Hello everyone 🤗

Oh, elementary school. A time of learning, and growth, and feisty parent email threads.

It all started when our local district emailed a strategic planning survey out to the parent/family listserv.


Ok, cool. I like surveys. Surveys are fun. Let me just click this survey link and…

[Ding! You’ve got mail.]


This? Right here? Is exactly why BCC is a thing. #amateurs

Whatever — this Grumpy Gus had their moment, let’s all move on and…

[Ding! You’ve got mail.]

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Perfect. The sanctimommies have also found Reply All.

[Ding! You’ve got mail.]

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Yep. What they said. Oh, look, here’s someone to provide a helpful tutorial:

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Says the person who somehow managed to reply all and attach the previous respondent’s meme AS A SEPARATE DOCUMENT.


Oh, snap. But doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor anymore?

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SNORT. Hug emoji for the win!

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Oh, finally. These. These are my people.

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[Ding! You’ve got mail.]


Annnnnnd there’s always someone in the outfield playing a different game, isn’t there? Bless their heart. We stopped talking about the actual survey when Mr. Quack Pack Learning Shack began the Reply All revolution.

And then, there’s always someone trying to shut the party down.

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Alright, which one of you gets to explain how email works? It’s not like that wine-fueled Facebook post you made about your boss in 2014. You can’t “take it down.” Just like you (clearly) can’t prevent someone from hitting Reply All. The person who figures out that hack will earn a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize.


Got it, that guy won’t be explaining this concept. That guy’s all, “You go, Glen Coco.”

[Ding! You have (new) mail.]

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Ummm…why is this showing up as a new email thread? Surely, this person didn’t create an entirely new email chain but still INCLUDE THE ENTIRE LISTSERV, right?

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Cue the Go Noodle: I can’t. Why not? I just can’t.

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We get it. Hitting “delete” is incredibly hard.

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Alright. If you need me, I’ll just be in the corner, cutting and gluing Box Tops like a deranged Bingo player. #PTOlife But I promise not to Reply All and tell you about it.


Landing gear

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
Oh, but my darling,
What if you fly?”
~Erin Hanson

Wall of flight in Dayton Children’s new patient tower.

“Recalculating” is not the command you want to hear while you’re making a major life change.

Or when you’ve been driving for nine hours on an interstate riddled with seemingly permanent orange cones and your copilots are a 95-pound Golden Retriever and an 11-month-old baby, both with a tendency to drool.

But – thanks to one stubborn GPS narrator – that’s how my life as a new resident of the Gem City began.

We did (finally) locate our apartment that night; it was an emergency trip to Dayton Children’s Hospital a week later, though, that helped us find our bearings.

It is a generally understood law of the universe that if you have just relocated cities by 300 miles, your child will spike a high fever before you’ve secured a pediatrician. (And said fever will appear at approximately 4:59 p.m. On a Friday. When it’s raining.) The first result in a Google search for pediatric urgent care directed us to Dayton Children’s.

I don’t remember how long we waited, what movie was playing on the lobby television, or how many other families were consoling tired children. I don’t remember what my son’s temperature was, or what I was wearing, or what car we took to get there. What I recall is the doctor who treated my son’s ear infection – and, in the process, allowed me to heal, too.

I came to Dayton for the potential of a new job and its proximity to my Tennessee roots, but in many ways, I came to Dayton to center myself after living in the fog of a community hardened by perpetual winter and declining industry. For my husband and I, moving to southwest Ohio – knowing only each other and nothing about the region save for what we’d seen on a recurring Weather Channel special about the 1973 Xenia tornado – was truly a leap.

My husband & oldest son before his second tympanostomy (aka “ear tube”) surgery at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

I don’t remember the doctor’s name; but I remember her kindness. I remember how I involuntarily smiled when I heard her Kentucky accent, how I nodded when she said she knew no one in Dayton when she landed here, how I was comforted when she mentioned her young daughter, who was just a few weeks younger than my own. I remember her favorite color was blue and that she loved Halloween and – as she scribbled her cell number and a “Call me any time!” on a prescription notepad – that she understood what it is to be somewhat unmoored, but in exactly the right place, all at the same time.

She could have berated us for traveling with a sick 11-month-old or rolled her eyes at our first-time-parent selves for utilizing urgent care for a mundane ear infection. Instead, she reassured us that all three of us were in exactly the right place.

And, indeed, we are.


Click HERE to see some of my favorite elements of Dayton Children’s new patient tower. If you’re in the Miami Valley, be sure to check it out in person at their Community Open House, June 11, 1-4 p.m.

Note: This post was written as part of Dayton Children’s new patient tower grand opening, for which participating bloggers received complimentary tours and a few hospital goodies. All thoughts and opinions (and genetically problematic ears) described here are my own.

Above and beyond

Two milestones occurred this week: one of my city’s longtime institutions, Dayton Children’s Hospital, held its grand opening of a new, state-of-the-art patient tower; and I was officially called a “mommy blogger.”

I’m thrilled about the former; still processing the latter.

As a supporter of Dayton Children’s from almost the moment I arrived in the Gem City (read our story HERE), when a call went out to help elevate the conversation around their new building, my hashtag-loving heart responded. In the grand opening program, hospital staff said they wanted to create a space worthy of the children of the Dayton region. It shows.

Here are my favorite highlights from Monday’s tours.

Not your mama’s hospital gift shop

I never thought about how much gift shop purchases help fund hospital services, so I love that they’ve emphasized that. Also — this is seriously not yo mama’s hospital gift shop. This can only be described as a whimsical boutique. They have some seriously cute stuff! It’s not just bibs and balloons.

Snazzy technology

The amount of thought, research, and discussion with staff and patient families that went into this new tower is evident and impressive. Every corner resonates intentionality and a desire to, as they explained in the opening program, always be reaching for the stars for kids close to home:

  • Computer keyboards in the patient rooms are — wait for it — dishwasher safe. (I need these in my life)
  • There are separate parent/guest TV’s in each room (for everyone who has a limit on how many times they can hear Mickey and crew sing “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog.” Which is all of us.)
  • Dedicated space for both a NICU milk bank and lactation rooms for employees. YES YES and YES. I had an oversupply with my second son and loved the idea of supporting other moms in this way, and for all of us who have pumped in closets/bathrooms/cars/open cubicles — praise hands.
  • Disinfecting UV-light robots (umm, what?! I need to know how to install one of these in my house. #boymom)

Innovation top to bottom

I LOVED the soft rooftop play area. Clearly a safe and secure structure, it will give patients, staff, families, and visitors a chance to get a literal breath of fresh air and run out some energy while still remaining close to hospital rooms. And I love the innovative spirit here — most people would have overlooked the potential in this space instead of asking, “What can we do with it?”

Run, jump, play

There are people who appreciate kids; then there are people who understand kids. Dayton Children’s has installed interactive spaces throughout the hospital, acknowledging that kids are always curious, imaginative, and in motion. From the custom-built Windtunnel leading into the gift shop to the accessible hands-on Dragonflyer (you can move the wings and change the colors!), these are the little details that help families focus on individual moments even in the midst of difficulty. You know you have a gem in your backyard when you see a children’s hospital and immediately want to bring your kids in to experience it. (Come on — who wouldn’t want to measure their wingspan?)

Note: This post was written as part of Dayton Children’s new patient tower grand opening, for which participating bloggers received complimentary tours and a few hospital goodies. All thoughts and opinions described here are my own. If you’re in the Miami Valley, check it out for yourself at their Community Open House, June 11, 1-4 p.m.

How to register a 5-year-old for Kindergarten


March 13-18, 2016
Notice Kindergarten registration is happening. Add reminder to phone to check on 2017 schedule in late February. Congratulate self on organized process and systems.

Feb. 16, 2017 | 7:30 a.m.
Drive past future school. Glance at marquee. Notice Kindergarten registration ends in 32 hours. Have panic attack. Attempt to un-teach future scholar new curse words. Anticipate curse words to surface again only during Kindergarten readiness assessment.

7:38 a.m.
Use smartphone to Google and locate school registration forms. Realize forms must be printed out and completed by hand. All 15 pages. Because 1952 was an especially efficient year for office personnel.

8:06 a.m.
Find list of additional required documentation. Call to confirm that we are applying for public school entrance, not entrance into the US of A.

8:08 a.m.
Call pediatrician’s office to get copy of immunization records. Enter the dreaded first-hour-of-the-morning-everyone-call-the-ped muzak. (Thanks, Flu ’17. You can go now.)

8:13 a.m.
Attempt to find car keys. Fail. Message husband re: meeting to exchange. Decide it will be first and last time I ever use the phrase, “Meet me in the alley.”

8:37 a.m.
Connect with a human being in pediatrician’s office. Request immunization records, this afternoon if possible. Am asked why I wasn’t aware of Kindergarten registration before today. Commence internal screaming.

12:05 p.m.
Begin completing paperwork. (Side note: Explain to me why we’re eliminating handwriting from the school curriculum when all of its paperwork still has to be done by hand. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? #earworm #yourewelcome) Learn that falsifying your address on Kindergarten registration paperwork is a first degree misdemeanor. Finally understand where our justice system jumped the shark.

