At the beginning of April every single one of my kids recieved a letter invitation to a Co-op party to be held at the middle of the month. See, way back in September when we got our first chickens, we had to do some scouting for a feed/farm supply store that we were hoping was decently priced. All the local feed stores seemed to be ordering their feeds from the Co-op half an hour's drive to the east, so we thought that maybe we should just check the co-op out and order from them. What we learned was that the feed stores somehow managed to sell at a lower price than we could buy at the co-op, but we decided to join it anyway since we'd probably need other farm stuff besides feed. Part of joining up included free admission to the 'kid's club' for all of our children. Basically this just meant that they got a little card that says they can have a free cookie whenever we pop in for a visit, but it also put all the kids on the mailing list for seasonal events like a Christmas party in December and the Easter party in April.
Along with the invitation that listed all sorts of fun stuff like: face painting, bouncy castle, popcorn, carriage rides, petting zoo, fishing pond, lollipop tree, egg toss, ring toss and plinko games, balloons, cupcake decorating, nail painting, and concession stand, there was a coloring sheet that could be colored and returned to enter a draw for a new bicyle! The kids were beyond excited to even get the invitation, but the thought of possibly winning a bike, was more than they could contain. I told them we'd see how things went, and decide whether or not we went later, but they could still color the pictures and we'd figure out a way to submit them. It turned out that the party was on a day that the kids had off of school, and instead of the predicted rain, we woke up to dazziling blue skies and sunshine. Sir had things to get done at home, but if I wanted to take my chances on a outing with 6 kids by myself, I was more than welcome to do so.
So, we got up, had breakfast, did our chores, grabbed the coloring sheets and headed off to the party. We got there just before lunch time and the first thing we had to figure out was where to even start. There were lines EVERYWHERE! Finally we asked enough people the right questions, and got pointed to the starting line that took a whole half hour to navigate. At the end of the line, we checked in, and each kid got a booklet of tickets to use at the different stations set up all over the roped-off part of the parking lot. And we were off!
First we decided to take advantage of the all-you-could-eat popcorn. It was lunchtime, and I had not thought far enough ahead to pack a lunch. The party was supposed to be over by 2pm and I had valiantly thought beforehand, that we could be there by 10, see all there was to see and be home for lunch maybe a little on the late side. HA! But we were saved by the popcorn and it was delicious. It also provided enough steam to make it from station to station throughout the day without too much fuss.
Some things didn't need a ticket to experience, which meant that you could do them over and over if you wanted. The bouncy castle was one of those things, and a few of my gang really got their miles in on it. Ricka left her sweatshirt in the shoe pile (I was able to track that down before too long) and Emma must have been planning on saving time on a return trip to the castle because I found her in another line without her shoes on once. I made her go put her shoes back on unless she was INSIDE the bouncy castle. Butler didn't have a lot of patience for waiting in the lines to the various stations and more than once I found him back in the castle after making it about halfway through a line somewhere else before giving up. And PC's only regret for the whole day was that he only got to bounce in the castle ONE time! I later learned that this was to be treated as a serious misfortune because of the tragedy that it really was.
(Dolly at the Cupcake Decorating station)
(Dolly helping some of the other kids with their cupcakes)
The cupcake decorating station was a fun one. Each kid got to choose either a chocolate or vanilla cupcake, spread pink or yellow icing on it and top it with as many sprinkles and/or candy flowers as could be fit on top. And then they got to keep it! I wish I had taken pictures of the kids' finished products, but we were so hungry when we got home from skipping lunch that day, that I let them go right in and gobble up the cupcakes even before having a normal afternoon snack. The cupcake station was also where Dolly really shone as a helper. She's getting so big and independent and she's very capable and willing to help the younger kids. It was really nice because usually I'm so busy doing and redoing every step for different kids, that I never get a chance to step back and see the big picture. This time, I was able to juggle Hal and Ricka and take pictures while Dolly helped out where an extra hand was needed. She did that for a number of the things we did that day and it was a real refreshment to me.
PC is reaching an independent stage where he's able and good enough to do things on his own, but he struggles with being brave enough to actually use his independence. At first he sort of tread water at my elbow. Wanting to go do stuff, but being afraid to just GO and get started. However, by the end of the day, he had built up a good dose of confidence and was even brave enough to help Butler at some of the stations. The saying, "Still waters run deep." is very true with this young man. So much more than you think is going on inside his head and it's a real delight to see him venture out of his protective shells once in a while.
This station was not really a station since you didn't need a ticket to participate, but it was definitely one of the highlights. All three of the girls got their fingernails painted, but where the other two did it because it was there to do, Emma savoured every second. Things like this make Emma sparkle and when she sparkles, it's dazzling! I think she literally glowed for 20 minutes after her nails were finished. It was beautiful.
(Butler and PC finally making it to the front of a line.)
