fall traditions

It was quite a weekend. Soccer on Saturday morning, a quick stop at our favorite pumpkin patch close to home, and a neighborhood fall festival on Saturday afternoon. Life rarely slows this time of year.  Fall is brief in Georgia, and it’s gone in a flash if you don’t squeeze out every last bit of it.


I love to watch them try and pick the perfect pumpkin. They all look the same to my jaded eyes, but my kids will grow attached to one particular one because of the shape of its stem or its particular size. It’s a meticulous process.

The weather was absolute perfection for us all weekend long. Chilly mornings and evenings, but perfect breezy sunshine during the day.  You could tell everyone else was high on fall sunshine, too. Kids and parents alike. All smiles.


And it’s never a dull moment with these two. They are gaining on each other in the best way. I love watching them play together and walk at the same pace these days. Even though I am usually lagging behind a bit.



I had a hard time deciding what moment to record in my happiness jar on Saturday night. There were so many seconds I snapped in my head, stepped out of the frame to say pause, perfection.  Thank you, God. I see what you did there, and I feel it.

Saturday’s lunch was boiled peanuts in a wagon. You know you are a southerner through and through when your kids turn down popcorn for boiled peanuts. I love sharing traditions with them, and I know nostalgia will tint their lenses as they grow older. And mine, too.


Sunday brought Jude’s birthday party. This kid is obsessed with Legos, so it seemed the obvious choice. He saw the idea in the pages of an Oriental Trading Company catalog a while ago, and I ran with it. It was cheap and easy, and he had a great time with his little friends.


I kept it simple with my favorite spinach dip, pizza bites for the kids, and a veggie tray.  I ordered cups and napkins from Oriental Trading Company, and this cool Twister game which the kids used as a playmat on the back patio rather than a game, but who cares. The weather outperformed herself, and there was warm apple cider and good conversation and kids running everywhere. It was a perfect way to ring in Jude’s sixth year.

A friend of mine made the cake which totally stole the show. Jude added Lego men to the top before guests arrived, but the rest was totally edible with tiny fondant Legos. So cool, right? She dropped it off late Saturday night after she finished it, and the kids were already sleeping upstairs. So he came down the stairs Sunday morning to find it in the dining room and was SO excited.


By 5pm or so, guests were gone, and Norah played outside while I cleaned up and Jude cracked open some new Legos to busy himself.

It was a crazy weekend to say the least, but as I said on Instagram last night, the rearview perspective is always kinder somehow. I’m thankful for these familiar traditions and big milestones to remind me of how far we’ve come and what we have to celebrate.

Something clicked this month as life feels as normal as it ever was. We are a family anyway – just shaped a little differently than many others. I’m still sharing my same traditions and memories with my two, and I finally don’t feel like some huge piece is missing. The wheels don’t feel lopsided anymore. I can hold my own balance, and there are no empty spaces when I’m alone with these two. As I looked around at the happy chaos this weekend, I realize that we’ve created a community somehow. When I wasn’t looking, it emerged. My closest sphere takes the shape of just the three of us, but beyond that, there’s a bigger orbit we are a part of. I’m grateful for all of it.

Choo Choo, Jude is two! (our train birthday party)

Last year we threw a huge carnival birthday bash for the big number one, but we decided to do something a little smaller this year since our fall has been pretty busy around here, and I wasn’t sure I could tackle another big party lately.  So we had family and a couple of close friends over on Saturday to celebrate Jude’s second birthday boxcar style, and it was so fun!

It all started with Jude’s obsession over Virginia Lee Burton’s Choo Choo children’s book, and it kind of grew from there.  I wanted to go more classic train / hobo boxcar riding sort of feel rather than Thomas the Train which meant that I couldn’t depend on any pre-made party stuff because Thomas is EVERYWHERE.  (Not that I have a problem with Thomas.  Jude has a couple of little Thomas the Train books and toys people have given him, and he loves them.  I’m just not a fan of branding in the sense of wearing shirts to advertise or throwing parties devoted to one certain character.  Plus he never watches the show, and the idea was to do something the birthday boy would love!)  

It came together really well, and it was so simple and easy to do.  Most of these ideas are borrowed from Pinterest or internet stumbles, so borrow away if you have a train-obsessed little like I do and you want to use this theme.   (By the way, I never watermark my photos even though I know I should, but my previous birthday party posts are by far the most read entries on this blog, so I marked these pictures for people who stumble on it.)


For decorations, I ordered some cheap red and blue bandanas from Oriental Trading Company, and I used those everywhere.  It was affordable and cute, and now I have a million bandanas in my party bin, so maybe one day I’ll know someone having a western party or something, and they’ll get some more use.  I saw this great collage on Pinterest, and I decided to do one for our party as well.  It was easy to put together, and guests really liked seeing the progression of the past year, I think.  Kids change so much between one and two; it’s crazy to look back!


I used the bandanas on the drinks table by typing them on some twine and then combining them with a simple railroad sign from yellow posterboard.  This photo was taken after the party when guests had already consumed most of it, but you get the idea.  I layered brown craft paper with newspaper, and we served drinks in classic mason jars to keep things looking homemade and old.  Jude was really pumped to have juice boxes in the house because he normally gets water with a splash of juice.  I guess it’s the little things.

I also set up a table outside and used the bandanas there, too.  I layered them over the brown paper and then used some simple mums for fall decor.


The food spread was simple, and I assembled most of it the day before so that I only had to throw things in the oven the morning of the party.  Jude loves breakfast food, so we had a brunch at 10:30am with some of his favorite eats.  The breakfast casserole I used is the one we eat every Christmas morning.  You assemble it the night before, store it in the fridge, and then just place it in the oven.  It’s a passed-down recipe and really delicious!  I’ll share the recipe sometime when it won’t get lost in a long party post.
food table

In my internet perusing of train parties, I saw the terms “chugga chugga” and “chew chew,” and I thought they were so clever that I had to steal them.

With a birthday in October, it’s hard to say no to some kind of fall treat.  Last year it was Martha’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, and this year is was Pumpkin Spice Latte in the crockpot.  Perfect for a fall brunch!

For packaging favors, I really wanted to do hobo sticks for the kids like this Pinterest find. But then I remembered that there would be toddler boys present, and long sticks were maybe a bad idea, so I ended up bundling the favors in a bandana and just placing them on the gifts table.  It is sort of like a hobo bindle without a stick, I guess.

Inside each bundle was a train conductor hat for each kid, and I loved that they were inexpensive, fun, and not candy.  One party-goer wore it especially well.
Jack the Train Conductor

And each family also got a CD of train songs hand-picked by my husband.  That was totally his project, and he did it well.  I forgot to get a photo of the CDs all together, but we had an awesome list of songs.  There’s a lot of good train music out there!

Birthday Party-p0017

Lastly, I didn’t make my own cake or cupcakes this year, so we used a local bakery whom we love and who did our wedding cakes years ago.  I wanted them to go opposite of cartoon colors and trains, so they made a simple and classic looking cake that was pretty delicious, too.

cake time

All in all, it was such a fun party, and I loved putting it together.  Jude really sort of “got it” more this year than before, and it makes me excited for the holidays around the corner as well!  There are a million other great train party ideas that I’d love to tackle, but one can only do so much, I guess.  Check out my Pinterest board for lots of other cute ideas I ran across.