12:07 p.m.
Student Cell Phone: ___________________ Bahahahahahahahahahahahaha no.

12:08 p.m.
Dude. Daytime phone and cell phone are the same thing. But you would know that if you lived in a universe called 2017. Also? 47% of U.S. households don’t have landlines. So please stop asking for my home phone like you can’t make like Drake and just call me on my cell. #earworm #trackchange #yourestillwelcome It travels with me. That’s why it’s called a mobile phone. Because it’s mobile.

12:10 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 15: Does your child recognize some letters of the alphabet (first name)? … Seriously? That’s our highest expectation of Kindergartners? That sometime in the last 1,825+ days they managed to learn 15% of the alphabet??? Sweet mercy.

12:11 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 18: Does your child hold a book correctly? … I can’t even.

12:12 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 25: Does your child sort objects by attribute (color, size, or shape)? … Damn straight he does. He eats his M&M’s by color the way the universe intended. Want him to show you how to work the labelmaker? #TypeAalltheway #likemotherlikeson

12:13 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 26: Does your child show understanding of general times of day? … Yes, except for: on Christmas Day, on any day when mom is running 21 minutes behind, or every.single.Saturday morning.

12:15 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 35: Name three things you would like your child to be able to do in one year. …
1. Recite the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America (while copies are still available).
2. Participate in clinical trials for medicine that causes five-year-olds to sleep past 6 in the a.m.
3. Successfully place socks inside laundry hamper without them being balled up.

12:15 p.m.
Parent Input Form, Question 37: Right now I am most concerned about: …
1. Your lack of a comma after “now.”
2. The carpal tunnel in my right hand from filling out 15 pages of repetitive paperwork.
3. Where I’m going to keep the magical leprechaun I’ll need to hire to watch my child during the 1,780 business hours he won’t be at school but the rest of the world still needs me to produce stuff. (Note to self: Ensure leprechaun can teach handwriting.) (Side note: Half-day-only Kindergarten, we in a fight.)

3:26 p.m.
Pick up immunization records on way to work meeting because everyone totes has nothing else to do between the weekday hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. SO WE SHOULD ALL OPERATE UNDER THE EXACT SAME WORKING HOURS SO NOTHING GETS ACCOMPLISHED. Suggest the penalty for picking up a virus in order to complete Kindergarten registration also be a first degree misdemeanor. Spray all the things with hand sanitizer. (Really, Flu ’17. We’re done with you.)

3:36 p.m.
Stop at house. Apologize to confused dog for interrupting Nap #29347. Locate all documents needed for applying for green card Kindergarten. Can’t remember passcode to husband’s super-secure-spy-level-Army briefcase. Throw entire briefcase into trunk.

5:15 p.m.
Pick up children from preschool. Explain impending adventure as “Visiting The Place That Hasn’t Heard About Google Forms Yet.” Ask Siri to tell five-year-old what “bureaucracy” means.

5:43 p.m.
Turn in forms. Intend to take obligatory picture with building sign but forget. Ask Yelp to find closest family-friendly establishment with wine on draft. Ignore husband when he says that’s not a thing.

5:54 p.m.
Call preschool and ask about permanent enrollment. PTA not scary there. Computers from this century there. Complex childcare system not needed for before school/after school/we’re-closed-because-theres-a-snowstorm-in-Kansas days there. DON’T LEEEEEEAVE USSSSSS.

6:12 p.m.
Ask five-year-old if he has any questions. Confirm that, yes, he may get a Minion lunchbox and, no, he will not be driving himself to school. Yet.

Sob. Sob sob sob sob sob.

The End.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

What I’ve accomplished the past three months:

Enjoyed the holidays with my family 

Started a new (fast-paced, demanding, but exceptionally rewarding) job

Survived the baby’s first winter in daycare with only three trips to urgent care and two pediatrician appointments

Established a freelance editing business (find me on Fiverr: aestarr)

Coordinated a full-office move for my favorite volunteer organization

What I haven’t done:


Tackle house projects


So, I’m taking some time to get the first list in order, then I’ll be back! Enjoy the archives & find me on Instagram (@sensibleaudrey) in the meantime 🙂

Always thankful


Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Since it goes without saying that I’m thankful for a family that loves me (neuroses and all), the world’s greatest children (if not the world’s greatest sleepers), a warm house that welcomes both (vintage-home wear and tear included), and so on, I thought I’d list a few of the smaller luxuries I’m grateful for this year.

