Cupcake chaos and Arie turns five!

Arie had two requests for his fifth birthday party: 1) a lion theme and 2) decorate your own cupcakes.

How cute! I thought. The lion theme was probably inspired by Arie's Halloween costume from the fall: something he was able to wear again in the spring at a friend's costume party.

This choice of theme was much more my style than the pirate one he chose last year! Pirates come with so much evidence of violence: peg legs, missing eyes, swords strapped to their bodies. I'm too much of a softy for stuff like that. Lion are tamer. I can easily turn a blind eye to all the hunting and killing of zebras and eating of raw bloody meat lions do in the wild. With just a little chosen ignorance I can make lions all about furry manes, majestic roars, and lots of orange and yellow. Think circus over Serengeti (not that I support animals for entertainment! I know they're happier in the wild. This line of thought is for birthday party planning purposes only.)

The "decorate your own cupcakes" thing.... well, I pictured that getting kind of sticky so I tried to talk Arie out of it, but he wouldn't budge. And you know: the birthday boy gets what the birthday boy wants!

So Arie and I put our heads together and our hands to use to make this lion/decorate-your-own-cupcake thing happen! We spend the weeks leading up to his party baking & freezing cupcakes, taste-testing potato salad recipes, and decorating treat bags. The cupcake making was met with great joy and licking of beaters! The treat bag decorating was at first met with excitement and later (about halfway through gluing 20 lion heads on 20 treat bags) with an exasperated exclamation: "I wish I didn't have so many friends!"

You'll be singing another tune when they all show up to celebrate! 

(And he did.)

We hoped to grill out for the party and host it in our backyard. After a week of nail-biting weather forecast checks the day arrived and it.was.perfect.

We started the celebrations bright and early at 7:30am by surprising Arie with the gift John and I bought him: a geo dome! John and my dad (who, with my mom, had arrived from Ontario the day prior) spent hours the evening before racing against the setting sun to get it assembled. They called the task a great "team building exercise"... but they said it without smiling, so I don't think it was fun, exactly. We'll just say it was a labor of love.

Anyway, we had to "give it" to Arie right away so he wouldn't see it without us and ruin the surprise. Out to the backyard in our pajamas we went, covering Arie's eyes with a blindfold.

"On the count of three!" John and I counted as Arie poised to uncover his eyes "One...."


Womp womp. Arie furrowed his brow at the structure before him and questioned slowly, "It just a... bunch of... sticks?"

Knowing our boy, we had anticipated a confused reaction like this and were ready to show him just how AWESOME and FUN this new geo dome would be! In my flip flops and fluffy white robe, I called to my inner 5 year-old-self and climbed right up on that thing! The act that finally got Arie excited out it was when I pretended to be stuck inside it, like a jail. He thought that was hilarious. Of course. (No there are no pictures of that! On purpose.)

After some geo-dome fun we got a busy day started: party-prepping, cooking, and taking an afternoon trip to the beach: one of Arie's favorite activities. By late afternoon we were home and waiting for guests to arrive.

The party was fantastic. Kids swarmed our new play structure, climbing and swinging, calling out for the closest adult to "LOOK! Watch me!!" Burgers and hot dogs were eaten, juice-boxes drank, salads left untouched on many little kids' plates. 

Arie must have been spreading the word around the party about the cupcakes because while I was eating I had no fewer than five sets of pleading little eyes come before me wondering whhheeeeeeeennnnnn it would be time for cupcakes. "After we open presents!" I cheerfully replied. The little one would run off reporting the news to his or her friends, "She said after presents!!"

(Seconds later I had more kids coming back to ask, "Um... when are we opening presents??" Ha!)

Arie was spoiled with a mountain of gifts: side-walk chalk paint, outdoor toys, lots of craft supplies (he's becoming a budding artist!), and his most cherished surprise: a giant cookie. (When Arie was three John once took him to a coffee shop and had Arie place his own order. "Tell them what kind of cookie you want!" he prompted. Without hesitation Arie replied, "The biggest cookie in the whole wide world!" We've gotten many laughs from that story! His wish finally came true.)

At long, long last it was time for the most anticipated part of the party: time to decorate your own cupcake!

I knew this would be a messy ordeal and I came prepared with wet wipes. Other than a little stickiness, I anticipated this being something of a whimsical moment at the party: children standing shoulder-to-shoulder, giggling together, spreading frosting, squeezing out smiley faces or other designs, excitedly turning to mom or dad to show of their creations before enjoying that first sugary bite... In my mind, I thought this would take about 20 minutes.

It took approximately 3.

I still laugh as I replay the scene in my mind: 

We started by singing the Happy Birthday song while Arie blew out a candle on one of the pre-frosted cupcakes I had decorated for the adults. 

In this picture I am laughing because as I lowered the cupcake down to let Arie blow out the candle I heard a tiny voice calling, "I blow it! I blow it!" and saw the cutest little two year old body bolting her way toward us with her mom in hot pursuit calling, "Wait! Stop! NO!" Mom swooped her up just in the nick of time! It was probably my favorite memory from the whole event and still makes me laugh!

After Arie blew out the candle I went inside to get the undressed cupcakes. The words "stampede" and "swarm" come to mind as I remember a dozen small bodies throttling toward the decorating station when I came outside.

I had the cupcakes divided in a few ziplock containers so it took me a minute to get them opened for handing out. The children who had to wait for their cupcakes nearly died. They really did. I made over 4 dozen cupcakes for this party and there was no way I would run out, but the kids did not know that. All they knew was their neighbor had a cupcake and they did not. Most of those three minutes are a total blur to me now, but I do distinctly remember hearing at least 30 kids calling, "I NEED ONE!" in panic. Which is weird because there weren't more than 15 kids there.

