Year One: In an effort to help Jake make friends and develop a bit of a social life we decided to have a Christmas party for him. There were only a few boys there but it was fun and we felt we started something. We ate, had them bring a white elephant exchange gift and watched a movie setting the tone of all future parties. This was the year before digital entered our life so you will just have to imagine what it was like.
Year Two: Jake was at a new school and discovered girls. With a little fear and trembling we let him invite girls even though it was only 6th grade. 2 girls came and John and I had so much fun watching the other boys try to figure out what to do with this new situation, how to socialize with girls. We kept our usual format of food, games and movie. We discovered that between every activity you feed them and it keeps everything moving.
Year Three: 7th grade came and none of the girls could make it so we were back to all boys. It is a great age in boy world, one boy said the party was better than the year before because there were no girls and another said it wasn't as fun because there were no girls. John and I still enjoyed the party, watching Jake interact with his friends and getting a little glimpse into the world of young boys. We were a well oiled party machine and everything went smoothly.
Year Four: By 8th grade we had young men rather than boys attending our party and there was no question that it would only be fun if the girls came. And the girls came, I think it was equal number girls and boys. This year Jake had a girlfriend for the first time and Jake's best friend Jaxon surprised us by bringing his girlfriend (apparently he and Jake had agreed to this but forgot to tell John and I). It was another great party and John and I continued to thouroughly love the parties, sitting in the kitchen at the top of the stairs listening to their conversations and popping our heads in to say hi.
Year Five: This year everything seems to be changing in Jake's life and so it seemed the party needed to as well. He is at a new school again so there is a new friendship circle to draw from. We took a little more of a hands off approach this year. I let him invite about 35 kids through facebook, normally I limit to a managable 10ish kids. And we planned no activities. I rented no movie. The party started a little later and went a little later so I didn't need to feed them dinner. We had a few chips and just a couple pizzas to graze on. However, Jake did request we continue the fondu we have always done so we bought chocolate fondu. I tried not to panic too much when I learned that 12 kids said they were coming and 18 kids had rsvp'd "maybe". What does that mean?! Do I plan food for them or not? Should I move the furniture out of the family room to make space for another 20 kids or not? And then I learned from other parties Jake had gone to this fall that they liked to dance, we have not had dancing before. John and I don't dance. How does that work? I did force something new on Jake, a photo backdrop. Pictures get posted on facebook, I thought there should be a fun background to pose for the pictures. After moving all the furniture against the walls and putting Isabelle's toys in another room I spent most of my time on this and feel it turned out pretty well and was enjoyed by all. Jake spent most of his day preparing the music playlist for the party and figuring out how to play it through the speakers in our dvd player since we have no fancy stero system or Ipod speakers or whatever people do these days.
People started arriving a little before 7 and by 8pm the party was in full swing, after panicking about a potential 30 kids we ended up with a managable 15. John and I were busy preparing food which gave us ample excuse to go visit the party. Luckily some of Jake's friends like us and encouraged us to come down so we didn't have to seem too stalkeresque going back and forth. The new kids got used to the fact that we were there and I was going to keep taking pictures of them and we all relaxed. Around 8:30 I sent them all out to go Christmas Caroling at a neighbor's. They enthusiastically ran out the door to do so but got sidetracked on the block long walk to her house and ended up caroling at someone elses house they knew and then taking a long circular walk home. It wasn't quite what I hoped but I think they enjoyed it and maybe we started a new tradition that can be better organized next year. When they got home we finished up the fondu and served that and then it was hanging out downstairs, playing truth or dare which they encouraged us to play (they dared us to reinact John's proposal. It wasn't too tough, "here, want this?"), more music and then a little guitar hero as people started leaving to finish the night off.
We learned a few things. Jake's new friends are as nice and fun as his old friends, John and I are still cool, I don't need as much food for a 7pm party as I need for a 5pm party (anyone hungry for pizza or chocolate fondu?), all the cool people wear black converse tennis shoes, we might need to figure out a stereo system now that we have a teenager and most importantly...my photo background rocked! :)