Down on the Farm

Before kids, I dreamed of creating the perfectly unique birthday party. From hand-crafted decorations to signature drinks, each birthday better than the last. But, today, our hectic life and crazy schedules leave little room for etching names on party favors and cooking homemade pot pies for 30-plus. So, for Jack's third birthday party I mixed a little of my craftiness with a lot of simpleness. 

He's finally at the age where a party can only include friends. And, it can be housed somewhere other than our home. No prepping. Clean up. Or bombarding of personal space. 

After researching many local places, and factoring in Jack's favorite activities, we decided to have his party at a local petting farm that rents out for parties. The farm, Carousel Acres in South Lyon, Mich., provided the decorations, table clothes, cowboy/girl hats and bandanas, pony rides and personal access to all the animals. All for a seriously decent price. 

I found some trendy farm party invites on Etsy, purchased farm animal paper products, bought a basic chocolate cake from Costco and ordered carryout from a local Italian caterer. The favors were juice boxes and starbursts (Jack's favorite) in farm animal muslin bags I found on Etsy. I finished the cake with farm animal candles, chocolate shavings and gummy worms (another of Jack's desires). Wa-la. Party planned.

Jack and two of his favorite buddies, Caleb (left) and Asher (right).

Farm invites from Dream a Little Dream on Etsy.

Muslin bag party favors from Little Chicklets on Etsy.

Luckily the rain held off, and the kids were able to enjoy the farm to themselves. Chased goats. Rode a pony. Fed a baby cow. And, brushed little ponies. The next morning, Jack wanted to go back. With all his friends, of course. Guess it was a perfect party, after all.

Jack was a little nervous to ride Jackie the Pony. 
Little sister Ella was not afraid one bit. Hoping she grows up to ride horses like her Momma!

Our good friend's son, Asher, took farm duties seriously. Heart him.
The beautiful Rozanski family. Also known as Jack's future in-laws and wife Lucy. Ella's BFF.
Jack's smile face. 
Our other close friends' son, Caleb, 4.
Modified Costco cake. Yep, I did the lettering too.
He gets a little shy when people sing to him.

Checking out the reindeer.

Now on to Ella's first birthday in November....


Bounce House, Crab Legs, and a Birthday

Jack officially turned three on Sunday. One of my favorite days of the year. The one that signified the beginning of our family. And, when my heart began beating outside my body. It was the day I finally understood the best part of life. 

Jack woke to balloons covering the living room. Eggs and bacon for breakfast. Then, the best surprise of all. His very own bounce house ready for use in the backyard. We covered his eyes and carried him out. His sheepish smile spoke volumes. He couldn't get his shoes off quick enough. 

The four of us spent the day in the bounce house. Skipped naps. Fell down. Watched the tree tops. And, bounced some more. 

Not sure how we're ever going to top this year's gift. Or even match it for Ella's first birthday in November. But, the kids' joy-filled laughs made the price worth it. And, the idea to rent it to friends and family for a very low price. 

We completed Jack's birthday with his requested dinner. Crab legs, fish and french fries. And, of course chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. 

So, happy birthday, little bear. Thanks for showing me to appreciate all the small things. You're my world and I will love you forever.

Jack enjoying crab legs with Nonnie S (center) and Great Nonna (left)

Cracking his crab legs


Snapshot Series: Praising My Three-Year-Old

The post below  is a part of my Snapshot Series, an e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I share the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have these tiny memories to remember. 

Yesterday’s post was all about little Ella. Today it’s all about big boy Jack. My tank. My pillow. And, the first half of my heart.

Last weekend we vacationed at the cabin with friends and family. I watched Jack learn to trace letters from my Dad (retired principal teacher of more than 30 years) and Sister-in-Law (an emotionally-impaired teacher). I had been trying to teach the concept for months. No progress. Just scribbles. But, two teachers later the kid was press-tongued and concentrating. Actually tracing the letters.

