Just Read a Flippin’ Book, Gretchen!

Well, turns out I may just have a touch of the gift of foresight after all, because two of the things I predicted in my last post have indeed come true. First off, I am just as sore as I thought I would be after my mega workout on Monday. Yesterday, my legs felt like they weigh 100 pounds each, and my obliques were quick to remind me that they do, in fact, exist. Y’know. Because they hurt.

Ba-doom ching!

So I took yesterday off from the gym, and did a stretching routine at home instead. It actually worked out that I was too sore to work out, since Penny and I did not exactly have a night conducive to expending lots of energy at the gym. She slept terribly Monday night: tossing, turning, waking up, and crying out a lot more than usual. And then she just casually popped up and was SUPER AWAKE from 4 – 5:30 AM — chatting, playing, crying, and just generally keeping me (and only me -_-) up.

She did eventually fall back asleep (after several failed interventions of my own), and then proceeded to sleep in until 8:30! And on a daycare day no less (I usually try to drop her off around 8 so she can eat breakfast there.) After the night we had, though, I wasn’t about to dare try and wake the Kraken before she was ready. So I texted daycare that we’d be a little late, and after a hastily-fed, super healthy breakfast that consisted of two cherry tomatos and half of a tortilla, I finally got her there and hastened off to get some work done.

I met up with two of my coworkers, Mike & Kimberly, at Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, and between sips of my honey lavender latte and bites of proscuitto-gruyere quiche (sooooo good), I managed to put my nose to the grindstone and bang out quite a bit of work! Though it really shouldn’t, it still surprises me how productive and focused I can be when I get out of the house and work with intention. Even when Penny’s not there, it’s just so easy to get pulled away by different things at home — the dogs, laundry, dishes, etc. Another good reminder as to why I’m continuing to work towards figuring out a routine and carving out specific time (and apparently, space) for work.

After the three of us had put in a few hours of work, we headed to nearby Yayla Bistro for some lunch. We split a few appetizers, their mixed grill platter, and some salmon. It was all super delicious, and the portions were very generous (as were my coworkers for giving me the leftovers to take home, hehe.)

Mike had to hit the road after lunch, but Kimberly and I decided to get just a smidgen more done before daycare pickup called both of us away. We took a quick pitstop to pop into the independent bookstore across the street, and it was like a total breath of fresh air. I’d forgotten how much I love bookstores, love browsing, and, hello, love BOOKS!

It’s pretty shameful for me to admit, but aside from The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and Guide to Your Child’s First Year, I haven’t read an entire book in almost two years. Words are my lifeblood, so taking a step back to realize that’s the case is seriously sad. So I did my due diligence in supporting a local business and picked up a couple novels that I’ve been meaning to read since long before the movies came out (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Crazy Rich Asians), a parenting book that I’ve had bookmarked for a little while (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk — though a follower actually pointed out there’s a Little Kids version of this book that I think I’ll want to read first), and another one that caught my eye in the store (How to be a Happier Parent). And I’ve decided that the next item on the evidently unending list pertaining to Gretchen’s Total Life Renovation™ (lol) is to just start flipping reading again.

It sounds really simple, right? I mean, really it should be. I just need to unplug a little earlier each night. Instead of whittling my final moments before bed browsing the internet, scrolling through Instagram, or rewatching The Office YET AGAIN, I can read a chapter or two. But, of course, I think we all know that while something may sound easy in theory, it doesn’t always work out so smoothly in practice. Maybe the baby’s having trouble sleeping, or there are chores to finish, or maybe we just really, really want to finish writing a blog post (cough cough) instead. But hey, the point is to try, no? Hence why it’s called practice.

To help me with my goal of getting to the titles that I’ve long been piling onto my “To-Read” pile, a friend also suggested I dip my toe into audiobooks. I’ve never been a voracious consume of audiobooks (I used to feel like it was kind of pointless since I can read faster than they can speak, haha), but now that my life is basically just one constant frenzy of multitasking, the concept is very appealing. After all, I am now commuting into the city once a week(ish), and listening to an audiobook does allow me to do things like fold laundry or put away dishes while still allowing me to consume all those wonderful, beautiful words! So I’m taking Audible for a spin with a couple of free audiobooks I’m able to try out. I’m starting with Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, as well as Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life. (I feel like I really relate to both of these based on title alone.

