Childhood Love

My boys’ birthday party was a huge success although the friends they invited from school were unable to attend with so many events going on in the surrounding area over the weekend.

My little guy was heartbroken that his kindergarten girlfriend couldn’t make it. He’d known for over a week that she wasn’t coming to the party and when the day finally came, he was even more saddened until the fun was impossible to ignore.

Today he is seven. To our surprise this morning, his girlfriend was waiting for him  by the locked door of their classroom with a present in hand. Her bright eyes sparkled as she walked toward him. She greeted him with a hug, wished him a Happy Birthday, and quickly turned to leave, her silky pigtails swinging as she walked away. They saw each other yesterday as school, but she’d remembered his birthday wasn’t until today.

The sight of her actions fills my heart with joy and even made me cry a little today. I’ve pondered this a bit through the morning and believe that the only feeling better than that of pure, innocent childhood love is being married to your best friend for time and all eternity or the beautiful birth of a child.

Party Planning 101: The Invitations

Finalizing the guest list is the first step to planning invitations. This is always the worst part of my party planning. The more people you have the more expensive things get, not to mention the noise and the chaos if every parent decide to use you as a babysitting service on the day of the party. My children have a number of cousins nearby so there’s no way to avoid large numbers. This year I allowed my children to choose 3 friends each. All together, we’re expecting 16 kids!

I love using Vistaprint and Shutterfly to create announcements and invites, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money this year. We bought an inexpensive set of themed invites when we purchased our party supplies from Party City, but I found they will not arrive until the 16th. I need invites right now–we only have 10 days until the party.

I searched around for invite ideas and really loved some of the examples I found on Stop, Drop and Blog. I browsed Snapfish and for a second thought to spend the money because it’s so much easier, but surprisingly I stuck to my budget–which is now zero for invites. Hmm…how do I get nice invites for nothing at all?

I searched online for a firefighter theme digital scrapbooking kit and found myself back at Stop, Drop and Blog, jumping over to Kim’s Scrappin’ and Designing to download Just Call Me The Fireman. This is the best darn fire theme ever and it’s free!

I had my pieces, a rough idea of what I wanted to do, and fired up Adobe Illustrator. I set the red flame paper to background and layered additional papers cropping their shapes and sizes as I went. I used Adobe Photoshop to remove the lettering on the fire engine sticker and added lettering that’s a little more personal to my boys (Engine No. 09, Perry F.D., Ladder No. 07.) I placed the Maltese cross button and the engine sticker, added drop shadows and layered on the text.

I started playing with Illustrator for the first time about a year ago and this is the first complex project I’ve ever finish in under an hour. I went in with little confidence and came out tooting my own horn. Really. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know I had this kind of craftiness in me.

To keep the printing cost low, I grabbed an open pack of Kodak Ultima Picture Paper that I had collecting dust on a shelf and printed at home. They came out glossy and vibrant, even better than I hoped.

My plan was to purchase a pack of black paper for $4 and cut them to shape for my envelopes, attaching the invitation to the inside center, folding the flaps and closing with a gold foil sticker; however, after searching four stores I had no such luck finding the paper I needed. I settled for an invitation kit from an office supply store and pieced the invitations together for less than 60¢  an invitation.

The Birthday Bash

Growing up, my birthday was always during the worst part of the year. Instead of enjoying a fun outdoor party, the first week of June always seemed to be a major disappointment. I was no longer in school, so I could not bring cupcakes to share with the class. It often rained and sometimes snowed. As I got older, I was either gone babysitting for my aunt through the summer or my parents left on vacation. There are very few memories I have of my own birthday.

Then my boys blessed my life. Born exactly 2 years and 2 days apart, I swore that each of them would feel special and have individual birthdays. I quickly took that back as I schemed to do a super birthday bash to save time and money. My youngest son had health problems that were a constant battle in his younger years and that first year took a huge toll on us. I looked at his birthday as a celebration of his life. He had made it to one! There were times I wondered if he ever would.

At that time, my oldest son loved Spongebob Squarepants so that’s what I focused on. I rented a costume and sewed a large fry cook hat to cover the wearer’s exposed head, so the kids would think it really was Spongbob coming to visit–not my good friend in a ridiculous costume. It worked. At 3 and 1, they didn’t know the difference! See that little guy in the red shirt on the right? That’s my 9 year old. I’m so glad I have moments like this because I’d forgotten how cute and chubby he was. The girl with the long hair is his preschool girlfriend. I can just hear him saying “Mom you’re embarrassing me,” but I don’t care.

Kids were running every direction, jumping, screaming, spilling juice and I couldn’t be any happier. They played pin the tie on Spongebob, had cake and ice cream, opened presents, jumped in a bounce house my mom bought for the party (and years to come.)

When the noise had vanished and the mess cleared away, my mom and I kicked our feet up. Exhausted she said, “I really hope you had enough fun and you never put us through that again.” But the truth is that party was the best day ever (in the voice of Spongebob) and I’m now living my birthdays vicariously through my children.

Since then, we’ve fought Davey Jones for the map to the treasure chest

and got our faces painted, spun cotton candy, rode a pony, played games for prizes, and even stuck our head in a lion’s mouth at a rainy day carnival.

Every other year, my biggest challenge is finding the right theme for a birthday bash. It’s got to be something both of my kids will love and the activities now have to be appropriate for guests whose ages range from 2 to 9. I was really at a loss for ideas this year…until I saw this.

Who doesn’t love shiny red helmets and firetrucks?