Casual Friday + “The Worst Birthday Party Ever”

The finish line is in sight, my blogging friends. This time next week NaBloPoMo 2022 will be in my rearview mirror. I love writing (and reading and commenting), but I have to say: I’m tired! Once again, a huge thanks to San for organizing this event, and congrats to my fellow participants for seeing things through to the end.

The hardest posts for me to write – without question – are these weekly Casual Friday missives. I want to pull in all the adventures (and misadventures) from our life. I love having this record of the mundane (and exciting), but it takes…a lot of time. And I hate wrangling pictures.

Anyhoo. It was another busy week, so let’s jump right in.

levi’s birthday

Shall I start with the good news, or the bad news?

Good news? I think his party guests had a phenomenal time.

Bad news? He told me, and I quote: “This was the worst birthday party ever.” (I just flipped back to my post about last year’s birthday – when we arranged a big surprise – which at the time didn’t go over too well, either.)

Sigh.

Shall we discuss?

I’d say it was 90% awesome, with a few rookie mistakes thrown in for good measure.

We rotate “big” (a number of guests up to their birthday age; so, for Levi, that was 8 guests) and “little” (max of 3 guests) parties. This was a “big” year.

For some inexplicable reason, I had the party run from 2:00-4:30 pm. I know better! How/why did I do this? Two hours would have been absolutely perfect. 2.5 hours was too much of a good thing. I literally was not paying attention when I had Abby design the invites, and poof, we ended up with 30 extra minutes – ROOKIE MISTAKE!

One – very adorable – guest happens to have a lot of excess energy. He’s sweet and well-behaved, but also LITERALLY bounces off the walls. In combination with all the stimulation of all those extra kids in our house, sugar, and being the center of attention, Levi told me at the end of the night: My favourite part of the whole party was when everyone left and it was just me and O (his best friend since preschool). For years this is exactly what we did for his party – even years he could have gone “big” – it would just be him and O hanging out.

Levi and his bestie playing Tic-Tac-Toe – two peas in a pod since they started preschool together years ago!

The actual party events went very smoothly.

We played some games:

  • Four corners. You number each corner in a room. Someone stands in the center and spins around and counts to four with their eyes closed. Still with their eyes closed, they pick a number between 1-4. Anyone standing in that numbered corner is out. You keep repeating until only one person remains.
  • Musical chairs. On oldie but a goodie. The kids seemed to really enjoy this one. Maybe it’s so old they’d never played it before?
  • Doodle paper. Inspired by the Catherine Newman house tour, I covered our dining room table in IKEA craft paper, set out some markers and let the kids have free reign. This stole the show. From drawings (including the requisite poop emojis and barfing clouds) to Tic-Tac-Toe (the biggest hit), it was a lot of fun.
Without some wall-bouncing guests, I think Levi could have stayed at the Doodle Table for hours. Look at that face <3
  • Candy hunt. This is a tradition for every birthday, big or little. We hid candy inside and outside the house and the kids all loved this (obviously). I think they could have been hunting for rusty nails and owl pellets and would have been almost as enthusiastic. There is something so primal and exciting about racing around a yard/house and trying to find hidden things.
Abby hid all the candy inside; John did the outside. I also set up Twister, but there were no takers!
  • Balloons. As per usual, I opted to skip any elaborate decorations and just blew up a few balloons and left them sitting on the floor/chairs. Fun fact: kids love to bat balloons around (adults, too)!

The cake was also a big success. One boy looked at me very seriously and pronounced: This is very good cake. I take that as high praise, indeed. Another boy had at least 3 slices, at which point we lost count. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but it was a cake mix). Levi requested a surprise rainbow cake which is high impact, but extremely easy. Just divide plain batter into a few bowls, add some food colouring, pour one colour into the bundt pan at a time. Bake. Ice. Cut. Impress small children.

Oh, hello there hidden colours! The purple looks a bit brown in this picture, but no one lodged a formal complaint.

The day of his actual birthday, John and Abby headed to the airport to get my father-in-law, so Levi and I hung out at home. I was tired and felt sad I couldn’t give him some awesome birthday experience (especially since he had just endured “The worst birthday party ever“). But his best friend popped up for an hour and they played Twister. Then we played Tic-Tac-Toe on the doodle paper.

