Friday, February 28, 2014

Butterfly extravaganza! Activities, décor & *magical guests*

I love our Eleanor’s zeal for a party! She had been so looking forward to her butterfly birthday bash that we started prepping the activities and decorations a few weeks in advance so as to best involve her in the pre-party fun. Then we kept the decorations up for a belated get-together with friends who couldn’t make the party date. As a result our home looked like butterfly central for a full month, and now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t keep a few things up to incorporate into our Easter décor?

There were butterflies, of course, to greet our friends on the porch.

Eleanor picked out the butterfly fabric for the craft station table cloth and we paired it with lanterns from last year’s bday.

A fancy butterfly table set for brunch. Erik and I made the butterfly garland using a butterfly punch, pretty papers, and ribbon. We cut the giant #3 out of cardboard and covered it in polka dot duct tape.

Another table view to show off the colorful linens, flowers, and a big cardstock butterfly at each place as a name card.

But more than the decorations, I deliberated over the party activity line-up, trying to come up with the best options for our mix of kiddos and ages. First up was butterfly wand painting. Erik had sanded dowel tips and wood-glued butterfly cut-outs on them, forming paint-ready butterfly wands.

The kids colored them with crayons, painted them with watercolors (for a resist effect with the crayon), and finally chose a few ribbons to finish them off. When paired with some wings, they make for the perfect butterfly photo-op!

Then we did the classic tulle in a clothespin butterfly craft. The kids colored the clothespins with markers and picked their tulle colors. They were cute and easy, and while some kids were finishing Erik vaulted them through the air with some sort of elastic band launcher for extra pizzazz.

Then we headed into the playroom for a butterfly hunt! Eleanor says this was her favorite part. Pre-party, I punched butterflies out of various papers and half-hid them throughout the room. Then we sent in the kids with party bags to collect them easter-egg style.

After that we trooped outside to make butterfly nectar. I told the kids that some extra-specially beautiful butterflies come through ABQ once a year, and today was the day that they should be passing through! So we mixed up some nectar with food coloring, water, sprinkles, and glitter to leave out in hopes of providing a special treat for the butterflies’ long journey. Here the kids are mixing,

And then pouring it into nectar pans!

Next, I read a story (Ella the Elegant Elephant) while the kids did butterfly scratch art around the playroom table and Erik whipped up brunch. Then the kids donned their flower hair bands (which doubled as dainty napkin rings in the table setting) and feasted on french toast.

As they finished up eating I checked on the butterfly nectar pans and what do you know?!? They were covered with the magical once-a-year butterflies!

I called for the kids and told them that we’d have to be quiet and not get too close so as not to scare the thirsty butterfly friends. They were spellbound! (And this was Luke’s favorite party happening.)

Then we brought the kids back inside for cake – a carrot cake with sprinkle butterfly stencils on top.


Eleanor approved.

Then we went back outside to check on the magical butterflies. They were gone, but they kindly left some sparkly butterfly charms for the kids to gather. They must have really liked that nectar they made. Smile 

Then the kids jumped, climbed and slid on a little butterfly gymnastics course on the patio.

We finished off with presents and hugs for the lucky birthday girl.

I do think our girlie-pie was pleased with her day and it was such a joy to see all the kids have fun together! We love you Ellabelle, or Ella-turtle as you like to be called these days! You fill our hearts with joy with your silly, spunky, sweetest ways. 

{More pics here.}

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Belated Christmas recap: An unexpectedly extended East Coast tour

This year we moved up Christmas to December 23 for a cozy little celebration before our trip back east. On our “Christmas Eve” we hosted a brunch for friends from church, and then we sat by the fire and read stories for the rest of the day.

“Christmas” morning we opened stockings and presents and enjoyed assembling Legos and Playmobil together.

Then we had a day to pack, visit with friends, and get the house in order before flying out to North Carolina on the 25th. We arrived in time for a delicious Christmas dinner and a rousing game of “Tellestrations” with my family. Then we had a second Christmas morning exchanging gifts and playing outside.

The next day we drove up to northern Virginia with Auntie C and had a lovely evening at her place with almost-Uncle Ryan. On Saturday we visited with some dear friends in DC and then drove up to New Jersey for a delightful holiday get-together with my extended family in northern Jersey (plus a cake for the birthday girl, Ellabelle). It was wonderful to see almost everyone from my mom’s side of the family, we just wish it could have been for longer!

Sunday we spent back in Princeton, seeing friends at our old church and taking it easy. Monday we took the trains out to Long Island to spend the rest of our trip with Erik’s family. It was wonderful to see everyone there and visit a few friends who live close by. We were so glad that Uncle Travis & Keri and Uncle Bryan & Aunt Chelsie were able to come down, and of course L & E were thrilled to play with Grandma and Grandpa again.

It had been a while since we’d seen Erik’s grandparents, and it was delightful to stay with them and catch up. We were spoiled by GG-Ma’s scrumptious cooking and the scenic woodsy views. We also delighted in introducing the kids to Aemilia, their sweet second cousin who’s just a little younger than Eleanor, and catching up with all the Long Island extended family.

Originally we thought that the toughest travel would be the long drive up to NJ in a packed car, trekking through NY Penn Station with the kids and all our luggage, or perhaps the flight home with two stops and an early departure. But Winter Storm Hercules and Winter Storm Ion swooped in to provide a bigger travel debacle.

After leaving Erik’s grandparents’ at 4am, finding our flight cancelled, and waiting in line at La Guardia from 5am-9:30am, we were told that the earliest available flight home wouldn’t be until 5 days later than our scheduled return! Most shocking was the fact that this was the case even though we’d inquired about departing from a dozen different airports, stretching from DC up to Manchester, NH! If Erik and the kids hadn’t all been sick that morning, we might have rented a car and driven home. As it was we waited it out and kept 1-800-I-FLY-SWA on speed dial.

Eventually we were able to move up the flight by a day and gratefully made it home without further cancellations. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave Long Island without infecting our beloved hosts with an icky virus that packed a miserable trifecta of nausea, fever, and cold symptoms. Despite the sickness, we did fit in some sleigh ride time courtesy of Hercules, and Luke loved racing down GG-Pa’s famed sledding hill.

Eleanor’s tolerance for the snow spray in her face was very limited, but Luke (and Daddy) played in it for ages before reluctantly consenting to return inside.

We always return home from these East Coast tours wishing we lived closer and could see everyone more often. This time that was mingled with the enticement of fewer travel complications and stranded with sickness possibilities! We hope to see everyone again soon and wish you all a much belated happy and healthy new year!!