So I’d say that yesterday was quite a productive day, all things considered. Let’s see if I’ll be able to successfully add another positive habit into the mix — I gotta admit, while I’m still going surprisingly strong with working out and taking my vitamins, my attempts to start my days with mindfulness and calm via guided meditation have been less successful. Ah well, tomorrow’s just another opportunity to practice again, right?

Weekend Update: Old Friends, Yelp, & Fitness

Oh hai there! I meant to get this posted this morning, but you know, Mondays.

This past weekend was a perfect blend of super busy and super chill — my favorite kind! Sunday we basically did nothing and that happens so rarely, I really soaked up all of the laziness. Saturday, on the other hand, was an awesome blur of meeting up with old friends, working a local festival for Yelp, all with my favorite little sidekick in tow!

Penny and I headed to one of my favorite Korean restaurants to meet up with my friends Megan and Steph — we all went to high school together in Taiwan! Steph lives in NYC and was in town for a friend’s wedding (Megan is local so we see each other more often), and it was such a pleasure catching up. Though, I dunno, I don’t really think we’ve changed that must since high school, do you?

After our delicious meatsweat-inducing lunch (wherein Penny ate ALL of the sesame beansprout banchan), we headed to a local festival where we had a special Yelp area set up inside of an empty storefront. Unfortunately, the glum and rainy weather made the festival a bit of a dud, but our room was pretty hoppin’ at least! And Penny was very popular as our unofficial Yelp mascot.

And before any of that even happened, we had a bit of an exciting morning (well, exciting for me, at least), as Penny seems to really be mastering being able to stand independently!

It takes all of my willpower not to scream with delight every time she stands, because when I do so it scares her and she immediately sits down. Hopefully (?) walking is right around the corner!

 

In other news, I had my first official personal training session at the gym last week, and she ran me through the ringer. She taught me some new moves that I’ve never done before, like goblet squats, and also gave me variations on old moves, like dumbbell curls and presses with one leg up, deadbug crunches, and stuff like that. She also encouraged me to use heavier weights than I ever do on my own, and I was surprised by the weights I was able to use!

I did the workout again this morning and somehow managed to push myself even harder than I did when working with my trainer (probably because she was taking the time to teach me the moves, versus me just running straight through the set), and I’m almost ashamed to admit how sore I already am. Maybe I really was lifting too heavy? I usually am most sore on the 2nd day, so I don’t even want to think about how I’m going to feel tomorrow… and the day after. -_-

I wanted to get in a couple more days of working out in before the hurricane potentially hits us later this week, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to much more than wince and stretch, lol.

Speaking of the weather, it’s been rainy, wet, and gloomy for the past several days, and it certainly doesn’t look like that’ll be letting up anytime soon thanks to impending Hurricane Florence. I went to the store ahead of the crowds and stocked up on some staples — I used to make fun of the people buying up milk before big storms because I just didn’t get why you would prioritize milk! But now I get it. Those people have kids. Penny goes through milk SO quickly now that we’ve transitioned her to whole milk, it’s insane. Saving money on formula but at the cost of our fridge space, haha.

 

Natural disasters aside, Autumn is my favorite season, so I’m definitely not upset with the cooler temps. I am just a little wistful that I still have so many cute summer outfits for Penny that she has yet to wear! I’ve still been putting her in them and then just throwing a hoodie over top, hahaha.

And that pretty much catches us up! I’ve been feeling really tired lately, so I’m worried that I’m on the verge of getting sick, which is not something I can afford right now. Between all my travel, and then Penny’s birthday and party, I really feel like I’ve been slipping work-wise, and so I’m trying very hard to put my nose to the grindstone and reprioritize that. Life as a working mom is a constant balancing act, and there really never do seem to be enough hours in the day! There’s probably a whole other blog post in that single sentence though, which if I’m already complaining about not having enough time, I certainly don’t have the time to dig into it right now. So I’ll save that for another time and, for now, bid you adieu!

