Pumpkin Patch Birthday Bash

Let's just say that in the past, I MAY have been known to get a little carried away with my children's birthday parties. Not in the traditional sense of blowing a budget or going completely over the top with activities, characters, etc, but in the, "I want everything to be absolutely perfect" way. I tend to want to invite tons and tons of friends to celebrate my sweet children, make or order tons and tons of food, have fun drinks for the children and the adults, make sure that every decoration coordinates with the theme of the party perfectly, and make sure that everyone from my child to their friends to my family to my friends to myself has an unfortgettable experience. None of that is wrong, but I tend to get a little manic on party days and lose sight of where my focus should be lying on that particular day...on my birthday child.

I have been given some gentle reminders over the past year or so about how my strive for perfection of birthday parties is overrated. My second son's 4th pool party (that was indoors) was cancelled about 15 minutes after we arrived due to thunderstorms and my firstborn's 6th birthday soccer party (that was also indoors) was cancelled on the day of the party due to snow/ice. (All the planning was not completely in vain as we salvaged both days, but you get the picture.)

With that in mind, and with the fact that this Fall has honestly just been really busy, my motto for Clara's 2nd birthday party was "Keep It Simple." And keep it simple I did. At first, I wanted to replicate her 1st birthday party by having a big group of family/friends over to celebrate with her and with us. I love an excuse to have a party, to brainstorm a theme, to make lots and lots of goodies, and to turn our house into whatever it needs ot look like to go with said theme. But, no, Keep It Simple kept going through my mind.

I decided that we would just have a few friends meet us at a playground one day after school, bring some Chick fil A and some cupcakes, let the kids run around for about an hour and then pack up and head home. Well, this plan got foiled when my oldest son asked what we were doing for Clara's birthday party. I told him, and he gave me the saddest look..um, oops, it hadn't previously dawned on me that he would be upset about the fact that he wouldn't be home from school in time for an after preschool party at the park...okay, on to plan B. Again, the thought of having a big party at our house crept back into my thoughts, until...

We were out at Tanglewood Park for Worship in the Park for our church a week before Clara's birthday. The weather was gorgeous, the leaves were beginning to change, and you could just feel that Fall was in the air. I thought that having a party at the playground out there on a Sunday afternoon might be just the ticket...but I was still envisioning a big scale event. On our way out, we passed the stables and a sign for hayrides. I got home that afternoon and checked into the hayrides. Turns out, you can rent the hayride wagon for you and about 20 friends to take you out to their pumpkin patch. That's when the wheels started turning and the Keep It Simple theme really registered.

My two year old doesn't care a thing about having 100 people at her party. She just cares about being loved and smiled upon, and may care about having a cupcake or two. So, that afternoon, I sent out a paperless post to a few of Clara's little buddies and their families, and the party was in motion.

Sandwiches: Pepperidge Farm Thin bread & Pumpking Cookie Cutter
Grass for cupcakes made with #233 Decorating Tip
I waited until the next weekend to even begin the preparations. Saturday morning, I called Tanglewood and reserved the wagon for Sunday. I then had to reach out to everyone invited to let them know that our original party time wouldn't work, and thankfully everyone rolled with it. I chatted with a friend about the menu, and we landed on cheese sandwiches, mandarin oranges, goldfish, and cupcakes. Simple! That afternoon, I went and got the food and minimal decorations (from the Dollar Tree!)...tablecloth, napkins, plates, & spoons. Tanglewood is already so beautifully decorated for Fall with scarecrows, haystacks, pumpkins, oh and live horses! that I didn't need much. I went to a movie that night, church the next morning, and then spent about an hour baking & icing cupcakes, making the oranges into jack-o-lanterns, and cutting the sandwiches into pumpkin shapes for the party...truly ONE hour TOTAL...unbelievable!


On Sunday, it rained all.day.long, but we decided to forge on with the party. Clara did NOT like the horses, and the first half of the hayride she literally played possum! The other kids, however, LOVED looking out of the wagon over the fields, at the beautiful scenery...and the parents enjoyed it just as much I believe. We turned a corner when we reached the pumpkin patch, and sweet Clara got into her party groove. The rest of the afternoon was spent smiling, laughing, and enjoying watching Clara and the other kids running around the pumpkin patch picking their pumpkins, jumping in the leaves, getting dirty, and just having fun.

The party set up took about 7 minutes under the tiny shelter at the stables, the kids ate, we sang happy birthday, and it took about another 7 minutes to clean up and pack up. We left Tanglewood with huge smiles on our faces, calmly tired children, five pumpkins in tow, and memories of a great day. When we got in the car to head home, my husband and I agreed that this was probably the best birthday party that we have done so far. We truly Kept It Simple which took the focus off of the preparations and onto the birthday girl...right where it belonged.

I know that I can let this lesson carry into other areas of my life. Taking the pressure off of myself and allowing simplicity to reign is sometimes a very good thing. There are very few times when exhausting myself in the name of fun has really led to the fun that I was striving for. I have found that during holidays, vacations, parties, girls trips, you name it, I often miss out on what's really important by focusing on the wrong things. I miss out on conversations, on laughter, on just sitting next to and being with and loving those that I am with. This is something I know about myself and that I am working on...but old habits die hard. This party was at least a step in the right direction.

I have been trying hard this week to let this concept of keeping it simple seep into other areas of my days. I am being more intentional about spending time with my children and my husband and not pushing them aside to get laundry done and meals prepared and the house cleaned and leaves blown and the car vaccuumed. Right now, I have leaves all over my floors, two more loads of laundry to do, dinner to prepare, a car that is in dire need of detailing, and dishes that need to be put up. The reality is, these things WILL get done...but there are more important things that need my attention right now...and those things are named George and Henry and Clara and George, and I couldn't think of better "things" to spend my time on.

Happy Cooking!

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