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  • Amanda

THREE Ring Circus

Step right up to the greatest show on earth... see the spectacular Sonny turns 3!

My love and obsession for a good party theme runs deep. I toyed around with a few options for Sonny's third birthday. The top contenders were Young, Wild and THREE (I love this theme and it was my first choice but felt like this has been overdone), Sliding into THIRD (the problem is Sonny isn't into baseball), THREEnager (I knew this would have been hardest to execute), THREErex (we're not in our Dino era yet) and THREE Ring Circus (which I ultimately settled on). I'm not going to lie; I went into party mode less than enthusiastic about my final theme selection and promised myself I wouldn't go overboard this year. Per usual I did go overboard and this ended up being my favorite party in terms of décor. Everything came together perfectly and our life is as chaotic as a circus so it was very fitting!

No matter what theme you select you can find inspiration to purchase or recreate from Pinterest, Etsy and Lemon8. Once I decide on a theme I get most of my ideas online. You don't need to reinvent the wheel! I'm so excited to share all the details on Sonny's 3 Ring Circus birthday bash. I couldn't be happier with how the party came together. Since this isn't my first (birthday) rodeo I'm also going to share some of my top party planning tips and tricks to ensure a successful event.

Despite what Katie has said I don't hate mailed invitations. I believe there are certain events like showers, weddings and even first birthdays that mailed invitations are preferable. For a third birthday an evite will suffice in my opinion. It's efficient, cost effective and convenient to create guestlists, send out reminders and finalize numbers. I like to create my invitations on Canva so they are appropriately themed and more personalized before uploading them to Evite. An invitation sets the stage for the event so whether it's physically mailed or virtual it should be perfect.

Another tip I have is to utilize Canva not only for your invitations, but also your party décor. It's free (yes, you can purchase the professional version if you want, but it's not necessary) and easy to create signs and labels to fit your theme. I had a large poster printed when people arrived welcoming them to the circus and a few labels I framed to place on the tables for the appetizers, desserts and refreshments. Everything printed lovely from Walgreens for 50% off and same day pick up!

When it comes to a menu for my parties I like to keep it simple. I've followed the same format for years and I always have an excessive amount of leftovers and no one leaves hungry. For appetizers I head to Trader Joe's to get everything I need to make a large charcuterie board and purchase several chips and dips options. They have the best appetizers and snacks and everyone asks where I got such unique stuff! I also had buckets filled with an assortment of popcorn and animal crackers to munch on. For dinner I make a large salad and order pizzas for delivery from Lou Malnatis. Don't come at me for ordering Lou's. They are reliable and consistent which has been a challenge post pandemic. Side note: Professor Pizza is the BEST pizza in the city, but wasn't practical for a 40+ person party. This year we also got subs from our favorite place, Alpine, in our hometown. Desserts were homemade Oreo ball cake pops, cupcakes and 5" cakes from Mariano's, homemade chocolate covered pretzels and decorated sugar cookies from Pretty Yummy Cookies. I've mastered the art of making my own chocolate covered pretzels by now and get my sprinkles and chocolate from Michael's. I even let Sonny help me this year, but he mostly just ate the sprinkles. My mom made the cake pops and used the same sprinkles to decorate. I went for convenience by ordering cupcakes and cakes from Mariano's. I'm here to tell you store bought cakes and cupcakes are perfectly acceptable. Our cakes looked amazing and tasted great. I went with a simple design and found the cutest circus themed cake topper to place on top! Katie recently used Danielle from Pretty Yummy Cookies and I was so impressed I had her create my themed sugar cookies for his party. She is local and individually wraps and delivers the cookies so that was a huge bonus. I typically have people take the cookies home as a favor. The most unique dessert we had this year was an actual cake made out of cotton candy from my husband's aunt. It was beautifully layered and tasted amazing. I highly recommend to add a unique touch to your dessert table. When it comes to appetizers, food and desserts always create a menu that is convenient for you (the host) so you can enjoy yourself too. I've quickly learned what items I should spend time making and what is worth the convenience of purchasing. I used a variety of different platters and displays for the dessert table but my favorite by far were the acrylic cake stands Katie let me borrow and the acrylic cake pop stand I purchased from Amazon. Both compactly and easily store until your next party.

