There’s something magical and crazy about your baby turning one. So much changes in one rotation around the sun, and that little infant that you nuzzled and worried about has become a tiny human with personality and skills and opinions. For me, it evoked a lot of sentimentality. I chose to spend Lucy’s birthday reading through the journal we began the day we learned of her existence and reflecting on her birth and life.
Then, after a fun day at the zoo, a few small gifts, photos, and Lucy’s first ice-cream cone, the birth day itself was over, but the party was still to come.
The First Birthday Party
Before I had kids, there was no way I was going to get sucked into mainstream culture and host a themed birthday party for my child.
In the months leading up to Levi’s birthday, though, I became obsessed with looking up first birthday parties on Pinterest (for better or for worse) and I got sucked in. For his first birthday, we did a Little Blue Truck themed party. I handmade most of the decorations and prepared foods including “Pigs in a Blanket”, “Barnard Berries”, and “Tractor Tires”(More photos and tips on an affordable first birthday party coming soon.)
It was adorable, but a lot of work, and I had a bit of a breakdown the night before the party, which was a sad way to end his actual birthday. I had bitten off a little more than I could chew.
I didn’t want to make the same mistake for Lucy’s party, so I decided to keep it very simple by keeping decorations to a minimum and to focus on food that could be easily prepared ahead of time.
I’d been planning Lucy’s party since the early spring, collecting ideas and making plans. I wanted the theme to be flowers, since we call her our little wild flower. My parents have a huge garden, and I asked them if they would be willing to plant a pack of zinnias that I could cut for her party, and they lovingly obliged. That 99 cent pack of seeds was well worth the investment; it produced more than enough flowers to beautiful the space. I filled vases and jars I had acquired over the years and placed bouquets on bright colored placemats I borrowed from my sister-in-law.
I was grateful to my parents for letting us use their property to host our party. Even though our guest list was limited to family, we both come from big families, and cramming 24 people into our itty bitty house didn’t seem like a good time. I had really hoped for everything to be outside, because my parents have a lovely outdoor setting. The weather had been iffy, but the Sunday ended up being warm and sunny, and we got to enjoy being outside, just as I envisioned.
Additionally, I bought two packs of round paper fans from HomeGoods for $12 and hung them around. I also hung up our “Happy Birthday” banner that we’ve used for the past 3 years on each of our birthdays.
One thing I had done for Levi’s party that we did again was to make a “gallery wall” of photos. We printed over one hundred photos (free, except for shipping, on the Shutterfly app) of Lucy over the year, many of her alone, but also with family and friends, and hung them on twine with baby clothespins. They served as decor, and also were our favor: guests could take as many photos as they liked. The rest, we put in her keepsake album or saved for her memory box.
To save money, I decided to make all the food myself (with the exception of the cake, which I happily hired my friend to make).
I’ve learned that less-is-more with these kinds of events. Many options makes it a lot more stressful for the host, and isn’t necessarily more enjoyable for the guests. For appetizers, we had chips and dips, veggies and dip, and cut fruit. For the meal, it was pulled pork sandwiches on brioche buns, make-ahead mac-n-cheese, garden salad (literally from my parents’ garden), cole slaw, pickles (homemade in July), applesauce (homemade last fall), and watermelon.
I was willing to splurge on dessert, because baking stressed me out. I was so pleased with these beautiful and delicious cakes my friend made. Along with some locally made ice cream, it was a perfect dessert.
The activities included swimming, “tractor” rides on my dad’s riding mower, shooting basketball, and gift-opening spectating.
We had out Lucy’s memory book, first year calendar, and milestone poster for people to look at. We also set out a large, black picture frame for people to pose behind for keepsake photographs (we had people pose in the Little Blue Truck for Levi’s party). Basically, everyone relaxed, hung out, and enjoyed the beautiful summer evening.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for me as a proud, independent person, is accepting help in order to make things easier. I have learned the hard way that doing E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G by myself makes me stressed and prevents me from enjoying the party. I still have not become an expert at letting go and accepting help, but I definitely did better for Lucy’s party than for Levi’s.
Kevin and my brother-in-law helped set up tables and chairs, my sister helped with decorating and ran around snapping photos of everything for me, my mom helped with cleaning dishes as I went, my Dad helped keep the kids busy while we prepped. All family members helped with cleaning up and tearing down. Otherwise, I would have been really overwhelmed (kind of like Lucy was in this photo).
It’s hard to be a hostess. Letting others lend a helping hand makes the burden lighter and makes the event more enjoyable.
Enjoying the Day
I still spent most of the day organizing, preparing, setting up, monitoring, and working behind the scenes. I probably could have made it even more simple to make it easier on me, but I enjoy a good party, and I wanted it to be beautiful for Lucy.
I know she won’t remember any of it. The day is more for the rest of us – those who have watched her learn and grow over her first year. We celebrate her life and ask God’s blessing on the years she has ahead of her.
Lucy will be able to look back at these pictures, though, and I hope she sees more than just a themed birthday party, but all of the love that surrounded her on that day.