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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Emmeline's Fourth Birthday :: Halloween Party

I can't believe I'm writing about Emmeline's FOURTH birthday. And writing about it SIX MONTHS LATER. To be fair to me - I started this post in December, but you know. Life. I'm only writing this post now so that I can look back and remember it and because I have pics from Carys's seventh party to share - probably in about six months.


Em's officially out of the toddler stage and into the preschool stage and guys, I just love that kid so much. She's absolutely hilarious and one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I can't remember every single delightful thing that she's said - and they're just gone forever; I can't rewind and find them again. SOB. When she's sad, she's the saddest, most heartbreaking kid ever, with these big sad eyes welling up with tears and you can hear the despair and tears in her voice as she pleas, "Mama, don't be mad!" And the girl has a TEMPER with every single letter capitalized. She throws things and is just fiercely angry when things don't go her way. But most of the time - God, I just want to eat her up. And squeeze her and kiss her and never let her go. I can't tell you how many times I am driving with her, listening to her amusing stories, and I just have to reach back and squeeze and hold her hand because I can't pull over and take her out of her carseat and love on her.


And guys, she's so smart too. I can't believe I ever worried about her language skills or development, because she's brilliant. She loves shapes and simple addition and rhyming and reading/writing (she loves writing out a string of letters on a piece of paper and asking me what it says). She loves drawing, dressing up, and our new puppy (OMG I HAVEN'T WRITTEN ABOUT OUR NEW PUPPY and he's now 9 months old - whoops!). She loves video games and screens and I have to regulate those strictly, because she'd be totally happy lounging on the couch with no pants on, watching "Masha and Bear" or playing the Nintendo Switch allllllllllllllll day long. Luckily, she also loves her scooter and tricycle and I can usually get her to happily accompany me on a walk. She's got a sweet tooth like no other, and is a crazy picky eater (still).

Anyway. This is why I used to do the monthly/bi-yearly letters (and I can't dwell on the lack of those because I'll beat myself up for stopping them!). She's an amazing kid, I adore her, you get it.

For her fourth birthday, I was at a total loss. She liked a lot of things but I couldn't think of a theme she LOVED. And her birthday being in the dead of winter and two weeks before Christmas complicates it further. I asked her what kind of party she wanted and she kept telling me: Halloween. Halloween?!?!!?  I was 99.9% sure she wanted a Halloween party because she loved Trick-or-Treating so much and just wanted more candy. I wasn't sure if she understood that just because we were celebrating a Halloween birthday didn't mean she'd get to go trick-or-treating around the block again.  She briefly mentioned a Mario party (and I still think that would be cute) but she kept going back to Halloween. So...Halloween it was. And to her credit, she still - six months later - says that her favorite color is black because she loves Halloween.

It ended up being a really small party, and not nearly as elaborately planned as usual. Many of our usual guests couldn't attend and it was a SUPER busy time of year (did I mention that her birthday is two weeks before Christmas? And that we had just gotten a new puppy? And that Chris's birthday is the week before?). But she had a great time and was the center of attention for the day and loved it.

This was a pretty easy party to decorate - I managed to snag most of the decor on giant clearance after Halloween, and obviously we already had a bunch of Halloween decor. I did get a few things at Oriental Trading company (as I do every year) but not nearly as much as I have had to in the past. The trick with her party is always decorating around the Christmas decorations that are out. This year I just decided to cover them all with spider webs and pretend like they didn't exist.


She did not want "cute" Halloween. She wanted "creepy." I asked her if bugs crawling around a skull were creepy and she was like, "Ugh, I guess so."




I made the spider web with twine and I'm excited to bring it out next Halloween!




She asked for donuts instead of a cake, which I thought would be easy. We ended up disappointed with the vendor we used for the donuts but whatever. (I asked for a variety of Halloween colors and to have some of them decorated in orange/yellow/white stripes like a candy corn, and they ended up looking like Emmeline herself decorated them.)


HOW AMAZING ARE THOSE EYEBALL CUPS?!?!? And I love the plants and napkins I got from Target clearance after Halloween. 




The gift bags were luminaries. I don't think I took a picture of what was inside, which sucks because it was cute stuff - a little potion necklace (you can kind of see Emmeline wearing it in the first pic of her) and some tattoos and some plastic bugs and tattoos and bubbles and stuff like that. 




 

There's something so unsettling about a Christmas tree wrapped in spider webs. Maybe eerily reminiscent of an abandoned house or something? We tucked pictures of Emmeline during Halloween throughout the years into the webbing.


I got a few little foam craft kits on clearance from Target and set the kids up making little skulls and ghosts. It was a fun, easy activity and they seemed to have fun.

Obviously the direction was to come in costume. 





After they made their little crafts, they all went "trick-or-treating." I set the adults up throughout the house and gave them each a bag of candy to hand out to the kids. This was a big hit. Because candy. 





