Measure time through the growth of your little one and you’ll find it flies even faster, thanks to all the fun. For two months, Spencer and I discussed plans for Reila’s first birthday but all that planning didn’t alleviate the shock of it already arriving when we woke up on August 20.

I know Rei won’t remember her family and friends gathered together, giggling as she stuffed her face with the lion cake Nana made while dancing to The Steve Miller Band’s Book of Dreams. But that’s okay. It was a celebration of her life. A few hours of partying to honor the little babe who effortlessly turns strangers into friends and brings joy to everyone around her with her big smiles and little waves.

My grandparents even road tripped to Kansas City all the way from Massachusetts with their friends to celebrate their great-granddaughter’s big day. I mean, who can blame them? She makes them GREAT.  We road trip to Massachusetts every year (I hate flying) to visit but this was their first time in Kansas City – ever. And they used to live in Denver! It’s because my granddad hates driving but their friends made him an offer he couldn’t refuse when they said they would drive the whole way as long as my grandma made the itinerary (which she is a master at doing.)

I don’t think their friends had ever been to Kansas City, either. They couldn’t get over how “clean” KC is and how “nice” all the people are, which made us laugh. I think it’s because winters out here are nothing compared to those wicked ones on the East Coast, which seem to frostbite people’s hearts over time. Personally, I much prefer living in the Midwest – but I sure love visiting the oceans on both sides of our great country!

Since we live only a couple blocks from the Kansas City Zoo and are proud Friends of the Zoo (which lets us go any day of the week for free), I stuck with the jungle motif we established at Reila’s baby shower and used in her nursery. Crazy me saved the shower decorations and decided this was a good time to reuse them – aside from the ones that said, “Welcome baby,” of course.

Spence was the balloon master since I have an irrational fear of latex balloons and blowing them up. He used our helium tank to inflate a bunch of balloons to decorate our railings outside so our guests knew exactly which house was ours. Then, he attached latex and aluminum balloons to a purple balloon weight next to the birthday girl’s throne (well, high chair.) When he was done with the balloons, he took the time to hang up banners inside and out which was super helpful because I was in the kitchen cooking meat, sauteeing vegetables, making a ricotta cheese substitute and boiling pasta for our favorite lasagna recipe.

We mentioned this party would be a potluck on the invites so Spence and I wouldn’t have to spend a whole day cooking or put money aside to pay for catering, but mostly it was because I love home cooking and wanted to see what kind of delectable dishes our guests would prepare. I set up and decorated the buffet area the night before, donning our dining room table and a folding craft booth table with lime green tablecloths, monkeys and matching napkins. That way if we had any early birds (like my grandparents) they would have a place to set their food. Presents, on the other hand, were placed on our fireplace’s raised hearth.

Not surprisingly, everything went smoothly. It’s amazing where a little planning and task delegation will get you. Spencer’s mom made Reila’s cake and cupcakes, which were beautiful and way more delicious than any cake you can find in a store. She even took the time before other guests arrived to arrange them into a beautiful display. My sister-in-law, Tate, took amazing photos per usual which I have shared with you all here. If you need a photographer, seriously check her out.

Our friends and family brought delicious food, all of which Reila enjoyed. She is not a picky eater at all, she just loves eating. Our lasagna came out of the oven 30 minutes after the party started, giving people time to arrive, settle in, grab a drink and get to know one another. And, of course, it was delicious.

Reila loved all of her gifts, although she was most entranced by a birthday card Spencer’s co-worker gave her because it had a dog on it and “dog” is her favorite word and probably her favorite animal. But, most importantly, everyone had a great time and we were able to bring people together from all walks of life in our cozy home to celebrate the sweetest little girl I’ve ever known. She sure is loved.

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