Wednesday, December 8, 2010

on the day you were born... (Elli turns two)

"The day you were born is the day
G-d decided that the world could
not exist without you."
~Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

I must say... I love birthday parties! (and weddings, baby showers, and all kinds of celebrations).... And as a mom, I love planning my little girl's birthday parties to make her feel special. Although I know in my heart that no matter what, she would be happy, even with a few balloons and a cake, I like to go above and beyond (and hopefully will be able to continue when our family grows). I enjoy making things personalized for her, party favors, games... all of that! No matter how many hours, weeks, or months it takes to complete, after a party I always look forward to the next one! As a rule, I start by picking a theme, and then visit which has loads of creative ideas posted by creative moms, and you can search by age and theme, so that has been a springboard for me to get my creative wheels turning.

treat boxes for the kids

For Elli's second birthday, the theme was: Safari/Jungle Animals, which she was thrilled about because she loves animals of all kinds. I had been wanting to do an animal party probably even before she was born, because I saw the cute things they had at with "zoo animals" on them. That is where I ordered the treat boxes, bubbles, paper binoculars, and inflatable animal beach balls that I gave to the children there. I also found noisemakers and little Jungle Animal coloring book/crayon sets on clearance at Party City.
It has become a family tradition to have an annual "Elli Bingo" game at her parties. At her first birthday party, it was great fun and also a creative way to let people know about the things going on in her life at the time. All of the bingo questions are about the birthday girl, and people shouted out answers so I could say who was right, and then they mark it on their bingo card, which I made by printing out some blank Bingo templates (google it) and writing in the answers in different boxes on each card. I prepared "level two" Bingo for this year's party, but because we had the party in a multi-level house (and it was a big-game football Sunday), it was too difficult to get everyone on the same page and together for the game, but I recommend it. It lets everyone know about the child and it's a lot of fun! We also have a coloring contest (this year's picture featured Elli, which I made and printed at

safari checklist for little ones
For the little ones this year, I made up a "backyard safari," which would have been perfect in Florida, but it was very chilly outside on the day of the party, so we didn't stay out there long! The toddlers loved it though, and they had fun "finding" the play animals and objects that I placed around the backyard while looking through their safari binoculars. The birthday girl, however, was not impressed. I think she was just tired and cold by that point. But all in all, it was fun and a success.

the little ones & mommies on safari (there's a tiger inside the fence)
Elli bingo questions and game sheet
Because our family parties usually involve having a lot of adults and not a lot of little kids, I like to give something to the adults to remember the party, too. This year, my sister-in-law helped me put together these "Safari Snack Mixes" in snack sized zipper bags. I made up a little poem to go along with what was in the bag that went like this:
Safari Snack Mix
Everyone knows that peanuts are loved by elephants;

but in a wild herd they actually eat fruits and plants.
With all those teeth, crocodiles give goldfish quite a bite;
And like these mini Oreos, zebras are black and white!    
Monkeys love all kinds of fruit, like bananas and even raisins;
and African lions eat anything they can catch grazin’. 
Ever wonder what happens when giraffes hug and kiss?
 If they’re not careful, they’ll end up tangled like these pretzel twists.
Today we celebrate Elli’s second birthday, and she loves all animals and crackers; Hope you enjoy this special day as you eat these safari snackers.!

(To be safe, I left out the peanuts and pretzels of the bags that I gave the toddlers. )

The pictures were ordered from which has prints for $.09 each and the safari animal border was free. We stapled the picture and the poem to each side, with the bag in the middle.

everyone got a safari snack mix & picture of Elli
Unlike last year, I decided to decorate the cake myself this year, which was an exciting adventure! With some help from my husband, I made a safari scene on a sheet cake using some plastic trees and rocks from a safari set I bought at Target, animals from the Little People Noah's Ark Playset (which was one of Elli's gifts), a picture of Elli glued onto a safari jeep sticker (from safari sticker scenes from stuck into the cake on a popsicle stick, and some frosting (blue gel for water and chocolate sprinkles for dirt). We were very impressed with how it came out:
close-up of Elli in jeep


The birthday girl was very excited to see the cake for the first time, so I was pleased with my work. I got the "oh wow" from her that I was looking for. (:O) Other than this, the party was typical, with balloons, gifts, and eating lots of food, etc. One more thing that I strive to do is to put together a slide show of pictures from the last year to remind everyone of how much our baby has grown, and that a birthday is meant to celebrate the gift of life. (I'm actually still putting the final touches on this year's slideshow and there wasn't really a way for everyone to see it at the party anyway, but I'll figure it out.)

As our family grows, bizrat HaShem, I can't guarantee that I will be able to keep up with these insanely personal (and time-consuming for preparations) parties, but I will certainly try my best to make each one feel unique and extra special. It is really a pleasure to me, no matter how much work I put into it. Perhaps there's a future for me in planning birthday parties! The most important thing to remember is that birthdays are not about spending money and receiving gifts, but rather celebrating the uniqueness that each child has to offer the world, and that can be celebrated in many, many ways! So have fun with it!