Flashback: Lucy's Woodland Tea Party

Monday, April 30, 2018

Once upon a time, on a beautiful, if windy, April afternoon, over a year ago, Lucy had an absolutely magical birthday party in our backyard--a woodland-themed tea party. This is the post where I share all the fun details and ideas and photos from this dream-come-true party... but it's also where I tell you that even the most ideal-looking moments can often have some heavy doses of reality on the side... the parts of the Pinterest-worthy party you DON'T see... you don't expect. 

To begin with, it has been a full year since my sister Beckie and I made this magic happen, and I'm only now making the time to edit and post the images. How's that for real life? 

 I will confess it right now: I adore going FULL PINTEREST MOM on birthday parties. I love decorating cakes/cupcakes. I love making party favors. I love thinking about invitations, decorations, and all the accompanying details that complete a theme. If you've followed me at all over the years, you might remember Noah's superhero party. Lucy's rainbow party. A monster-themed party for Quinn's first birthday. A Minecraft party for Noah. We even did ANOTHER tea party two years before this one, when Lucy turned 4. I love the madness. I love the planning. I love going all-out. But because it's SO much work, Joe and I decided pretty early on that we'd only throw a birthday party for each of our children every other year. 

So we did this woodland tea party in honor of Lucy turning six, back in 2017. Lucy had mentioned she wanted another tea party, but beyond that, didn't have many, if any, requests. So with my sister living with us last spring, ready to help and a MAGICIAN in the kitchen, I was able to find a million cute ideas online for tea parties, and know that with Beckie's help, we could make it happen pretty easily. It didn't take long for me to hone in on all the cute woodland versions of a tea party. Red polka-dotted mushrooms and critters and flowers and greenery.... Enough of a switch from Lucy's former tea party to feel fresh. 

I decided we needed a party tent this time.... since we'd be doing it at noon, with the sun high in the sky, and with not enough shade in the backyard.. and as a way to keep the party going even if rain entered the forecast. But no one had a tent to lend, and I didn't REALLY want to rent one for lots of dollars... And eBay had some decent-looking tents for purchase for pretty cheap. I figured it would be an investment I could use again, potentially in my photography business. So our party plan centered around this tent: we'd move our dining room table to the yard and decorate inside the party tent. 

Beckie took charge of the food and snacks. I took charge of the cupcakes, the decorations, and the activities. On the day of the party, Joe was a critical third teammate-- he helped with setup, heavy lifting, and corralling the baby when she wasn't napping. In spite of a very snappy wind, everything came together really well:

 One of my very favorite details of the party, even though they took a lot of time, was the set of critter masks-- six different woodland animals for the six expected guests (since Lucy was turning six, ya know?). I got the patterns for these masks off of Pinterest, and I opted to use a combo of sticky and non-sticky craft foam to make them, to keep it as easy as possible. It was REALLY FUN seeing these come together! 

For food, we had:
 ~ strawberry "ladybugs"
~ flower-shaped cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 
~ grape kebab "caterpillars"
~ dishes of pretzels
~ cherry tomato and string cheese "mushrooms"
~ a hedgehog cheese ball with crackers
~ donut hole "acorns"
~ lemonade and fruit punch in place of tea
~ cupcakes decorated like mushrooms and grass
~ mini cupcakes with flowers (my first time trying those cool Russian frosting tips! Kind of tricky!)

The activity table included three things:

~ a little set of pots with dirt and flowers for planting their own little flowerpot scene. They had their pick of tiny woodland animals to add to the scene. 
 ~ some chocolate Cheerios and some fruit Cheerios and some string for making necklaces
~ a stack of green cardstock and some sidewalk chalk for making art

And listen-- here is where the reality behind the PRETTINESS comes in: Despite the fabulous details, the cute cute food (thank you, sister!!!), and the benefit of good photography to capture it all, there were many things that threatened to ruin this whole party. 

First and foremost, have I already mentioned it was WINDY? This wind, snapping and brisk and constant, was a challenge. And frankly, my cheapskate tent from eBay was no match for it. We started out with only one wall open, but the tent was trapping the wind like crazy with no exit for it, and the whole thing half-collapsed multiple times.  We then opened the back wall and brought out bags of rocks to anchor each leg. It was never enough. The wind kept rocking the tent, and each time it half-collapsed, more pieces of the structure would bend and snap. The walls were whipping in and out, and flying onto the kids.... a couple of us were basically standing holding the thing up for the whole first part of the party. It was a fiasco. I was heartbroken. So was my dumb wallet, now lighter by $70-ish bucks on a tent that would never be reusable again. 

At the halfway point, then, I just turned to Joe and asked him to help me take the tent down and move the table to a patch of shade that had formed as the sun passed the high-noon mark. It wasn't as "cute", but it worked like a charm. 

And the second bummer of the day: Lucy had invited 5 guests for her party of six. Two never RSVP'd, and one had to cancel that morning. So after all the planning and cuteness, only two guests came. If we're measuring success by the headcount, and the number of folks raving about the cuteness afterward, this would probably have to be counted a flop. 

1. Quinn was there, too, and MORE than happy to step in as a participant. In fact, wild horses couldn't have kept him away. So with Quinn and Lucy and two guests, our count went back up to four. 
2. The two girls who did come are two of Lucy's very favorite people. 
3. Frankly, Lucy is more of a "small numbers/introvert" style of kid anyway, so she was 1,000% happy with her party just the was it was. It was not overwhelming to her, and she was able to play one-on-one with each of her friends. 

So here's the message here, for anyone who needs it, especially me: Do this kind of thing because you LOVE it, not because you feel like you're supposed to throw elaborate, themed parties. Do it for your own sense of satisfaction, and then make sure to do it for the actual KID herself, too. I could have made fancier food, but I always tried to keep in mind that I was feeding 6-year-olds. I could have come up with elaborate games and been a drill sergeant about running them.... But I knew my girl, so I kept the activities simple, and set them out in a way that the girls could do them or skip them, or do one but not the other, etc. And they loved it-- they flitted about like butterflies, playing in the yard, dabbling in one activity or another, sampling more food, etc. And it was FINE. The wind breaking the tent, though incredibly frustrating in the moment, was ultimately FINE. The tiny group of four for such a BIG party idea... it was FINE. In fact, it was more than fine, it was PERFECT. Just look at my girl's face to see for yourself. 

(And if this whole thing gives you hives, and you HATE doing parties like this, I RELEASE YOU. Don't do it! Take them to Sky Zone or Monkey Joe's or offer your kids money in lieu of a party-- You do you!! It's okay!)


So thank you for joining me for this fun flashback... for letting me go over the top in a few areas of my life, while constantly learning lessons in letting go and learning to accept the moment for exactly what it is, even when it means I have to relinquish control a little. Thank you for coming back to read my blog now and again, and for indulging my tendency to use too many words and take too many photos. And to always, ALWAYS be behind on editing all of the above. 

Here's to the end of April, to tea parties whenever you can have them, and to the magic in being a kid. And here's to being the creator of some of that magic, sometimes. 


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