Yesterday my friend, Marissa, and I took our boys to Wichita to see the Botanica Gardens! I appreciate having Marissa as a friend for so many reasons, one of which being that she is so good at making me be brave. I almost talked myself out of wanting to go. Driving two kids all the way to Wichita and back for a short little trip can feel daunting. Especially when I am packing up the car and they are both fussy. But we met up for coffee and to grab snacks and she talked me into going and oh my gosh was it so magical. I am SO glad for the little extra "we're doing this" push that she gives!
I had been to Botanica once before for a friends wedding, but I don't remember it being as beautiful as it was yesterday. Sure, there were flowers and it was pretty. But yesterday it was absolutely breath taking. Maybe the tulips weren't blooming then, or maybe I hadn't fully developed my love and appreciation for flowers and greenery then. I'm really not sure. But today every turn we made, every place we stopped, everything, EVERYTHING, was gorgeous and perfect and such a friendly space for the boys to explore too.
We started out just exploring the main garden area by the entrance. There were rows and rows of different varieties of tulips, reds, pinks, oranges, deep purples, big, small, frilly, smooth, every different variety you could ever imagine. There were also beautiful stroller friendly, paved walkways that I deeply appreciated, and large fountains. I think above all else, Emmet's favorite part might have been all of the different water features. Fountains, little creeks running through, waterfalls, etc. They were everywhere and all he said the entire time was water, water, water. He wanted to dip his hands in, watch it fall, walk over the little bridges. We may need to put a little water feature in our yard somewhere, I already have a plan in my head for one!
These rainbow tunnels were really neat! They are right on your way in to the kids play area and Emmet loved running under them! I pushed Henry under them in the stroller too.
The kids area is where it really got magical. I had never gone back to it and had no idea it was back behind the main area. There were so many different play areas to stop at and explore. Large sculptures of characters from books (oh hi hungry caterpillar!), sand play areas, fairy gardens, an entire musical maze with giant xylophones and drums, big wooden jungle gyms and so much more. The boys ran through it and had an amazing time playing music and climbing. AND they are putting in a giant carousel that I am very excited to see next time we go!
We ended our trip with a picnic in a private little area we discovered. We brought along a few treats from Mojo's Coffee bar to eat and of course, Marissa also packed some cute little Easter eggs and snacks because she is amazing like that. It was so nice to sit back and relax and eat after adventuring around with the littles. Plus there was a waterfall, so Emmet and James were VERY pleased.
We celebrated Henry's first birthday this past weekend and it was so fun! Totally worth all of the planning, set up, and preparations. Henry woke up Saturday morning, on his birthday, with a fever. Which was kind of a bummer, but Henry being the little ray of sunshine that he is pulled through and had a great time at his party!
I decided on the theme of "wild one" for his first birthday. It just felt right, since his nursery, lovies, and Christmas presents all were wild animal themed. Which was great, because it both felt like we were summing up his first year (which is totally the point of the first birthday party in my mind) AND because we had lots of decorations already!
We stuck with the birthday basics. An adorable kids table with all of his little friends, a cake smash (because kids covered in frosting is precious), and time to open gifts. It was short and sweet, just like we like it.
Venue - Prairie Harvest Mezzanine
Photos by Brooke Lorraine Smith
Glitter One Banner - Hand Me Down (Similar)
Faux Leaf Garland - Hand Me Down (Similar)
I designed Henry's invites based off of his Christmas painting! I pick an image to paint to represent the boys every year that I put in their stockings. This year I chose a lion for Henry's lovie and it worked PERFECTLY for his invites! I painted the balloons to go along with it, and then designed the invites to have all of the information. If you want custom invites designed for your kids birthdays let me know! I'm now taking custom invite orders.
I've planned two kids parties so far (Emmet's first birthday and his second) and so far they haven't had enough little friends to have a kids table. So this year, since we've made a few new friends, I jumped on the chance to decorate a little kids table! We were given the sweetest supplies from Love of Character as a hand-me-down from our friend, and snagged a few new items to go with it. The little kids added such a fun energy to the whole party! Plus watching the different ways they interacted with the cupcakes was pretty hilarious. Emmet licked all of the frosting off the top, one stabbed it repeatedly with his name tag, and another refused to eat hers and walked around the party saying, "no cake!"
