You say its your birthday! Archive

Arielle Turned 2 and My Dreams Came True

In March (Yes. I know. It’s May.) Arielle turned 2! We celebrated with a big party that was supposed to be small because, as usual, I said I wasn’t going to go all out for her second birthday, but we all know how that goes. But I did cut back! We threw this party specifically for 2-year-olds in mind, so we didn’t invite everyone we’ve ever met. And I didn’t make myself crazy coming up with activities because I just outsourced that out to one of the greatest bands in the history of music; a band that transcends the test of time and age. A musical group with a repertoire so complex and diverse, the melodies speak to all people. The band? THE BEATBUDS.

Now, coming up with the idea for this celebration was easy. It was quite obvious that we should have a BeatBuds party because I have a crazy mom crush on the guys and music Arielle loves to dance and play music with lots of energy and rhythm. The BeatBuds play at many community events, celebrity parties, and private groups, so it was an honor to pay for them to come to our home because they put on a great party! They bring all of their equipment and work with the kids perfectly. Lots of humor that adults could appreciate in addition to silliness that kids need made the performance in our living room a hit for everyone!

When planning this party with a light music theme, I had fun coming up with the menu and names of the food. Sometimes I think I throw parties just to be able to participate in this exercise.

This recipe for pasta salad is my favorite and when the name came to me at 2 in the morning and woke me out of my sleep, I wasn’t even a little bit mad.

Plain cheese and BBQ chicken pizzas made all humans at the party very happy. Plugging Ameci’s in Newbury Park for doing an amazing job on these beauts!

We weren’t sure if we should order wings to go with the pizza. But we figured we should appease the adults. And the food title that was too good to not use.

This is probably the pinnacle of Fiona’s career.

I STILL have almost every song memorized from the Dookie album.

Snacks for the kids. Funny, so many of the kids looked like they were in their 30s and 40s. Hmmm…

This is one of those stupid details because I included it for the pop of color of the container… and then had to buy popcorn to fill them.

I know juice boxes don’t really need signage but…

Dilemma: The market near me makes the BEST cupcakes. BUT… their pick designs were u.g.l.y. So, I took matters into my own hands and made my own (72 of them) with pretty sparkle papers punched into stars. This is the kind of thing that makes me a candidate for mental help.

I just don’t want to live in a world where salty and sweet can’t mingle together.

I hung music notes with Arielle’s face on them because… why not?

Once the set-up was all finished, the birthday girl got a birthday bath in her birthday suit and then the girls got together to pose for some pre-party photos. I rarely match the sisters, but in an effort to find some music-themed outfits and totally failing, this is the only get-up that worked for them and even though I lost sleep over this for two weeks, I’m actually super happy with how cute they looked. Plus, they absolutely love matching.

Birthday bath! Had to get her nice and clean so that she could get all nice and dirty from dancing and frosting.

Madelyn gets SO excited for parties at her house. I don’t know WHERE she gets it!

These girls.

Wearing rockstar shades is very serious business.

We took TWO many photos but this was the one!

Guests arrived and The BeatBuds began to set up their show while people mingled. I fan girled as I realized they were IN.MY.HOUSE and considered changing into Coachella attire (crocheted ruffly bustier and deep slit skirt anyone?), but didn’t want to scare away our friends (or let The BeatBuds know too soon my true feelings. It’s all about the chase, amirite?) I suppose a flower crown would’ve been appropriate enough, but allergy season was just beginning and I didn’t take my Zyrtec.

Just before the party date, The BeatBuds sent me a CD in the mail so we could listen to it in preparation for the big show. Best homework I’ve ever done (Sorry, Art History 101). I mean, it even beat “Hamilton” for playtime in the car for a solid few weeks. When “Billy the Bee” and “Sam the Garbage Man” take over for “The Schuyler Sisters” and “Ten Duel Commandments,” you know it’s good stuff.

So when the music started, my girls and I were ALL. IN. And, refreshingly, so were all the kids!

At the end of their set, we were invited to try out the drums and I think Arielle is the next Ringo.

Homegirl has some serious percussion skillz. I was just hoping she’d charm them into getting the set list and a drumstick for a souvenir. No such luck. I achieved these things at previous Jason Mraz concerts in bigger venues, but I guess The BeatBuds keep a lockdown on their swag. It’s ok. The photos and memories alone are more valuable.

