Our baby boy is officially ONE! Harvey’s first birthday is one that Rob and I will never forget – partly because it occurred during a pandemic with a slightly different party than we would have otherwise organized for the celebration. And partly because Harvey’s actual birthday was riddled with great big unhappy emotions from Dessa. It was one of those incredibly frustrating days with a toddler, that just happened to fall on Harvey’s special day. Despite the difficult circumstances, Harvey’s actual birthday and his party the following day were filled with special moments and were milestones that we will always remember and we are happy to relive some of the fun with you today.
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Harvey’s Actual Birthday
Harvey turned one on Friday, October 2 and Rob took the day off work so we could enjoy the day as a family. Our kids don’t handle busy schedules crammed with too many activities particularly well so we wanted to keep his birthday as low-key as possible while also making it special.
Our morning started pretty simply. Once the kids were dressed and ready for the day, Dessa wandered off to play with some of her toys and Harvey crawled over to our coffee table to explore with our miniature pumpkin assortment. They are one of his favorite toys to play with and I love how simple it is to make our little man happy.
A short while later, Harvey went down for his morning nap and Dessa helped me bake a batch of cupcakes for his party. Dessa helped me measure, pour, and mix all the ingredients to make the cupcake batter.
Sometime after the cupcakes came out of the oven, Harvey woke up from his nap and was unusually sad and sensitive. The poor little guy had the birthday blues and needed a little extra time to warm up and feel better.
We eventually opened the door that leads upstairs to the playroom and it helped turn our little guy’s mood around. There’s something about traveling upstairs that often gives our kids a little behavior reset.
Once Harvey was feeling more cooperative, it was time to commemorate the occasion with his 1-year milestone photos! I grabbed the first birthday card from his milestone picture card set and got him into position.
It’s no easy feat to successfully snap a photo of an adventurous baby sitting in one spot, holding a card so that we can read the text while getting him to look at the camera and hoping that he doesn’t fall off the furniture in the process. I often tackle those photos on my own while Dessa naps, but on Harvey’s birthday, it was all hands on deck.
Even Dessa got involved, although she really wasn’t much help.
It took several tries, but we were finally able to capture the perfect photos to remember Harvey’s first birthday. His little face just melts my heart.
With the milestone photos taken care of, our next birthday activity was watching Harvey open his birthday gifts. Dessa, once again, was very eager to help.
At first, I was impressed by how thoughtfully Dessa tried to gently prod Harvey while she demonstrated how to open his gifts. Soon after, however, Harvey got distracted by a small piece of wrapping paper and she stepped in to take over. Dessa finished unwrapping Harvey’s new Touch and Feel book and tried out each of the pages.
You know, as a favor to Harvey.
A few minutes later, Dessa helped Harvey open his second gift: a small Mickey Mouse plush toy to match Dessa’s Minnie Mouse plush. These days Harvey loves so squeeze and snuggle with any of Dessa’s stuffed animals and Minnie Mouse is often a favorite. Since the kids are dressing as Mickey and Minnie for Halloween this year, the Mickey Mouse plush seemed like the perfect gift for Harvey.
With two gifts already opened, only one remained. Dessa, of course, volunteered to assist the birthday boy.
Harvey’s final gift was a custom name puzzle that I ordered on Etsy. Dessa has the same puzzle for her name and Harvey has loved playing with (and chewing on) the letters for the past few months. I knew that this would be a great gift for him, while also nudging his big sister toward learning to recognize and spell Harvey’s name.
Once the gifts were opened, Dessa didn’t waste a moment before she grabbed Harvey’s new puzzle and snuck away to play with it.
A few minutes later, Dessa enticed Harvey into playing with her baby doll so that she could have Mickey and Minnie all to herself. Thankfully, Harvey was incredibly good-natured and happily played with whatever happened to be in front of him.
A few minutes later, we set our camera on the tripod and Dessa pushed the shutter button to capture a quick family photo in celebration of Harvey’s first birthday.
I know there’s a whole lot of cuteness in these photos and it seemed like such a calm, chill day for our family. But Harvey’s birthday wasn’t exactly the special, laid-back day we were hoping for. Dessa was having all sorts of behavior issues that day and all of these fun moments and memories were captured in between time-outs and tantrums that day. Harvey probably would have been in a pretty jovial mood on his birthday, but all of the screaming had an adverse effect on him. Rob and I found ourselves juggling the needs and demands of two unhappy children throughout the day.
Even though Rob and I planned for a low-key birthday celebration at home, we really wanted to take the kids and do one special thing outside of the house. We decided to check out a new local little bakeshop to grab some cider and donuts, then take a walk to a park in the area. I had hoped that the shop would offer some gluten and dairy-free donuts that are often available at other locations in the family franchise, but no such luck, which was the first step in the unraveling of our birthday treat plan. Fortunately, I had brought along a few gluten and dairy-free donuts from that I keep tucked away in our freezer for emergencies.
And that plan about heading to a park to eat the donuts … well, that didn’t exactly work out either. We had walked about two blocks when Rob and I came to the realization that the day’s windy fall weather felt significantly cooler than it did when we first left the house. Neither of the kids was dressed as warmly as they should have been and the last thing I wanted was for one of them to get sick. While Rob and I debated how to proceed, Dessa had a meltdown and was begging to eat the donut we had promised her when we left the house. She completely rejected the idea of eating her donut in the car, and the park was too far away; so we sat on a bench next to a bus stop and treated Harvey to his first-ever sugary baked good. Our little snack was cold, hurried, and chaotic as we tried to meet the demands of our cranky threenager, but Harvey was a fan and Dessa was happy to finally eat her donut.
We scarfed our donuts and gulped down the cider, then packed back in the van and headed straight for home so the kids could take some desperately-needed naps. I still had a number of things I wanted to prep for Harvey’s birthday party and was counting on the kids to nap so I could run to pick up some balloons along with a few other supplies and do a little decorating while the house was quiet.
Things did not go as planned. Harvey only napped for a short while and Dessa didn’t sleep at all. I never did get out of the house to buy party supplies and once the kids awoke, the craziness resumed. At that point, Rob and I were basically counting down the minutes until bedtime.
We ate dinner, then Dessa and I frosted Harvey’s birthday cupcakes. I worked on the cupcakes that would be served at Harvey’s birthday party, but Dessa personally frosted the ones we would eat for dessert that night. Once the cupcakes were ready, we sang Happy Birthday to Harvey, and Dessa was excited to help her little brother blow out his first-ever birthday candle. We didn’t give Harvey an entire cupcake to eat since he was treated to a donut earlier that afternoon, but Harvey enjoyed every bite that Rob shared with him.
When we finally tucked the kids into bed on Friday night we were completely exhausted. Rob and I had tried our best to make the day feel special for both kids (and as I look back on the photos, I can tell that we succeeded) but the day felt like such a flop. There were a lot of tantrums, crying, and tense moments; and I didn’t have a chance to prepare anything other than cupcakes for Harvey’s birthday party, which was scheduled for the following day. Rob and I savored every sip of our late-night glasses of wine that evening and prayed that Harvey’s party would go more smoothly than his actual birthday.
Harvey’s Birthday Party
When the kids awoke on Saturday morning, things were definitely off to a more positive start. The children were rested, in significantly better moods, and it was so sweet to watch them play together.
Things continued at a nice, peaceful pace on Saturday. Dessa was buzzing with excitement about Harvey’s birthday party, but we got through breakfast and worked on some food prep. After Harvey went down for his morning nap, I helped Rob tidy up the house, then ran out to get a few last-minute items for the party. I had about an hour until the grandparents would arrive to pick up a few groceries and party supplies. The timing was going to be tight, but my list was small and I didn’t have to travel far. I got in and out of the grocery store in under 15 minutes, so I stopped by the house and dropped the groceries on the back porch for Rob so I could quickly run to Party City and back.
