Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yanthy's Jungle-Themed Birthday Party

Finally, after all the preparations, the much awaited day arrived! (You may read the details on how I prepared  for my son's party here.) With all the necessary materials for the party, we headed to El Pueblo early last Sunday. We decided to have lunch at Mc Donalds and proceeded to Congo Grille right after.

Our family picture during the party.

Yanthy with his Ninang Lala.
Congo Grille’s staff were accommodating and helpful. They helped us put up the materials for the games and have everything ready. My husband picked up the cake from Goldilocks Megamall while I supervised and helped in setting up the place. Then, I helped Yanthy change into his birthday outfit. Shortly afterwards, Yanthy’s Ninang Lala arrived. She brought mini cupcakes for Yanthy which she herself made.      

She also asked a couple of friends to put additional balloon arch on the cake table and arranged the mini cupcakes beautifully around Yanthy's jungle-themed birthday cake from Goldilocks.
Mini cupcakes made by Yanthy's Ninang Lala.

We brought Yanthy's jungle hand puppets so he can play with these toys while we were setting up the place.

Yanthy's jungle hand puppets.

Yanthy's cousin signs his guest book.
The party was generally a success! Thanks be to God! All my efforts paid off. We just had to make adjustments in our program. Since many guests were delayed mostly due to traffic around Megamall (There was a 3-day sale.), we had the guests hit the buffet after the welcome remarks, prayer and blowing of candle on the cake instead of having the games first. We showed the Madagascar “Move It!” music video and Yanthy’s AVPs repeatedly and passed around the guestbook while waiting for more guests to arrive. Thankfully, the AVPs were nice and the music video entertaining.

That's me leading the prayer before meals.

We all sang Happy Birthday to Yanthy
before he blew the candle on his cake.

Eating time!

One of the photos scattered around
the venue that the kids need to
gather to win a prize.
We only had 3 games: All About Yanthy, Where is Yanthy and Nobody dance contest. It should have been played in that order but during the actual party, I was inspired to start with the second one – Where is Yanthy? I got inspiration from another mom when I read her blog about her child’s first birthday party also. I chose to adapt it and customize it to the theme Madagascar. So, from the DVD again, I printed 12 Madagascar characters (photo mattes). Then, my husband and I chose 12 photos of Yanthy. We chose 1 photo for every month of the past 12 months in his life. I then pasted Yanthy’s faces on the animal prints. These 12 animal prints were scattered and stuck on one of the walls of Congo Grille’s dining area. Kids, 5 years old and up, were divided into 2 groups. Their goal is to get as many animal pictures as possible. The group with the most number of pictures is the winner. I used the loot bags from Congo Grille as game prizes wherein I added Jungle Bites biscuits.

The next game I introduced was All About Yanthy. It’s like the Pera o Bayong game. Each child should be accompanied by a parent or relative to join the game. There are 3 choices for every question asked about Yanthy. They stand in front of the letter of their choice – A, B or C. The emcee continues to ask questions until only 1 parent and child team is left in the game. We prepared 5 questions but we already had a winner after the third question. The winning child received a Congo Grille loot bag and a jungle-designed coin bank.

During the All About Yanthy Game.
After the second game, since most of the guests have already arrived, I announced that we have special seat prizes. Round stickers of Madagscar characters were stuck on chair backrests before guests arrived. There was 1 sticker for every table of 10. So I told them to look at their chairs to see if there’s a sticker and to bring them to me so I could give them a prize. We gave out Rubik's cubes as special seat prizes.

The lucky winners presenting their stickers to me.
I called Yanthy’s cousins from my side of the family in front to perform their special dance number. They danced to the tune of the latest dance craze Nobody which Yanthy likes a lot incidentally. Yanthy even clapped and danced with them as they performed. 

My nieces and nephews dancing while wearing animal masks.

Then, I called the younger kids to join the Nobody dance contest. Only 2 brave little girls joined. They both knew the choreography very well so I declared both of them as winners. They got the same prize that the kid in the first game won.

