Five – A Hero’s Day

Now that it’s nearly August, I figured I should finally get Hadley’s birthday documented!

Another birthday has come and gone for our firstborn. We felt that this one – the big 5 – was a big one, for come fall he’ll be starting his academic journey, taking his first real steps towards independence, and truly be considered a little boy (no longer toddler, preschooler, our baby).

I’m not crying. You are.

So, we wanted to make it special. I mean, we want to make them all special for ALL the kiddos, but before too long the celebrations will simplify to just family or just a couple of friends for pizza or whatever. Hence, special was the order of the day – and, thank God, after an absurd amount of hours of work, we succeeded. I mean REALLY succeeded. A family + friends (preschool kids are THE BEST) + superheroes galore party.

Starting a week (or more, really) in advance, Dave’s parents helped us set up our new play set (and his mom helped me do way more weeding than my pregnant body could handle, woohoo!) so that *if* the “outside” part of the shindig worked, the kids could use it.

I had a list a mile long for readying the house (and food). Fixing a door I broke in the basement to contain the cats (ahem…I blame Winston, but that’s another story), cleaning, purging, making games and a photo backdrop, doling out food responsibilities, asking Dave for a million favors (which he excitedly executed – he wins MVP for this one!)…and keep the kids alive in the meantime.

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On Hadley’s actual birthday, I tried to think of something fun but easy-ish to do. So, we hit up our closest library to get his first library card and I broke his heart that we couldn’t stay for the puppet show. He did stock up on books, though, so he was pretty jazzed.

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Instead of the puppet show, he was introduced to his first Billy Beez experience. I played with Harper in the toddler area (where he also made some friends) before letting him explore independently. Here, we had lunch and played more, although Harper decided she wanted to do the bigger slides. Let’s just say it proved a challenge since I tried ONE toddler slide out that had me a bit concerned about the baby. No big slides for Mama, no big slides for Harper. Commence meltdown.

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3351-e1501536703658 on https://megactsout.comHadley had a BLAST and still talks about it, though. He also still regales us with the story of how he got “lost” (I knew where he was but I don’t think he knew that I knew…?) and asked adults for help. The things they remember.

After a nap, he picked a restaurant to go to so that Daddy could celebrate with us, too (Uno’s, of course), then opened the rest of his gifts. It was pretty darn near perfect. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.



The day before the party, my mother came over to help me work in the garage to get it as orderly and emptied as possible for a possible Plan B in case of rain. My MIL graciously took the kids (plus her other grandson) for the day to let me prep, I brought my husband lunch (he had to unexpectedly work the whole day), and got back to the cooking.

On the morning of the party, we STILL didn’t know what the weather was up to. It’d rain a bit, then get sunny, then rain…all making us think of what a crappy job our yard does draining and drying out. Seriously, it’s been the summer of “A River Runs Through It” (although it’s also been an abnormally wet one). We finally decided on using mostly the garage and got setting up with the help of our parents and my sister.

Long story slightly shorter: It was exciting to see people show up since Hadley only had a slight idea of what family members (and MAYBE which school friends) would show up. Even a couple of the parents and I found ourselves tearing up when the kids were so ecstatic to see each other. We really couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. So fun, so grateful, so sweet – and so fun!

We invited everyone to partake in the food. The main event – huge sheet pizzas and “batwings” (boneless chicken tenders with dipping sauces since we didn’t want real wings to be a choking disaster) was picked up at our local pizza joint (we’re officially locals) but we assembled and asked family to put together other foods.

Like “Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter” and “Flash’s Fast Fruit”…

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3395-e1501536743849 on https://megactsout.comOr Thor’s hammers (pretzel sticks stuck into cheese rectangles), Captain America Shields (round pretzels with white chocolate and red, white and blue M&Ms), and Kryptonite Bars (Rice Krispy treats drizzled in white chocolate and sparkly green sprinkles).

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3394-e1501536731519 on https://megactsout.comOh, and before lunch the kids crowded around a table to color some printouts of various superheroes that my husband picked up, then after eating we broke out some superhero masks and, since the sun was cooperating, we let them hit the backyard if they were brave about the slightly damp ground. The most entertaining part of the whole thing? A worm the kids found under the play set.

The things kids remember.

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3396-e1501536757823 on https://megactsout.comThen, we had cupcakes (my MIL graciously made those, and I made Hadman his requested fruit-covered Superman cake) and Hadley opened every present with a politeness and excitement only a 5-year-old can muster. His friends kept crowding around him, they were so happy to give their own gifts! So, so sweet.

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We handed out goodie bags (with TONS of superhero paraphernalia – yeah, we went overboard, needed to cut it back by half…or more) and a big surprise for Hadley. Dave had made a Super Hadley comic book – like, he wrote, sketched, had his friend ink and color, then had it professionally printed as a gift to the kids and, most importantly, a surprise to Hadley. The kid’s mind was blown and Dave was ecstatic.

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I pulled out some more crafts (I painted old toilet paper tubes they could decorate for superhero cuffs and there were make-your-own masks…among many other things I had prepped). Our “Gotham City backdrop” kept falling over in the breeze, but I think one or two kids used it, anyway, and I pulled out a toss game I had whipped up after many of the kids had left for the remaining few to try out.

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Overall, the day was beyond delightful. Honestly, the grown-ups had fun, the kids had a blast, and Hadley said it was the best. Day. Ever.

He definitely wasn’t wrong.  

WHAT WE’D DO IF WE HAD IT TO DO OVER AGAIN – I like to figure out what worked well and what we should pare back for other parties. Especially since, without telling this stuff to the world (and Future Meg – hey, Future Meg!), I’ll totally forget. It might also help you guys with any party planning you’re doing, of course!

Perfect timing. The party went from 12 noon – 2pm, just in time for the younger siblings’ naps and it left very little room for meltdowns. Not too long, not too short – juuuuuust right! (Parents even commented on it.)

