I don’t think I’ve celebrated Elizabeth’s birthday with her in person since I got married, but this year she happened to be visiting on her big day. My barrel of ideas for a party theme was very shallow, but we went with a Dolly Parton theme. To be specific, it was a WWDD (What Would Dolly Do) party.

It turns out Dolly Parton is not a popular party theme so it was a real stretch to find the right decor. I bought a bag of gold rings because what’s a Parton party without big jewels? I had a package of napkins I had bought for Aaron’s wedding that we didn’t end up using and with a little editing they fit the bill for our party. 

I hung up the shiniest gold decorations I could and made a WWDD banner.

Annabelle insisted on the glow sticks as party favors. I’ve never seen the real Dolly with glow stick jewelry but I wouldn’t put it past her.

Since Dolly often talks about her humble beginnings, we honored that portion of her life with slightly more redneck decor for dessert. Elizabeth doesn’t like dessert so we were going to have a watermelon “cake.” Someone dropped the watermelon causing it to have a giant mouth crack. Annabelle insisted it needed Reese’s pieces teeth which made it look too redneck so I pushed them as far out of sight as I could.

What Would Dolly Do? She’d party like it’s a Sunday afternoon and there are diamond rings raining from Hobby Lobby the sky.


When we were young, Katie and I had a particular way of eating Skittles. She ate the red and purple, I ate the yellow and orange and we split green lime. It was a perfect system and to this day I do not eat a Skittle without thinking of her and wishing she’d take the red and purple off my hands. Back in 2013, I was newly pregnant and at the hospital waiting to be given IVs. We sat in the waiting room for what felt like fourteen eternities. I alternated between staring at the two bathrooms so I would know which was available and rushing into said bathroom so I could throw up. Christopher bought a bag of Skittles because the only thing that sounded like it might have even the slightest possibility of being vaguely appealing was sour candy. It was then I learned that the powers that be at Skittles Headquarters USA changed the flavor of the green candy from lime to apple. Talk about hitting me when I was already down. All I wanted was a tiny lime candy! It was a bad day on many levels.

All that Skittles talk to say, it felt like a full-circle moment the day before Annabelle’s 8th birthday when I read an article saying that Skittles has brought back their lime flavor. The Lord has not abandoned us yet. Evidently, this is old news and the green skittle returned to the lime-light several months ago, but I am just now finding out. The article was dated September 28th, 2021 which was almost exactly 8 years to the day that the green skittle became dead to me. One minute I’m on the verge of throwing up and my favorite candy is gone, the next minute the candy is back but I’m on the verge of tears over my baby’s age. You win some, you lose some.

Annabelle didn’t want a big this year. She said she wanted a few friends over to “do fun things around town” instead. Our town is the size of a postage stamp so it was a real stretch to find a few good activities. I made a pick your own adventure sheet and she had the option between two playgrounds, then between a roller rink or fun park, which activities she wanted to do at the fun park (bowling, bumper cars, mini golf, etc), which snacks she wanted and so on.

We planned two activities outside the house then home for cake and presents and more playing. It was very very low-key. She was so overwhelmed with all the kids at her party last year that we only invited three little friends this year and it was perfect. I told the moms we’d provide supper if AB wasn’t too overwhelmed. Not only was she not too overwhelmed, but the party was never-ending. The kids got to our house at 1:30 and didn’t leave until 7:30. They ran all over the playground, zipped around on go-karts, and didn’t stop moving for six hours.

My great birthday sorrow (besides the fact that the 5lb 11oz baby I brought home is now 64lbs) was Sesame didn’t want to have a specific birthday theme. What’s a party without a theme?! Does she not know that themes are my love language? We settled a generic ”birthday theme” party and while no one would pin it on Pinterest, it was cute and she liked it.

The cake absolutely was not Pinterest worthy. AB requested mud pie (oreo crust, chocolate cake layer, chocolate pudding layer and whipped cream) and I couldn’t make it into any kind of fun shape. I always pride myself on making her a creative cake and I really dropped the ball this year. She requested a theme-less cake so I had no direction. I forgot to buy special things to put on the top so I used one of the silly wrapping bows that matched the bows on her presents. It tasted delicious but it was not my finest work.

At 1:40PM on her actual birthday, the very moment she turned eight, Annabelle was doing very Annabelle things. She was barefoot outside, listening to a podcast.

She loves podcasts, audio books, coloring and drawing, playing games on the iPad, spending time with her cousins, Sunday school, being read to, digging in the dirt, playing outside and swimming. Her favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese and her current favorite color is purple. She still gets cereal on the floor when she pours herself a bowl. She never turns down a sweet treat. Her favorite animal this week is a penguin. She has a sensitive little soul and and a great sense of humor. She is a terrible speller. She’s already bummed out that school will be ending and counting down the days until she starts 3rd grade. She never has a bad hair day.
She’s my best girl and I love her more than lime skittles.

