That 1 year mark

Jamie’s Hulk Smash Cake ceremony, which sadly turned into a bawling session. Oh well.

It’s been awhile since anyone has posted on this blog, and for that, I do feel a bit guilty. There’s so much that I’d like to talk about and share with you guys, but I guess we’ve just been so awfully tired keeping up with Mr Hyper over here.

These days, a simple outing or an extended play session at home isn’t enough to tire him out. We’ve had nights where he almost didn’t sleep at all, others where he would wake up each time we lowered him into his cot, and some where he would only hunker down for a snooze around midnight or closer to 1am.

Most recently, our Little Explorer turned one. It was such a flurry of activity that went on over the past 7 days or so as a result of us planning and preparing for his big birthday bash. I’m not one for large gatherings, but somehow I felt it was important to Deric (and Jamie too, of course) that there would be some kind of huge buzz over him reaching the 1 year mark. So, we set out to put together a party with a guest list of close to 70 people. And yes, I agree, that’s a whole lot of people.

We decided on a superhero themed party, since we’ve kept that going from the early days of Jamie’s existence (ie the baby shower) right up till now. Besides, his Papa is mighty fond of comics about superheroes and what with all the superhero movies that have been cropping up over the past few years, it just seemed like a cool theme to go with.

But that wasn’t all. Due to our budget concerns, we opted to DIY the entire party. Plenty of inspiration came from Pinterest, of course: food recipes, decor, etc. The pitfall of that is that most Pinterest party ideas are catered for small scale parties, which is apparently what many Western families like to organise. This, however, is different when it comes to an Asian context where it’s common to invite the whole world and his dog to just about every social event we stage (case in point: Chinese wedding dinners aargh).

Anyway, thankfully we managed to nail it for most of the items on our menu (except for the strange apple and carrot salad that we just had to have for reasons of wanting to be different), although for everything else, it was a huge mess. Not a complete failure kind of mess, but sloppy and half baked (for example, more than half of the decor items I prepared were never used).

All in all, we enjoyed the process though, and despite feeling my usual reservations about big scale events, it felt great having so many friends and family members around us to commemorate this important milestone in Jamie’s life. (The after-party present opening time was golden too. And I think Deric and I were probably more excited about the toys Jamie received than he himself was haha).

So yay for us, we actually survived a year of parenthood, in all its messy, clumsy glory. As Jamie makes his transition from baby to toddler, I can’t help but beam with pride at how far he’s come and how much he’s achieved over just a span of 12 months. It’s amazing that this little creature that I once bore in the recesses of my belly has survived all this while. Hehe.

We’ve learned so much in this past one year, and I feel terrible that I didn’t get to share it live with you as it unfolded over time (which was what my original intention for this blog was). But anyway, I’ll try my best to close the gaps for the things that we’ve been through (and which I think might be useful for any new parents out there reading this) while also spilling the beans on our latest endeavours and challenges in the hopes that it will be helpful in some ways to you.

Before I go, I heed the advice of one of the editors I work for by providing you with something useful to take away from my post. Here are some lessons we learned from our first time experience of organising a child’s birthday party:

1. It’s possible to put together a DIY party, but if you want it to be something you’ll look back on with pride, you’ll need to be willing to get really thorough about every single aspect of the party. It’s a lot of effort, but when you’ve pulled it off, you’ll feel so very good about yourself despite all the madness. And you’ll likely want to try doing it again.

2. There are so many online resources available out there that even if you lack confidence about the brilliance of your own ideas, there’s lots of good suggestions you can pick up on from other people out there. From there, you’ll just need to adapt it to suit your purposes and you’ll be all set.

3. Yes, it’s a DIY project, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be executed by you and you alone. More realistically, it should involve your spouse and some of your immediate and/or extended family members, because it’s just really impossible to do everything by yourself. Trust me on this one. You’ll be thankful for the extra heads to brainstorm and the helpful hands to get things done when crunch time comes.

4. The earlier you plan and prepare, the better it is on your sanity. Last minute miracles do happen, but only if you’re prepared to forego sleep the night before and to work round the clock (something we more or less did, to my regret).

5. Go for finger food and light refreshments when planning your menu rather than attempting to provide full blown meals. For us, we like the tea time slot best (we did a high tea wedding reception as well back in the day) and this is what we did for Jamie’s first birthday too. It takes pressure off the food preparation bit, and lowers the expectations of guests (thus preventing too much disappointments, if any do surface).

6. Baking a homemade cake for the smash cake ritual was golden. I felt super happy that my son’s first taste of cake was something relatively tasty and which had ingredients list that I was absolutely comfortable with (no funky preservatives or artificial colouring). Here’s the cake recipe we used and the one for the frosting, in case you want to try replicating it. Deric really wanted it to be a Hulk Smash thing, so we added natural green colouring extracted from pandan leaves. We also whipped up our own batch of cupcakes for the adults to enjoy in lieu of the traditional birthday cake (standing at the food table to slice out 70+ piece of cake for consumption isn’t ideal in my books).

7. It’s easy to get carried away when deciding on how to do the decorations, especially when those overachieving parents on Pinterest post up all those photos of their accomplishments and make it feel as if it’s all so super easy to do. No problem if you want to start off with ambitious schemes, just be prepared to scale it down last minute if you find that you have constraints in the form of time or other resources.

8. Remember not to get too caught up in the party details that you forget to look after the baby. Deric took leave from work for 2 days prior to the party and we were doing lots of running around and cooking and baking then. A lot of the time we had to leave Jamie to entertain himself with his toys in his play area. He does this much better now that he’s older and can be left alone for considerable stretches of time, but in my opinion, this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Babies only have a certain amount of patience and can endure only brief separations from their primary caregivers. It’s no point throwing a perfect party only to have its honorary guest down in the dumps. It’s a fine balance, and one which we treaded on very dangerously. Do keep this in mind throughout your planning-preparation-execution process.

9. If you have a theme for the party, try to stick to it and to show it in as many ways as possible to make it count. Tiny details like food presentation and room decorations make a difference. Games, photo booths and other manners of fun things are great too and help guests to get into the spirit of things. However, where we come from (ie Malaysia), the general public isn’t always very sporting when it comes to observing a themed dress code so we stopped short of imposing that on them. You’ll have to judge for yourself how applicable this is to your own crowd. If they will follow it, why not?

10. Don’t forget to have fun! It’s no point going through all the fuss of organising a DIY party only to be sour faced and to be bickering endlessly with loved ones while at it. Remember to pick up your little cutie pie for a tiny kissy, cuddly fest in between your busyness of planning his/her party. Laugh at the silly antics of your spouse as he clumsily tries to ice the cake. Shrug your shoulders and refuse to be miffed when things don’t go exactly as planned. Take tons of photos. Make beautiful memories.

That’s all for now, folks. And I’ll be back soon. Fingers crossed.

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