Appreciate others’ help but take control. Definitely delegate some of the duties, especially if you have people who ASK to help (like our parents and my sister, who were integral to the day’s success). But, make sure to know exactly what you need done and when, and let them know. Tell everyone an exact time to come if you expect help with setup. Sometimes my husband and I have a hard time making up our minds, but there are times in life when you just have to decide and relay the decision, y’know?

Remember to leave time for independent play. We ended up being pretty go-with-the-flow and I’m glad I planned LOTS of activities but I ended up skipping most of them. And don’t forget that kids enjoy hanging out and playing independently (but having a set schedule, too, so things don’t get out-of-control).

– Think about what will be most stressful and skip it. While they were cute ideas, I could’ve skipped a couple of things and the party would’ve been just as fun for the kids (and less stressful for me). And never underestimate simple fun – like free coloring sheets!

– Take the reigns. In the future, we’ll do one cake or tons of cupcakes…Had doesn’t need his own. I asked him in advance what kind of cake he wanted, but I meant, like, chocolate or vanilla with blah-blah frosting. Instead, he went into a detailed description of the Superman logo. Ugh. So, yeah…I don’t need to ask and I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with whatever’s made.

– Make those darn “Captain America Shields” again. My kids were in LOVE with the pretzels I had drizzled with melted white chocolate then topped with an M&M (I couldn’t find the white chocolate discs, which are supposed to melt if you put them in the oven at a low temp before placing the M&Ms). And they were apparently a hit with the other partygoers, too, so Future Meg? Dip pretzels in all sorts of chocolate, and maybe toss some candy on it. It’s a people pleaser!

Our now 5-year-old still has some inexplicable meltdowns and seems to still have these crazy phases that make us raise our eyebrows (or pull our hair out!), but overall he’s such a joy. A kind, thoughtful, super smart, highly verbal cutie who responds best to hugs and laughter. We’re so proud of the boy he is – and admittedly a bit frightened of whether school might dim his bright, energetic, trusting light.

Totally Enough

Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough? Like, no matter how much you’re, indeed, actually doing…it’s still not enough? I’m wondering, today, what makes us feel that way. Do we impose it on ourselves? Is it our way to push ourselves to actually get stuff done? Is there a guilt complex that comes along with living in the 21st century (and the social media that accompanies it)?

I’m not sure about the “why”, but I’ve got some thoughts on handling it…plus, as usual, an update.

My husband recently wrote a blog post about his affinity for to-do lists. They work for him, for the most part, until he gets down on himself for not getting every little thing accomplished in a day. (I get it. When we first met, he filled his days JAM PACKED with accomplishments. But these days, when the kids hit the hay freshly scrubbed and well-fed, we’re D-O-N-E. Life’s just more tiring the older you get. It’s legit.)

I used to be a list-maker. My mom had a series of lists strewn throughout the house and, man, she kept track of them meticulously. (An ongoing birthday list, ongoing chores, daily chores, shopping list, errands, etc. etc. etc.) But I realized that I was taking up more time making my lists (and ending up doing more priority-driven tasks that popped up rather than the less important to-do list tasks, anyway) than accomplishing anything.

But, something’s gotta give. I totally need to start holding myself a bit more accountable – house work, blog writing, meal planning, the works. I’ve been getting by doing “just enough” lately. While part of it is because I’ve been in my first trimester and dealing with two little ones, I need to up my game a bit.

That said, I don’t toss around the word “grace” much (mostly because it seems to have a religious tone to it and that’s not really “me”), but whether it’s making a simple to-do list or keeping better track of what NEEDS to be done in order to ACCOMPLISH more, I hope to do it while allowing myself a little grace in the process. We are not robots, but we do need to find balance. And don’t we know, truly, when we’re doing enough? I mean, totally enough?

I think we do.

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As you can tell, I have SUUUUUCKED at keeping up my posts here. It hasn’t even become an urgent “to do” or a guilt-riddled albatross hanging from my neck.

And I totally miss my space here. I miss writing for you guys. I miss writing for myself. I miss having the time to do it. I miss being totally excited and motivated to hammer out a post here and there.

I’ll admit here and now that it’s really, really hard to write for a myriad of reasons. A new job that takes tons of energy to make sure I start on the right footing (and I’m honestly still behind on projects and book shelving tasks, to be honest). Maintaining a daily routine tends to mean that my writing time goes to one of my multi-tasking duties or simple kid-raising activities. Y’know. Dinner making, bath giving, nursing, and so forth.

And then there’s our recent “big” announcement. It’s SO, SO hard to write when you have a huge secret bouncing around in your heart and mind. SERIOUSLY. I’ve still been writing weekly for the Thirsties blog and between pregnancy brain and a general tiredness (lack of motivation, ahem), THAT’S been a challenge to get out into the world. But on top of it, going through the act of a first trimester with two kids, general life stuff, and a huge secret left me completely tongue-tied.

But now (I hope) I’m back. I still have to put energy into the new house (and updates on the old one!) and hope to share how that’s going. I have plenty of thoughts about the idea of parenting THREE (?!) kiddos. I have some resolutions My voice isn’t gone just because I have a tiny human growing in my belly – I can simply be more honest and actually USE the voice now that it’s all out in the open. It’s pretty invigorating, actually.

Plus, I still have a “side idea” that I’m flushing out and hope to get going when I’m able.

So, since I’m writing this today – on my 35th birthday – and following my so horrifically-skipped-over 7th (and apparently 6th?) blogiversary – AND have this huge news about having a third baby – I’m hitting the reset button. BAM.

Going forward, I’ll do my best. And, as always, that’s totally enough.

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday

When Harper was first born, my husband bought her a nice plush “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” stuffed animal from the hospital’s gift shop. It was surprisingly inexpensive (we’d priced them at the Eric Carle Museum) and her eyes were immediately drawn to the bright green body and cute round red head. 