Baby Stuff Recommendations: Months 8 – 12

Weellps, now that Penny is officially a whole year old, I figured it’s time for me to round out my recommendations in case you need more stuff to clutter up your house (no? only me?). Below is a list of some of the things Penny has loved most, I’ve loved most, or have just been really great (or really necessary!) as this little girl has continued to grow! I tried to find photos showcasing most of the items listed, but I have literally 18,000 photos on my phone at this point so I couldn’t dig out a good one for everything.

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I get a couple of cents thrown my way if you decide to purchase something. Feel free to check out my previous posts for recommendations for Months 1 – 3 and Months 3 – 8 too!

 

Large Nod Chair: Our 1st birthday gift to Penny was a soft foam toddler chair from Crate & Kids (formerly Land of Nod). She freaking LOVES it, and I think it’s pretty great except for the fact that she looks super grown up half the time she’s sitting in it. ::sob::

  

GB Pockit Stroller: I was in the market for a lightweight travel stroller, and picked up the GB Pockit on Prime Day. It’s more expensive than your average umbrella stroller, but it was worth every penny (pun absolutely intended)! It accommodates kids up to 55 lbs, but weighs only 9 lbs and folds up into this crazy small little cube. It’s so small, it easily fits in the overhead compartment on an airplane! The last time I traveled to Atlanta, I was able to wheel Penny directly onto the plane and to our seats — no more awkward shuffling, balancing, and trying to fold it down at the plane door before boarding! It does require two hands to collapse, but that will become much less annoying once Penny can stand up on her own.

 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max Convertible Car Seat: Another great online find, Maxi-Cosi was having a sale and I managed to get this carseat at sale price AND used a 20% off coupon at Buy Buy Baby. It’s really plush, and I love the magnetic chest clip that I can release with one hand. Installation was really easy too — I did it myself! — and it fits rear-facing in my little Ford Focus (and I can still fit in the passenger seat up front… it’s just a bit of a tight squeeze, lol.) The only negative is that the straps can be a little challenging to tighten.

 

That’s Not My… Book Series (Usborne Books): We admittedly don’t read to Penny as much as we probably should right now, but that’s because she has basically no attention for books at the moment… except these ones! The That’s Not My…” books from Usborne Books are interactive, short, and sweet. We have three of them: That’s Not My Unicorn, Puppy, and Fox.

V Tech Baby Babble and Rattle Microphone: If the way she uses this toy is any kind of predictor for the future, I think Penny’s destined to be a singer! She loves “singing” into the top of this fun microphone toy, which also comes with a ton of various sounds and songs thanks to the buttons. My only gripe? It has this wheel around the top that has a different animal sound each time you click it. Well, it makes animal sounds for all of the animals… except for the cat! Instead of making an actual cat-like sound, the toy actually says the WORD “meow!” It’s so random and inconsistent and, yes, I know, extremely inconsequential but it bothers me sooooo much for some reason.

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Puppy’s Remote: Another in the world of toys that make lots of sounds and drive you bananas is this toy remote. Penny loves clicking the buttons, and I will have this toy’s version of the ABC song stuck in my head for all eternity.

Sassy Wonder Wheel Activity Center: I stole this toy from my sister because Penny was so into it — it’s got a little suction thing on the bottom so it sticks to the ground or the tray of her high chair, which makes it perfect for distracting her while I’m, say, finishing preparing her lunch.

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Playskool Play Favorites Busy Poppin’ Pals: Penny fell in LOVE with this toy when visiting my sister, and was lucky enough to be gifted one for her birthday! She thinks that shutting the little animal thingies down on this toy is the best thing ever, and is just starting to make the connection on how to press the buttons and flip the switches to open them back up again so hopefully that means she’ll still enjoy it for a while yet.

