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We hosted Gavin’s first Portland-style birthday party on Saturday. I have to say, I have never seen this child so excited for anything in his life.

Thank goodness.

For me, it means he’s settled in here. He has a social circle. And he wants them to celebrate his birthday with him.


He built his own guest list that included his friends from pre-school, his friends from the neighborhood and some of his new friends from Kindergarten. Kenny and I were actually a little nervous at the potential number of kids that might come, but we liked that he was being thoughtful and inclusive and figured it was best to just let him own the list. It all worked out and I think we landed with about 20 or so kids that came.

I used to love planning my kids’ birthday parties back home, so I was glad to have one this year after skipping them last year. See, Gavin turned five about four weeks after we moved here last year, which means we would have had to distribute invitations about 5 minutes after we landed in Portland. So… we really didn’t know anyone enough to invite them to a party…It would have been a “Hey, nice to meet you – want to come to Gavin’s birthday party? …Oh. Which one is he? He’s the red-head over there.” Followed quickly by me saying, “What’s your name again? And which one is your child?” And since we didn’t have one for Gavin, we couldn’t very well have one for Grace in April, so we just decided to do something special with each of them at home with our immediate family to celebrate.

However, as excited as I was that he was having a party, I must admit I didn’t do a great job with planning it – late with everything from invitations to the favors, so this forced my hand to get creative on a number of levels. I didn’t even really theme it…just a nebulous mix of Star Wars + Legos, and ended up with a mix of invitations that ranged from actual physical invitations, emails and an eVite. (Shocking. I know. Especially for those of you that were invited to my kids’ parties before we moved when I went to painstaking detail to come up with invitation concepts – haha.)

I realized a few days before his party that I didn’t have favors. Nuts. It was too late to order anything without paying exorbitant shipping charges. I furiously searched Pinterest for easy ideas. Nothing. I then took Gavin to Michael’s (against his will, so pretty much setting myself up for a disaster) and wandered around to see if I could effectively craft a favor. I thought of doing ‘Stormtrooper Oreos’ whereby I would dip Oreos in white chocolate and then paint storm trooper faces on ’em. I texted my sister-in-law and we decided that it would be doable but tricky. I am not the talented sweets maker that she and my mother-in-law are, so if she thought it would be tricky, this was not the project for me! Nixed! I needed easy. And fast.

We wandered the aisles some more, and while Gavin was twirling around in exasperation whining that he just wanted to “leave this store” peppered with a few “are you almost done?” inquiries,  I had a stroke of brilliance – ‘Storm Trooper marshmallows’. This got me out of dipping Oreos in chocolate, and only required me to paint a Storm Trooper face on a marshmallow and bag ‘it. Once I saw the ‘edible markers’, the deal was sealed.

I had a few more flashes of creativity and ended up with Bobble Head Stormtrooper Marshmallow Pops. Basically a jumbo marshmallow with a Stormtrooper face drawn on, sitting on top of a regular sized marshmallow on a lollipop stick. They were quick and easy to do (especially because I wasn’t trying to create a Picasso-worthy interpretation of a Stormtrooper on a marshmallow) – and I think they turned out super cute. Gavin was delighted. And the kids at the party really seemed to like ’em. And they made me feel slightly better about my inattention to planning this party well. So…an all around win – haha.

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We also decided to try something different with gifts this year. Gavin heard about Hurricane Sandy and knew that it was a big storm that hit “where he used to live” and “where Gram and Pop and Gram and Pop live”. Following the storm, I showed him some pictures of the storm-ravaged New Jersey shore towns, and asked him if he remembered going there when we lived back home. He did – asking pointed questions about different rides he’d been on in Ocean City, etc. He was fascinated by the sand in the streets, and furrowed his brow at the ruined homes. I told him that those people needed some help – that some of them didn’t have a house, or even a drink of water because of what the storm did. He said, “Well, I can just send them some of my bottles of water.” So sweet, right?

I took the opportunity to tell him a little bit about organizations that help people when things like this happen – like the American Red Cross will set up shelters with beds, blankets, meal packs and water for those who needed to be evacuated or who no longer had a house to go home to. I said that I good way to help would be for us to send some money since we were so far away. He liked this idea and we decided that mom and dad could make a donation in his name, and that if people were thinking about getting him a gift for his birthday party, they could instead contribute a donation to help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We included a note in the invitation letting people know about this option, and Gavin made a collection box – all by himself! with a little spelling help from me. I have to say I was pretty nervous about this idea – it’s kind of awkward to a) assume people are getting him a gift, and then on top of that b) ask them to channel their money elsewhere. Thankfully, it was OK – and almost every parent thanked us for the option, said what a nice idea it was and what a good thing it was to teach Gavin. Phew. As least I didn’t socially ostracize myself and my entire family on the first major event we hosted in our new town.

Gavin raised $235 for charity. Kenny’s work is currently offering a matching gift program for Hurricane Sandy charities, and he’s looking into the best one so the money doubles. This means that Gavin will be able to contribute $470 just from his birthday party contributions alone! I am simply amazed. Gavin seemed proud of his efforts and said to us, “That’s a lot of dollars, right?” with a giant grin. I am so appreciative that the other parents participated in this and made it so successful! Woo hoo!

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