Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Great Cake Debate

Can you imagine a pumpkin cake on this table? Yikes!

Every good party has some sort of disaster story, right? Isn't that what we tell brides about weddings? Don't we comfort them by saying that something has to go wrong, that rain is good luck, that a bad wedding means a good marriage? You might think that the whole forgetting-to-put-the-date-on-the-invitation thing would have satisfied the disaster quota for Emma Vance's first birthday party, but NO...that would've been too easy. :)

Spoiler alert: I'm a planner. An OCD, think-every-detail-through, envision and re-envision, obsess-over-every-little-thing kinda' gal. I have a VERY hard time letting anyone else help me because years of experience have taught me that the adage, "If you want something done right, do it yourself," is absolutely true. However, there are limits to my abilities, time and expertise, and in those instances I trust the professionals--especially when it comes to the time-consuming task of baking.

Now, once again, I'm admittedly obsessive, so even though our bakery is amazing, I always do a spec sheet including images and super-specific directions whenever I order anything. I NEVER trust a conversation to be enough, because inevitably something is miscommunicated or forgotten. For E.V.'s birthday party, I found the perfect pictures of what I wanted her cakes to look like, drew up my spec sheet, spoke with the baker twice and dropped off some necessary accessories for them to be able to create exactly what I was envisioning--including a fabric swatch for color reference. I felt confident leaving the decorating to the experts; I was on to other tasks!

Fast forward to the day before Emma Vance's first birthday party.

Ryan picked up E.V.'s big cake and smash cake toward the end of the day on Friday, meaning I saw them for the first time about an hour before the bakery closed for the day. I opened the smash cake first. Huh. It was the wrong color! I had ordered a white, imperfectly-frosted little cake, but got a peach cake. (Ironically it was the exact color of the big cake I had ordered.) Crud. Then I opened the big cake. {insert swear words} I had ordered a thumb-print, peach-to-white ombre cake. To the bakery's credit, the craftsmanship was beautiful--but the dang thing was orange! And I mean ORANGE. Like Halloween pumpkin orange. Ugh. I was upset, needless to say, and in a bind. It was clearly too late for the bakery to fix them, but I knew the cakes wouldn't look right based on everything else I had planned. It was the night before the party, meaning I had a million other things that had to get done and didn't have a few hours to re-thumb-print the big cake. What to do?

Ryan told me it was "fine," but I needed an honest opinion. So I called my friend and fellow-party-planning-OCDer, Alli. She came over (bearing just-in-case store bought white icing), and I knew as soon as she walked in the door that it was bad. When her reaction was an non-panic-inducing, "We can fix it," I knew something had to be done. She and I worked on the other final party projects until about 1 a.m., all the while debating over whether or not to mess with the cake. She headed home to get a little rest, and I sat, exhausted and achy, in my kitchen and stared at my Halloween cake. What to do?

I argued with myself for about ten minutes, then, perhaps because it was late and I was loopy, I impulsively decided to go for it.

The smash cake was easy--a quick coat of white frosting and it looked exactly like I wanted it to. The big cake, however, was a bit more of a beast to handle. I knew that I wouldn't have enough time (if I actually wanted to sleep) to thumb-print the ombre, so I decided to go with another round of imperfect frosting. Thankfully the bright-orange frosting worked perfectly to mix up a pale peach color, and about thirty minutes later I had a cake more appropriate for a little girl's birthday than an Clemson tailgate. Yay!

After all was said and done, the cake was perfectly imperfect and definitely worth one less hour of sleep before the party. As I laid my head down somewhere in the 2 a.m. hour, setting my alarm for 6 a.m., I had a sense of relief; everything was done and ready to go!

(More party pictures to come, by the way.)

The smash cake icing was the color of icing I ordered for the big cake...

...but this is what I got. :(

I mean, Halloween is my favorite holiday, but really?

The first swipe was nerve wracking!

Just this tiny bit of orange frosting was all I needed...

Almost done (circa 1:45 a.m.)!

Now that's better.

(I'm pretty sure E.V. would've been fine with any colored frosting. :) )

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rain or Shine, The Party That Almost Never Was

I consider myself a pretty detail-oriented person, but God likes to knock us off our own pedestals once in a while. Whenever that happens, I try to remind myself that it's good for the soul.

I also consider myself pretty aesthetically-oriented, but, once again, sometimes God uses our abilities to teach us lessons. Whenever that happens, it stinks even more because it's a double whammy.

Ryan and I went back and forth over Emma Vance's first birthday party theme (it's the important things in life, right? :/), and after about a dozen rejects, finally landed on peaches. (I'm not sure why that was the winner, perhaps because it was the final suggestion we came up with before reaching mental exhaustion.) So I started designing her invitation immediately, and even though we were having difficultly landing on a date with the park where we wanted to host it, I went ahead and put a mental checkmark next to "create invitation" on my party to-do list. Then a few weeks passed, we landed on a date, I sent the invites to the printer and mailed them out. Done!

The very next day the first email came in. "I might be missing something here, but what is the date of E.V.'s party?" Crap. In all of my efficiency, I had forgotten to add the date! Bah. So a few texts, emails and Facebook posts later, and most of our friends and family had gotten the update. But seriously? Who does that? Talie Shove. That's who.

So here's my final reminder, friends and family, that TOMORROW, JUNE 29th, is Emma Vance's party. And, yes, the weather looks potentially rainy, but we're not thinking about that. Rain or shine, we'll see you under the pavilion where it's dry AND where we have a heavy-duty fan waiting. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Birthday Fun!

I'm not too big on birthdays myself, but I am big on firsts and lasts. (And this is a big "first"--perhaps Emma Vance's biggest "first" yet.) I wanted today to be relatively low-key for E.V., so today was about the three of us celebrating the little girl who officially made us a "family." :)

We started out with special breakfast waffles (instead of E.V.'s normal scrambled eggs). Let's just say she prefers carbs to protein...ha!

"{incoherent mumbling}"

Oops! Missed one!

Then when Emma Vance awoke from her first nap, it was balloon time! She was super surprised and VERY excited. (Man, this kid loves her some balloons!)

"They're all mine!"

Um, is this a choking hazard? :/

And we celebrated a birthday lunch with the grandmothers at Mittie's Tea Room. (Ryan was a good sport and played along. :) )

(That jar of pennies she's shaking ended up all over the ground about two seconds later...)

"Happy birthday!"


Yup, knew it.

thanking Nanny for her dress and for lunch

After another nap, just the three of us hung out, making a quick trip to Publix and then going out to dinner together, where E.V. made fast friends with the table next to us. :)

It was a sweet, simple day that I'll remember forever. Over dinner Ryan commented with a grin, "Hey, we successfully kept a tiny human alive for a whole year! High five!" Yes, dear, high fives all around.

Dear E.V. (One Year!)

Dear E.V.,

Gosh. I can barely write this.

How has a whole year passed already? It seems like both yesterday and a million years ago that you were first put in my arms. Like you've always been a part of our lives but also like some wistful dream that's so wonderful it could hardly exist--or last.

I love you so much. In fact, I love you infinitely. As I rocked you for a few moments before bed last night, you sleepily looked up at me with those same wise eyes that first glanced at me one year ago today, and even though it's hard to put into words, it was so emotional because it felt like you--from your very first moments of life and breath, you were in those eyes; you, my little girl with whom no one else will ever share such a deep secret and connection, were looking at me in both instances, and last night the dejavu was like a drug. I was in heaven. And then I was in tears.

I cried because it felt like it was the last time I'd ever hold you as a baby. I knew that I wouldn't awake in the morning to anything truly different than the day before, but passing the milestone of counting your age by tiny, little months saddens me; now we've moved on to years, and as time passes by, we'll recount your life in decades.

Emma Vance, I'm not ready for you to be a child yet! I'm still reveling in your baby-ness--your snuggles, your chubby thighs, your weak little cries for me in the middle of the night... You're growing up so quickly these days, dear little one, learning new words and discovering new things each day so much that each day you are literally a different person. I want desperately to slow things down, to freeze this moment in our lives forever because everything seems so...perfect. I know that I'll always feel this way, simultaneously eager for and full of lament over your growth. I have loved every second of this past year, though, and can't imagine what the coming days will be like. All I know is that you'll soon truly be a little girl and will leave babyhood behind you without a second thought, whereas I, in contrast, will give it my second and third and fourth thoughts...

This year has truly been a whirlwind, and you have changed in countless ways. You've gone from a helpless little bean, wrapped in swaddling cloths and sleepy beyond measure, to a ball of energy, desirous for independence but desperate for companionship. This past month in particular you have blossomed in many ways: You speak in baby babbles, in incoherent words that seem to make all the sense in the world to you. You babble to yourself, to your toys, to your dogs, to us, and when your dad and I talk back to you, you act as if you know exactly what we're saying to you. These conversations seem to be one big game to you, and you (of course) are an expert. Your vocabulary (of actual words) is also growing by leaps and bounds. "Wow" is be far your favorite word, and when you say it to strangers they always get the biggest kick out of your wittiness. You also say "mama," "dada," "nana," "baba," "hi," "yay," "dog," "kitty" and a variety of variations of those words (like "duck" which pretty much sounds like "dog," but we'll count it anyways).

Also, you're so close to walking, Emma Vance! This month you decided (or, rather, your grandma decided) it was time to practice your stepping skills, so you took off with your walker. You zip around behind that little plastic toy, songs and sounds a-blazing. I always end up having to walk alongside of you, fearful that one bad step will have you crashing into the fireplace; plus you can't yet turn around, so the 20-or-so feet of our living room doesn't keep you busy for long without help to make the return lap. The other day you took a half-step toward me but lost your balance, and I was sooo excited. Like embarrassingly excited. Then, this morning, you took two big steps toward me all by yourself. Oh, how I can't wait for you to walk! (I already have visions of you pushing one of those miniature shopping carts next to me in the grocery store.) For now, though, you are a crawler, and, man, can you crawl! It seems that everywhere you go is exciting, so you beeline ahead, panting with joy as you crawl. Your favorite destination is the stairs, and on more than one occasion this month I've found you halfway to your nursery before I've  discovered you. (You are so stinkin' fast!) In those moments that I catch you, you always look at me through the stair rail with the most innocent puppy dog eyes, and I can't help but forgive you as you plead with me from behind imaginary bars.

Speaking of mischief--you are full of it these days! You are obsessed with cabinets (and pulling treasures out of them), glass objects (or really anything dangerous and breakable) and the dogs' bowls (as usual). You still love your toy corner and will play there nicely by yourself for a while, but it seems that nowadays you remember how fun grown ups' things can be, too. Like the toilet. Especially mid-flush. (We've also done a lot of post-mischief hand washing lately, BTW.) :) It seems that the only time you will sit still is to watch "Sesame Street" while you drink your bottle, meaning Mom and Dad have many of the episodes memorized already. Sigh. You've been much more boisterous in public over the past few weeks, too, so I've devised a plan to counteract your mischief: While in a store, when you get antsy from sitting too long, I put down a mat and let you stand at the end of the shopping cart. You hold onto the edge and march in place as I walk alongside of you, pulling the cart next to me. It's amusing to you to feel like you're walking up and down the aisles on your own, and it always brings a grin to your face...which brings a smile to mine.

You are drinking a lot more formula these days. In the past it was a pain to get you to take a bottle, but now you love to hold it yourself, drinking away happily as Abby Cadabby floats across the television. You don't eat baby food very much anymore; really the only one you still like is spinach and potatoes (yuck!), but I don't argue because, well, how else do you get a toothless baby to eat spinach? Your favorite foods are bananas, cheese, yogurt bites and organic cheese puffs. The cheese puffs are my secret weapon in public because they make you happy and keep your mouth too busy to fuss. :) We're in a phase of constantly trying new foods, and it seems that you may have gotten your mother's taste buds because you really only like bland foods. Your dad and I are working very hard to give you a good nutritional foundation, full of organic foods with lots of good, earthy varieties of things to eat. I hope that you will appreciate it one day as an adult. Your health is of the utmost importance to us, and we are doing everything we know how to in order to help you develop well.

Your top four teeth just came in, having made you a bit miserable for almost a month before finally breaking through. This has made for some mid-night wakefulness, and you're always so pitiful when you're in pain. :( Other than that, we're still utilizing a flexible schedule to give predictability to your daytime routine, and it is wonderful. Each day you wake up around 7 a.m., nap from 10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., and go to bed at 8 p.m. It makes you a happy baby to be on-schedule, so your dad and I work very hard to keep our little one happy. You don't cry much anymore at nighttime, but rather prefer to babble yourself to sleep (so sweet sounding!). However, for your nap times you will try anything for a few more moments with us before having to fall asleep--including pooping your pants Yep. Pooping. It feels like everyday you poop while in your crib, making us take you out to change you before getting stern about your actually napping. It's quite the trick, so use it while you can; once you're potty trained, we won't find it so amusing! Ha!

E.V., you are so beautiful. Everywhere we go, people tell you so. ;) You bring joy into everyone's life that you touch in such a way that I'm amazed when I see it happening. Even as a small baby God has given you a very special gift--one that your Dad also shares: the gift of connection. You have a way about you that is unabashedly loving toward others. You have no fear of strangers, a desperation to befriend other children and a smile that brings joy to everyone around you. I hope you never lose this gift, but that it stays with you all your life. It surely is a blessing, just as you are.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to your dad and I. We love you fiercely, unconditionally, limitlessly. We believe in you; we are rooting for you; we would do anything--anything--for you.

Today we wish you the happiest of birthdays for the first time, and tonight I prayed for God to give you one hundred more to celebrate--although even a hundred years is insufficient time for me to show you just how much I love you.

Love you always,
Me (and Dad)

Thank goodness these photo shoots are over! We had to resort to distractions here at the end to keep the little wiggle worm still... ;)