  

Silicon Bibs and the Bumkins Silicone Suction Plate: Mealtime with babies is a messy, messy affair (even when you’ve got a squadron of miniature schnauzer vacuums on constant patrol). When we were feeding her mostly purees, I liked the thin, flimsy, velcro-style bibs, but now that she’s dropping food down her front like she’s getting paid for it, silicon bibs with a much stiffer little area to catch food are a must for us. I also love this Bumkins plate because it suctions to the table so she can’t mess with it as easily, and is a divided plate which helps remind me to make sure her meals are balanced and varied.

 

Summer Infant Pop N’ Sit Booster: Perfect for taking to the grandparents’ place, when visiting a friend, and even just to set up outdoors on a picnic. The tray it comes with is quite narrow, but the whole thing is really compact when folded and comes in a little carrying case, making it perfectly portable.

 

Mac Sports Collapsible Folding Outdoor Utility Wagon: So I don’t actually own this myself YET, but my sister does and I gotta say it is basically the best thing you can get for yourself if you like to go to the pool, park, or beach with your kiddo. We all know that kids require like 28453485 things anytime you go anywhere for any period of time, and you can load up so much stuff into this wagon — including your kid — but it doesn’t take up every molecule of space in your trunk. I’ll 100% be getting one for next summer.

 

Baby Bling Bows: Baby Bling Bows have turned me into a total bow snob. Nothing else compares to the softness, the stretchiness, the doesn’t-leave-a-dent-in-her-head-ness (and the stays-on-her-head-ness, for that matter!) Their “thing” is that they’re so stretchy, anyone can wear them from newborn babes to adults! I can personally attest to this being true, haha. And if they get stretched out? Just toss ’em in the dryer and they shrink right back down. I’m a big, big fan and we’ve amassed quite a collection now.

Philips AVENT Powder Formula Dispenser and Snack Cup: Once we started giving Penny formula, I quickly found how annoying it was to either have to pack a plastic baggy + measuring scoop, or pre-make her formula when out and about. So I picked up this little formula dispenser, and it solved all my problems! It has 3 separate compartments and a lid with a small opening that easily rotates to whichever compartment you need to access. You pre-measure your formula powder, then just pop the lid and pour out when you need to. I was able to make bottles one-handed on airplanes this way! And the nice thing is that the 3-part compartment part is removable, so even though Penny no longer needs formula, it can still be used as a cereal or snack cup.

Baby Care Play Mat: Seen in basically every photo shown above, this play mat has been a great investment. It’s incredibly, incredibly cushy, and has protected our clumsy little princess’s perfect face after many a cringeworthy faceplant. Hat tip to my friend Anna for introducing me to it!

Skip Hop & Munchkin Snack Cups: Snack cups are a must for us since Penny doesn’t have the dexterity or coordination yet to reliably take snacks out of a ziplock bag or anything like that without making a colossal mess. We have two different kinds, and I like them both. Skip Hop’s is great because it comes with a lid, which makes tossing it your bag and taking it on the go very easy and practical. However, the Munchkin ones are much easier for her to use, as the flaps are much bigger and thus Penny was able to master it much more quickly.

And in case you don’t want to have to read all the way through my previous baby product reccommendations, here are some MVP items that I think are worth mentioning again:

 

Munchkin Weighted Straw Sippy Cup: Penny took to straws super quickly thanks to this great cup. It’s still her sippy of choice! They really are spill-proof for the most part (although I did have an issue on a plane once of water coming up and out of the straw due to the pressure change), and they prevent her from gunning her water or milk too quickly (and thus just spitting it all right out, haha.)

Hatch Baby Rest Night Light and Sound Machine: Just get it. Even if you already have a sound machine. It’s so great, so easy to set up, you can control it physically on the unit or from your phone via Bluetooth, and it just works soooo well for her. When Penny is in a toddler bed I am 100% planning on utilizing it as an Okay to Wake light, too!

 

Fisher Price Crawl Around Car: Penny seems to go through phases of being obsessed with this car and pretty much ignoring it, lol, but it was still a great investment because as she continues to grow, she finds new ways to play with it and get enjoyment from it. When we first got it, Penny was all about the horn and radio buttons, and right now she’s really into the ball maze thing that’s built into the side. It’s also been great for her to cruise on, and my nieces and nephew (5, 3, and 1) were also obsessed with it when they were visiting!

