Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday Jackson

My adorable little Jackson turns 4 in a couple weeks. Due to some scheduling conflicts, we had his party yesterday. Jackson requested a super hero party, which I resisted at first, but finally decided to just embrace it. Since it will be Jackson's last birthday here in Seattle and he has so many great friends here, I decided to go all out and throw him a big super hero party. It was a lot of work, but worth it. He had so much fun.
The Spider Man Cake

Pin the Arc Reactor on the Iron Man

Baylie didn't want to use a blindfold. She is so cute. As a side note, one of my favorite moments of the party was this girl during Super Hero Battle. Each of the kids got to pick a prize from the prize box. I tried to have the right mix of super hero prizes and girl prizes, and I thought it was a success when we got down to the final 2 kids, Tanner and Baylie, and we had one boy prize and one girl prize left. But then Tanner picked the purple shampoo instead of the super hero tattoos. I thought to myself, "oh no, poor Baylie." And Tanner's mom tried to talk him into giving Baylie the girl prize and taking the boy prize instead. And then Baylie interupted and excitedly explained that she WANTED the super hero tattoos. She was really excited about them, and I thought to myself, "Jackson should marry this girl some day."

The Super Villain Hideouts

Hulk cupcakes, chocolate with cream cheese filling.

One of Jackson's favorite gjfts, a talking Transformer mask, although he loved EVERYTHING he got. It was fun to see him so excited.

My handsome birthday boy. Notice the sweet Avenger's balloons? I got some awesome finds for this party on Amazon. Also, trying to drive a car filled with 20 helium filled balloons... not a good idea. I can't believe I didn't kill someone. I couldn't see a thing.

One of the party favors... spiderman tattoos
Jackson drew this picture. It's Captain America on top (notice the shield) and Iron Man on the bottom (see the arc reactor). When did he learn to draw like this? I was impressed.
The Hulk Pinata that I spent 3 days on, although it was totally worth it. I was nervous about a homemade pinata, but it cracked and broke perfectly and it was so fun. I told Tyler I want to make another one and we were trying to think of the next occassion that a pinata would be appropriate for. Halloween? End of Summer Party? Monday night dinner? We'll see...

The candy scramble

What a funny party. I probably won't ever put this much work into a birthday party again, but it was fun to do it once. Jackson sure enjoyed himself.

I'm posting a tutorial on the stuff we made for the party, since I had lots of people asking about the pinata/games/recipes. That post is below and has all the details.

And most importantly, Happy birthday, Jackson. I love you with all my heart and through and through :) I'm so proud of you becoming a big 4-year-old.
Avengers, Assemble!

How To--Super Hero Birthday Party

I had lots of people asking me questions about the party, so I thought I'd post tutorials of the stuff we did for the party, mostly so I have it all in one place.
The Cakes:
The Spiderman Cake was a Wilton Shaped Cake pan decorated with a star-tipped frosting tip. This is how my mom made our birthday cakes. They take a lot of work but they look so awesome. For black frosting, store bought is the only way to get a true black with frosting that is still edible (If anyone has a recipe that works, I would love it). I tried to do my own black frosting with black wilton dye and it was inedible from all the food dye, and still only purplish-gray, so save yourself the wasted frosting and dye and just get store bought black. For all other colors, homemade buttercream frosting is the best. It holds shape good and tastes amazing. I do mine with a hint of almond instead of vanilla because I LOVE almond extract. Here's the recipe I use:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (NOT melted)
1 teaspoon almond extract (use 1 t. vanilla instead for a more traditional frosting that is still amazing)
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Combine butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add almond extract. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed. Add milk and beat until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until you are ready to pipe it onto the cake, so the frosting doesn't get too runny.
The hulk cupcakes--I made chocolate cupcakes (from a box) with cream cheese filling. The filling didn't work out very well, so I won't bother sharing the recipe. Next time I would use piped in filling or just buy a box of Betty Crocker Fun Da-Middles. I used store bought frosting for these. Cream cheese frosting dyed green and chocolate frosting. I bought Wilton Candy Eyes to save some time.
Game #1: Pin the Arc Reactor on the Iron Man
This was just a silly take on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I drew the Iron Man on red butcher paper and used some gold paint for the highlights. Then I cut out little blue "arc reactors" and wrote each of the kids' names on them. Then we blinded folded them and spun them around once. It was fun. A few of the girls were nervous about the blind fold and the spinning, so I let them skip all that and just close their eyes, which worked out fine.

 Game #2: Super Hero Battle
This was a variation on a cake walk. There were super heroes taped to the floor. The kids walked in a circle while we played theme songs from super hero cartoons. When the music stopped, all the kids stood on a super hero for the "battle". I would pick super hero pictures one at a time, and when your super hero was picked, you were out and had to sit down. The last hero standing got to pick a prize and then we went again. After 1 or 2 rounds, the kids were getting restless so we switched to a more traditional cake walk, just picking a super hero card, and that person could pick a prize.

The prizes for the games. I had enough for each kid to pick one. All the super hero stuff came from Target $1 bins. I got a few generic/girly toys for the girls that didn't like super heroes.

Game #3: Super Villain Capture
This was a relay race. The tents were filled with balloons that each had a super villain taped to it. Each kid would put on a cape, crawl through the tunnel, capture a villain, bring him back out, and put him in the Super Villain Prison (made out of our laundry hampers). Then they would take off the cape and hand it to the next person. If you don't have tents, you could just do some other kind of obstacle course and have the balloons in a box at the end of the course.
The prison. I planned to decorate it with paper "prison bars", but ran out of time.

 At this point, each kid got a goodie bag as a reward for capturing all the super villains. That way they had a bag to gather candy from the pinata.

The Pinata
It was pretty simple to make, although a little time consuming.
1. Inflate a balloon. Cut newspaper into 1 inch wide strips.
2. To make the paste, mix 1 cup flour with 2 cups water in a pot/pan. Cook and stir until paste begins to thicken. Add a pinch of salt and continue stirring until it has a putty-like texture. Remove from heat and transfer to a shallow dish to let it cool.
3. Dip the newspaper strips in the paste and use yours fingers to scrape off any excess paste. Then lay them over the balloon until its completely covered, leaving a small opening at the top, about 2 inches by 2 inches, to insert the candy.
4. Repeat step 3 to do 3-4 coats, but you need to let it dry between each coat, which can take 6-12 hours, so plan on doing this over a few days.
5. Poke two holes in the top to run a string through. I used a plastic lid from a gallon ice cream tub with two holes poked in it to reinforce the string inside the pinata. Then tie the string to the end of a broom handle.
Here's a link to more detailed instructions:
Painting the pinata

Super Hero Coloring Pages
while the kids were arriving

Prizes and goody bags. Between the Target dollar bins and Amazon, we got everything really cheap. The homemade pinata saved a ton of money too, and actually seemed to break better than the store bought pinatas anyway. When I did an online search for a hulk pinata, they were about $60 - $80 for a real pinatas (not the pull-sting kind, which seem lame to me). I couldn't believe how expensive they were. Maybe I should open an etsy shop and sell Hulk/Iron Man/Spiderman pinatas. I feel like I've gotten pretty good at creating those 3 charactesr :)

 Amazon had really awesome, really cheap party favors. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can just search for "super hero party" or "priness party" or whatever theme you want, and tons of great stuff pops up for $2-$5 with free 2-day shipping. I love Amazon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


In June, we got to spend 10 amazing days in California. Tyler had an oral surgery externship at Loma Linda, so we decided to join him for the second week and make a vacation out of it. We went to Disneyland with Tyler's family, spent a week with just the 4 of us Boyds while Tyler completed his externship, and then met my family in San Diego for the last 3 days. It was incredible. We really needed the break.
Jackson and Fisher with cousin Ben. Ben and Fisher are just a few weeks apart. I wish we got to see him more.

Jackson eventually got over his hatred of sand and decided he LOVED the beach. He even told Grandma "I love the way the sand feels in my toes."

Matching shark PJ's, a necessary souvenir

I tend to forget makeup when I'm on vacation. I should quit that habit for the sake of our vacation family photos.

He REALLY overcame his fear of the sand

Between Disneyland, shopping, and all the trips to the swimming pool, Fisher spent a lot of time in his new stroller. He didn't seem to mind. He's such a trooper and actually seemed like he enjoyed himself most of the time.

Fisher and Grandpa waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. Fisher was pretty fascinated by all the rides he got to go on.

Jackson and his Aunt CassieAnn got to take a nap on a cozy Disneyland bench (made of cement) I was a little jealous.

Enjoying the ocean view in San Diego. Thanks to my Grandma and Grandpa Romney for the amazing condo. It's my favorite place on earth :)

This what we saw every time Fisher woke up from a stroller nap.

Jackson started the week terrified of the water, but was pretty brave by the end of it.

After spending a week soaking in chlorine, Jackson complained that his nipples were hurting him. A few minutes later I found him asleep like this, just trying to let those things air out.

My San Diego birthday, fantastic despite Tyler's almost forgetting.

One of my favorite pictures from the trip. Jackson is such an active little boy, but every once in a while he slows down to give a good hug or a snuggle. It makes my day.

Jackson and cousin Madden. Times like these make me wish we were in Idaho. Jackson would have so much fun getting to see Madden every day.

The beginning of Jackson's Disneyland nap. See the drool on Tyler's neck? Yeah, that happened...
Jackson was a Disneyland Pro--he rode every ride that he was tall enough for, including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain. I don't think I'll ever be able to enjoy Space Mountain the same way again. After sitting next to Jackson for 3 excrutiating minutes while he sobbed and screamed through the entire thing, the ride makes me a little sick to my stomach. I've never seen terror like that from my sweet little boy. But he did it and he said next time we go, he'll be older and will probably like it, even though this time he "hated that stupid ride".

This picture was unfortunately timed, but the really cute thing happened after the picture. He gave Pooh the biggest hug I've ever seen, and then tried to kiss him, which was funny because I'm pretty sure Pooh can't actually bend over. But Jackson just puckered up and waited anyway. After several attempts to bend and twist over, Pooh finally just blew Jackson a kiss, which seemed to work.