Perhaps all of those rainy afternoons of watching the Food Network with me has finally rubbed off on my daughter. She’s been entertaining us with her own “cooking show” a lot lately, so I thought I’d get it on film. I edited this after she went to bed last night, and I can’t wait to show it to her.
A couple things to note:
1. We had just finished playing with a face painting kit Everly got for her birthday, hence all the fun face decor.
2. I told Everly she could start using a butter knife when she turned four. This was literally her first experience with one and for timing sake, I had to cut out about four minutes of her slowly sawing that poor piece of bread. I tried so hard to stifle my giggles -it was the cutest thing! Last night I let her chop the garlic for spaghetti and she did a great job, so she’s picking up her knife skills pretty quick!
3. She has asked me every day when I am available to film her next show. So it’s possible these might become a little series. I’m totally following her lead here - I have no idea what she might want to make next!
My girl is four. Four sounds so officially “little girl” to me. I have watched my daughter grow from an infant to a toddler to a preschooler, and now when we cuddle up together, I can barely believe she was ever the tiny babe I study in photographs. As the years have gone by, her birthday has been something I’ve tried to make really special and specific because it comes right on the heels of Christmas. I never want her special day to get lost in the blur of the holidays.
This year, we started talking about what kind of party she would like to have back in the fall. Everly’s very favorite bedtime story is The Princess and the Pea. We have read it together so many times that both of us can recite the words with our eyes closed. When she told me she wanted a princess party, I wasn’t surprised. The princess phase has been a long one in this house. ”I want princesses like in the pea book and a tea party!” She told me. So off I went to figure out just what that might look like.
Everly had been in a state of anticipation since we took down on our Christmas tree. She knew her birthday was next on the list and she could not wait to celebrate.
This year, we nixed the monster sized party we usually host for a small get together with a few of her little friends. Five girls and their mothers came over last Saturday morning to celebrate.
We hosted it upstairs in our playroom and I pulled out all of the random, mix-matched china that I’ve collected over the years.
I was able to reuse a ton of stuff from last year, including some of the big tissue paper flowers and the Happy Birthday banner. The tissue paper centerpiece, tulle banners and all of the fun costumejewelry came from BirthdayExpress.com. For her party, I bought some different clearance section fabrics at my local fabric store and wrapped books up to look like a stack of mattresses. I made a little pillow, blanket and ladder to complete the look. I also used the remaining fabric scraps to make the fabric banner over the window.
Everly requested “pink lemonade cupcakes”. I’m not much of a baker and had no idea how to make them, so I decided to use yellow cake mix and add strawberries to it. I made homemade lemon curd buttercream on top and decorated them with little gummy “mattresses” (from trader joes) and “peas” (green chocolate sixlet candies) and paper cutout princesses from Meri Meri.
I had two crafts set up for the girls. The first was a decorate your own crown with rhinestone stickers and the second was stringing “pea” beads onto a bracelet. The girls loved the crowns but they weren’t really interested in making the bracelets.
I kept the menu to kid friendly foods - turkey, ham or chicken salad sandwiches, orzo and pea pasta salad, fruit wands, kettle korn, and carrots with dip. We served sparkling pink punch to drink (pomegranate juice & sparkling pink lemonade). It was so nice having the moms there because each could make a plate for her little girl and help supervise the meal. The girls had so much fun toasting one another while they ate.
For the grown ups, I served champagne and strawberries and we ate while the girls finished up their meals. We also had Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen tunes blasting the whole time.
Each little friend came over wearing her favorite princess look. It was so adorable to see them all, gathered around the table together in sparkles and tiaras. Everly’s beautiful princess dress is available here. (She has worn it nearly every day since)
We sang happy birthday to Everly and then gathered around for story time. The Princess and The Pea book version that Everly and I usually read is really short and to the point, but while searching around on Amazon, I found a Princess and the Pea story that had awesome reviews and gorgeous photos (here). I bought it, thinking it would be great to read at her party. Turns out it was WAY to wordy for the group and one by one, the girls wandered off to play during the story.
About four pages in, I was cracking up that there was only one little girl and all of the moms paying attention, so I paraphrased the rest of the book as quickly as possible. They all cheered loudly as I said, “THE END!!”
My friend Amaree is a beautiful violinist. She is the reason that Everly has become smitten with the instrument. Amaree graciously agreed to play a few “royal ball” songs for the group and that had Everly scurring off to get her own violin so that she could play along. It was the cutest thing to have Am playing these beautiful classical songs while Everly’s little violin was scratching along next to her. At the end of the performance, both girls took a bow.
One group picture before the fun ended. I think the moms had as much fun as the girls! We sent each little princess home with a goody bag full of jewels, a tiara pen, and a scented lip smackers chapstick.
We continued the party later that evening, with a big pot of chili and tea party leftovers with family.
The next morning Everly draped herself across my legs and looked up at me. “Mama,” she said, “yesterday was the best day of my life.”
While all the princess party decor was fun, I know the real reason for her joy was being surrounded by so many people that love her. What a wonderful day to celebrate our sweet girl.
