How much of your life have you spent (wasted?) trying to be normal? I constructed my life around the mythical land of Normal, but someone has different plans for me. Last year we were told our son wasn't 'normal', so now we're packing up old prejudices, our preconceived notions and unrealistic expectations, and we're moving out of Normal to a different... possibly better neighbourhood.

You too will find yourself, no matter who you are, joining me in this place where the only true measure of normal is which kind of weird you are. This blog will explore a journey most of us will take at some point: letting go of preconceptions about ‘normal’, peeling our fingers off the image we had of what our lives ‘should’ look like, and having the courage to re-imagine the piece of time we are given in this world.

You are now leaving Normal.

"A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Yoda, Meet Chuck E Cheese

Let me begin with an apology. To all the parents I frowned upon in the past, for contracting out their birthday parties to magic shows, carnivals, kiddie restaurants, petting zoos, mad scientists and any other off-site (read: no mess left in your house) entertainment (read: they do all the work, you get all the glory) service: I beg for your forgiveness. I now understand what drove you to remove all vestiges of birthday party madness from your lives and from your homes. What moved you to shirk your parental party obligations onto the shoulders of paid professionals. I get it now. Boooooooy do I get it.

Ok, so this post will appeal to two groups: a) parents of kids who like Star Wars and are looking for party tips, and b) parents who want to point and laugh at other parents - like me - who are foolish enough to host a birthday party (complete with custom hand-sewn Jedi robes which I finished at 4:43 on the MORNING of the party - yes, I am completely certifiable) for seven 7 year olds in my own home for 120 of the longest and loudest minutes I will ever suffer through. Throughout this post you'll find embedded links to tons of great Star Wars Party ideas, and plenty of opportunities to shake your head at me and ask "What was she thinking?".

I have now reached 7 consecutive years of almost exclusively home-hosted theme-based no-holds-barred birthday parties for Simon. And as I confessed to a fellow parent at a (grown-up) party recently, who was in awe of my selfless dedication to my child, it's driven largely by my own issues with perfection. Of course the foundation for these monumental undertakings is definitely built on my profound love for Simon, and to a great extent the lengths I go to for these parties are in direct proportion to the lengths I would go to (and have gone to) for Simon in any part of his life. But I've gotta be honest with you, there's a whole lotta ego in my obsession with hosting the perfect birthday party. And since taking Simon out of Grade 1 to homeschool him - not just a little sense that I have something to prove to the other moms.

Year 1 was the traditional 'baby's first year' shindig with extended family who each brought one item for a time capsule to be opened when Simon turns 18. Year 2 was a zoo theme with painted wooden zoo animals for invitations. Year 3 - backyard bbq pool party theme, year 4 - Pirate party (Simon's friends still talk about that one three years later) with pirate hats bearing each guest's personalized pirate name (Swashbuckle Simon, Buckaneer Ben, you get the idea) and a walk the plank (over the kiddie pool) activity complete with inflatable shark. In Year 5 Simon casually asked me when his superpowers were going to come in, as if they were in the same fact-of-life category as facial hair.

That year also brought a super hero party, and I hand-made 8 super hero capes (blue for boys, pink for girls) each with a personalized monogram with the first letter of their name in the shape of the iconic Superman logo.

Last year, Year 6, was our first annual Star Wars party with Yoda Sodas and a visit from Darth Vader himself. That brings us to Year 7. Also known as The Final Chapter. This one just about did me in, it took me within an inch of my life and walking distance to insanity. Seth wasn't mobile last year - that made orchestrating The Perfect Party much easier. Of course that didn't fully occur to me until today, as I was practically screaming just to be heard over the jet-engine-decibels of seven 7 year olds with pool noodle light sabers in full Battle of Naboo mode.

Seth was strapped to my chest in a cuddly wrap for most of the party, and the poor little guy is likely deaf in one ear now. My kind neighbours (who are also his godparents) graciously took him (2 hours past his nap time - you KNOW what that's gonna look like right?) for the last 45 minutes of the party.

The Imperial March (downloaded for 99 cents) droned appropriately in the background, we made a craft, we did Jedi training obstacle courses in the backyard, we had Darth Vader (aka Dad) stop by for a good beating again, this year joined by his pal Darth Mal. Who knew pool noodles could bring out the inner bloodthirsty warrior in children? These black-and-white, good-vs-evil confrontations still don't sit well with the philosopher in me, but they sure do appeal to my little Aspie :)

We drank Yoda Sodas again (lime sherbet with sprite), this year joined by the equally-tempting Darth Malt (vanilla ice cream with Cream Soda). Vader Taters (potato chips), licorice light sabers (Rainbow twizzlers) and Wookie Cookies (oreos) rounded out the ADHD-inducing table of sacarin delights. Of course the OCD in me had to label the foods using an authentic Star Wars font.