"Trick or Treat!"


Obviously the only logical thing after a bout of trick-or-treating is to separate and sort the candy. 



The cursed donuts. Like really, you don't even want to know how much I paid for these damn things that looked like someone smeared hard buttercream on them with a plastic butter knife.



OMG I love this little shy smile as everyone was singing happy birthday. 



Then we moved onto opening gifts, and the kids had a tissue paper war. 






Look at our adorable tiny puppy!!!! He's huge and annoying now but we still love him.



We took a group picture between the coats on the stairs and the Christmas garland on the railing. Really well thought out, Lara.


Poor Emmeline with her birthday so close to Christmas. I try to make it a priority every year because I never want her to feel second to Carys, but it's SO hard. When we were talking about having kids, Chris said we could have kids absolutely any time EXCEPT December - he has a December birthday and has always hated it. And we saddled this poor kid with a birthday that's a week closer to Christmas than his is! I plan on giving her the option of celebrating during her half-birthday if she'd like when she's older - but who knows? Maybe she'll grow up with winter as her favorite holiday and absolutely love it. 

Happy birthday, you spunky little spitfire. I sure do love you!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Carys's Sixth Birthday : Moana Luau

Carys's sixth birthday took place the week before we left for Disney World, and it was definitely one of the better parties we've had! It took place at our house, and we invited a gaggle of little girls and their parents (who we also call friends). At least three kids cried when it was time to leave so I count that as a win (sorry parents). 

I'm going to be honest: I generally love planning and throwing parties (so much so that a friend and I have talked about doing party planning for others) but trying to plan this and Disney World at the same time - as well as getting Carys prepared to start kindergarten - about broke me. But I survived. Or at least, writing this a few weeks after the fact I can say I survived. But at the time I felt like my brain was broken.

I made the invitation using Canva.com.

The invite says it was a SURPRISE party, but....it was more of a "surprise" party. With quotes. She knew about the party, and WANTED to know about it...but also wanted to be surprised. So we pretended - with her full knowledge and participation - that we were planning for a "Christmas in July" Moana-themed party. What, you've never heard of a themed Christmas party? Well. Me either. But it was what Carys came up with to explain the decorations and plans. Honestly, it was fun to come up with explanations to tie everything in with the Christmas party cover story, and we enjoyed a "wink-wink-nod" conspiratorial tone throughout the entire planning process.

As we have in past years, we got most of the party supplies from Oriental Trading Company or Amazon, with a few dollar store goodies thrown in as well. Also as with past years, we split the cost of the decor with a friend who re-uses the decor and theme for her daughter's party in August, which helps us keep the costs WAY down. Hint: check the prices on both OTC and on Amazon. They often sell the same things and which site has the cheaper price varies.


When you arrived at the party, the first thing you saw was the "6" door hanging Carys and I made together by cutting out the shape of the number on foam board and hot-gluing green tropical leaf leis and flowers to it. I also hung paper fans and a floral garland from the light fixture in the entryway because why not.


I covered some of the existing pictures in the entryway with the tropical leaf paper and used gold glitter stickers to add "C" and "SIX" to them, and added Carys's picture to a few of the frames (over the pictures that are normally there). I tucked fake hibiscus flowers all over the place, too. Also, the grass table skirt totally set the mood and was one of my favorite parts of the decor.


I had big plans for the pineapples (on this table and on the dining room table). I was going to cut the top off one and hollow it out to make a vase and put flowers in it, and the other I was going to cut in half lengthwise and hollow it out to fill with pineapple salsa. Needless to say neither of those happened. So they're just...pineapples. There's not a single pineapple in Moana. So. Shrug.



From the entryway, you can go left into the sitting room, where I didn't change much - I left it wide open for a surprise visit from a certain Polynesian princess. WUT WUT. I did decorate the mirror (you can't really see in the picture but there is a Beanie Baby pig and chicken in the little bowl thingy) and covered the bookcases full of Usborne books in order to act as a photo background.



How cute is Emmeline testing out the backdrop? I was worried the photo background wasn't quite high enough to make a good photo backdrop, so I blew up a bunch of yellow balloons and strung them together to make this...um, giant pile of balloons? What would you even call it? If I was a real blogger I'd have a name for it. This ELEGANT BALLOON SCULPTURE BOOKCASE TOPPER. I tucked a paper floral garland in it and a few fake leaves and popped it on top of the bookshelf to give it a bit more height. And dudes. THIS THING IS STILL THERE. The balloons will NOT deflate on their own and it's been 3+ weeks!! And I can't bring myself to pop them. #sentimentalfool


Onto the dining room, which always gets the most decor.  I had ZERO idea what to do with this pineapple and popped it into the light fixture as a joke and HEY TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT IT. So yes, we had a chandelier pineapple. #fancy

sources: pineapple + flower garland are both from Target dollar aisle

Each kiddo got a hibiscus cup and straw to use during the party and then take home.