We made boxed Macaroni and Cheese. He lit our special Danish candles for the first time in 2022. We drew together. John was in Barcelona a few weeks ago and got him an FC Barcelona hat for his birthday which he now wears constantly.

He tested his new spy glasses (part of a kit he got for his birthday; they have reflective mirrors on the side; very cool).

We played a round of the board game Sorry. He worked on a fairy tale writing project for school. The evening ended up being very nice. And I kept looking over at him and marveling at how much he’s grown.

It was bittersweet for me, but only sweet for him. Just the way it’s meant to be, I suppose?

We agreed the whole Mac n’ Cheese + candles close to Christmas reminds us of Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. Thankfully, Marv and Harry did not show up.

Home Alone Has A Secret Canadian Connection Nobody Noticed - MTL Blog

MISc

  • It snowed. I did my daily walk on Sunday in the middle of a squall. If I wasn’t walking outside daily, I’m sure I would have found some excuse to stay inside. I wouldn’t call the walk pleasant, per se, but there was a feeling of satisfaction coming home covered in snow.
Km 1 = light flurries
Km 3 = squall/white-out
  • Years ago, before Levi was born, we finalized our will. I’ll never forget how grown up I felt leaving the lawyer’s office. Last week we hired someone to come clean our windows inside and out. It was surprisingly inexpensive! I don’t plan to do it annually, but every few years – absolutely. It also felt like such an adult thing to spend money on. Window washing?! That sounds about as exciting as hearing aid batteries and incontinence underwear. Trust me, it was exciting and I can now see out the back window into our yard while I wash dishes.
  • I was out of sorts on Monday; I felt very flustered and couldn’t put my finger on why. Mid-evening I realized: I didn’t give myself a Top Five To-Do list for the day. I’m sure that wasn’t the only reason I felt a bit “off”, but it really helps me focus my day when I have a Top-Five list. And I’ve made sure to prep one every day since!
  • I sent out my Christmas photocards; I know it’s early, but I had everything ready and I wanted to officially cross it off my list. Done.
  • Join us in congratulating Eufy, who is now a big brother. Eufy Jr. entered the Frost family earlier this week; $40, in like-new condition, and he happens to be the spitting image of Eufy Sr. Eufy Jr. lives in the basement and, as I type this, Eufy Sr. is making quick work of the mulch that spilled out of Meatball’s cage.

company

My father-in-law arrived on Monday and it has been a wonderful visit! I planned a “Greatest Hits” menu.

  • Tuesday was Levi’s all-time favourite meal: Meatballs, rice, peas, and pecan pie.
  • Wednesday was a traditional Portuguese boiled cod dinner – bacalhau. Hear me out on this one. It sounds crazy, but it’s actually delicious. It’s salt cod, potato, broccoli, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs and garlic. We are mashers, so everything goes on a plate, you mash it to a pulp and then top it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was…skeptical…when I met John, but it’s shockingly good, even if it does look like baby food on a plate.
  • Thursday was our go-to fav with company: Chicken Mango Curry + skillet cornbread.
  • Tonight will be supper out at our favourite “family” restaurant – with coupons, of course.

Once again I realize how nice it is to have people visit when the kids are in school/have their regular routine in place. There’s lots of overlap, but also a nice amount of breathing room. And it’s so nice for grandparents to be able to observe grandkids immersed in their normal routine. Just like last year, my father-in-law comes along for the walk to school, helps pick them up from the bus, and goes with us as we shuttle them to different extracurriculars. It’s a lot nicer – to me at least – than hosting company when the kids are off on vacation.

coming up

  • Christmas gift prep continues plodding along. I have been using – and loving – my Christmas spreadsheet, inspired by Sarah. I’ll post about that sometime in December.
  • I am still so behind on photo organization. This time last year I basically had our 2021 photobook ready. I don’t want to talk/think about it but, also, it’s not going away and it’s not going to get any easier if I wait. Maybe now that my photocards are done, I’ll turn my attention to the digital disaster that is a giant folder full of hundreds of pictures? [I woke up in the middle of the night and have finished 8 pages of my 2022 photobook, so there might be hope for me yet…]
  • I’ve put up a few more Christmas decorations (wreaths on both doors), but I’ll leave most other things until we get our real tree at some point the first week of December. I always seem to decorate in tiny bursts. Two or three items one day; a few days later two or three more, etc.
  • My parents arrive next Tuesday! Woot, woot.
  • The live nativity production spans three nights the end of next week. Abby has decided she wants to join me in the angel choir and I’m elated. I really wanted to do it with her, but she had no interest at first. I’m not sure what has changed her mind, but I didn’t push her on the matter and I’m just happy we’re going to do this together!

