Monday, April 28, 2014

Birthday Party Planning

Me - at my 3rd birthday party
My almost-three-year-old has recently gotten to go to two perfectly-executed third birthday parties.

The first was at a park on a Saturday afternoon. The weather was glorious, and the parents had staked out a couple of picnic tables under big trees. They decorated the puppy-themed party with balloons (including three puppy-shaped Airwalker balloons, which the kids l-o-v-e-d "walking" around the park) and a child-sized, cardboard doghouse (white with a red roof, reminiscent of the Snoopy's Sno Cone Makers from the 1980s). The doghouse was the final obstacle in a puppy obstacle course (an ideal activity for three year olds) that involved hopping, walking a line, jumping, and crawling on all fours. Birthday girl's mother is brilliant. At the craft table, kids decorated goody bags with puppy stickers, foam shapes, markers, and glitter pens. All two dozen guests got a turn to whack the toy-filled, pink and white puppy pinata. Finally, we all ate chocolate cake, baked and decorated with tiny plastic puppies by the birthday girl's mom.

The second was yesterday morning, in the birthday boy's backyard. Again, the weather was glorious. There was a Planes-themed bounce house, a man twisting balloon animals, and another man painting glitter tattoos. But there were also the birthday boy's backyard toys (house, kitchen, car, wagon, and a Fisher Price car track called a Loops 'n Swoops Amusement Park); the little ones bounced and played and played and bounced, and everyone was tattooed and happy. Birthday boy's wonderful mom is Australian, so one of the many party foods was "fairy bread," little sandwiches made of white bread, butter, and rainbow sprinkles - an Australian standard and a huge hit with the kids. There was a Planes-themed cake, and Planes goody bags, and I studied it all with an anthropologist's attentiveness.

My daughter turns three in two weeks.

Two weeks! I got on Amazon, with the hope of putting together a sweet Beatrix Potter-themed party, and then I got really overwhelmed. It was a combination of seeing how much money I was going to spend on paper plates alone, and my desire to make a Mr. McGregor's cupcake garden, the cupcakes decorated with crushed Oreo "dirt" and handmade candy "vegetables."

By 9 p.m., I had given up and, in defeat, I googled the phrase "birthday in a box" which is - as I thought it should be - an actual thing.

"Okay," I said, pulling my daughter up onto the couch next to me. "What do you want?"

She oohed over Minnie Mouse, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, and Tinkerbell. But when she saw Monsters, Inc., her mind was made up.

"You like Monsters, Inc. better than Tinkerbell?" Yes. "Better than Dora?" Yes. "Okay," I said, clicking the mouse, "Monsters, Inc. it is."

I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved... and guilt-ridden, my excuse for buying absolutely  everything my daughter asked for.

When I was almost three, my amazing mother asked what I wanted on my birthday cake, and when I told her Garfield and E.T. touching fingers, she made it happen. Then, she painted an E.T. beanbag toss, and sewed lederhosen for my dad's ventriloquist dummy. At my party, Dad told the story of Jack and the Beanstalk; the dummy played Jack and Dad played the giant.
The cake Mom made for my 3rd birthday
My I-don't-have-lederhosen-sewing-time-guilt resulted in the purchase of (very affordable) Monsters, Inc. paper plates... cups, napkins, balloons, a helium tank, stickers, lollipops, frisbees, paper masks, party hats, pencils, blow-outs, curling ribbon, favor boxes, monster-head-water-squirter balls, an Airwalker balloon shaped like Mike Wazowski that will stand more than a foot taller than my daughter, and a Sulley monster costume for my daughter to wear.

Because she said she needed it.


  1. Very interesting, thank you. Where does your daughter go to learn social skills and make friends outside of the home?

    1. A mom in our neighborhood (the mom of "Birthday Girl") put together a group that meets once a week. Every month has a theme (last month was dinosaurs, this month is art), and Week 3 is a field trip. (For Dinosaurs, we went to the Natural History Museum.) Weeks 1, 2, and 4 are "classes." Each class is about 2 hours, and during that time, the kids have free play, a song or two, a couple of stories, a project, a snack, and more free play. The moms (and the dad - my husband) are all so creative and put together awesome classes. One of the things I love about this group is that the time, place, and host rotate, depending on what is convenient for the host. One week it might be a Thursday morning at someone's house, the next week might be Wednesday afternoon at a park. Everything is communicated via email. (Additionally, my daughter has dance class once a week.)

  2. Oh, how I envy moms that can do the birthday thing with style and grace. Out of four children I've only semi-managed to do it two times. Party in a box sounds fabulous. And you are a cutie with E. T. !