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The days leading up to Izzy’s 3rd birthday were filled with more perpetual motion than the little lady herself. Preparing for a child’s birthday party is like running a marathon on a treadmill while simultaneously packing for a trip around the world. It’s like conducting a symphony while cooking an 8-course meal and blowing up balloons in the shape of jungle animals. A 3-year-old’s birthday party is a wedding reception, a rock concert, and a day at Six Flags, all thrown into a blender with a pound of sugar and a fruit punch juice box.

But when it all comes together, when all the “to-do’s” get “to-done” and the kids raise the roof (without burning the mother down), your little munchkin’s birthday is quite a sight to behold. Having only been parents now for 3 years, Jen and I certainly don’t consider ourselves gurus on the subject just yet. We do however, know when the best time is to host a party.

(Here’s a tip to all you parents out there with an upcoming toddler bash: schedule the party for 11:00am; all your guests with little one’s of their own will roll out by 12:30 or 1:00 so their kid can take a nap and you’re left with only essential personnel and the rest of the afternoon to decompress. You’re welcome.)

Cousin Molly serenading Iz with her rendition of Happy Birthday

As we scurried around Sunday morning, making last-minute preparations that included properly positioned potty seats in each bathroom and a scan of the backyard for any “land mines” left by the dogs in the early morning hours, my father (otherwise known as Poppy) arrived with an early birthday present that required some “setting up”. That’s right, the Chaney clan now owns our very own bounce house (or moon bounce, or inflatable cage of toddler terror, whatever you prefer to call it).

Thankfully, this children’s toy did something most others never do; it assembled in the recommended amount of time. So with the bounce house up and running and Iz and the Jakester already bursting with freakishly high levels of energy, the party was underway. As the kids filed in from all directions, their adult counterparts in tow, gifts began to fill the living room while juice boxes starting flowing like champagne in a hip-hop video.

Where were these guys when I was landscaping yesterday!

The weather couldn’t have been better, allowing for playtime outside rather than in the quaint (yeah, that sounds better than cramped) confines of the house. The kids bounced around the inflatable corral, crashing into each other like WWE Royal Rumble combatants. Parents took turns as referees/lifeguards, ready to swoop in and rescue any little tikes in turmoil.

After I successfully negotiated the grilling of hamburgers and hotdogs without burning myself, my house, or any little kiddies in the process, it was time to sing happy birthday and cut the cake. If you may recall, this time last year Izzy was going through a rather odd, birthday song phobia. She was perfectly content to sing the song to others, but when a group of people tried to sing it to her, she had a nuclear-style meltdown. Thankfully, that phase is over and this year’s rendition went off without a hitch.

As has been birthday tradition since cave-folk discovered fire and then gave each other rocks and dinosaur meat as gifts (I think it went something like that), after cake came present time. After several hours of bouncing, running, laughing, screaming, falling down, and bouncing some more, it was clear that Iz was hitting a wall, but she pushed through like a champ and opened every princess-related gift in the room. Joined by her entourage of pint-sized peeps, she tore through wrapping and tissue paper like Grant through Richmond. Once the smoke cleared, torn bits of paper and plastic littered the floor and the kids were back in the yard for another round of “how in the world do they still have that much energy”.

You can tell she's on the edge. Hitting the wall after a long day.

Slowly, the party dwindled and clean-up began. Jake, having slept through a good part of the shindig, was now awake and raring to go so escorting him in and out of the house became the full-time job of whoever was closest at the time. Once the guests cleared out, it was time to survey the damage. Toys were scattered about, have-eaten plates of food and half-full bottles and juice boxes lined the tables like a makeshift target practice range, and the inevitable extra goodie bags remained by the front door.

One benefit to the early start time is the hours you have on the back-end for clean-up and relaxation. By 5:30pm, evidence of a birthday bash was hard to come by, unless of course you took a good look at the Chaney clan. Izzy and Jake sat on the couch watching an episode of Strawberry Shortcake from like 1983, barely conscious but unable to close their eyes due to the sugar-induced trance they were in. Meanwhile, Jen and I slipped into a temporary coma until we were able to justify what we felt was a reasonable time to go to bed. If you’re wondering, I believe it was about 7:15pm.

So I’m exhausted. A little from the party, a little from three years of parenting, but mostly from racking my brain as to how it’s possible that my little girl is three years old already. No matter what your process is for throwing a party, if you have kids I have no doubt that you wonder the same thing about your little (or big) one. So here is one final Happy 3rd Birthday to my Iz! Now I better start prepping now for the Jakester…his birthday is just 3 1/2 months away; I’m already behind!

"It's all about Izzy today buddy, but give it time...your day is coming."

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