Happy weekending. If you’re doing NaBloPoMo, are you excited to be nearing the end of the month? How’s your Christmas prep going? Do you have a go-to holiday hack/tip you’re willing to share? What was your “worst birthday party ever?”

P.S. I’ve just put on my first Christmas music of the season – Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season which, in my opinion, is one of the best Christmas compilations ever. JJ Heller and Sarah McLachlan are solid options. My sentimental fav, from childhood, is The Living Strings album White Christmas. But I’m looking for more recs (as long as your suggestions do not include Last Christmas – yes, I’m looking at you, Nicole – or Mele Kalikimaka).

Header photo by Simon Harmer on Unsplash

26 thoughts on “Casual Friday + “The Worst Birthday Party Ever””

  1. WELL I NEVER! I will not give my suggestions because those are two of my favourites! *huffs*

    I’m so sorry that Levi had the “worst party” – how dispiriting to you after all that! But that cake, that is one nice looking cake. Gosh I love cake. Maybe I’ll make one this weekend just because.

    So, photos. I was so proud of myself for ordering all the photos – going back to June – and now they are waiting for me to put them into albums and this feels like a bridge too far. I mean, I’m going to do it. But it is probably a task that will take 30 minutes and I just can’t get myself to do it! Sigh.

    Our tree is going up this weekend! I WILL BE LISTENING TO ALL MY FAVOURITE SONGS!!!! Lololol!! Well, if songs were like a Halloween candy haul, we’d get along great, there would be no overlap! Actually, that’s probably not true, because I do love instrumental/ strings as well. Have a great weekend!

    1. You like Mele Kalikimaka, too?! Not to worry…all is forgiven because you convinced us to get Eufy, so you clearly have excellent taste…we just don’t see eye-to-eye on Christmas music. (The Living Strings one is actually Living Strings, Living Voices so there are songs; that said, they would likely NOT be appealing to anyone else because the album came out approximately 1 million years ago, but we owned it on cassette tape – along with Julia Andrews album The Sound of Christmas – and together they form the holiday soundtrack of my childhood.

      A weekend with cake is bound to be great.

      Kudos for ordering the photos; maybe you could pair putting them into albums with watching a Christmas movie to make it feel more festive/less daunting. I know what you mean, though, about the last step of a project feeling like too much to handle. I love preserving memories, but it can be a lot of work!!

      Yay for trees – we’ll do our upstairs one in a little over a week.

  2. I don’t think I’ve had the kids say this is the worst birthday party ever but my son also can feel overwhelmed by a crowd that has really high energy kids. I’m sure inside he has been relieved that they were gone. This past year they went to do a fun activity and one of the kids threw up in the entrance to the place. The parent came and picked them up and the rest played on. Not the most “fun”. There have been several that have been hard on me! I’m not meant for hosting large groups of kids and I’ve had two parties for my daughter when she was younger – the whole kindergarten group of 17 kids one year at our house. never. again. No. Actually she wanted a surprise party and I did another one at our house for 15 kids. I did one of those for my son to be fair. It looked like a tornado had gone through our house.
    I made a Christmas playlist for background that I love. It is mostly jazz and a few others thrown in that I will keep adding to as I find good ones. I particularly like The Vince Guarli Trio (various songs but Skating is a Charlie Brown one that I love) and also a favourite is the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Here Comes Santa Claus. ) I have some Nat King Cole and Norah Jones and others that sing sprinkled in as well.
    Then I also have a more upbeat one that may include Last Christmas. πŸ™‚

    1. Vomit before a party – oh no!!!

      It must be me – Last Christmas is universally loved, and I’m not quite sure why I have an objection. It just doesn’t “feel” Christmasy to me? I’ve heard it one too many times.