We had our pictures taken per guest table after the games and I distributed the giveaways and loot bags to the kids. We also opened a couple of gifts for the photo ops. We had more photos taken with family members and friends before we called it a day.
Our family with my brother-in-law's family.

Yanthy and his Dad and the male kids in his party.

Yanthy and me and the female kids in his party.

Going around tables for photo ops.
We helped Yanthy open some of his gifts.
And what a day it has been! Everything didn’t happen according to our original plan but it was still fun and memorable. God saw us through. He provided for all that we needed and wanted. The food was good. The decors and cake were beautiful. The guests especially the kids enjoyed. Yanthy enjoyed his party. Many family members and friends came. We didn’t have technical problems. And best of all, we were able to stick to our budget.

As a bonus treat from God, Yanthy received very nice gifts. Since Yanthy was still up and about when we got home from the party venue, we opened all of his gifts. He was excited to play with all of his new toys. He received new clothes and cash gifts, too. God really loves to go beyond our expectations. What a gracious and generous God we have! 

Yanthy and his birthday gifts!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Behind the Scenes of Yanthy’s First Birthday Party

After around 6 months of careful planning and preparation, we finally had my son's first birthday party last Sunday, October 18, 2009. It looks like a very simple party from a guest's point of view; but, wait 'til you hear the story behind the scenes of my son's jungle-themed party.

The Theme

I started thinking and planning about it right after my son turned 6 months old last April and after we celebrated his half birthday. My husband and I talked about possible party themes. We had 3 themes in mind – farm, safari or Madagascar and the Cars movie. Yanthy likes the sound of animals a lot and he keeps on imitating the sound of a lion; that’s why, Madagascar became our first choice. The farm was second because Yanthy makes a lot of sounds and movements when he was still a small baby that reminds us of farm animals. Our third choice was the Cars movie because of their bright colors and because the name of one of the characters in the movie is also Hudson, just like Yanthy’s dad.

Must-haves, Options and Challenges

So, off I went to gather leaflets, brochures and quotations from fast food chains (Jollibee, Mc Donalds, Karate Kid), restaurants (Max’s, Shakey’s, Kenny Roger’s Roasters, The Old Spaghetti House and Congo Grille), play schools/centers (Gymboree, Kidz Republic, Big Red Barn) and caterers. I had a hard time finding a fast food chain or restaurant that offered kiddie parties with a jungle or safari theme. Only Kenny Roger’s Roasters and Congo Grille had that theme. While Kidz Republic had jungle décor, their food and play package wasn’t enticing enough for me. Another major consideration was the budget. It should not exceed our budget last year for Yanthy’s baptism. My husband even challenged me to spend less this time if I can. Wow! I took the challenge seriously. But I had a list of must-haves for my son’s first birthday party and I was bent to have all of them in the package.

Lechon from Jiro's
First, I want to have a lechon to be part of the food offered. I want games for the kids. I want the loot bags and game prizes to be consistent with the party theme and I want them to be useful items for kids. I want nice décor for the venue and a sound system must be part of the package. I want ice cream for the kids on top of the usual spaghetti and chicken combination. I want party favors like name tags and party hats for the kids. I want a personalized tarpaulin birthday greeting for Yanthy with animal designs. I want a jungle or Madagascar-themed cake. I want a professional photographer to cover the event and I want a hardbound photo album to be part of the photo package. I want to show an avp of my son during the party. Of course, my husband wants all of my must-haves to be within the budget he gave me – which is not more than P30,000.

AVP for Yanthy

Fast food chains offer less expensive party packages but we simply didn’t like their themes for Yanthy’s first birthday. They also do not allow customers to bring in other food products that are not part of their menu like lechon. Kenny Roger’s will allow you to bring in a birthday cake but you cannot serve it to your guests. So I turned to caterers who were more flexible and could personalize things for their customers. I found a few who gave very reasonable prices and who were willing to go through the trouble of personalizing everything to my chosen theme – Madagascar. But to be able to stick to our budget, it meant that I talk and get the services of different suppliers instead of just talking to one. It also moved me to source, shop and work on the loot bags myself to save money. I didn’t mind. I like doing crafts and art work anyway. Plus, I’m doing it for my son. It was my pleasure! Everything was almost ready. I was ready to close the deal with some caterers and suppliers. I even booked our clubhouse already for the party venue. The only detail I needed to settle was where to buy the cake although I have already studied four options. That was around more than a month before the targeted party date. Our goal was to finalize everything before our family vacation in Surigao.

