If you had asked me a year ago what the theme of Jonah's birthday would be, I would answer with this long list:
1. A fall party, because it is September
2. Pumpkins would decorate the steps leading from the deck to the yard.
3. A cotton candy machine and popcorn maker are somewhere in the mix
4. Tin tubs filled with iced drinks in the corner
5. Mini pumpkins with each child's name in gold written across it, and a plaid bow around the stem would be the party favors.
6. A pony.
Wait. Rewind. A pony?
Yeah, I can't believe that list myself. It sounds like Martha Stewart met the circus and signed a contract. If you are interested, there are a few places around that rent ponies by the hour. They will even bring them to your house. I would know; I checked.
I came to my senses around January of this year. Jonah was becoming his own person, and I could sense his likes and dislikes. I also realized it was either throw the "Martha Stewart Circus Party" or send your child to college. I chose the latter.
I grew up with special-themed parties, which is another post altogether. Because we are such slack parents, our little Jonah has a repertoire of children's shows he enjoys. In fact, we've been known to watch "his" shows even when he is not around, not even realizing it is intended for a toddler audience. He has a fondness for "Handy Manny", but his whole face beams when Mickey's character from the Mickey Mouse Clubouse fills up the whole screen. It goes a little like this:
Hello Boys and Girls!! Wanna Play? (Jonah nods and breaks into a huge grin)
Well ALLLLLRIGHTT!!! (Smile is showing teeth now)
Oh! I almost forgot the magic words! (brief troubled expression by Jonah)
Can you say them with me?? (troubled expression turns to relief...with another smile)
Meeska, Mooska, Mickeyyyyy Mouseee! (arms in the air, fists balled, bouncing on knees)
Cue music while the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse appears...
Cue theme song while characters march in....
Cue birthday theme!!!!! How could I not do a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme?? I really believe he thinks Mickey is really talking to him every morning. He loves music, and this show has music and sound effects galore.
We made our own invitations, with a little poem on the inside, inviting the mouseketeers to the "Sams' Clubhouse".
I made Mickey Mouse hats for all the children and lined them up on the mantle. I can't take all the credit, because the Disney website had patterns for everything imaginable. Each child was given a Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck souvenir cup stuffed with a Mickey and Friends puzzle. I added tags to each to help identify which cup was for which Mouseketeer. A lady from my work made a delicious sheet cake and Mickey-shaped "smash cake". We had pretzels and goldfish available for munching, and my dependable Southern Living drink tub was brimming with miniature boxes of apple juice and water. Hotdogs and hamburgers were grilled for the family later, with another round of cake for almost all involved!
The decorations were simple, and I had my sister on hand to monitor my decorating frenzy. Never underestimate the power of paper streamers from the dollar store and free Mickey stickers in the mail. The two together can combine to make a slightly tacky yet cute impression. I used my resources and covered over an old roofing sign from a few months ago. In case anyone got lost, the big letters of "Sams' Clubhouse" on white posterboard would lead the way to the front door. Of course, I had to do a wreath, which was courtesy of the dollar store. I loved it! Finally, we all had matching t-shirts. Dorky, I know, but a must.
Jonah was excited and energetic despite lacking his precious full naptimes. I believe he inherited some of my flair for the dramatic, and he thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention. He ate his cake with gusto, and he played with his guests like a gentleman. He would occasionally look down at his shirt that had Mickey Mouse posing and the name "Jonah Riley" underneath. He would ooh and ahh at Mickey, almost as if he couldn't believe he was really there. Any gift that had a mouse silhouette received special attention. He would point his hands and reach for anything Mickey-like, all the while oohing and aahing.
Despite feeling exhausted only an hour into the festivities, I know we have created a special memory. You only turn one once, and no amount of dollar store tacky decorations will ever take away from the love that was evident in our home that day.
I'm sorta ashamed to say that I'm already thinking about the next birthday party.