I have been photographing Miss Jane since she was just a newborn. She has grown so big but her strength and resiliance are her strong suit these days. Back in March Jane was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. She’d been hiding a melon sized tumor in her tiny little body. Since that day she has had surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, countless trips to the hospital but through it all she still keeps smiling and keeps her parent laughing with all of her funny thoughts and sense of humor.
When Chris put the call out for birthday party ideas for Jane I knew this was in my wheelhouse. My sister and I LOVE throwing elaborate birthday parties for our kids. You can see some here. (Scroll down to the Harry Potter party. That was the best!) It’s our chance to really get creative.
Since Jane and Kate were really getting into the Octonauts we thought it would be fun to give the party that theme. Joelle had thrown an Octonauts party (http://enebophoto.com/octonauts/) for her son Henry when HE turned four so we already had a good base for it.
There were really only two ground rules for the party. No extra kids (Jane’s immune system is compromised so no germs.) and no food. (Jane doesn’t eat much these days and we didn’t want to put something out that would make her sad.) Of course she still wanted her traditional m&m’s cake from her Mama though!
With those ground rules in mind we focused on the decorations and the experience. The premise of the party was that the girls would have seven different activities that would help animals along the way so they could become official Octonauts. (In the show the Octonauts are always helping different sea creatures.) We had seven different activities planned for the girls to do.
Help Daddy Seahorse. Daddy Seahorse had his babies in the toy room but since he had so many he lost track of them. The girls had to look through all of the balloons (there were 400!) to find 10 baby seahorses. (There were actually 25 balloons that had seahorse stickers on them.) I think this was the girls’ favorite activity. It was kind of like a ball pit for them. They could swim in them, roll in them and fling them in the air. Jane kept marveling at how the baby seahorses were ‘attracted’ to her and that that must mean she would make a great Daddy. Ha!
Bandage Mr. Lobster. There was a HUGE lobster in the middle of the room that had injured himself and he needed help getting bandaged up. There was crepe paper and ace bandages ready for the girls to help out with. The girls spend quite a long time making sure Mr. Lobster felt better, including giving him stickers for being a good patient!
Gup Driving practice. Octonauts typically drive ‘Gups’ out from the main ship to help save the sea creatures. Joelle and her boys made these Gups from boxes and doodads. They had buttons and wheels and even a working propeller!
Help the Silver Fish out of the Kelp forest. The girls needed to swim into the kelp forest (under the dining table) to help the little silver fish. There were 10 silver fish hiding in there and Jane and Kate found every one. (I didn’t get any good pictures of this because it was too dark and tight under there. But the girls did a great job!)
Put Sunscreen on the Dolphin. The dolphin keeps jumping out of the water into the sunshine and getting sunburned. The girls needed to put sunscreen (silly sting) on the dolphin. Jane was not such a big fan of this one. I think the silly string surprised her and she didn’t like the smell. (She is sensitive to smells these days.) Kate LOVED it!
Feed the Shark. The shark was having a hard time finding enough food to eat so the girls needed to throw fish biscuits into his mouth. Jane much preferred this activity!
Save the Baby Animals. The baby animals were lost in the bubbles and needed to be saved. The girls needed to reach into the tub and pull out all of the animals. We used Orbeez (round gel beads) as the bubbles. This was a fun sensory activity for the girls.
The decorations were so much fun to do! We had kelp and goldfish on the walls, jelly fish hanging in doorways, a ‘bubble bead curtain’, balloon octopi, pouf turtles and the star of the show…decorated fish.
In July Chris asked her friends to decorate fish for the party. Not only does she have a lot of friends, but Kazoo, an online kids magazine, also published the template so we got fish from all across the country. It was a fishy deluge! Over 500 fish were sent in. This was the perfect way for people to help with the birthday party. We worked really hard to try to use as many as possible in the decorations. Chris and I measured all her windows and then I mounted the fish onto clear cellophane that was mounted to the windows. I am posting a TON of pictures of the fish because I’m hoping her friends will see the fish they decorated!
There were a few special items that had been sent by friends that were perfect for the party. The girls received Octonauts hats and mermaid tail blankets. Such fun!
At the very end of the party we lit the candles on her cake and sang happy birthday. Jane beamed through the whole thing. Joelle and I had such fun this summer pulling this party together and all the work was worth it just to see that smile!
Happy Birthday Jane!