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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hallie's Birthday Bash

It's been a crazy, hectic week and I haven't had much time to post, unfortunately. The week started out with a small birthday party at home for the girls. Then we went into high gear to prepare for Hallie's party this past Sunday. Leave it up to two fatherless mommies to schedule it on Father's Day! We'll be more careful next year, but despite this, we had a very large turnout of about 40 adults and 18 or so kids. In the middle of the week (Wednesday), we took Hallie to Sears for her first professional photos. This process took MUCH longer than anyone expected but we're pretty pleased with the results (at least the electronic/digital ones; we don't pick up the pictures until next week).

Needless to say, by the end of it all, we were quite exhausted. I told Sharon that the next time we plan something like this will be Hallie's Sweet Sixteen, or at the very earliest, her Bat Mitzvah.

Our little rowhouse is way too small to host the number of people we were inviting to Hallie's party, so a few months ago, we began to search for a space away from home for the big first year bash. We very quickly decided on holding the party at Smith Memorial Playground in Fairmount Park. Not only would this provide built in entertainment in the shape of a playhouse for the 0-5 set and a playground for older kids, but the venue also seemed symbolically appropriate---it had been built in 1898 by the Smiths, who had lost their child and who wanted to commemorate him by providing a play space to all of Philly's kids that would always remain free.

Unfortunately, the staff that works at Smith Playground is somewhat inept. Sharon visited the site a couple of months ago to plan the party; when we found out that the only room available was a very small one that holds fewer than ten kids and not nearly the same number of adults, we moved the party from the original date of June 9th to June 17th and reserved a very large outdoor porch instead. We made the reservation for the afternoon slot since neither of us are really morning people by nature and Hallie, alas, takes after both of us. The idea of a party that begins at 10am was hence an anathema to us.

After a few weeks, I asked Sharon whether we should have received paperwork and when we had to pay our deposit, or pay for the rental in full. She wasn't sure what the policies were, so I tracked down the events coordinators there. They assured me that the paperwork had been sent, but promised to resend it just in case. Needless to say, we did not receive that second batch of papers either. We would have to go down there in person to pick them up.

Meanwhile, June was fast approaching and so I ordered the invites so that we'd approximate Emily Post's manners and have them in the mail three weeks in advance of the big birthday bash.

A day or two after ordering them, we took a drive to Fairmount Park and visited the playground in person. The staff person on duty pulled up our files; we were shocked when we found out that we were in the small room at 10am, and that they had re-rented the porch to someone else.

Sharon, who is generally mild mannered about most everything, went ballistic. For her, this signified yet another thing in a long chain of things that went wrong, timing-wise, in Hallie's life. She was ready to call off the whole thing. I talked her down from this, spoke to the staff woman, and she assured me that we could rent out the porch that they do not normally rent out (since it overlooks a construction zone) instead of the enclosed porch on the other side of the house that is far more elegant. I said okay, sent in my check, and thought that all was in order.

Fast forward to Sunday (the party date): when we showed up, we were told that our party was supposed to be at 10am in the small party room. They had never changed the calendar. I was hopping mad, and thankfully I was not the only one there. Luckily, our friend Vanessa (commune member, and presider over both our check in at L&D that fateful night and of the girls' birth four days later) was there to help us out once more. Vanessa has good negotiating skills (ones that I sorely lack) and managed to talk the staff woman into letting us having the porch and relocating a different party to the small room. And the commune, plus Laura Hawley and Ellen, really did a great job of helping us set up and get everything to the venue for the party. We could not have done any of this without their never-ending support.

Hence, all's well that ends well. But I must say that, even though the facility is great and I can't wait to take Hallie there when she can enjoy it more than she could this Sunday, there's no way in the world that I'd ever host another party there. Good thing that Hallie gets no more big parties for the next 15, or at least 11, years!

Anyway, the event came off OK. Our decorations were lovely, the food was good, and most importantly, we enjoyed the company.

Here are a few shots from Hallie's party.

First, we have a nice shot of cousin Hannah greeting Hallie, who was then still wearing her party dress.

Next up, there's Meghan, Hallie's daytime primary. She was amazed at how big Hallie has gotten. Meghan saw Hallie back in May when I brought her into the ICN for an impromptu visit, but our girl has put on at least two pounds and has become even more alert since then.

The party was kind of a mini reunion. We were really happy that so many of the people who took care of Sharon and Hallie and so many of Hallie's micropreemie pals (and their wonderful parents) were able to make it to the party. The nurse who was on duty the night that Sharon went into labor and her partner and little boy came to the party, as did Eric, the neonatologist who was oncall that same night and who was there for the delivery as well. Eric was also around to stabilize Hallie for the PDA ligation that saved Hallie's life. We were thrilled that he called on Monday to wish Hallie a happy first birthday. Two of Hallie's primary nurses, Ellen and Meghan, were there to celebrate their girl's big day, as was Nicole, who took care of her a lot initially. And Katie, one of the respiratory therapists whom Hallie scared the bejeezus out of during her days of frequently extubating herself brought her little girl to the party. Four other little muffins that spent time with us in the ICN were also there with their family (Benjamin; Maya; and Sydney and Payton, 23 weekers who were born a month before our girls).

We got a great group shot of the Pennsylvania Hospital crowd:

Here's Hallie with Eric Mallow and her Bubbe Jean (my mom):

And here's a nice shot of Polly, Rachel, and Maya. Polly's son Benjamin, who also just turned one, was off somewhere with his dad, Chris.

After her training last week, Hallie knew exactly want to do with the cake.

Good thing we changed her out of her fancy birthday dress!

And here is a nice shot of Hallie and her mommies. I have no idea what my hair is doing, but maybe Sharon can find a way of airbrushing it into place.

After everyone had left the party and we cleaned up, we took the balloons down to a clearing in the park and released a dozen of the latex balloons (safely, so as not to harm the environment and wildlife) for Olivia. Hallie held and kissed each one as we let them go flying up to her sister:

It was an emotional moment for us, and of course we had Vanessa there to share it with us. We'll also be commemorating Olivia on the 28th of June at Pastorius Park.

Afterwards, we got home and were too exhausted to open Hallie's presents. So our living room looks like it might at Christmas time, minus the tree and the menorah and plus some air conditioning so that we don't boil in our hot and humid heatwave. So stay posted for some great shots of Hallie eating paper. I think that she thinks that the yellow paper tastes best...


Jamie and Jill said...

I am so glad everything turned out so well......I would have lost it too had I been there:)

And, WOW.....look at the crowd. You are truly blessed to have so many friends and family helping you celebrate your little girls!

I am sure Olivia loved her balloons....even more so because her sister sent kisses with them!

Jennifer said...

Wonderful to read~ Congratulations on the first year, well done.

I hope you get an opportunity to post her professional pictures too. We get all of Arianna's pictures done at Sears and love them!

Sarah Furlough said...

Sorry everything was so chaotic for Hallie's party, but it looks as if everything turned out great in the end. She certainly got spoiled like the princess she is!

I loved that you released the balloons for Olivia, I am sure she loved them.

Thinking of you all in the coming week, let me know if you need ANYTHING!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, meaningful day. I have tears in my eyes, but all in a good way.

Thanks for sharing such a lovely story and great photos.

23wktwinsmommy said...

What a great party! It is amazing so many people from the NICU are involved and came to celebrate!
I am happy everything turned out with the location...i think i would have flipped out and made a big scene!
I can't wait to see the pictures!