Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Party in Review

Oh, the party. I have much to tell you.

Do I start at the beginning when it was awful or start at the end when it was wonderful? I suppose I should tell the story chronologically.

If you've been following along, then you're aware that the planning process has been a lot of fun. I made invitations and a pinata and planned a low-key celebration in our backyard. We had a ton of people to invite, even though we just moved to Austin a month ago. Everything was on track for a fun party.

But then lots of folks couldn't come. And even worse, people who said they would come (like good, good friends from Houston) started canceling at the last minute. Even worse, we had to call some folks to find out they weren't coming. In all honesty, it was pretty crushing. It's one of those examples when my expectations are just too high for the world around me.

In all fairness to others, I think it's hard for people to realize just how important a first birthday party can be. Of course Henry won't remember it once he's older, but he will see it in pictures. Plus, it's the first birthday, so it sets a precedent. It helps us figure out what kind of family we aspire to be. And for us as parents, we're celebrating, too. We're celebrating making it through a whole year of transition. We're celebrating our new, expanded life. We're celebrating our ability to do that which--at times--felt downright impossible.

So you want your good friends to be there to celebrate with you. And when they change their minds at the last-minute or don't RSVP and wait for you to call them so they can tell you they aren't coming, it hurts. But rather than wallow in that place of hurt, I simply tried to hold on to how I felt and incorporate it into how I interact with other people. I will do my best to RSVP on time and to say yes to invitations as much as I can. I will make the effort and take the time.

But all of that made it hard to get motivated. I was also juggling trying to find Henry childcare. And I had ten meetings the week leading up to the party (as well as a migraine that included vomiting). It was a lot, and it meant that we didn't get started on the party until Saturday morning. We made our way to the grocery store as soon as it opened at 8 (well, we actually arrived at 7:30 and ate breakfast together as a family while waiting for the store to open). We got all the food we needed and headed home. I quickly realized (way too late) that three hours is not enough time to make chili, chop up onions/cheese/cilantro for a chili bar, make guacamole, slice pineapple and strawberries, bake cookies (at least I made the dough in advance), put cookies into wax paper bags and sew a cute note to them for favors, make a salad, fill up a glass decanter with water (and sliced oranges), blow up balloons, make a birthday cake and icing from scratch, move the stereo outside and set it up, clean off the back porch, hang a pinata, vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms, and take a shower (even when they're are two of you and the baby takes a 1.5-hour nap).

So there was stress involved. Matt was mad at me for not cleaning as I cooked. I was mad at him for not realizing that we needed to triage and cleaning was not as important as everything else on the list.

But we did our best to make it work. The cookies got thrown on a plate instead of put into cute bags (no one cared, honestly). We only blew up a few balloons and decorated with Henry's toys instead. We hung the pinata during the party.

Once the party started, I did my very best to immerse myself in the experience and to just enjoy it--imperfections and all. Instead of stressing about the fact that I had to frost the cake during the party, I simply asked my friend Claire to help me, so we were able to spend some quality time chatting in the kitchen.

In the end, it was a wonderful little party. There were nine of us total, which was a great number to feel festive without being overwhelmingly stimulating for Henry. He had a ball. He smiled and laughed the whole time (and thoroughly enjoyed licking cake off his fingers). It was fun writing a letter to him about the party over at Feeding the Soil.

Next time I'll remind myself to plan out our time a little better in the days and hours leading up to a party. It's silly to leave everything to the last minute and be stressed. But if I don't follow my own advice next time, I hope that I can be self-forgiving again and truly immerse myself in the experience. That's where we find joy--when we turn off all the should have and musts and live in the what is.

Today on Feeding the Soil: Henry's final letter of the year.

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Anonymous said...

