Eight wishes on an eighth birthday

Eight wishes on an eighth birthday

One of the advantages of being the youngest child in the family is that you get to see and experience life through the eyes of your older siblings.

A few years ago, our youngest daughter got to hang out with her big sister on her birthday when she hosted a “spa” party for her tween-aged friends. Since that day, our youngest has been begging to have a spa birthday party of her own. Each year, I’ve told her “no.” Her friends needed to at least be old enough to sit still long enough to have their nails painted or enjoy the relaxation of a paraffin wax treatment on their feet.

This year, after many persistent requests, I finally agreed that on her eighth birthday, she could host a spa-themed party.

We could have taken the girls to a real spa for pedicures or hosted a princess pamerping party somewhere. Bu, we’ve always loved the parties we’ve hosted at our house the most, and this seemed like a great opportunity to have a birthday party at home.

A quick search of “spa party” on Pinterest will bring up as many spa-themed DIY ideas as nail polish choices at the salon. I often joke that my favorite “hobby” is planning a themed party, and I couldn’t resist the urge to try as many spa party ideas as possible. With our daughter’s birthday on Dec. 1, I came home from a Black Friday shopping trip, not with Christmas gifts, but the ingredients and supplies to make our own neck wraps, bath bombs, lip balm, facial scrub and more.

Our daughter had picked out a color scheme for her party that included turquoise, minty green and purple. We immediately got to work sewing neck wraps and concocting bath salts in her party colors.

I love nothing better than a theme and a color scheme, so I immediately started thinking about how we could “brand” our DIY spa products for the party.

I had recently purchased a bracelet at a Fair Trade holiday bazaar that we host each year at our church. It wasn’t just the little bracelet on a leather strap that I loved, it was the cute packaging that I knew I wanted to use for inspiration. The bracelet was one in a series called, “Six Wishes.” Each bracelet included a different “wish” for the receiver.

This inspired me to think about birthday wishes, and the number 8. As I thought about the two circles of the 8, I loved the visual symbol of the “8” in the background of a circular label. Now, we just had to come up with my daughter’s “8 wishes” for her friends. We had tried to keep her guest list as small as possible by limiting it only to friends from school. I didn’t even realize until that moment, that of the girls we invited, it ended up being a list of eight who could attend.

My daughter and I brainstormed our list of eight wishes for a group of eight girls in their eighth year of life. Here’s what we came up with:








and happiness

We used the idea of “8 wishes” throughout the party. I created “8 wishes” labels for the homemade spa products that would go in their goodie bags. And each girl made a bracelet with eight beads, representing each of the eight wishes.

When the girls arrived, they each received a “menu” of the spa services available to them.

They got to go to one of three stations, which kept things more manageable by dividing them up into groups of threes. My older daughter and her friend helped with hair, and my husband filled the foot soaking tubs with warm water.

Keeping with our theme of “8 wishes,” we also ended up with eight DIY projects for the party:

Each girl got to enjoy a homemade neck wrap, which also became part of her goodie bag.

We made homemade bath bombs for the party favor bags.

We made lip balm from coconut oil and Kool Aid.

We made our own facial masks that we used during the party. (The girls used clean paintbrushes to paint the masks on their faces.)

We wrapped a strand of each girl’s hair with embroidery floss.

We gave each girl a personalized mirror, which we bought at the dollar store. I used Oracle adhesive vinyl to cut each girl’s name on my Silhouette.

We made our own fizzy foot bath station, complete with paraffin wax treatment. (We used the same recipe for the fizzy bath salts as we had used for the bath bombs.) Above is a pic of my older daughter and her friend testing out the foot station before the guests arrived!

And each girl got to make her own “8 wishes” bracelet. Each bead represents one of the eight wishes.

I wasn’t sure what my daughter’s friends would think of the party. But several of them declared it was the “Best Party Ever”! They carried around their spa menu, and chatted excitedly about which station they planned to visit next. It also didn’t hurt that we were blessed with nearly 60 degree temps on the first Saturday in December. This allowed the girls to take breaks from all of their pampering to play on the trampoline and run around outside.

The party ended up being a lot of work, but I had a blast putting it all together. My favorite part of the whole party prep was thinking about those wishes for the next year for her and her friends. I would love to make this a tradition in our home for each person in our family to think of a list of birthday wishes for the coming year.

I’m not sure if they will remember any of the “8 wishes” we sent home with them that day. But who knows? Maybe their little bracelets or a fizzy bath will remind them of some of the more important things in life that we hope they get to experience this year!