And then when we all posed together for a picture, well, it took everything in me not to ask them to also sign my bra. Maybe I should’ve worn a Coachella outfit after all.

And then, as a final encore to the music party, The BeatBuds led the crowd in a rousing and accompanied rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

As the ultimate mom fan girl, it left me breathless, of course, but Arielle was not breathless as she blew out her cupcake candles all by herself. Just the year before, she looked at the fire on top of her frosted pastry as a confusing custom that we all subscribe to, but this year, she totally got it! Big girl realization! I was prepared to ask Madelyn to assist her in blowing out her candles, but the birthday girl was totally on board.

And that was when adorable purple and pink frosting-stained faces became an epidemic among Arielle and her guests. While The BeatBuds packed up and I offered them lunch and cupcakes, Jewish mother-style, we finished mingling with our friends. I love making up stupid names for food and hiring entertainment on which I have inappropriate music crushes, but by far my favorite part about hosting birthday parties is seeing our pals come together and creating more memories. Yes, beneath all this sarcasm is a sappy and sentimental fool.

It was a really great party and I’m so glad we did it. I was on the fence about having a party because I wasn’t super motivated to do the work, but simply choosing to not celebrate Arielle with a party seemed like the opposite of all that Arielle is. This little girl is the life of any party and brings so much joy and laughter to our every day lives, so it was easy to create a celebration around her. Yes, she’s feisty and yes, she is always looking for trouble, but her sweet cuddles and attention-seeking twinkle in her eye keep her in our hearts… and on our toes!

“Two years old” is not quite a baby anymore. It even sounds so big! She’s a 100% red blooded toddler and turning into a curious little girl every day. We love watching her grow and dance to her own beat. She’s completed our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Except when she throws food from the table. We’d really like that to stop.

Happy 2nd birthday, Arielle… back in March… but still! We love you!

Madelyn is Five!

Our sweet, funny, smart, friendly, old-soul, musical, sarcastic, compassionate, and general mensch-ette of a first born daughter is five! That’s half a decade! That’s all the fingers on a hand. That’s, like, all of undergrad for an ASU alum. (sorry. Had to. Love all my Sun Devil friends.).

It’s crazy to think Madelyn Shana has been around for five years. On one hand, it seems like it’s been a blink and she went from birth to kindergartner. On the other hand, it seems like she’s always been here; that life before her was so distant and unimportant. I can barely remember being me before I was a mom. A few days ago, Madelyn asked me about the happiest day of my life. I didn’t hesitate to tell her that it was the day she was born.

On the last night as a 4-year-old, Madelyn looked ahead to 5. And it looked like ice cream.

On the last night as a 4-year-old, Madelyn looked ahead to 5. And it looked like ice cream.

I always get emotional on my kids’ birthdays, and I’m a stickler for keeping our traditions (like going out to dinner on the birthday even like we did in 2013 and in 2014 and other years that didn’t get documented — for shame!) This fifth birthday was no different because all remnants of baby and toddler are now completely absent, and Madelyn is all… kid!

Since before she was born, it was determined that Madelyn would have to be a fan of the Dodgers in order to become a welcome family member. Thankfully, she obliged — whew! — and we could keep her as our own. She’s grown up seeing many games at Dodger Stadium thanks to the generosity of her Auntie Pattie and Uncle Barry and will never be able to sit anywhere else in the ballpark, since when you start in the Dugout Club, you’re ruined in the best way possible! Madelyn also loves to watch games on TV, and surrenders to the poetry of Mr. Vin Scully’s on-air talents. So it’s not exactly a shocker that she asked for a Dodgers-themed birthday to ring in the big 5.

Just a few days before her big party, the famous Auntie Pattie invited the family to come together to celebrate Madelyn’s birthday in the suite on the day she turned five!

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The best part about suite nights at Dodger Stadium is watching all the cousins play together. Madelyn absolutely adores all her cousins because they are a fun and wild bunch and their mutual amounts of energy always makes us boring grown-ups double over in laughter.

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The big kids tried to teach the little ones how to do the LA sign. SOCLOSE.

The big kids tried to teach the little ones how to do the LA sign. SOCLOSE.