White noise apps. If I ever meet the genius who designed this sweet, sweet blessing, I’m buying them a lifetime supply of coffee. I’m pretty sure 85% of the sleep I’ve managed to convince Starr Baby 2 to take so far in his young life has been due to the lull of heavy rain/sprinkler/chimes/fan noise in the background via someone’s iPhone. Life. Saver.

Plentiful amounts of good coffee. Despite item number one, we have not been blessed with a strong sleeper as of yet (I’m hopeful he’ll get there in time — his older brother has been a fabulous sleeper since about 12 months), and thanks to some updated research noting that breastfeeding mothers can, in fact, indulge in a cup of coffee a day no harm done, I’ve taken advantage of this delicious elixir to power my days. Thank you, good people of Starbucks/Panera/McDonald’s/Keurig for giving this mama some early-morning sanity.

My Kindle. I’ve managed to read close to a dozen books since my maternity leave started, thanks to the flexibility of holding a Kindle with one hand while nursing or seeing my iPhone screen in a darkened nursery or flipping through virtual pages on my iPad on my lunch break. While I’m still a fan of the feel and design of hard-copy books, there’s no way I’d be able to get through them in this stage of life; having an electronic repository that follows me wherever I am, and is easy to hold and navigate through, makes a world of difference.

TV on demand. I’m not a huge follower of the latest TV, but for the shows I do watch, I’m on a small children schedule, not a TGIF lineup one these days. Having the ability to dial in to the show I want, when I want (even if that’s not until 10 p.m., and requires three pauses to replace a pacifier/change a diaper/rock back to sleep), helps make me feel like a semi-relevant adult.

Preschooler conversations. Oh, how much fun this stage is! The mind of a preschooler can be frustrating, but mostly it’s hilarious. I’m one more funny convo away from installing a Cash Cab-style dashcam in our car to record the backseat musings of Starr Baby 1. “Did you get to have Thanksgiving lunch in a special conference room today?” “Yes, mommy.” “What was the most exciting part?” [My expectation: Getting a special outing, eating a turkey dinner, seeing me in the middle of the day, going on an elevator…] “We saw a HOLE!” [Instead: Referring to road construction on the way to the event.]

May your holiday be filled with too much food, too many blessings and plenty of time to enjoy both.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants On Parade Party

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

Annnnnd I’m back! With something worthwhile to show for my blogging absence (aside from having a house that’s messy but still standing and a family that’s busy but still happy). Last week, I hosted a birthday party for our oldest, who is now a big four-year-old. In honor of his love of elephants — and his bonafide BIG-boy status — we held Owen’s Big Birthday Bash: Elephants on Parade.

It was a BIG hit. (He. He.)


BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I found so many baby shower or first birthday elephant party themes online, but nothing for older birthdays, so a lot of what I invented was a new frontier. The party’s color scheme was navy, light blue, light gray and white, with chevron and large polka dot accents.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I found a fabulous graphic design shop on Etsy, Paper Clever Party, to custom design the invitations, which I wrote the wording for:

Our BIG boy is turning 4
Wait ‘til you see what we’ve got in store!
Please join us for a TON of birthday fun
[Party time/date/location]
This party will be HUGE So don’t be a Scrooge
[RSVP details]

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

They also created matching water bottle wraps, favor tags, buffet cards and thank you notes. I was also able to use the polka-dot invitation backing as the background for station signage I created myself in PhotoShop (see Tolsby frames, below).

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

The tables received navy blue tablecloths with a gray-and-white chevron runner, which I made in about 15 minutes using fabric from JoAnn’s that I used peel-and-stick hem tape on. You could certainly get all formal and fancy and sew them, but I don’t have that kind of time these days. On the main table, I used a light-blue-and-white-polka-dot runner for variety. Full disclosure: I didn’t even hem that one. I just folded it over. #sorrynotsorry #keepingitreal

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I found navy and gray paper pinwheels from Dress My Cupcake on flash deal site Pick Your Plum (note: They were super cute and easy to assemble, but the adhesive they were manufactured with didn’t stick at all, so I ended up using hot glue to keep the pinwheels fanned out.) I hung them with clear fishing wire over a plain blue twin-sized flat sheet from Walmart, which was attached near the ceiling with heavy-duty Command hooks. In a perfect world — or at least one where I am sleeping more than 3 hours per stretch every night — I would have ironed it, too.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I chose two of my favorite Owen pictures from the past year, edited them to black and white, and had them printed at 16×20” via Shutterfly, using several promo codes and $20 off coupons I’d saved up, so they were only about $5 shipped. I used spray adhesive to mount them on thin white foam board, and also hung them using clear fishing wire. The white elephant in the middle is freehand cut from plain poster board, and in retrospect I would have made it bigger and/or added a circle around it. Ah well. We threw some DIY helium balloon bunches on the side as well.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

