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Fun But Low-Stress Birthday Party Tips

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With one child, you immediately see how quickly the passage of time happens. You can't believe that, in what feels like a mere second, your little immobile, helpless bundle of softness turns into your favorite, funniest, wisest, silliest real-life person. I'm still blown away with the level of awareness that a 4-year-old can possess at times while maintaining a pure innocence that I protect and cherish at all costs. After your second (or third or…) child, however, this passage of time is magnified tenfold. You don't have the time to contemplate all the changes as they're happening. By the time you appreciate the rolling over your little one has mastered, she's cruising along the coffee table. Before you know it, she's pushing away pouches in favor of REAL food when you can remember that she - recently - stuck her nose up at baby-led weaning. You see your kids interacting and snuggling and sharing toys without being told to and in those brief moments, amid your exhaustion and frantic pace-keeping, your heart simply couldn't be more full. This is my current state of existence in motherhood. Our little daughter, Harper, is officially a year old this past weekend. That's the sound of my mind exploding. So, I thought I'd share exactly how we go about planning a simple birthday party that will be just as special and fun as her brother's first (y'know, when I had more time to, like, make everything - including decorations - from scratch) while still juggling life. Because in the middle of these kids growing up, we're also closing on a house this week, trying to get ahead of the holidays (since life will = moving boxes for quite some time), and work and life in general don't slow down for anything. Here are my best tips after doing this rodeo a few times now: Pick a theme. Believe me. A theme is your bestie. I get the eye roll sometimes for picking a theme, and I understand why. A theme makes it seem like you're going overboard. But, actually, a theme helps me to mentally organize and NOT let things get out of control. For example, for Harper's first, we're doing A Very Hungry Caterpillar shindig. This gives me a super clear direction for the food (everything except the pizza is listed off on every page! Not that we're doing ALL that food, but it helps), a color scheme, and invitations. Keep it simple. After picking a theme, brainstorm some ideas that go along with it. Then, pick your favorite, say, two or maaaaaybe three. In our case, I'm printing off a few small signs out of cardstock that will go with the food (On Monday, he ate one apple...), creating a simple green and red caterpillar to hang on the wall, and giving the handful of kids that will be there goodie bags with a wind-up green caterpillar, crayons, and maybe some candy. Super simple. Use colors more than trademarked stuff. Have you ever noticed how expensive all the character party stuff is?! It's crazy town. And the worst part is that when you're done with it, it's hard to reuse (unless you keep a stash of mismatched stuff for pizza nights...which is a great idea). For our theme, we're using two tones of green (a lighter and a darker) along with red. I got one tablecloth for a super long table that'll be green, some red plates that were leftover from my son's Dr. Seuss birthday (you can tell I'm a librarian)...you get the idea. We've reused some of our decorations for years, from handmade poufs to a cheap chalkboard sign, because they're generic enough to work in many ways. Oh, and we skip the balloons and request that our guests do so, as well - they're horrible for the planet. Accept help when offered. This year, I've been lucky enough to have my mother, mother-in-law, sister, and brother/sister-in-law all offer to bring something. It's crazy how helpful that is. I used to get a little, um, controlling about things (I'll admit it) but I've learned to go with the flow. I still made her smash cake and did some ordering of the pizzas and some cupcakes (see? I used to make EVERYTHING - organic and "real food" - myself...not that there's anything wrong with that. Her smash cake is organic, at least. ;-)) and little odds and ends, but it's such a strain off my mind to have it equally disbursed.   So, make a list of your menu and divvy it up. Even if you only have one family member or friend offer to help, it's still a little less you have to do. Or if you have a crafty friend, go ahead and ask if they can hook you up with some simple decorations. Let the kids be kids. I’ve learned that maybe one or two really simple activities are all kids need and the rest can be left up to them. Whether it’s a game you already own that fits the theme or just a quick print-off of a coloring sheet, that’s really all you need. Kids are great at making their own fun, so don’t overthink it too much. Whatever it takes to make it a special, memorable, but low-stress event, great!

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What tips do you guys have to add that make your family’s birthday parties easier?

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