It's no mystery who the little cousins get the sillies from... The BIG cousin!

It’s no mystery who the little cousins get the sillies from… The BIG cousin!

It’s possible we didn’t do a lot of game watching since there was a lot of birthday celebrating going on, but the food and family ruled the night and that’s what mattered most. Also, the Dodgers did win, so that was a plus.

Still, we are oh-so grateful to these special people right here! Madelyn appreciates her time at Dodger Stadium and it’s all thanks to them!

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Normally, the evening of August 9th is dinner out at Cheesecake Factory with both sets of grandparents, but we were more than happy to break the birthday tradition and spend the evening at the Dodger game. Madelyn loves being with her Grandma & Grandpa and Mimi & Poppa on her birthday.

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Madelyn conked out in the car before we even reached the freeway. The fifth birthday was a homerun.

That's what a happy five-year-old looks like.

That’s what a happy five-year-old looks like.

But, there were more innings to go. Her big party (you know, the one that I always say I’m not going to make) was a few days later and I spent the whole week on finishing touches because suicide by arts and crafts is the best way to go.

Sticking with the Dodgers theme of the week, we had lots of fun making this party Dodgerfied. From the walk up to the front door to the food names to the activities, it was Dodgertastic and Madelyn loved it!

A homemade LA stencil, white spray paint, and a cheap, ugly roll of fake grass took our guests from the driveway to THE FIELD!

A homemade LA stencil, white spray paint, and a cheap, ugly roll of fake grass took our guests from the driveway to THE FIELD!

When in doubt, Vinny.

When in doubt, Vinny.

I had to have peanuts, but I did not want to have peanut SHELLS. I made peanut shell bags and affixed them to the tables. Peanut on, friends!

I had to have peanuts, but I did not want to have peanut SHELLS. I made peanut shell bags and affixed them to the tables. Peanut on, friends!

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The drink station sign says "Tommy LaSodas" because... I ALMOST considered serving cans of SlimFast.

The drink station sign says “Tommy LaSodas” because… I ALMOST considered serving cans of SlimFast.

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Using food as food AND decor is too fun.  We served Hebrew National (League) Hot Dogs... because Farmer John hot dogs are ... suspect. Sorry, FJ.

Using food as food AND decor is too fun. We served Hebrew National (League) Hot Dogs… because Farmer John hot dogs are … suspect. Sorry, FJ.

Darryl Strawberries... but the 1993 kind because if you go too much earlier, he's a Met and that doesn't make sense.

Darryl Strawberries… but the 1993 kind because if you go too much earlier, he’s a Met and that doesn’t make sense.

Clayton Kerslaw. Cole slaw from Brent's Deli is never on the DL.  We served Mike Pi(a)zza Bites, Eric Carrots and Jocolate Pederson candy baseballs, too, in addition to old fashioned Cracker Jacks that didn't get a punny name because they're just called Cracker Jacks.

Clayton Kerslaw. Cole slaw from Brent’s Deli is never on the DL.
We served Eric Carrots and Jocolate Pederson candy baseballs, too, in addition to old fashioned Cracker Jacks that didn’t get a punny name because they’re just called Cracker Jacks.

A Nacho Bar was a grand slam with our guests. Go Doyers!

A Nacho Bar was a grand slam with our guests. Go Doyers!

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It was the first party in a few years that I didn’t hire a company or activity for entertainment, but now that the kids are older and not such social misfits, I knew they’d still have fun hanging with friends, playing tee ball, and doing a craft. I set up a Make Your Own Pennant station where the kids could decorate a paper pennant with lots of doodads and markers. They turned out great and I think the kids really enjoyed it.

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Thank goodness for the moms who helped man the station as the kids came and went to make their pennants. I am so lucky to have such great friends who enjoy these things as much as I do!

Thank goodness for the moms who helped man the station as the kids came and went to make their pennants. I am so lucky to have such great friends who enjoy these things as much as I do!

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Madelyn was having a blast being all decked out in Dodger Blue from head to toe!

Madelyn was having a blast being all decked out in Dodger Blue from head to toe!

Arielle had a great time, too, wandering around and picking up whatever she could get her hands on.

Arielle had a great time, too, wandering around and picking up whatever she could get her hands on.

