Throw a party
Don’t spend a big bundle of cash

By Melanie Nelson

Why is it that birthday parties always end up costing more time, energy and money than you planned? I think that sometimes, as moms, we get caught up in the “Pinterest-Perfect” mindset, meaning that everything has to look and be perfect in order for anyone to have fun. I, too, get caught up in the “cuteness” when I steal ideas from Google searches and Pinterest posts. I think it is important to remember that birthday parties are parties, and parties are supposed to be fun, especially when it comes to our kids.
When my oldest son turned 9, he told me that he wanted an “army party.” I wasn’t sure what to do. All I knew was that I was going to have to get creative if I didn’t want to spend a fortune. So I sat down at my kitchen table with a pen and made a list of categories I would need to cover for the party: invitations, cake and other refreshments, goodie bags for guests, decorations, and activities.
Then, I went online and did a Google search for “army birthday” and about a million images popped up. I wrote down what I liked in each category and then went to work on each thing one at a time.
Invitations: I designed my invitation in a program I had on my computer by copying ideas and text from other invites I saw online. The total design took me 30 minutes to complete. (I like to do things like this, so that was fine with me. If graphic design is not your hobby, there were lots of ideas online that were ready to print.) I uploaded the image to Costco online and had 10 copies printed. Here’s how they turned out: the invitations cost me $2.53 and 30 minutes of my time.
Cake and Refreshments: I decided that I wanted cupcakes, and I didn’t want to pay the current rate for a box of chocolate cake mix, so I made the cupcakes and the frosting from scratch. I used simple recipes from Betty Crocker’s cookbook and cooked them in camouflage cupcake wrappers.
• Cake: 35¢
• Wrappers: 97¢
• Chocolate sprinkles and frosting: $1
• Army men: $2.25
• Time: 1 hour – 30 minutes to make and bake the cupcakes and make the frosting; 15 minutes to cool the cupcakes; and 15 minutes to decorate them.
Goodie Bags for Guests: I like to give the kids who come to a party a little something to take home. Because of the army theme, I thought it might be fun to pack their sacks full of snacks and items that you might need if you were hiding out in a bunker. So here’s a list of items I used for the goodie bags:
• Brown paper lunch sacks ($2 for 100 ct., and I already had some in my pantry)
• Star tags for top (free – made from supplies I had)
• Handi-Snacks cheese and cracker packs ($0.20 each)
• Trail mix ($0.20 each)
• Two grenade water balloons (97¢ for 30 ct. package)
• Glow stick bracelet ($1 for 5 ct. package)
Activities: This is the fun part. My son and I decided that we should have a water battle. I picked up two recliner boxes from a furniture store nearby. The first box I cut in half to make each team a “home base.” The other box I cut into four pieces and made “bunkers” between the bases so the boys could “duck and cover.”
Each base had a bucket/pool to use as a water source, a bowl of grenade water balloons (the same kind I put in the goodie bags) and five water cannons. I borrowed the guns from a couple of friends so that each boy had his own.
When the boys arrived, we did refreshments and presents first. Then I explained the rules and boundaries for the water battle. Then the boys took over. They had so much fun. I had planned 30 minutes for the water fight, but they didn’t want to stop. They played for an hour or so. Some of the boys got creative with the bunker boxes and the other resources they were given.

For this and other ideas, go to www.maryannscupboards.com.

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