Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Crazy, Ridiculous, Over-the-Top Harry Potter Party

We don't do big birthday parties. Ever. The biggest thing we've done was the year we rented a bounce house for the backyard but that was a party for all three kids (it's a bit of a perk to have three birthdays within a month.... but only when you can convince the kids to have one party all together).  My oldest has really only had one birthday party that was just for him - when he was 3. Plus, our whole family is super into Harry Potter. So when he asked to have a Harry Potter Birthday Party, I honestly couldn't help myself.

So here's what we did and how we did it!! We had a BLAST! I am so indebted to Pinterest and other people's blogs about their Harry Potter parties... so this is my contribution to the internet. ;)

I guess we should start with the invitations! I printed out a Hogwarts Acceptance Letter for each child, and we drove around delivering them by "Owl Post."  This was really fun. Riley dressed in his Harry Potter cloak to do it!

The Party

The front door! I made a Hogwarts Express Sign and the kids helped me make the brick "wall" to enter the house!

The Sorting Ceremony
Before the party, I texted all the moms and asked them to send me two words that described her child. We used those words to sort the kids into Hogwarts Houses. Then my husband wrote a little poem for each child and I made a bookmark with their House info on one side and their poem on the other.  My husband recorded the Sorting Hat poem and each child's poem (using a Sorting Hat voice, of course) and we hid a bluetooth speaker underneath the hat. We called each child up and had him touch the sorting hat. When he touched it, it played his poem!  I made a "Wizard Cloak" for each kid and placed the cloak around his shoulders as he was sorted. I was a little worried about this, that everyone would want to be in Gryffindor, but actually, most of them were super-happy with their sorting and a few decided Hufflepuff was the best house!
My Sorting Hat, Wands, and Sorting Hat Poem

I forgot to take a picture of the final setup, but we placed the Sorting Hat on that table. The Wizard Cloaks are hanging, ready to go, and the big sheet is for watching the Harry Potter movie later.  I made the giant frame out of a big piece of black matting board. We used it again later in the party - I love when things have double-uses!

Our Sorting Hat Song:

The Wand Choosing Ceremony

As you know, the wand chooses the wizard, so we called each child up to try out a few wands and see which one worked for him! We made up some spells to make animal noises or Jedi lightsaber/glass breaking noises and the kids tried out the spell. My husband was in the back selecting a sound effect.  It worked out really well. Typically, they'd go through 1-2 wands before getting the "right one" but then I could tell some of them didn't love the wand they got, so we let everyone try a few more spells to make sure. We made sure the spells "didn't work" for the kids who weren't in love with their wands and they switched out. I think everyone was happy in the end.  And they would laugh so hard when someone was supposed to be making glass break but instead they got a cow moo.

After the wand choosing, I let the kids pick the "core" for their wand. When I made the wands, I had my husband drill a wide hole in the bottom of each one. The kids got to pick dragon scales (sequins), unicorn hair (iridescent pipe cleaner) or phoenix feathers (craft feathers) and put them inside their wand. I was sitting with the hot-glue gun to seal it up when they were done. I got no pictures of this part because the thought of leaving a glue gun unattended with 11 eight-year-olds in my house was just too scary. ha.

I was pretty pumped with how my wands turned out! I think they look pretty realistic!

Potions Class
We have a basement, which was perfect for our Potions Class in the dungeon! 
Each Student had a cauldron, a pipette, a mason jar, and a plastic cup with a measurement marking. Black plastic spoons were on the table with the potions - I pre-treated them with food coloring so that the kids would be surprised when they stirred. I don't recommend this. They noticed the drops on the spoon and touched them... dye all over the place! I had baby wipes on hand though, so it was all good.

I made all the potions labels... special thanks to all my wine-drinking friends who brought me wine bottles after I posted a plea for them on Facebook!