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As always, birthday parties are a great time to be with our friends and family and we are always so glad they are there to celebrate good times (come on!).

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When it was time to sing “Happy Birthday,” I brought out the cupcakes, candled up a special birthday cupcake for Madelyn, and we all enjoyed a big group number to wish her the best. When it was time to make a wish, the always-thoughtful Madelyn clammed up for a moment, unable to come up with a wish on the spot. She stresses under pressure and we were nanoseconds from tears due to those BIG feelings that come with turning five, but I was able to avoid drama by promising her that wishes count later on and she can sleep on it. Whew! So she blew out her candles — probably wishing for more time to make a wish — and we all celebrated with group sugar consumption. Birthdays are the best like that.

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The party dwindled down, but Madelyn’s appetite for cupcakes did not. She had about four more before the night was over. I justified this parenting decision because I ordered 72 cupcakes. I couldn’t let the 40 uneaten cupcakes go to waste, so I decided they were health food for my growing daughter. Muffins, really. With sweet cream on top. Basically, breakfast, right?

And because I like to fatten everyone up (#jewishmother), I sent everyone home with iced baseball heart cookies that I made (#newhobby). You’re welcome, parents, for the sugar at 7 p.m.

I realize this makes me a 3 strikes parent-hostess, but c'mon! It wasn't like it was a school night!

I realize this makes me a 3 strikes parent-hostess, but c’mon! It wasn’t like it was a school night!

The party was a World Series winner, and my lil slugger was more than happy. We did our job. Madelyn had a very, very happy fifth birthday.

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Bryan created an amazing video for Madelyn’s 5th birthday that documents her life as a Dodger fan! He’s too talented. He whipped this up in a week, and I am in awe. This looped at the party and I can’t stop watching it still!

Arielle Is One!

What the heck happened to the first year of my baby’s life? It went faster than my legs on their way to lunch at In N Out (that toasted bun, man). I legit could not keep up with all events and milestones and monthiversaries. And the minute I wanted to really slow down and soak it all in, my household was sick with a bug during the days leading up to Arielle’s birthday.

It didn’t help, too, that I was stressed out from planning a party while nursing Bryan back to health and crossing every bone in my body that I didn’t get sick, too. I am proud to say that I never did, but Madelyn did get fevers that were more fickle than ping pong balls at a tournament, and finally ended up with an ear infection. So, enjoying those final days with my baby as a baby was pretty difficult. I wallowed, yes, and even though I knew Arielle would never know that her actual first birthday on March 4th pretty much sucked, I was sad that memories of her first days with us were upstaged by thermometers and popsicles being juggled through the house.

We did enjoy a “happy birthday” song at preschool after I dropped off Madelyn. Arielle and I sat on the bimah and Madelyn was her spokesperson (business as usual), sharing her name and age with the crowd. Arielle didn’t have a total meltdown during her 15 seconds of fame, so I call that a win. That was the highlight of the day.

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Shortly after, Madelyn came home from school with a very sudden fever and I yelled a lot of swear words about that. There was no special outing or birthday dinner for Arielle. I don’t think I even had time to get emotional like I normally would because I was so busy Florence Nightingale-ing it up. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thanks, germs, for the distraction.

I will share that on her first birthday, Arielle woke up with 2.5 teeth and those teeth are really helping get that food to her belly, because the chunk was finally starting to roll out. Her weigh-in was 19.5 pounds and while she’d once been a petite lil thing, she jumped from 9-month clothes to 12-month clothes almost over night.

By 12 months, her crawling was non-stop with no desire to choose to walk instead. Shrug. Whatevs. When Arielle climbs up the stairs on all fours, she swears she’s reached the top of Mt. Everest.

Blowing kisses and clapping and waving and giving high-5s were all of her mastered party tricks. She also suddenly became aware of bows and headbands on her head (boooo) and started to show her dissatisfaction with these accessories (Madelyn went through the same thing at the same age and now look at her! Accessory whore! She doesn’t want to take off a tiara to wash her hair).

At 12 months, Arielle’s favorite foods are fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, and fats. Yes. The entire pyramid. The girl is a bottomless pit. She just does not stop eating. One day she may become a picky eater because I’ve seen this movie before, but right now, she just loves food. I do too. But the rolls on my thighs are not nearly as cute.