      I used to listen to Norah Jones all the time; I’m going to check out her Christmas selection on Spotify now. And oh Charlie Brown; what a classic!

  3. Yes- I have mixed feelings about NaBloPoMo coming to an end. I’ve absolutely LOVED it and part of me doesn’t want it to end- but the other part of me is tired. And needing to spend time on other things, sigh. Well, I’m just going to enjoy the last week and then I’ll look forward to it again next year!
    Levi’s birthday party sounds great- what didn’t he like? The cake looks awesome- although I did think the “purple” part was chocolate (which is not a bad thing.)
    Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are officially in Christmas mode! We got the tree Wednesday (our tradition) and it’s waiting to be decorated- we’ll do it when I get home from work today. That means the rest of the house decorations will come out as well- but not the outside. I’ll probably do that next weekend.
    Yes- Last Christmas has nothing to do with Christmas! You could substitute the word “Friday” for “Christmas” and the lyrics would still make perfect sense. You and I are on the SAME PAGE here.

    1. His party WAS great, I just think he found it overwhelming and I couldn’t just do what he wanted, if that makes sense. There were different kids wanting him to do different things. It was all very exciting and lovely of them, but I think he just prefers a lower key one-on-one setting! Also, the boy who bounces off the walls also tackled him outside playing soccer (again, not in a mean way, just excess energy), and Levi was not a fan! At one point he went into his room, sat on a chair inside his closet and shut the door. Poor thing! But that’s water under the bridge now, and the cake was delicious! It was very discouraging when he said that at the end of the party, but it has pretty quickly become another part of family lore and I WON’T MAKE the same timing mistake again.

      You are 100% right and I’ve never thought about it this way; Last Christmas could just as easily be “Last Valentine’s Day” or “Last Friday”. Also, when you read the lyrics, it’s a pretty sad and depressing song. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way!

  4. Well maybe I’m missing something, but what exactly did he find to be so bad about it that made it the “worst party ever”?? Just too chaotic for him or what? Maybe record him talking about his feelings about it, so that next year when you suggest that for his b-day you just take him and BFF to do something fun, or host a solo sleepover doing whatever they want, etc., he will remember he doesn’t love the big party years? Those types of parties make me squirm just thinking about them. Too intense!! We have rarely ever hosted a party in our home for that reason. My favorites with the boys have been just inviting 3-4 friends maximum and then going somewhere- an arcade, or a movie, or wherever, and then out to a pizza place or something. And then buh bye friends. πŸ˜‰ If we go back to our house, it’s usually just for cake/ presents and very brief playtime, then the parents pick them up. We are actually past the birthday party age over here, anyway. Neither one seems to care about having an actual party anymore. phew.

    I hear you on these Casual Friday posts. They are so wonderful and I’m sure you’ll love looking back on them! But yes, so much work. And the photo choosing is the hardest part. If you’ve noticed, I just end up including WAY TOO MANY photos in my travel posts, because it’s honestly easier to NOT reduce them. lol! I am already thinking ahead to our spring break trip. I know it will be one I will want to document (Costa Rica), but I’m not anticipating having time to blog in the moment every day for 2 weeks. It just takes too much time. But catching up after is so hard (as evidenced by the fact I’m still trying to finish our Europe posts, from last March! And it is NOVEMBER. oops.) Some people seem to have a skill at putting together these brief but yet very complete travel recaps with just a splattering of photos and text that still perfectly illustrates the happenings and the mood of the day. I am not those people. haha. It just doesn’t come naturally to me to do it that way! Oh well.

    1. You’re not missing anything – just in the heat of the moment I think it all felt overwhelming and he was not a fan (+ most of what he can compare it to is a very quiet, reserved party)? It’s a bit odd, because he IS high-ish energy himself, but maybe having that much going on in “his” home space felt unusual? Who knows with kids! Thankfully he was back to normal the next day.