This is when things started to go awry. A major road was completely and unexpectedly shut down, so I had to take a significant detour on my way to get party supplies. The minutes kept ticking by, traffic was heavy from the detour and I was completely stressed out. At that point, I knew that the logical thing to do was give up and head home. After all, Harvey’s grandparents were the only people who were going to be in attendance and they weren’t coming for the decorations. But mom guilt is a powerful thing and mine was through the roof.
For the past month, I had been thinking back to Dessa’s first birthday party and comparing her celebration to Harvey’s. When Dessa turned one, our house was full of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors in addition to grandparents. I spent hours baking and decorating a cake in the shape of a dog, had party favors for all the kids, and Dessa’s milestone photos were printed and displayed on bunting that was strung across the mantle.
Needless to say, things were different for Harvey. He’s a second child so things have been different for Harvey right from the start, but the pandemic has taken all of those differences to a whole new level. For this party, there would be no cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, or neighbors. Just the four of us and three of Harvey’s grandparents. No elaborate cake. No cute party favors. I finally caught up on processing all of Harvey’s milestone photos about a week before the party, placed the printing order, and splurged for rush shipping in the hope that they would arrive in time; but even that didn’t work out and there were no photos on display to commemorate the big moments in Harvey’s first year of life.
I was having a lot of big feelings about Harvey’s birthday because it felt like I was shortchanging him and those feelings kept on bubbling every minute that I was trapped in the car. Balloons and party supplies were the one thing I could still come through and deliver for Harvey, but even that wasn’t going as planned. Grandparents were on their way to the party and I was stuck in traffic that refused to move, on my way to pick up the balloons so my son could have something on display on the house as proof that we were celebrating his birthday. Somewhere between my house and Party City, the dam burst open and I started crying.
Mom guilt is a real and powerful thing.
I eventually arrived at Party City and ran through the store quickly searching for a Happy Birthday banner of some sort that I could hang across our mantle. I grabbed a banner, a Mickey Mouse first birthday high chair set, and a matching bib, then quickly went to the register. When it was time to pay, I was significantly frazzled and full of adrenaline (which I know is weird since all of my anxiety was revolving around a small party with grandparents as the only guests) and ended up purchasing giant silver letters that spelled ONE. I know it seems like an odd choice because most people would have just gotten a standard bunch of balloons in colors to match the party decor. But when it was time to order, I just sort of froze and all I could think about was how I ordered balloons to spell WOOF for Dessa’s first birthday party and I thought it might be a fitting follow-up for Harvey’s party.
I eventually left the store with empty pockets from paying for my overpriced giant silver balloons and a few Mickey Mouse decorations. By that point, it was around 12:15 and I was officially late for our 12:00pm birthday party. I called Rob to check-in and he calmly reassured me that the grandparents had arrived, but all was well, the kids were dressed for the party and that I should drive safe.
Naturally, I started bawling once again as soon as I hung up the phone. I felt like such a failure for being late to my son’s birthday party. As I was crying uncontrollably, a phone call came through from my Dad, who had undergone knee replacement surgery less than two weeks before. I wasn’t sure whether or not my Dad would be able to attend the party, but I quickly got my answer when I answered the phone and he apologized for not joining the celebration with us. I told him that it was ok and that I wasn’t even in attendance at the party myself, then cried some more while I told him the whole story of my quick trip to pick up balloons unraveling due to an unforeseen road closure. My dad has become a surprisingly emotional man in his later years and hearing me in so much distress brought on the waterworks for him as well. As I slowly began to regain my composure, he completely fell apart and managed to get out a few juttery words through tears before we said goodbye.
As soon as I hung up the phone, I instantly started to laugh because even I could see the humor in the fact that I had made my dad cry on the phone with me because I was so upset about the pandemic/balloon/birthday situation.
Ten minutes after hanging up with my dad, I was back home with balloons and party decor in-hand. Dessa was thrilled to see the balloons and instantly ran to greet me so she could claim them for the party. Harvey had a very different reaction to the inflatable decorations. He was uneasy and quickly began to scream when he found himself in close proximity to them. Two minutes after the balloons entered the house, they were hurriedly shoved upstairs out of view, and banned from the party. All I could do at that point was to take a deep breath, shake my head, and appreciate the ridiculousness of the situation.
