A Star Wars Birthday Party (in the van) *with spoiler-free movie review*

by | Dec 22, 2015 | Blog, Movie and Book Reviews, Parenting, Parties | 17 comments

Okay, here it is you guys. Finally. I have been having exasperating computer issues that have been a drain on my already limited blogging time. But I just know you guys have been dying -dying- to know what I think about The Force Awakens and whether or not it’s a good idea to have a birthday party for eleven little boys in your twelve-passenger van. So here goes . . .

As you’ll recall from this post, Bobby and Gus wanted to go see the new Star Wars movie with their friends for their birthday, and they wanted to have the party in our van. And since we are gluttons for punishment love them very, very much, that’s just what we did.

We went to see The Force Awakens on opening day.

With our eight kids.

And eight extra little boys.

Here’s how it all went down . . .

The Prep

This party was actually less work than our normal parties. I didn’t even have to clean the house!

Bobby designed 4×6 Star Wars character trading cards in PicMonkey, and we had them printed up at the one-hour photo place (I threw in some of the quotes and prayers I made as well). They turned out really cute and the kids had a blast playing with them.

I put the character cards in the Etsy shop in case you need a last-minute gift! All proceeds go to Bobby. 🙂

I made candymelt cupcake toppers, again, because my cake pans are still packed up. But also because cupcakes are quite portable. And I made them like this . . .

because it’s how I do most things. (The trading cards also make excellent candymelt templates.)

Betty did the baking. We’re turning into quite a team in the kitchen.

Jack typed up a trivia game for the boys to play during the drive.

The morning of the party, Bobby and Gus cleaned out the van, and decorated it with a few hanging decorations we got at the party store.

And I called to order some pizzas.

The Pre Game

We met up at our regular homeschool park day, and the boys ran around in a barely-containable frenzy of excitement until the husband arrived to pick them up.

It wasn’t Mary Jane’s party, but she was pretty stoked about it nonetheless.

Jack, Bobby, Gus, and eight of their friends filled up the big van, and
my parents and I in two minivans with the rest of the kids joined
the caravan to the movie theater.

We ate pizza on the sidewalk.

We sang Happy Birthday and had cupcakes.

The Main Event

I just picked a random movie theater on Fandango for its proximity to the park, and it turned out to be one of those fancy recliner ones. I may be spoiled forever. Those chairs are excellent for nursing.

The boys liked them too.

I got reusable plastic Star Wars cups from the party store, to hand out to the kids in the theater for snacks and as their party favor. We bought two large popcorns and I brought a big bag of M&M’s and we all shared those between us.

It goes without saying that they LOVED the movie. Listening to them gasp in wonder as the movie started is something I will always cherish. Seriously. I’m not a super sentimental person. But it really felt like a special moment to be able to share together.

The Post Game

After the movie, I drove the rest of my kids home, and the husband spent two hours dropping boys off at various locations. His take: “How was it? It was fine. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, necessarily. But now I can say I’ve done that.”

The boys had a great time trading their cards. There were only five of each card and eleven boys, so they had to make deals with each other to end up with the ones they wanted.

They also played the trivia game and no one barfed. So . . . sounds like it was a success to me.

Spoiler Free Thoughts on the Movie

I watched it surrounded by ecstatic little boys, who loved every second of it, from the opening credits on. So, I would have had to have a heart of stone or it would have had to be truly terrible for me not to like it. But, really, I did like it.

I thought the effects were excellent. There’s been a lot of talk about the return to models and real stunts and film cameras (alongside digital effects), and I thought it was all worth it. There was a realness and heft to the traditional effects that was refreshing.

I liked the new characters. BB8 is uhDORable. Rey is a strong female character. Finn is a charming, if reluctant, hero. I LOVED that there was no language or innuendo or suggestiveness at all. (There are some battle scenes, but nothing gory.)

I liked the old characters. It’s wonderful to see them again, having aged as actual people do. The mature relationship between some of them is bittersweet, but seems in character. Han spoke almost exclusively in action movie one-liners, which got old. But I get what they were trying to do.

I appreciated that they went simple with the plot after the prequels and their Senate resolutions and trade agreements and Midichlorians and other unnecessarily complicated plots.

But I think maybe they overcorrected. Pretty much the whole plot was trying to find a map . . . to a person. Which A. Isn’t a thing (unless you’re Maroon 5) and B. Wasn’t even really explained (who made the map? Why not ask that guy? What if the person you’re looking for has, ya know, changed location? People do that.)

Clearly the nostalgia factor was high. Mostly I liked it. But what I liked was when they put nods to the original movies in a new setting, like the lightsaber in the snow, wiggling. I didn’t love how the plot itself was so self-derivative. There’s a Death Star. BUT ITS REALLY BIG! People get killed and fall down shafts. Why do they even have shafts? (I kept thinking of The Emperor’s New Groove.) There’s a death that is very reminiscent of a death in the original trilogy.

