I finally did something I'd wanted to for years: throw a real birthday party for James. OK, I am almost 5 months late, but this year I did it and I am so glad I did.
Chronic issues: A birthday that lands 10 days into the new year, after everyone is wiped out (on so many levels) from the holidays; autism; winter bugs making the rounds; financially drained after holidays and big sister's birthday; weather that confounds outdoor (and less expensive) parties.
This year, however, James has had an awesome group of classmates and really expanded socially. Even with finances and other things stressed to the max in our lives, now was the year to do it. During end-of-year inventory sales, I purchased party items (plates, napkins, cups, and a fabulous collection of party bag toys) for an 8-kid party with a theme James would love: Angry Birds. I figured I'd wait for some nice Spring weather or find an reasonably-priced indoor solution.
Then life happened.
Then it was April and the end of the school year approached. Then I got sick. Somewhere in that mix, I realized our local Bowling Alley was my answer.
I seized Back-to-School Night as an opportunity to grill some parents of James' classmates about best weekend potential for a party. Surprisingly, Memorial Weekend was the response. I took a my lunch break from work and made out the invites, with the help of a freshly purchased yearbook (which is James' new treasured item) and popped them into the student folders that go home each week. On my way back to work, I stopped off at the alley and reserved the earliest block of time on Saturday for the party and find out the particulars.
I'll post later more detail about James' party. The most important thing to share is: it was a success. About half the kids invited were able to come. The fact that people trickled in was not a big deal because ... the kids already there were bowling, which James enjoyed a lot.
Because the lanes were booked for a party over a period of time, shoe rentals were included and the kids could just keep on playing as many games as they wanted. The noise level was down because it was so early in the day and we had pizza ready and drinks available from the cafe by the time the kids were ready for their first break.
Setup-clean-up were super easy. The staff at the bowling alley were very helpful. And it was so much less than booking a party elsewhere. So my stress levels were very low on many counts.
The kids loved it. All of them. Including the birthday boy. Especially the birthday boy. Which is how it should be.