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Happy Birthday!

Charlie’s Second Birthday

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Charlie Henderson turned two last week. My big headed, big hearted, pink bodied baby is growing up, and once again I find myself googling “how to stunt a child’s growth.” I had decided not to blog about it, but then I asked Stephanie to come grab some shots, and they turned out so cute that I figured I’d show you.

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That is how Charlie displays that he is 2 with his fingers. I swear I didn’t teach him that.

I still wanted Charlie’s day to be memorable for him – a day that felt special, despite my need for low maintenance. So what is special to a 2 year old? Pizza, snacks, lots of balloons, bubbles, a few presents, cake, a couple good friends and a special guest, SPIDERMAN. Oh and TV, as we promised him that around 7pm they could all watch a movie (a strategic move so that we could obviously have a non-paid babysitter while we hung with our friends).

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We texted our friends (two of whom have kids that we’ve match-made to be Charlie’s best friends), and told them to come over Friday around 4pm (P.S. No, you don’t have to have 9am birthday parties). We rented a helium tank, and blew up a ton of left over balloons we had, then filled the house/deck with as many as we could. Nothing is cheaper or gives more excitement (and creates a festive ambience) than good old fashioned balloons.

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We went to Target that morning and bought streamers, happy birthday banners, paper plates/napkins and cups from their spritz line and called it a day regarding the decorations. Not to be their spokesperson or anything, but they kinda have everything. Those party stores have more stuff, but it’s not as pretty.

We bought that white cardboard castle for another occasion but never put it up, so we pulled it out from the garage and put it together. It’s cute, but something that will probably end up in the garbage soon, so I don’t really recommend it. They thought it was fun, but not sure it’s worth the $75. The idea is that you can draw/paint all over it, so I think it’s great for an event but just know it won’t last too long. 

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All toddlers want to do is hoard anything that once came in a package and eat it until they are sick. Like dogs. For snacks we basically bought all those hipster expensive who-knows-how-healthy-they-actually-are snacks at Whole Foods. It made them happy and kept my guilt to a minimum. Charlie is seen here downing craisins – what he thinks is candy and we are not correcting him.

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And bubbles. Toddlers love bubbles. I’m telling you, you don’t have to spend real money on a toddler party. Balloons and bubbles, folks. That’s all they need.

We were racking our brains to figure out what could be extra special that wouldn’t cost too much or be too, well, laborious for us to do. Charlie loves Spiderman, as does Brian, so we figured an appearance by that dude would be VERY fun. Earlier in the week Spiderman called Charlie on the phone and told him that if he was a really nice boy this week that he’d try to make it to the party. All week long he was talking about it. Then about an hour into the party, he showed up! AKA Brian disappeared for a bit and threw on the suit.  

Please look at Charlie’s face/body language as he first saw him . . . so priceless.

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You can tell he is kinda scared, but so excited. We had warned him a lot about the mask, and how in person Spiderman is really big, but that he’s a good guy, etc., etc., all week long.

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I can’t with that face.

Spidey brought him a present, too.

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He’s mastered the scooter so we figured it was time for him to understand pedals. Hopefully he’s ready for it, but regardless he was psyched.

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I wish we could see Brian’s face, too. He was totally living the dream.

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I mean, what dad doesn’t want to pretend to be a superhero and be believed? But Charlie recognized his voice, so after Spiderman left we asked Charlie where daddy was and he said, “he fly away to hep people.” And that’s when we realized that it wasn’t that he thought that Brian was in a Spiderman costume; he now thinks that his dad is THE Spiderman.

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Charlie had so much fun. Spiderman was such a hit. And we barely stressed (listen, my assistants might have helped me for a couple hours blowing up balloons, and hanging some lights – thanks, guys).  I really just wanted Steph to take some photos of the spiderman situation so she popped by for 30 minutes. It was so casual, we didn’t even grab any photos of the food or cake. We ordered pizza, had beer/wine for the grownups, and juice boxes for the kids. Oh, and Brian got the world’s ugliest cake from the grocery store that pained me to let into our house. I accused him of buying it just to torture me. It was a beige sheet cake with stupid ass swirls all over it then happy birthday in weird brown cursive on top. It was almost ironic how ugly it was. But Charlie didn’t care – he ate so much of that stuff, and then the kids watched The Blue Fox and totally crashed while we chatted and drank.

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Happy Birthday, Charlie. You’ve made the last two years total magic.

Just in case you wanted to get a few of the sources (even though, as I mentioned it is basically all target), here they are for your next VERY casual bday party.

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1. Gold Confetti | 2. HoneyComb Garland | 3. Tassel Garland | 4. Jumbo Round White Balloons | 5. Gold Balloons | 6. White Balloons | 7. Blue Balloons | 8. Party Hats | 9. Blue Polka Dot Dinner Plate | 10. Gold Snack Plate | 11. Cardboard Castle | 12. Blue HoneyComb Decor | 13. White HoneyComb Decor

***photography by Stephanie Todaro

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  1. Is that a cat jacket you’re wearing?? OMG. I die.