V Tech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker: She’s been into playing with this from the day we got it and it’s a great height for her to use to stand, push, and practice walking. I just wish we had more open space in our house for her to really charge ahead with it! It’s also pretty annoying for anyone who isn’t a baby or toddler, because Old McDonald is not exactly an earworm I love having stuck in my head, but if she loves it, hey, who am I to stop her?

The First Years Stack Up Cups: These cups continue to be the MMMMMVP of baby toys. They cost like, $4 and yet even after months and months and months she still pulls these suckers out of her toy bin first!

 

Freshly Picked Soft Soled Baby Moccasins: If you see a photo of Penny, more than likely she has these moccs on her tootsies. Don’t come at me with how ridiculous it is to put shoes on a non-walking baby, believe me, I am ohhhhh so fully aware. I just can’t bring myself to stop — they’re my favorite! They’re always coming out with new patterns and colors, and they’re soft and fully flexible so she still has full range of motion and can feel & grip the ground with her little tootsies. This is especially great for when we practice walking outside (or anywhere that I wouldn’t want her to be barefoot.) Plus, now that she IS standing and cruising and ugh-she’s-just-so-very-close-to-walking, she’s starting to make the cutest little imprint of her foot on the leather on the bottom of some of her pairs — I dieeeee!

Cuddle + Kind Knit Dolls: Penny’s greatest love in this world is not, in fact, Sean or myself, but her stuffed unicorn, Zoe. She falls asleep stroking her mane every night and tries to drag her out of her crib every morning. She loves her so much, I had a panic attack thinking that we might one day lose or damage her, so I had to buy another one as a backup! Cuddle + Kind dolls are quite pricey, but they are individually handmade, fully knit (no buttons, eyes, or small parts to come off in little mouths) and the company has a wonderful mission where every purchase provides meals for children in need. They are well-made (Zoe goes through quite a lot with Penny, haha), but if there ever is any issue, the company’s customer service is also outstanding. I had gotten another one of their dolls for Penny that ended up having part of its ear unravel, and they replaced it tout suite, no questions asked.

All right! I think that just about covers everything I can think of at the moment, but if there are any types of things that I haven’t mentioned here or in my previous posts and you have questions, let me know! My entire life is just one gigantic overflowing pile of Penny’s junk at this point, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Question: Did you have a security item / lovey as a kid? I was pretty traditional and had a good ol’ fashioned security blanket… that I’m pretty sure just ended up disintegrating from overuse.

Penny’s Birthday Weekend: Part 3 (Baptism & Beyond!)

I bet you thought that the neverending tale of Penny’s Birthday Weekend had ended with the conclusion of her birthday party, didn’t ya? Well, you thought WRONG. Because this weekend had one final special family event to give before it would be over, and a doubly-special one at that: Penny’s and her new baby cousin Marjorie’s baptisms!

Hot dang, these family photos just get harder and harder to nail, don’t they? Ahahahahaha.

 

We took full advantage of the fact that my sister and her family were in town for the long weekend and had both babies baptized while they were here. Quite necessary, actually, since my sister and brother-in-law are both Penny’s AND Marnie’s godparents! We couldn’t let the fact that Marjorie and my sister share their birthday pass us by, after all!

I was lucky enough to have an old friend from middle school and a family friend catch some action shots of Penny’s baptism. She was a super wiggly squirmy worm during the church service (which took place exactly during when she would have normally been having her morning nap), but was a total champ as soon as we got up there for her actual christening. You can see me getting choked up (surprise, surprise) in the third picture below, haha:

  

After the service concluded, we headed with some family friends to a different part of the church for a really nice post-baptism brunch that my mom put together. The church even had set up a kid’s table with kid-sized chairs and everything! It was super cute, and Penny looooooved feeling like a big girl next to her cousins (with some bracing from Grandpa for security, hahaha.)