Potter Party 2.0

Last year AB had a little birthday party with just the three of us. We gave her the option of a small friend’s party at the house or a night at a hotel. She picked the hotel but thanks to the ‘rona we couldn’t go. I was sure her 6th birthday would be the only one we’d celebrate in a pandemic but here we are, a year in and still dealing with it. She talked for months about having her friends over on her birthday but I didn’t want to promise too much because things can change on a dime. Thankfully she has a sweet little group of children whose families are fine with visits so she was able to have a party. After going through several themes, AB decided on a Harry Potter party. We did that theme last year and I am no more an HP fan than I was last year, so I campaigned hard for a different theme. We were THIS CLOSE to having a dragon and taco party which I was in favor of 110%, but she stayed firm in her request so we did HP. Why does she have to go and get opinions on things? At least we already had the Harry Potter bow.

About 10 minutes before the party started, she told me she was “going to take a siesta before the fiesta.” The little introvert apples does not fall far from the tree.

We wanted none of the spells and sorcery to be a party of the party so we came up with games that involved neither. I spray-painted 10 brooms from the dollar store silver and gold. You know what a bunch of 4-7 year olds don’t care about? Whether or not the brooms were lovingly and painstakingly painted instead of left blue and white. You know what I don’t care for? A bunch of blue and white brooms that look like they were made in China and not forged in the ancient fires of wizards. 

The kids loved decorating the handles in washi tape. The moms loved that their children now had their own personal brooms for sweeping the house. Next year we’ll decorate vacuums!

Christopher was appointed the ringmaster to explain the game of quidditch which is played on brooms in the Harry Potter books. He used big words and several directions that very few of the children understood. Us moms had a great time watching the chaos. Eventually he said, “You know what? Just throw the ball and play it however you want.” 

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but for about 45 minutes there the cake situation was Threat Level Red. I didn’t have a good design idea so I was fumbling and pouring sprinkles and none of it was right. I told Christopher he needed to run to Publix and buy another cake. It was terrible and I could not show my face in front of the other moms with a cake like that. He said it was great but he’s unable to give unbiased opinions. I said it would be great if he and AB had decorated it, but it was an insult to my Wilton decorating level two class. Everything else about party prep had gone shockingly well and I was shockingly calm, so it’s no shock that my nerves came out on the cake. We didn’t get a cake from Publix and I was able to show my face to the other moms, but I still think it’s not my greatest work. Annabelle liked it which I suppose is the most important part. My ego will be fine.

She’s my favorite even if she does listen to the same seven audiobooks on repeat for an entire year and tell me things like “You’re right. You are getting more gray hair.”

things were good in her ‘hood

I am not a fan of Halloween and have not one Halloween decoration to my name. We tend to stick with general fall-themed decor. Annabelle mentioned off-handily that it would be funny if a friendly ghost was pretending to play our electric keyboard. I used two vacuums, a drum and cloth pumpkin a little magic to create a piano-playing ghost. When we got home from school, I turned the piano on so it would play an assortment of classical hits and jazzy tunes. Then I used the vacuum to clean the rug so not only was it decorative, it was useful.

I broke one of my cardinal parenting rules this Halloween. I’ve always said that AB can’t change her mind on a Halloween costume after October 1st unless she wants to wear something in the dress-up basket. Usually, I make her costumes and I need plenty of time to cut and stitch and hot glue gun my fingers. This year she said she wanted to be a bat which, to no one’s surprise, did not thrill me at all. I longed for the days of costumes with tutus and wings. I hadn’t started making the bat costume yet when she switched to Little Red Riding Hood. It was a surprising choice since she’s never mentioned liking Red, but she was listening to her podcast about fairy tales and decided to vote for Little R. R. Hood 2020. I hand sewed the apron while watching Netflix, much like Caroline Ingalls did in ye olden days of the 1800’s. The hairdresser told me that “they” might cancel Halloween this year. Normally I wouldn’t care but I did not want AB to miss out on another thing this year. Whoever “they” are could knock on my door and try handing out a cease and desist order, but gosh darn it she was going to have a chance to dress up.  I didn’t think it was any more dangerous than taking her to the grocery store. We went to an outdoor trunk or treat at church and she skipped around the building ”like Red Riding Hood does.” It was precious. When we went to a few houses that night, she kept asking that we stay back while she went to the door. Then she’d get nervous and turn around every two steps on the way to the door turning around to make sure we were still there. She repeatably walked into bushes and shrubs because she was too busy looking behind her. Little Hood isn’t ready to be out in the woods by herself.