    1. it’s from H & M, they have that pattern on loads of things, its so cute.

    2. Adorable!! So great that you kept it so special for Charlie & easier for you!! Perfect!!

  2. He now thinks his dad is THE Spiderman! 🙂 so cute! It just goes to show if you ask the right questions you can find out what your toddler is imagining.

  3. Fabulous party–Charlie looks like he’s having a ball!! And an appearance by Spidey? Pfft–it doesn’t get any better than that.

    Honestly, all the apologies & disclaimers made me sad. This doesn’t look like a “nothing” party to me–it looks amazing. What kind of world do we live in that we feel the need to apologize profusely that every single moment of our lives is not a twee-tastic Pinterest bonanza? And I’m sure the pressure is even worse if you’re a lifestyle blogger. Style over substance writ large–it’s messed up.

    Everybody here looks happy–especially the birthday boy. ‘Nuff said….

    1. Came here to say this! Don’t apologize or self deprecate it just perpetuates the stereotype that women have to be perfect all the time. We women put this pressure on each other. Rock the casual party, its the best kind for the host and guests involved. And because we all look up to you, you can start the new trend of the laid back kids birthday party. The spiderman/dad was amazing! Charlie looked so happy 🙂

    2. I agree with Jandy! I also think the LA mentality adds to the pressure to do everything bigger, better, and more stylishly. Everywhere else in America, parents are busting out paper plates and pizza, and they don’t even color coordinate the decor. Charlie’s party was adorable in every way and very normal in terms of the amount of energy and effort that went into it. And the look on his sweet face when he saw Spiderman for the first time was awesome. Happy birthday Charlie!!!

    3. Thank you for saying this, Jandy. I agree 100%. This looks like a house full of happy people, especially that adorable birthday boy. I hope that bloggers start trending towards more “real,” “imperfect” and “doable,” it’s refreshing.

      1. Thanks guys. I guess it’s easy to be sensitive because for every one of you who want the real there are people who expect editorial style events with tips, advice, how-to’s, etc, and it kinda is my job to deliver that. So I was trying to give a ‘I know i’m not Martha and i don’t really care’ disclaimer. But I definitely don’t feel apologetic 🙂 but I did edit it a bit 🙂 You should have read the first draft – it had like 3 paragraphs about a metaphor about a lifestyle blogger that has normal parties. …. disclaimer central 🙂 Glad I deleted all that. xx

    4. I agree! Since our kiddos have an August bday, we do cupcakes at the playground, bring your own drink. Sometimes we bring pretzels and carrots/hummus too. Oh, and NO goody bags of crappy toys that last just long enough for a big old sibling fight on the way home.

  4. GO YOU for having such a casual and honest party! The spiderman idea has given me so many ideas for my son’s party! I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never considered hiring someone to dress like Peppa Pig or something, but now I just have to!

    1. For my son’s backyard Spongebob party, I used chalk to leave a birthday message from the yellow guy on our back wall. The kid loved it!

  5. Such an adorable and down-to earth party! Bravo on not getting carried away.

    Your top is To. Die. For. Where did you get it?!

  6. I must know where the cat top is from!

    And really, this is an adorable party and day. What a sweet family you have.

  7. Great party for Charlie! I’ve done the Pinterest worthy party that takes months of thought and planning and I’ve done the party thrown together at the last minute. I now only have casual birthdays because all that kids really want are bubbles, balloons, and cake! Saves money, time, and most importantly, my sanity!

  8. You’re right, this is like if Blake Lively wore Gap to the Oscars–awesome, because she would look to die for in anything.

  9. Super cute, you should never feel pinterest shammed! I’m glad Charlie and friends had an excellent party, Spiderman and all!

    Jess
    http://www.citycomfortsdc.com/burgundy-staples/

  10. Emily … You may not try to be funny but when you said that you asked Charlie where his Dad was and he said ” He’s fly to be with his people…” I died laughing…. The fact that he thinks his Dad is Spider-Man is just ADORABLE!!! Such a great share cause let’s face it… Even though we live design and beauty life is life and ugly cakes bring the bestest memories!!!!

  11. This brought back so many wonderful memories of my daughters birthday parties! We would have similar low-key parties either in our backyard or a beautiful park with our playgroup and friends. We always said “cake, balloons and a piñata” really make a party! Its really all little ones really want and the piñata became a “thing” for everyone’s party for a while. Enjoy these years, Emily. They go by way too fast!!

  12. Happy birthday, sweet boy! Glad you had a low-key, great time! XO

  13. Very sweet little party – thanks for sharing it!

    I’m eagerly awaiting more Makeover Takeover… I was hooked on all three!

  14. Omg! I need a tissue! I haven’t even finished reading, but had to comment on how amazingly special it is that Charlie thinks his dad is Spider-Man. His hero! You a raising a quality person right there.

  15. I swear to you Emily, you are like the cutest person I know and haven’t met ! This article is so well written and so adorable, you and your family.

