Three. It’s a Magic Number.

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Seems like we’ve been celebrating Ella’s (and Zoe’s) birthdays for a long time… And since we started on August 27, I guess we have. While my mom was here, we wanted to make sure both girls had their “time with Nina” birthday celebration, so last Saturday night, we took the kids out to a mexican restaurant (guaranteed birthday singing). Plus, Ella loves black beans.

For her 3rd birthday, one thing Ella REALLY wanted was an “Isabel dress”. For those of you who are lucky enough to not be familiar with Elena of Avalor, a relatively new Disney Junior show, Isabel is the little sister. And for that reason, there are VERY FEW Isabel dresses (and LOTS of Elena ones – in fact, we own one of those already, obviously).

Options? Pay $80-100 for a pretty good (rare) Isabel dress that will be worn twice, ever, or desperately search the Internet and find an Etsy shop that will “make” a dress for $26 that “looks like” an Isabel dress. As you can see in the picture above, we chose option B, and thanks to my sister, who sent Ella an Elena and Isabel pair of dolls, our dolls match the plastic counterparts in their hands.

Picture the moment when I had to sell that dress to our almost 3-year-old, hoping beyond hope she wouldn’t say “But that dress doesn’t look like the one on my doll? That’s not an Isabel dress.” As an experienced persuader, my pitch worked (instantly). Her face lit up for her Isabel dress right away, and she insisted on wearing it to dinner. SCORE. And in case you want in on the pitch, give the dress FIRST, doll SECOND.

This past Friday, Ella had her one and only actual birthday party at her school.

There were LOTS of discussions over months about options for an Ella party:

  • Have a small tea party at home with just a few of her school friends (The challenge: her preschool asks nicely that if you have a party, you invite “everyone”)
  • Have that “home party” after all, inviting our friends (The challenge: duh, enormous amount of work)
  • Host a party at Giggles & Hugs, an indoor playground where her classmate just had a fun 3-year-old party (The challenge: $500, and for a party she just attended)

After discussing all these ideas (and more) with my husband, at random – oh, how he loves that – we agreed that this is the LAST year she will not know/care that she doesn’t get a “big party” like Zoe did.

So I focused effort on making the school party fun. She wanted a PRINCESS party. Poor (few) boys in her class… First, I found a foam “crown-making” kit online with sparkly foam “jewels” to decorate your own crown. How fun would that be?! And not tiaras, but crowns. Something even a king could enjoy.

Next, I talked my husband into making 2 dozen cupcakes. Unlike Zoe’s amazing cakes of the past 7 years, Ella got chocolate cupcakes from a box (which she picked out) and leftover pre-made chocolate icing from a jar, leftover from Zoe’s cake, which he bought “just in case.” (Zoe’s cake, as every year, had homemade buttercream icing, made and colored by hand by her father.) And he topped Ella’s cupcakes with PINK sprinkles, which ran out at cupcake 20 (prepared the night before her school party, FYI), so the last 4 had a lovely Preppy Handbook green to go with that pink.

Also the night before, I stuffed favor bags, collected over time in a crazy fashion… The one thing she really WANTED in her bags was: Princess erasers (Zoe had dinosaur ones in the favor bags for her party). Do you have any idea how hard it is to find princess erasers? Go ahead, google it. Not easy. After finding 1 on Amazon and 2 separate sets on eBay, I found 24 princess erasers…

I also ordered some cute, tiny princess crayons online and some princess stickers. I’ve had those for weeks. A week before the party, I also ordered some small pink plates, napkins and favor bags. When I pulled everything out 2 days before the party, I noticed the crayons had arrived melted and those bags were not going to work with the stickers… Too late for Amazon Prime to arrive on time, I headed to the Dollar Tree to find ANYTHING princess…

And so, those 24 hodgepodge (new Elsa/Anna printed) favor bags that would fit sticker sheets included some lenticular small princess notebooks (9), princess tattoos (16), two random double-ended princess crayons per bag (48), princess stickers (20), and of course, princess erasers (24).

That party, that we didn’t even get to attend, was a big hit. Ella came home from school with a pink crown on, VERY happy, and we took her out to sushi with our friends Holly & Panda (and Baby Addie). She felt very special.

This weekend my husband had the great idea to take the kids to Palm Springs, where our friends have a place they weren’t using, for lots of pool time and another special birthday dinner ON her actual birthday. We chose Wangs in the Desert, a Pan Asian restaurant our friends introduced us to that is very kid-friendly.

Usually they have live music on Saturday nights, so I called ahead to ask if that was happening and when (our reservations were also kid-friendly at 5:30). Turns out they had a Drag Show called Paparrazi, a “star-studded” show with celebrity impersonators. And according to the venue, it was VERY kid friendly, and the guy who answered the phone was the server on the patio, was also a drag queen though “not tonight” and said they love kids at drag shows.

I was so excited! On the 5-minute drive to the restaurant, I needed a quick stop at CVS, which was on the way. Just 10 minutes later I got back into the car to LOUD Katy Perry music and 2 sleeping children in the back. Oh, just try to picture my husband’s face…

We were able to wake Zoe (reluctantly) as we parked at the restaurant, but the Birthday Girl slept in my lap until the show started, then instantly covered her ears. “Too loud.” My brilliant husband pulled out headphones on song 3, and we made it through several songs and saw a fabulous Liza Minnelli, Shania Twain, Brittany Spears – and to top it off, an Elphaba singing Defying Gravity, my favorite Wicked song!

They (plus everyone on the patio) even sang Happy Birthday to BOTH Zoe and Ella! We were in fact at the table next to these folks who were on the front row and knew the performers and got featured on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Almost famous.

And so, here we wrap another year. The blog goes into print, and we can officially say we survived. Looking back on all the above for this birthday season, that 50-person adult beverage party looks like a heck of a lot less work than it did a few months ago.

Happy Birthday, Ella & Zoe!

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