That moment is still seared in my mind over a year later. I’d literally been envisioning her first birthday shindig the entire year. Of course, with our move and everything going on, we knew it would be a challenge, but didn’t want to shirk her big day. After all, Hadman has had four amazing birthdays and counting (I’m already mentally prepping for his 5th <my GOD did I just write that?!> given some hints he’s dropped) and it wouldn’t be fair to do any less for her, right?

So, given the unknowns – we were supposed to close on the new house by her birthday, but things went awry and our old house was full of boxes – we figured out a Plan B quickly. My uncle (a local priest) was kind enough to let us use the basement of the church, so my mother and I went over earlier in the day to set some things up.

We didn’t get a million pictures (as usual), but I had created a large “hungry caterpillar” out of foam sheets to tape to the wall. I also printed out labels for the food, which I divided and conquered with the help of family. (These pics are more for our own memories than a Pinterest-worthy tipfest. That said, go ahead and use the ideas to help you create your own event!)

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Unfortunately, there was a big hiccup. Both kids had been put down for early naps (which NEVER, EVER happens), so our son’s meal schedule was kind of off. Given the fact that he only had a donut for breakfast (rather than anything “substantial”) and didn’t sit down to eat anything else until around 2, he started to look a tad pale. When he said that one of the pickles on his plate didn’t taste right (another huge clue – they were fine, and he LOVES pickles) then stopped responding to questions, my mother and I scooped him up and ran to the car. Long story short, we think we need to make sure he has enough protein throughout the day in order to keep up with his super high metabolism (he’s also thinned out and had a growth spurt lately). My mother sat with him and he was bright and rosy by the time we got home, although sad that he couldn’t celebrate his sister’s special day.

Aside from my heart feeling like it was literally in two places, the party went perfectly. Harper behaved herself and truly enjoyed all the attention, the theme was fun and offered just enough color to help make things festive, and everyone (kids and adults included) seemed to have a great time.

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(This was after the smash cake. Y’know, a girl’s gotta embrace a nice, comfy jean.)

So, I thought I’d share exactly how we go about planning a simple birthday party that would be just as special and fun as her brother’s first (y’know, when I had more time to, like, make everything – including decorations and cake – from scratch) while still juggling all the balls of life.

Here are my best tips after doing this rodeo a few times now:

– Pick a theme. Believe me: a theme is your bestie. I get the eye roll sometimes for picking a theme, and I understand why. A theme makes it seem like you’re going overboard. But, actually, the focus helps me to mentally organize and NOT let things get out of control.

So, obviously, for Harper’s first we did a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” shindig. This gave us a super clear direction for the food (everything except the pizza is listed off on every page! Not that we made ALL that food, but it helps), a color scheme, and invitations.

Just think of what your little one’s favorite things are – and if they’re too young, even a simple color (like “Fun and Frilly” or “We’re Blushing” with soft pinks and tans) will help in your planning.

– Keep it simple. After picking a theme, brainstorm some ideas that go along with it. Then, pick your favorite, say, two or maaaaaybe three.

In our case, I printed off a few small signs out of cardstock to go with the food (On Monday, he ate one apple…), created a simple green and red caterpillar to hang on the wall, and worked on goodie bags for the handful of kids present (they contained a cool wind-up green caterpillar, cheap Play-Doh, crayons, and some candy). Super simple.

– Use colors more than trademarked stuff. Have you ever noticed how expensive all the character party stuff is?! It’s crazy town. And the worst part is that when you’re done with it, it’s hard to reuse (unless you keep a stash of mismatched stuff for pizza nights…which is a great idea).

For our theme, we used two tones of green (a lighter and a darker) along with red, just like the main parts of the caterpillar. I got one tablecloth for a super long table that’ll be green, some red plates that were leftover from my son’s Dr. Seuss birthday (you can tell I’m a librarian, right?)…you get the idea. We’ve reused some of our decorations for years when we remember to grab them, from handmade poufs to a cheap chalkboard sign, because they’re generic enough to work in many ways. Oh, and we skip the balloons and request that our guests do so, as well – they’re horrible for the planet.

– Accept help when offered. This year, I was lucky enough to have my mother, mother-in-law, sister, and brother/sister-in-law all offer to bring something. It’s amazing how helpful that is. I used to get a little, um, controlling about things (I’ll admit it) but I’ve learned to go with the flow a bit more. I still did some ordering of the pizzas and picking up of healthier snacks, drinks, and some cupcakes (see? I used to make EVERYTHING – organic and “real food” – myself…not that there’s anything wrong with that; I genuinely try my best when time allows, and this year it simply wasn’t in the cards) and little odds and ends, but it was such a strain off my mind to have it equally disbursed.

So, make a list of your menu and divvy it up. Even if you only have one family member or friend offer to help, it’s still a little less you have to do

– Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Much like when wedding planning gets out of hand, keep in mind the ultimate goal of the day: in this case, to celebrate the life of an amazing child with people who love them almost as much as you do. Period. That’s it. So, no matter what happens, just let them know they’re loved and special to you.

Maybe the food’s not organic and Pinterest-worthy. Maybe it rained on your outside BBQ and you had to all huddle in a pavilion. Maybe your child made fussy faces during photo ops. Maybe the little one gets sick so it ends up a “parents and grandparents shindig” (which is what happened for Hadley’s 3rd party). Whatever! It’ll all add to the memory and won’t scar a single soul. Seriously. Remember what kinds of parties we had as kids. We survived just fine, right? (One of my mom’s ideas of a party game was “guess the kind of cake this is!” …I kid you not.)

