Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday! Phew!

It had been three years since our last, and only, attempt to throw our son a birthday party with anyone other than family and close friends invited. That time, he was overwhelmed by the whole thing. But he seemed more ready now, so, with Kai turning seven, we decided to give it another go.

My wife had everything planned and ready to go; gluten-free, casein-free cupcakes; a slushy drink; invitations to all of his classmates plus a few other kids; and, an animal show that would provide the primary entertainment. We were hopeful that Kai would enjoy this party, but a bit nervous as well. It didn’t help our anxiety that he had another major incident at school late in the week, his sixth in only six and a half days of school this month.

On Saturday afternoon, when his piano lesson ended, there was an hour to go before the party would begin. Our time-conscious son was beginning the countdown. We were expecting a pretty big crowd – 14 kids and about a dozen critters.

Kai’s grandparents arrived first so that we could enjoy some time with them before the crush of the party started. And then, the folks with all the animals arrived. Kai greeted them at the door and started quizzing them with questions even before they could unload their van. Laurie and Dave patiently answered his questions, and we soon found out how great they were with all the kids.

We waited a few minutes for the last kids to arrive, and then the show got started. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these kids – the vast majority had some type of special needs. But, they were hooked from the moment that they saw the first creatures, a couple of snakes. It was fun to see all them all smiling and laughing as each subsequent animal was brought out. This was not a shy group; almost every child was very eager to get close and touch the critters. They wanted to hold the snake, have the lizards placed on them, and pet the hedge hog. They loved the hard-shelled tortoises as much as the soft and cuddly rabbit and guinea pig.

Laurie and Dave did a great job in giving every child a chance to get close and touch each animal. They noticed when one boy was not able to get through the fray of the other children and made sure that he got to pet each animal, too.

Toward the end, a colorful toucan came out. But, it was another bird that provided the big finale. A large white Cockatoo, Casper, made its presence known as soon as he was brought out. A couple of kids covered their ears while the rest laughed hysterically as Casper loudly squawked and danced to music. The more the kids reacted to him, the louder Casper got. It was a rousing finish to a great show.

After the animal show, the rest of the party was anticlimactic. Of course, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Kai, and then it was time for cupcakes and other snacks. We concluded the party with a piñata, and we would have done without it if we had to do it all over again. After the piñata was opened, some kids ended up with more candy than others and one child got particularly upset at the outcome.

But, all in all, the party was as good as we possibly could have hoped for. All of the kids had a great time and we heard back from parents who told us how much their child kept talking about the party.

As for our son, of course we are thrilled that Kai had a wonderful time. But, it is also satisfying just to know that he was able to deal with all the commotion and excitement without getting overwhelmed. It was, indeed, a very happy birthday.

To see more pictures, please visit our page on Facebook.

For those in the Chicago area, we enthusiastically recommend Lil Critters. Their animal show is unique and very fun entertainment for a birthday party or other special event. Laurie and Dave did a fantastic job at including each child, and making them all feel comfortable and happy.


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