I managed to get a few snaps of Arielle on her first birthday.

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Two days after her birthday, it was party time. Bryan was finally recovered and Madelyn’s fever couldn’t make up its mind about staying or going. She had no other symptoms other than a fever that I would later find out was due to an ear infection. I quarantined her to her room for most of the party just to be on the safe side, and we were all so sad about it. I wanted to celebrate my littlest baby, while wanting to ditch the party to cuddle with my biggest baby who was devastated to be missing out. Thankfully Princeton was like, “I’m fine. You’re welcome.”

Arielle loves to jam to music. Since the beginning, her little body has always grooved to any beat she hears, so I thought it was fitting to have a music gal come and do a big toddler music session. Amy Tibert of Rise & Sing put on a great little show and had all the kiddos dancing and playing. And since Arielle is such a bright and cheery presence, I threw together a loose rainbow hearts theme with the decor. It was a fun and crafty party for me to design. Lots of paper decorations and lots of sprinkles!

Party recaps are best done through photos, but these parties are always a labor of love and I secretly love-hate these big ones. I love having our family and friends together to celebrate my kiddo, but the work that goes into it makes me a crazy lady. I so appreciate my mom swooping in to lend me a hand when my usual party-planning partner was down for the count the week of the bash.

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

So, I have this thing for banners.

So, I have this thing for banners.

Salty and sweet  (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

Salty and sweet (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

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And P.S. — note to ovaries: thanks for deciding to get us pregnant in June and giving us a March baby which makes party planning a total nightmare because the battle of Indoor vs. Outdoor is uglier than anything you’d see on Game of Thrones. I was a wreck watching the weather, which, by the way, was gorgeous and perfect and sunny and in the 80s for two weeks before the party and then did the whole “Oh! It’s March! I forgot it’s supposed to be El NiƱo! Here’s the rain I must deliver!” So, indoor party with children and sugar … I’m such a glutton for punishment. I will say, though, that everything was fabulous, and everyone had a great time especially the little birthday girl herself.

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The music was so fun for the kiddos as they played with different instruments and puppets and a parachute. Even the big kids were dancing and showing the little ones what to do.

Arielle got to sit in the middle of the parachute and she loved the breeze whooshing through her incoming wispy hair as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

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Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn was fever-free and seemed to brighten up a bit, so she came down to check out the party just as Amy, the music leader gave all the kids a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” solos on the microphone. It was so sweet how a lot of Madelyn’s adorable preschool friends performed for the birthday girl who they all know and adore. I wasn’t sure if Madelyn was feeling the vibe, but she not only asked to sing, she did a rockstar job!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. We have a new American Idol!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. Dim the lights. We have a new American Idol!

Once the music portion of the party was over, it was chow time for most of the guests and I finally got a chance to schmooze with all of our fabulous friends. I love having all my favorite people in our home to celebrate good times. There’s really nothing that makes me happier than fluttering around and visiting with all the wonderful families we’ve met in recent years from preschool and baby groups, or people we’ve known for what seems like forever from college or theater or our expanded family. It was during this portion of the party that I realized all the hard work was worth it.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

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And then it was cake time. Or, as Arielle might have described it: BORINGZZZZZZZZZ. She was quite underwhelmed.

That’s right. Who participated in the most disappointing cake smash ever? Arielle Jane Friedman. Yup. She looked at her cake like, “Oh how nice,” and then couldn’t be bothered to dig in. The girl who shoots up milk like she’s a Breaking Bad character and the girl who can’t. stop. eating. bagels was negative 72 enthused about eating sugary bread with sugar goo and colorful sugared crunchies. So for anyone who considers first birthday cake smashes a spectator sport, this was a disappointing display. Instead, my generous babe dipped her finger into the frosting and tried to feed it to ME. I mean, I didn’t mind, but I was fresh off a Whole30 and didn’t want to steal her spotlight with my own personal adult cake smash. So instead, we looked like a couple on their wedding day, delicately feeding each other cake. Oh and since she hardly touched it, I spent the next three days finishing it myself. (Whole30, what?)

She didn't understand why we light our food on fire.

She didn’t understand why we light our food on fire.

Perhaps it was because I was  emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl "Happy Birthday" with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Perhaps it was because I was emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl “Happy Birthday” with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.  Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.
Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

"VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE."

“VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE.”

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

Eventually she got a little more into it once she realized that cake is really delicious. Thank goodness. I was about to start doing DNA tests to make sure she was actually my daughter.

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Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

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And that’s that. The infancy stage of motherhood is over. No more babies in this house. To say I was super emotional about that for weeks before her birthday is an understatement. But now that we’ve crossed the other side, it’s fine. She didn’t turn into a toddler overnight. In fact, Arielle is still very much a baby since she isn’t walking and doesn’t have any words for communication yet. She seems to be on her older sister’s heels of developmental milestones, and I’m OK with that. She’s on Arielle time, and for now, it’s still baby o’clock. And as long as she’ll let me, I’ll kiss her and nuzzle her and enjoy her soft skin and clean perfume.

A year with Arielle has been a delight and even though she keeps us on our toes with a feisty attitude and a decisive sense of determination, she’s still our silly little cuddle bug who’s brought so much joy to our completed family. Happy first birthday, Arielle. We are all crazy about you.

  1. Mimi
    4/12/2016 9:47 PM

    Happy 1st Birthday, adorable Arielle! Not only do I LOVE you, I’m crazy about you too! ? Keep dancing & singing like its 2016!

Madelyn is Four

Yes, she turned 4 in August, but there have been negative 2847 minutes available to sit down and recap life. Babyland has kept us busy in addition to new schedules, less sleep, more activities. In other words, I have failed at blogging. If blogging was a major, I’d be kicked out of the university. If blogging was a marriage, I’d be divorced and getting zero alimony. If blogging was a pre-teen, I’d be getting so many eye rolls and guttural sighs that my laptop could slam doors from the living room couch where I typically blog. So yes, that’s me and blogging right now.

But I didn’t want to miss out entirely on recapping Madelyn’s birthday because it was a good one! Her first, second, and third birthdays were all labors of love, and her fourth was no different. This year, I wanted to incorporate something she loves while still providing entertainment for her friends. I thought about going to a play place because she loves those places or going to the farm because she adores the animals there, but with a five-month-old in tow, I really wanted to torture myself to the max and orchestrate an at-home party with all of her friends… and grown up friends… and family.

So we hired a bubblist. Because isn’t that what everyone does? We had a bubble party where a bubblist — the highly professional and scientific term for the person who demonstrates giant human-sized bubbles — came to do a whole show and facilitate play time in the backyard. But I couldn’t leave it alone at the bubble company. No. I insisted on torturing myself with bubbly decor, spherical food, and things that go pop… like bubbles.

I made her traditional birthday party wreath to welcome guests to the front door. And for some more sensory fun, I laid out bubble wrap on the pathway to the door a la the red carpet. The kids liked jumping all over that thing and to my next door neighbors, sorry for the noise; it was festive decor for a birthday party, not gunshots and gang activity. #oops

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Somehow, we managed to cram all of our party people into the open kitchen/family room for the bubble show. The bubblist demonstrated different kids of bubbles and talked about sciencey things. The kids were engaged and didn’t even realize they were learning. This teacher/party planner was pleased.

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Then it was time for the kids to go in a bubble. They took turns and one at at a time, the bubblist let the kids journey into a tunnel of bubble. It was pretty cool and I think they all enjoyed seeing the world from the inside of soapy water.

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Arielle was completely unfazed.

Arielle was completely unfazed.

Even some grown up kids got into the bubble action.

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After the indoor bubble show, everyone played with bubbles outside. The bubble fun continued with lots of plastic kiddie pools and various tools for making bubbles. It was a full out bubblepalooza and just what the kids needed after sitting for 30 minutes.

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And what’s bubbly fun without a plate of sugar? Cake time came, and Madelyn posed with her bubble cake as we all sang to her.

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All that was left for this busy birthday mom was to relax and actually socialize with our friends and family. I’ll admit I love throwing these big parties, but the downside is that it’s hard to actually visit with everyone. So while Madelyn and her friends ran around, I tried to soak up time with the people I love.

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The sun was going down and our friends trickled away. Madelyn saw her giant mound of presents and couldn’t wait any longer, so she tackled them with delight. She is quite the lucky girl! Her final hours of being 3 were spent playing with all of her new treasures, including her first American Girl doll from Mimi and Poppa. We brought my old Samantha down and we played with our dolls and I suddenly turned 7 all over again. Shameless.