 

There was a spread of mediterranean food, a ham, some mom also got cakes for both Marnie and Penny from Whole Foods — they were so good! Marnie’s was vanilla with strawberries in between the layers of cake, and Penny’s was chocolate. We were able to repurpose a few of the leftover cookies from Penny’s party at the brunch as well, hehe.

 

My family all went back to my parents’ house after brunch and just hung out for the rest of the day (Penny & Alex took some seriously epic naps) and then Sean cooked us all a big Korean feast for dinner that night.

 

I was certainly glad to be able to just chill out and decompress for the rest of the day — all of the emotional and significant events of weekend definitely depleted some of my energy stores. But I rallied enough to head back to Falls Church the following day, since my sister and her family were flying home Monday evening.

  

Rolling 5 adults, 2 kids, and 2 babies deep, we descended upon our favorite sushi restaurant and was finally able to introduce Penny to my favorite food! Even better, she loved it! She ate like 4 entire pieces out of a variety of rolls, tasting a bunch of brand new flavors and textures. I was absolutely thrilled! I know that it’s entirely likely she will end up becoming super picky like most toddlers, but I’m definitely going to take advantage of what a great eater she is for as long as I can!

 

It was so much fun eating out with all the kiddos, but admittedly pretty stressful, too. I was glad that A) we were at a family-friendly place, B) they know us well (we are frequent patrons of Koi Koi, heh) and C) we ate so early that nobody else was there when we got there, because we brought with us not a small amount of chaos. I was totally that mom sweeping up piles of rice and smooshed avocado with my napkin, lol.

 

Finally, after we said goodbye to my sister’s contingent of the family (sniff!), Penny and I headed back home where I finally had to start organizing and cleaning up all of the post-party pandemonium. My entire house had just become like a landing zone for semi-deflated balloons and donut-shaped party paraphernalia. One fun thing we got to do, however, was open up all of Penny’s birthday presents! Our friends were definitely all waaaaaay too generous, and she now has a huge collection of new books, clothes, and toys that will bring her (and her mommy, lol) lots of enjoyment for a loooong time.

 

Multiple folks have advised not to open all of her new toys right away, so as to stretch them out (swapping out toys for new ones to maintain interest and excitement, etc.) So I was actually able to exercise a modicum of uncharacteristic self-restraint here, and have put aside a pile of her new goodies to bring out in the future. Couldn’t resist ripping open a few though, including the Little People Disney Princess Wheelies Castle set that Penny’s Grandma got her though — she loves them and has already figured out that the little cars are supposed to go at the top of the castle! My smart little cookie.

And that really does bring us up to the end of our fantastic, crazy, amazing Labor Day Weekend! And as you can see, labor there was, haha. But it was all 1000% worth it to celebrate our equally fantastic, crazy, amazing little Penny.

Penny’s Birthday Weekend: Part 2 (Her Party!)

All right, and we’re back! Last we left off, my family and I all had a fun, busy day together for Penny’s birthday last Thursday, and then Friday was spent deep in prep mode for her big birthday bash. Now, most of you are aware, I think, that my job with Yelp involves not a small amount of event planning and hosting. So it should come as no surprise to you that I wanted to put in a, er, bit of effort for Penny’s big bash.

Which, fine, I fully admit was really more of a party for Sean and myself than for her, as she the memory of an canary. And okay, okay, the party wasn’t even really that much for Sean, since he would have probably been happy if we’d hung out in our pajamas, given her a cupcake, and watched Mother Good Club with her for an hour to celebrate. BUT I DIGRESS.

The theme for Penny’s birthday was “Donut Grow Up,” which was incredibly fun and made it entirely too easy for me to go overboard with. Donuts are the new cupcakes, what can I say!?

I tried to infuse some special Penny-related touches wherever I could, including having photos from her donut smash photoshoot on each table, a photo mosaic of all the Outfit of the Day photos I’ve taken of her over the past year as her guestbook, and a fun little game that honored our “Lucky Penny” where guests could take a guess at how many pennies were stuffed inside a big ol’ mason jar (the winner won a donut-shaped pool float).

