Last month Mole turned six. She is rapidly becoming a proper school girl, with bunches and unicorn clips in her hair, a mounting pile of stuff she has to bring into school with her, and a nonchalant air at the school gates when I collect her.
“How was school today my love?”
“Fine” she says dismissively, in a ‘you couldn’t possibly understand’ sort of way.
Six going on sixteen.
This year I've decided to step it up a gear from the usual house party, and find another venue. I did the village hall hire already, and while I understand the draw of soft play centres, there is something about them that makes me want to vomit, so I was looking for something a bit different but still affordable.
After looking into possible pool hire, mermaid parties, and even a picnic at the local splash park, I eventually went for a Forest Party with the local Forest School. So there was to be den building, willow weaving, wooden necklace sawing, fire making and marshmallow roasting. It offered a halfway house between indoors and outdoors, as the canopy protects against most weathers, and it appealed to my inner nature child.
Mole was very enthusiastic when I told her. “I want a forest cake” she announced, to match the party of course. Cue googling lots of images of forest cakes to get some inspiration.
The tree stump cake with chocolate finger bark and butter icing grass around the edge seemed like the most doable one for me, so I gave that one a go. I got some woodland animal paper cut outs from amazon to dot around the top and sides, and did circle swirls with a fork on the top to look like tree rings. There was some trouble lighting the candles in the breezy wood which I hadn’t factored in, so the Forest School lady brought out a firecracker candle, which did the trick, but nearly set me on fire with it.
It turned out to be a fabulous afternoon. The weather was perfect, the dappled light came through the trees, the kids disappeared into the woods and stayed there, leaving the grown-ups free to enjoy coffee and chat, while all I had to do was serve up the cake. The Forest School had even done the party bags for me. My only regret was not inviting more of Mole’s class mates. I’d originally tried to stick to a budget, so we had about ten guests in total, but I’ve since come to the mind that if you’re going to pay for a party venue, mainly to get the extra space, then you might as well go all out.
The forest party got such glowing feedback from the kids and the parents, that Mr M&H and I have since talked about whether it’s possible to have a DIY one. I’m guessing you’d need your own wood, or a friend with a wood, or perhaps just find a secluded place that is away from public footpaths and go for it?. I’ve seen children’s parties in public parks before, where parents put bunting up in the nearest tree and stake their area, sort of like a giant picnic.
It’s got me thinking about parties in general, especially when there are multiple children, and the best way (economically and socially), to manage them.
To that end I’ve written up a plan of birthday parties for the next twenty years, for Mole, Hedgehog and Otter. This way I never have to think about it again, I shall just refer to the master plan…
Age 1-3 family outing (no party)
Age 4-6 house party, for around 10 kids
Age 7-10 forest party or other natural place, for around 30 kids
Age 11-15 house slumber party, for around 10 teenagers
Age 16-19 Night club or bar party for around 30 teenagers
Of course, planning anything beyond next year always seems like a bit of a joke, but it’s a guide, and it might save me some time in the future.
On Florence’s actual birthday (which was a school day), she got a birthday song in class, followed by party food after school, more present opening, and a bonfire in the garden, with soup and marshmallows. The bonfire in the garden seems to feature for most celebrations now. The wood smoke in my clothes afterwards reminds me of camping, it makes me feel happy and free.
So who’s birthday is next? Otter turns one on New Years Eve. A family outing then, with presents and cake at home. Sorted.
Now it’s the Autumn Equinox time of year again, which signals bonfires, blackberry and sloe picking, and long walks with Otter in the buggy. I’ve got blackberry, sloe and elderberry wine on the brew. It was taking so long to pick enough berries to make up a barrel that I ended up doing it in stages and mixing everything together in a sort of berry medley. Otter seems to like the blackberries. She pulls a sour face as I feed them to her, but then reaches for another one. I also tried doing a blackberry jam for the first time, but it came out more of a blackberry sauce, so you have to pour it onto the toast with a spoon. It works well in porridge though.
Hedgehog is settling into her reception year at school, loves wearing the uniform, and loves her teacher. After her muteness in preschool I was very watchful of her, but I’m relieved to see that she’s happy there, and starting to talk a bit more. Mole’s hand-me-down uniform still looks huge on her, I have to roll up the waistband on her skirts.
Luckily she’s not demanding star trek style hairdo’s every morning about five minutes before we have to leave the house yet.
That’s just Mole.