It’s easy to let the milestones slip by as a toddler becomes a kid. As Ella’s firsts suck up our smiles, Jack’s increasing abilities, like his knowledge of shapes and amazing problem solving skills, rarely earn the deserved recognition.  So again, here’s a list of memories that would be forgotten if not recorded now:

1. Everything happened “last morning.” “Hey, remember when I went sledding last morning?”

2. When he gets really happy, he sings “Jake and the Neverland Pirates, climb aboard and become a pirate too…” To himself. Kind of like a whistle, but with words.

3. He prefers seafood over McDonalds. Or, really everything. When he was just 1.5 years old, we were in Florida and he ate all of Justin’s scallops instead of chicken nuggets and fries. Request for his third birthday dinner? Crab legs and lobster. True story.

4. Few of my favorite expressions lately: “Darnit!” “Are you kidding me?” “I have a great idea!”

5. Randomly, when he wants something, in a very sweet voice he says, “I love you Mom.” Charm in his smile.

6. He has to brush his teeth after every piece of candy and chewing of gum. By the way, he needs a five-step program for his gum addiction.

7. When discussing my Mom (his Nonnie S) with me, he refers to her as my mom. “Is your mom coming over later?”

8. He is devoted to catching frogs. Thank God we never built that pond in the backyard or I’m sure he would have moved his bed there. Guess I could say the same for finding worms, tree frogs, bugs or caterpillars. Win some. Loose some.

9. He’s full of expression like his father. “I don’t have to eat my dinner!” Arms flailing. Face twisted with the attitude of a teenager. 

10. He doesn’t miss a trick, as my Grandma said since he was a baby. His memory is sharp. Steak knife sharp. “Remember, we fed the birds those marshmallows?” last summer! After a full workday, he asks about the special treat I promised that morning. “That dress is pretty, Mom. Remember you wore it at Easter?” He can recite lines from BBC’s Planet Dinosaur. And, discusses the entire Bubble Guppies episode about the supermarket every time we go grocery shopping. Every time.

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Snapshot Series: All the Baby Moments I Would Have Missed

Today's post is a part of my Snapshot Series, an e-journal of my children. Like pages in a diary, I share the moments of laughter and smiles that keep my world turning. Captured like photographs. So when Jack leaves for college or Ella goes on her first date, I'll have these tiny memories to remember.  

Today was Ella’s nine-month check up. Nine months. And, in 11 days Jack will be three years old. Three years. So many smiles. Too many passing memories. Disaster moments. And laughs that make my world go ‘round. 

Within two months, Ella has learned to crawl. Stand. Climb the couch. Eat many solid foods. Drink from a cup. Speak syllables. Wave hi. “Soooo big.” Point for things. And, fight her brother hard.

I forgot how quickly the first year goes. Man, it’s lightening.  I remember grasping at Jack’s babyness, attempting to memorize every chubby line and unending babble. Those silly moments when he hula-danced for a singing monkey. Or yelled back when you told him not to touch the dog’s water dish. There’s so many places in-between that melted my heart. And I don’t remember. Makes me realize all the small spaces we’ve missed with Ella. So here’s a few things that would surely get misplaced in memory if I didn’t record them now:

1. Ella sucks in air like she has asthma. Large gasps. Just because. Usually followed by a huge grin.

2. She already prefers carbs over any other food. Breads. Cheerios. Pasta. Wait ‘til she tries chocolate.

3. She lifts her eyebrows while playing. In an arrogant kind of way.

4. She screams – seriously screams – at her brother. Hits, bites or head butts when needed.

5. She drives Jack’s mini-monster trucks. Literally rolls them around the floor, making a gurgling sound.

6. Favorite toy: Mini-tool bench. Not the tea pot and cups. Sigh.

7. She waves “hi” at a select few. Most get the stern stare down. Picture it: Lady walks up ooo-ing at the cute baby. Saying, “hello there!” in a high-pitched voice. Baby glares.

8. She cannot live without her Little Giraffe blanket. Jack can’t either, but Ella takes it to new extremes. Bites it. Mashes her face in it. Talks to it.

9. She belly-bounce dances at the ABC song.

10. She actually listens to “no.” Probably because she hears it often yelled at her brother. And, realizes it’s not worth the fight.

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