The Verdict

The balloon centerpiece and
the wall murals in the background.
Less than 2 weeks before our trip, when I thought that everything was almost set, I asked my husband to go through the details of the party with me before I close the deal with potential suppliers. My husband, being the analytical type, suggested that we make a table in Excel format to compare our options so he can decide easily which option to choose. I let him have his way if that is what he needed to help me finalize our plans. He saw that although we would be able to save a few thousand pesos if we have the party in our clubhouse, book a caterer and get suppliers for various party needs; it would also mean a lot of trouble for us or me specifically. So, he suggested that we book Yanthy’s first birthday party at Congo Grille restaurant in El Pueblo instead. We also agreed that the restaurant’s location was perfect for our guests who would be coming both from the north and south of Metro Manila. Congo Grille’s party package was perfect for my list of must-haves.

The loot bag contents plus
some additional items from me.
First and foremost, their set up is already jungle-inspired; so, perfect for our chosen theme. Balloon decors (including table centerpieces), invitations, sound system, birthday banner with jungle design, loot bags and giveaways are all part of the package once you book with them. You have 3 hours use of the venue excluding set up and set down. Plus, they allow you to bring in lechon. They have a variety of food choices for the adult menu and they have kiddie platters also. You can order ice cream for your guests if you like. They can give a free round cake, too. But when I found out that they can’t assure me of the design, I negotiated instead that they waive the corkage fee for the lechon; while I source and bring in my own birthday cake with the design that I want.

Souvenirs from the restaurant.

They already have a birthday banner. You just can’t bring it home because that’s what they use for all their kiddie parties. They only change the name of the celebrant. That was fine with me. Party hosting and mascot appearance was not part of the package. You’ll have to pay extra if you want a party host, mascot or clown. My husband and I decided to do away with these. I do a lot of hosting anyway and I’m used to facilitating games – although not with kids but with adults during my seminars. Again, it was my joy to host my son’s birthday party and to facilitate the games. My husband and I even had fun planning the games and the program. Congo Grille also has lcd projector and screen which we can use to show the Madagascar “Move it!” music video and my son’s avp. They said that we will be charged additional P500 if our total food bill do not reach P20,000. But if it does, it will be for free. That was fine.

The birthday banner from the restaurant.
They already have a birthday banner. You just can’t bring it home because that’s what they use for all their kiddie parties. They only change the name of the celebrant. That was fine with me. Party hosting and mascot appearance was not part of the package. You’ll have to pay extra if you want a party host, mascot or clown. My husband and I decided to do away with these. I do a lot of hosting anyway and I’m used to facilitating games – although not with kids but with adults during my seminars. Again, it was my joy to host my son’s birthday party and to facilitate the games. My husband and I even had fun planning the games and the program. Congo Grille also has lcd projector and screen which we can use to show the Madagascar “Move it!” music video and my son’s avp. They said that we will be charged additional P500 if our total food bill do not reach P20,000. But if it does, it will be for free. That was fine.

We closed the deal over the phone the night before we left for Surigao. As soon as we returned from the trip, I went to Congo Grille to pay the P5,000 down payment. Their mode of payment was one of the things we liked because we didn’t have to pay the 50% of the total cost of the reservation or booking; unlike other restaurants or caterers which require that.

The Final Party Details

The stage was set! Yanthy’s first birthday party will be held at Congo Grille, El Pueblo on October 18, 2009 at 2 – 5 PM. To help us stick to our budget, we limited our guests to 50 adults and 25 kids – mostly family members, relatives, ninongs and ninangs and a few close friends with toddlers or small kids.

