Monday, August 24, 2015

a non-Pinteresty first birthday party, by a Pinterest addict.

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A month from tomorrow, my baby girl turns two. Twwwwoooo. In just one teeny-tiny month. She's been practicing Being Two for a couple weeks by having mini-meltdowns at every turn ("Rowan, here's your oatmeal!" "NOOOOOOOOO"), which is really super fun. (False.) Meanwhile, I've been gearing up for her second birthday by brainstorming for her party.

I am an unabashed Pinterest addict. I know Pinterest has become a much-maligned target, in particular for stay-at-home moms who are perfectionists but aren't really crafty by nature (meeeee! hiiiii!), but, unbelievably, I avoid the "Pinterest makes me feel unworthy" syndrome 99% of the time. In contrast, I think it's energizing. I started using it when it was brand new, and initially, I just transferred all the inspiration pictures that I'd been saving on my hard drive to my new Pinterest account. I love it for ideas, for tutorials, for planning, for saving money, for dreaming. Still, I'm not about to get all caught up in making every detail of my life Pinterest-worthy, despite how easy it is to get sucked in to well-curated social media fairy tales. I'm much more interested in the functional aspects of Pinterest: Tell me how to paint my cupboards, how to make dill dip, how to grow a green fort in my backyard...and then leave me alone, k?

One of the biggest Pinterest traps is kids' birthday parties. Especially your kid's first birthday party. Especially your first kid's first birthday party. I'm not a party-thrower by nature (mostly because that means people...ugh), but I definitely wanted to celebrate Rowan's first birthday in a meaningful way. And by "meaningful," I mean non-stressful for me, fun for her, laid-back for our guests, low-cost, and allowing for a few good photo ops.

So here's how I planned a Pinfluenced (see what I did there? I know. I'm sorry) first birthday party without going totally overboard.

:: Planning and timing: Who's the party for, anyway?

The reality is that a first birthday party is more for the parents than the baby. She'll have pictures, but no memories of the event. Mostly, I was amazed that the three of us - J.J., Rowan, and me - had survived that first year together. So I didn't hesitate to make it the kind of party that J.J. and I would be able to actually enjoy: a small affair with just family members. That way, we didn't have to worry about tons of one-year-olds running around our house (I love my friends' kids and my mama group, but the idea of a dozen babies scoping out our un-childproofed abode - as in, the stairs weren't even gated yet - gave me heart palpitations). 

As for timing - the party was the Saturday before her birthday (which was on a Thursday), and we timed it to be in between her morning and afternoon naps (aww, remember two naps?).

:: Theme: No one actually cares.

Look. Birthday-party themes can get pretty ridiculous. Do you remember having or going to any birthday parties as a kid that had a theme, beyond, say, My Little Pony paper products? I don't. Themes for first-birthday parties are especially arbitrary, and, in Rowan's experience, it would've been the same whether it was a book theme or an Elmo theme or a Walking Dead theme - or no theme. 

That said, some of us - ahem, like, those of us who luuuuv Pinterest - like creating parties around a theme. True to my nature, I currently have three complete parties planned around specific themes - a toddler art party, a dinosaur party, and an autumn party - none of which has actually come to fruition yet (let's get on that dino party, Stephanie!). So for Rowan's first birthday, I chose a theme mostly to guide me in decorating, and I stuck with something simple and cheerful: rainbows. I also chose the theme myself, since Rowan wasn't very responsive to my emails asking for her input.

:: Decorations: Major Pinterest-trap alert.

You know what I considered doing for decorations? DIY Martha Stewart pom-pom flowers, a watercolor rainbow on the sliding glass door, handmade fluffy clouds with rainbow streamers floating through them, rainbow paper chains for all the doorways, and calling on Mother Nature to supply an actual rainbow IRL.

You know what I actually did for decorations? Streamers and balloons. Cheap, easy, colorful.

I wanted a cute "first birthday" shirt for Rowan after seeing some adorable ones on Etsy, but thought of that way too late in the game to execute. Plus, expensive. Oh - you may have noticed that creepy posterboard in the above pic. I did put together a poster with (almost) all of the weekly and monthly pictures I'd taken of Rowan. I never added the 52-week or 12-month pictures (hence the blank space at the bottom), and of course it's too huge and weird to actually display anywhere, so it's lurking in the basement, awaiting its fate. And I don't think anyone actually looked at it during the party. But whatever...it was still a step back from what Pinterest dictated - a photo montage in the shape of the number one.

:: Food: Pinterest-trap alert #2.

Pinterest had allllll sorts of adorable rainbow-food ideas, but the reality was that most of those wouldn't be an option for the birthday girl (who was still getting the hang of chewing), and/or would go untouched by most of our party guests. So for the main course, J.J. and Rowan picked up pizza right before the party; and to stick with the theme, we had a colorful selection of my favorite soda, Izze, and put together a simple rainbow fruit platter with marshmallow clouds (Pinterest's contribution!).

Ah, yes, and the cake idea came from Pinterest. I wanted to make something, mainly because I don't like the taste of store-bought cake (the frosting is never right, and frosting is the only reason for eating cake). I originally planned to make baby-friendly "cupcakes" that were healthy, natural muffins instead of chemicals and red dye #40, but I scrapped that idea because I don't trust my baking skills enough to be sure I'd create something edible. Instead, I made mini-cupcakes from a box and frosted them with different colors (food coloring in store-bought frosting) to make a rainbow. I was pretty proud of this cupcake rainbow. 

And, more importantly, it tasted good - to me and to the birthday girl, who was getting her first real taste of sugar.

:: Birthday photos: Whatever, Pinterest is awesome.

Okay, here's the most Pinteresty thing I did for Rowan's birthday. When I was pregnant, I stumbled across a Pin of a little girl holding a bunch of red balloons, and I just thought it was striking and memorable and adorable. 

(found here)
I mentioned it to J.J. a couple weeks before Rowan's birthday, but then I actually forgot about it. We had a bunch of helium balloons in rainbow colors tied to her high chair for her birthday party...

...but those were skimming the ground by the time her actually birthday rolled around later in the week. So, the morning of her birthday, J.J. and Rowan went to the store for a few things, and J.J. surprised me by bringing back some beautiful orchids for me ("birthing day flowers," he called them) and a new bunch of balloons - so that we could take the photos I had talked about. Awwww.

We took the balloons, a basket (usually used to corral shoes), and the baby to the backyard, and I started snapping away on my iPhone while J.J. danced around like a fool to make her smile.

We ended up getting some of my very favorite shots of her ever, ones that I would DEFINITELY frame if I ever got around to printing photos. Still trying to decide what to do for a birthday photo shoot this year - I'd love to do another session with balloons, but I'm not sure if we'll do it in the backyard again, or maybe somewhere else...we'll see!

And as for this year's party? Who knows? We'll probably do another low-key family get-together, but I laid in bed last night dreaming of apple-slice displays and hollowed-out pumpkins holding various dip flavors (dill dip...pumpkin Cool Whip dip...I hate the word "dip"...) and a doughnut cake...so I'm not taking Big Birthday Bash off the table quite yet!

Rowan's like, "How about a birthday party theme of Elsa, Elmo, and pickles?"

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