Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Circle-Themed First Birthday

If you've been watching for a while, then you'll not be surprised that our kiddo was ready to celebrate his 1st birthday.  We knew we wanted to throw a party, and of course knew we wanted it to be super cute - but weren't sure what to go with. I googled and pinterested first birthday ideas - which was  completely overwhelming. People go absolutely crazy with 1st birthday parties, (or maybe just kids' parties in general) with the smash cakes, professional photos, and themed food and games - holy crap. So after a bit of party-theme soul searching, we decided to pick a pretty easy theme of circles, and a general color scheme of blues and greens. We invited just our family and closest friends for what was meant to be a very small afternoon party.

streamers down the staircase

more of the streamers

family pretending not to be too hot

While the boy took his morning nap and we waited for guests to arrive, we started by filling the house with balloons and streamers. When he finally came downstairs, he got to chase the balloons around and hug them - while some of the older boys had fun bouncing and kicking them around the house.

happy birthday boy and balloons

Outside, where the party was mostly contained - we bought a cheapie inflatable pool and filled it with balls. It wasn't super full - but full enough to get the idea. With an umbrella for shade- all the kids gravitated towards it, and despite a wide age range of 10 months - 7 years, they all seemed to have fun.  As a party favor, I grabbed a bunch of spikey balls that light up when bounced, and some suction-cup balls that stick to glass. Everyone, including the parents, seemed happy to throw them around.
ball pit mid-jump

enjoying the ball pit with a cousin

watching the ball pit with Nana

thinking about getting in the ball pit

chilling in the shade in the ball pit

As another party favor/game, I just bought some cheapie tubes of bubbles. I don't think anyone but me actually played with them, but hey (therefore, no pictures).

For the cake, I went with a stunning stacking toy design - making 4 layers out of different sized circles, frosting them each a different color, and then stacking them on top of each other. The bottom cake was a 9" standard cake pan, and the top cake was a cupcake - so for the two middle layers I used an 8" cake pan and cut them down to size, using plates as a template. I saw a trick to bake the cake at 325 instead of 350 degrees, to reduce domeing, but it didn't work perfectly, so, the cake sort of tilted to the side a bit.

stacking rings cake

shoveling down the top ring of the cake

The rest of the food was spouso's responsibility - and he did really a great job.  We both like to cook and want to serve our guests our best food, but have learned that you really don't want to be cooking during the party or you miss out. So he struck a good balance of making some things in advance (like a cold veggie pasta salad and fruit salad), while ordering/buying other things (like pizza and chips). I guess pizza is circle-shaped, but I didn't worry about the theme here - bigger concern was trying to find some healthy options that would be baby friendly that adults would also eat.

The ball pit, balloons, and bubbles helped keep the kids mostly entertained, but then it got hot and everyone came inside. After a bit of time indoors, we were all getting a little ancy and needed to burn off some energy - so we walked over to a nearby playground to run around. It was a nice break from the house for all of us.

oh sweet playground

spinning or just relaxing, depending on your pov.

Even though we told them not to, guests still brought a bunch of toys. So, after the party was over, we ended the weekend by rearranging the furniture again (we seem to rearrange the living room every other month or so), to create a new toy storage system in the living room (which is bolted to the wall). At this rate, we will really need to come up with a toy rotation system or something - but all the new stuff is so much fun now that I wouldn't dream of hiding anything away. We did finally pack up the bouncer, which was his Christmas gift, took up too much space, and has already been outgrown.