(Emma at the Egg Toss station)
(PC at the Ring Toss station)
(Dolly at the Fishing Pond)
At each of the stations where a ticket was used to participate, each kid received a prize of some sort when they were finished. They got a plastic egg full of chocolates and jelly beans at the egg toss, a toy car or necklace at the ring toss game, and whatever the person behind the ocean picture clipped onto their fishing rod at the fishing station. The random prizes ranged from playing jax, bouncy balls, bubbles, pencils, playing cards, noise-clappers, window stickers and tiny stuffies. I didn't get a picture of the Plinko game or the lollipop tree, but by the time we were done, we had so much loot from all the stations, that when Hal was not in the umbrella stroller, the bags of prizes hanging on the handles kept tipping it over!
The petting zoo was another no-ticket-needed amusement, and it was very much enjoyed by my gang. There were baby goats, little lambs, a baby calf, ducklings, chicks, bunnies, and little pigs. We would have spent a lot more time with all the baby animals, but time was running out, and we still needed to work our way through the longest line of all. I spent half the time my kids were petting baby animals standing in line for the carriage ride so I didn't take as many pictures as I would have if there weren't time constraints.
Each carriage ride took about 10 minutes and they could squeeze about 20 people in per trip. We finally made it to the front of the line after four trips, and just barely managed to squeeze all 7 of us in. While we waited in line, PC tried working his way through the balloon line, but each time the carriage came back, he'd ditch that line to join me in case we were finally able to go. He almost ended up missing out on the balloons altogether because everything was winding down. The same thing went for Emma and the face painting table. She even made it to the 'next in line' spot once, but gave up her spot to rush back to the carriage ride line because the horses were back. The carriage ride itself was pretty simple; a walk around the parking lot, down the side street to the first driveway where they turned around before heading back. But the kids enjoyed it. I tried to take a picture of the kids opposite me, but they were so excited and I was rushing too much to notice that my hasty shot didn't turn out at all. Dolly did much better when I asked her to take a picture of the rest of us though, so we do have one good picture from the carriage ride.
After the carriage ride, we had about 20 or 30 minutes left before the party would be over. Emma beelined it back to the face painting line, PC and Butler got back in the balloons line, and Dolly and Ricka went back to the petting zoo and then to the bouncy castle before joining Emma in the face painting line. I think there were two or three people that made it through the face painting line after my girls, so there was a general buzz of adrenaline emitting from my daughters for having just made it in time. All three girls were really happy with their paint jobs but Hal was getting tired of being locked up in the stroller There were still way too many people milling about to let him wander without getting lost, so by the time the girls were done, he was ready to go home. It was nap time.
When the girls were finished, we joined the boys in the line for balloons. It was 1:54 and the sign they'd taped to the garbage can in front of their table said, "Balloons closed at 2pm." and they were turning people away when we got there. I guess, they went through the line a few minutes before the girls and I showed up to watch, and put a felt mark on everyone in line, so they could tell if you had been in line before they closed. PC had a mark. Butler had gone back to the bouncy castle for a minute and didn't get one, but PC was trying to share his place in line in case the balloon people would allow it.
I think I enjoyed the balloons the most out of the whole day... well, I enjoyed watching the balloon people. There was a man dressed up like a clown, and a woman with a beautiful butterfly painted on her face, both making balloon creations. But I think the woman was getting tired. At first she didn't realized that the girls and I were just there to wait for our boys to finally get through the line, so she told us they were closed, that they weren't doing any more balloons that day and she made shooing motions with her hands as if she was sending us on our way. Meanwhile the man probably wasn't watching the time and was causally and extravagantly building balloon things while keeping a quiet, but engaging conversation going with his customer. Every once in a while, he'd tune in to the woman sending more people away and would nod and agree that yes, they were closed. And they he'd look at another person (not in what was left in the line) and say, "And what can I make for YOU?" It was so much fun to watch.
Anyway, PC finally made it to the woman and requested a balloon sword which she started working on quickly while the rest of my kids watched in fascination. Then the man said to Emma, "Why do you look so familiar? Do you have a twin? Have you been in my line today?" She just beamed at him, and mumbled the appropriate answers and then he said, "Well, I like your smile, what can I make for you?" We all glanced at the woman still telling people that they were closed and then Emma requested a sword, Like PC's. And the man said, "Can I make you a sword AND a hat?" Emma just beamed more. So he made her a sword AND a hat while the other kids watched and then he asked Ricka if he could give her a flower. She said yes, and he made a balloon flower for her. Then he said to her, "What do I get for making you a balloon? Are you going to pay me?" Ricka reached into her bag of popcorn and offered him the biggest handful of popcorn she could hold. He took it, and I expected him to toss it aside when she wasn't looking, but instead he ate the 10 or so popcorn pieces, thanked her and told her how good that popcorn was that day.
When Dolly heard the balloon man comment on the popcorn, she went across to the popcorn lady, got a whole bag of popcorn and gave it to the balloon man as she thanked him for making balloon things for her siblings even though they were closed. And then, the man gave her his display bouquet of balloon flowers complete with a balloon basket that held them all. I'm pretty sure he was just cleaning up since they were closed, but it really made Dolly's day, as she didn't expect to get anything. All this took place while the woman made PC's sword and a sword belt to go with it, and then she made Butler a sword too.
(Flower vs. Sword balloon fight)
Finally we left them in peace, did a head count and headed home. Tired, a little bit hungry and very happy.