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.

Penny’s Birthday Weekend: Part 1 (Her Birthday!)

HOLY MOLY. What a weekend!

Between all the fun we had on Penny’s actual birthday, her party, and her baptism the day after that, we really packed a LOT into this Labor Day Weekend, I tell you what. And yes, it probably goes without saying that I am absolutely, thoroughly, completely exhausted. But, it should also go without saying that, yes, it was worth it. My sister and her whole family came into town for the weekend festivities, and we just had a whole lot of awesome family togetherness in celebration of our little Princess Penny.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

On Thursday morning, Sean and I both went in to greet the birthday girl with balloons and lots of cheer. She was definitely thrown off a bit by the morning greeting (normally, Sean has already left at work by the time she wakes up), but got into the spirit very quickly!

I’m so ridiculous, I even made a conscious effort to ensure I was wearing my own donut jammies to match hers. And I’m going to go ahead and say I was approximately 1084% more excited about the fact that it was her birthday than she was… she did like playing with the balloons tho.

 

Sean left for work, and I fed Penny breakfast, got her changed, and then we headed into Falls Church to meet up with the rest of my family (minus my brother-in-law and Mia, who flew in Friday evening because Mia’s in — gasp! — real school now.)

 

Then my dad, my sister, and I (plus Penny, Kira, and Alex) all hopped on the Metro and took a jaunt into the city to visit the National Building Museum! They had a really cool exhibit called Fun House going on this summer (sadly its last day was September 3rd), and it was a total kiddo paradise.

 

Penny and Alex were definitely on the young side to be able to appreciate all of the element of Fun House, but they still had a great time — and Kira had the time of her life!

 

The whole exhibit was kind of like a cool, architectural, playhouse twist on the idea of house and home, with different rooms and different fun spins on the things that exist in a house.

One of the biggest draws of the Fun House exhibit was the giant pool in the “backyard,” which was like 5 feet deep and filled with thousands and thousands of ball pit balls. I tried not to think about all of the thousands of people who had been in that ball pit prior to us, and jumped in with both feet (literally).

 
Instagram vs. Reality

And there’s some kind of metaphor for motherhood here, I can feel it:

 

After our time at the Fun House (which already left me feeling pretty wiped — getting out of an adult-sized ballpit is no small feat!), we had a quick lunch nearby at Bantam King and then headed home.

We got the babies down for an epic nap (and even Kira fell asleep!), hung out for a bit, and eventually saddled everyone up to head back out. This time, to the mall!

Build-A-Bear Workshops has a promotion where if you bring your child in during the month of their birthday, you can pay their age (!) for a special birthday bear! Hey, a $1 bear? Sign me up! My whole family and I (including Ben, Taylor, and Marjorie this time) met up with Sean at Tysons Corner, and then all went together to get Penny’s first Build-A-Bear together! (I think when the whole Powell-Robinson-Fox clan rolled up into the BAB, three strollers deep, I think the girls behind the register got a little panicked, hahahaha.)

 

I was planning on just getting her the plain $1 birthday bear, but Penny’s PoPo (the Chinese term for Maternal Grandmother, pronounced “Paw Paw”) wanted to trick out her bear, so this bear went home with some unicorn jammies and a song inside! Thanks PoPo!

  

Finally, we ended the already epic day with a family dinner at the Nordstrom Cafe, where Penny feasted on a birthday dinner of grilled salmon, green beans, roasted potatoes, and the fluffy insides of all my bread rolls. And we all slept hard that night!

Much of Friday was spent running errands and prepping for the party that would be happening the next day. I was feeling pretty anxious about all the things I wanted to get done, but managed to sneak in a very quick (and lazy, lol) workout at the gym and also slipped away to enjoy a ladies’ night out with my sister and our friends Anne & Lara!

I’d been looking for an occasion to check out Cheesetique’s newest location in Mosaic, and this was the perfect night for it! Four baby-free mamas out on the town? Hot diggity dog! My cocktail & the food we shared (which was like, twice as much as what’s even pictured below, hahahaha) was all excellent — if you’re local and looking for a great spot, I definitely recommend. Get the tot poutine and thank me later!

 

And that brings us up to Saturday which, of course, was party day! But since Penny’s birthday party comes with a whole truckload of photos and details in and of itself, and this post has already turned into quite a lengthy one, I think I’ll save it for tomorrow. Hope everyone has had a somewhat smooth transition back into the week after the long weekend! See you on the flipside!

Penny: Twelve Months Old

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the sappy emotional post out of the way, I think it’s time we round off one amazing year of Penny updates, don’t you?

Today, my little bean is twelve months old. This is sometimes referred to as ONE YEAR OLD! Gah!!!!

That’s right, kiddo. Throw those hands in the air like you just don’t care. We have successfully kept an actual human child alive for 365 days. 365 sunrises and 365 sunsets and 365 sleeps and 365 wakes and holy crap, if that isn’t just the coolest, craziest thing!

I know, kid. Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you.

Penny stands 30″ tall and weighs 21 lbs, 14 oz. That puts here in the 86th and 82nd percentiles for height and weight, respectively. She’s in 12-18 month clothing, size 4 diapers, and is just about to grow out of a size 3 shoe. Looks like I’m gonna be allowed to buy more baby shoes soon! Hehe.

While she has taken her first unassisted step (!!), she’s not really walking yet, but she certainly doesn’t let that stop her from getting into all sorts of trouble! 😉 I thought our friendly nugget would be a Hufflepuff like mama, but this little daredevil definitely has a Gryffindor spirit. Climbing up sofa backs, cruising and crawling into and under and around every piece of furniture, descending from armchairs without hesitation… she’s fearless!

We have officially transitioned her from formula to whole cow’s milk, and she hasn’t had any issues with the change, so we remain as lucky as ever when it comes to our great little eater! She’s still got just the two teeth, and her current favorite foods are french toast, bananas, meatballs, tomatoes, and, to no one’s surprise, DONUTS!

She’ll finally pay attention to the TV for a hot second, but really only if Mother Goose Club is playing, hehe. Her favorite songs are “Wheels on the Bus,” “Hey, Mister Sun,” “Baby Shark,” and “Freight Train,” which of course means I am slowly being driven insane because once these songs enter your ear, THEY NEVER LEAVE. My brain’s lullaby to me every night is “Mommy SHARK DOO DOO DOO-DOO DOO-DOO.” -_-

Regardless, I think it’s pretty clear that Penny continues to thrive, and we just couldn’t be prouder or happier with the beautiful, sociable, happy, kind, smart little TODDLER she is becoming. Happy birthday, Princess! We love you!!!

Feeling nostalgic? You can see all her previous growth updates here: 1 week, 4 weeks1 month2 months11 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months, and 11 months. Whew!

Dear Penny: Happy First Birthday

Dear Penny,

I lived for 29 years before I knew you. 29 years as a daughter, sister, friend. 29 years learning and growing and trying to be a mostly good person… at least as much as a self-focused, immensely self-absorbed person can be.

29 years before you took your first breath.

The breath that changed everything. Turned my whole world on its axis. Suddenly and swiftly cut my entire life into two very distinct, very separate parts: before you, and after you. And I can barely even remember what it was like before. Not to say that my life prior to becoming your mother didn’t matter, or wasn’t important, of course it was. But it’s just memories and feelings, and you’re here, real, vibrant, and alive.

Your existence brings every moment of my life into sharper focus (aside from all the foggy, forgotten things that have been lost due to mom brain, that is.) I see the joy in our daily lives with so much more clarity, and I feel the sadnesses of the world much more heavily. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you have made me a better person. After 29 years of laziness, inaction, and lots of talk but little follow-through, you make me want to better our world. To implement change — in myself, in our lives together, in the world as a whole.

You opened my heart in a way I never knew was possible, and you cut the very ties that bound me to my selfish way of thinking.

Your birth changed me in the most incredible, most unpredictable, best possible way. I know, I know, it’s all just so cheesy. This next bit possibly being the worst offender. It’s ridiculous to say aloud, let alone type and chronicle forever in the hallowed halls of the internet. But you will come to learn very quickly (if you don’t already know) that your mama is one of the most ridiculous people you’ll ever meet. And I dunno, I just kind of… own it.

August 30th, 2017 was the day you were born, but it was the day I was reborn.

This has been the absolute best year of my entire life. Yes, it’s also been the craziest, most challenging, humbling, overwhelming, frustrating, all-in-all incredible year, but I wouldn’t trade a single second of it. Seeing you change, grow, learn… it’s the most beautiful thing, and I’ve had the extreme blessing of being able to witness almost every single second of it with you.

You are so, so, so incredibly loved. Happy birthday, baby.