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adventure day

adventure day

On Monday, I got to hang out with two of my very favorite people, filling up my love tank with quality time for my birthday! The hubs took the day off work and our 5-year-old asked if she could miss preschool to go on a birthday adventure day.

We were planning to spend the day outside, enjoying the amazing spring weather we’ve been having and yes, doing what I love to do — shooting photos! But our crazy Illinois weather didn’t cooperate and we had to come up with a quick change of plans to deal with 50 degrees, strong winds and rain on and off throughout the day.

We started our adventure with a quick stop at Starbucks and then headed to the zoo. We figured we could at least see the dolphin show and go to some of the indoor exhibits, even if it was chilly.


I’m not normally a huge fan of the zoo, but we had THE best time together! We have taken our Little Person to the zoo many times before, but I guess she was too young to remember. So in her mind, this was her first trip to the zoo, and she absolutely loved it.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves — other than a couple of bus loads of school kids — we got to see our favorite animals in action, and I got to practice using my new camera lens. YAY!







So, one funny story from the zoo. I was standing there with a bunch of school kids, watching the lion as he slept. Suddenly, he woke up! We were all so excited and everyone grabbed their camera or phone or ipad to start shooting photos and video. The lion gets up and yawns and all the people are oohing and ahhing. Then, the lion goes over to the lioness and starts getting primal!

All the kids are screaming. “No! Stop! I can’t look!” Everyone puts down their camera and jaws are dropping. It was awkward and hilarious. I guess we all assumed the zoo gave them a private room somewhere!




After the zoo, we needed to warm up, so we headed to one of my favorite spots, the Garfield Conservatory. The beautiful flowers and warm greenhouses were such a treat on a chilly day!






Our fun day of adventure ended with the girls in the family heading out to the movies.

I was completely filled up by such a fun day with people I love. Hard to believe it STILL wasn’t even my birthday yet!

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For most people, it seems the birthdays that end in zero are the difficult ones mentally and emotionally. For me, it’s the years that end in 5 that are tough. It’s those years when you feel like you are half way through a decade. You’ve hit your mid-whatever years. You are now at the top of the hill sliding down toward the next decade.

Last year, I turned 45, and it was a big challenge for me. I’ve always thought the term “mid-life” crisis was all in your head. And I’m sure it is all in your head, but I definitely hit mine. I was in a pretty negative place most of the year.

This year has been a different story. I worked through many of my issues, and I’ve been proving to myself I can do things better and be more of the person I want to be. I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe this year, and so far, for me, the word is “better.”

My husband just sat down to talk about my birthday, and out of the blue, right when I was thinking about “better,” he said he thinks our word for this year is “inspire.” We’ve both been pursuing our interests and working with our kids to pursue some of theirs. It’s been a super fun year so far, so I think either word works.

For the last few weeks, I have been totally looking forward to my birthday, which is on Tuesday. Our little 5-year-old has been spending hours at the table making secret pearler bead creations for me. She has them all wrapped up and hidden under her bed, and I can hardly wait to open them. Every morning, she announces excitedly how many more days until my birthday.

One of my greatest gifts is that she loves to hang out with me, so this afternoon we spent some time jumping together on the trampoline while listening to our favorite music.


My husband also totally surprised me by kicking off our weekend with my absolute dream gift. Wanna guess what it was?

I’m going to keep it secret a little longer, but let’s just say I’m jumping for joy!

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Spa birthday party

Spa birthday party

Our darling oldest daughter turned 10 today. TEN! Double digits! From the day she was born, we have talked about how much joy and excitement she has brought to this family. We love her fun-loving spirit, her creativity and ability to make friends with every person she meets.

She put quite a lot of thought into how she wanted to celebrate her 10th birthday. When she finally came up with an idea — after much deliberation — I couldn’t have been more excited! She decided that instead of having a big party somewhere, she would invite just a few close friends for a sleepover with a spa theme.

My brain immediately started racing with the thought of creating our own private spa. I think I gave my husband about one week’s notice that we were going to need to hang curtains from the pergola on our deck and hang Christmas lights around the top to make the “spa”. He was immediately up for the challenge. The only problem was when the temperature suddenly dropped about 50 degrees a few days before the party. I’m not kidding. One day, we were sweating it out with temps in the 90s and by the evening of the party, the low was around 40.