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It was our first August 8th in 4 years that we didn’t visit Lazy Dog Cafe for dinner. It was where we had our final meal as a family with just Princeton the night before we were induced. Since then, we’ve brought Madelyn with us the night before her birthday and have made a little bit of a tradition out of it. But birthday party trumped Lazy Dog, so we broke this tradition and hopefully we’ll get back on next year for the night before her 5th birthday. (wait, what? 5 is next?!)

With lots of goodnight kisses, we put our almost four-year-old to bed, and Bryan and I blew up balloons to flood her room for when she woke up the next morning because that’s another tradition we are setting ourselves up to continue. It wasn’t until the last couple balloons that I remembered I wanted to get her birthday donuts to enjoy for breakfast, so at midnight, I found myself at a 24-hour donut shop. Hey, priorities. Also, I snuck some home for Bryan and me because we deserved them.

Devotion.

Devotion.

The birthday girl woke up and loved her balloons and donut breakfast. We were all in a chipper mood as we celebrated our August 9th baby and spent the morning relaxing and detoxing from the festivities from the day before.

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Even Arielle was ready for her sister's birthday!

Even Arielle was ready for her sister’s birthday!

Our friends had invited us to join them at The Getty for a free Lisa Loeb concert featuring tunes from her kids’ music. It was one of those perfect summer afternoons with the sun warming us up, but not too bright, and a friendly ambiance with a relaxing vibe.

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Madelyn spent some time down at the stage right under Lisa Loeb’s … earlobes. She was right at her feet when she played “Stay” and the crowd — mostly made up of parents who piqued in the 90s — went wild. Then, the kids became unruly, and Madelyn had enough of that preschooler mosh pit. Mob mentality is not Madelyn’s thing. Note to self: Do not take Madelyn to Coachella.

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We waited out the crowd when the concert was over and hung out with our friends, enjoying the emptying grassy hill. We took pictures and the kids ran around and I soaked in the day that made me a mom four years ago.

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All of my favorite people.

All of my favorite people.

Our sleepy kids passed out in the car as we made our trek back to the ‘burbs. And since I’m a sucker for birthday traditions, we met up with the grandparents at The Cheesecake Factory for our annual birthday dinner to celebrate Madelyn. She was so funny at dinner and I know she felt the love from all of us. Watching our big girl blow out her mini sundae candles got me all teary (was that a cherry on top or chopped onions?). I’m in awe of how she’s grown, exceeding all expectations of what it would like to be the mom of a 4-year-old who is so kindhearted, imaginative, witty, curious, and smart. She’s ahead of her time in so many ways, but whooooaaa, time. Could you please slow down a minute so that I’m not so torn between wanting my beautiful girl to stay little forever and so excited for all that she will be?

Part of Her World

It’s no secret that Madelyn’s favorite Disney princess, movie, and ride at Disneyland is The Little Mermaid. She loves the music, the redhead, and the story. She lugs her Ariel doll everywhere, calls Bryan her Prince Eric, and sets the table with her dinglehopper. This kid is a no B.S. scholar of all things Mermaid.

So, no brainer. Her birthday party this year was decked out Under the Sea Chic — didn’t want too much commercial Disney decor, but wanted to set the mood using a sophisticated palette with lavenders and teals, lots of shells and sea glass, and netting with pearls.

Food was fun and easy and I’m kicking myself for not getting a lot of photos. The shell pasta salad was SO good and I will make it again and again. Here’s the recipe. You’re welcome. I made a crab out of a red bell pepper and stuck it in some hummus and used a dab to “glue” on his olive eyes. And then there were a few trays of Jersey Mike’s SANDwiches because, you know, THAT joke is a novel one. I set out a basket of individual bags of chips and Bryan asked me what I was going to name them. I was about to take a nanosecond to come up with something and then realized that not everything needs a name. CHIPS. They’re just CHIPS. However, I love food and I love puns. Kill me.

Ariel's Bikini Shells Pasta Salad -- Size C, for Carbs.

Ariel’s Bikini Shells Pasta Salad — Size C, for Carbs.

This party gave me crabs.

This party gave me crabs.

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Sand dollar sugar cookies for the win!