new toy storage in the living room

Concluding thoughts on kids' birthdays:
  • I tried to keep it low key - but it was still fairly chaotic. He did ok, but was clearly overwhelmed at times and not really having fun. We were mostly able to enjoy the party and not too busy hosting, but would've been much happier to not have spent the two hours before the party started frantically running around to prepare. Clearly getting all the shopping and much of the cooking done the day before would have been better for us, and giving him some quiet breaks away from the noise would have been smart.  
  • It would probably be a good idea to keep the guest list a little smaller in the future.  1 kid per age of the birthday boy seems like a good rule that we totally broke (we ended up with 8 kids and 14 adults, yipes!). Too many people in a small space just really amps up everything. 
  • Themes seem completely unnecessary - just good food and some decorations are all you need. Maybe older kids would care more - but babies have no idea, so themes are only good for adding extra stress for the hosts. 
  • Games would probably be really difficult to arrange, but it was helpful to have toys/activities that the kids could do on their own to stay entertained. 
  • It was handy to be in our house/yard, but having a playground to escape to was key, both because it gave us all a chance to run around and burn off some energy and because it provided a change of scenery to shake things up. If we had been stuck indoors the whole time I would've snapped. 
  • While being outdoors is great - the weather makes it complicated. Even though we had a beautiful day, it was super hot, so being outside the whole time as planned didn't work. Thankfully, we could come inside to kind-of cool off, but I wish I had thought to get some water toys or something.  
  • Favors were a total waste - no one realized that that's what they were, so we just ended up with everything leftover. Now we have like 10 tiny bottles of bubbles and a million little balls. 
Anyway - our little guy is 1 now - which is huge. He's got a bunch of words and is really close to walking on his own - and getting much more fun every day. Meanwhile, we are all sleeping through the night and slowly getting more and more under control and out of new-parent panic mode. It's hard to imagine what we were doing this time a year ago - coming home from the hospital and barely able to eat without help from our family and friends. Thanks again to everyone who helped us make it through the year - I promise I'll be less surly next year. More on our birthday gift to him next. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spring Yard Update

As usual this year, I've spent the last couple weekends out in the yard, clearing away the trash from the winter, planting the new stuff, and weeding like crazy. After a lot of rain - everything is doing great, and the yard is now ready for its annual spring post.

my little redbud tree getting bigger each year

1. Shrubs
So, when I first landscaped the yard 3 years ago, I set out to fill the yard with flowering shrubs that would bloom at different times of the year so that we would always have something in bloom, but not have to replant them every year.  This year all of the shrubs stayed alive through the winter - some even bloomed for the first time.

abelias have gotten huge

azaleas are finally blooming

mountain laurel being over the top

rhododendrons finally blooming and putting out new leaves

2. Perennials
As a Christmas gift two years ago, I received a gift certificate to Burpee (thanks again Bill!), a huge online plant store, which I used last fall to buy some perennials. I was not expecting much out of them, as the foliage pretty much died off as soon as I put them in the ground, but low and behold, they are all coming up and doing well so far. I don't exactly remember what they are - so it should be a fun surprise when they finally bloom, later this summer. At the same time, the few cheapie perennials that I bought on sale in the middle of the summer came back and are blooming already too. I was sure they were toast - but they're already doing great. I'm hoping for some awesomeness from these sections of the yard this summer.

yellow flowers were planted late last summer but doing great so far

mystery plants coming up between the pink ones

3. Annuals
So, my goal is to have almost no annuals, since they are the expensive part that you have to pay for every year- but I still bought a bunch. So far, they are all doing great and growing quickly. The kitchen garden is set up, but significantly smaller this year, in an attempt to keep a little control over what is usually pretty chaotic.
kitchen garden is tame for now

4. Solar Lights
In non-plant news, several years ago, we bought the cheapie solar lights to line the walkway. They quickly fogged over and stopped working. Last year, I tried to scrub the fog away, which worked briefly, until it didn't. So, this year I bought some new slightly nicer ones. Now we have a full set of working lights, which will hopefully last a couple more years.

new cheap solar lights will hopefully last a couple years

5. The Cement Patch
When the old brick stairs were removed, they left behind a patch of rubble under the new stairs. We had an old bag of cement just sitting in the garage, waiting to go bad, so I finally just grabbed a bucket, the hose, and a trowel, mixed it up and dumped it in. It's not perfect and could use another bag - but that seems pretty unlikely, so I'm calling this done for now.

patch of loose rubble under the stairs before...

no longer loose rubble after. 

So, that's the spring yard update. Other than some regular weeding and mowing, I'm pretty much going to let it do its thing, while we turn our efforts over to the little porch which needs some loving.