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Ethan's School Bus Birthday Party (22 photos)


The Birthday Cake! Topped with a bus, chocolate "2", and DIY flags.

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When I get an idea in my head, it’s very hard for me to let it go. So when, after waiting all year to figure out what theme would please Ethan the most for his second birthday party, I decided school buses fit the bill (the kid FREAKS whenever one drives by!), I got this crazy idea all mapped out in my brain. It included bus shaped banners, signs, tickets, favors, and a REAL school bus. I started with an invitation. I drew a "retro" inspired school bus in Illustrator. I couldn’t help but put Ethan at the wheel. And 20 designs later there it was...the perfect invitation to set my school bus party theme in motion. I then spent two months calling bus rental companies trying to find one that would send a school bus to my house for a reasonable price. Like 50 of them. But I’ll get to that in a minute… After the invitation was in the mail, I started working on other bus shaped and colored decorations. I tried not to go too “black and gold” crazy so adding in some rich orange and teal-ish blue helped bring some color into the theme. The food followed a “school lunch” theme: ham and cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese (in the form of balls from Trader Joes…YUM), veggies, juice boxes, “lunchables” cheese and meat tray, and “hot dogs” in the form of pigs in a blanket (can croissants wrapped around lil smokies and popped in the oven at 350...could not be more simple). Easy-peasy but oh so yum. Oh, and of course we needed bus tickets! The kids handed them to the driver when they climbed on the bus. For all the decorations I tried to use materials I already had laying around. Like the clothes pins of which I had 94 after buying them to display holiday cards. A few streamers, balloons and some curling ribbon topped things off. I wrapped contact paper around cook books to add height to my food table—gotta have height! After designing cupcake toppers and planning to make cupcakes I changed my mind. Cupcakes require plates and tables and forks...and a big mess. So with a quick search online, I found the perfect solution: school bus cake pops. Easy to eat, no utensils required. And how cute would the kids look walking around with school buses on a stick? An easy tutorial from CatchMyParty blog helped me make these little yellow treats a reality. I finished them three days in advance and my tip? Add a little Crisco to your melted chocolate…I don’t believe these are even possible without it. They were a HUGE HIT. The kids knew exactly what these pops were and started asking for them as soon as they spotted them on the food table. I’m pretty sure each kid had three. And no mess! So back to this school bus business. After booking a bus only to have them cancel on me three weeks before the party (tears were shed), I made more calls and finally found the nicest company IN THE WORLD. I can’t tell you how many people treated me like I was C-R-A-Z-Y for requesting a school bus to drive my two year old and his buddies around town. But finally I found a company who took my idea seriously…and helped me make it happen. Even when the forecast called for downright blizzard conditions the night before the party, the owner was in contact with me, hoping as hard as I was that the snow would hold off a few more hours. We woke to a morning of dreary skies…yet not a drip of rain or snow. But around 10am flakes started to fall. Luckily it was the kind of snow that melts upon impact so the bus arrived as planned. After playing and eating in the house a bit (you can't believe how fun several blown-up balloons can be to two year olds), everyone headed out the door with their bus tickets, into the beautiful falling snow. I was the last one on the bus and I won’t lie…when I climbed aboard (and of course handed my ticket to the driver) I looked up and saw our friends and family seated, row after row, kids with wide eyes and smiling faces…I had to hold back the tears. I know, it sounds dumb, but when things work out just as you planned, it can be quite emotional. Don't worry, I held it together and took my seat with the birthday boy. Then we were off!! Matt, our super-wonderful-amazing driver headed around town while I started up the tunes—there were at least five different versions of “Wheels on the Bus” pumping out of a tiny speaker attached to my iPhone. Huge snow flakes fell outside the windows while we bumped along, singing and pointing out each item mentioned (wipers, horn, windows…you get it). All the sudden Matt called back, “Anyone want to push some buttons?” as he pulled into a parking lot. One by one the kids walked up and climbed into the driver’s seat. Turning the wheel and honking the horn were the popular attractions. Some of our drivers looked like pros! Others (like the birthday boy) were happier just watching. Then we headed back to the house for a few more pictures. I’d say we spent about 30+ minutes with the bus and it was worth every second of time I spent finding it. The kids were in heaven. And hey, it was a warm, indoor activity that cost much less than any party venue I could find…plus it was something different. Just our style. Back in the house it was time for cake. More sugar!! And for the favors? I had a fleet of mini buses. Overall it was exactly what I had hoped for…and, more importantly, Ethan seemed to be completely satisfied! He was so worn out from playing with his buddies and riding the bus that by the end of the party (1pm) he was sneaking away to lay down. He said, “Lay down. Sleepy.” He partied till he dropped. Party attendees STILL talk about riding the bus and talk about Ethan's party when they pass our house...and they are two. Clearly it left an impression! Product list: Buses: Courtesy of the Alexandria Public School District Department of Transportation. Chevron Contact Paper: Signage: designed and handmade by me. Chocolate “Two”: DIY with a Candy Writer. Cake flags: DIY. Bus Tickets: DIY printed at home. Invitations: DIY printed at Pictures: me, Joe Schon, Justin Horgan, Lauren Gramlich, & Bret Gramlich.

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St. Louis, VA
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