Sound the Alarm, Slide Down the Pole & Grab Your Gear, William and George's Third Birthday is Here!

I think it was shortly after their 2nd birthday party that they decided on a firetruck party for when they turned three and they've been telling everybody about it for just as long. Then last summer we saw a firetruck-for-hire at a birthday party at Off the Grid and that completed the plan.

Overall, the party went really well. It helped that I started planning early -- maybe as early as January -- doing an hour here and there of pinning ideas and starting a to-do list. That way it never felt too overwhelming, even as the party date approached. At first it's about gathering ideas and deciding on the basics of food, games, party favor, decorations, etc. Starting a shopping list with these items is helpful as you can start purchasing on your normal shopping trips or filling your Amazon shopping cart. Next it's about getting quotes and making a decision about the things that will be outsourced -- in this case: invites, cake, catering, fire truck rental, photographer, table rental, party helper. All of this was done sometime in March, and I found that I had a lot of my prep done (including things like gift tags and signs) before we left for our trip to Hawaii at the beginning of April. That left the last few weeks to prep things like decorations and make final lists of anything else needed. Even the days leading up to the party weren't too hectic. I broke out the week by day and added a few things for each day, with the day before for food prep and gathering final items needed for the party (tape, scissors, matches, etc.). What really made the difference was the prep I was able to do Friday night -- laying everything out downstairs, deciding what snacks would go in which serving piece, making sure the signs were with everything and deciding on any other table accessories. Since I couldn't set everything out in its place since the party was outside, this was the best way to do it. It was easy to have my party helper go to a pile and transfer everything to the right table and start setting it up, with me doing the final touches as opposed to having to be super-involved the whole time. The other thing that really helped was to have my mom run some errands for us Friday before the party. She walked over to Laurel Village and left the balloons at Ace so that we'd be the first order for 9am Saturday morning. She also ordered the coffee. That made it much faster for Dave to just pick everything up that was ready which meant he could help set up at home a bit too.

My biggest regret of both of the last parties was that I was so rushed as the party start time approached, and that things weren't ready to be photographed, we were rushed to get family photos, etc. That was my goal this time, to be ready and relaxed by 10am, with the party starting at 10:30. For the most party, it worked out. I was showered and ready by 7am and took my time starting to set stuff out. My dad and the party helper arrived by 8 and by 10am, all that was left was to actually open the food and dump it in the bowls, etc, everything was already set out. Well, I forgot about one last project which I should've just aborted as it occupied both my dad and the helper which meant the food wasn't set out until the last minute, which prevented the photographer from getting all her shots before people started arriving. Overall, not a big deal, but it's all about prioritizing and I probably should've made a different call. The good news is that Dave, the boys and I were all ready at 10 and we got lots of family shots, shots of the boys, with the grandparents, etc.

As always seems to be the case, rain threatened to disturb our party plans, but it was only a chance and seemed to shift throughout the week. Several days before, it looked like it would just rain Friday, but of course it's stressful thinking of what we'd do last minute if that changed. In the end, it did end up raining a lot on Friday (of course when we were at our outdoor class) but cleared up in the afternoon and was in the low 60s and pretty sunny for the party (the best you can hope for!).

Everyone seemed to have a blast. The fire truck was a hit, but amazingly it seemed that everyone was out there for a bit right after it arrived and when I went out about 30 minutes later, barely anyone was out there so I went to get the boys and they played on it longer. Not ideal to have the party broken up between the front and back yard so that probably contributed to it but what can you do. Kids seemed to like the water buckets and the rescue the kitty game too. And actually, the biggest hit was probably being in the playroom with all the toys. You know how kids are -- they're in heaven when they're in someone else's zone and the toys seem endless. At one point it seemed like there were 25 people in that small room! I think overall we had about 30 kids and maybe 50 adults... and as opposed to last year where it felt like it was split into two shifts (early nappers and later nappers), everyone seemed to stay the whole time so it was definitely packed.

I had fun with the food. We had catered BBQ to go with the fire theme (ribs, brisket, chicken, mac and cheese, cornbread) and then I did a snack table with the following:
  • Babybel cheese: firetruck wheels
  • Cheetos: flames
  • Pretzel sticks: match sticks.. "don’t play with match, eat them!"
  • Red and yellow bell peppers: veggie flames (in plastic cups with ranch dip)
  • Watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple on skewers: fiery fruit
  • Popcorn: smoke
  • Apple chips: steering wheels

On the dessert table, we had a cake for each of them that I added a fire fighter figurine, a mini name banner and a candle. We had a few more treats:

  • Firetruck sugar cookies, red sprinkles
  • Tootsie rolls: stop, drop and roll
  • Red licorice: fire hoses
  • Chocolate mini donuts and oreos: fire truck tires
  • Hot Tamales: embers
  • Chocolate dipped cookie sticks: fire poles 
  • Flame cupcakes

Last year we had tons of drinks leftover but this year, I think we had just enough. We ran out of mimosas so I think we'd get a bit more next year.

Each year, it does seem to get easier and easier and I was able to enjoy myself more this year too. I think having this many people to a 2.5-hour party is hard. I start to feel guilty if I'm talking to any one person for too long and feel like I need to make the rounds, yet you're not really catching up to much with anyone either. Things that made it better that I'll continue to do:
  • Pick a few things to do homemade (especially when it comes to food), but outsource the rest. It's so hard since food has to be prepped last minute so it was nice to have the cake and cupcakes delivered that morning. Besides a few fresh snacks, I just made the firetruck cookies which probably took an hour and are so cheap and easy to make at home.
  • Start early and do whatever you can far in advance so it doesn't become overwhelming. Things like getting the signs printed out are kind of a pain, but it's so much easier to do this far in advance of the party, assembling banners, tying gift tags, etc while watching TV.
  • I was so excited to see that Evite had added a custom invite option since I searched last year, which meant that I could still order the cute etsy invite that was custom and then just upload the photo to evite, which allowed me to still manage RSVPs easily online.
  • Have a party helper. I paid the high schooler from next door $12 an hour for 6 hours to cover setup, the party and clean up. It was money well spent.
  • Hit the dollar store. Of course there aren't any convenient to us in the city, but it was worth the trip. I found lots of good serving dishes in the theme color of red, buckets and bins for the water, plastic flowers that looked just like flames that I stuck around the yard, table clothes, napkins and other partyware and decorations. It's annoying to buy all this stuff and use it just once (usually it's not worth it to us to store it for a potential party down the line), but leaving the store spending $25 and then donating it when finished makes me feel less guilty.

Fire trucks was another fun and easy theme to work with. George has already requested a garbage truck for next year... not sure what food is appropriate for that theme but I jokingly mentioned that to several people and one friend said she actually has a friend who drives a garbage truck so we'll see. So much can change in a year but that's certainly G's top truck right now. It was fun to see them so excited into the party, which always makes all the hard work worth it. I was definitely exhausted by the end of that day and it's always nice to be done -- get everything cleaned up and back to normal, get all the party stuff packed away to get rid of, etc. My parents, once again, were both a huge help. Next up, we're hosting my dad's 75th birthday party at our house in a few weeks, but I hope he's not disappointed that we won't have quite the extreme set-up.

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