Our Pepperup Potion - the kids actually got to drink these!
I may do a separate post with exactly what we did for potions.  It was mostly dry ice, baking soda and vinegar, and food coloring. We had so much fun. And the only major mess we had was made by ME - I accidentally dumped over one of the big glass canisters! The Hogwarts students were much more careful than I was! :)
He made a very good Professor Snape

Working on some Pepperup Potion

We made one potion out of non-toxic ingredients and told the kids it was a "Drowsiness Draught" and asked if anyone wanted to drink it.  Awesome Jackson did - this was his reaction! Of course then the boys started dipping one finger into the potion and pretending to fall down asleep. So fun!

This ended up being a very realistic experiment. We made Snape Slime but I used really cheap glue from Hobby Lobby. In the end, only two boys actually got real slime they could pick up in their cauldrons... just like at Hogwarts, some students are better at potions than others!
Gold Star to Caleb of Hufflepuff and Riley of Ravenclaw for their potion-making prowess!

Drinking their Pepperup Potion

This might be my most favorite picture from the whole night! Look how excited they were!
 Just a few drops of Hippogriff Snot changed their potion!

They weren't really licking it... but why in the world was that their inclination?!?!  :)

I didn't want to etch my glass canisters just in case I wanted to use them again for something else, so I used "glass etch" vinyl to cut out the Hogwarts Crest and put them on the Potions containers.
Dinner In The Great Hall

The kids really loved the floating candles!

Flaming Firewhisky - apple juice with a tealight floating on the top. I served these individually and made the kids blow out their tealight before I walked away, but this was a HUGE hit. 
Quote of the night from one of the boys:
"I love ice water. It's my favorite drink! Well, it was, but then you gave me that butterbeer stuff!"
Um, sorry Sarah!!

Quidditch Game in the Backyard!
Riley helped me spray paint some hula hoops, then my husband worked some magic and we had a Quidditch Pitch for the backyard!

We had three more rings on the opposite end of the yard

Our Quidditch Rules:
I had a snitch I had purchased (but you could make one by spray painting a golf ball and gluing on wings). The kids hid around the corner of the house while my husband hid the Snitch.
When the game started, each team tried to put the Quaffle through the rings and one player on each team was the Seeker and was looking around the yard for the Snitch. We had a timer and after 5 minutes, a new Seeker was selected. My two littles were "Bludgers" and they ran around and tagged the boys as they played. The original idea was that if you were tagged, you had to sit down and count to five. It had rained and it was really wet, so we ended up having the Bludgers tag the kids, but it didn't really mean anything!
Our broomsticks are just clippings from our yard and straw from a bale we got at Lowes.


Re-potting Mandrakes! The cupcakes had chocolate frosting and we stuck a little baby mandrake inside (I glued treetops to the top of tiny baby favors)
Just before we sang Happy Birthday, we had a quick lesson on Mandrakes and their powers.

Unless the kids were really into Harry Potter, I think the significance of this activity was kind of lost on them, but the kids who did this thought it was fun! While everyone was getting their sleeping bags ready for movie-watching, I used that giant frame for a quick photo op. Not all the kids wanted to participate, but I got some great expressions from the ones who did:

Late-Night Snacks

I was pretty proud of the boys. I didn't put out much junk food at all, especially since we had cupcakes and butterbeer. They were really happy with the popcorn and fruit - or should I say Puffapod Seeds, Wizard Fruit, and Flesh-Eating Slug Eggs

The Fun Details
My favorite small detail was my Chocolate Frogs! I made the Chocolate Frog box and even made double-sided Wizard cards to go inside! Each boy got to take one home at the end of the party

House Frames - I had these printed out at Office Depot and stuck them in some frames I had around the house. The silver one is a fancy one we got for our wedding and I'm pretty sure I've never put a picture in it ever!

House Banner - I printed these out on burlap, mounted them onto colored felt and attached to a ribbon to make our House Banner

Chocolate Frogs and Hedwig. I REALLY wanted a caged Hedwig for the party but I was also trying not to spend a lot and to let Riley make as many decisions as possible (I love Harry Potter and it was hard for me not to completely take over and do everything how I wanted it). So he chose this little owl stuffed animal and the cage was on sale at Hobby Lobby.  It was a sweet detail... and now he gets to keep the owl. Plus it makes me giggle at how small the cage is for the poor thing!