Food for the kids
I chose the adult menu which consisted of nachos (appetizer), halaan soup, chicken Bacolod, beef caldereta, tuna sisig, rice, bottomless ice tea and leche flan. For the kids, I ordered spaghetti, chicken lollipop, juice and chocolate ice cream. The price of the food is a bit pricey compared to fast food chains or the other restaurants that we considered but it afforded me the luxury of not having to deal with many different suppliers. With the party package comes 3 hours free use of the venue (excluding set up and set down), balloon decors (predominantly blue, green and yellow), a big birthday banner with jungle design, 50 pieces jungle-themed invitations, 20 Congo Grille loot bags, 25 animal clip give aways, free use of karaoke, mic and sound system for the program. No corkage fee for the lechon and cake. P500 for use of lcd projector and screen. Plus Congo Grille staff to help set up the place and materials for the games and program.

The birthday cake from Goldilocks.

I ordered a 12 inch round cake from Goldilocks with a jungle design and chocolate flavor. I ordered lechon from Jiro’s. I booked Digiprint for the photo coverage. They have a good P5,000 package that includes a professional photographer for 4 hours, an 8x10 40 pages photo storybook, 1 piece 12x18 blow up print of a photo of your choice, 40 pieces 4R prints and free cd copy of all photos taken during the event. Plus, they deliver for free. My brother-in-law, Bobby, volunteered to do an AVP for Yanthy; while, my brother-in-law, Harry, will videotape the event.

The loot bag contents that I personalized and put together.

I sourced the materials for the loot bags from Divisoria together with my mom. Since I could not find jungle or Madagascar-themed items for the loot bags, I decided to buy items which can be useful for the kids. I bought pencils with different colors, crayons and erasers. Luckily, I found plastic loot bags, party hats and name tags with jungle design. I personalized the loot bags a bit by buying an original DVD of Madagascar Goes to Africa movie and printing stickers and coloring pages from it. From the free printable images in the DVD also, I designed eraser labels and cover for the coloring pages to make it into a coloring booklet. I also found jungle-themed coin banks from Divisoria from the same store where I bought the party favors. I bought them for the purpose of game prizes. I also found small stuffed toys of the Madagascar characters. Initially, I planned to give them away as game prizes but when I saw that Yanthy liked them, I changed my mind. Then, I bought Jungle Bites biscuits (animal-shaped biscuits by Rebisco) from Puregold as additional game prizes and content for loot bags. They have different flavors: strawberry (giraffe), sweet corn (lion), choco (monkey, cheese (rhinoceros), milk (elephant) and bird (peanut butter). By God’s guidance and the grace to be persistent and determined, I found the perfect birthday outfit for Yanthy at SM Department store – a safari explorer jumper with matching green shirt and brown rubber shoes.

Yanthy's guest book

Last but not least, I bought a big scrapbook from National Bookstore with green handmade paper cover and decorated it to become a guestbook cum scrapbook for Yanthy’s first birthday party.

TG :) 102209

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Potentially Gifted Child Turned One

A day before my son’s first birthday, I decided to review the book on toddlers that my husband gave me to see if my son’s growth and development are just right for his age. Just like the baby book he first gave me when I was still pregnant, this new book gives a month-by-month description of milestones for children – physical, cognitive and mental and emotional and behavioral development. The authors say that these milestones are just guides for parents to help us gauge how fast or slow our kids developing. Some children develop ahead of others while some are a bit slow. But if your child is acting way too far from the norm; then, it’s worth investigating to be sure.

Luckily for my son, he’s around a year ahead in physical development and 6-12 months ahead in emotional and behavioral development. His pediatrician has already mentioned this to me a number of times during our visits to her clinic; but, it did not sink in until I’ve read a lot of literature backing her observations. And reading that book the other day was one instrument in convincing me that my son is indeed potentially gifted.

