Well, here we go… it seems like only yesterday we were welcoming our baby boy to the world, and this past weekend I threw another first birthday party. This year has gone by so quickly, and we really wanted to do something special for our little guy, and to celebrate the fact that we made it through. Our first year as a family of four brought a lot of growing pains and also a lot of joy.
I started thinking about Nugget’s birthday party a couple of months ago. March is a tricky time for a birthday in upstate New York, because the weather is so iffy. Last year, when Nugget was born, we still had quite a lot of snow on the ground – when we came home from the hospital, I remember being greeted by a family of three foot tall snow rabbits just off the driveway. This year, it was sixty degrees and sunny – who’d have thunk? Still, I knew that if I planned a party at a park, it would be cold and probably freezing rain, because that’s how my luck runs.
I also wanted to do something a little different. We’ve been blessed with wonderful friends here and as a result, we’ve been to a fair few kids’ birthday parties in a number of different locations around town. We’ve celebrated at friends’ houses, at the YMCA, at a local nature preserve, and at a working farm. I knew that our townhouse was too small to host a group, so we’d have to go somewhere, but at the same time I didn’t want to copy any of our friends’ ideas. A bit of googling and I found the perfect place – Monkey See, Monkey Do – a children’s bookstore in Clarence, one of the Buffalo suburbs. We’d actually been to Monkey See, Monkey Do once before – on Christmas Eve morning, when they hosted a Polar Express story hour. It’s a gorgeous children’s bookstore, housed in a building that dates from the mid-nineteenth century (and still has its original walls and ceiling beams) and the book selection is beautifully curated. They host events and parties regularly, and they have two birthday packages available. I called them up, verified that our date was available, and immediately started talking details with the party coordinator. And a nature/garden-themed party was born.
The bookstore handled the cupcakes and I provided the rest of the food. The party was after lunch, so we went with an assortment of snacks. My favorite (Pinterest-found!) snack was the s’mores lollipops. They looked so cool and couldn’t have been easier. Just marshmallows impaled with a lolly stick, dipped in melted chocolate (done over a double boiler with a little cream) and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. Looked ten times harder than they were, and they were delicious.
I can’t say enough good things about the bookstore. The party package included a craft or two (they planned two) and a storyteller, plus the cupcakes and tea and coffee, and all of the paper products. The wonderful party planner had arranged a table with garden tools for the kids to decorate. (I’d told her that even though it was party for a one-year-old, she should gear the activities to three and four-year-olds, since Peanut and her friends made up the entire guest list.)
And after the kids had finished beading their spades (!!!) she had foam flowers to decorate, and then they got to put stickers on flowerpots and plant beans. I mean, really. How perfect is that activity for an early spring birthday?
(Obviously Nugget’s participation was limited, but Peanut and her friends had a ball.)
Don’t worry about the little guy, though. We had an activity for him, too. I brought his campfire from home, which is one of the favorite toys in our house. At $60 I thought it was a bit steep for a baby toy, but I can’t argue with the hours of entertainment that both Peanut and Nugget have gotten out of this thing.
After the crafts and cupcakes, Miss Kim – the owner of the store – read the kids a story. They had a selection of several books, all related to the gardening theme, on the table, and we chose Compost Stew. Kim read the book to the whole group; she’s a fabulous storyteller. (She was also the storyteller at the Polar Express story hour. Man, I wish my job involved reading stories to kids in a beautiful bookstore! #lifegoals)
After the story, we wrapped up the party. Nugget took Compost Stew home as the store’s birthday gift to him, and we picked up a few more books, too – Jumping Off Library Shelves for Peanut, and Bee-Bim Bop!, A Bear’s Year, and Forest Has a Song for our family library. Peanut’s friends each got to take a book home, too (and I felt a little guilty about having a party in a bookstore when one of Peanut’s pals suckered her mom into buying Princess Hamster – oops).
We headed back to our place with Nana and Grandad and did the rest of our gift-opening there. Nana and Grandad had Hilton Head souvenirs for both kids, and a mess of presents for Nugget for his birthday (including two that light up and make noise – poor form, grandparents). We mostly gave Nugget puzzles and books, because that’s how we roll. He got a few new board books from the BabyLit gang, a London opposites primer, and two gorgeous books about water and rocks, as well as his special gift from us – a beautiful Folio Society edition of Stuart Little. And because Nugget has to be Nugget, he also got some vehicles – wooden London taxi, police car and double-decker bus, and a new helicopter. Nana and Grandad also brought cars (and this cool rug to zoom them around on!), books, clothes and a couple of stuffed animals. So Nugget did quite well. I think he was psyched about his haul.
We spent the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening relaxing, but on Sunday morning the grandparents came back around and we all headed out to get some fresh air at Glen Park in Williamsville. I used to come to this park all the time when my Stroller Strides class met to work out there, but haven’t been in months (Stroller Strides ended last fall and hasn’t met since). I love Glen Park, but I did break out in cold sweats thinking about all the times I’ve sprinted up and down the switchback-laden path up that waterfall.
We weren’t at the park for hill repeats, though. We were there because it’s SPRING, and SPRING means DUCKS! Peanut was overjoyed that her feathered friends were back for the season.
I love ducks – they’re so adorable. This crowd wasn’t shy at all. There’s a sign instructing park visitors not to feed the wildlife, but I don’t think most people abide by it. These ducks have definitely gotten used to being fed by humans – they came right up to us wanting bread. (We didn’t have any, and didn’t feed them.) Peanut had a blast climbing up the rocks, running around on the grass, and checking out the new arrivals to the duck pond. And Nugget had a blast watching his sister play.
One more time – happy birthday, little boy! You’re my heart’s joy and I hope you had a wonderful weekend. We loved celebrating you, and we’re so glad you’re here.