Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Birthday in Candyland

 It's been two weeks since the party and finally I'm sorting through pictures to do a post. ;) Making a Candyland Birthday Party for Hadassah and Eliana was a ton of fun. And a ton of work. But I think my brain had been missing all the planning and preparations I used to do for ballet and theatre productions, because I happily spent almost all of my spare moments of "free" time for a month working on ideas and crafts. Then there was the staying up til Midnight decorating and the 1 year old waking me up at 4 and then 5 AM on the day of the party - she who until then had slept through the night almost every night. Yeah. ;) But it was a fun day!

I used the excuse of decorating for a party to put together collages of my girls. We've had a lot of fun in the past year! It's amazing how time flies by. These served a dual purpose: they were something to look at in the entry way as people took off their shoes, and now they're decorations for the newly reorganized Hadassah PLUS Eliana bedroom. :)

The entry way had bags for guests to keep their crafts and goodies from the Candyland game.

They all got to take a walk through Candyland! We also had a lot of fun revealing it to Hadassah when she woke up that morning. She knew it was coming as I'd told her what I had planned, but her reaction was still priceless. She kept walking through again and again. I loved using my creative brain to get the decorations in place and Ryan was so kind to do the brunt work, taping down all the paper and moving and cleaning to make room for things.

At the Gingerbread tree I had stickers for them to add buttons and frosting to their gingerbread man, as well as draw them a nice smile :)

At Peppermint Forest a mom helped them twist together a pipe cleaner candy cane (which they can use for a Christmas ornament later if they want!) and at the Rainbow Trail they crawled through a colorful tunnel in Hadassah's room.

Gumdrop Mountain was made out of balloons, and there were also big pompoms attached to magnets for them to make their own "Gumdrop Trail" on a magnetic stick. 

They picked up a peanut treat from Grandma Nut, and then got a lollipop in Lollipop Woods, where they also got to draw their own lollipop to add to the woods using a window marker on the sliding glass door.

At Snowflake Lake they picked up snowflake wand of their choice (I cut snowflakes, then hot glued them to sparkly foam backing and a popsicle stick) and do a dance to snowflake music :)

Gloppy the Chocolate Mud was bubblewrap they could jump on. :)

 I used extra spots to put touches of the game. :) For some reason Hadassah latched on to this game almost from the instant we introduced her to it around Christmas of last year. She plays it over and over, with us and alone. So it was fun to make a life size version for her. And while it was a ton of work, it was worth it to me when someone asked how her birthday had gone and she said with huge, shining eyes: "I got to WALK on Candyland!!"
 After all the work we spent on decorations, including paper taped on the floor, we weren't about to let a 1 and 3 year old loose before the party happened! I also didn't want to think about breakfast crumbs strewn everywhere. So, we made a breakfast picnic. :)

 Ellie was initially a bit worried. She likes going outside, but not before she eats breakfast! ;) The air was a little cool, but so refreshing, and the food even stayed warm on our 10 minute walk.

 This one was pretty excited! She love anytime going outside! And she also loved being able to walk around when she finished and the rest of us were still eating.

 And she loves to climb. Any opportunity to climb! I love this picture taken on her 3rd birthday too... Such a great picture showing our joyful Hadassah!

The guests arrived. There were 9 children ages 2-5 years lined up to play the game! Ellie, who I'd planned to be napping at that time, wouldn't go to sleep at her normal time, even though no guests were there yet. Hadassah did the same thing at her first birthday party  - guess there was just too much excitement in the air! She finally fell asleep on me in the Ergo, as I wanted her to have some sleep to last through the party!

Ryan drew the color cards and told each child how many squares to go We played it like the real candyland game. Looking back, I would have just assigned each child to go to a different station at a different time, as they were all clumped up at the beginning and there wasn't enough space for them to do each activity at once! But hindsight is 20/20... They still had fun, though they had to wait for a while. But learn from my mistake if anyone else does this. ;) Playing the game like the board game works well for just a few kids, and we enjoyed doing it with Hadassah later in the afternoon. But for a big group, especially if they're pretty young, have everyone walk the "board" and then just have them go to different stations. :)
The 4-5 year old really seemed to understand and enjoy each part. The younger ones mostly just got shuttled around in a partial daze. ;) But there was plenty of excitement in the air!

I had asked a parent to be at each station to help and explained to them beforehand what they would be doing. It definitely helped a ton! And yes, reminded me of my theatre/ballet days when I had to recruit parents to help behind the scenes. :D

 Hadassah's favorites forever and always involve eating. I had planned for them to save the treats for later, but soon realized that was a crazy wish when it's a 3 year old you're talking to! ;)

 Ryan did a great job moving kids along! Especially when some activities took longer than others, he'd just go on to the next child, trying to make sure everyone was moving and hitting each thing.

