Birthday Party Planning Post-Mortem

We had my daughter’s first, real birthday party on Saturday.  By real, I mean inviting people other than her relatives.  By real, I mean not just letting a bunch of waiters sing Happy Birthday to her, hand her an ice cream sundae and slap a sombrero on her head.  I didn’t want to have a birthday party for her, unless she could tell me the names of the friends she wanted to invite and this was the year.  Four was her lucky number.


I went through my bounce house blues months ago and decided to go easy on the planning and pick a venue that had prepackaged birthday party options.  Save the insanity for some other shindig, maybe even her sweet sixteen or better yet, her wedding.  That’s assuming she decides she even wants to get married or have a wedding.  If not, here I come beachfront condo on Oahu or Maui!


You basically get a menu and decide how much you want to break your bank account.  The packages go from minimal damage to total annihilation with no eating out or good wine for a few months, which in my book is a travesty.  I picked the cheapest one where the guests wouldn’t starve.  Of course, this always involves the pizza option.  I opted for chips as a sidekick, instead of paying $75 for a large bowl of fruit.  I mean, are they flying in seasonal fruits special for the birthday party?


The venue we chose has a bunch of kiddie rides, face painting for a reasonable price and a giant, green dragon that walks around the park offering up photo ops.  Not as cheap as Pin the Tail on the Donkey or a piñata, but worth my sanity, I thought.  Who was I kidding?  Sane, party planning (even with a menu) and me do not go together.  If I can party plan a prepackaged party, I will!


It turns out my daughter’s dinosaur theme has a lot of options for the gift bags and I decided to buy ALL of them.  First, I found these great, Melissa and Doug, dinosaur sun catchers.  They were too big for any gift bags, so I had to buy the extra large ones, which made the sun catchers look really tiny.  Ruh roh.  Need to buy more stuff to fill up the bags, right?  Of course!


I went to the local party store.  You know, the ones that mark up the prices because of the convenience factor and because you actually get to see what you’re buying.  Sometimes I’ll cross reference prices after I window shop and order the items on  This time, I went against my brain and waited until the last minute.  My husband is the procrastinator.  I always do things six months ahead of time.  Maybe his procrastination is rubbing off on me!  Ew!


I don’t know why they even have a basket option at these party supply stores or the little shopping carts.  I need a freaking grocery store cart when I go in there, maybe even a Costco flat cart.  I always end up walking out with some useless, overpriced toys that my daughter doesn’t need for her birthday.  This time, I also ended up walking out with every dinosaur party favor they had: dinosaur temporary tattoos (I usually don’t even like my kid to have these), dinosaur trading cards, and dinosaur stamps.  You name it and I got it with a dinosaur on top.


The one item I wanted to make sure I got for the party, they didn’t have, a simple, dinosaur mylar balloon.  Six locations in the area and none of them had the simple, dinosaur, mylar balloon in stock.  When I asked the salesperson why they didn’t have any, she said, “It’s a popular item.”  Huh?  If it’s so popular, then ORDER MORE!


The entire time the woman was calling other locations for a dinosaur balloon, my daughter was pulling out balloons from the glass, sideways jars and putting them in her mouth.  No, I don’t condone this, but I didn’t notice until she was probably on her third color.  This makes me wonder how many other kids had done this with those same balloons.  Ew!


Then, I went to the grocery store to buy the cake.  All I wanted was a simple cake with dinosaur toppers.  No such luck.  This was a mainstream grocery store and they didn’t have ANY options for a dinosaur party.  It’s not like I was asking for a monkey cake or some obscure kids show cake.  Aren’t there a lot of kids who like dinosaurs out there?  Am I mistaken?


I had to go back to and order the Dinosaur Train cake toppers, pray that they arrived on time and then order the cake last minute.  This was my one saving grace.  Once the cake toppers arrived, rather than just walk in there and see what sort of crazy concoction the cake decorator could come up with, I brought the cake example picture from   This was of course to achieve minimal ugliness.  The cake picture was over the top and I hoped they could do at least 10% of it.  I even asked to speak to the decorator.  Even though it was a grocery store (and not a tiny, gourmet one), they obliged.  Well, the cake turned out exactly like the picture, which was AMAZING.


Just as I was pulling my arm over from patting myself on the back and well after it was too late to change the order, my husband asked, “It’s going to be really hot out tomorrow.  Did you order a filling that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or find out if they have a refrigerator?”  Boy Wonder, who had no input into the party, suddenly pointed out something obvious but after it was too late!  Why couldn’t he have just said, “I don’t know” again this time and let me get a good night's sleep?  Great, soggy cake for all with warm strawberries.  Great, no one available at the park to call to see if they have a fridge.


The only item the venue would let us bring in was bottled water.  We went to Costco and bought A LOT of it, enough to fill up two coolers with minimal ice.  Because my husband knows me (and my stress wrath), he made sure all bottles were kept cool in our refrigerator and ready for the big day.  He even did a practice run with fitting everything into the trunk.  Well trained, indeed.  Or, maybe just scared, indeed.


Stay tuned for my birthday party post-mortem.


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