Between October and January is party time in our family with each of us celebrating our birthdays in close succession and Christmas bang in between. Mimi’s birthday is the last of the lot, which is fitting because she’s the littlest but this did not go down well with the drama princess unable to comprehend that everyone was getting to be the centre of attention before her. So much so that when we called to wish my dad on his birthday, Mimi threw a hissy fit until my bemused dad conceded to concede his day to her and only then did she grumpily blow him a kiss.
So combining the kids’ birthday celebrations into one party made sense. I don’t think Mimi could have stood it if Nene had another celebration before she got a turn. Also, the two of them have mostly common friends, and while I could have skipped a party per se for Nene in favour of something more intimate with his two besties, I was keen to throw a party for Mimi as she’s never had one, would probably enjoy it, and also it would be a way for her to interact with some of her school friends on her own turf.
As I have been saying ad nauseum, I’ve been crazy busy this semester so much so that when I finally gathered up the courage to comprehend organising a party for the kids, V asked me if I was really up to it. But I decided it had to be done. I woke up rather late and there were only a couple of weekends available before the Christmas break. First, I checked with Nene’s two besties as I knew that he would be very upset if they couldn’t be there. One weekend was ruled out, so that left me with only the first weekend in December as a possibility, which was not ideal as it gave me less time to plan. Next, I raced down to the clubhouse to check if a room was available. I managed to get a morning slot on 6 December, but only for two hours.
Since I had done a party for Nene when he turned three, I knew the drill. I checked on the availability of a clown/magician/balloon twister. From my research, the one I used last time was the cheapest English-speaking alternative and had done a good job. Even more amazing they hadn’t raised their rate.
I didn’t have to struggle for the cake, because a friend in our estate has started baking. Nene wanted a Spiderman cake and Mimi chose Elsa from Frozen. The cake was the other big expense.
From the past experience, I know that while a beautifully decorated room impresses adults, kids don’t really care as long as there are lots of balloons. Since I wanted to have a theme of sorts (Superheros and Princesses), I got red, blue and silver balloons.
The biggest challenge proved to be food. I had planned to order pizza and a few snacks from the clubhouse caterer. But when I went to the latter, it turned out their minimum order was HK$2000 and I didn’t want to order everything from there as the mains are too Chinese and unwieldy. I’ll admit I stressed over this one because I had vegetarian guests and it’s not easy to get vegetarian orders. I even got into a fight with V because I deemed him unsupportive of my stress. Finally, he spotted a flier at a restaurant we went to breakfast to, and we ordered from there. Honestly, we were saved by a very friendly diner who helped us explain to the restaurant staff that we wanted to know if the spring rolls were vegetarian. It’s rare to come across people who go out of their way to help like this in Hong Kong and so I really treasure these people.
For giveaways, V and I did a trip to Prince Edward. Unfortunately, we ate a rather dodgy Chiu Chow restaurant and I had the worst acidity attack ever. By the time, I bought and swallowed a tablet and then farted out the gas, most of the shops were closing. I quickly grabbed a few Elsa cups and balloons and decided to come back later. On the way, we spotted this amazing store (the name of which I can’t remember, but the branding looks almost similar to Uniqlo) with all sorts of interesting and well designed products at super reasonable prices. There I came across these cups with mud and seeds and decided to use them as giveaways. While I know that many kids would have preferred a toy, I guess a plant is more eco-friendly and educational, albeit not exactly in keeping with the theme.
Although I had hired an entertainer, I wanted to do some games myself. For one, this is how I grew up, and also, I’ve been to a fair number of parties where the kids are left to their own devices and they are either bored or get rowdy. So I decided to download some music to help me with the games and also downloaded colouring pages with superheroes and princesses on them.
At the last minute, I started feeling bad that there was not enough thematic decor and decided to hunt for spiderman plate and cups. The party shop in Causeway Bay I went to was hyper expensive, so I did a search online and found a more reasonably priced online shop. Even though V kept telling me I was being ridiculous, I insisted on buying some, more to please myself than anything else. A trip to the supermarket for chips, juice and extra cutlery and we were all set.
The party itself went by in a blur. Here were some takeaways:
- Book the room for at least three hours. I could have got it an hour earlier but figured it might be too early for people to come. Nevertheless, I should have just got ahead with a 10.30 am start time, as time flies when you’re having fun and I kind of embarassingly had to kick people out at 1 pm sharp. Initially, I had thought I could have them all go to the building playroom but it closes for cleaning from 1-2 pm. I toyed with asking parents up for coffee but I was too exhausted and also Nene’s bestie’s mum had pissed me off.
- The decor is totally unnecessary beyond balloons. At the last minute, I asked my helper to run up and get a stray bit of tinsel we had and I hung it up. It looked pathetic and wasn’t worth the effort. The kids went straight for the balloons and the adults started chatting and noone cared. Nobody cared much about the thematic plates. Totally a waste of time and money.
- I could have hired the balloon twister for longer. Alas, he is so expensive.
- The colouring pages went down a treat. Some kids didn’t want to get up to play the games even.
- The food was just right. However, I may experiment with
makinggetting the helper or husband to make more at home next time. Working out local catering options in our area that can do vegetarian food is a pain.
- I need to be more organized about the games and explain the helpers how I want them to help beforehand. Or ask cooperative parents to help me.
- Possibly ask a friend to come in to take photos. I cannot afford to pay a photographer and I am too busy at the time to take photos.
- Mingling with parents is impossible. I remember being miffed with Mimi’s friends mum for not circulating enough during her kids’ party, but actually the whole thing is quite manic and one may end up talking more to someone than one intended, thereby offending others.
- Everyone we invited turned up, except two. One told me beforehand she couldn’t make it, and the other was a girl in Mimi’s class whose mum’s number I didn’t have so I wrote her a note. Later she was added to our whatsapp group and I considered reminding her but didn’t partly because V was nagging me about whether everyone would fit in the room. However, everyone did and I should have reminded her because after the party was over, I got a message from her asking me what time it was because they lost the note!
- Indian mothers are the best. They are always ready to help. My Indian friend helped cut the cake, and another took photos. When I go to parties I always watch if the host needs help. However, this does not seem to be a universal thing, and I have noticed that parents (okay Western parents IMO) see it as an opportunity to completely ditch their kids and socialize.
- I don’t know if I have the energy or resources to do this every year. Honestly, we don’t get invited to that many dos, so reciprocation is not an issue. I could plan something for Nene and just his besties. Part of my intention was to let Mimi have her friends over, but I realised that Mimi is not that into her friends (and also by the time the party came around had changed who her favourites were). Le sigh. I think she might enjoy something with just the family and anyway we cut a cake for her schoolmates.