Birthday season is finally over around here. Yay! I love my boys' birthdays and we don't go crazy with our parties, but it's still a relief when they're all over & just knowing that there won't be any more cake screaming my name for a while (well, at least once the one on our counter is consumed!).
I recently heard an interview with Karly Randolph Pitman in which she described the freedom she felt after she decided to stop throwing birthday parties for her kids. Listening to her made me ask myself whether I was doing certain things because I really wanted to or because I thought I "should" or because of some external image (from society or other mothers) that I had bought into.
Just asking myself those questions reaffirmed for me just how much I LOVE preparing my kids' parties. I love Pitman's point about identifying the tasks that nourish you and those that diminish you (e.g. homemade Halloween costumes---love admiring others, love ordering mine off ebay!). Of course I'm not planning the crazy "new generation" of parties that involve everyone your child knows and lots of $$. This year we limited guests to the same number as the birthday year (so Aidan got to invite 7 friends and Sean 4, which, when you add our 3 to the mix, is more than enough. 1st birthdays are always an exception!).
The real joy for us is in working together on creative ideas. I'm sure none of the four-year-olds noticed that the Starbursts or Milk Way treats fit in with our space theme---but little things like that make me happy. We did a little photo shoot for Sean's birthday invitation, and then I got to play in Photoshop:
Then we planned what games we would play. These were a combination of Sean's requests (he really wanted an Easter Egg hunt so we hunted for space rocks...plastic eggs filled with Starbursts), ideas from past parties (Pass the Planet for opening gifts), inspiration from Google, and what we had on hand. Both boys have had major Mr. Potato Head phases, which my parents have enjoyed indulging, so we began with Sean handing each friend a potato head and planting a big box of spare parts in the middle of them all. My favorite was the google hit, "Moon Walk" with big sheets of bubble wrap laid out that the kids jumped up and down on with much laughter.
(I've tried to warn Bri that my camera is usually set to AV priority but to no avail...)
The day before we decorated (except for the streamers that had been up since Sean's actual bday, thanks to Brian). The boys took much delight in pulling out every Toy Story book/toy/DVD we had and displaying them. I covered the train table with a black sheet I use for a backdrop and let Aidan lose with my scrapbooking supplies. He used metallic paper and a circle punch to make small planets, crayons and cardstock to make big ones, and when he wanted to use a white crayon to imply Buzz being connected to a rocketship, I couldn't refuse.
I've learned it is impossible to host a party as well as photograph it...so there are few photos from any of our celebrations. Luckily my friend Amy is always willing to oblige and she got some great shots of Sean blowing out the candles:
I've also learned that while I love to bake, the cake for the party is better ordered. I dislike store-bought cakes, but that's actually a plus. I feel a little guilty about serving artificial food coloring and trans-fats to little ones, but I figure they eat so healthy the majority of the time, this rarity will be okay. My scrapbooking supplies came in handy yet again for the top of the cake---glad they're getting some use!
The cake I made for Sean's actual birthday (we always have a family-only party on the real day) reaffirmed my cake ordering decision. Everything that can go wrong did. Cakes are a little tricky at this altitude, so one layer fell a little and the other stuck to the pan in one spot. Urr...but nothing a little extra frosting wouldn't fix...but then I ran out of frosting after doing the tops of each layer. So I used vanilla frosting for the sides (left-over from the cookies Sean brought to school)...all of which resulted in a pretty funny-looking cake. I'd spent much of the afternoon making it and was feeling a little defeated when Sean saw it.
"Mom, did YOU make this? For MY birthday? Wow! This is the best CAKE ever! You are the best mom in the whole wide world!"
Only he didn't stop there---he went on for several minutes.
So I'm grateful not only that I ordered the cake for Saturday, but also that I made our family's cake myself, however lopsided & marbled it may have been.