blast and (aside from the wall-building that Sam had to do and the hours I spent filling water balloons) party prep was a breeze. I kinda doubt either of my other kids will request an Army Party, but I'd be thrilled if they did.

Mostly, I'm proud of Evan. He knows who he is, what he wants, and what he can handle. Self-awareness is huge...and he's nailed it.

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