This table was so pretty before I cluttered it up with - ugh - food. WHY DO PEOPLE NEED TO EAT DON'T THEY SEE THEY'RE RUINING MY AESTHETIC. I got these gold, white, and brown letters from a daily steals site YEARS ago and I think I've used them at every birthday. I love them. I "tropical-ed" them up by adding green leaves and flowers to the end.



Then I had to add all that damn food and ruin the simplicity.  Carys also insisted on putting her Moana Lego sets throughout the table so that added to the clutter but WHO AM I TO SAY NO TO THE BIRTHDAY GIRL?



These wooden sporks peeking out of the lower edge are basically life. What, you want a full picture of them? Fine. I aim to please. 


DISCLOSURE: These are left over from Carys's 1st...yes, FIRST....birthday. I know. I've hung onto wooden sporks for five years now. WTF is wrong with me. I don't know the answer to that. And guess what? THERE ARE STILL SPORKS LEFT OVER.  I don't know what is wrong with people that they don't take as much joy in wooden sporks as I do. 



grass placemats left over from our mermaid party but available here

Along the other wall was the cake table. I love doing little themed photoshoots of the girls and printing out and displaying pictures from the shoot for the party. Then I force relatives to take them so I'm not left with 50 Carys-as-Moana pictures that I can't display but feel guilty throwing away.

sources: luau fortune cookies (the fortunes inside were awesome)  |  hibiscus suckers

The cake was the biggest disaster. I want to be clear: I am not a baker, nor am I a good cake decorator. And I know it. And this proved it. It took three attempts to get the cake out of the pan in one piece - apparently my cake pans are crazy scratched up and I need new ones. The cakes kept sticking and then falling apart as I tried to pry them out of the pan. I ended up FINALLY getting them to work at like 11pm at night by lining the pans with foil, and that worked out perfectly (and I stress-ate the other three crumbled cakes) (only half kidding).  Then I stacked and crumb-coated them before collapsing into bed and finishing the next day. The "sand" is ground-up graham crackers, the top layer is surrounded by Pirouette cookies, and the "ocean" is just frosting in various shades of blue.

However, after the disaster and three destroyed cakes, I told Chris I'm never spending the time to make a cake again (plus I'll never top the sun cake from Em's second birthday) but realistically I'll be doing this again in six months for Emmeline's fourth birthday (wut, sob) because I'm too cheap to buy a cake.

 


Carys and I painted the kakamora coconuts and it was one of my favorite parts of the party decor. I used a knife to scrape off some of the "hairy" parts of the shell in the shape of the kakamora face, then used sandpaper to sand it smooth. We used chalk to sketch the face shapes and filled in the colors with acrylic paints. Carys did two and I did two, and I honestly think she did such a good job I can barely tell the difference between ours! (Mine are the one in the entryway and the top one above; hers are the bottom one above and the one below.)


These jello roll-ups were SO easy and SO good! I found them on Pinterest - not associated with Moana in any way - and thought they'd make perfect "Heart of Te Fiti" snacks. They're a cinch to make!


This is what we served for ice cream - this sorbet IN FRUIT SHELLS. OMG. So cute. AND SO DELISH. I got them from Costco! I could totally eat the entire box by myself and just posting this is making me contemplate going to get another box, but not telling my family and sneaking one every night before bed.



Through the dining room, you head into the kitchen, which didn't receive much in the way of decorations. I just realized I have zero pictures of it - blogger AND mom fail - but the island in the middle of the kitchen also got a grass table skirt and there were meatballs/Lil' Smokies with hibiscus-topped toothpicks.

sources: Moana cups  |  pineapple bucket + straws from Target Dollar Aisle

I made frozen fruit lemonade (just regular lemonade with a bag of frozen fruit dumped into it - SO GOOD) and Te Fiti juice. The Te Fiti juice was going to be Ocean Water, except I mixed blue punch and pineapple juice and totally forgot that blue + yellow = green. So my ocean water became Te Fiti juice and I'm just going to pretend that it was totally planned. If you're trying to replicate it at home, it was equal parts Sprite + blue punch and then a couple cups of pineapple juice (the pineapple juice is pretty strong so you don't need a ton of it).


I LOVED these gold foil tattoos, which we scattered on the kitchen table in sort of a tattoo station. They were actually my second choice - my first choice of glitter hibiscus tattoos were sold out (these other hibiscus/luau ones are super cute too) - but once I saw them on kids (and on myself BECAUSE GOLD FOIL, HELLO) I loved them. Can you get an actual gold foil tattoo? Because I would be all over that.



The only other thing in the dining room was a floral garland along the top of the French doors and the sliding doors. 


