I’ve been meaning to blog Lena’s 5th birthday for…. well, about a year now, seeing as she just turned six. Better late than never, right? You may recall that I have a slight obsession with birthday parties and an inability to keep things “casual.” I stinking LOVE planning my kids’ birthdays and going all out with a theme. Basically, as soon as we wrap up one party, I’m already planning ahead for the next year. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not great at messy play (or really any kid play for that matter), cooking, or sweet and calm parenting. I’m feisty and sarcastic and can plan a pretty fun party when needed. We all have our skills. So here I am, just staying in my lane.
A few months before their party (okay, maybe 12 months before), I ask my kids what type of party they’d like. Lena was adamant and unwavering in her desire for a dinosaur party but she wanted real, life dinosaurs. Seeing as I don’t own a time machine, we ended up at Dinosaur Adventure Park with a small group of friends for a day of dino hunting. It’s a bit of a trek from Newmarket, so we were really thankful when everyone was game to drive an hour away for a party. We also may have bribed them with promises of American junk food for both kids and adults.
We met at the front gate so we could get all the passes at once. Great little tip if you’re local: Tesco club card points can be used for entry to the park and there was no limit to how many points we could redeem. So we essentially bought nine children’s passes for free; saving us close to £100 (under 3’s go free). This meant I could go a little over the top with the goodie bags; one of my favorite aspects of party planning. So once we were inside, all the dino hunters received their custom safari hats and paleontologist kits. Each kit contained a Dinosaur Hunting permit with the child’s name and photo (this went over pretty big), a medium sized dinosaur, stickers, candies, pens, and an excavation kit. Then it was off to hunt for prehistoric creatures.
Lena’s best friend at school is a little boy called Ben and he could probably teach a university level class about dinosaurs. He is seriously a genius when it comes to the subject and as we came upon each new statue, he would rattle off the scientific name of the dinosaur along with a list of facts about each particular creature. Lena had told us he knew a lot about dinosaurs but this was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. He should probably go on a trivia show because he would dominate.
As Ben schooled all of us on dino facts, the kids collected stamps placed around the park. The goal was to collect all the stamps and then receive a medal at the end. A map is provided on arrival so we followed that for most of the morning until we had stamped all the boxes. We stopped a few times along the way to play with toys or climb on sculptures, but for the most parts, the kids were all very motivated to get that medal.
As promised, we brought LOADS of food with us as a thank you to everyone for driving such a long way. An hour isn’t a big deal to us Americans, but here in England, it’s the equivalent of driving out of state. People just don’t really travel that far and especially for a day trip (gas is ridiculously expensive). The food aspect of a party is where I basically fall apart and want to assume the fetal position. Luckily, this is Jason’s area of expertise and he loves it. So he planned out an extensive menu and stayed up until 3am the night before the party to finish off his masterpiece. We had every combination of sandwiches, fruit and veg for the kids plus organic juice and bunny crackers. There was some confusion and excitement over the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as that’s not really a “thing” here. They do jelly sandwiches but generally shy away from giving children any nut products for quite a while for fear of allergies. Meanwhile, my kids request PB&J for lunch every.single.day.
For the adults, Jason went back to his Southern roots and slow roasted a pig’s butt (his words, not mine) for East Carolina BBQ sandwiches. He even had his mom send over Smithfield’s BBQ sauce which is a vinegar base and makes the most delicious pulled pork you’ve ever tasted. He topped it off with about 5 pounds of homemade slaw, fresh rolls, and a selection of Lay’s finest potato chips. I think most of us went back for second and thirds, it was that good. And while that may not seem like the most unusual meal, you have to remember you can’t find that anywhere in this country unless someone makes it for you. God bless, Jason, as there’s no telling what we would have eaten if I were in charge!
After the food, we roamed the park a bit more, went in the splash pad (we lucked out with nice, warm weather), and let the kids run free. Lena was on cloud nine and kept saying it was the best birthday ever. To be fair, we could have gone to the library and looked at books about dinosaurs with a friend or two and she would have been content. She’s so easy to please and always incredibly grateful which makes it even more fun to go over the top for her. I’m not even sure how we ended up with such a sweet and level-headed kiddo.
So happy (super belated) 5th birthday to our little dinosaur lover. A year later and the obsession is still going strong as are her friendships with all her little friends. What a gift to be able to watch this girl grow and figure out the world around her. We love you forever and ever, Lena Eva, and are so proud to call you ours!
Psst! Curious to see just how out of control my party planning is? Here are a few other notable celebrations we’ve had over the years: