One for the baby, TWO for the show

My darling baby girl is two years old today.  To celebrate, we had a quiet party at home with a stove-cooked meal and a single gift with a pink ribbon.  PSYCH!  We had a bigass blowout of a two-year-old birthday party, in which we packed 75 people dressed as Wild Things into our church basement, bumped the 90’s Hip Hop to 11, and did it all very DIY and fun.  I nearly lost my mind pulling it all off, but at end I was euphoric, having brought together all the things Olive asked for to celebrate 2 years of her life.  What was on that list of requests, you ask?

#1. CAKE:

If you haven’t guessed, the party was Where The Wild Things Are themed!

I love to bake about as much as I hate to cook, but I had never tackled a proper birthday cake.  When my little gal requested cake, I knew the time had come to add this skill to my repertoire.  I asked my friend who works at Sandbox Bakery to share with me her favorite recipe, and I even did a trial on Labor Day to hone my skills.

However, when the big day came, I still made mistakes.  I broke the blender making the frosting, and I made about 500% more of it than I needed to.  I felt like I Love Lucy in the kitchen, as one disaster followed another, and I continually yelled out “Joel!  Could you to run to Duc Loi and get more _____ (pick one, because they all happened: butter, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour)?!”

I ended up baking it in the fog of my cold, and I MAY have been watching Season one of Pretty Little Liars (which is terrible, and I’m not sure yet if it’s awful-in-a-good-way or just fucking despicably bad) with the subtitles on when I accidently put in half and half instead of half of the buttermilk called for in the recipe.

Here’s the thing: it’s called a BUTTERMILK cake.  So, it’s not exactly a minor ingredient.  I howled with frustration, but everyone who tasted it at the party said, “Oh, this is like a pound cake.  It’s delicious!”  There were no complaints from Miss O:

Make a wish!


Solomon: “Dude, you sure you can carry all those balloons at once?” Olive: “Just be glad I’m not wearing them as a dress a la Gaga.”

With the theme of Olive’s favorite book in place, I set to finding posters, appliques, banners, and streamers that could transform an Episcopal church basement into a magical world to have a wild rumpus in.  My artist friend Josh helped by blowing up tons of balloons and putting them in playful configurations around the room.  That, coupled with the art of Maurice Sendak everywhere we looked, created a really fun atmosphere for mischief of one kind and another.


Pulling Sadie in for a sweet hug and kiss.

One of my favorite things about this year has been seeing Olive emerge as a social animal.  She loves her friends so fiercely, she often wrestles them to the ground with the force of her hugs.  Her father has to name as many of them as he can remember before she goes to bed, and when he gets to the end of the list, she always calls, “One more?”

Lucky for her, we got 17 of her little buds to come rock out with her, and set up a puzzle station as well as a crown decoration/wild thing picture drawing station.

Olive and her papa put it all together.


I now totally understand why parents say, “No gifts, please” on party invites.  As the party grew, the present table loomed into an insurmountable pile, and I looked with fear upon it, knowing that opening all those toys in front of other kids could beget many a meltdown, but also not wanting to begrudge the kind friends who took the time and care to get Olive something the chance to see her face when she received it.

I decided to just throw myself into the melee, letting other kids help with the doling out of gifts to Olive, and even the unwrapping, when appropriate.  The gifts were certainly darling, and the day was saved when directly after opening all of them, I announced to my audience of little ones that we’d be reading Where The Wild Things Are aloud, which quickly distracted them.

I encouraged crowd participation, and as if it were a Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight viewing, the costumed crowd partook, roaring their terrible roars, gnashing their terrible teeth, rolling their terrible eyes, and showing their terrible claws, when appropriate.


I think it’s pretty clear why these gals are two of my best friends.

So, as you may have noticed, in these photos, Olive is wearing one of her every-day play dresses, a cute one for sure, but nothing special.  Well, as you can imagine, this is evidence of another glitch in my master plan.

I got Olive a heartbreakingly cute Max wolf suit to wear to the party, had her try it on a week ahead of time, and set off to decorate the space, leaving my husband with one task: “Get Olive here on time, wearing the costume.”

However, two years olds can smell desperation from a mile away, and the more you want them to do something, the less your chances are of them doing it without a fight.  Olive struggled so intensely while being wrangled into the suit that she gave herself a rug burn on her chin.  At that point, Joel was cursing all my planning and claiming that for year 3 we’re having a BBQ with a piñata and some kool aid, nothing else.  So, he brought the costume, which we set up in memorium, but I can’t bear to show it to you here, because it was so sad and adorable, and I’m hoping we can try again on Halloween!

Say what you will about San Franciscans, but we seriously know how to dress up.  The adults really brought it in the costume department, so even though I couldn’t get the birthday girl in one, I checked this request off her birthday party scavenger hunt list due to the strength of the partygoers’ panache.


Doing the Toddler Shuffle, a full body dance.

Since Olive busts out her moves everywhere we go, on the street, the playground, the market, the dry cleaners – you name a place a two year old might enter, she’s danced there – I knew we had to drop the tunes for real.  All I had to do was give my husband a genre and a time period, and he created the bangin’est party soundtrack ever.  So, props to Joel for jammin’ on the one.

We laughed so hard at how seriously she took DMX’s Ruff Ryders Anthem (“All I know is pain!”), and when her friend Nalin came tearing through with his breakdance impersonation, we talked about it the rest of the night.

A really special part of this party for me was having my mom, two aunts, and two cousins there.  I have never had a family member at any of the events I’ve had for Olive these past two years: baby shower, baptism, one year birthday party, etc, so it meant a lot to me to have them there.  Several of my friends said their favorite part of the party was watching me dance with my mama to Push It:

She shall henceforth be known as DJ Jazzy Beth. Look at Grandma get down!

So, to sum up, we came, we wilded out, we celebrated a little person who adds so much joy to our lives.  At the end, everyone pitched in to clean like demons and get the space back to rights for the AA groups coming in a half hour later.  I am learning that one of my gifts is creating community, and it felt like it all came together that day because of the people who showed up, and how fully they took the charge of having a good time.

I love the person my daughter is becoming.  Last year, I prayed that she’d retain her wildness, which was definitely in force all this year, and I’m sure will only continue in her Year of Two.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store.  Happy Birthday, O-lo Bunky Girl.

All is full of love.

4 thoughts on “One for the baby, TWO for the show

  1. Oh, Rhea, true to form-you pulled off a wonderful party. I am not surprised at all. Only ver disappointed i couldn’t be part of the support and fun! love you and love to watch you work !

  2. This was one of the best times we’ve had as a family! Sully and Sadie are big Olive fans (and Sully asked tonight if you can teach us how to say poo in French because you know French, he remembered when you sang in French at Rare Device story time). Seeing how much Olive loves Sully and Sadie makes my heart melt. She already has her beautiful handprint on the world and I can’t wait to see what other joys she shares with us!! Of course, she is a huge reflection of the love and great parenting that you and Joel are giving her. What a gift to us all!!!!!!

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