What are your favorite birthday party tips? Do you agree with the ones I’ve shared? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

A Very Seuss-y Birthday

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Hi, all! How has your summer been treating you all? I’ve done some relaxing with the kiddos, some cleaning, and – a little at a time – chipping away at some konmari action. I’ve sifted through kids’ clothes more than I’d like to admit. Time to try shoes; they’re way easier!

So, who wants to party?!?! As with years gone by, I thought I’d stop by to give you the rundown on Hadley’s recent fourth birthday.

FOUR. Can you believe that?! Four. My God. He’s finally starting a pre-K program in the fall. *sniff, sniff*

We held his celebration the Sunday before his birthday (we hit up the zoo on the actual, low-key day) at my in-laws’ house. Their house and yard is nice and big, so we were super grateful they offered use of the space.

As with past years, we went with a theme. I think it’d be too difficult to make the party, well, a party without a theme. Just too scattered. So, there could have been several with all of Hadman’s interests these days, but we landed on the author of his favorite books: Dr. Seuss.

What’s not loads of fun about that?! Seriously, I ask you.

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We hate to use tons of disposable (i.e. non-green) stuff, so most of the stuff we got was just solid colors that fit the theme but that could be reused. Red and light blue hanging swirlies, red gift bags, and any character toys my MIL or we had in our stashes.

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Oh, and books. Lots and lots of books.

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We adorned the walls with fun Seuss quotes (which I may just find space for at the library).

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And I researched a ton of possible food names to fit the theme. A. Ton.

We walked a fine line between healthy (lots of fruit, a salad, organic pink ink yink drink) and junk (chips, pizza, subs). Then there’s the in-between: popcorn that my husband made and slathered with butter, “Truffula seeds” that were yogurt raisins (but way non-organic), homemade organic cupcakes, and forcing my mom to make green deviled eggs (they were perfect although she went light on the green food coloring…she seemed to think they were disgusting, LOL).

But, it was all freakin’ delicious and there was a good mix of options for every eater.

As for the fun stuff, we lucked out that when folks first arrived the weather was nice. My parents-in-law borrowed a perfectly-sized bounce house from a friend (which was a huge hit), so that worked up an appetite for the kids.

After some awesome gift opening – the kid was hilariously gracious and grateful for EVERYTHING…except the “big gift” of a big boy bike (ya win some, ya lose some) – we tried out a game I had stayed up late to make the night before.

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It wouldn’t be a Dr. Seuss party without a “Pin the Hat on the Cat” game, right? Right!

After that, we had a rousing game of “I Can Do That!” (a Cat in the Hat game my BFF Beth gave Hadley last year that was PERFECT for this shindig). It gets players moving and trying for points by attempting silly tasks, plus it was just the right length. Considering it had started to rain, I was glad to have a couple of indoor activities planned!

The one “whoops!” of the day (there’s always one) was the gift bags. We forgot to hand them out. My guess is that the parents don’t know how grateful they should be that we forgot…

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In case you can’t read them, they say, “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Noise Makers!” Several of ’em.

What?? I wanted it to be non-junk food-ish. (And annoying. Hee hee!)

It was seriously a super fun time, and after a bit of planning, pretty low-stress and enjoyable even for we parents. The 5-kids-under-5 were all so good and fun and were hilarious to see interacting with each other. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better time and it totally made up for Hadley’s super small, sick b-day last year.

In case you’d like to put on your own Seussian shindig, here are some suggestions…

Decor – Not that we’re “but all the trademarked character decorations!” people, know that the stores tend not to stock Suess stuff (at least, not the stores we went to). So, here are my tips:

  • Get basic colors and prints (think plates or napkins) that help set the mood. Red and turquoise are great, plus some polka dots or red-and-white stripes.
  • Add some whimsy. Whether streamers, homemade Truffula trees with tissue paper poufs, or colored swirly things, add a touch of fun in simple ways.
  • Use whatchya got. If your family has any Seuss character toys, pull ‘em out! The same goes for your favorite Seuss books. You can display them all over or have them stacked to put food or gifts on.
  • Quotes! You can’t have people read all the books to put them in the mood, but using a Seuss font to print out your favorite will offer a fun way for grown-ups to brush up on their Dr. Seuss.

Food – The one and only tip I have is to use some Dr. Seuss-inspired food titles to make everything cohesive. Here are my favorites:

  • Hop on Popcorn!
  • Green Eggs and Ham (Sandwiches) (deviled eggs and subs)
  • Roast Beast (subs)
  • One Fish, Tuna Fish (subs)
  • Truffula seeds (anything from yogurt-covered raisins to M&Ms)
  • Fuddle-Dee-Duddle Fruit (any fruit you want to offer! We had watermelon)
  • The Cat’s Hats (banana/strawberry skewers; some add marshmallows, too)
  • The Yink’s Pink Ink Drink
  • Poodle Noodles (pasta salad)
  • Skipper Zipp’s Clipper Ship Chips
  • Katroo Cupcakes
  • More suggestions at Seussville (wish I’d found this page sooner!)

Fun – Don’t overthink this part. Birthdays are by nature jam-packed with activities to keep folks busy. By incorporating one or two games, max, you’ll have a fall-back in case it rains or there’s otherwise a lull.

Here’s what we did, again, for our Seuss Shindig:

  • Pin the Hat on the Cat – You know the drill, so all you need to do is sketch a hatless “cat” and make a few striped hats for the kids (er, grown-ups…ahem…we did) to stick while blindfolded. It was way more fun than I remembered. Oh, and don’t let people feel around before stickin’ it. We had some cheaters. 😉 (Honestly, we didn’t remember the rules!)
  • “I Can Do That!” Game – I think it’s available at toy stores, and it would be a great addition to your family’s games as well as for a Seuss party. Super simple and super fun!
  • Coloring Sheets – We didn’t need any since we had so much to do already, but it’s often a good idea to have a quiet spot set up for kids who get overwhelmed by noise and chaos
  • Seussville Activities – If you don’t want to buy the aforementioned game, check out the activities at this great site. A step up from coloring pages, it gives kids some low-key fun that fits the theme. There are also some cool group activities like Wacky Whispers. I know it says it’s for educators, but they’re for one and all!