I started ticking and noting at what age in months I noticed Yanthy manifest the milestones listed in the month-by-month guide in the book. I’ve finished doing that months ago with the baby book so I got the toddler book this time and did the same. Yanthy just turned one year old yesterday but many of the milestones listed for children 13 months and up were things that Yanthy has been doing as an infant! So I read and ticked on and on until I noticed that I’m way beyond what I think is the norm. I think it’s normal to be ahead or slow by 2-3 months or even 5. But to be ahead by 10-14 months is something else.

Here are some of the things I’ve observed Yanthy do in the past months:
• pulls off his socks and shoes by himself as early as 9 months;
• holds his sipping cup with one hand and drinks from it without spilling water at 5-6 months;
• jumps with his feet off the ground at 10 months without losing balance;
• opens doors and drawers at 9-10 months;
• plays imaginatively at 10 months;
• takes off his own clothes – sando, pajama and diapers – at 10 months;
• helps in putting on clothes at 10 months;
• throws ball overhead as if trying to make a dunk or just like a baseball player at 11 months;
• sleeps around 9 hours only at night with 1-2 naps during the day because of too much play during waking hours;
• runs around the house with so much energy for hours at 9-10 months. Certainly an abundance of energy!
• Asserts independence like not wanting to hold our hand when walking sometimes or grabbing the spoon or sipping cup so he can feed or drink on his own at 9 months;
• remembers people’s faces and names when asked to point or look for them at 10-11 months;
• can tip toe, sit and stand quickly and walk sideways, walk over and under obstacles in his path at 10 months;
• climbs on and off pieces of furniture at 11 months;
• shoots ball in containers or spaces around the house at will at 11 months;
• can turn the pages of the book as early as 6-7 months of age as if reading it;
• exhibits right-handedness already at 6 months of age;
• massages his gums on his own using a gum massager at 11 months;
• follows two-step commands like “pick up your book/ball and bring it to Mommy” at 9-10 months;
• remembers where he left his toys at 10 months;
• shows affection to parents or grandparents by hugging or kissing as early as 10 months;
• kicks his ball at 10 months without falling;
• bounces his ball as if dribbling at 10 months;
• bends well and is able to pick up small items on the floor at 10 months;
• recognizes familiar faces in pictures at 10 months;
• already self-assured and already comfortable to be left with familiar adults for short periods of time at 9 months;
• enjoys dancing especially when he has an audience as early as 9 months old;
• curious and friendly with other children at 10 months;
• uses non-verbals like pointing and gesturing or uttering syllables to communicate what he wants (like if he wants food, water or milk, to read his book or a certain toy) at 11 months;
• loves to pull off books from the shelves and carry them around the house while walking at 9-10 months; and
• pushes objects across the room at 10 months.

Actually, I chose to stop wondering when I reached the chapter on the 27-28th month of the book. I finally accepted that my son is probably gifted. Then, I came across a list of early signs of giftedness in children in the next pages of the same chapter. 11 out of the 14 characteristics cited are true to Yanthy. He had unusual alertness in infancy, high activity level, less need for sleep, early language development, fascination with books, intense curiosity, intense reaction to pain or frustration and excellent sense of humor. He also smiled a lot as a baby and recognized his parents early on. He shows enjoyment and speed in learning and manifests problem-solving skills.

Yesterday, I made sure that we’d be able to go to mass as part of Yanthy’s birthday celebration. There’s so much to be thankful for. We have received an abundance of graces as a family and God has certainly blessed Yanthy tremendously in the past 12 months. He has completed his vaccines and he didn’t have any major illness – just had colds and cough several times but not very long or required hospitalization. No injuries in spite of the many bumps and falls while learning how to walk. God has truly been so good to Yanthy!

We had a simple birthday celebration yesterday. My parents and brother’s gift to my son is his chocolate flavored birthday cake. I cooked spaghetti and made fruit salad, bought friend chicken at KFC and bought ice cream. One of his ninangs came over for dinner and gave him his first Bible. Yanthy and I excitedly leafed through its pages. We played some more after her ninang left. We all had a happy day – birthday boy and parents alike. I slept with a smile, grateful for the day that was and excited to receive more surprises and blessing from God.