Well, blatant advertising aside (above, ahem ahem)-I want to thank you for being honest about the prep of this party. I really enjoyed reading it. Most people would just pretend that everything was perfect and not admit to the stress. That's why I read both this and your Feeding The Soil blog, despite not being a big "blog" person. Your writing is refreshing. It is clear and to the point. It is honest without being whiny or preachy. It's just perfect and I look forward to it every day. I just had a baby and find myself referring to your past posts for inspiration for the stage in which I am at the time. Put simply, I really want to let you know I admire you, your writing, and your honesty. The time you put into examining yourself is really wonderful and refreshing. And though I may not always agree with you (and have commented as such) I love your thoughts and energy. So, thanks for being you, Sara! On a logistical note, I love the new line about what you wrote about on your other blog (found at the end of every post now--great idea!) and I wondered if you would be able to add a search component, at least yo your Feeding the Soil blog so we could search more directly by topic. Oftentimes I remember you wrote a post on something specific but have no idea when, and I have to slowly sift through the various headings to find it. Congrats to Henry and you! And, by the way, I really loved the description of why the 1 year party was so important to you. I never thought about it that way, but it is completely true. Cheers!

Kelsey said...

I know just what that stress before hosting something is like! Our lives get so busy and then we want to do so much. Similar scenarios have definitely happened to me. I can be bad at RSVPing and this will remind me to be courteous about it! Thanks for writing honestly about this, and happy one year of parenting!

Meghan said...

thanks for writing honestly about this. often you only see the easy side of life on blogs and yours is so refreshing. i think it's such a good point to take how your own experience made you feel and use that to improve your relationship with others. This is a good reminder to appreciate the effort and love that goes into being invited to someone's home and reciprocate with appreciation and kindness.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing so honestly about your the highs and lows of hosting experiences and parties in life. The only other thought I had while reading your post is the section where you write that it is hard for other people to realize how important a first birthday party can be. For me, the reasons you listed for a party wouldn't feel as important (I've never seen photos or know if my parents had a first bday for me, I'm not sure it does actually set a precedent (why can't it just be a one-time thing), it seems like you are always doing lots of things to figure out what kind of family you want to be so one event might not have as much focus as the day-to-day of figuring out family. Of course I absolutely believe that you are both celebrating parenting for one year! I agree that cancelling and not RSVP can feel hurtful and is bad etiquette, especially from close friends. I guess I just wanted to suggest that may you should reach out to your friends to let them know it was important to you, because they may have a different philosophy or understanding of the importance of the event to them.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to expand on what the person above me said re: the importance of a first birthday party. It made me think of the book/ idea of love languages: there are lots of ways to show your child that you love him, and as he gets older he'll be able to communicate what he needs to feel loved by you. For a birthday celebration, it can be a big party, it can be something smaller, it can be anything.

Anonymous said...

I just canceled on one of these, and man, I had no idea. I just thought this was a stupid excuse for the parents to drink.

From my point of view, new parents drop off the earth, and then expect me to just drop my plans for their precious one's birthday. I mean come on, you skipped like the last fifteen things, and I'm not sure why I keep inviting them.

I'm still kind of confused why it is so harsh to you to cancel on what seems like to (childless) me to be a backyard picnic.

Meg said...

Wow. I agree with everyone above me. I have no children and no photos or stories about my own 1st birthday party (we have some photos of my brother's: my parents made a batch of cupcakes and stuck a candle in one. Voila. Very happy baby.), so I'm totally guilty of being one of those people who thinks of 1 year old birthday parties as being high maintenance, unnecessary and kind of dorky. (Not that yours was, that's just the first association of feelings that comes to mind). But then you were able to express so beautifully how you are actually celebrating one year of PARENTING, and I get it. That's HUGE. The baby, whatever, the baby's happy without a party, but I would absolutely show up to celebrate with my friends!

For any other new mamas and daddies reading Sara's blog, please remember that your friends without children just don't "get" things that seem really obvious to you! So spell it out for us!

And, I will agree with the poster immediately above: new parents tend to fall off the face of the earth (with reason!), so many friends don't necessarily feel all warm and fuzzy towards baby ("we used to be such good friends till she got pregnant! Now it's baby this and baby that and she found new friends with babies..."), so celebrating the baby YET AGAIN is much less enticing than celebrating the PARENTS, who are, after all, your friends.

Just a thought from the other side.

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