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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)