balance, favorite things, gratitude

Turning 10 During the 2020 Pandemic

There’s something both highly obsessive and therapeutic about packaging up my daughter’s birthday favors and treats every year. For the 9th time, I stayed up late on one of the last days of September long after she and everyone else in the house had gone to bed. Even in  the state of the world in the year 2020, with no in-person birthday parties and no pressure to make a class set of 25 (non-edible) treats, the tradition lived on, just in a slightly different way. I still found myself at the annual 11:38 p.m. Friday Night Crafting Party for One.

In my opinion, a 10th birthday during a global pandemic was all the more reason to NOT break tradition. We went with mask-friendly headbands and teeny tiny stuffed animal heads, both items Amazon purchases. I also sprung for pre-packaged international snacks from Cost Plus World Market.  

The motherly micromanagement of putting together birthday swag is most definitely why I do this every year. The placement of the little presents on a bed of multi-colored decorative shredded gift wrap paper really makes me happy. Simply folding down the tops of flowery paper bags with a satisfyingly crisp crease and sealing it with a sticker brings special meaning to my life.  My daughter has over 5 years of legible handwriting under her belt and although I always intend on having her hand write most of the tags and little messages, I ended up taking over. In her preschool and primary grade years, it was a great opportunity for her to practice fine motor, counting, and 1:1 correspondence skills by letting her fill the bags. Now that she is a decade old, I officially reclaimed  that job too, because she had other things to tend to (sleeping?) and I needed the feeling of having control over SOMETHING, especially in these times. 

The favor bags held a little more purpose this year, as the birthday celebration itself was obviously super different. We opted to drive around the neighborhood and hand deliver the packages so she could have quick socially distant visits with friends. No big production of a drive thru birthday parade (our street is way too busy for that anyway), and no awkward invitations for anything that resembled a party or gathering.

It was the most low key and controlled birthday celebration we had ever experienced in the history of her 10 birthday parties. We enjoyed it. We had mother daughter time, she had friend time, and there was no post-party mess to clean up or any disappointment of a big celebration being over. She claims that she never wants to have another party again. Sounds a bit extreme, but it will definitely work for now.  

You would think that by now I would have realized that birthday goodie bags and handmade party decor aren’t the most important part of the celebration. This year however, they served as one small reason to reconnect with other humans  in person, even just for a few minutes since it had been such a long time.

Therefore, the decision is final. I will continue this crafty birthday bag ritual until she’s 50.  


Crafting Made Me Cry Like a Baby (Part 2)

My daughter’s 3rd birthday party was going to be the cutest little cowgirl roundup ever. She had a high interest in cowboys and the Wild West at that time because she would watch old episodes of  Bonanza with my Dad. She owned two cowboy hats and a pair of painfully adorable pink cowboy boots that we found at Payless. As she approached her 3rd birthday, and her Wild West enthusiasm stayed intact, I had one thought. I NEED to throw a cowgirl themed birthday party and the guests will LOVE my amazing handcrafted decorations. Not only would the guests think that I am still a crafty legend just like last year’s Hello Kitty party, but my Instagram likes would surely skyrocket. I even pre-grammed the craftiness.

Cowgirl pre

I went all out. I was too proud to buy any pre-made party decorations at the store. I cut and glued and assembled like there was no tomorrow. I made a “wanted” poster as a photobooth prop. Pinterest told me it was a good idea to also make cutesy fun labels for the food. Little bags of “Happy Trails Mix” were a must do. So I did it all. Then I carefully packed it all up the night before the party. We had decided to have the celebration at the Lafayette Reservoir that year. It was the perfect spot for little toddlers to run around and the space would work well for the theme.

Our best friends woke up at the crack of dawn and camped out to reserve our spot since the picnic area was available on a first come first serve basis.They texted us a selfie to let us know they grabbed the spot. I noticed that the sky was looking pretty grey in the background. It was grey at our house too, but I was staying optimistic. I was also in crafty party mode. I refused to think that anything would foil our plans for celebrating and showcasing the craftiness.

We arrived to the park as the skies continued to darken. The reservoir was eerily quiet and empty for a Saturday morning. I knew in my heart what was probably going to happen in the next bit of time, but I continued to ignore those thoughts and pressed on. I directed my husband and parents to lay out the food and the beloved decorations.

A passerby mentioned something along the lines of, “….going to get wet” or  “….rained on…” I only half-listened.

I laughed and said, “Hope not!”, in response as I laid out food on the picnic table.  

The toddler guests and my mommy friends were perfectly punctual. They came prepared with umbrellas. The kids got to run around a bit and chase some wild turkeys while I set up some more party items. Then it started to drizzle. Everyone who was present headed for spots under the trees to wait for it to pass.

Cue torrential downpour and sad violins. The rain didn’t pass. It was a loud thick curtain of heavy vertical rainfall that stunned us for a few minutes as the party space began to erode. Donuts and other various breakfast items turned to mush. The happy trails mix got flooded with California rain and there was no saving it. Every time I reminisce about that day, I still hear the sounds of the inconsolable crying toddlers, including my own, drenched, while their parents struggled to fasten them into car seats. Of course, at that time for me, worst of all was the completely destroyed party decor that I had made. Craft legend fail.       

California was in a severe drought that year. It barely rained a drop for the remainder of the season, but it was a complete downpour on cowgirl roundup birthday party day. Luckily, the rain stopped an hour or so later, and my cousin and his wife so graciously opened up their home to relocate the party at their house. My family, friends, and relatives gathered and enjoyed each other’s company. More importantly, we celebrated my daughter, and she was happy. She got to run around with her cousins and friends, and blow out the candle on her cake. It had been spared.

The sun came out gloriously as I stood with my friends in the front yard of my cousin’s house while the party was winding down. It was warm outside. We all had to wear our shades. Other than being very frustrated at Mother Nature at that very moment, I finally realized that my kid’s birthday parties are not the time for the Crafty Jenn Show. I’m embarrassed to think that I even wanted that in the first place. Let’s not forget about all the time I spent for the production of that show.

I recently looked back at my Instagram posts and found the ones from the party. It was all for show. No photos of the crying children or destruction were posted or even exist. I only posted the cute things and what I wanted people to see. Five years ago, I had different motives in mind for my own child’s party, and I am glad that my mindset has shifted a bit since then. I’m hoping to continue this learning process as I push myself to be more mindful of my time, energy, possessions, and money, as well as what I post on social media.

Cowgirl party

Until then,

Acknowledgement: I am sometimes heavily influenced by the images I see online and this could potentially skew my perspective.

Goals for the future: For future kid parties, I will focus on the people, and less on the decor. Maybe I’ll make ONE decoration by hand.

Now: I’m going to go play with my kids.