 

The party was from 3 – 5, so we didn’t serve up a full meal, but had a big spread of various snacks: veggies, popcorn, Pirate’s Booty, watermelon, chicken nuggets (dino shaped ones, natch), spanakopita, cheese & crackers, chips & salsa, and, of course, a kazillion donuts!

I got these cute milk bottles from Oriental Trading Company and dipped the tops in frosting and sprinkles — this was one party prep task that was actually really fun, and that my 5-year-old niece Mia was able to help with, too. 🙂

I ordered savory Everything Bagel donuts from a local company, B Doughnut, and they were absolutely one of the biggest hits of the party! They come stuffed with lox, chives, or bacon, and are amaaaazing.

 

For the sweet donuts & donut holes I just hit up our local Dunkin Donuts, and to complete our offering of “hole foods” (get it?), I also set out some plain Cheerios as well as Kellogg’s Donut Shoppe cereals.

Penny’s smash cake was done by the same lovely bakery that made Sean’s and my wedding cake, Simply Desserts! It was adorable and really tasty — as you’ll see further down in this post, Penny was an extremely dainty cake eater, haha, so I definitely still got to enjoy a slice later.

And finally, I ordered cookies from this fantastic local cookie decorator, Tiny Tudor Cookies, who did the most INCREDIBLE job. She made cookies that said “Penny” and “Donut Grow Up” in a beautiful calligraphy, “1” cookies with icing and sprinkles at the top, donut cookies, and a totally amazing cake-shaped cookie that had a banner on top that said “One.” They were seriously SO beautiful, it was almost a shame to eat them. These were also the favors for guests to take home as they left the party (and luckily I still have several leftover sitting in their packaging for me to lovingly stare at every time I go into the kitchen.)

We held the party at the community center located near my house, so it wasn’t too terrible carting everything over for the party. One of my more brilliant ideas was bringing Penny’s Crawl Around Car and inflatable pool, the latter of which I turned into a small ball pit for the party.

 

It was the best thing EVER! There were a ton of babies and young kids in attendance — this party really highlighted how many mommy friends I have, for which I’m insanely grateful! Between local Facebook groups, the Peanut app (it’s like Tinder for moms!), and just the fact that I’m 30 and am squarely in this season of life, Penny has so many little friends out there. The kiddos all pretty much hung out near the ball pit area, playing and socializing for most of the party. It made me so happy!

 

 

Another fun element was the digital photobooth that my brother was able to set up for us.

And, of course, the main event for the party was our little Princess Penny digging into her cake. Well, okay, she didn’t really dig in as much as kind of, er, delicately nibble. I had to get in there and break a piece of the cake off for her before she really started nomming away, haha.

I also got a little emotional right beforehand (who, me?), as this whole party really did feel like the culmination of what has been the most beautiful and most disruptive year of our lives. Penny turning a year old just felt, you know, significant. And I was really floored by all the love and support I received from all our wonderful friends and family members — throughout the entire year, of course, but in particular during the party.

 

So, yes, Penny’s birthday party was indeed a rousing success! It was really fun and really special and really memorable… and really a LOT of work, haha. There are so many people to thank for helping it all come together, especially my brother-in-law Dan for being the MVP who helped me set up all of the tables and chairs, my siblings and my friend Courtney for helping me decorate, my mom and my friend Ratanak for helping cook and replenish food throughout the party, and all the people who helped clean up, including my Uncle Allan, his girlfriend Lyuba, my cousin Sidney, and our friends Bre & Lance.

I’m really, really glad I did it up big and bold for our gorgeous girl’s first bash, but it’s not something I’m terribly eager to repeat next year, I must admit. We’ll see how I feel a year from now, but at this moment I’m thinking that paying for a play place to let a gaggle of crazy 2-year-olds run around for a couple hours sounds just about right, hahaha.

I know she won’t remember any of this, but I will carry around the memories of this day for the rest of my life. And I like to think about how one day Penny will be able to look back on these great photos that Ben & Taylor took, see how much fun and happiness she inspired, and see how very loved she has always been.