For centerpieces, I made DIY elephant topiaries after seeing something similar on Etsy by way of Pinterest. I bought the gray poms from PomVillage on Etsy and cut out the ears/trunk from a paper plate elephant craft template I found in a Google search HERE. The eyes are stick-on google eyes I found at Michael’s. I hot glued everything together, then hot-glued it to a wooden dowel rod I spray-painted gray. (I bought two of them at Lowe’s and cut them to size.) The whole shebang is stuck through a styroforam half-ball that’s sitting in a small terra cotta pot (also from Lowe’s), both of which were painted like the dowel. I found the most adorable paper mache elephants at JoAnn’s and spray painted them gray and light blue for both the main table and one of the side tables.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I used the ever-popular (for a reason) white Tolsby frames from IKEA to display station signs. Overused? Maybe, but I still love, love the clean look and ease of use (and re-use).

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I got the guest of honor’s T-shirt from Doodlebug Embroidery on Etsy, and was able to customize the elephant’s fabric to match the party’s chevron scheme.


BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

We kept the fare simple since we were feeding a crowd of out-of-town visitors (and have I mentioned the not sleeping thing?) Lunch was a DIY sandwich bar, complete with an elephant-shaped sandwich cutter and juice boxes disguised as elephants (based on a Pinterest find). The dinner lineup included Jumbo Ravioli Bake (Three bags frozen ravioli, covered in two jars sauce and baked for about an hour at 375 degrees; I added Italian seasoning, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves on top and broiled for 5 minutes on a friend’s recommendation. We’re still enjoying the leftovers!), Gigantic Family Salad and “Elephant Ear” Bread.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I ordered sugar cutout cookies from my favorite local baker in the shape of elephants and number 4 in the same colors as the invites, and an 8” double-layer cake also based on the invite design. Both lasted a day or two after the party, which pleased the birthday boy to no end. Bottled water with custom elephant wraps completed the menu; we also created a signature cocktail, Pachyderm Punch, that consisted of cranberry Sierra Mist and vodka, for the really big kids :).

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home


BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

The crafts and games were my favorite part of this party. I found printable elephant coloring pages by searching Google, and even found create-your-own-story pages featuring Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie characters. I got some elephant-shaped crayons from Diddy Colours on Etsy, too.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

There was a make-your-own elephant mask station, and a Pose with a Pachyderm photo booth where partygoers could snap a selfie with an elephant. The prop lineup included famous pachyderms like Babar, Horton, Willems’ Elephant (and Piggie), Jumbo, the elephant from Jerry Smath’s But No Elephants, and Dumbo.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I also made a few quote cards featuring sayings from those books/movies, as well as some hashtags, because it’s 2015, my friends. We had story time with books featuring these characters as well.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

Owen opened his gifts by playing a version of the White Elephant Exchange game, where I assigned each gift grouping a number on an elephant sticker and let him choose which number he wanted to open first, and so on.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

The most popular game, though, was my Elephant in the Room scavenger hunt. My dear husband crafted nearly a dozen colorful origami elephants (using THIS YouTube video tutorial), which we then hid Easter-egg style around the house. It was such a hit that we’re (a) still playing it nightly, and (b) have already given it some twists, like find-the-elephant-in-the-dark-using-just-a-flashlight. I made hunt checklists (download mine HERE; or, just Google elephant silhouettes and drop into a Word doc), where you could either color in the elephants you’re hunting in advance and check them off as you find them, or have kids take crayons with them and color them in themselves as they locate elephants. Last, we played a couple rounds of Memory, playing off an elephant’s impeccable one.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

The final touches were mini notepad favors — which I found in white and gray in the dollar section of Michael’s and packaged in cello bags with gray chevron ribbon — because “an elephant never forgets,” and a new Elephant and Piggie book — I Am Invited to a Party! — for guests to sign with a birthday message.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

I have a feeling there will be elephant detritus around my house through the holidays — there will certainly be party toys strewn across my floor long past then — but I have one happy four-year-old. With a new baby in the house, it was about time he had a day (ahem, weekend) all to himself.

BIG Birthday Bash: An Elephants on Parade Party | The Sensible Home

Even if the baby did try and steal the show with a “Mommy’s Little Peanut” shirt :). (The elephant jokes…they just keep coming.)

You can also check out this party on Catch My Party!