I picked the You Are My Sunshine theme when she was just two months old. The song had been on my mind since my brother-in-law TJ's wedding to Rebecca that took place in Virginia that previous fall. The outdoor wedding was at a time when the change of season was just starting to be reflected on the leaves of the trees dotting the rolling hillside behind their ceremony. As the beautiful bride walked down the aisle with her mother on one arm and her father on the other, that song played, and I fell in love with it all over again. A favorite from my childhood, it was so poignant to me at that time because I was loosing my Mother right around the time I found out I was pregnant. The absolute worst time of my life happened to coincide with the most joyous, and I already felt and knew that this new life was making me happy when my skies were the darkest grey.
Also, the Build-a-Bear that my my Mom made for Autumn before I was even pregnant, and before we knew Mom had cancer has her voice on it. She says "You are my sunshine, and you will always be my sunshine."
I built her theme around that song and the favors that I had decided to make. I wanted to crochet her favors for three reasons: My Mom taught me to crochet, my Mom crocheted for me on my first birthday and because making something for her guests just held more meaning than purchasing them. Here's what my Mom made on my first birthday:
|I still have the Kewpie Doll, but now it's Autumn's.|
It was always part of my childhood narrative that my Dad blew up 100 balloons for my first birthday, and Mom would proudly recount that as evidence of how much I was loved. Too humble to tell me what she made (my gifts and our outfits), when I found out in my late teens, I was so touched. I wanted to go all out for our Little Bean too, as a demonstration of my love. So when my she was just two months old, I found this tutorial on how to make three-dimensional suns. See, when I told you that my Mom taught me how to crochet, I meant that she tried to teach me. I never really learned enough to read my own patterns, and mostly only know the basket weave pattern that we worked on together while she was battling cancer. Because my Mom was taught by her grandmother, Mary Mangan, I did not want to loose this tradition and not be able to teach my girl. I figured committing making 50 of these suns was a good way to hold myself accountable.
Although I was almost regretting it during the last month when I had to make one per night (they took about an hour to make!) to stay on track, I now know that pattern well enough to be able to watch TV or talk while I do it. Thankfully, my husband's cousin stepped in to help by stitching all of the points on for me, otherwise I would have fell short.
The next thing I did was pick the color scheme: Bright pink and yellow. While some You Are My Sunshine themed parties include a pretty teal, I didn't want to worry about matching that color. At least 8 months out, I started picking up decorations in those colors and stock-piling them in the guest bedroom. This way, my husband, who does the finances and prides himself on being "financially responsible" wasn't really aware of how much I was spending. It slowly leaked out, instead of disappearing all at once, so he was none the wiser.
|My Mom, at her first birthday.|
One of the first things I made was a banner for her high chair and one to hang in the dining room. I purchased fabric in her colors and cut them into strips and tied them off. Super simple. Then, I purchased some burlap triangles and painted them. Hobby Lobby became my home-away-from-home, and I was really excited to discover their spring line of decorations were exactly the colors we needed. Quickly realizing that you have to plan far out, those decorations were all gone before spring even rolled around. I bet you right now they're putting out ones for fall.
My next mission was to find matching outfits for us. Again, I was inspired by my Mom, who made us the outfits that we wore for my birthday. That's where Etsy came in. While I did want to make as much as I could, there is no way I would have had time to make everything. Here is the shop where I found her party hat, and here is where I ordered our matching tutus.
My online shopping spree coincided with my misdiagnosis of melanoma, and I was completely distraught. At a loss and powerless to assuage my very real fears of leaving her without a mother too soon, my husband asked "Is there anything at all that will help you get through this weekend?" I thought about it for awhile and answered "Well, honestly I think one thing that would help take my mind off things is if I could have like $400 or $500 to order some things and shop for her party." He actually thought I had cancer; we both did. How could he say no? And the retail therapy began.
I made the sun peaking through the window back in January, and she was able to help. Here it is in the beginning stages (right). The cardboard came from our new bathroom vanity, and so did the pressed wood that I used for the window frame. I continually had one project that I was working on, and would spend some time on it every weekend and most nights after she fell asleep. When I decided to use it for a photo-backdrop, my friend Marjorie suggested that I hang a yellow sheet ($11 off Amazon) behind it, which really made it pop. Another project was a large "1" photo collage. I ruined the first attempt because I used Elmer's glue, and the photos warped when they dried. Re-doing it with Mod Podge wasn't a big deal because the party was still months away. This is my one piece of advice no matter what party you're planning: start early. I put up many of the decorations, including the three different photo collages, about a month before the party.
|Who knew you could make things that are not on Pinterest?! That sun shining through the window? All my idea!|
|She had a blast!|
Here's a list of the vendors we used:
- Taco Guy (we went with the unlimited package since they were small tacos)
- Tables, chairs and linens
- Balloon artist
- Face painter
- Balloon decorator
- Florist (Growers Direct in Tustin. I picked up flowers and did arrangements myself)
- Photographer - Juls Megill, we've been using her since our girl was just a few months old. She is very reasonable.
- High chair
Having a photographer come to the party was a bit pricey, but worth every penny. There is no way I would have had time to take the pictures myself and if I tried, it would have interfered with visiting my friends.
As the big day approached, I just had excitement. What could have been a very stressful event was just fun, because I had everything finished so far in advance. That morning, I put finishing touches on things before heading over to The Dry Bar to get my hair done. The only thing my husband had to pick up on the day of was the cake; everything else was brought to us. The one glitch was getting this video to loop on our smart TV, but my friend Andrea's techie husband Bill quickly solved the problem after I texted her at 10am.
I've said all along that our Little Bean is the happiest, most easy-going, well-behaved baby, and the day of her party was no exception. She took an hour-long morning nap, and then slept from 1:15-3:30 (her party started at 4). She wasn't overwhelmed or fussy, and genuinely seemed to have a good time, even (especially?) when covered with cake.
I received a lot of positive feedback from my friends, but they're supposed to say good things, right?
But someone who has over a dozen grandchildren wrote: A most remarkable & forever memorable 1st B-day party! The MOST FESTIVE 1st B-day party I've ever seen! And Autumn was perfectly behaved, no tears or tantrums with about 50 people making her the bell of the ball. She was the perfect little princess . . . even when she made a planned mess of her cake!
With that many grandchildren, I consider her to be a connoisseur of birthday parties, so her positive feedback means a lot to me.
It was such a wonderful experience through and through, and a day that I will never forget. I hope that when I'm gone, she will look back at the photos of her first birthday and know that it is but one small measure of just how much she is loved.
I promised my husband she would not have another big party until she was 5. But on the way to work this morning, a theme for her next party popped into my head. One quick pinterest search yielded a ton of the cutest ideas that fit that theme. Well, it will be a small one, I rationalized...with only family and our closest friends. Sending him the guest list for approval, he promptly responded with: What? Are we really creating a list for a party over a year out? This is insane.
Maybe so, but it sure is fun.