Somehow, despite having three children aged between 9 and 15, I have managed to avoid running the Themed Birthday Party.
Until middle child Alia turned 11.
Leading up to her birthday, Alia had expressed the wish to receive an eleventh birthday letter inviting her to enrol at Hogwarts, preferably tied to an owl’s foot (although she’d settle for a balloon with an owl picture on it like she’d seen on the Internet). A little toy owl chick found in a second hand shop and her younger sister Zoe’s ICT skills combined to make that wish a reality, but it didn’t stop at that comparatively simple whim; somewhere along the line I signed up to holding a Harry Potter Party.
I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before that my visual creative talents are woefully non-existent (proof of that is in the poor quality photos I’m about to show you). I decorated a cake for my son’s second birthday, and it was so bad, that was the first and last cake I ever iced for a party. Ever since then, cake duty has been shared; I bake it, husband decorates it. And in our household, that has traditionally been the extent of my husband’s involvement in party preparation, except to assist with child wrangling on the day and to exclaim, “You invited HOW MANY?!?” beforehand. Luckily for me, his imagination was fired by the theme, and he also took to the Internet for guidance and inspiration.
I blame the Internet for the absence of themed parties in our house up until this point; there’s nothing more disheartening for me than looking at someone else’s smugly presented, Martha Stewart-like party and knowing I could never measure up to that impossible ideal. However, The Man of the House is cut from different cloth – where I saw insurmountable difficulty, he saw opportunity. Discarding the more ambitious ideas – “Did you know that one guy hired a miniature train, decorated it to look like the Hogwarts Express, and had it running around the back yard?” – he put together a list of ideas and set about making them reality. (And in true McBride fashion, left it until the last minute to do all the work, putting the finishing touches on the cupcakes as the first guest was walking through the front door.) The kitchen bench was temporarily turned into Olivander’s (the secret to homemade wand construction – hot glue, chopsticks and paint) and the printer ran red hot. We even managed to borrow from a friend an honest-to-goodness replica sorting hat for the occasion (I’m pretty sure that friend is counting down the days until her daughter turns eleven, and when she does, we can be on hand to help with the party planning).
For my contribution, I got to dress all in black, frizz out my hair and play the role of a bossy school mistress (so, situation normal, then.) I rather liked the feel of the wand in my hand, and might have gesticulated a little too enthusiastically with it. I wonder if Dumbledore…I mean, my boss would object if I used it in my classes as a study aid…
The Book of Monsters, hiding out under the couch