Secrets of Planning Birthday Parties

If you had asked me five years ago what I was most looking forward to once becoming a parent, I would have tossed around a couple different answers, varying from watching all the key milestones to snuggling with my kids while curled up with some books.  The answer I never would have had the courage to say is that I have always really looked forward to driving my kids and their friends around to activities and having a houseful of kids always feeling welcomed at my house as they eat our food faster than I can buy it.  But now that I’m almost five years into this gig and have watched lots of milestones, read approximately four million books, was recently denied a snuggle from my son because he was “snuggling with a rectangle”, and have hosted countless playdates, I have found what keeps me going; I love planning birthday parties.  Seriously!  Who knew that that would be the part of parenting that I’d look forward to most?!  Anyone that has so much as glanced in my direction can attest that I am not creative or patient, so this has come as a complete surprise to me.  Sure, it takes me about three months from start to finish and there’s high stress in my household the week leading up, but c’mon…they’re great!  From trolling Etsy for the perfect invitation to plopping down in a state of complete exhaustion and socializing with party stragglers, I love it all.  I’m dreading the day one of my kids asks to have their party someplace other than home.  I like that the party is an all-day event and we get to enjoy the guests for more than an hour and a half. 


My daughter just turned three and chose to have a dog themed birthday party this year.  Actually, that’s not true.  She chose to have a kitty party, but since she had one of those last year, I felt victorious when I finally convinced her to have a puppy party instead.  I don’t think she’s any worse for the wear though.  As I sit here on the couch writing this, my daughter is chanting “I loved my doggie party!” and has given me a couple companions for writing inspiration. img_6205

 Once she told me a dog party could officially be added to the docket, I immediately capitalized on her jumping on the bandwagon and quickly turned to Etsy to place the invitation order before she changed her mind.  Here’s where I share my first secret: I only buy invitations that I can pay the seller to print and ship to me.  That’s right, I don’t do downloads and I don’t use files to print my own.  Sure, I’d save a ton of money, but it just gives me one more thing to do and one more thing to screw up.  I was very satisfied by TheKraftGarden this year.


Once the invitations are ordered and the theme is set in stone, the real fun can start!  I take a solid hour or two and scroll endlessly through Pinterest and pin all sorts of food ideas, goodie bag ideas, and things to do at the party.  I scratch off most options that require any kind of talent because #stillnotapinterestmom is kind of my mantra.  Secret #2: I recruit my mom for anything that requires even a speck of creativity.  She is the glue to what makes my kids’ parties come together.  This year she made these washcloth dogs that served no other purpose than to look adorable, drew the dog for pin the tail on the puppy (color suggestion by my daughter and coloring was a group effort from dad, niece, and daughter), and she made the themed watermelon (her specialty).

I was a tad disappointed this year with what Pinterest had to offer for party ideas.  Turns out a cat themed party is extremely similar to a dog themed one, so I had used up anything that was within my skillset last year.  I can proudly inform you all that I thought of some of the activities this year all by myself.  No really, it’s true.  Decorating photo frames?  My idea.  Pin the tail on the puppy?  My idea!  I know, I was just as surprised as you are.  The dog ear craft I found through google and the dog house idea and playing fetch may or may not have been stolen from Pinterest (but it was my great idea to add markers so the kids could decorate the house…and each other…).  Secret #3: Anything that involves patience gets delegated to my husband.  That means that this year he oversaw the dog house design and cutting out all the pieces for the kids to make their dog ear headbands.

Every party I allow myself one splurge.  This year I stumbled upon these dog balloons that stay close to the ground and you can walk them and such, and I instantly knew that was going to be this party’s splurge.  Plus, they were very reasonably priced, so I couldn’t exactly pass it up.  Turns out the upfront cost wasn’t the issue, but the continuous trips to sold-out-of-helium-tank stores was.  For some reason it never dawned on me that it would cost several helium tanks worth to fill my reasonably priced genius purchase.  It’s a good thing we were fully committed with half of the dogs inflated, and my husband didn’t have time to be mad at me and make me abort the mission three hours before the party.  Even so, they were totally worth it.  They kept the kids occupied and the adults were in stiches watching the kids wrangle the dogs as the wind swept them off their adorable little feet.  That’s right…my execution, once again, completely lacked because I’m still not a Pinterest mom.  I had dreams of finding some decorative garden fence to corral the dog balloons for a puppy adoption center, but a day before the party I realized I never got around to it.  Thankfully, three-year-olds don’t care about the presentation of balloons, as long as they can run wild with them and take them for rides down slides.

Another part of party planning that I really enjoy is finding a way to tie all the food into the theme.  This year included hot dogs, bone shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pawsta salad (I crack myself up), pawtato chips, veggies cut in dog themed shapes, fruit arranged into an (attempted) paw print, and puppy chow.  I was nervous that we wouldn’t have enough food or options this year, but we had plenty. Secret #4:  If someone offers to help with something I’m not competent in, I don’t hesitate to accept.  A huge thank you goes out to one of my close friends (and I guess I’ll give her husband some credit while I’m at it) for making the sandwiches.

You’d think that with all the party planning love I have that I’d be big on having an impressive cake.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I don’t really care about the cake at all.  You know why?  Because I don’t think that anyone really does.  Half the adults don’t eat it, so I don’t feel the need to purchase a fancy hazelnut almond cake and kids don’t care about the décor at all because they seemed satisfied as long as they receive something sugary after completing their obligatory singing duty.  Plus, my family, friends, and myself do just about everything for the party and I like looking back knowing it took a village of people that love my kids.  That random cake person from the town over doesn’t care about my kid at all.  (Disclaimer: I’m not hating on those awesome cakes.  I wish my kids cared at least a little bit what it looked like, because we all know my cake and cupcake skills are less than stellar.  Plus, adults love nothing more than ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the talent and time that goes into such creations).  With all that said, I ran into a last-minute wrench into my cupcake plans this year.  Did you know Keebler no longer makes Scooby Snacks?  Ya, I didn’t either until the person at the grocery store unloading Keebler products asked if I needed help after I walked up and down the aisle for a solid seven minutes.  Thankfully, that same friend that offered to make the sandwiches suggested paw print cupcakes.  Side note: there are way less brown M&Ms in a bag than any other color, so be sure to buy several bags so you don’t have to return to the store at 9:30pm the night before the party when you are also doing three million other things.


Even if I were a Pinterest mom, my kids and life don’t fit into that mold.  I’m just thankful that my kids always manage to have fun and that I have friends and family that can life both with me and at me.  


I’ll share one last secret: The party only comes together with help from everyone.  My dad helps set up everything and does any last-minute task that’s straightforward (I’m looking at you, strings needing to be attached to balloons).  My mother in law always offers to keep a gift list and helps clean up and my grandma always jumps in to do dishes afterwards, even though we insist she doesn’t need to, while my friends arrive and fake enthusiasm about how great the party will be.  I just oversee the vision of the party and act like a complete basket case control freak the week prior, which is super out of character for me on any other day 😉.  I guess I’m nothing more than an idea gatherer.  So, thanks friends and family for making it all work out so I can have my joy as a parent.  Wish me luck on my next party planning venture.  My son has been insisting since the day after his party last October that this year he will be having a blue speedboat party, and he’s not backing down. 




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