How to Throw a One-derful 1st Birthday Party

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This past weekend was Xaviana’s 1st birthday party, and it was a lot of fun for the kids, parents, and non-parents alike! We decided to throw a slightly unconventional 1st birthday party with no set end time, to allow for the kids’ celebration early (starting around 4) and an adult party that lasted past midnight! If you’re a mom or dad who likes to party, I would definitely recommend this, since you can keep hanging out with your friends after you put your baby to bed for the night. ūüôā

We chose a Halloween theme, and everyone dressed in costume. We had about 30 guests throughout the night, so it was a fairly large gathering. Our colors were purple, black, and orange, but of course we had to add a little hot pink, since it’s my favorite color (and Xaviana’s too).

We kept our decorations simple: purple and orange balloons scattered around, Halloween lights outside and on the staircase, a black-and-silver sparkly Happy Birthday banner, and, of course, a First Birthday sign for the table.

We served fun and relatively healthy Halloween appetizers, including the Spooky 7-Layer Mexican Dip (garnished with a ghost from the $1 bin at Target) and the Haunted Pumpkin Patch. The “pumpkins” are made of peeled clementines with a tiny slice of celery in the middle, and the “ghosts” are strawberries dipped in a thin layer of white chocolate, with 65% cacao dark chocolate forming the eyes and mouth.

Haunted Pumpkin Patch of clementines and chocolate-dipped strawberries

Haunted Pumpkin Patch of clementines and chocolate-dipped strawberries

Spooky 7-Layer Mexican Dip ;)

Spooky 7-Layer Mexican Dip ūüėČ

The 7-Layer Mexican Dip is my go-to party appetizer, and has evolved into waaay more than 7 layers over the years. It’s great with regular taco chips or pita chips, but our favorite way to eat it is with Fritos Scoops. Here’s how I make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 container salsa
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Mexican cheese
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

Procedure:

  1. Soften cream cheese and mix with 1 tbsp taco seasoning.
  2. Spread mixture at the bottom of 13 x 9 inch serving dish
  3. Add the layers in this order, spreading evenly throughout the dish: beans, salsa, shredded lettuce, black olives, green onions, and avocado
  4. Sprinkle with cilantro, and drizzle the lime juice throughout.
  5. Sprinkle with Mexican cheese, and enjoy!

We saved ourselves time and effort, and opted for a catered Lebanese dinner from one of our favorite restaurants, Ara Lebanese Grill. The adults raved about the food, and the kids liked it, too. We had cheese rolls, chicken with toom (garlic dip), kafta, fattoush, tabbouli, rice, pita bread and hummus, and French fries.

We went all-out with an elaborate Halloween cake from Taste and Sea Cakery in Encinitas. It was chocolate and buttercream inside, and it was incredibly delicious, not to mention a work of art!

The gorgeous haunted Halloween cake for our birthday girl!

The gorgeous haunted Halloween cake for our birthday girl!

That took care of the food, but how to keep the kids entertained? This turned out to be pretty easy. We brought down Xaviana’s tummy time mat and spread out her favorite toys there. The kids were excited to discover new toys, and Xaviana enjoyed playing with her friends. We also put light-up balls, slinkies, hacky-sack balls, and bubbles in the kids’ favor bags, which provided plenty of entertainment. (The parents blew the bubbles for the little ones.)

We brought out the cake around 8, which, retrospectively, was probably a bit late for the kids, since meltdown time was already in full-swing. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve brought out the cake around 7. However, everyone really enjoyed the cake and ice cream, and the kids’ crowd cleared out shortly thereafter. Xaviana responded calmly to the boisterous group of people singing to her; I think this is because we sang “Happy Birthday” to her all week, and conditioned her with small birthday treats with lit candles before the big day. She was weirded out and even cried a bit when we were conditioning her, but by the time the real cake and party happened, she was used to it!

Xaviana passed out into a blissful sleep after dessert, allowing the adults time to drink some beer and wine and just enjoy the night! I was glad to unwind, because 1st birthday parties are a lot of work!

Parents out there, did you throw a large birthday party for your baby, or did you keep the celebration quieter? What are your favorite party reflections? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

10 Things I’ve Learned From My Baby’s 1st Year

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It’s so hard to believe, but my sweet baby girl¬†turned 1 this past¬†weekend! As we celebrated her big day, I found myself alternating between intense excitement and bittersweet nostalgia. Older and wiser parents really aren’t joking when they say time flies by with little ones.

I’ve also been reflecting about what I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life, and–wow–I learned a lot! Pre-pregnancy, I knew¬†nothing about babies (and, in fact, found them so intimidating and “breakable” that I was afraid to pick up other people’s kids). Now, however, I feel¬†like an expert on all things baby, and I’m perfectly at home in a roomful of Xaviana’s busy little friends.