Sooooo.... want to have your own Harry Potter Party? A friend of mine suggested that I pack up all my stuff and rent it out for a donation to my next trip to Swaziland. I am going again this January! So if you are interested in renting my props (or having me make wands, cloaks, or Chocolate Frog boxes) for a party, please let me know!!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

I have to tell you something

I've been trying to write something coherent and meaningful about Mike Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. I keep failing. I think it's because what I need to write is painful. My heart is so broken over all of this. Not just for Mike Brown. It's broken over Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell. And many, many others. I think of their mothers, their families. The value of their lives, now lost. Oh how I can't stop thinking about their mothers.

I have to tell you something: I have three children. Two sons and a daughter. One of my sons is white, the other is black (he was adopted). It breaks my heart that, based on statistics and research, and on the countless number of actual incidents of oppression in our society, the future looks much brighter for one of my sons than it does the other.

I have to tell you that my white son, no matter how he is dressed, is so unlikely to be shot while walking down the street that my brain doesn't even register any fear about it.  But my black child? I already fear it. Legitimately. In my very own neighborhood, a few years ago, someone called the police because a group of black teens were walking down the street. The compliant? Suspicious strolling. The boys live here. They were walking in their own neighborhood. I live in a Stand Your Ground state. This terrifies me.

I have to tell you that should my boys grow up and make some poor choices, my black son is 30% more likely to wind up in jail for the same crime as his brother. Statistically, my white son is five times more likely to use drugs than my black son yet my black son is ten times more likely to be sent to jail on a drug offense. That is so ridiculous it is almost funny. Almost.

I have to tell you that should, heaven-forbid, either of my boys be shot or harmed and the news decided to cover it, the photo chosen to represent each one would be vastly different. My white son would likely be portrayed by the media in his nice clothes, a graduation cap and gown, or maybe a sports photo.  My black son's photo is more likely to be menacing, or lazy, lying on the couch, holding up his hands, as if in a gang sign.

I have to tell you that my white son is more likely to be hired for a fabulous job than his brother, regardless of intelligence or achievement.

I have to tell you that I live in a culture where my white son's life is more valued than the life of his black brother.

I cried writing that sentence. I had to stop typing. Head over the keyboard, suppressing sobs kind of crying.

This has to stop. Please don't tell me I am over-reacting. Please don't tell our black community that this is an "isolated incident" or that they are being oversensitive. Listen to the stories, believe the eye-witnesses. Black lives have value, their voices speak truth.  We have well-documented research that shows racial bias in our culture. It exists. It is real.

These are Howard University students just after Mike Brown's murder. It's my most favorite photo I've seen this week.  I think it's beautifully, heart-wrenchingly poignant.  According to eyewitness accounts, Mike Brown was standing, compliant, with his arms up when he was shot and killed. He must have looked like these students:

Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you see menace? Does this picture trigger fear? We have to look deep, find our biases and work to eradicate them.

I have to tell you, I have to confess that as a white person, it took having a black child to move me towards true advocacy. I didn't believe I was racist, but I was all too willing to look the other way, to feel sad about events but stay out of them. I was complicit in my non-action. That is racism.

I have to tell you, this won't stop on its own. We have to stand together. This is not a "black issue."  We need to stop the over-militarization of our police so that our police officers no longer view the community as the enemy.  This is not a "police officers are bad" issue. The racial bias in our police force is a reflection of the racial bias in our culture. It's just that their interactions turn deadly. There does need to be focus there.

How to get started? What can we do? Read these two articles on how to be a white ally:

And if you live in Greensboro, stay tuned. We have a ball rolling - there will be some opportunities coming up soon to be more involved.

I have to tell you I stand with the black community. I believe the stories of racism and oppression. And I will not be complicit in my silence. Too many innocent young men have been murdered because of the color of their skin. Enough.

I have to tell you I am praying for change. I'm praying that grief and outrage will fill my friends' hearts and that they will be so uncomfortable that they have to DO something. As mothers, we need to protect our sons. All of them.  As humans, we need to protect each other. I pray that by the time my boys are old enough to be viewed by the justice system as adults, enough change has come that they will both be judged fairly by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And I deeply regret the part I played in the fact that that day has not yet come.