In 2014, for Maya’s 2nd birthday, I went all out.  I sewed her crown. And the gift bags.  Oh, yeah, and the monkey finger puppets (it was a “monkeys and bananas” theme) and the monkey bean bags to throw in the mouth of a monkey I painted on some cardboard. I made frozen chocolate covered banana bites.  I also made chocolate covered pretzels and 80 empanadas even though monkeys don’t eat either of those.  I was 6 months pregnant.  It’s been 2+ years and I’m still exhausted.

For Maya’s 3rd birthday we went to the movies.

This year, we decided to have another party. I thought back to her 2nd birthday party. I knew I wanted to make it special but would have to take it down a notch–for all of our sake.

Maya loves to draw these days.  Sometimes she just asks to go in the playroom to draw for awhile.  It’s wonderful.  She sticks her tongue out and leans over her work, taking care to add three long eyelashes on each eye and three triangles on each princess’s head.  As a writer, a teacher of writing, and a teacher of teachers of writing, I’m thrilled.  I keep pretty much all of the drawings that are always strewn around the floor. Sometimes I videotape her talking about her drawings. Especially if they’re of me.

What if we had a drawing party? I thought. Drawing is quiet and calm and easy and Maya loves it!


I framed all those strewn sheets I’d saved with craft paper and we had our decorations.

I called La Mexicana down the street and ordered breakfast tacos.  I threw some fruit in bowls and set up ingredients for make-your-own mimosas or bloody marys.

I covered tables with brown butcher paper and put crayons out.  Gift bags? I bought mini clipboards at TOPS and used paint pens to write the kids’ names on ’em.


When they arrived, little guests put on gold dollar-store crowns and grown-up guests grabbed silver-wrapped food.

Then, I rang the teacher bell I use at work and brought the kids together for our lesson. I read The Dot by Peter Reynolds.

Maya came up to the easel and drew an oval person ala Talking, Drawing, Writing.  We passed out paper and frames and note cards.

This year, we only invited kids ages 4 years and up.  Fritz was here, of course, but we had to really reign him in so he didn’t steal markers and tear up artwork.  Sweet little Vivienne wrote a Happy Birthday card for Maya.  Darling Kate asked me to hang up her artwork, too. Maya’s friends from school and from the neighborhood drew and played.  Parents sketched and coached their kids to write their names or add some more color.   I passed out adult coloring pages on clipboards and some of us shaded in snowflakes or owls.

When it was time, we lit the candles and stuck them into the chocolate beet cupcakes with cream cheese beet icing I made (I couldn’t order pre-made everything!)

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and sang Happy Birthday. Then we sang Feliz Cumpleanos.  And we all made wishes. Because in my family, we all do.  When we were all ready, Maya blew out the candles.

I don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but when I saw that 4-year-old’s smile I know my wish came true.





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