this is six, pink flamingos and all

IMG_20170521_193005_944After two rain postponements and much anticipation, we celebrated our oldest daughter’s sixth birthday with a flamingo themed party. She had chosen the theme months ago. Flamingo is her favorite animal. Why? “Because they are pink!—my favorite color, Mama!” And with that, the planning began.

I love planning parties and this birthday was no different. I ended up recycling a few items and ideas from my older daughter’s mushroom themed party last year, to make the planning and prepping a little easier. The following is a collection of photographs from the special day:

20170521_133820_HDR~2The birthday girl wore a flamingo dress. Flamingo decorated clothing and items seem to be everywhere at the moment. I guess my daughter has a sense for what is in vogue. I added a touch of craftiness to her ensemble by making her pink flamingo wings.  I’m not a great seamstress and with my time limited, I created no-sew felt wings using a rotary cutter to cut the feathers and a hot glue gun to apply them to the under wings, also made of felt.

IMG_20170530_131138_415I asked my daughter to draw a flamingo so I could add it to the invitation. I was amazed at how well it turned out—pretty terrific, no? She enjoyed drawing the flamingo so much that she asked to help create the rest. Together we made a two sided invitation with her writing out the details. From there, I scanned in the drawing and all the info using Photoshop. I did some rearranging with the text and drawing to make it fit and added some palm embellishments.

20170521_101412_HDRLike her fifth birthday, I wanted to have a gathering place for the kids to sing happy birthday and eat cake. I reused a large pallet that was left after a large furniture delivery to make a rustic, ground level table.  My handy husband cut a 4×4 to make the legs of the table. We added bamboo sticks at the table ends so that I could string flamingo lights and tropical lanterns above the table for an added touch of adornment.

IMG_20170524_141313_163Etsy is great for unique party goods which is where I purchased the cups, plates, napkins and straws. I also purchased tropical leaf placemats and used them as a table runner. I recycled the bird nests from last year’s party for added table decor—replacing the mushrooms and woodland birds for palm trees and flamingos.

Flamingo abound throughout the yard.

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Once again, we kept it simple with food at our outdoor buffet area offering crudité, meats, cheeses and fruit platters. I provided snack bags for the kids to munch on and my husband set up a hot coals campfire for the guests to roast hot dogs.

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IMG_20170528_142631_968Every year we have some variation of a scavenger hunt for the party game. It is an easy way to add some fun and it can be done at each child’s own pace. No standing around waiting for turns, and if you have a mixed-age group party, both little and big kids love it. This year I purchased some very inexpensive tinsel flamingos at a party store and we hid them throughout our yard. The kids traveled around the house with pencil and paper to tally a set number of flamingos.

Once all were found, the kids could collect their prize: bird eyes.  These “bird eyes” could be any type of creature really. They fit on a child’s finger and you can mimic a talking bird or creature. The were also purchased at a party store.

I always love creating themed specific party favors for the kids to take home. Each child went home with a bag decorated with a pipe cleaner and yarn flamingo with the contents including, a wooden bird whistle (again, a party store purchase), a Dover Publication bird themed sticker or activity book, and a hand-drawn flamingo and palm tree button for the kids to wear on their clothes or on a backpack.

IMG_20170530_131346_122To create the homemade button, I purchased a pack of design-your-own buttons kit, scanned and then printed my daughter’s drawing using a label template, and used a circle punch to cut the drawing out to fit into each button.

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IMG_20170528_143203_053In addition to the scavenger hunt, a bubble machine, trampoline and hot dog roasting area kept the party going.

IMG_20170523_073238_031I always put my husband in charge of the cake and he never disappoints. He made two sheet cakes using cake mix and his grandmother’s homemade butter icing recipe. He also added food coloring to each batch of icing. He and my oldest daughter cut out a paper template for each cake (a palm tree and a flamingo), placed it on top of the icing, and dusted icing sugar on top. After, my husband carefully lifted the template off, a shadow image of the palm tree and flamingo were left behind.

Cake time!

IMG_20170521_201317_101Practicing their cake eating skills before the party began.

IMG_20170603_111241_321Finally, a perfect spring day to celebrate with my girls.

IMG_20170524_144705_673This is six.

because of them

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With my mother on her father’s farm.

“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see — or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.” – Alice Walker

It’s International Women’s Day and there is no greater personal celebration of womanhood than being the mother of daughters. It will be the greatest challenge of my life to raise them to embrace difference including their own differences from normalcy. To be fierce. To prefer pink, blue and every color in between. To rise up.

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My teenage years with my beautiful mother.

My mother was a single mom, working full-time as a nurse for many years of my childhood. Whether attending to the wounds of soldiers in a war zone or assisting in the surgeries of elderly patients whose eyes have failed them, my mother is a woman of strength and resilience. And she is the greatest feminist I know, for single-handedly making my journey a step above all the muck and mire she faced in her life.

She and my aunt, lost their own mother at a very young age and were raised primarily by their grandparents. Their grandmother, a woman who has become legend in my mind, had a towering presence both in the physical and in personality. A farm woman who could butcher a chicken blindfolded and sew the most extraordinary quilts from scraps of fabric that she also used to make her granddaughters’ clothes.

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Joining my aunt in a serenade.

My aunt. I grew up thinking of her as the funniest, fun, passionate and spiritually guided woman I ever met. My visits with her never failed to rise my mood to heights that could touch the clouds. She’s my feminist hero even though she’s reluctant to use the word.

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My grandmother holding me just weeks old.

And then, I think of my paternal grandmother whom I met but do not remember. She raised six children during the Jim Crow era, working as a dishwasher and fleeing the south with her family for a better life up north.

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Aunt Honey.

One of her daughters, my Aunt Honey, as she was affectionately known, would become my first black feminist hero. If she was Catholic, she would have been granted sainthood. A postal worker for most of her life, she was always craving to learn more, to see more of the world, and make it better by providing for others when she herself had very little to provide. You felt her kindness the moment you encountered her presence.

These women aren’t famous. They aren’t the first to go to the moon or discover a cure for some disease, but they are remarkable for the lives they lived. Their influence is indelible on me.

My greatest gift to my daughters will be to raise them with the fortitude these women, these mothers have lived. Feminists!–very damn one them and I’m proud to call them my own.