Tiger Plates - Love of Character
Napkins - Love of Character
Confetti - Love of Character
Cupcakes - Mojos Coffee Bar
Name Tags - I cut out the packaging from our temporary tattoo party favors from Love of Character
Animals - here and here
Animal Masks - Love of Character
Paper Leaves - Hand Me Down (Similar)
I decided to keep refreshments simple to minimize set up. I ordered these GORGEOUS cakes from Mojo's Coffee Bar that I just loved. I worked there in college, and two of my closest friends work there and the other owns it! It's one of the boys' and I's favorite places, almost like another home. So of course we had to (and also because they make delicious baked goods!). And then we also got a few of the delicious little Prairy Bites (think tiny amazing cookies) from Prairie Harvest to go with them.
Prairy Bite Cookies - Prairie Harvest
Cake - Mojos Coffee Bar
Table Cloth - Fabric from Spoonflower
Letterboards - here and here
Zebra - Similar
Balloon Garland - DIY'd (highly recommend using Love of Character)
Cake Toppers - Bella Luna Toys (no longer available- similar lion, similar tiger)
Animal Cups - Love of Character
Henry's Romper - Childhoods Clothing
Henry's Crown - Etsy
Smash Cake - Mojos Coffee Bar
Giraffe Cake Topper
I decorated a second table to hold a "guest book," Henry's Memory Book, photos, and some of Henry's lovies to display, a table full of items to represent his first year. I then used any leftover decorations to create centerpieces at the tables.
Baby's First Year Memory Book - Lucy Darling
Faux Leaves - Amazon
Book to Sign, Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue - Amazon
Mudcloth Pieces - Etsy (Similar)
Plastic Animals - Flamingo, Tiger, Lion, Cheetah, Ostrich
Mudcloth Paper Centerpiece - Spoonflower
The last space I created was a little gift opening area with pillows and blankets to sit on. This was a space I ignored for Emmet's second birthday because it seemed excessive and silly (and perhaps it is). But so many pictures were taken of him opening gifts, and I so regret not having a decorated space! I used blankets, pillows, and baskets we had around the house that matched the theme and then people further decorated by placing their gifts there! In the end, I'm glad I did it!
Black and White Rug - Ikea
Blue and White Blanket - Ikea (no longer available)
Black Mudcloth Pillow - Amazon
White Mudcloth Pillow - Made from Scraps (similar)
Bolga Basket - Amazon
Happy Birthday Henry!
A very sincere thank you to everyone who came and made his day special
Let me start with the most cliche things a mom can say when that first birthday rolls around. I can't believe it has already been a year, but at the same time, it feels like he has always been a part of our family. This little bottle of sunshine fit right into our family right from the start and brings sunshine to each and every one of our lives on a daily basis. His smile melts my heart a million times over and his giggle is absolutely intoxicating. This little boy has shown me what it truly means to be happy with his bubbly attitude each and every day (even on the days he isn't feeling well). Sure he has his grumpy moments, but they don't last. He just can't help it.
To my sunshine Henry, you - are one year old. love your mama A LOT, but think dada is pretty funny too. prefer to stand to eat, even though it scares the crap out of mama (and, ahem, isn't allowed). are literally always moving; you cruise around the house, crawl in three different ways (all hilarious to watch), climb up onto furniture, and even roll around and kick the sides of your crib at night. still sleep in mama's room. you prefer fruits to any other foods, but will eat just about anything. have been weaned, and didn't have tooo much trouble doing so. aren't walking or standing solo yet, you think it is way too funny when we try. have the most precious arrangement of teeth (6 and counting) I have ever seen. you say "mama," "dada," and "oh, wow!" you love, LOVE playing with Emmet, you fuss until he wakes up and love to get into his business all. the. time. you are dearly loved by all of us.
I've had a few people ask about our boys' toys, and I've been meaning to share about them for quite some time! Ever since I found out that I was pregnant with Emmet I have been researching (specifically into montessori), DIYing (see a list of my DIY's below), and shopping for the best kid's toys. I LOVE it. I get told that I am too picky , perhaps even a little snobbish, but I would rather have fewer, quality kids toys for our kiddos that a) they love to play with, b) teaches them something while they play or encourages imagination, c) last a long time, and d) look good even when scattered all over our house. We really only buy the boys toys at Christmas time and for their birthdays (with a few other toys scattered throughout the year). We've also been really lucky to receive some awesome toys as gifts! We are so grateful to everyone who loves our boys (and also to those who give them things too).
Our main "rules":
-Natural Materials if possible. Wood, Fabric, etc. Silicone is an iffy one. But preferably, limited amounts of brightly colored plastic (unless they are from green toys, which are made from recycled plastic!)
-Preferably no batteries (we have a few things). I'm cruel I know. But they break. or kids swallow batteries. or they just make god awful sounds all the time and turn their little brains to mush. no thanks.
-Little to no character toys or short term interest toys. I catch myself on this one ALL THE TIME. Emmet went through a big incredibles phase and I found myself eyeing the action figures of them at the store more than once. OR sesame street, or frozen, moana, etc. Unless they love it so much that they are going to love it for a really long time, like truly obsessed with it, It will probably just get played with for a short amount of time and then thrown out.
-Avoid having TOO many. If we already have one of something, I try to assess if we actually NEED an additional one. For instance, I've found a few shape puzzles that I love, but we already have a shape sorter and shape flash cards, so they aren't necessary as they won't teach them anything new. Or if we already have a set of blocks or stackers, we don't need another set (even if they are cuter). My goal is to avoid expansion packs for things. Wish us luck when we hit the lego stage.
Below I've made a list of all of our favorite toys, brands, and places to shop. I even put a few of our wishlist things on here too (for more ideas for you!)
What are your favorite kids toys?
Our Favorite Toys
Stacking, Sorting, & Puzzles:
Things that Move (or help them move!):
Dress Up: I love the idea of having a large basket of dress up clothes for the boys' minds to run wild with! We have a few items so far and we plan to build it up slowly. We have found a few hats already at local thrift shops and we hit them up again around halloween time for more ideas.
Bathtime: a tip, avoid ANYTHING that water can get trapped in. Squirty toys, foam, etc. Mold is a huge problem no matter how diligent you are. Plastic is your friend here.
(have)(we also love...)
Finding the right toy can sometimes be a trick! For Christmas or birthdays, or when Emmet reaches a new milestone and is ready for a new toy OR when he gets a new interest, I usually start by looking at some of my brands or at some of my favorite stores. I typically look around until I find a few options and then narrow down when I find my favorite one (and for a decent price too!)
Our Favorite Brands:
Places to Shop:
Looking for more ideas? I keep the boy's wishlists updated on my pinterest page! Come pin with me!
I picked Emmet up from preschool the other day and he had a note in his backpack about their upcoming valentine's day festivities. So of course, rather than doing the dishes, folding the laundry, or any number of other things on my to do list, I designed valentines for his class instead. AND I figured, since I was designing cute little valentines I might as well just make a free printable for anyone else to use too!
There are two printables available; You're the Cat's Meow and I'm Wild about you, both feature the same font and illustrated hearts. They look super cute on their own OR you can have your little help decorate them even more. I had Emmet decorate them with painted circles and with crayons. See examples (and further instructions below)
Download them here and find the instructions below:
To make them:
1. Download the PDF and Print on card stock (card stock)
2. Cut out the valentines
3. Punch holes on the two dots OR use a ball point pen to poke holes (my hole punch couldn't reach)
4. Poke baker's twine (find mine here) through both holes from the front side.
5. Slip an animal, cats for the cat's meow and wild animal in the I'm wild about you (cats and wild animals), through the loop created on the front side and tie the twine in the back.
Extension for kids #1: I had Emmet paint pieces of paper (he had a blast! We used a variety of colors and tried to cover the entire paper). Once his paintings were dry I used my circle punch (similar) to punch out circles. I put dots of glue on the empty spaces on his valentines and had him press the circles paint side up on each dot. Cute, crafty, great for fine motor, AND they have some ownership in the valentines rather than just having mama (or dada) make them.
Extension for kids #2: Let them decorate them with crayons before poking the holes. A lot easier than the painted circles, same sense of ownership, but a little less cute.