I love backyard birthday parties. That’s what we had when I was growing up, and that’s what we throw for our own kids now.

Anita jumping for joy at her 4th Birthday Party, held yesterday in the lovely Chicago backyard of my generous in-laws (we’re visiting for the summer)!

Back when my kids attended our neighborhood preschool, the vast majority of the birthday parties we were invited to were “destination parties” at gyms or skating rinks or kiddie playlands. My kids always had a lovely time, and I am grateful for the generosity of the families who invited us. But I always left those parties feeling like I didn’t know that family any better than I had before. They hadn’t invited us into their home. They hadn’t prepared food to share with us. They weren’t even running the party, that was left to a couple of twenty-somethings in bright blue shirts.

And, wow, it seems crazy to me to spend that much money on a birthday party.

I understand that many people feel like their homes aren’t fancy enough or tidy enough or big enough for a party, and they don’t want a bunch of kids tearing the place apart. But that’s the beauty of a backyard party. You just have to clear a path from the back door to a bathroom. Other than that, you can keep people outside. They don’t see your mess, and they don’t add to it. But you’ve still invited them to your home, and offered them your hospitality, and that’s what counts.

But more than that, I’ve learned to relax more and give people more credit. When I throw a party, people seem happy to be invited to my house. They don’t seem to care if it’s spotless. And they don’t come expecting more than something to eat and for their kids to be entertained for a bit. That’s not too hard. A few piles of things here and there just let people know that this is a real home where real people live. 

Honestly, I am personally LESS comfortable in a perfectly clean house. I’m worried I’ll mess it up somehow, or put my drink down someplace where drinks aren’t allowed, or sit in a chair that’s not for sitting in. But maybe (probably) that’s just me.

I’m always grateful to be invited into someone’s home, even if that home is small or modest. It’s something that bonds us together in friendship. To see where a family lives, to sit in their chairs and eat their food is a meaningful thing. To sit and chat with them at Chuck E. Cheese is nice, but our relationship won’t have progressed much as a result.

I like at-home parties the best, but for people who don’t have a yard at all, going to a party at park nearby their house is a close second for me. It still feels like I’m getting to see a part of how their family operates, since they will have planned and executed the party themselves, rather than being just another guest at the skating rink, just like I am.

We live in LA, which means that backyard parties are usually an option even for my December and February babies. But if it rains we just move the whole thing into the garage. When we lived in Chicago, we hosted winter birthdays in the basement, and no one ever complained.

Some moms feel overwhelmed by the idea of being in charge of a party, or they think they don’t have the Martha Stewart-ness to pull it off. But I say: anyone can do it. You can do it. I do it. I do it six times a year.

And I’ll tell you exactly how I do it . . . tomorrow, because it used to be right here, but great googly moogly it was a long post. So come back tomorrow for a step-by-step guide to Tierney-style at-home birthday parties and ALL the photos from Anita’s Super-Adorable Owl Party.

Since it’s Sunday, here’s what I wore to Mass today and the party on Saturday, because: maternity clothes, living out of a suitcase, and if an outfit works, why bother to think up a new one? If you must know, I also wore it out to dinner on Friday night.

Mom’s dress: Target maternity maxi dress (I wore a sweater with it to Mass, to cover my shoulders)
Girls’ dresses: homemade owl dresses especially for Anita’s birthday from her Nana
hat: J Crew
Mom’s shoes: had to buy from Zappos this week to wear with this dress because it will be too long on me for at least another month or so
Betty’s shoes: Old Navy
Anita’s shoes: God
Bump: 19 weeks (it really is there, you just can’t see it in these pictures!)

Thanks to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting the What I Wore Sunday blog link up. Head on over to see what everybody else was wearing.

And check out this guest post written by my friend Monica from Equipping Catholic Families on the same topic over at CatholicMom.com. Great minds think alike! Or, should I say slightly-muddled mothers-of-many minds think alike?