We didn’t let that stop us though. We spend so much time on our deck that it has become one of the most used “rooms” of our house. We both had been thinking about investing in an outdoor heater and the birthday party gave us the motivation we needed.

It turned out to be a beautiful day, but we did need the heater once the sun went down. It was a gorgeous evening hanging out on the deck with some of my favorite tween girls, eating cute food, enjoying spa treatments and eventually ending the evening with fondue.

For my friends who love party details, here’s how it all went.


We decided to decorate in turquoise, black and white, which I thought turned out super cute. We gave each girl a “spa bag” which included a neck wrap that she used during the party, a bath poof (what are those called?), nail polish, nail graffiti, and candy. I found the bags on clearance at Wal-Mart for $2! Yay!

I used my Silhouette to make labels for the bags, and a “happy birthday” banner.





I served lots of simple foods, jazzed up on fancy platters. We had pb&j cut in the shapes of hearts and stars, pizza squares, ham puffs, veggies, chips and dip and flower-shaped bread spread with strawberry cream cheese.



I also had a “make your own punch” table, which I think might just be my best party idea ever! The punch was delish and the girls had fun trying out different combinations!




Our “spa” had five stations. The first was a tub where they could wash their feet and use a sugar scrub. Next, we had a soaking tub with jets and a rotating massage tool. Next, they got to put their hands and feet in paraffin wax. After that, they could paint their nails. And while they were waiting they could use hair chalk.

The girls spent about 10 minutes at each station just talking and eating while they waited.





Once we were done with the spa treatments, we went inside for fondue. A friend had loaned us her chocolate fountain, which added a little extra pizazz to the event.



My hosting duties didn’t stop there though. this morning, we celebrated with a donut “cake” for Alayna’s actual birthday and lots of other breakfast goodies. Alayna had specifically asked if we could serve decaf coffee in the morning. I set up a coffee bar for the girls, but none of them touched it! 🙂





One of my favorite parts of the party planning was creating the invitation. I was inspired by the “menu” from the spa where I recently got my hair cut. I used it as my template to create her very own spa brochure. 🙂

invitation front

invitation back

I had a blast planning the party, and I’m pretty sure the girls enjoyed it, too. Once they were all settled in last night to watch a movie, I sat outside by the heater on the deck, a cup of punch and my feet in the paraffin wax and thought about how good life is!

Happy birthday, 10 year old!! We love you tons!


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My Little Pony party

My Little Pony party

Tucked in between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the last of our four children’s fall birthdays, it always seems that Jayda’s birthday sneaks up on me. While the other kids have been having birthday parties since they were 1, I haven’t managed to put together a birthday party for her YET!… Until this year.


Less than a week before her Dec. 1 birthday, I e-mailed a few friends to see if their daughters would be free to come over for a birthday playdate. Jayda has a really sweet collection of friends and if I had had my act together, I probably would have planned something for more guests. But in the end, it was really nice to have four little girls come over to celebrate My Little Pony style.




I had a blast decorating in rainbows, a la Rainbow Dash. I have never really been a fan of My Little Pony, but I will admit that after buying her presents and decorating in all things pony, I agree that my 4-year-old’s passion is adorable.



For the cake, I used Air Head Extremes to create rainbows on cupcakes.



I grabbed some My Little Pony images from the Internet to create labels for the water bottles. We emptied out more water bottles and created a rainbow of Skittles for one of the party favors.



The food included pizza, crackers and cheese cut in cute shapes, carrots, apples and marshmallows that I found in cute, colorful shapes.


The girls went home on a sugar high after the “drink” I served with the cupcakes. I cut open freeze pops and poured them in a bowl one color at a time to create a rainbow freeze. (Just make sure to allow each layer to freeze completely before pouring in the next color.)


We had a few planned activities, such as My Little Pony coloring sheets, temporary tattoos, and this Rainbow Dash game that I created throughout the house.


The game could not have been any simpler. The girls threw a large die that I had from another game. Each side was a different color. Whatever color it landed on is the square they had to go to. If they passed over a pink square, they had to shout out, “Happy Birthday, Jayda.”


At the end of the path, they came to a box wrapped in rainbow paper with prizes inside. Each child got to reach in and grab a My Little Pony figure. (They sell these in mystery bags, sort of like Lego mini figures so you don’t know which one you are getting.)

box1 box

The girls were hilarious during this game! I thought they might get bored because it was so simple, but halfway through, one little girl announced , “This game is REALLY hard!”


The party was super fun both for the girls and for me! Happy birthday, sweetheart!

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