  16. Happy Birthday Charlie….What a fun idea and Brian makes the perfect looking Spiderman!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  17. that picture of Charlie and a friend just chowing on snacks in the castle just cracks me up. that’s exactly what my daughter does every time we throw a party.

  18. You done good. It’s all super cute and looks like you all had fun! This is THE kind of party you have for your kids for the next 6 years. For your SANITY! AND because they don’t have MORE fun just because you put in tons of work! A very happy birthday, Charlie! The picture of him showing how old he is is the cutest thing ever!

  19. that last picture is awesome! Every kid deserves to have parents that look at them they way you and Brian look at your kiddos.

  20. also, love those cats!

  21. What a perfect little party for a perfect little guy. I just wanted to jump into one of those pix and drink a beer with you guys 🙂

  22. Now I really want to see the cake! 😉 Seriously though, Charlie’s party looks so fun and relaxed and love the part about Spiderman. <3

  23. Charlie’s face almost made me cry. Children are so wonderful. And Brian as spidey… priceless

  24. too cute..happy birthday to Charlie! Ha, now you have a great cake story?

  25. OMG… I totally just teared up. His facial expressions are pure magic.

  26. That description of the cake cracked me up! Bahahaha.

    1. Me too! I had to read it to my husband.

  27. Sorry for being offtopic, I just can’t help wondering if you have those little pedino toddler bikes over there. They are like little chopper kind of things, three wheels, sturdy plastic, indestructible, and kids are crazy good with them. I haven’t spent too much time in the US, but can’t recall seeing a single one of them. Is this just a Europen thing?

    1. Andrea,
      The U.S. Has something very similar. They are generically labelled as tricycles or scooters, no matter the construction. We also have “big wheels” which are lower to the ground.

  28. Gosh. So cute. Next will Santa show up next with 8 reindeer?
    I’m going stay tuned in.

  29. sounds like a fun party, one I would like to go to. I like kicking back the best! He is gorgeous.

  30. Wishing you had just one pic of that cake, even if it was slightly out of focus and in the background. Just sayin’. BTW, you guys are the cutest family on the planet.

  31. Your cardboard castle is very like the cardboard fort I made my grandson years ago from a long cardboard box. I drew stone walls on it and cut a secret entrance and even made a pirate flag complete with holder. Copious amounts of swearing (grandson not present at the time but helpful sister was). Wine would have made the experience more bearable but possibly more hazardous (cutting with sharp knife involved). Your party looks lovely and easy and happy. And no sharp knives or swearing involved.

  32. I realized that with toddler birthdays it’s less about figuring out how to entertain the kids, it’s more about having enough activities for the parents to show to the kids so that they don’t have to rely on their own brain while trying to occupy a 1 to 3 year old, since oftentimes parents come along for the party at that age.

    Toddlers are happy with empty boxes. And bubbles.

  33. What a sweet, perfect birthday celebration for a two year old – beers for the grown ups, just a few best peeps and not over the top. The best!

  34. Love this! It’s so great to see that there are areas in which it’s worth it to spend a lot of time/thought (living spaces, our wardrobes) but then there are times when all that matters is that we’re taking care of the people around us. Obviously, little Charlie gets that, since he knows his dad is a hero and his belly was full of snacks. Such a great post!

  35. I think there is just something about that 2nd birthday party. For my son’s, we just decided to make sure we celebrated it with each set of grandparents and called it a day. You definitely still rocked this!

  36. Cute photos 🙂
    Maria V.

  37. This is the cutest post ever and the kind of kid birthday I would love to attend, but I MUST KNOW HOW TO BUY THIS CAT SHIRT. Searching H&M turned up nothing. 🙁

  38. Such a cute birthday! I said ‘that-is-so-cool’ so many times while reading this.
    Have a beautiful, magical and fun-filled year, dear Charlie.

  39. Wow. This is so refreshing – to see a totally fun and totally relaxed birthday party, minus the party details that make a party so photographable for Pinterest but really don’t add much to the enjoyment of the party itself. Happy birthday to Charlie and well done you, having a party that let you retain your sanity and have some good times with your friends too. I frankly think it looks great.

  40. talk to me about the cat shirt.

  41. Super duper cute! Your kids are dolls–but I should tell you that craisins basically ARE candy. They’re preserved in sugar (even the “fruit-juice sweetened”–your body and teeth can’t tell the difference. Sorry for the buzzkill…wah waa-aah….

  42. Excellent blog share by you. Nice photos.

  43. Thanks for sharing with us that awesome article you have amazing blog.

  44. Thanks for writing such a good article, I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing.

  45. I read this article with great interest.it seems very interesting,useful and informative.

  46. A big thank you for your post.Really looking forward to read more.

  47. This is so so sweet. What a great reference for a kiddo’s party. Oh Charlie!

  48. Thanks Emily for your every blog. 🙂 (y)

  49. Rock the casual party, its the best kind for the host and guests involved. And because we all look up to you, you can start the new trend of the laid back kids birthday party. The spiderman/dad was amazing! Charlie looked so happy