I had put out two bowls of frosting with handful of plastic knives in each one. At first the spreading went well: scoop a blob of frosting, spread it on the cupcake, repeat.... right? Well the kids added a step. Their version was: scoop a blob of frosting, spread it on the cupcake, LICK THE KNIFE, and repeat.

Suddenly the communal bowls of frosting did not seem like my best idea. Hopefully that one little party guest did not spread his mouth fungus to the rest.

I kid.

I also bought these accordion frosting tubes which I thought were GENIUS on my part because they eliminated that open back end you get with a frosting bag. What I did not anticipate was that young children cannot wrap their minds around the accordion style of squeezing. Poor child after child risked brain aneurism level of concentration on those tubes, squeezing with all their might from the sides. "Squeeze from the top.... squeeze from the top!.... squeeze from the.... you know that? Never mind. Just eat your cupcake."

I don't know if any kids showed their cupcakes to their parents. Some probably did. I didn't even see Arie take one bite of his. He just handed me the wrapper when he was done.

The adults also enjoyed cupcakes (pre-frosted) and after we were done we let our kids climb off the sugar high on the geo dome while we stood around the bowls of mostly-frosting-but-partially-saliva laughing and dipping vanilla wafers like a more delicious version of dunk-a-roos. Every once and a while a stray kid would run up to ask for another cupcake which was mostly obliged because well, what are birthdays for?

Standing before the remnants of that obliterated cupcake station, licking frosting off my fingers, I thought how this totally chaotic part of Arie's birthday will always be one of my favorite memories. It was nothing like how I planned it yet so much better. Funnier. Happier. Truer.

And the children loved it!

 One final memory I want to share with you from Arie's birthday weekend happened the day before his party when my parents arrived with his birthday gift.

Short back story to his gift: earlier this spring Arie participated in a "wheel-a-thon" fundraiser at his preschool. Each student brought a set of wheels (roller blades, bike, scooter, etc) and "wheeled" for 20 minutes. Arie brought his tricycle and had a blast! He was adorable out on the chalked parking lot "track," crawling along at his own speed, smiling and trying to make conversation with kids who whizzed by. We were so proud of him for completing the whole 20 minutes! That's probably the longest he's biked (triked) for one continuous period of time. (Here's a little clip from the event.)

John and I noticed, though, that he was the only kid on a tricycle at the event! Even the kids from the three-year-old class were using balance bikes or bikes with training wheels. With Arie being both our oldest and our only, we have a tendency to think of him as younger than he is. Which, considering the rough start he had in life, is probably a good thing! But John did decide at that event that it would be time to introduce Arie to a big boy bike! When we got home we called my mom- a yard sale master- and asked her to keep an eye out for a bike with training wheels in Arie's size.

Which brings us back to last weekend! Here's Arie unveiling his new gift:

His reaction was comparable to the "sticks" reaction, which we also expected. We all encouraged him to give the bike a try, cheering him on as he inched the pedals forward. I ran ahead down the sidewalk to snap a picture when suddenly I felt as though I was looking into the past. Two years earlier my parents had gifted him his beloved trike for his third birthday. The scences were nearly identical; the setting, the characters, the little feet on new pedals, the smile on my boy's face as he sort-of got the hang of it... it was all the same. Except the boy who sat on the bike seat was so much bigger, taller, more mature, with more defined personality traits, and more comfort in his own skin.

The years have gone by impossibly fast but they have been so good to him! His birthdays will always be bittersweet (as I'm sure they are for most moms) since I want him to stay my baby forever, but I cannot be sad about the boy he is becoming. He is sensitive, smart, creative (especially with arts and crafts!), smiley, an easy-laugher, and a jokester. 

Reflecting on the growth I've seen on my boy, watching him climb and play and eat at his party, celebrating his life with some of our dearest friends... it was a weekend to "taste and see that the LORD is good"!- (Psalm 34:8). I'm so thankful for Arie and his presence in our lives!

Arie finished his year of preschool back in May and will be headed to school in the fall. He'll be doing a young kinders program, 5 full days each week (eep!). Since I won't have a baby to be taking care of this fall when he's in school I've decided to pour myself into another "heart project" that I've long thought about: writing a book! It'll be a memoir of sorts, chronicling some major experiences in my life (my mom's coma and illness in 2007, our adoption, and infertility struggle) and the spiritual impact those events have had on me. I'll continue to post biweeklyish on the blog while I pour the rest of my writing energies into the book. I appreciate any prayers and encouragement you can offer!

Sending lots of love and gratitude to you, my readers. You mean so much to me! 



  1. Happy birthday Arie! Sounds like a great time.

  2. I'm so happy you are back!! You've been missed!!! Congrats on the book, and happy birthday Ari!

    1. That means so much to me Jacklyn! Thank you!

  3. Happy Birthday, Arie, I can't believe he's 5 now! I'll be looking forward to your book!

    1. I can't believe it either! Thanks for joining me in my excitement about the book!

  4. It looks like he had a perfect day. His haircut is so cute! I will look forward to your book. You've got a special gift for expressing things in writing. :)

    1. :-D Your encouragement does my heart good Sara. Thank you! And thanks for the comment on his hair. :-D

  5. Anonymous6/12/2015

    So pleased to see you back and still holding you in the Light, Em.

    1. Still my favorite image of prayer Em. Thank you.

  6. I loved every bit of this post! What a great day you guys had celebrating your little guy turning 5, time sure does fly. And I'm also so excited to see you back to blogging, I've missed you. But finally, I'm THRILLED that you will be writing a book! I can't wait to read it!!!! <--- I know, a little premature. ;)

  7. So glad you're back!


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