Xaviana is all smiles at age 1 :)

Xaviana thinks age¬†1 is fun ūüôā

Having a baby has shown me the miracle of life firsthand. I think any mom will agree–raising a baby is the greatest¬†gift¬†we’ll ever receive, and being an awesome mom¬†is the greatest gift we’ll ever give.

With that in mind, here are 10 things I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life.

  1. Every moment spent with baby is precious¬†– Each¬†day is full of elusive, fleeting moments that last for mere¬†seconds, but create memories that last a lifetime. Capture them in your mind and your heart. Appreciate the privilege of spending time with your baby, even on those inevitable rough days when you’re feeling¬†exhausted or irate… which brings me to the next lesson¬†I learned…
  2. Everything, good and bad, is just a phase and will pass –¬†Teething, fitful sleeps, picky eating, and 5 PM meltdowns are unpleasant for mom and baby alike. We can try our hardest to keep baby happy all the time, but 24/7 Baby-topia is just not possible. Our (rare) rough patches with Xaviana have felt¬†like being trapped in a dark tunnel with no end in sight, but just when I’m about to go crazy, they always seem¬†to end. Growing baby or nature’s way of keeping mama sane? You make the call. ūüôā
  3. Getting out of the house is key¬†– Sometimes it feels next to impossible to get moving, especially with very young babies. However, it’s¬†crucial to go out and about. Interacting with people¬†not only stimulates babies, it makes mamas happier. Outings that last¬†2 hours or less are the most pleasant for Xaviana and me. Stroller rides, short trips to the beach, park, or pool, mommy and me exercise classes, and baby rhyme time at the library are some of our favorite activities. Going out allows baby to explore fun new environments and make new friends, and I’ve also found that Xaviana appreciates her toys and books more when we return home from our adventures. My husband and I have been bringing Xaviana to parties, on dates to restaurants, and to various special events since she was a newborn, and she’s an amazing little companion because she’s used to being out and about.
  4. Flexibility is super important¬†– It’s an inevitable fact: as soon as you think you’ve established an eating/nap time/bedtime/fill in the blank routine, baby will throw you a curveball and totally change his or her habits! Flexibility is so important in parenting. Xaviana is growing and evolving every day, and my routine¬†changes with her. Naturally, this comes¬†with some sacrifices–most notably that her new one-nap-per-day schedule means I’m taking a short hiatus from writing ebooks–but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  5. Meeting other moms and babies is crucial – It can be pretty difficult to meet other moms who have: a.) common interests and b.) babies around the same age as yours. Meetup.com has been the best¬†way for me to expand my mom and baby network. I discovered a Fit Mama group, where I met several awesome moms and babies who love to exercise as much as I do!¬†I’ve also met other moms and babies at Xaviana’s swim class, the park, and the library. The kids love to play together (or, more often than not, trade toys and play alongside each other), and I enjoy chatting with the moms. Win-win.
  6. Raising a child is¬†individualized – There’s no right or wrong way to raise your baby; the most important thing is what works for you and your family. I listen to everyone’s advice about bedtime, feeding, etc, but in the end, my hubby and I make the final decisions based on when we think is best for Xaviana, not necessarily on what is easiest for us or most commonly accepted.
  7. It gets easier – When Xaviana was a newborn, life was delightful…but difficult. There was just so much to learn, from changing diapers to using the car seat and stroller to breastfeeding. Factor in the sleepless nights, and I was one mind-boggled mama. However, taking care of her became much easier¬†with time, and now I can honestly say that it’s second-nature!
  8. Comparisons are odious – It’s tempting to compare your baby with others or against the developmental norm, but I resist the urge and let Xaviana grow at her own rate. Of course I make sure that she’s on track for the major milestones of her age, but I don’t worry if she accomplishes them a little earlier or later than her friends. I just let her be herself, and take things one day at a time.
  9. Books are the best toys – They’re cheap, they take up very little space, and they’re the perfect way to interact with baby while teaching him/her! I love reading, and so does Xaviana. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I’m not sure, but she¬†has learned so much from her books–more than she’s learned from any of her other toys. I¬†read her the same books every day, adding new ones periodically. This repetition has proven to be key in her language development. She’s making new¬†sounds and saying new words as I reinforce the material in the books.
  10. Breastfeeding is amazing – While I was pregnant, I had¬†a pretty laid-back attitude toward breastfeeding. I’d decided to try it out, but if Xaviana or I didn’t like it, I planned to switch to bottles and formula. Although I didn’t have strong opinions on breastfeeding then, I’m a total advocate now. Not only does breastfeeding nourish our¬†little mammals with the nutrients they need, it soothes anything from tummy aches to teething pain. Check out this interesting article about why African babies (who are generally breastfed on demand and held close) don’t cry. And the health benefits to mom and baby are countless. IMHO, the coolest one¬†is the immunity that baby gets from mama. Check out this article¬†with some little-known facts about the subject, and prepare to be mind-blown.

There you have it… 10 things I learned during baby’s first year. Moms out there, what have you learned? Which of my lessons is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!