A sentimental first birthday gift

Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm less attentive as a mom of four than I was in my first years of parenting. So I was pleased (and relieved!) to come up with an idea for Kate's first birthday that I'd never before done. A little something special for the one who is rarely singled out. 

She has been the sweetest, easiest baby.

 She is accustomed to sharing, so she didn't bat an eye at extra fingers dipping into her smash cake.

Here's the idea, which you can (and should!) steal. I bought Emily Winfield Martin's beautiful bestseller "The Wonderful Things You Will Be" for Kate's first birthday. It's a lovely way to celebrate a baby and imagine her future. 

I laid the book out at the party and asked everyone there to sign it, writing a little note for Kate or expressing a wish for when she grows up.

The notes are heartfelt -- made even lovelier by the darling endpaper. 

Kate received notes from cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and great grandparents. 

There's something extra meaningful about seeing these birthday messages scrolled in each person's distinct handwriting. 

Some signers added a few doodles, which I loved.

I can't imagine a more meaningful gift! Everyone at her first birthday wrote her a note to read when she's older.

You could do this for various occasions, but I think it works especially well for a first birthday. 

It's a simple enough concept, but I do have a few pointers for you: 

1) It helps to have a couple examples written in the book before the party to prompt others. I signed it beforehand, as did my parents, who I knew would be busy clearing dishes and helping grandkids during the party.

2) It may require a few gentle reminders throughout the party. I don't like to nag, but I was willing to take on that role for Kate's benefit. I reminded guests that their note could be brief. And really, it's not asking that much -- just a sentence or two. 

3) Use ballpoint pens. I selected a few fine-point Sharpies to match the book's color palette, but the ink seeped through the page, which wasn't ideal since we had guests signing both sides. A regular pen would've been better. 

The longer I'm a mom, the clearer my priorities become. When it comes to parties, I'm now less concerned about the stylish and more focused on the sentimental. I'm thinking about posterity, not Pinterest. 

The gift of this book fits the bill. 

I was also pleased to capture an iPhone video of all the party guests greeting Kate (and again, willing to be the dorky mom taking video in order to do so.)

And I was thrilled to get a photo showing four generations of women, reflecting both sides of the family, gathered for Kate's first birthday.

The impetus: unicorn headbands from my generous Aunt Sally. When I realized we had enough for each woman in our four-generation chain, I immediately envisioned a group photo. Sometimes a playful prop serves an important function when it sparks a group picture.

In this case, it adds a whimsical vibe to the picture that matches the lively, spirited women in it. 

Four generations of unicorns! (Not a statement you get to make every day, ha!)

One memorable party. 


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed