Color wars

The Boy turned 9 last week, and we were somewhat stumped for what to do for a party. 

We've thrown a few different kinds of parties over the years, but they've all had a couple of things in common. a) It has to fit in our backyard. (or side yard. Or front yard. Whatever). And b) it probably will end up involving props of some kind.  For the first few years of the Critter's life, her birthday was a Bluegrass BBQ that slowly escalated into a multi-band jam.  And at some point I discovered that I could build medieval structures out of haybales, and then the fun really began. But this year, we were at something of a loss. 9 is tough, as the kid in question is beginning to voice an opinion about what kind of party he wants. 

I ran the Tough Mudder a couple of weeks ago, and I was somewhat tempted to build an obstacle course in the backyard (but then I realized, we had already done that). But that led to another thought, and we thought - color run! Wait. No. No running. Color wars! 

That we can do! I trotted out the pallets I had set up for last year's water battles, and made a team Red and team Blue fortification amidst the apple and pear trees. We looked up the recipe to make the color powder (turns out, it's just cornstarch and food dye, mixed baked and dried), but then we found an even better solution: you can buy the stuff for a few bucks. We ordered 100 packets.  

We ordered a box of those little nylon footsies they provide at the shoe store to try things on, and set up a production line. One bag filled two footsie socks. Tied off, they became handy little grenades that shed lovely color when you threw them, and splatted satisfactorily when they hit. And they could be picked up and thrown again and again. 

When the kids arrived, we divided them into a team Boys (made up of 8-9-10 year olds) and a team girls (which seemed to include a lot of older teens, and somehow, my lovely Bride, who wanted in on the action). 

She naturally became a prime target.  

We had only two rules, to keep it simple (just in case you want to try this madness at home) - One: you could only have one color grenade in hand at a time. And two, if you got hit, you had to retreat to your base before joining again. 

We gave everyone a pair of safety goggles, and set them loose.  The results were a lot of laughs, and some happy, exhausted, and very colorful kids. 

We had a lot of baby wipes to help folks clean up afterwards. (I did find quite a number of handprints on the walls inside the house that evening - a quick wipe down made it disappear, no problem).

I'm not sure which team won in the end, but I'm pretty sure the dog ended up being the most popular target. Poor, patient George started out in the thick of things, but ended up on the sidelines pretty quickly. The kids found her anyway, and spent the last of the powder creating Maine's only tie dye English Shepherd. 

Not sure exactly how we're going to explain this one to the groomer today... 

Once more unto the breach, first graders, once more.

For his sixth birthday, the Boy said he wanted to have a castle in the backyard again.

Thank God. I was afraid he was going to ask for something crazy that I wouldn't know how to begin building. 

Castles, we can do.  


A few bales of hay, scrap 1-by lumber and a few flags. And there you have it: a castle.  

I got a little bit creative this year and built a couple of practice dummies that pivot when you whack them. Just to give the kids a bit more of a target for their energy. Because every birthday party is made better by a whirling pointy stick or two.

Our kids got a little bit of practice in the evening before the party.  



My Bride made up some tunics for the kids in opposing colors, and hung them out to put on as they arrived, along with a basket of foam swords and some spongeball artillery for water fights, in case it got a bit too hot.  

We hung the Boy's armor from last year up nearby to give them the idea.  



Since that armor was a bit small for my now-6-year-old, I worked up something new for him. I asked him what he wanted on the armor, and he said an eagle. And black, "like in Lord of the Rings." (I'm not sure which character he had in mind there. I'm not sure I want to know). 

So a few weeks in advance, I started putting something together for him. It turned out a little bit big and I trimmed it down a touch in the end, but that just gives him a little room to grow into it. Like any good armor for a six year old should have.  


We had sketched out some shields in advance for the kids to finish decorating. Last year I had tried printing out some designs that they could cut out and glue on. That was messy and unsatisfactory. The shields are way bigger than your standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. 

This year, I free-handed in some basic designs with a handful of big sharpies and set them out for the kids to choose their favorite and make their own.  This was way more satisfactory in the end. And easier. 

Come back with your shields, or on them, kids...  or whenever you get hungry for fried chicken & lemonade. Whichever comes first. 



(That's my daughter's shield on the table. I told her to draw whatever symbol she thought might represent her. She heard "draw everything you like to do  in the history of ever." Cooking. Painting. Horseback riding. Ukulele. Books. Violin. There's a pair of skates and a pair of skis on there. At one point she asked me how you draw "swimming"). 

When the kids arrived, we donned the tunics, handed them a sword and shield, and sent them out to cry havoc.  

Our parties aren't really about scripted activities, but we tend to go heavy on the props. 



The Critter and her friend had painted a dragon for the party which we stood up to one side for a bit of additional challenge. The kids charged it, hurled water balloons and sopping wet sponge balls and defended it in turn.  I was pretty pleased with how well the girls did in coming up with this wee beastie - we may have to save this one somewhere for posterity.  



And when the warriors had battled enough, we gathered in the weary wounded and had cake. 

Dragon cake. With gold treasure. 


It was chocolate cake, with a red velvet dragon. I'm not sure that the kids got the joke. But the adults did when I cut it open and served dragon meat cake. 

My beautiful Bride has the best sort of twisted sense of humor sometimes.  


And then the party was over, and it was time to say goodbye, and take the castle down again. The hens will appreciate the hay when the snow comes, the flags disappear back into the barn. and the wood never goes to waste around here.  

But I think the Boy will be ready to take the black if the moment comes. 




Six is sword fights & musket drill & cowboys & Star Wars & squirrel hunting, and this time I'll be the bad guy because you were last time. And six is getting up after you killed each other and sharing a couple of pouches of lemonade, and planning the next round.

Six is building rockets with legos, and castles with hay bales, and tables with Dad's hammer, and entire worlds with your imagination.  

Six is a drawer full of soccer jerseys, and running after the ball til you're sweaty and falling down, and chasing your friends to get popsicles like you didn't just run for an hour.

Six is still loving a cuddle, but being ready to play. And jokes that you make up yourself with punch lines that make you laugh for hours.  And being pretty sure that summer is never going to end. But making sure to ask for more play dates with your friends, just in case. 

Six is sweet, and thoughtful, and making sure your friends are having a good time. And being concerned when someone scrapes their knee. And sure that a band-aid will fix pretty much anything.  

Six is being brave enough to conquer the world every morning. And tired enough to be carried to bed every night. 

Six is happiness.