Enjoy the view of the balloons while you can, because that’s the first and last appearance they made for Harvey’s birthday party.
Harvey had just sat down to start eating lunch when the balloon situation unraveled. He stayed in the high chair and began to calm down after the inflatable decor was removed, but it took him a while to warm back up.
A few minutes later, we all joined Harvey at the table and feasted on hamburgers, chips, and salad. Once everyone had their fill, we settled into the living room to relax and enjoy our time together. When Rob and I made the decision to follow the same basic plan as our celebration for Dessa’s third birthday party this past July and have a simple birthday party with just the grandparents, I knew I wanted to do something to make the occasion feel extra special. I decided to lean into the seasonal timing and dress the kids in costumes. I spent a little more money than I probably would have invested in their costumes under different condition, but this was an additional opportunity for the kids to wear their costumes and I know Dessa will get lots of wear from that skirt when she plays dress-up during the long winter we are heading into.
And honestly, don’t they look absolutely adorable?
I’m happy to say that my frantic trip to Party City wasn’t a total waste, even though the balloons turned out to be a complete flop. The little highchair decorating set never made it onto Harvey’s high chair, but the bunting served as a perfect decorative touch for our coffee table. And do you see the banner that I taped onto the mantle? It’s actually a mat that was intended to lay on the floor under the high chair to catch any discarded bits of cake, but it served perfectly as a poster to help celebrate the occasion.
The time stamp on the photo below reads 1:16 pm – 45 short minutes after my late arrival to Harvey’s birthday party with desperation balloons in-hand. There was something incredibly restorative about having a low-key birthday celebration with just the grandparents. Harvey was doted on by his grandparents and both kids were able to enjoy quality time with their party guests. Any lingering disappointments I had felt earlier in the day had completely melted away. Harvey’s party was unfolding in a way that was absolutely perfect and more special than I could have imagined.
When we were done taking photos, it was finally time for the big moment: birthday cake! I think it goes without saying that Dessa was very excited about this part. We all sang “Happy Birthday” and Dessa helped Harvey blow out the candle on his cupcake. Even though we had just done the exact same thing the night before, Harvey was still pretty confused about the events unfolding around him and about the frosted dessert we had placed on the tray of his highchair.
We eagerly waited in anticipation for Harvey to eat his cupcake, but our little guy didn’t seem to get the memo that he needed to take a bite. Luckily, Dessa was there to step in. She gently offered Harvey a bite to get the ball rolling. After that, Harvey was ready to enjoy the rest of the cake all by himself.
We all ate our share of cupcakes and ice cream while Harvey slowly worked through his treat, and then we were ready to open gifts! Dessa selflessly stepped in to assist once again. I can’t help but smile as I look at these photos because they remind me so much of Dessa’s first birthday party. There were several cousins and young friends under the age of seven in the house while Dessa opened her gifts and the big kids basically took over while Dessa watched them open her gifts in a state of awe and confusion. The whole thing happened fast and I barely managed to get a few photos that were in-focus during the excitement.
For his birthday gifts, Harvey received the perfect mix of items that were practical and fun. My parents gifted Harvey with some new clothes and a little money for his college fund, while Rob’s parents gave him a fun new pop-up tunnel. We are bracing for a very long winter at home and the tunnel will be the perfect interactive toy to keep kids entertained inside the house during the coming months.
Looking back at Harvey’s birthday, our two-day celebration turned out to be more of a success than I had anticipated (and certainly more joyful than it felt while we were dealing with so many tantrums on his actual birthday.) I had spent the past month praying for Harvey’s birthday party to be every bit as special as his big sister’s first birthday and I’m so happy that those prayers were answered. Even though things looked a bit different this time around, our family still managed to create an abundance of memories – and we even have photos to share with Harvey when he gets bigger.