While I was pretty distracted during the party with so much to keep track of, I later heard it was memorable and enjoyed by the kids. So that made me happy. :)

 Finally it seemed like kids were getting distracted and most activities had been done, so we just declared that it was time for everyone to go to Candy Castle and get a cupcake! :)

I was so blessed by everyone stepping in to help. One mom was especially amazing. She showed up 15 minutes early and took over making the mac 'n cheese as Ellie wasn't sleeping and both girls needed to get in party dresses. Then she shredded the chicken for the BBQ in preparation for lunch as I was again busy with children. Then she stayed after the party to help clean up! We have been given such great friends here. 

Everyone seemed to enjoy the cupcakes! And I must say, they did turn out really good! Pinterest recipes for the best vanilla and chocolate cupcakes worked, and the icing behaved beautifully for decorating. Getting a free set of icing bags and tips makes all the difference as this was my first "real" cupcake decorating that really worked!

Hadassah had been so excited about her chocolate cupcakes, so she was definitely so happy to be finally eating one!

 And this is one of them! After a year in America (and coming to spend Thanksgiving in Alabama with us last year!) we are so happy to have this friend back in China! He arrived a few days before the party, so this was the first time we got to see him. Ryan is thrilled to have his discussion partner back.

 I had asked each child to bring a stuffed animal with them, so after cupcakes we played "animal musical chairs." There was a chair for each child with an animal on it. When the music stops, everyone sits down (so nobody is eliminated) and they go around making the noise of the animal they ended up with. They all seemed to enjoy it. :)

Lots of smiles! And while I'd wondered if Hadassah would be too overwhelmed (she gets a bit worn down in a big group) she really seemed to enjoy all the party excitement. We didn't want to leave out anyone, so we just went ahead and invited the friends who have been constant in these last 2 1/2 years in China.

 General craziness broke out as we let kids play with (and pop!) the balloons from Gumdrop Mountain and the Rainbow Trail tunnel got pulled around and played with 'a plenty. But everyone was happy!

 Lunch settled things down a bit. :) I found original Kraft Mac 'n Cheese on Taobao and ordered it the beginning of October. Dassah's favorite food is "cheesy noodles" and while I usually make my own stove-top version, the box kind seemed easier for a large group. It didn't come and didn't come, but then randomly showed up a few days before the party - just in time! :)

I am so grateful for these friends God has provided.

 This little miss was a bit dazed, but also quite happy with all the excitement. I had planned the Candyland mostly for Hadassah's sake, since a 1 year old doesn't have too many preferences yet! But Ellie absolutely loved the decorations. She smiled at each set up, especially the gingerbread tree, going to it over and over. And she loved walking on the colorful trail over and over too.

 Hard to believe my 2nd baby is now 1!

 As is tradition (in America at least - I think some Chinese friends were a bit shocked we'd give cake to a baby!), we gave Ellie her own whole cupcake. She tasted the frosting...

 But was more interested at first in the lollipop we'd finally let big sister eat from her game stash. ;)

 But then she finally got fully into it and demolished her cupcake. I'd say she enjoyed it. ;)

 My favorite memory came next. I wanted to take a picture of the girls together in their party dresses (which no, I didn't make - both were given to us!). Then Ellie started tugging on her sister's hand...

 ...and away they walked through CandyLand, both so happy to be walking with each other. I love seeing the friends they are becoming.

 This friend was so sweet to come for the party! She got up at 5 AM - traveling nearly four hours to her train station, on the train, and then on the subway to make it to the party! She is a dear sister, and has become like an aunt to our girls. Hadassah was pretty excited when she she showed up!

She also amazingly washed ALL the dishes for me after the party, and then stayed to talk while the girls napped. It was a blessing to have help with clean up as I was feeling the affects of just four hours of sleep, and it was so good to catch up with her!

 About half of the guests left after lunch, then we relaxed in the living room with good friends, the children happily playing.

 Especially when Hadassah got to open up gifts - then there were new toys to enjoy too!

 Ellie preferred climbing over opening presents. She seemed really happy with all of the activity going on - she seems to love watching kids play! Once she grows out of her separation anxiety, we really think she may be a people person. ;)

 One friend gave Hadassah an entire Queen Elsa dress up set. :)

 But her favorite was this puzzle. You can put the pieces together a lot of different ways  - with a ton more arrangements not working. So we quickly figured out this is a toy she should only play with if she has someone to help her!

 After naps we went to our Secret Garden, Hadassah's absolute favorite spot. We watched ducks and ran back and forth over the "boingy bridge" again and again. You can't match this joy! It was a nice family time after a busy morning!

 It was a day of presents too! We opened presents grandparents had sent with them on skype that morning, more from the party, and ones from us in the evening.We had a wonderful time celebrating our three year old! And our one year old - her birthday would be exactly a week later! :)

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