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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

Harper's First Birthday!

I remember thinking of Harper's first birthday when she was still a newborn. She is the baby that made me a mom, and I pictured myself being an absolute mess as she turned one, knowing that "baby stage" was behind us. But instead, as the day got closer and closer, I became more and more excited. As much as I look back on photos of her squishy round face and teeny tiny clothes (that were still too big for her!) and reminisce about those days when I could put her in a spot and she would stay there, Harper has become such a sweet and funny little girl that I enjoy being around so much that I was ready to celebrate her. I literally lost sleep the week leading up to her birthday because I was so excited.

As I'm sure you've heard through the grapevine though, we are in the middle of a pandemic and large gatherings are not allowed. In August when cases in Niagara weren't very high, we had planned to have an outdoor party with friends, but in September when they began to climb pretty quickly, we called that off and instead decided to have those same friends stop by at various times for distanced outdoor visits. Harper's birthday fell on Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and we had intimate dinners with both sides of the family where they were able to have cake with her for dessert (friends were the following weekend). While we didn't have the party we imagined, and the multiple events turned it into "the never ending birthday", I actually think it worked out so much better this way. It meant we were able to visit with everyone one on one without running around making sure drinks were topped up, kids were entertained, and getting food ready etc etc etc. It also meant we had cake multiple times- no complaints over here!

Going without the traditional party does not mean I skipped out on details though; that isn't in my DNA. I wanted decorations that I could use for her actual birthday, as well as the weekend after outside. The week leading up to Harper's birthday, I spent every night after she was in bed blowing up balloons, hot gluing banners, ordering photos, making signs, baking cakes, and stressing myself out. I LOVE planning parties, but I get so anxious leading up to them because I care too much about these details. It's a blessing and a curse.

The first thing I ordered were cookies from 2 Smart Cookies. I have followed these ladies on Instagram for a while now, and am always amazed at the talent they have! They are located in St. Catharines and book up quite quickly, so I was very happy to get a spot on their list for Harper's birthday. I told them I just wanted the cookies to be "birthday themed" since Harper is only one and doesn't have any major interests yet. I asked for cutouts of the number "1", balloons, cake, party hats, etc. 2 Smart Cookies were so great to work with, were understanding when I altered my order to accommodate smaller numbers needed after our party was cancelled, and the cookies turned out beautifully! I received so many compliments on them, and was so happy with the amount of detail they put into each cookie.

I originally planned on making Harper's birthday board myself. I purchased foam board and thought I would use metallic markers to decorate my little heart out, but after spending a couple of hours on the computer just trying to figure out placement, I decided to hop on Etsy and pay for someone else to do this for me. I really liked this template from BestCelebrations because not only was it pretty, but I was also able to customize even the headings for the categories. So for example, where they had "my nicknames" I changed it to "my fave books", or when I had no idea what to put for their "I am" category, I just switched it to "I can". The template was super easy to use, and I printed it off at Staples to pick up the following day. I also like that I can reuse this template in future years if I want to. Some things you can make yourself, and some are just easier to pay for.

Since this was Harper's first birthday, I wanted to have a cake smash photo shoot (without paying for one). This was actually pretty easy to pull off. I simply taped a white king sized bed sheet to the wall, blew up some balloons, hung my banners (which I created that week by hot gluing triangle cut outs to white rope), and completely cheated by baking a $2 boxed cake & fancying it up with my own icing. If you have a keen eye, you might have noticed the outlet behind the backdrop. To fix this, I just covered it with masking tape but wasn't able to take another photo to show you before she woke up from her nap.

For her outfit, I went to Hey Baby in Port Dalhousie (one of my go-to shops), and picked up the sweetest little shorts that came with a matching headband. I happened to have vinyl at home that closely matched the shorts and ironed the "one" onto a Carter's onesie. Carter's sells these in packs of five- they're great for projects like this, or we use them underneath Harper's sweaters, so I always have some on hand.

We set up Matt's phone on a stand to capture video, I took photos with my phone, and he took photos with his camera (can you tell this is our first baby?). What took hours to create was literally over and done with 12 minutes after it started. I think her bath even lasted longer than the shoot did! Harper had her cake, and crawled off set chasing balloons in all her glory.

Balloon garlands..... I saw a friend make these for her kids, and I thought "I can do that!" Then I cursed that friend for days. This is your warning that you will need some patience (or helping hands), but once you make one, you will probably be able to make another much easier than you did the first time around.

Matt conveniently "doesn't know how" to tie balloons after blowing them up, so I literally got a giant blister on my one finger from doing this for 80+ balloons on my own. Pro tip: find someone to help who can tie balloons. I purchased this pack of balloons on Amazon, and used our air compressor to blow them up. You can also purchase an electric balloon pump if you don't have an air compressor. There are many YouTube tutorials you can find to learn how to create a balloon garland (I watched this one). I cheated and instead of purchasing multiple packs of different sized balloons, I just blew some up smaller than others. You will also need fishing line to tie everything together, and command hooks to hang it to the wall.

To make the H, I cut bristle board into the shape of an H and filled it with different photos of Harper throughout the year. You simply paste the photos on (I like to overlap them), and trim off any excess. I accidentally ordered WAY more photos than were necessary to fill this up- whoops! You can also do this in the shape of the number, but I find straight edges are much easier to fill than curved letters or numbers.

The night before her birthday, Matt and I snuck into Harper's room to scatter a few balloons on the floor, and had everything hung up around the highchair for her to see when she woke up in the morning.

We had such a busy weekend with Thanksgiving dinners and cake smashes (we also had family photos done *and* went to the pumpkin patch) that we wanted to stay at home for Harper's actual birthday. We spent the morning in our pajamas playing with balloons and opening presents. It felt a little bit like Christmas morning with all of the cozy excitement, and I hope that is a tradition we can continue as she gets older.

And now, we have a one year old! Which is insane. Harper is an explorer, loves to read, and speaks her mind. I get choked up talking about her, because she makes me so proud. Going through infertility made me question if I would ever be able to become a mom, and I am so so so thankful that I was given the opportunity to be hers. Everyone warns you that "it goes by so fast", and words have never been more true. I hope her second birthday takes it's time getting here, because the first one sure didn't.


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