Coordinating and themed outfits are a must for my parties. You can usually find anything your heart desires on Etsy, but my pro tip is to either invest in a Cricut machine or befriend someone who has one. Fortunately for us my mom has one and is able to make most of the outfits I throw at her. I love the shirt she made this year and it cost under $2 to purchase the SVG while the tee cost under $5! This year I found a red stripe shirt for myself from Target that pulled my circus themed outfit together for only $25. Another trick is to purchase an outfit for yourself that is practical and can be worn again. White denim shorts, a crop top and striped button up shirt are perfect for summer.

Balloons & banners are a necessity for my parties. They make a huge impact. Katie taught me that it's possible to save a lot of money by creating your own balloon arches and garlands, but it's time consuming. We have a great blog post called Best Balloons with some tips and tricks to creating your own balloon art. The biggest spoiler alert to that blog post is getting an electric balloon pump! Call me basic, but I get my balloons from Party City and the Dollar Tree. I was able get latex balloons for my garland and a massive helium 3 from Party City and additional helium stars and happy birthday balloons from the Dollar Tree. The only issue with the Dollar Tree is they run out of helium and certain designs, but they have incredible balloons! Party City will deliver balloons for free with any $50 purchase too. I enlisted my mom's cricut skills again this year for the birthday banner. I'm hoping I can get multiple uses out of this banner since it just says "Happy Birthday Sonny" and isn't themed. If I didn't have a cricut at my disposal I'd be shopping on Etsy. I threw in some additional circus themed props to pull everything together like a popcorn machine, popcorn buckets and a few circus animals (that giraffe and zebra are actually collectable art pieces my husband loves from a famous Mexican artist).

Sonny has amazing friends and family members that really love to spoil him. This year he got some extra goodies because of his broken leg and I rounded up his favorites gifts so far to share. The irony is we got Sonny a new bike for his birthday and he won't be able to ride it until his leg heals. Major parenting fail! After a lot of research we decided on a Woom bike since Sonny has been on balance bike for two years now. We are looking forward to teaching him soon and are hoping for fewer injuries! Here are some perfect gift ideas for any 3s birthday.

I save a lot time, money and headaches by still only having family parties. With our big Disney trip (read all about it here) this year I knew a large party was not an option we even considered. I know in the near future I'm going to have to start having a kid parties, but until then I'm going to enjoy the fact that I don't need to hire entertainment, have games and activities to keep the kids occupied or fill up goodie bags. Planning a party can be extremely stressful, but you should be able to enjoy the moment too. There is only so many birthdays you get to enjoy when they are little so do what is best for your family. Whether it's a small party with close family or a huge bash with hundreds of people. Also, ignore any negativity from people telling you that your kid won't even remember or care about all your efforts. Even if your kid doesn't remember every detail you will have those memories of them enjoying their birthdays forever. Which is just as important. There is no right or wrong way to throw your kid a birthday and they will love and appreciate whatever you do! I personally love party planning and prepping so this isn't work for me. It's fun!

On Sonny's actual birthday we enjoyed beautiful weather and the incredible city of Chicago! My husband and I took Sonny strolling down Michigan Avenue, grabbed drinks at Ralph's Coffee, shopped at the 900 Shops and enjoyed lunch at the Bellevue in the Gold Coast. It was a perfect day to enjoy our guy turning 3 (even if he was in a full leg cast). It's easy to celebrate Sonny almost everyday, but its even more fun on his birthday!

If there is anything I've learned parenting these past three years is to expect the unexpected. The things that worried or concerned me and kept me up all night never came to fruition. Life with kids is going to throw you more curve balls than you ever expected, but it's worth it. You need to learn to go with the flow and embrace each year of the parenting stage instead of trying to fight it. Sometimes the hardest thing about being a parent is accepting you're not always going to be in control. Yes there are challenges with each age yet there's more magic! Focus on the magic before it's gone. Also, avoid trampoline parks or you may end up with a toddler with a broken tibia.

XO - Amanda



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