Dash’s 4 Year Trash Bash: A Garbage Truck Party

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I used to record what my kids were loving every single month, scratching endless notes on loose leaf paper and tucking them in the baby book where the given lines under “monthly milestones” couldn’t contain all I wanted to remember. Things like…

You love avocado now. You run into the kitchen when you hear me doing dishes so you can climb in the dishwasher, your favorite place for mischief. You love Goodnight Moon and Twinkle Twinkle. You’d eat scrambled eggs for every meal if we let you. You love your new blue flip flops. You like to pour your own bath soap, and we let you.

Every single month, I wrote them down–a page for each child–until life with three kids got too busy, and I recognized my effort to write down every love, every month, for every child was another way of hanging on too tight to what would never stop changing…time.

There are still occasional notes written down and tucked in the books–things that are too good to let go, too funny to forget. And the rest, we summarize in our birthday parties–a celebration of what our kids love and who they are. For Dash and his fourth year, it’s garbage trucks. Or, as he shouts every Tuesday and Friday morning as he runs to the viewing perch at his bedroom window, “The jerbage truck is coming!”

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The bonus in choosing a garbage truck theme for a party? EASIEST. PREP. EVER. You decorate with…wait for it…

trash.

As in, save some newspapers, egg cartons, tin cans and milk jugs, and then pile it up and call it decorations.

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I’m learning where to cheat and save my energy for where motherhood needs it most right now, so I bought a store bought cake (Wynn Dixie chocolate cakes are so good!) and decorated it in FIVE MINUTES. Scrapped off the top, dumped some crushed Oreos and arranged a toy garbage truck and a few dollhouse miniature newspaper and groceries.

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We did make the cupcakes, but they were easy too, thanks to tipped over garbage can cupcake toppers (there’s a list of links for all the party details at the end of the post).

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Party favors: treats in a trash bag.

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Some favorite moments from his party:

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We played a trash toss game…

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…and had an art station where kids were encouraged to make new treasures out of old trash. On one side of the table, I piled up recycled bottles, cans, cartons and cardboard, and on the other side, put out a bunch of craft items I found in my craft closet–tissue paper, pipe cleaners, moss, beads, pom poms, fabric and paper scraps, sequins, glue, washi tape, etc. And then it was a Project Runway challenge…except with garbage.

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The kids got creative and made sculptures, vases and collages with their garbage.

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The little ones’ favorite game was the Trash Pick-up Relay–two teams that raced to fill their garbage can first, collecting and dropping one piece of garbage at a time using a grabby hand picker-upper. That’s the official name for it, right?

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Dash is still adamant that he’s not four and will stay three, so he blew out 3+1 candles

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Last one at the table eating…that’s my boy.

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Another candle, another year, another shoe size–so happy to celebrate our boy and everything he loves right now: balloons, wearing “handsome man” cologne like daddy, grapes in his lunch box, cutting his own hair (once–dear God, the scissors are hidden now), his train pajamas, having his hand tickled while he falls asleep, being kissed on his eyelids…and big, loud “jerbage” trucks.

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Dash’s garbage truck t-shirt
Garbage truck garland
Trash can cupcake toppers
Mini trash can and recycle bin set (we used as cups)
Black plastic favor bags

Nella Turns 7: A Sunshine State Party

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Seven years ago, right now, I was lying in my hospital bed, holding tiny Nella, waiting for the sun to come up. I needed light and the promise of normalcy that the hustle of day time brought, and my hope laid in sun. It soon came, brightening the hospital room and warming the tone, and not long after, I found it in the night as well–light, not dependent on the time of day or the carefully crafted plans I dreamed up for what my family would look like.

This girl’s been nothing but sunshine, and we celebrated these 7 joyful years and everything she is with a Florida-themed birthday party this past weekend, full of foliage, flamingos and friends.

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Some new friends from her kindergarten class joined us this year as well as friends we’ve known since she was tiny, and watching her take her place in her little village made me so happy. This year, she’s bloomed socially in a remarkable way, and where she used to quietly hide behind us or shy away from interacting with larger groups, she’s now owning her space, comfortable and confident to shine her little light on her own. It’s my greatest wish for her–always own your space, girl; shine your light. You got this.

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Celebrating sunshine and the hope of a bright tomorrow…I bring you, a little Florida party.

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We didn’t have to do much for decorations–some cut paper palm fronds, a bowl of oranges, a few yard flamingos and a gathering of houseplants.

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Afternoon birthday parties are great for offering a few snacks rather than a full lunch.

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These cute dolphin fruit cups were a hit, but Dash pulled all the Swedish Fish out of their mouths and ate them before they were served.

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I made flamingo fascinators for all the girls with this 12-pack of pink satin headbands. I hot glued these large pink feathers along with some smaller ones (multi-color pink pack at Michael’s) to a stiff white felt circle I cut out, and then hot glued to the headbands.

Nella’s dress is from a shop called That Mia Life on Etsy, but for some odd reason, the shop link isn’t working.

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(These plush flamingos are from Amazon, but after I bought a bunch at $4 each, I went back to get one more, and the price went up to $10. Grrrr.)

We had two Make Stations–Hand print Flamingo Canvases (thank you, Pinterest) and Ocean Bottles, and one Game Station–The Jellyfish Toss.

I pre-painted flamingo heads and legs on flat 8 x 10 canvases, and the kids created their bodies with a pink paint hand print, and then added their names with scrapbook letter stickers. They turned out so cute.

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We made little oceans in a bottle with clear plastic juice bottles filled with 2/3 mineral or baby oil and 1/3 water dyed with a few drops of blue food coloring. The kids chose some tiny shells and plastic ocean animals to add to their bottles as well as a little blue glitter for the sparkle lovers.