Whatchya think? It may not be Pinterest Perfect, but that’s not our goal. Just some extra touches to make the day super special and memorable and we’re good!

Oh, and if we have a Disney/Mickey party one of these years, we’re so ready. (Red with white polka dots, for the win!)


Check out Hadley’s
first and second (last year was subdued due to illness) birthdays if you’re interested, too! Not sure what the heck’s up with the images.

Hadley’s Third Birthday – Best Laid Plans

So, I was hoping to have a rundown of the decorative plans I had in mind for the little guy’s birthday, along with some pictures of the whole thing for you today. Well, I have some pictures, but they don’t show much of anything.

With all three of us under the weather and unsure of whether or not we’d be super contagious, we had originally decided to cancel the whole thing. Then, after talking with my mother a bit, we decided just to have the grandparents over. There are a couple of newborns in the family that we wouldn’t want to get what we’ve got, so we cut it back. Besides, I had already bought tons of food (which there was no way we could save another week or two for a party that we weren’t even sure others could attend), so it would be great to celebrate the day in a low-key way.

That said, I still worked hard (which, as a pregnant lady means that I worked until my belly ached — the belly knows when it’s time to slow down, y’know) to bake and chop and grate and assemble. As the time drew nearer and nearer, I realized I wouldn’t have the time I’d hoped to do the decorating I had planned on.

No baby blue streamers. No Peter Rabbit cake topper and wall hanging. No poufs. No Pinterestworthiness.

That’s not a word, but it’s definitely a thing.

But, we did have time to do a thorough cleaning job, and last night at 11pm I found myself sketching chalkboard drawings to bring a little festivity. Oh, in complete honesty, this stuff finally took the place of my spring chalkboard and *ahem* Easter baskets. Seriously. I’ve been slacking. 😉

So, from the things I grabbed at the local “dollar store”, I used some faux greenery on vines to give a little garden feeling. And, seriously, don’t fresh fruit and veggies do a great job at hitting both a) feeding partygoers and b) adding to the ‘garden’ theme?

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 Sorry, beverages. Party was underway and, as usual, Dave took the pics while I did last-minute stuff.
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Five - A Hero's Day - image  on

So, we served a pared-down version of the original menu: loads of fruit, veggies and homemade herb dip (Ina Garten), cold cuts with fresh rolls, chips/cheese/crackers, “munchies” (Annie’s chocolate bunnies and bunny snack mix…get it? Peter Rabbit??), and our family’s favorite pasta salad (Mom brought). Water, lemonade and iced tea for the hot day’s beverages. Oh, and chocolate-covered strawberries (Ina, again), homemade carrot cake (good ol’ Good Housekeeping – very moist, but took FOREVER to grate the carrots) with cream cheese icing, and an untouched strawberry rhubarb crisp. Admittedly, everyone was stuffed, so that’ll be breakfast this week. 😉

I know it still sounds like a lot, but considering I cut the decorating down to next to nothing and we didn’t have tomato pie and sausage bread and stuff…it was far less crazy and more chill than it would’ve been. Oh, and for the record, it’s the only cold cuts I’ve had (I believe?!) the entire pregnancy. I cheated, but at least I didn’t have a beer…right??

Considering we only had three guests (my stepdad wasn’t feeling well) plus the three of us, this kid got GIFTS. Thomas stuff, clothes galore, books, a fishing game he’s loved at his cousin’s, some superhero stuff, a bubble mower and A SHAAAAARK! (We also saved some stuff for tomorrow since that’s his actual day, but MAN I’m thinking we should save some of it for Christmas!)

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Five - A Hero's Day - image  on

When it was time to nap and he melted down, you could hear how sick he still is. Super runny nose, incredibly raspy…not as croupy as when he sleeps, but not good, poor thing. I’m just glad that his daddy and I have gotten past that “I don’t feel goooooood” whiny crappy feeling so that we could focus on how awesome our special guy is.

We felt awful that we couldn’t party it up with the whole family (namely, his super fun cousins, and I always love seeing my siblings), but I know we’ll see everyone throughout the summer, so we’re trying not to focus on it too much. Considering he’s only turning 3 and he doesn’t have a huge circle of friends yet, it was still a memorable, fun day meant to make him feel remembered. I’d say, snotty noses aside, it was a success!

Now, if he could just feel better. 🙁

On a positive ending, we didn’t realize how much Hadley has changed in the past year until Dave started putting together his annual video. Wow. A year ago, his words existed but were guttural and communication was highly emotionally-charged. A recent BabyCenter email updated me that he’s probably saying 3-word sentences now, but it’s sooo far from the truth. Aside from run-ons, he’s incredibly verbal, and his vocabulary surprises us with its complexity. We still have our toddler meltdowns, but he’s much better able to communicate his feelings.

He helps when we give him a task. He’s open and welcoming to the idea of a little sibling (he insists it’s a girl and today said her name is “Flamingo”). He’s sweet with a tiny mischievous side, prefers running to sitting still, and is dying for us to find him more friends. Somewhere along the way, he’s started coming to us with spontaneous moments of love and brief cuddles, which he was never a fan of before. Overall…the kid rocks.