From the kitchen, we move to the family room/living room. Which turned out SO WELL. Like probably contained my favorite decor from any party, ever.

This is looking to the living room from the entryway. FLORAL GARLANDS EVERYWHERE.


sources: large faux leaves  |  small faux leaves  |  long floral garland (seriously it's like 100 feet)  |

For the display over the mantle, I covered the picture that was normally there in tropical-patterned paper and put the hibiscus paper fans on top of it, and topped that with a "6" balloon that we got from the Target dollar aisle. I'm going to be honest: I thought that balloon was going to be a LOT bigger. Whoops/fail/oh well. SHOULDA READ THE PACKAGING I guess. We already had the Moana dolls from Christmas and I tucked a couple of tropical leaf leis and hibiscus flowers around the dolls' feet on either side of the main display.


The age progression banner I made with a burlap banner we already have and these free printables. I printed the water bottle labels on regular paper for the top stripe, and added numbers to the party circles with Photoshop.


Lastly, I put a table in the sunroom with some activities - coloring sheets and some ocean animal scratch-offs. Total waste because we had basically zero time to do these. A couple girls colored and did scratch-offs while waiting for Carys to arrive but for the most part, all of this was untouched.


Each kiddo got a bag and a Moana plush keychain, which I found at Dollar Tree. We used puff paint to put the child's name on the front of the bag and filled it with a beach ball, tattoos, stickers, a stone Heart of Te Fiti (just green stone vase fillers painted with a swirl), a lei, and a flower clip. As they arrived, we handed out the bags and encouraged them to wear the lei and put the flower clip in their hair. They each also took home a tropical-print cup and flower straw.



ONTO PICS FROM THE ACTUAL PARTY! AKA the part you'll skip if you're just reading this for party inspiration. AKA the only part you care about if you're just looking for pictures of Carys enjoying her party.

Everyone waiting for Carys to arrive so we can surprise her....


And even though she knew it was coming and it was exactly what she'd requested, she immediately broke into a huge smile...AND RAN INTO THE OTHER ROOM TO HIDE. Ha! 

 



The kiddos ran around and played for about 30 minutes, and then came the best part and the one thing I was most excited about: the surprise appearance of MOANA! I found a local company - Hero and Princess Parties - and arranged for Moana to come to the party. Carys had NO idea this was happening and she was just in complete awe the entire time (all the kids were!). She arrived with a gift - stuffed Pua! - for Carys and led the kids in a craft, singing two songs, learning a dance, and reading a book! Isn't she seriously gorgeous and perfect? Honestly, I think she might be the real Moana.



Flower crown activity in the sunroom....




Singing songs...


The girls were split into two camps: those who were a bit awestruck and hung back, and those who sat two inches in front of Moana and invaded her personal space the entire time (AKA Carys).


Guys, she had such an amazing voice. I had actual literal tears in my eyes.







Followed by learning a dance...




After that, each girl got their picture taken with Moana and a signed picture. 


Just look at that family picture...GOOD THING I MADE THAT BALLOON THINGY RIGHT. If I hadn't, you'd be able to see - gasp - the wall behind it and you'd all be judging me SO HARD right now, I know.


We still had a bit of time before she had to head back to Motunui, so she read the girls a book. You can see how all of the girls have started to warm up to her and crowd around her by now.



Then we blew out the candles and sang happy birthday (led by Moana)...




The girls did NOT want Moana to leave, but we bribed them with the promise of presents and cake.




I'm going to be really honest yet again and kind of forgot that the kids would want to eat cake and ice cream and probably sit down while doing so. And I didn't think about any kind of seating for them. So they ate on the floor. But they're like flexible little kids without all the aches and pains of adulthood so it's fine, right? #badhostess


After cake and ice cream, everyone changed into swimsuits for pool and sprinkler time. Much like the unused coloring sheets, this was a totally unnecessary part of the party. I was thinking Moana for an hour and then pool party for an hour but I forgot about the whole present-opening and cake-eating parts. So I sincerely apologize to all of the parents who were ready to go but their kids wanted to swim. I am good at party planning but bad at timelines apparently.


I'll close with the funniest part: one of the moms noticed the Moana autographs were spelled MAONA. After laughing about it for a bit (how could she not know?!?) we found that it was purposeful, to avoid the copyright (i.e. she's not MOANA, she's a POLYNESIAN PRINCESS). After learning that, we realized how brilliant they really are - look at how similarly she formed the A and the O in the signature!


This was definitely one of my favorite parties - my other being the camping party, I think (mostly because I think that was such a fun theme). She's planning on Star Wars for her 7th birthday and Harry Potter for her 8th - and I'm not going to lie, I'm TOTALLY on board with those themes - but I'm sure it will change. 

Happy birthday, Care-bear!