Build-up to a birthday

Tucker turns 7 this year, but this year he had his very first birthday party.

Because he has a summer birthday (and because I never want to test the elements again) he agreed on an indoor shindig. And because our daily reality goes something like this:

Keep Calm

We went with a Lego theme. There are Star Wars Legos. Super Hero Legos. Ninja Legos. Tucker could be content to manipulate, build, deconstruct and re-imagine with Legos for hours. And there just happens to be a place in town that specializes in Lego Birthdays. Can I get a whoop whoop?

So, we sent out invitations.

Photo by: Valerie Bogle
Photo by: Valerie Bogle

And I pilfered Pinterest. There are fab freebie printables out there. My favorites were the labels we wrapped around Powerade.

prep

Yup. I referenced the deuce.

Now, at our house, I’m always the potty-words police. You have to regulate with two little boys, so I usually poo poo the ew talk. But for Tucker, this was the ultimate hilarity. This and the whoopie cushions for the goodie bags.

goodie bags

With another free printable, we made a mask for each guest.

Masks

And we filled an assorted collection of glass jars with an assortment of white, yellow and red candy. To be all Lego-y.

color coordinated candy

Then, it was party time. Bricks 4 Kidz was ready to celebrate the birthday boy.

signs

The venue is a comfy old home they’ve transformed into a play palace. Each room hosts a new building opportunity. So, the only thing I had to do was set up the food table. With my sweet Mom’s help, that was a piece of cake. Or donut.

table 2

table 1
Lego candy was a must. You can eat it and build with it. A chance to play with your food? 7-year-old heaven.

Tucker’s buds jumped right in to playing while we waited on all the guest to arrive. (I need a table like this for our house.)

table play

When all of his friends were there, we started the first activity–an outdoor Lego relay. Then everyone trooped back inside for the first build–an electric Lego car.

electric cars

I’ve never seen such a polite and patient group of little people. Their fingers were twittering between parts and pieces and they shouted encouragement to teams across the table. Tuck, my thoughtful and meticulous one, was in his element with his favorite friends. Then, as the final ta-da, their motorized creations actually moved with the touch of a button. Legos have come a long way, folks.

After everyone’s vehicle had its victory jaunt, it was time for Happy Birthday.

singing

Tucker chose donuts over cake, which was just fine with me. And I know a few kids reached for seconds (and thirds). Sorry, parents.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

A-buzz with sweets, it was back to the building blocks. This time, they each built a car they got to keep. So, the selection process was a serious business.

Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Birthday Boy
Birthday Boy

When each oh-so-carefully-constructed car was complete, we hit the high note. They got to race their creations side-by-side.

racing 1

racing 2

The acoustics in that old house were built for lego car racing. Those few minutes of high-fiving and hollering made the room sing. And my boy’s excitement was electric.

But, we only had an hour and a half. So, after the races, there were goodie bags and good-byes.

goodie bag table

I asked the boys and their Marmee (grandma) if they had a good time. And this was their response:

expressions

Lucky seven. Lucky me.

4

What perfect looks like

I made it as a mom more than 6.5 years before I finally gave in to hosting a birthday party. Oh, we’ve had plenty of celebrations and cake and unbirthdays (read: plenty of celebratory cake).

But I’d never done the official pick-a-theme-invite-all-your-friends-stress-me-the-heck-out kind of party.

I finally decided this was our year and for our littlest guy’s (that’s Case) 4th birthday party, he landed on dinosaurs. So, I did the sensible thing and spent a late night (or five) binge pinning clever, adorably easy-looking DIY dino party ideas. Roar.

Roar

Then, eyeball-deep in dino decisions, my namby-pamby right brain had a melt down. It’s the reason I hadn’t planned a party yet. I don’t plan. I don’t list. I don’t allot. Schedule. Formulate. Organize. Nope.

This is going to be hard, I thought.

This is going to be the best party ever, my then-3-year-old Case squealed, with innocent, absolute faith in me.