Here are some of the answers to some questions I asked him:

Favorite Things – Age 3

Color – “Blue.” (funny, it’s usually orange)
Toy – “My firetruck.” (really?!)
Stuffed animal – “My lamby.”
Thing to take to bed – “My shark.”
Fruit – “I like all of them.”
Cereal – “Gorilla Munch.”
Breakfast – “Gorilla Munch.” (I blame the order of the questions on that answer)
Lunch – “Peanut butter and jelly.” (had to answer for him; this is his fave)
Dessert – “Ice cream.” (not really, he doesn’t eat the stuff)
Beverage – “Grape juice!”
Dinner – “Nothing, nothing, nothing.” (I think lunch and breakfast are his big meals; he’d prefer not eat dinner.)
Animal – “Uuummm…a lizard!”
Book – “Pajama Time.”
Song – “1-2-3 sing with me…(continues singing own lyrics)”
Game – “Matthew and me used to play golf. And Aunt Mary and Lizzie and Uncle John were there….”
TV Show – “Cartoon Batman” (the 1970s cartoon version, although we know he loves “60s Batman”, too.)
Movie – “The Muppets”
Thing to do outside – “Run around.”
Best friend – “Cooper.” (Actually, equal parts Cooper and Lizzie, so the answer varies.)
Job when he grows up – “Do Daddy’s job…Lego Batman exercise!” (He wants to use Dave’s old Lego Batman Wii game but knows he can’t until he’s big.)

Hadley 2.0

Hadman is officially a two-year-old, y’all. It happened. And I was, once again, a kinda crappy blogger. After putting a crapload of time into putting the party together (not a complaint; I enjoy doing stuff like that), I failed to take any Pinterest-worthy pictures. Okay, I failed to take many even halfway decent pictures.

See why I don’t own a DSLR camera? I don’t deserve one. *hangs head*

But, guess what I do have, folks. *points to head* The memory and the words, so it’s time to put pen to paper fingers to keyboard and spill the deets. After all, we all know… I. Rite. Good. Goodly. 😉

The realization that the day might not go as planned came Saturday — the night before the big event. See, there’s a huge local 15k/5k/wheelchair run that gets mad exposure (and brings mad tourist dollars) to the area. Out of all the run’s 30+ years, it never had to cancel, but the impending weather for it (which happened to be Hadman’s birthday) was seriously threatening it.

Spoiler alert: The weather turned out fine. Not rain-free, mind you, but not tornadic like earlier in the week. (Not kidding.) Whew.

But, because we knew there was a chance of rain/high winds/severe weather, I decided to nix a vast majority of the decorations. *frowny face* I tossed up a chalkboard banner I had filled in to say “Happy Birthday Hadley” (with ducks and stars cutey-ing it up) and a cool little plaque that I can’t wait to reuse every year, as well as a Duck from “Click, Clack, Moo” that I quickly sketched. Add some chevron fabric for the food table, a few party hats, and a smattering of neat duck facts (I’m nothing if not a fact finder), and I called it a day.

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I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t about the fancy. It wasn’t about the Pinterestworthy pictures (which I probably would’ve tried to get if I hadn’t been distracted by the weather). It wasn’t even about the food, necessarily. It was about Hadley’s day, and if he and everyone who came had fun, that was the damn point. It helped me chill out a bit. A bit.

The food wasn’t too crazy, but it kills me that I didn’t grab a picture of my fruit skewers. Kills. Me. 😛 Just picture: skewers with blueberries and strawberries in one mason jar, another with pineapples/cantaloup/watermelon on another set of skewers in a mason jar. *sigh* I tossed the rest of the loose fruit in a bowl near some honey yogurt dip (I wasn’t a fan, but I don’t like honey; next time just vanilla) as well as some watermelon ducks (watermelon + duck cookie cutter) in a bowl surrounded by blueberries.

Can’t you just envision it? Thanks. Thanks for helping out. I appreciate that.

We also had popcorn on tables, some pretzels and chips on the food table, some tomato pie that my in-laws were awesome enough to bring, and a veggie platter with super yummy dip. Thanks, Ina! And I brought out a lemon cake with lemony cream cheese (sorry, Dan!) frosting, plus some classic vanilla ice cream on the side. Hoping to post the recipe soon, since I took two and combined ’em.

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At this age, with pretty much just Hadley and his shy-of-3 cousin (and a couple of awesome teen cousins), there’s no need to plan much for a party. No need for pinatas or games or anything; not yet. Between providing a less stressful planning experience for Mom and Dad, it’s nice to see what unfolds.

And that was, by far, the best part of the day.

Have you noticed how we don’t get many rainy summer days the way we did when we were little? (By this I’m talking as a kid of the ’80s, but it could apply back to the 1840’s; if that’s you, God bless ya!) Well, we had one of THOSE rainy days. Awesome!

Hadley fed birds with Grandpa (“Papa”), picked cherry tomatoes with Grandma, rode in his new wagon with his BFF cousin and, best of all, ran around and splashed in the puddles with everyone else.

You know it’s a good party when someone needs to be thrown in a bathtub before heading home. That can be applied to adult parties, too, by the way. 😉

So, even though Hadman had a meltdown thanks to completely missing a nap and it rained lots, it was an insanely awesome party! Thanks for vicariously attending with us!

Best Birthday Gift Ever

Today I’ve got a different type of recipe for you — and there are several variations you can try, so feel free to mix it up all you like. Oh, and one warning: the ingredients take FOREVER to find (ahem, make), but they’re worth the effort. Seriously.

Want a cheese sandwich? Start with some bread…cheese, of course…a piece of lettuce…maybe two…a tomato (if you’re into that sort of thing)…then top it off with another fluffy slice….

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Just serve with a carrot or two and you’ve got an awesome lunch. Yum!

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Or you could just pull a Dorky Daddy and have a salad for lunch. (He’d have two salads for dinner…then more salad for dessert. Seriously.) Personally, I’d switch out the tomato for strawberries.

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Speaking of strawberries…grab a few for a snack! (Pardon the water spots.)

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Oh, you’re in the mood for breakfast? We’ve got that covered, too. Eggs and toast, perhaps?

