All Harlow wanted for her birthday was to bake her own cake. Her first four layer cake, mind you. We had a small party for family on Sunday, so baking was her top priority on Saturday. She had an idea, made me get the supplies and then put the whole thing together entirely on her own. When she was done, I think she was even a little shocked at how well it turned out.


From concept all the way through to execution. She wouldn’t even let me place a doughnut. May we all have the big baking energy of a 8yo who makes a giant doughnut cake for her own birthday, during a pandemic, when she can’t even invite friends over to help her eat it.

That night, I put Harlow to bed and fell asleep beside her by accident. On a normal year, I always do some kind of decorating to surprise the kids when they wake up on their birthday. Usually something simple like balloons and a sign outside their door. This year, it was Mazzy who remembered. At around 11pm, Mazzy woke me up and said, “Mom! You still have to decorate for Harlow’s birthday!” After asking her why in the world she was still up, we went downstairs and decorated the whole kitchen together.

The next morning, Harlow woke up and ran downstairs, so excited to see the balloons and party decor. She had an outfit that she had picked out months ago and quickly got dressed.

My sister and her family were spending the weekend with us, so they were our main party guests.

We did socially distanced grandparent visits in shifts— Popppy and Nonna in the morning, Grammy and Sammy in the afternoon, and Grandma Toby on Zoom. I don’t have many pics of them because they stayed socially distanced. Here’s my dad watching the festivities.

The party started with bagels, because all food on Harlow’s birthday had to be a giant carb with a hole in it. 

As far as party games, we kept it old school by playing their first ever game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. This is what I used to play at my birthday parties as a kid! It was actually really fun and I highly recommend.

Next up, we went outside to pummel the doughnut pinata. This was not a pull string affair! They beat the crap out of that thing until it was DEAD. I filled it with all their leftover Halloween candy. Don’t tell them.

Then we came back into the house for the Hamilton portion of the party. Harlow has been OBSESSED with the Hamilton musical lately and dances to it every night. On Sunday, she had a full audience and was going to take advantage.

No one was allowed to leave the room for 20 solid minutes as she did interpretative dance to Alexander Hamilton, You’ll Be Back and the Schuyler Sisters.

Then it was time to open gifts. My sister knocked it out of the park with a digital Panda Camera. (You can find the camera and tons of other gift ideas on my holiday gift guide.)

I got Harlow something she’s been asking for all year— earrings. Then I told her I made an appointment to get them pierced the following week. She was so excited. You can read more about that here.

Last up was Mazzy. She had bought all the random surprise gifts at Target, wrapped them and then created a surprise contraption out of cardboard to reveal her birthday gifts.

Mazzy truly is the best big sister.

A word about the dress code at Harlow’s birthday party. Initially, I put on my regular pandemic attire— cozy sweatpants and a sweatshirt. The black slimmer fitting sweatsuit reserved for special pandemic occasions. When Harlow walked in on getting dressed, she gave me the 8yo version of, “You’re wearing THAT?!” Then she suggested/strongly encouraged me to wear a dress. “I’ll pick it out for you,” she said. As if the inability to pick out a dress was the only thing deterring me from wearing one. She picked a navy blue polka dot dress and when I said it looked a little silly because it needed a belt, she handed me a bright red sash from a different dress.

You know what? It worked.

Especially in a photo where you can’t see that I’m also wearing gray leggings and Vans.

As for Harlow? This dress (complete with fur vest) is her third outfit change of the day. There is no shortage of special occasion options in Harlow’s closet. And Harlow would never let a pandemic stand in the way of FASHION.

The party was a big success and I am continually amazed at how simple and easy it is to make occasions feel special for our kids during this crazy time. Never once did Harlow complain or get upset that she couldn’t celebrate with friends. Family, pin the tail on the donkey and decorations from Target were enough.

We even got a good family shot.

And of course Harlow had to take a photo of  her doughnut cake with her new camera.

Most importantly, the cake tasted fantastic. Look at this expert construction!

Happy 8th birthday, Harlow. I admire your kind heart, your unique spirit, your commitment to the things that bring you joy and the fact that you planned your birthday outfits all the way back in September.

I am always and forever so proud of you. Xoxo, Mom