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Party Theme: “Epic Win”

March 10th, 2010 . by maria

When my son told me he wanted his party theme to be “Epic Win”, I had no idea how I could turn that into a theme. But, after working together a bit, I think we worked it out. Here’s what we did:

Invitation: we found a picture of Chuck Norris made into a faux inspirational poster with the caption “Epic Win”. This was perfect, as the boys have this game of saying “who would win, X or Chuck Norris” and the winner is always Chuck Norris. We wrote out a lot of the invitation in txt slang, like the LOLcats captions. I used black and “windows blue”, plus stars and squares, as a visual theme.

Decorations: We generally use the same ones over and over. This includes hanging large gift bags and re-inflated foil balloons. Fortunately, most of these had blue or black or stars. I also added some blue square beads in some of the hanging decorations, and a blue plastic $1 tablecloth on my main table. I had a black card table as well. We had a dual screen desktop setup front and center in the party space. If I had more time, I thought of printing and hanging the main screen of popular websites, such as facebook, google, etc. It didn’t matter with this crowd, but it would have been a theme reinforcer.

Goody bags: Notepads and bubbles with the theme paper glued on them. Cube picture frames. LOLcats bouncy balls (kitten bouncy balls from Psychadelic erasers. Black binder clips. A few other misc things.

Photos: I usually take a picture of each child with the birthday boy, print and frame it, and send it home in the goody bags. This year, I gave them each their own disposable camera ($4), marked with their name. I took pictures of my own, of course.

Foods: Pizza, of course. Gatorade bottles (mark the lids with initials with a magic marker, and everyone knows whose bottle is whose. Then you don’t end up with half-used drinks, and kids getting new drinks because they lost theirs. “I like pie” is…I don’t know, some saying they all seem to know from some cartoon or game. So, we had a huge chocolate/graham cracker pudding pie instead of cake. We had planned to have homemade waffles for breakfast, but the kids voted to have leftover pizza or pie instead, so I let them.


  • Snowball fight (would have been sledding, but the hill melted off).
  • Pizza.
  • Coke and Mentos. I got the small plastic bottles, for less waste. We did this on the deck, so they could be as messy as they wanted.
  • LOLcats slideshow. To the tune of the Benny Hill Theme Song – no idea how they knew about that!
  • LOLcats Caption Contest: We saved 10 uncaptioned pictures. I gave each kid paper and a pencil and had them right #1-10 “like a spelling test, but more fun”. Then I showed each slide for long enough for them to write out their captions. When all slides were done, we went around the table reading their creations, and everyone voted on the best. The best one got added to the picture using a photo editing program, and we showed the final products as a new slideshow at the end.
  • Warm Fuzzies craft: glue, pompoms, foam feet, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners combine to make cute little fluffy monsters. Surprisingly, preteen boys actually enjoyed making these. Pop culture tie-in here was tenuous…I think it was on the 1800flowers commercial?
  • “Cake” and ice cream time.
  • Gift opening. (The gifts were cash, gift cards for gamestop, and Wii games.)
  • Mario Kart DS race and freetime on the DS/Wii, or in the boys’ room.
  • Rickrolled: halfway through freetime, I ran up with my laptop and said “you guys have to see this video”. When they all gathered around, guess what I played? Only a couple of them knew what a rickroll was, but it was funny just the same.
  • 11pm bedtime. We have two futon mattresses, and everyone brings sleeping bags. I allow 15 minutes or so of quiet talking (they’re gonna talk anyway) and then I say “enough” and they stop. Surprisingly, this always works, and I’ve never had a problem getting people to sleep. It might help that I also go to bed, right across the hall, and that the rest of the house is dark.
  • Morning is breakfast and more freetime, until parents come.

I had my son’s facebook page pulled up the whole time, and reminded everyone to “friend” him later. I also tweeted the whole party, and set up a desktop app to show the tweets throughout the party. These got less attention than I had hoped, but it reinforced the theme.

Result: Success. I thought the theme came across very clearly. But, the real success was mostly because my son has a great bunch of friends! This party was tuned into who they are and let them be themselves, and – from the stories they were telling their parents as they left – they all really enjoyed it.

Boys Party, Age 13

October 1st, 2008 . by maria

Theme: “Can you make it past twelve?” A sleepover party.

