Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Planning a Gluten Free Birthday Party

It's that time of year again.  The crazies set in, and on top of all the science experiments, girl scout cookies, homework, classes, and "finally, the big holidays are over, let's put as much focus as we can on the little ones" projects...we have two birthdays to celebrate!

With food allergies and chronic health woes, the birthday parties are more challenging than one might suspect!  Once upon a time, we started birthday talk with "What will we serve?"  We dreamt of cake, we agonized over appetizers.  Now...the food aspect can quickly overwhelm us.  What will we serve?  What will the guests be willing to eat?  How will it taste?  How much will it cost?  Do we dare even try to feed them?  (And should we warn them about the grapeseed oil and tapioca starch?)

Nevermind all that.  We've found a much better approach.  The kids have informed me that they hate the food aspect of parties.  They never even liked "real" cake that much anyways, and even though it makes their friends crazy, their friends don't care much about cake they only expect it because cake and birthday parties are synonymous.  With that in mind, we now start our plans with a theme.  This year, Bumblebee chose a garden theme.  Of course, her birthday's in March and one year it threatened to snow for the first time in over 20 years...so this was just another excuse for us to pull out the creativity caps and plan a birthday party to remember!
The first step is to design invitations.  She wanted to hand out invitations this year, instead of just emailing them.  So we pulled out my scrapbooking papers, and traced out hexagons, added petals and cut them out.  She wrote the party details on each petal, with a big "It's a Party!" in the middle, and we folded the petals down to a pretty flower packet.
We started the party with a craft.  She didn't like the planters we found in our price range, and the birdhouse kits didn't look very practical.  But she fell in love with the little "Everything Grows with Love" signs, and then I stumbled on some bug themed magnets on clearance at Target.  Cost: $6 for 2 crafts for a dozen kids.  (Plus extra glue and paintbrushes)
After crafts, it was time to really get the kids excited.  Besides, our favorite part of any birthday party we throw is the treasure hunt.  (and who doesn't like hidden treasure?)  I told the girls that I'd invited a garden fairy to give them some treasures, but she couldn't be found.  She'd left a note leading them to the first clue...which was another note.  All in all, there were 12 clues...leading them around the house and neighborhood in search of Gardenia.  The final note apologized for missing them, but there was a fairy emergency and told them that the treasure could be found in the rose garden.  Since it hadn't been there earlier in the hunt...it had a nice, magical touch.  The treasure was a little gardening kit and jumprope, and this was the big party expenditure.  (Actually, it was again quite inexpensive...I believe the treasure cost was around $16 total.)
The hunt left everyone starving.  The food was definitely not your classic party fare, but we had planned a little carrot patch out of hummus dip which was deemed adorable and although the kids didn't eat much hummus, the carrots and even a few heads of broccoli vanished.  We also put out some sunny orange slices and apple wedges, which disappeared in a hurry.
The highlight, of course, was the cake.  Instead of a "regular" cake, Bumblebee designed little loaf cakes frosted with chocolate glaze and decorated with lollipop flowers, a pinwheel and a dye free gummy worm.  The cakes were a little well done around the edges, and denser than the kids were used to.  But there were no complaints...and the gummy worms won lots of brownie points (Thank you surfsweets!)
At this point the kids were good to go, and would have been perfectly happy to be set loose in the yard for the last 15 minutes or so.  However, Bumblebee had wanted to play a few games so we rallied the guests. First, we played Pass The Flower, which consists of kids sitting in a circle and passing a fabric flower to the sound of Disney tunes.  The person left holding the flower when the music stops is "out". 
Then we played a unique party game that we called "Seed, sun, flower"  We chose a caller (birthday Bumblebee) and she called commands.  On Seed, they crouched; on Sun the stretched like a flower to the sun and on "Flower" they hopped as if being picked.  This seemed to be the favorite, and half the guests wanted to keep playing when I suggested that they take the jumpropes outside if they wanted any outside time before parents arrived.
The best news is the kids were all dragged away protesting.  The sign of a truly successful party: no one wants to go home! 

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