As much as Natasha and I love one another, it is often our girls who push us to put our busy lives aside and take the time to just be together. Mylah and Everly hound us incessantly to see each other. The way they greet one another every single time they meet is like watching puzzle pieces snap into place. They run at full speed, arms open and calling out in high pitched joy. Two parts of a whole, finally reunited.
I don’t know what the years ahead hold for them and I can only imagine all the ways their friendship with change and shift as they grow up - but I am certain they will always love each other in a way few people ever get the chance to experience. They were sisters to one another even before they knew their own siblings. One day they will realize what a gift they have been given - to know another soul so thoroughly, to love them so tremendously from the very start of your life.
Our nation’s birthday is also Everly’s half birthday, and with a birth date so close to Christmas, we make it a point to celebrate the halfway point each summer. We sang happy birthday and presented her with a cupcake and a small, special gift. This year the day included a pink cupcake complete with a little princess crown.
I asked Everly if three and a half felt different than three and she said yes. I asked her how and she said she knew bigger words now, like “Behold”. I told her that it also meant she was getting too tall for all of her dresses. “Well, that’s good news!” she said back.
It is good news. How lucky we all are to watch her grow.
I helped her pull her arms through the soft pink leotard with a little lump in my throat. The moment felt important. Soon after, she stood on our front porch, arm on her hip and as I clicked the button on my camera, I knew I was capturing so much more than a photo.
Everly’s first ballet class.
She has been waiting for this moment for over a year. I searched high and low until I could find a dance studio that had a weekend class for three year olds. Most of them only offered classes on weekday mornings and with my work schedule, I wasn’t going to miss a single one.
She had received some dance gear for her third birthday and she loved dressing up in tights, leotard, tiny leg warmers. It was when we tried to put on her brand new ballet slippers that I realized they were already too small for her. In January, her aunt Janet gave the slippers to her, purposefully buying a half size too big so that she would have plenty of room to grow and they still didn’t fit. We put on a pair of little white shoes in her closet that would have to suffice until I got her a bigger size.
If ever there was a reason to blog - to capture all the little moments - it’s the constant reminder that this stage - my tiny, pink-clad girl with her hair piled high on her head - will be gone before I’m even done soaking her in.
We got to the studio and Everly followed the little group of girls into the room where her class would take place. The teacher announced they would be learning ballet and tap. For some reason I had missed the tap dancing part on the class description when we signed up. While Everly participated, I spoke with the receptionist and learned there was a box of used dance shoes in the corner of the waiting area. I dug through and found a pair of little tap shoes in great condition, a whole size larger than she wears now and was tickled to pay only $5 for them. Let’s hope that she grows slowly enough that they last her through the summer.
When it comes to dance ability, Everly has strong genetics working for and against her. Brent’s sister, aunt, and cousin were classically trained ballerinas who danced for years. Even Brent himself was a ballet dancer for a large part of his youth. But me… I am the exact opposite of graceful. My mother put me in a ballet class when I was a little girl and I basically made funny faces and ran in place for the majority of the class. She pulled me out and put me in gymnastics instead.
I’ve been curious to know which route our Everly would take.
I peeked through the window, a smile on my face, as I watched her concentrate on her teacher’s directions. She skipped and hopped and shimmied and shuffled. She was so enthralled that she never looked up to wave at me - not once. She was having entirely too much fun.
It’s too early to know if she will develop a passion for dance, but I suspect that with practice, her genetic scale is going to lean heavily to the naturally rhythmic and graceful side of her family tree.
And this little guy was so patient during her class… Standing on the bench occasionally to look in and point out sissy, but mainly entertaining himself with a dump truck and toy plane.
My tiny dancer tip toed out at the end of class, glowing. Her first question: “Can I come back next week?” She has asked me every day since how many days until ballet class again.
I was up late on Saturday night, scouring the internet for the best deal on size 8 toddler ballet slippers. Something in my gut tells me I better get used to it… I suspect we are going to be buying dance shoes for years to come.
It has been years since this video originally graced my blog. It is dark and grainy and poorly shot, but it is something I cherish deeply. Brent and I laid in bed Sunday night watching old videos together. This one had us both quiet as it transported us right back to that tiny closet changing room in our basement apartment in San Francisco.
Getting a laugh out of our new baby was a bigger milestone than I even knew at the time. It was the first of many instances over the course of parenthood where our children have assured us that we are doing ok. We spent so much time in those early weeks and months just trying to figure her out -feeling so unprepared and bumbling - and then she went and laughed and everything felt ok. The joy of that realization was tangible.
We have questioned ourselves and our abilities so many times since then. But that first laugh turned into little arms that would reach out for us and then first words of “mama” and “dada”, tight hugs around the neck and eventually “I love you”. Since that afternoon in the dark light of her nursery, we’ve experienced hundreds of fits of laughter.
I watch this video with tears. Reliving that first taste of reciprocity between parents and child. She and Arlo have propped us up again and again in the three years since.
And it never gets old. It never stops feeling like the top of Everest. Over and over again, those tiny assurances remind us that we are still doing ok.