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When you tip the bottle, you get that lava lamp bubble/ocean wave effect.

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We added some Florida flair to a good old carnival ball toss by adding aquarium rocks and these fun rubber jellyfish to fish bowls.

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The jellyfish were a hit and prompted a follow-up game of fling-a-wet-jellyfish-at-your-neighbor that was definitely a party favorite–screaming, giggling kids running from flying jellyfish everywhere.

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(Moment of silence please for the tail end of her fits-on-hip era. Thank you. Carry on.)

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And the moment her friends all sang “Happy Birthday”? Heaven. She loved it. All smiles.

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Her smile got so big at one point, she just put her hands over her mouth to contain it.

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Our Barbie population grew so huge this weekend, they put on their own Women’s March down our hallway and throughout our living room.

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And Sister was happy. Surrounded by love. Offering her voice, her hands, her spirit to this little community of friends. It’s a gray morning here today, but the sun shines bright in our home.

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We played this little birthday video at a family brunch yesterday morning, and what a joy it was to watch Nella take it in. We surprised her with some birthday messages from family and friends far away and a special treat from the stars of one of her favorite shows, The Fresh Beat Band. I think she’s watched this over 30 times now. I can’t wait to make one for Lainey and Dash for their birthdays this year as well. As always, we are so grateful for the light each of our children brings and love the opportunity of birthday celebrations to reflect on that love.


(video songs: “8 (Circle)” by Bon Iver and “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson)

Thank you for all the kind words and birthday messages so many of you sent yesterday. While birthdays are for celebrating life, this one also brings our celebration of how Down syndrome has affected our lives in so many beautiful ways including the opportunity to share this journey. Thank you for learning with us these past seven years. Much love.

Let’s Go to the North Pole

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Oh hey, Christmas friends. I’m drunk on cocoa and sugar high’in from marshmallows and cookies, but I’m here. In red plaid jammies if you must know.

We had our sixth annual North Pole Party this past weekend and, after editing all the pictures, I’m feelin’ the feels. Why is it that December brings out so many feels? It’s like a month long push on a bruise–the hurts are hurtier; the goods are goodier. We let those feelings come to the surface as they may in December, and we throw parties to celebrate all of it. Six years in now, this little North Pole party holds some nostalgia. It’s hard not to look out at the crowd of kids listening to the Christmas story and remember every one of them when they were in that same spot six years ago–chubbier cheeks and imaginations unshackled by all that the world tells them that is possible. At the same time, it is such a celebration of growth and change and a solid reminder to be grateful–all these kids, all these mamas, all these years. We’re healthy, we’ve grown in numbers, we’re bound by friendship and love.

So, here we go. Some holiday cheer for you–kids and jammies and Christmas and cookies.

Wait. Quick. Go make some cocoa. With marshmallows. I’ll wait.

….

….

Back? Now light a candle. And you’ll need some Christmas music, so I took the liberty of making you a playlist of our absolute favorites.

Click play.

Welcome to the North Pole.

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I am unwilling to try any other Christmas sugar cookie recipe because I can’t imagine this one being topped. It’s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook recipe (page 200 in mine–the page is all crusted with flour and falling out of my book). I roll out the dough pretty thick so that they’re soft and chewy, and I pull those feckers out of the oven when they are just barely brown around the edges. Our frosting might not be the smoothest/prettiest frosting, but it tastes so much better than the royal icing recipes I’ve seen that make picture perfect cookies. I don’t measure. I just soften a stick of butter, add a shit ton of powdered sugar, a teaspoon or so of vanilla and then enough milk to get the consistency I want. It sets enough to be able to stack cookies and yet your teeth can still sink into it.

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Also, I’d like to throw out a big Thank You to our hot cocoa bar for staining Dash’s brand new white Hanna Andersson jammies. Hoping Oxy Clean pulls through for me.

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We do an ornament station at the party, and I’ve found that these work great as a self-run craft station. Cover a table with butcher paper. Put all the supplies out. Write step-by-step directions on the paper. (porcelain ornaments, Michaels–as well as the minis, currently 70% off)

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These adorable hot cocoa ornaments (Target) were the take home treat and made the cutest garland.

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Brett sets up our beach tent in the front yard every year and strings Christmas lights all over it. We put blankets under it, and it makes the perfect gathering spot.

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I remember driving to the hospital, a week before I delivered Nella, to hold these these twin boys.

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Little finished ornament projects drying. Swoon.

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We do an outside scavenger hunt in the dark every year, but we switched it up a bit this year so it didn’t get too redundant. Two hundred candy canes were hidden along our street, and the kids ran with flashlights to find them all.

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My dad read a Christmas story to the kids again, and all I can think watching him is “You will remember this forever.”

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My favorite thing about this year? Nella fitting in. In past years, she’s kept her distance, often choosing to go read alone or hang with an adult away from the crowd. Not this year. Sister found her place. Ran with the kids on the scavenger hunt, weaseled through the crowd to get her cookies, sat with friends under the light tent, laughing and drinking it all in.

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So many times throughout the night, my dad, Brett and I all found each other and whispered, smiling, “Look at Nella. She’s so happy.”

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And that, my friends, is Christmas.

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Also, I should share that a kid gift exchange with 24 kids of different ages and genders is a shit show, and that I fail miserably at orchestrating it, but that’s half the fun. Because the adults all laugh amid the chaos and say, “This is a mess. We should never do this again.” But we do. And we will. Because tradition.

I love this night, I love these kids, I love these memories.

(Party aftermath…Dash grazing the leftovers).

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To see past years’ parties–North Pole Party Archives: 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011.