Determined to do it myself on the cheap, I reserved a pavilion in our neighborhood park and forced myself to make lists. I asked Case what he wanted. A dinosaur piñata and dinosaur cupcakes. Check.

I added a few things that I wanted: a themed invite to, you know, set the mood, themed activities, a suite of themed, designed signs, platters & such. Balloons for every kid, which I read was a must.

invite

I checked off a few lists and hoped for a dry, sunny day. The forecast tortured me for a week, calling for a 60% chance of afternoon storms during our afternoon, outdoor party.

The day finally came—a dry, shiny, blustery day.

That darn wind. Not the sweet, gentle spring-type breeze.  No, no. It was a don’t-wear-a-dress (guess who wore a dress??) kind of wind.

The wind was totally PMSing.

I swear, my sister and I re-set the tables 3 times. We couldn’t even tape down the kraft paper. Hats and buckets were flying. My oh, so clever signs defied duck tape. The balloons that I had envisioned whimsically hovering beneath the pavilion roof were more tangled than Tiana and Naveen’s froggy tongues (Disney digression).

Tiana/Prince Naveen tongue tangle

Then the unthinkable happened. Guests started arriving before I was done. Before the table was set. Before my Pinterest-perfect party was ready to be beheld.

The party was windswept before it even started. I sent the punctual guests to play on the playground while I tried to squall-proof the set up by just setting out the basics.

Hats

Dino buckets

Sweet Eaters 2

Plant Eaters

Meat Eaters

Soon, all the kids, giddy with the promise of digging up treasure, were bounding back to the pavilion. So, we launched Operation Temporary Tattoo with a super sophisticated system—paper towels and water. Each kiddo was branded with a prehistoric critter.

Now, official paleontologists, they claimed their tools by writing their names on their bucket tags. Then, it was off to the Dinosaur Egg Hunt. I found these awesome eggs with a fun texture and a great prize inside. We were scheduled to be in full force egg hunt fun for at least a half hour. These super sleuthy kids found all the eggs in a matter of minutes—like, less than 5—and stashed them in their buckets.

name tags

Tucker's tag

The Egg Hunt

The next item on the ‘ol trusty schedule was activity #2, so we gathered at The Dig Site. This activity was the kids’ favorite and I wish I’d gone with deeper tins. They were content for a solid half hour (yay, schedule!) to comb through the sand with tiny paintbrushes, committed to finding each buried treasure. We’d hidden these dino skeletons and shiny confetti in the play sand and they kept every piece they found in their buckets.

Dig Site

Digging

Digging 2

Right before my birthday boy’s coveted piñata pull, the wind threw a tantrum and knocked over a glass bottle that was filled with edible dino eggs (jelly beans). So, we went on an impromptu Jurassic jaunt around the park while the dads made sure each shard of glass was tossed.

parade

PSA: Glass bottles and mason jars? Cute and festive and presh, no doubt. Outdoors on a windy day? No ma’am.

Finally, the piñata pull commenced and Case’s life, to that moment, was complete.

After they collected all the candy in their buckets, we passed out the dinosaur cupcakes and sang happy birthday.

Cupcakes

His candle was sweetly snuggled in a sea of jelly beans in a mason jar. I was going to pluck it out for the song, but I didn’t want to tempt the wind or attempt to light a match. So, he didn’t blow out a candle. And that’s okay. I’m hopeful that his wish had already come true.

Because, after that, the real party started. My activities only took us through an hour and a half of the two-hour time frame. But his friends all wanted to stay and play. So they ran around and roared at each other and watched balloons wander through the sky and collapsed in a sweaty kid heap. They had ridiculously amazing unscheduled fun. Imagine that.

friends

balloons 1

ROAR

I had imagined this perfect party for my littlest one’s birthday. All Case wanted was to have candy and cupcakes with his friends. For him, perfection was as simple as giggles and sweets. That’s it. And I never want to forget what that kind of perfect looks like.

 my heart

 (Special thanks to my pal Francisco–the super skilled dino sign designer. To my amazing sister who worked MacGyver-like miracles with duck tape. And huge hugs to Martha who captured so many sweet memories that day.)