FACING THEIR FEARS
YUCK!
Susie Hallet, 42, threw a Fear Factor-theme party for her son Tyler, 9, at their Enid, Okla., home this month.

VOMIT BAGS INCLUDED: "It's all right if you barf," the mom tells the crowd of 36 partygoers as she launches into a series of gross-out events. Kids crawl through oatmeal and other slimy items in the Tunnel of Fear. They're coated with Vaseline, covered in feathers and told to remain still as a mix of oil and fake insects is dumped over them. "Pretty cool, huh?" asks Hallet, who also makes the kids eat vegetables like pickled beets and canned mushrooms. "I just can't eat that," said one youngster, pointing to a mushroom. He opts for a barbecued mealworm instead.

FAIR WARNING: "I tell all the parents it's going to be sticky, gross, slimy, smelly and gooey," Hallet says. She began planning in December and made most of the props with help from her husband, Mike, a UPS worker. "But we did buy the chocolate-covered ants and barbecued worms," she confesses.

JIM LEHRER?

IT COULD BE WORSE: Every night Henry Schally, 3, begs his parents to watch PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. When he misses it, he asks to hear the podcast. "That's all we listen to in the car, over and over," says his mom, Jennifer, 35, an office manager in St. Paul, Minn. Henry's dad, Troy, 35, a computer programmer, likes to watch the show but never expected his son to become a hard-core fan. "You don't get to choose what your little 3-year-old becomes obsessed with," says Mom. When asked if he'd like to include the show in his party, Henry said, "Oh yeah, Mommy, I want Jim on the cake."

GWEN IFILL, TOO!
Jennifer asked NewsHour for permission to use an image of the cast as cake frosting. The show agreed and sent cast photos as birthday presents—including an autographed shot of Lehrer.

EXTRAS: Guests wore hats featuring all four stars. After present time, Henry (left, in hat) acted like a regular kid and blew bubbles.

IN THE ARMY NOW

IT'S WAR: Christi and Chris Dillon of Woodstock, Ga., held a boot camp-style party for their son Evan, 7, in May.

DRAFTED: Christi, 31, based the party invitation on an authentic 1940s draft notice. "Some dads said they got sick to their stomachs when they saw it," she says. For party favors, she headed to the local Army recruiting office. "I trudged in pregnant with three kids and said, 'Do you have anything for a little boy's birthday party?'" says the stay-at-home mom. She walked out with pens, stickers and posters.

FT. DILLON: The guests—six young boys—received plastic Army helmets and fake inoculations upon arrival. After having their faces painted in camouflage, they learned to salute and turn in military formations, addressing Evan's fatigue-clad dad, Chris, 29, a business consultant, with 'Yes sir!' The boys ran through an obstacle course, rescued "injured" soldiers and used blowguns loaded with marshmallows for target practice. The green-and-brown marble cake shaped like a tank was cut with a sword belonging to Evan's grandfather, a retired Navy captain reservist.