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So, this was my “big present” for the monkey’s birthday. It doesn’t look like much, but I’ve worked on them every night for a month or two…so…yeah. Just the hours alone make them pretty valuable. And the fact that he and his cousin started playing with them immediately (and that they’re, apparently, a cat toy, as well), which makes all the time worth it. Big time. 🙂

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I’m hoping to make a pizza or more breakfast items for Christmas. They’re not hard to make, just time intensive. Whip stitch…whip stitch…whip stitch…. Yep, there’s your tutorial. That’s all you need. Cut out the shapes (I free-handed) from felt, whip stitch the edges until you die, then stuff with filling…or fill with stuffing, whatevs. Rinse and repeat. The cheese was just a cut-out of orangey-yellow felt; that one was super easy and made up for how time-intensive the rest were. 😉

Depending on where we live at that point, we’ll also try to work on a kitchen area for Hadman to house all of his spoons, spatulas, and pots the utensils and pots he’s stolen from me and for further pretend play. He’s in love with them, so I’m super happy that these turned out so well and were well-received. (By the way, he’s mixed them with the food toys he already owns — the ones with the smiley faces — below…and a stuffed turkey. Which makes sense. Maybe.)

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Oh, and for anyone wondering, I’m working on a quick birthday rundown post for this week, too. We hope you had as awesome a weekend as we did!

Flashing What We Know

I recently mentioned falling in love with a few homemade birthday presents for our monkey. Thank you, dear friend Pinterest. I call her “Pinny” and she looks remarkably like Kaley Cuoco (whatever her married last name is, I can’t be bothered to Google) in my head. Pinny’s my new enabling BFF.

Anyhoo, one of the super easy projects I just HAD to stay up past midnight working on was the toddler flashcards. See, the kid’s a toddler genius (but what mom doesn’t think that, really?) who is starting to pick words out (for real), LOVES reading, and knows tons of letters, numbers, and animal sounds. Kid’s got it goin’ on, thanks to his Grandma’s diligent work with him daily. So, I don’t want all her hard work to go down the toilet while he’s lazing about spending intellectually stimulating summer days with me.

So, I spent some time on PicMonkey making and saving a few sets of flashcards. Here are a few wicked easy samples (not the whole sets, that’d be cray-cray):


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(Boring as all get-out with the gray, but didn’t want to detract.
Side note: I did a rhombus AND separate diamond. We’ll throw the spaghetti on the wall and see which one sticks. Child-led learning. ;-))

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Matching Game!
(Printing an extra set of the above shapes, he has to match them to the “real life” objects; moon goes with “crescent”, by the way. I’m tricky. I would accept star there, too, though.)

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Now, to print, *evenly* cut, and laminate them! Actually…first, to head to my mom’s basement to track down my tiny old laminator. *wink, wink*

By the way, I’m still thinking of making up a few cards for matching with colors as well as a set of friends ‘n family ones with pictures and names (especially to learn the folks who love us who happen to live far away, or whom we just don’t get to see often).

I am wondering, though — the game ones I’m obviously going to keep loose for matching purposes, but the others I’m thinking of putting on a metal ring. Whatchya think? Loose or ready-for-car-use?

More Homemade Birthday Ideas

Okay. It’s June, folks. In our neck of the woods, that means a couple of things.

1) Inventory in the library. (Also see — “I don’t care, I’m wearing flip flops and yucky clothes everyday. Try and test me.”)

2) School’s going to be done…sooner rather than later. Side note: Where the HECK did this year go?!

3) Hadley’s birthday will be upon us like *snap* THAT. Seriously, the more work I have to get done at school, the faster the time goes. That’s a written law in the time-space continuum.

So, of course I’ve been hunting down some stuff for the big day. Well. Kind of.

More like…gifts. On Pinterest.

Wait, what? Gifts on Pinterest?? What the…how?

See, I know the Hadman gets a lot of…stuff…for his big day. I’m quite sure Dave and I will have a mini shopping spree for a couple of outfits and a book or two, and I think we’ve already sneaked a couple of toys on a trip to Toys ‘R Us. We’re normal, after all. *bugs out eyes, sticks out tongue*

But, after I realized I wanted to get him some felt play food (that plastic stuff’s okay, but this is a tad cooler…and a touch more earth friendly), and maybe some letters and/or numbers and/or shapes while we were at it…well, of course my attention turned to Pinterest and that old stand-by search term: “DIY.” Here’s the “Kid Fun” board I’ve been pinning to.

A few days later, I found myself in possession of a stack of cheap, CHEAP felt (made from recycled bottles, nonetheless!) with dreams of these inspiration images dancing in my head:

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Sorry, no source available!
(Please let me know if this was your idea, I’d like to give credit!)

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(So simple, so genius!)
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(My fave!)
Awesome ideas, right?? I’m holding off on making a pretend kitchen until he shows more interest (and we have a bigger space for it).

The next inspiration came from the FABULOUS job my mother-in-law has been doing with teaching Hadley his letters and numbers. She uses flashcards as well as alphabet books, so I figured it’d be useful to have some around the house this summer. Enter Pinterest, once again.

It’s funny. PicMonkey is my favorite blogging tool for images lately. You’d think I would’ve connected the dots in my mind to say, “Doy! You should use that to make some flashcards for the Hadman!” Der dee der! Silly me. But, this site right here figured it out for me. Thanks, Mommy’s Craft Obsession!

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The inspiration from this site also lead me to think about making “friends and family” flash cards. Y’know, with family members’ faces and names so he can learn about all the people who love him…and to realize that the only “Bill” in his life isn’t the weather man. (Sorry, Uncle Bill!) In his defense, “Mr. Bill” is a family friend.

The other cool thing here is that I purchased a small laminator back in the day (in my elementary ed. days) that will help these suckers last for any possible future kids that come down the line. Look at me working smarter, not harder!

The last handmade thing I’m thinking about would probably be a “sometime this summer” rather than “for your birthday” idea.