party like you’re housebound

It was much easier to take AB’s birthday photos on her second birthday. All I had to do was fake sneeze and she’d burst out laughing. This year she insisted her leggings matched her dress (they didn’t) and she intentionally let go of the blue balloon and we never got it back.
On birthday eve Christopher inflated somewhere around 38 balloons. We take birthday balloons very seriously around here. I’m so happy we have a mantle to decorate again. Hanging the birthday banner from the tv stand isn’t nearly as festive. 
We had a very low-key day. Annabelle opened one of her gifts in the morning (she opened the rest at night) so she’d have a new thing to play with during the day. I baked the cakes the night before so all I had to do was make the frosting and cake toppers the day of. Cake decorating is 1000% less stressful when I’m not worried about all the rooms being spotless for guests who are arriving in 3 hours. Normally I’m a chicken with its head cut off on birthday party day but I enjoyed the slower pace. The downside is no one was here to appreciate what I’m ranking the best birthday cake I’ve ever made. 
Sesame wanted a Harry Potter themed birthday which is NOT a theme I ever would have picked. I wasn’t allowed to read the books growing up and I would have been fine if she never read them, but Christopher enjoys them and the two of them have been listening to the books together. He’s able to explain and discuss questionable parts as they go. She won’t be able to listen to anything beyond the first three books for several years which means she’s listened to those three at least 5 times since January. By virtue of living in the same home, I too have listened to the first books 5 times. She has spent so much time telling me the rules of quidditch, the history of this character and asking questions about how such and such potion is made. I’ve been through a similar Harry Potter indoctrination before. We got married the same year the last Harry Potter movie came out and Christopher thought I needed an HP movie marathon to see the previous seven movies. It was SO MUCH Harry Potter. Now nine years into our marriage I’d say peace out, I’m going to watch A Walk to Remember so you’re on your own, but newlywed Sarah was very obliging. 
AB asked that her birthday cake have a letter from her favorite characters on it. I printed a birthday letter signed by several characters, colored it with a tea bag and crumpled it to give some texture. I made the little quidditch ball (sphere? playing piece? I haven’t been paying much attention) with playdough that morning and used a black chopstick for a wand. I was dealing with health issues that week and didn’t have the energy to create a personalized wand.
We were able to get both sets of grandparents, all aunts and uncles and a few cousins together to sing happy birthday to her at the same time. It made me so happy. So few family members have been able to attend her birthday parties because of distance and it meant a lot that they did this for us. 
They couldn’t get a good view of the cake but they didn’t require me to clean the bathrooms either. All in all they were perfect party guests. 

party people

For those keeping up with the saga that is Lucy’s allergies (and who isn’t?), I had to take her back to the vet for recurring sores on her legs. They took her back without me which was fine because I needed to focus on AB who had attached the leash to her dress and wanted me to walk her like a cat. I asked the very timid vet assistant to ask the vet for a more concrete plan than me bringing her for a shot every month. She returned several minutes later with the following medical plan: put hydrocortisone or antibiotic ointment on the trouble spots and make sure Lucy doesn’t lick it off. Sure. No problem. I’ll do that right after I stop the waves in the ocean and keep the world from spinning. There’s no way I can control where the cat puts her tongue. 

On Sunday we had a little Christmas party for a AB’s friends. I told the family several times in the days leading up to the party that I wasn’t going to go crazy about it. It was going to be very relaxed. I scheduled it for 2 o’clock so I wouldn’t have to serve lunch or supper. All we needed to make was snakcs. Everyone would be impressed with how non-OCD I was about the napkins. Weekday Sarah forgot to tell party-eve Sarah the stay chill plan. I won’t go into details but it was not chill. 

This was pre-craft and cookie decorating. The whole house was clean and quiet for all of 7 minutes.

To be honest, the house wasn’t entirely clean. We piled stuff into a laundry basket and hid it in the closet. The picture has been leaning against the dining room since we moved in several months ago.

I planned on making a bead snowman craft but when I went to Joann’s they were out of beads. I stood in the fake flower aisle and scrabbled to find another option that didn’t involve paint. Plastic ornaments were on sale so I bought a bunch to stuff with tissue paper and decorate to turn into reindeer.
The kids crafted, decorated homemade cookies, ate played, scarred the cats for life and genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. Annabelle, who had done 12% of the preparations told me, “I’m glad I’m learning to be a host but it’s A LOT of work. I need a nap.”

Me too, sister. Try orchestrating a kid’s party AND making sure your cat doesn’t lick her legs.