The surprising twist is VERY surprising. I was shocked!

Basically, it felt like they were going for . . . safe. Don’t go too deep or too edgy or too complicated, just make sure people don’t hate it.

Anyway, I’m hoping the plots gets better and the rest stays good. Overall I think it’s enjoyable. And appropriate for kids of all ages.

Thoughts on Parties in Vans

I think it was cool. And certainly something the boys will remember fondly. I might even be talked into doing it again on May 26, 2017. It just happens to be exactly one month before Jack’s 15th birthday . . .

You might also enjoy . . .

The Force is Strong With These Guys (but you already knew that)

DIY Chewbacca Sleepsack Mod and a Homemade X-Wing Bomber


  1. Sarah

    I love your blog, but this post takes the cake! Big family cool! You make it look so good. I'm pregnant with #5 and my husband and I got the biggest kick out of this.

  2. Amanda

    This seems great! I bet it was nuts for Jim on the drive back, but all the kids had fun and you all got to be together.

  3. Pamela

    Once again super impressed by the candy melt art! Have all your babies liked the carrier (mine is an ergo)? I'm having trouble with my son, it would be so great if I could but him on my back like that. He loves his baby Bjorn front facing, but he is getting too big for that!!

    • Kendra

      I got the Ergo with number four. (Before that I had a Bjorn, but, yeah, much less support.) He liked it a lot. Then number five preferred the sling. I'm convinced she's part marsupial, she was happy ONLY in the sling. Number six was Frankie, so . . . he would tolerate NO carriers of any kind. But then numbers seven and eight have been good with it.

      Sometimes I have to be willing to bounce and pat them though some fussing (or wailing) but then once they fall asleep they get a good nap and I get stuff done, so I stick with it. I can't be stuck in the glider ALL the time!

    • Pamela Averrett

      Thanks! I'll stick with it and see if I can bounce through the fussy. Merry Christmas!

  4. AnneMarie

    I love the party in a van thing! That is super creative, looks super simple, and is so original! I'm glad that y'all liked Star Wars! I honestly was very glad, after all of the craziness in the prequels, that they went with "safe." It felt comfortable to me (which was also nice since they did some huge emotional gut-punches in that movie), and I think they set up things very nicely for the next two (where I'm hoping/figuring they will get a little crazier with the plot). Rey was awesome, and I love the interactions between her and Finn. It was so refreshing, too, that this movie is so clean!

  5. Elle

    Yay! Thank you for your review of the movie. My husband has been thinking about taking our older boys to the movie and we don't go to a lot of movies and he said, "Maybe we should read someone's review of the movie before deciding to go" and I said, "I'm just waiting for Kendra Tierney's review, that will tell me what I need to know." I'm impressed by the van party but not inspired to throw a similar one 🙂

    • Elizabeth

      I said the same thing to my husband, except he only knows her as"the Catholic All Year" lady. Thank you Kendra! Great post as always!

  6. Courtney

    Did you take your 2 year old to the movie? Did she sit through the whole thing? My husband is dying to see it and we have free tickets, but no babysitter for our 22 month old. I figured it would be a disaster to try and take her but if you took yours….

    • Kendra

      Yes, Lulu came with us. But she's really easygoing. She watched some, she slept some, it was fine. But, really, I think for a family-type movie in the afternoon, people should be expecting some kid noise and not get too upset about it, right? I'd say, bring 'im.

  7. GTomooka

    I read your description if the boys' experience at the movie as the Star Wars movie theme came on in a radio commercial. Gave me chills! What great memories for the boys and you all. 😀

  8. Karyn

    Reading that made me want to take a nap, lol! Kudos to you and Jim — I bet that will be a great memory for all involved 🙂

  9. Laura

    Took my 7 year old and agree with your assessment of the movie. The only part my husband and I wished he hadn't seen were for the previews of other movies coming out. Several of them were pretty scary and he closed his eyes.
    Happy bday to your boys!

    • Elizabeth

      I agree! Previews can be worse than the movie! Even at Inside Out there were previews of a bunch of kids ' movies that seemed to highlight the most obnoxious moments in the movies (I assume bc I never saw any of them based on thr obnoxious previews!) We are looking forward to seeing The Good Dinosaur. ..

  10. Rachel Dombrowski

    Mary Jane's Princess Leia hat is adorable! You probably mentioned it in a previous post, but where did you get it?
    And happy birthday to your boys. It looks like the party was a blast!

    • Kendra

      Thanks! I made it for Anita when the original movies came out in the theaters again. I just figured it out from looking at a picture, but it looks like the blogger has since created a pattern for it: in her Etsy shop


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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