      This is only his second “big” party and the last time a big chunk of it involved watching the new animated Grinch movie, so I didn’t have much to compare it to for him. But it WAS a great part, objectively speaking πŸ™‚

      We did three “destination” birthday’s with Abby and they were awesome: ice skating (+ a room rental for games/cake after), a pool party at a local hotel (again, came with a room rental), and paint-your-own-pottery. It is SO nice to have it at a neutral space. To be fair, Levi really wanted to do things outside at a skate park this year, but this late in November it’s too hard to plan that sort of thing for a larger group. If the weather is terrible, there’s no shelter, and coordinating drives between places would have been too much. And in terms of recent years – doing things at a venue was not an option (until this year) because of COVID restrictions.

      I also have a feeling that the days of formal birthday parties will soon be over for us, and I’m not sad about that!

      I’m excited to read your Costa Rica updates…but completely understand how much work they take to put together. How exciting the tickets are booked and the countdown can begin. Is it March?

  5. Elisabeth, you write the most thoughtful and detailed posts! I love to read them.

    NaBloPoMo has been a win from me based on finding new-to-me blogs and posting more consistently on my own blog. I haven’t been the best at commenting on other blogs. It is a time commitment and I haven’t felt like I’ve had an abundance of time these past few weeks. But I’m working on finding more pockets of spare time and, even more importantly, not wasting them on things like scrolling through my phone!

    1. Thanks so much, Tierney! What a lovely comment <3
      It's been great to follow along with your frequent posts this month; hope your visit to San Diego has been simply wonderful!

  6. Okay, I had my doubts about the doodle paper, but I can see how it would be fun and the next time I have small humans visiting, I’m going to put some brown kraft paper on our coffee table with some markers and crayons and let them go crazy.

    I’m going to be so SAD when NaBloPoMo is over. I’m loving how my reader is so full of interesting and insightful posts every morning. I’ve loved all the AMAs, photos, and learning about other bloggers. But, I’m grateful that San has kept it alive and am already looking forward to next year.

    1. It was very fun. I have to admit by Monday night I couldn’t take it anymore, so it’s a good thing I didn’t invest in a coffee table and try to make it permanent!

  7. Glad the spreadsheet is working out! My daughter turned 9 a few weeks ago, and I think she’s similar to Levi. As it turned out only 2 kids could make it, and that was the perfect amount. We did a treasure hunt and that was a hit. I like the candy hunt idea too, I will have to do that in the future! I wouldn’t have been able to handle more kids, either, kids that age are A LOT.

    1. I think it was just all a little more stimulation than he prefers; fair enough – I was EXHAUSTED. But it did go well, so I’m happy for that and also think that the days of these sorts of organized parties are likely behind us? Both kids are transitioning toward smaller things – likely outside the home – like pizza and a movie. And I’m 100% okay with that!!
      The spreadsheet has been so helpful; I’m a big fan and really appreciate your nudging me in that direction. It took so little time to transfer what I normally tracked on paper into the digital realm, but it’s going to be useful year after year!

  8. This NaBloPoMo has been wonderful. The last time I participated with an ‘official’ group, I think there were a couple of hundred participants at least. Which means I posted my URL, looked around a bit once or twice, and mostly concentrated on posting every day. With San’s group being such a manageable size, I have been trying to go to every blog every day. I was pretty good at the beginning, but life has gotten busier, and I haven’t always made it. And my iPad gives me grief when trying to comment on certain blogs (not yours), so I have to get out a different computer to do that, and I don’t always manage. But because I am much more involved than in past years, it has been more difficult, and I am looking forward to the end. I do like this group of bloggers that I have found!

    What a joy to have your family there. I agree, it’s great when they can be there when the kids are in a normal routine. The birthday party sounds great, and I love the ‘big year/small year’ idea.

    1. 100’s of participants would be impossible to follow along with; I love the size of this group and am so appreciative to San for hosting it! *Round of applause*

  9. Oh gosh Elisabeth, I am so sorry Levi’s birthday was a flop! It sounds like it went really well and the cake is gorgeous – but he may be a kid after my own quiet heart.

    And so much company! How long are your parents staying?

    As far as Christmas prep goes: I got my holiday cards, my parents are all taken care of, and I think my husband and one sister in law are too. No decorations yet – maybe next weekend, maybe after my mother in law leaves the week after next? Sounds like you are making excellent progress on your end!