Little figurines of the beloved characters popped up here and there but I didn’t need to overdo it because we had THE REAL THING THERE!

Ariel, herself, swam up onto the land for the day to join us at the party and she was AMAZING. She came to us via Smile and a Song Princess Parties and people, I am telling you, the best best best character company I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy! If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you must call them for all your princess needs.

Ariel rang the doorbell and Madelyn answered. I think she was stunned, but quickly got on board with having a princess in her house.

A special guest is here? For moi?

A special guest is here? For moi?

What. The. What.

What. The. What.

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel is da hooooooouse

Ariel’s voice was more pristine than the sea water — she was 100% Ariel from the start of the party until the end of the party. The girls adored her and even the little boys were into the whole 90-minute visit. The engagement she had with the kids was completely undivided and really, the whole experience was worth every penny (Ariel is not free, but her value is priceless). I swear, Madelyn believed that THE little mermaid dived out of the TV and into her backyard. She drank it right up and made this mama proud! And me? Well, I was like a kid in a candy store. I hardly socialized with our guests while Ariel was at the house because I didn’t want to miss one second of her interaction with the kids. It was so entertaining and while I could have left her to hold the kids’ attention while I participated in adult conversation, I chose to watch her show. She read The Little Mermaid book which is basically like hearing an autobiography from the author herself. And then she did songs with the kids. And she also did face and arm painting because in addition to singing, Ariel is also a talented artist.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Ariel fishes; the children bite.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Hans Christian Andersen would be so proud.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups do adult things like finish sentences and eat a whole uninterrupted meal.

... And I am emotionally moved by the "How to Dance Like a Princess" instruction.

… And I am emotionally moved by the “How to Dance Like a Princess” instruction.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Ariel puts Santa Claus to shame.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Madelyn poses with Ariel, Prince Eric, and Ursula. Thanksalot.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

Midway through the photos sesh, Madelyn got sassy and Ariel followed suit.

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

And then all the kids got a turn to pose with the mermaid!

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn's 4th birthday party.

Ariel is so hard core, she tatted up all the kids. Nose rings for Madelyn’s 4th birthday party.

Ariel lead the birthday cake production and noted how the frosting resembled her home. I was so glad to pay homage to her roots.

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My girl loved everyone singing to her!

My girl loved everyone singing to her!

SO glad I didn't come to the party in my shell bikini top!  I mean, can you imagine?

SO glad I didn’t come to the party in my shell bikini top! I mean, can you imagine? I would totally lose in “Who Wore It Better”

After Ariel left, I was able to enjoy my other favorite aspect of Madelyn’s birthday party — mingling with friends and visiting with family members who’d traveled far and wide to celebrate with us. It was so nice having cousins together who don’t always get to hang out. And it’s always fun to have both of Madelyn’s great-grandmothers together because she’s so lucky to have two she can play with.

They're cousins! (un)identical cousins!

They’re cousins! (un)identical cousins!

I get by with a little help from my friends -- and sister mamas.

I get by with a little help from my friends — and sister mamas.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Together, this group photo is 184 years old.

Group shot with representation from Mimi's family.

Group shot with representation from Mimi’s family.

Getting children to smile for the camera is like herding cats. While it’s extremely entertaining, what’s even more comical is the show going on behind the camera: eight adults squealing and jumping and shooting doting mother gang signs in order to get the munchkins to cooperate and look in the same general direction. With a smile. And still.

Madelyn enjoyed playing with her Siegel side — 2nd cousins — and the darling Epstein boys — 3rd cousins! — all together.

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Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

Grown up cousins with their Granny and loving how their girls all play so nicely together!

It got dark, and we closed down the party. The afternoon in the shade (thank goodness, because it was a very hot day) turned out to be a successful birthday party for our little princess. Madelyn ended her night with cuddles from her grandparents and some expert gift unwrapping. She’s so lucky to have so many friends and family members who love her.

And we are so lucky to be part of her world.

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I don’t know how much longer I can produce these parties. I always say I’m going to just do something low key, but that’s a lie because I’m a glutton for punishment and actually enjoy the work that goes into a big birthday party. I keep thinking this will be the last of the big ones… but then I remember that in 2016, I’ll have another first birthday party to plan. Oh dear God, help me.