By the time we sang Happy Birthday and brought out the cake, I was so exhausted I literally didn't have the energy to even look for our lighter, and instead instructed the kids to 'blow out the light sabers' on the cake-topper action figures. They gave me a few strange looks but played along.

Star Wars Bingo was a big hit and a welcome relief from the madness of Sith Lord free play. My one sweet, quiet, unimposing Princess Leia (the lone girl at the party) was content throughout the chaos with her Leia hair (brown wool twisted into buns and sewn onto a plastic headband). She held her own in the saber jousting too, I might add.

I feel drained all over again just recounting everything here... ugh. Am I getting old? Or am I just getting wise? The redeeming factor of course is that all the kids had a riot, Simon had a wicked good time, and it was memorable. It will take the place of the legendary Pirate Party in kid lore, and it will feed my needy momma ego. I may not always know what the heck I'm doing in this whole parenting ASD/SPD thing, but MAN can I throw a good b-day bash.

I'd like to say Simon's joy made it all worthwhile but... honestly... it's a close call. Yoda would have words of wisdom to help me figure out this needy ego of mine but unfortunately he'll never get the chance because next year - next year we are going to Chuck E Cheese!


  1. Hey, very soon you'll be up to the sleepover parties! I loved it when that stage arrived - they don't want to be organised, you can restrict the numbers, and they just want to play xbox, watch movies and eat pizza, and see how late they can stay awake.

    we have fond memories of those parties - the time when the particularly hyperactive aspie kid decided to play piano at 3am, and the time my Dreamer pushed the coffee table out of the way... straight through the glass sliding door. Oh, and the time that just about everyone woke up with glasses and moustaches drawn on. :)

  2. We did our first "professional" party last fall for my son's 5th birthday. I adored EVERY minute! I don't know why I didn't do it sooner! It was worth the money to see other people entertain 12 children for 2 hours:) It won't happen every year because I do believe in the insanity that you strive for;) But at least I know that when the going gets tough the tough can get Chuck E. Cheese!!!
    Glad he had a great birthday!

  3. What an adventure it was to read your post... so that's how the other people live ?! WOW!
    My parties are usually the direct opposite-- but I really enjoyed reading about all the details! attention to details is GOOD!

  4. Caitlin,

    The 'ego' in me and my need to host the PERFECT birthday party has me ready to compete with you! LOL This year's Star Wars party included watching The Clone Wars via projector in my bonus room which was turned into a movie theater complete with popcorn and candy (crazy) and followed up with two cakes -- a light side and a dark side (emblazoned with the starbird and the republic emblem, in you guessed it, vanilla and chocolate), among many other ridiculous and difficult party feats -- which for the record, none of which required I sew (which means you win!).

    But, like you, I thought I was going to loose my mind at the end of the party, and I am POSITIVE that will not be taking place in my house next year.

    So, my hat is off to you, and I say, "May the Force Be With You" when you tell Simon that you are ending his party-streak.


  5. I loved your description of the "insanity".LOL.
    It reminds me of my mother!
    This year I decided to celebrate my SPD son's 6th birthday at a quaint and relatively small amusement park in Portland, Oregon. And eventhough it entailed guiding the 8 kids from one ride to the other (with a few parent helpers), it was a blast. The kids loved it, and I loved the fact that for $175, eight kids had their bracelets for unlimited rides, pizza, ice-cream, cotton candy, and juice, and the only thing I had to bring was the b-day cake. Never before had my husband and I been so relaxed the day before the party. Not a broom was lifted, no heavy house cleaning done. I absolutely recommend it!

  6. Lisa - weren't sleepover parties THE BEST when we were little? I still remember the excited trepidatious feeling I would get anticipating them.

    Heather B - I think at some point every kid hits that age - the age for them personally - where their dreams and energy levels just blow the roof off your house and you are forced to look elsewhere - and like you said, it may not be every year. But it WILL be next year!

    Stacey, if your parties are the opposite of my insanity then I STRIVE for YOUR sane version!

    Hartley - if we're in competition, which of us will be the first to get the on-site pony? Hmmm? Care to wager a bet?

    Maria, a carnival sounds perfect! I hadn't really thought of that but we do have a small local carnival that my son adores - might be just the thing for a June birthday :)