Since we wanted to make sure Nana (and Daddy Doug) could come to both the girl's birthday parties, we had Anna Cate's celebration 10 days early.  Having two parties two weeks apart was well worth it to have my parents there!  Anna Cate was dead set on it being a bowling party and including many friends, both adults and kids. The girl knows how to make friends and we are so lucky to have such sweet boys and girls in her life to celebrate with us.

We had the party at Splitsville, whose colors are red and black so I went with that theme and had fun adding in some hints of lady bugs for my little lady.

(If you are looking at her Monogram wondering how that is, Anna Cate is short for Susanna Catherine)
Party hat by RJMboutique
Cupcake toppers design by Cutie Patootie Creations
Banner by The Tom Kat Studio
This gorgeous cake is made by my beautiful and talented friend Chas at Mommy Bakes.
Molly and Anna Cate's outfits are made by Liz Spears, a sweet and talented lady from Centerville.

We "crafted" picture frames for the favors and will send out pictures for our friends to remember the day. BJ spray painted them all and with the help of ribbon, a glue gun some buttons, lady bugs and felt bowling pins and balls, and a glass of wine while Anna Cate was home in Tennessee, I spent my evenings pretending I was a crafty Mom.

I could tell a sweet, cute story about every kid there and a connection I feel to every adult, or express my aghast for those five candles on that cake.

I think about the precious Maeve Haun walking around high fiving everyone for getting strike or how the kids from Miss Diana's seemed to have really missed Anna Cate when she was home in Tennessee.  I can think about how BJ ran around crazy to make sure every kid got a slot because there were 22 kids there.  Or how the dear Jeannine Wampler brought these sweet little girls Naima and Regina who were born in Refugee Camps in Africa and have the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen. When I told Naima a few weeks ago at church she was going to come bowling for Anna Cate's birthday party, she gave me a huge hug and said she was so excited. When I said, "do you know what bowling is?" she said, "No." Or our friends the Silvers brought Yahahawa who Anna Cate has known since nursery at church and I don't even know if he was born in a camp or not, but I do know the kid had a major pouty face before lunch and was the happiest kid on the planet afterwards when his smile lit up his lane.

I'm sitting her wondering, "what is the story here?"  I just said to BJ, what is the story about Anna Cate's party? He noticed about what a social butterfly she is, how she really spent time with everyone without prompting and her inclusive nature makes us proud.

The endearing memories for me will be of her and these friends, our friends and family who are sharing this experience with us....this journey of raising children in general and helping us love and celebrate Anna Cate in particular. Knowing that we made the effort to move the party date up and that they made the trip to here signifies the insignificance of miles in this bond as family.

Molly Mae doesn't let anyone rock her, but snuggled right up to Daddy their first night here. So Daddy, even though the bowling party was a little chaotic, and you didn't get to bowl, maybe this made the trip worthwhile?!?!
At the heart of it for me as I remember this day is that this child is happy.

(Look at Molly clapping)

Believe me, I am not that parent that thinks happiness is the most important thing we give our kids (that job is left up to my mom and husband), but damn it is nice to stop and let that be the focus some times. Maybe that is why I like birthday parties so much. I indulge myself by indulging her for these happy times.

The truth is, we don't always know what our story is, when the defining moments are, when it ends or how it is going to be told.  I hope Anna Cate's 5th birthday party won't be a blur for me or her in the future. But if it is,  the elements in this story are the elements of her life and of her story so far -- of friends, family and fun...a little bit of chaos!

As if the events of the day weren't exciting enough, she had her first loose tooth and when eating an apple, it popped out, lacing the glittered path for the tooth fairy.

So the parties are over, and I'm left thinking about how much I love this month, the girls it gave me, what a daunting task it is to raise them and what a joy it is to celebrate them. Our story unfolds and I enjoy the parties and she rejoices as much in the tooth and $1 left on the pillow. So it seems we celebrate the big and the small things, but to a child you don't know which is which and that sentiment wins my acclaim.

"Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is. 
You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering. "

 Shauna Niequist (Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life)