Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oscar's First Birthday

Read the last post and this one back to back and you might think my life is one big party.  And I'll go ahead and let you think that because it makes me look like I'm more fun that I am.  Party party party.  It's all one big party at the Mahoney household.

This most recent bash honored the first, and so far greatest, year in the life of young Oscar Finn.  I did not want to screw this one up.

Cheer up kid, it's your party
The Theme: Simplicity

After the deceptively massive undertaking that was The Halloween Party, I concluded that as far as kids parties are considered, simplicity is the name of the game.  No elaborate menus.  Certainly nothing cooked from scratch.  Minimal decor.  Just take it freaking easy.  Since one of my resolutions for 2013 is to learn my lesson, I vowed to keep my Martha Stewart idealism in check.

[By the by, other New Years resolutions include: be thankful for at least one thing every day; be happy for people without being jealous; and the perennial classic, be better at everything.]

The Location

I spent, no joke, most of 2012 knowing that we'd hold Oscar's birthday in one of the covered pavilions at Lake Balboa because the park offered a playground, water fowl, and a private reserved section of picnic tables.

In June, I went online to find out how to reserve a space.  Fearing I'd seem crazy booking so far in advance (needed it for January), I held off.  (Not sure why I'm worried what the Los Angeles Parks Department thinks of me...) In September, I almost put in my application, but again decided to wait it out (for unclear reasons).  Then I forgot about it for a bit.  And when I finally called in December, I was told I needed to book 30 days in advance and I'd missed the window. 

But all was not lost.  There are plenty of other picnic tables in plenty of parks.  After doing a rethink, I elected to throw the party near the Merry Go Round at Griffith Park.

It had everything I needed in a locale... Something to do.  Enough space for us to spread out.  And an intriguing degree of eeriness. 

Done and done.  Invites were sent!
"But what if the weather is bad?" asked my sister.
"The weather is never bad."
"But what if it is?"
"It won't be. It's fine.

The Location Part II

A week before the big day, the weather forecast went from great (70 and sunny), to less favorable yet still doable (60 and partly sunny), to completely worrisome (52 and rainy).  I began to scramble, trying to find indoor venues at the last minute. Restaurants had expensive private rooms that would probably be destroyed in minutes by the onslaught of children.  Kids gyms would be appropriate, but would leave our considerably large number of adult, child-free guests feeling a bit out of place (although, to be fair, everyone loves parachute time).  What we needed, in short, was a house.  As if I hadn't already felt down on myself for failing to own one...

Fortunately, Oscar's Aunt Katie, stepped in with a marvelous solution.  She persuaded her very generous boss to let us take over his house for the afternoon.  Some people are just the best.  I updated the Paperless Post invite.  Crisis averted. 

The day of the party, I stepped outside to walk Seamus, expecting to be confronted with the bitter cold and rain I was promised.   Instead, the sun had the nerve to shine warm on my face.  The air was cool, but in a pleasant crisp way that any light jacket could handle.  Damn it.  Too late to go back now!

The Party Plan: Two Hours Of Non-stop Fun!

Depending on how you look at it, the collection of activities and decor either completely obeyed the principles of simplicity by being a grab bag of easy solutions, or wholly missed the mark by being an incongruous cluster-eff.

A week before the party I realized "simplicity" was not necessarily another word for "do nothing" and that I really needed to get in line.  So I started ordering supplies on Amazon.  Dinosaurs?  Sure, why not.

Dinosaur bake cups.

Dinosaur masks.

And dinosaur rubber duckies.

Rounding off the decor and activity smorgasbord
  • a neon green vinyl tablecloth leftover from (wait for it...) my bridal (yes you read that correctly-bridal) shower
  • 4 (no more, no less) beach balls I bought at Target
  • glittery plastic maracas (more Amazon)
  • 2 Halloween themed garlands (1 skulls, 1 bats) leftover from the last party
  • A bubble machine that I overfilled and broke the handle off of in the first minute of use
And of course, the piéce de résistance, the homemade ball pit.

As an observant +1 in Oscar's baby birthday party circuit, I'd concluded every party needed a somewhat secure place to dump squirmy babies so adults can eat, drink, and mingle in relative peace for 5 minutes.

So why not make a ball pit using a kiddy pool?   We already had the blow up pool.  And I ordered the plastic balls from Amazon.

Note: If you're considering doing this yourself, check to see if anyone is selling ball pit balls on Craigslist.  They're the sort of a limited use/annoying to store item parents are always trying to get rid of for cheap.  I was actually going to buy two trash bags full off a Craigslist post before the 'yatch went and sold them to someone else while I was waiting for her to email me her address.  Hopefully you'll have better luck.


This was easy.  I ordered the biggest pizza I could find. 2 of them, actually, because the helpful gal at the pizza place told me 1 of them would feed 15-20.  I assumed she meant 15-20 adult humans, but I guess I should've asked her to be specific.  Guests were sent home with giant foil bundles of extra slices.  No one complained. 

Other snacks included a bowl of Cheetos, Cheerios for the kiddies, a plate of rice krispies treats, and a veggie platter (assigned to Becca to expertly prepare).  That's how you do simple, folks.  My total prep time: 20 minutes... not including the homemade (from a box) cupcakes, which were probably another hour or so, but totally worth it as the birthday boy thoroughly enjoyed his dessert.

Final Thoughts

Like any event thrown ever in history, there were hits and misses.  But overall I'll go ahead and call this one a success.

And should any of you readers find yourself planning a 1-year-old's birthday party in the future, and should I have given you any reason to trust my advice whatsoever, here are a few other nuggets of wisdom:
  • Let someone else be the photographer so you can enjoy yourself/worry about everything else.   I learned this from one of my mom role models, Miriam, who always hires someone to take pics.  I duped Becca into taking on the task.  
  •  Keep the event to 2-3 hours max.  Unlike adult parties, which are only cool if they end at ?, if a kid party went on ceaselessly, everybody would go crazy.  A short and sweet party means guests arrive on time, fully enjoy themselves, and then peace out at your predetermined hour so that you can be all cleaned up before bedtime. (Your bedtime or the baby's, if the two are even different.  Mine basically are the same.)
  • Order pizza.  Or have it catered.  Pizza is cheaper.  And everyone likes pizza.  Seriously.  Pizza. 
  • Paper snail-mail invitations are adorable.  But email invitations can easily be updated with important information like "Oh by the way the weather is bad and the whole party is moving!" or other fun surprises.  
  • If you work full time, hold the party on Sunday instead of Saturday.  You'll need the Saturday to do stuff and you'll work yourself in a frenzy trying to get things done on weeknights.  


  1. Thanks Bri! I will be throwing my little guy's 1st birthday in March and totally loved the ball pit idea you did for Oscar. It looks like everyone had fun so it was, in deed, a success!