Bear with me through this first paragraph - it's my hard-earned privilege to wax hyperbolic over my son for at least a few sentences: I have the most precious, loving, handful of a two-year-old on the face of the planet. I cannot look at him without turning into Tiny Toon's Elmyra hugging a squirrel. This parenting thing keeps getting better and better if only because our nightly music times are turning into full-out dance parties - MY KID. Oh, and his grandmother says he has perfect pitch.
Now, you may be wondering how I could possibly execute a party worthy of such an honoree. Fear not, or rather stress not. That's it. That's Secret #1 (there are four). I'm quickly learning that life goes a lot smoother with a child if you pick your battles and not sweat the small stuff. I focused on big statement-making elements that tied together instead of obsessing over tiny details. I love tiny details, but not for a second birthday that I'm decorating during his nap - say it with me, "stress not."
Secret #2 is to pick a theme that your kid will be really excited about, but don't reveal it before the party. Everyone knows toddlers have short attention spans, yet are paradoxically prone to fixations. This manifests itself like this:
Mom: "R, guess what! You are turning two in two months, and we are throwing you a choo choo birthday party with all the people you love (list names)!"
R: (claps hands) (looks around eagerly) (tilts head accusingly) (starts listing names)
Mom: "Oh, no, sweetie. Not now. When you turn two...in a couple of months..."
R: (tilts head accusingly) (repeats names)
Mom: (braces for tantrum)
So, it's best to keep your exciting plans to yourself. You can do a gut check with a simple statement like, "R, do you like choo choos?" I did this before buying invitations because I was torn between three themes: Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; Construction; Choo Choos. My son has never read One Fish, Two Fish which fails the personal test. I think he would have loved a construction theme party, but not quite as much as choo choos which was where the gut check helped. After the theme is decided, it was time to select invitations. I spend a lot of time on invitations because I believe it is the best jumping off point when designing all other elements. This ADORABLE invitation by eleFONTESdesign inspired the colors, signage, and tone that were carried throughout the party.
Bernie was put to use as the gift table or, in choo choo jargon, Baggage Drop. The kitchen was turned into the Dining Car. The party was held from 3:00 - 5:00 pm. This is an awkward time to serve a lot of food, so I didn't. Secret #3: plan around your child's schedule; when they are happiest/most social. For my son, this is thirty minutes after his nap. I provided snacks - veggies, fruit, chips, crackers, cheese, dips. My original plan was to arrange these into cute little train cars going down tracks on my kitchen island, but I would have been constantly refilling the cute little train cars instead of enjoying my family time (Secret #1).
Personalized water bottles are an easy DIY I always use to further incorporate the theme. For this party, I used bandanas cut into strips, wrapped, and glued with a craft stick. The cookies and cake were NOT DIY. OMG! Both seriously adorable and seriously delicious. The cookies were by Sweets on a Stick, one of my tried and true go-to's. You can see more of her yummy work here at J's Graduation.
I cannot take any credit for the genius idea of the storybook cube cake. That was all from the uber talented (and a new go-to) A Sweet Life. It literally made me teary. The story was just perfect and the technique was crazy cool. It was all hand drawn and painted to look like a child's coloring book.
The fourth and final secret is to go with the flow. The box train in the first picture was my most labor intensive element. I had big plans for it. I thought it would be so much fun to have the kids at the party draw and put stickers all over it. Well, I hope someone uses this idea because it didn't happen at this party. The weather was too perfect to be inside. I went with the flow, and served cake and had R open his presents on the patio. I loved getting to enjoy him enjoying his party.
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