    1. The party was such a hit with the guests – and Levi enjoyed so many great moments – but I think by the end it added up to feel overwhelming. I felt exhausted the whole time, but bottled it up. I guess he felt comfortable to share it with me, which I have to appreciate?! This will likely be the last party like this anyway? The kids are at the point where they’re transitioning into less traditional “kid birthday parties” to more laid-back pizza + a movie offerings which I’m more than happy about!

      My parents will be renting a house near us, so they’re not actually staying in our home. It’s PERFECT! They’ll be nearby for four months. It’s lovely. We do have a bit of overnight company between Christmas and New Year’s but for less than a week.

  10. That cake looks pretty – I have to remember that idea. I honestly can’t remember any of my birthday parties in a good or bad way -I know I had them but I would not know anymore what it was we did. So that might mean that Levi will not remember how he disliked this one even though I can completely understand why you care now – I would, too..
    When it comes to Nablopomo I am actually surprised I managed to post every day so far. I was never consistent but the commitment helps. I loved discovering all the other blogs and enjoy the comments very much. I have some catch up to do with our friend visit but hopefully that happens in the next few days.

    1. I’m sure he’ll forget about it entirely; and in retrospect, it was fun/he’s fine. In the moment he was just a little overwhelmed (and it was discouraging to me because I find a lot of people in my space).

      Gold star for such regular posting; it is a big commitment, and I’m proud of you for sticking with it!

  11. Gosh, kids are so brutally honest sometimes. But I am sure Levi’s “this is the worst birthday party ever” comment really was just a spur-of-the-moment comment, because it sounds all-around wonderful… including that amazing rainbow cake (it for sure looks more complicated than you said it was making it!).

    So nice you have your FIL visit (does he live far away?) and that your parents will be arriving next week… that will really get the holiday season started. I am finally getting organized too and hope I’ll enjoy the heck out of the short time until Christmas. I will also be wrangling a gazillion photos, trying to get a photo book done. Oh, and I have a Christmas spreadsheet like that – it really helps getting organized.

    And thank you, Elisabeth, from the bottom of my heart for the kind words and your commitment to NaBloPoMo… I didn’t really “do” anything but invite people to come along for the ride, but we did grow our nice little blogging community a bit, didn’t we? πŸ™‚
    It’s going to be nice to slow down the roll again, but I am already looking forward to next year.

    1. Ha. Yes, they are honest to a fault, one might say.
      The cake is so easy! This is the third time I’ve done one, and every time I just marvel at how cool it is (the party guests are always amazed, because it just looks like a regular cake from the outside).

      My FIL lives in Ontario, so it’s a fair trek to get down and we only see him 1-2 times a year.

      Thank YOU for organizing this and going to all the blogs and reading/commenting. It’s a huge time committment, but such a fun adventure and it would not be happening without you. So a round of applause + a standing ovation from me <3

  12. Aww, kids. They can really share their feelings with us and often that feeling is based on that last thing they felt, not how much fun they had over the last several hours. It’s hard to hear that as a parent who put a lot of thought and effort into something!

    I am going to have to take your word on that mashed dinner…. wow that does NOT sound like a great combination!! πŸ˜› But it’s fun to have family meals like that that are unique and something everyone loves!

    1. Thanks for making such a helpful point (though, thankfully, the sting has gone from his comment at this point – it was never directed at me, but it did feel deflating to have him have such a reaction at the end of a party which absolutely exhausted me!): kids speak about things that have happened most immediately and, at the time, his overwhelm by the end of the party coloured his perception of the whole event).

      I know – take my word for it. I thought it would be an acquired taste, but I happen to love it (thankfully) and the kids are HUGE fans.

  13. I love that you integrate the grandparents into the actual life and everyday mundane. I believe this way they all know each other better and when you talk o the phone there is actually some sort of understanding.

    I have not yet put any decorations up. I am not feeling it to be honest. I need to breathe after all the Friendsgiving prep.

    1. Yes! It really helps them put the kids daily lives/routines into context and I think it’s so much easier for them to fill in the “gaps” when I send them updates via e-mail or text pictures.
      Your Friendsgiving was epic and such a great time; and I bet helping with the Operation Christmas Child boxes will feel very festive, too! What a great initiative, and I’m so glad you’re enthusiastic to do it each year <3

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