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Couldn’t you just DIE?! I LOVE how she made these — right down to the color and use of lima beans (instead of sand, which we all KNOW will end up EVERYWHERE)! I could totally see these living on our back porch. Plus, since they’re made with a couple of Rubbermaid containers, you can easily put a top on them to keep them safe from the elements. *swoon*

Now, let’s see if I can handle that project.

And the invitations. Yeah, I probably should get on those, huh?

(If you’d like to know what we’re planning for the monkey, check out my post announcing our second birthday theme.)

And the Second Birthday Theme Will Be…

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Yep, we’re going kind of classic and traditional on this one. (And that greenish is totally supposed to be blue. Zoinks.)

I pondered several generic ideas (zoo, barnyard, “twinkle, twinkle little star” — not with animals present on those first two, though…I’m no Kate Gosselin) and a handful of more obvious “kidcentric” character themes he’s into (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mo Willems, Sesame Street). It was a total tie between Sesame Street and “ducks,” and I’m not gonna lie — it was a tough decision.

I’m not too surprised, either. They’re both totally Hadley’s jam right now.

We’re not huge “buyer of trademarked stuff” people, but he’s got a Sesame Street fold-out couch that he uses to watch ANY of “his” shows (a sweet gift), a handful of hand-held character toys (let’s call them pre-action figure action figures…of cute and cuddly Muppets), and, of course, his plush dolls of Bert ‘n Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, The Count, Big Bird…and I’m a horrible Mommy because I’m forgetting if I left anyone out. *scratches head*

Notice we don’t have Elmo (he likes Elmo, but he’s not in LOVE with Elmo…ya get me?), or Zoe, or Abby Cadabby, or any of the newer breed of Sesame Street monsters. Let’s just say that if we’re going to show him an episode on Netflix and he demands requests a particular character, it’s usually “hee hee” (the noise Ernie makes when he laughs, you know the one) or “la la la” (Big Bird) or “ah aaaahhh” (The Count). He also does a “bam bam bam” motion (for Oscar) and a “nom nom nom” hand to mouth motion (for Cookie Monster). Um, he’s also calling lots of things “Bob” lately. That may or may not be related. Bob.

But, the word “duck” comes out of his mouth about 50+ times a day lately. I bring home duck books (fiction and non-fiction) from school. He quacks. He carries rubber duckies around whenever the thought occurs to him. He didn’t want to leave the flower shop we visited just before Easter that has an awesome annual display of a dozen happy, splashing baby ducks.

Kid’s obsessed.

And it’s just so sweet.

After some more conversation, Dave and I realized that next year, he’ll probably still be into Sesame Street. If that’s the case (hopefully it is), we can do a Sesame theme next year, or something else he’s super into. But, he isn’t always going to be into such an endearing little thing like duckies. Plus, it was a huge theme for his baby shower, so it makes this mama a tad sentimental to think about the evolution from shower to second *sniff, sniff* birthday.

Duckies, it is. Plus, Hadley agreed to it when we asked him to pick between the two. That clinched the deal. Not that he in any way knew what he was really voting on.

So, what’s this theme about? The invite is just a quick mock-up (sans the place or RSVP info…not even sure of the time yet, really), but can you really have a two-year-old’s duck party without the ubiquitous rubber ducky? Didn’t think so.

Side note: If we do Sesame Street next year, you know I’m repurposing rubber duckies for an Ernie connection. #usewhatyouvegot

Speaking of reusing, most of the stuff I made last year (cake topper, big poufs, even utensils and plates), I’m using this year…if the tissue paper poufs have held up being squished in a bag all year. (Ahem.) 

Last year’s party was mostly a colored theme (orange, yellow, blue, green), which all totally work with duckies.

The food will most likely be simple (if you really know me, you’re laughing at the use of that word — last year was SUPPOSED to be simple) – fruits and veggies with dip on ice, either pizza or BBQ-type stuff, pretzels/chips, and dessert. There is much pinning to be done, but we’ll either do a nice big cake with yellow frosting or cupcakes (mini duck toppers, anyone?) and a small cake for monkey to dive into. Why do I think he’ll dive a bit more this year?

Decor, well, yeah. Ducks. But to keep it cohesive with the mix of last year’s colors, blue and yellow tablecloths (blue = water) should do the trick. As the invitation implies, I hope to make some buntings to drape, either across the seating area or behind the food table…or both. Maybe some blue or yellow streamers. En masse, they can pack a punch. And I’m sure I’ll probably make a couple of ducky posters or a “year in pictures” poster to hang.

I’ve seen some cute ideas for the food area, like rafia (hay) as fillers, but the thing I’ve noticed most is that the thing that makes a table is its organization. Rows, my dears. Rows. Oh, and cute signage. Preferably on sticks. (“Quackers”, anyone?)

Beverages can be chilled in a baby pool or galvanized tub (whatever is handy) and an additional small tub can be used as a fun game: everyone picks a duck out and the ones with an “H” (or whatever) marked on the bottom wins a prize.

Oh, and since these shindigs tend to be adult-centric for now (he has one best friend/cousin about a year older; then two teenaged cousins who are incredible…just way older; otherwise, friends in far-off places), those gifts will be, like, plants or candles or something. We’ll see. 

I’d do a duck piñata, but like I said, it’s gonna be mostly adults. (Although, the image of our moms whacking away blindly is kind of awesome.) We keep things low-key at our events since our friends and family are pretty good at mingling and finding their own fun. One day when more kids are involved, they’ll need more fun/structure (structure does not equal zero fun, I promise…says the boring librarian ;-)), so we’ll do more games/activities at that point.

For now, just digging out the sidewalk chalk and balls for catch will be just fine, I think.

If you want to see what else I’ve got up my sleeve, check back on my Pinterest board for Hadley’s birthday. (There are also some ideas I picked last year that I never used, which may help me in my future parties, too.) Check back often; I’m sure it’ll be growing a ton.