We found out we were pregnant just weeks apart, while living together in San Francisco. There are eleven days between their birthdays and their love grows stronger by the day. If they go more than a few days without seeing each other, they drive us crazy until we take one to the other. There are few people in life that you get to love from the very beginning. These two are so lucky to share the gift of sisterhood.
I had been collecting little fairy themed party decorations for the past month or two leading up to Everly’s party last Saturday. It’s always challenging to switch gears from Christmas to birthday so closely together, so I always try to get a head start on things in the fall when I have more time to hunt and gather.
I wasn’t exactly sure how all of the things I had collected or made would fit together - there was a lot of pink and a good sprinkling of woodland themed items. A few girlfriends and my mother in law showed up a couple of hours before Everly’s party to help me finish up the food and decorations (thank goodness for them!) and when I stood back and looked around at 3:30pm, I was happy with what we were able to accomplish. The real proof of success was Everly’s reaction - she had the biggest smile plastered on her face every time she buzzed past me with a trail of little cousins and friends following her.
The day before her party, I dug around in my linen closet and found a couple of tablecloths (which could have used a professional press - but oh well!) and a much too girly shower curtain that I had ordered a long time ago but didn’t work in our downstairs bath. To that, we add a ribbon with dangling silk flowers & some custom printed birthday banners from Minted.com. They have a new birthday party section where you can create custom banners, table decor and signage to accompany your theme.
I don’t do a lot of baking and this is probably the second or third cake I’ve ever made myself. I had a vision for how I wanted to look and after tinting the cream cheese frosting to the perfect shade of lavender, I added fresh berries and some butterflies on wire that I picked up at the craft store. I was really happy with how it turned out.
I saw a photo on etsy of these little birch log cupcake stands and sent it to my wood working extraordinaire mama and asked if she could replicate them. She whipped up five of these darling little stands for me which added the sweetest touch of whimsy. Brent and I used kid-friendly modeling clay to make colorful little mushrooms that we scattered amongst the dishes on the table. The little fairy picks are from the Meri Meri party line. I bought them (along with a matching banner) at a discount off Zulily.
I had SO much fun planning the food for this party! Pinterest was a great source of inspiration and a few girlfriends sent me fun ideas too. Since it was a late afternoon party, I wanted to keep the food light and nibble friendly. On the menu:
Caprese Toadstools with balsamic vinagrette. My mother in law assembled these for me and she figured out that the trick to getting them to stand up is using two pieces of cubed mozzerella with a basil leaf as “grass” in between.
Berry Fairy Wands.
Dark chocolate acorrns. These are super simple to make! I went with dark chocolate hershey kisses and chocolate chips because I prefer them over milk chocolate. Melt a handful of chips in the microwave then use the melted chocolate to attach a kiss to one side of a mini vanilla wafer and a chocolate chip to the other. Let the chocolate harden for about 10 minutes before moving to a serving dish.
We also served little ham and turkey sandwiches cut into flower and butterfly shapes with cookie cutters, veggies and pretzels with dip, and gold fish crackers. I made a pink sparkle punch with 7up, pomegranite juice, and scoops of blood orange sorbet.
Each child got a pair of fairy wings and a wand when they arrived.
We had eight children at the party so I wanted to set up some fun crafts. I moved our kid table into Everly’s room and we set up a station for them to decorate their own fairy house or a butterfly mask with stickers, sequins, and washable markers. I found the little wooden houses at Michael’s for a dollar a piece!
A Happy Birthday song for our sweet three year old. I wish I had more photos of her from the day, but I snapped some photos of the food early in the day and then handed the camera off and spent the afternoon just enjoying time with our loved ones and watching Everly and Arlo live it up! Somewhere along the way, she discarded her blue wings, but oh man, was she cute!
It was a full house! 35 plus folks in a our little home. Soon enough her parties will be just her and a few little friends, so it’s nice to enjoy these big celebrations while Everly is still small.
Brent and I purchased a few gifts for Everly to open at her party and encouraged our guests not to bring a present. Our house is already overflowing with toys from Christmas! Many of them so generously brought her sweet things anyway. In years past, we’ve chosen a charity to donate to instead and I really like that idea but I also struggle with how to ask people to consider spending their gift giving money without it coming off as tacky, unappreciative or forced. I want my kids to have a wonderful birthday experience, complete with presents, but I would love to start a tradition where we encourage experience-based gift giving. A trip to the zoo, a special cupcake date, or taking the birthday child to a movie one afternoon. I am hopeful one day we will strike the right balance between making sure they don’t feel like they are missing out but also encouraging less stuff and more experiences. It’s something we’ll have to feel out as we go along. If any of you have advice or can share your experience, I’d love to hear it!
Everly’s fairy party was a huge success and a joyful day for our whole family. The highlight for me was seeing my daughter float from room to room in her blue fairy wings, laughing and dancing as she went. I could hardly keep up with her! Our goal was to give Everly the gift of a happy childhood memory , and it was quite obvious last Saturday that we had done just that.