Reptile birthday!

Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

The reptiles at Moomin’s party were a hit. The reptile party guy brought several kinds of boas and pythons and a green anaconda, along with a monitor lizard and a tegu. There were also hissing cockroaches, a giant millipede, scorpions, and a rose-haired tarantula. We got to pet and hold lots of them!

The super hilarious part for the grownups was how the Reptile Guy played up the fear factor with bizarre and sometimes edgy stories. He talked about myths from the movies about reptiles, but they were all movies like Anaconda, Boa vs. Python, Snakes on a Plane, and other stuff that little kids were unlikely — in my world — to have seen!

milo is not so sure about this

Then a lot of his humor depended on really sexist comments that also did not quite fly with our little yuppie hippie Bay Area kids, about girls thinking that boys have fat heads, or girls waking up and thinking only about what they will wear and decorate themselves with, or offhand remarks about how boys think girls are gross but will change their minds when they get to be about 10 years old. Pssst, kids, we know that was sexist, right? The highlight of hilarious wrongness was when he explained to us that we should not be afraid of rose-haired tarantulas and that most tarantulas were completely harmless to humans. BUT if you were a nice little BIRD… asleep in your nest… then it’s another story. So, say you were a nice little bird peacefully asleep in your comfy nest, thinking you were completely safe, dreaming nice dreams about your girlfriend bird, and her cute little beak and her beautiful eyes and her long sexy legs, and then a BIRD EATING TARANTULA comes up and turns into your WORST NIGHTMARE and eats you up.


The kids were wide-eyed and the grownups were laughing nervously with horror!

Lulu, one of the youngest kids there, raised her hand and said, “Um! My sister is really afraid of spiders, I mean really afraid!” Her big sister had turned ghost-pale and looked like she was going to hurl. It was interesting to see her conquer her fear. I’ll have to ask her mom later about the nightmares.

Then in another edgy gross-out moment that the kids kind of liked, the Reptile Guy explained how cockroaches and millipedes are good, and save our lives, because if we didn’t scavengers who ate all the tons of garbage and pizza and rotting corpses of dead animals that build up in the world, we’d all DIE BURIED IN ROTTING GARBAGE.

Nice one!

You would all have loved it! And so would your kids!

blue tongued skink

I have never had an Entertainer at Moomin’s party before – and when I was growing up certainly never went to a party with one – but around here, it happens fairly often. I don’t think I’d do it as a regular thing every year — it is way too expensive — but it was interesting to try it, and a treat for Moomin.

ball python

After our wonderful and scary kids’ party entertainer left with his scary and exciting yet harmless animal pals (with their cute little muzzles and their smooth, sexy scales, hahaha) we all sat on a sheet on the back patio and painted some little jointed wooden models of snakes and lizards. I got them cheap in bulk, and got brushes and big bottles of tempera paint at the school supply store. This went over amazingly well! None of us grownups could believe that a whole party full of kids were sitting there in complete silence for so long, concentrating on painting their snakes.

snake painting

Then I had a bag of tiny rubber snakes and lizards – I think it was 10 bucks for 96 of them. We had hidden them all over the front and back yard. The lizards were about an inch long, so very difficult to find – often very well camouflaged. The kids collectively found about 85 out of the 96. They clamored to get to be the one to do the math of adding up and subtracting and figuring to see how many were left to find. Along the way, it was clear who had found the most, which caused minor resentments… which I think is also fine… In fact as they get older I swear I will have competitions and give prizes just to give them some opportunity for glory AND practice in getting over themselves. (Which is very hard to do – and which takes practice.)

In the meantime they all ran around like mad and played with the stuffed animal lizards and opened presents and played with the presents. Remarkable peacefulness prevailed!

We also made snakes and lizards and other things from pipe cleaners.

I pride myself on thinking of good Activities! I like to have ones where you just give the kids some stuff, and it is fairly clear what to do. I hate things that require a lot of step by step instructions and help from adults. Like, it is somewhat nifty to do something like “create plaster casts”. But, not if it is plaster casts of ticky little fossils that require an elaborate process, and you have 20 three-year-olds and their parents in your back garden, and there are 20 ways of doing it Wrong that will make all the children be confused and cry while the parents micromanage them. In fact, I will outright boast that I am a kickass Activity Creator. Here are ONE THOUSAND pipe cleaners. Make some snakes, or whatever you like. Have at it, kids. You can’t go wrong with that.

Painted snake in a pipe cleaner cage

Reptile party

I was highly gratified that a couple of kids mentioned how they still thought of how great the dragon quest and box-stomping Godzilla parties were, 2 years ago and 3 years ago! And, the 3 kids who were at Moomin’s minimal sleepover party last year are still using the giant plastic test tubes from our orange juice, milk, and chocolate syrup Mad Scientist experiments.

I think that throwing good parties is my best quality as a parent, so I have to boast a little.

We had pizza, and lizard cake.

After most everyone went home, J. and Nukie, Moomin, Peanut, et. al. went in the hot tub.

I think Moomin really liked it all, and it was just what he imagined when he asked for a Reptile Party. (Though I think he expected a piñata and it is the first year we didn’t make one.)

Minnie and I talked about how our parents would do our birthday parties. They were very good at it. In Texas, our parties were “weird” because there were planned and organized party games, like egg and spoon races or pin the tail on the donkey – plus always a piñata. (Other kids’ parties in Detroit were all like that, or more so, without the piñata but with party hats and an element of on-your-best-behavior-because-warned-hissingly-by-parents, and best-dresses-wearing, formality. We sat down and ate some cake and ice cream and there was maybe a game of musical chairs. Then there was some playing with the kid’s toys and we all went home. ) Other kids’ parties in Texas were like, 3 kids at a sleepover making prank calls, painting their nails, and eating microwave nachos, or all being dropped off at the mall to see a movie. (Once I was in TX I don’t remember ever going to a boy’s party or having boys at my party, which was annoying; that wasn’t true in Detroit which was culturally different and also I think more working class.) Anyway, what I remember is that despite being a complete social outcast in school, other kids liked coming to my birthday parties and would grudgingly admit they were Fun Though Very Weird and “Gay”.

My parents clearly had a blast doing the party prep and giggling at our antics during the parties. They thought of great stuff to do and would play along with us in everything. The process of making the piñata took about a week, which added to the excitement of the idea of having a party. We made them from balloons or paper bags, covered them in paper mache made of flour and water, and then waited for them to dry before using paint and crepe paper to make them super awesome. My dad was good at making the piñata dance around, and my mom equally good at blindfolding all the kids, spinning them around, and playing up the process of piñata-bashing!

Oh, and if you want to spend way too much… maybe go in with some other parents… here is a list of all the San Francisco Bay Area party entertainers who will come to your house with reptiles. At least, all the ones I found in a 5 minute online search.

The Lizard Lady
Python Ron
For Goodness Snakes
Desert Dave
East Bay Vivarium

birthday cake

I don’t know what Moomin will remember or what he’ll think of all this – maybe the small sleepover was the best in some ways for him – but I hope he has good memories.

That is my party report! Maybe it will amuse you or will give someone ideas for their own kids’ parties.

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