I know I’m not a “Pinterest mom,” but my mom borders on being a Pinterest grandma. Thankfully, that came in very handy the weekend before last when we hosted Sprout’s second birthday party. Despite the fact that we had to change venues due to flash flood warnings, our Teddy Bear Picnic party ended up being a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.
Knowing this is probably the last year I can pick his party theme, I picked one he would like but wouldn’t choose himself, like dinosaurs or trains. As Teddy Bears’ Picnic seemed like it would be a common theme, I thought it would be easy to find ideas for decorations.
So like a stereotypical suburban mom, I searched Pinterest. While I found a few great ideas, I was rather disappointed. Instead of being overwhelmed by choices, I found two things: 1) the same cute ideas over and over and 2) photos of incredibly elaborate displays with no instructions on how to do them. After looking at several of the posts that fell into category 2, I realized the authors didn’t make the posts with the goal of helping others out. In most cases, the photos were of parties that were run by a party planner, catered, or at least had 90% of the stuff purchased from an expensive bakery. As I have neither the budget or inclination to take any of those options, these photos were pretty, but useless.
With that in mind, I talked to my mom and we chose a few crafty ideas that she could help with. Unsurprisingly, she did an awesome job. She made an adorable pair of bear ears for Sprout – because you better go in disguise to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic – that he actually kept on for a long time (aka more than one minute). While I just asked her to frame the lyrics from the Teddy Bears’ Picnic song in an ordinary picture frame, she went above and beyond by creating a border of picnic tablecloth. She also dragged some decorative old-fashioned picnic baskets out of the basement and her office. I can’t imagine how much paperwork she cleared out of the one.
Unfortunately, as cute as everything was, it couldn’t change the weather. As early as Friday, with a 90% chance of thunderstorm, it was obvious we needed to relocate the party from the park pavilion to an indoor location.
So I took the decorations, red and white tablecloths from the party store, and every teddy bear in the house and headed down to our finished basement. This was part of the executive decision to stay the hell out of everyone’s way this year, as opposed to last year. Both Chris and my mom have exacting visions for their projects that don’t exactly match my areas of competency. While last time I had the excuse of Sprout waking up for hours on end at 2 a.m., I would rather avoid having a panic attack and being miserable to my family again. Instead, I picked up toys, laid out picnic blankets, and arranged stuffed animals and books as artfully as I could manage. With the blankets and camp chairs, it was an indoor picnic, but still definitely a picnic.
In the meantime, Chris and my mom were whipping up delicious picnic food. Using a cookie cutter, my mom cut peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter and honey sandwiches into bear shapes, then drew mouths on with frosting.
She also made little driving bears with Milky Ways, M&Ms, Teddy Graham’s, and melted chocolate chips. (For Americans, the Smarties referred to in the link are like giant M&Ms, not the hard little things everyone picks out of their Halloween candy.) Chris made a deconstructed eggplant parmesan salad with cubes of fried eggplant, roasted tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and shaved Parmesan cheese. He made it ages ago and I adored it so much I still remembered it seven years later.
And of course, the cake. With this birthday cake recipe and the buttercream frosting recipe from culinary school, it was definitely the tastiest cake Chris has ever made. It was darn cute too. White frosting with lines of red colored sugar created a picnic blanket. Piping of green frosting around the edges made for convincing looking grass. And stuffed bears from Amazon (12 for $10!) around a piece of honeycomb, on top of a piece of Saran Wrap, made an adorable picnic. It was shockingly hard to find those little bears. We almost had to fall back on Care Bears, of all things.
Before we started, I wanted to see Sprout’s reaction. Last year, he didn’t have a clue what was going on, but this year, he’s already well-versed in the concept of make-believe. I’ve drank enough cups of pretend tea to know that. When he turned into the room, transformed into a teddy-bear fantasy, a big smile spread across his face. He was happy earlier in the day, but this was wonder. It made every bit of decorating worth it.
Once everything was ready, we waited for our guests. And waited. And waited. D.C. guests abide by the “fashionably late” idea and getting little kids out the door is a fight against entropy anyway. Just as I was getting genuinely nervous, our guests started arriving. Even though we had far fewer people show up than invited, it was the perfect number. If we had more, it would have been too crowded in the basement.
As it was, we had 4 kids running around, 1 infant, and a bunch of adults, both parents and not. The setting wasn’t as exciting as a playground, but they enjoyed our toy kitchen and little slide. They were self-sufficient enough that the parents could relax and talk, which everyone appreciated. I always like being able to see my friends.
But my favorite part of the whole day was just before we cut the cake. I held Sprout up to blow out the candles. As the lights were off and everyone was singing, he smiled quietly, his eyes shining. He knew everyone was singing to him out of love.
Later that night, he kept saying, “Happy day.” Happy day indeed.