Invitations: Since it was October, I used an orange cardstock, but you could use any other color. I inset a square of a black and white circular illusion pattern, then on top of that a white square with “Can you make it past twelve?” written on it. I did the same on the inside, except the white square had the party details on it.

Food: Pizza, Chips, Gatorade, Cake and Ice Cream, and Breakfast cereal. (There’s no need to get fancy with food, when kids are thrilled with these!) TIP: I use drink bottles with lids and some way to mark them so kids keep track of their drinks instead of wasting them.

Favors: Items found in the scavenger hunt, equally distributed between bags. Pop Rocks, Test tube candy, pens, and a framed party photo. TIP: Get cheap wallet-size frames at the dollar store – some even come multiples to a pack. Take a picture of each guest with the birthday boy, using a digital camera. While the kids eat cake, upload and print the photos and put them in the frames to go in the goodie bags.

Events: Eyeball Glow T-shirt craft, Bottle marker craft, Glow scavenger hunt/secret code, silly string fight.

Eyeball Glow T-shirt craft: I bought a black t-shirt for each attendee, and painted a large solid circle with glow-in-the-dark t-shirt paint in advance. (So they wouldn’t have to wait all night for a drying shirt.) When the kids arrived, I handed them a tub of permanent markers and instructed them to design an Eyeball on their shirt. I had a paper with several examples nearby in case of creative block. They then changed into these shirts for the rest of the party.

Bottle marker craft: Using pony beads and pre-cut plastic lanyard string, each boy designed a distinctive bead marker to tie onto their Gatorade bottle. Be sure to have primary colors. I also had glow-in-the-dark pony beads.

Glow scavenger hunt/secret code scramble: I bought glow-in-the-dark plastic bugs, eyeball shaped bubble tape, and other such small toys at the dollar store. Then I found a symbol code in my son’s book of secret codes. I wrote a message in code, and then transferred one symbol onto each item. (Some items had “dummy symbols”.) I took a careful count of the items, so we’d know when we’d found them all. (I had my younger son hide them, so he wouldn’t feel left out of the hunt, or be competing with the older boys.) You could hide them indoors or out, depending on the weather or your situation. The boys had to find the right number of items, decode the symbols, and then unscramble the message. (The message was “time for cake!” So, then we had the cake and ice cream, opened presents, and had freeplay until midnight.)

Silly string fight: This was the “make it past twelve” part. At midnight exactly, I let the boys run out into the yard and spray each other with cans of silly string. With one can each, this lasts only a couple of minutes, but is quite noisy. (Again, dollar store came in handy for these.) This was followed by bedtime. I thought that might be a problem, but it turned out most of the boys were tired by then anyway. I usually have a 15 minute “whispers-allowed” period, and I don’t think I even had to tell them when the time was up.

The rule for the morning is “quietly play gameboys if you’re up before 8am”. Nobody was up before 9am. I fed them regular breakfast cereal and bananas and juice, and then let them have more freeplay time. Pickup time was 11am.

Another note: My son received numerous Blockbuster gift cards for his birthday. I guess this is the “safe gift” for teenage boys. I was at first disappointed, because we rent movies from on-demand. Then we were reminded that Blockbuster rents and sells game system games. (They also sell popcorn, candy, and a few other items.). My son really enjoyed combining several cards to have enough to buy a new game and a couple boxes of candy. So this is not only the safe gift if you don’t know what to buy, but also age-appropriate, and “cool”. (Also, I don’t think you have to have a Blockbuster card to buy, not rent.)

Santa’s Cantaloupe

December 10th, 2007 . by maria

“No, I said reindeer look like antelope, not cantaloupe!”


Concept by Leiham Helm, Artwork by Aidan Helm

Happy Birthday Aidan

October 1st, 2007 . by maria

My oldest just turned 12 today. Holy cow! It barely seems possible – except that he’s almost as tall as me now, so there’s really no doubt he’s growing up. We had a sleepover party on Friday. The theme was extreme sports. He had 8 boys come, and 7 spent the night, and they were all very well behaved. I was SO happy. My big party tip of the year, which worked out really well: Buy cup cozies and write each person’s name on them. Slip these onto drink bottles with lids. We had 0 spills, 0 shared drinks, and 0 drinks thrown out because we weren’t sure whose was whose.