Monday, March 14, 2011

Ava's Birthday (part 2)

Our last post chronicled the events of Ava's birthday party, which was actually held on the 19th. Her birthday proper was on the following Tuesday, and since Tam already had the day off, I took it off as well so we could spend a nice day quietly celebrating the day with our sweet girl. Aside from us singing "happy birthday" to her as we came in the nursery after she woke up, it was a fairly routine morning for her. But after her morning nap, we got her dressed and took her to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Museum of Natural History. She had been once before with her Auntie Jen, but being a little older this time, she was a bit more alert and observant of all the butterflies. It was not just the butterflies that caught her attention, though. She saw plenty before we even reached that exhibit.

We started off with some lunch at the cafeteria at the Harn Museum next door. We had the place to ourselves, and Ava strutted around as if she owned the place. She found a lovely set of stairs just outside the cafe, and climbed them (supervised) up to the exhibit hall of the art museum.

Afterwards, we went into the nature museum and she oooohed at the skeleton of the wooly mammoth. She tried to sneak past the railing for a closer look, but security busted her for being shoeless first. So we put her shoes back on and she moseyed over to the Florida Cowboys exhibit, stopping to moo at a stuffed cow on the way.

She looked all around at the butterflies, and reached as close as we would let her to them. She waved at some little finches that live in the rain forest enclosure, and she picked up fallen leaves with delight. We probably spent a half hour or so with the butterflies before we moved on to a few more exhibits.

Our next stop was across the street at the UF Hilton, where we took Baby Girl for a little birthday portrait session under the beautiful live oak on their property. We brought her new rocking horse with her, and she hammed it up for the camera, as you can see.

Our last stop in Ava's birthday adventure was an early dinner at Yamato. We sat at a grill table, and Ava clapped and oohed and aahed at the show our chef put on. She liked the flames at the beginning, and especially the little onion volcano that he made. She got to have a few little bites of our dinner, and then it was back home, to her birthday cupcake.

Remembering the fun she had with her smash cake, we put her in her high chair in just her diaper, lit a candle, and sang happy birthday to her one more time. I think she would have eaten the entire cupcake if we had let her, but we stopped her about halfway through and got her cleaned up for bed. I hope she had as much fun with us that day as we did with her. We decided to start a tradition of taking her birthday off from work each year so we can have a special day with her on her actual birthday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ava's birthday (part 1)

Any of you who have known Tam for any length of time know that she is, at heart, a planner. So it should come as no surprise that as Ava's first birthday was approaching, ideas for her 1st birthday party were tossed around, discussed, built upon, discarded, reconsidered, etc. She was born on Feb 22nd, so naturally this planning began somewhere around the middle of March.

I'm exaggerating a bit, but not by much. Realistically, we started planning baby girl's party in November. There were lots of good ideas, and we went with something that fit Ava's personality - "Ava's Sweet Shoppe." Tam scoured the internet for crafty design ideas, and she found a lot of really fun things we could do to decorate and make it a lot of fun for Ava while also being fun for our guests. With these decor ideas came a lot of craft work. The projects included banners, big lollipops to put up along the walkway, lots of apothecary jars for a good candy assortment, goodie bags for our guests to fill with said candy, Dum Dum topiaries, Ava's highchair skirt, and working on our big gift for her.

We felt like we got a nice jump on things, beginning projects towards the beginning of January. We worked on things in the evenings and on weekends, getting a little done here and a little done there. We used our garage as a storage space and workshop so we could have a place to leave projects out as they were in progress.

Tam found a freelance designer on who put together a graphics package that we printed, cut out, and assembled into her banners, signs, labels, tags, party hat, etc. We painted, glued, and wrapped styrofoam plates to make big lollipops. We scoured Target, TJ Maxx, Pier One, and other stores for an assortment of apothecary jars. We shopped for a mix of classic old-fashioned candy for the sweet shoppe. We toiled for HOURS making the Dum Dum topiaries (this alone called for plant pots, spraypaint, styrofoam balls, dowel rods, acrylic paint and a 40-lb bag of concrete). We worked for hours sanding, priming, and painting Ava's rocking horse, which was originally built by Ava's great-grandfather.

Of course, no matter how big a headstart we feel like we get, the last minute always comes and brings a mad scramble to finish projects. True to form, we were up until midnight the two or three evenings before the party, but it was worth all the hard work, because our sweet girl certainly seemed to be enthralled by the decorations. She gave plenty of "ooohhh's" and pointed at and reached for the banners, balloons, candy, and cupcakes.

After all the planning and all the work, the party was fantastic. We've said it before, but we feel so lucky and blessed to have so many friends and family who care about our little girl. She had around 40 people come to help us celebrate her first year, and she really knew that everybody was there for her, so she was hamming it up as usual. She had a great time playing with the big kids, playing with her buddies, opening up presents, and smashing/eating her birthday cake.

We can't believe a year has gone by already. Our baby girl has gone from a fragile little swaddled-up munchkin to a walking, babbling, sassy little toddler. It's been amazing to watch and take part in, and as difficult as it has been at times, having her is the best thing that we have ever done. Happy birthday, Ava. We love you.