Our Little Guy Turns One! | A Penguin Themed Birthday Party

One year old birthday boy with his balloons

The Invitation and Theme

Oh my gosh, where has the year gone?  It seems like just a month or two ago that I told Andrew before we went to bed that I felt a little “off” but my due date wasn’t for another 12 days.  It was about 5 degrees that night and a snow storm had come through and Andrew was worried that if I was actually going into labor that we might not have enough time to make it to the hospital since we live way out in the country.  We had been told over and over how much faster the second baby comes. He finally convinced me at 5am that we needed to head to the hospital and that I was ACTUALLY in labor (I can be denial when it comes to things like that!).  After we had checked in and the nurse had seen me, she told me that I would probably meet my little man within the hour.  My second little boy who we had anxiously been awaiting would be here 12 days early… and I would get to snuggle him in my arms within the hour.  I couldn’t hold back the happy tears. She was right and our Little Monkey (I didn’t know how appropriate his nickname was till months later) was born at 8:08am that morning, January 30th and he was perfect.

The year has sped by, especially during wedding season, and Baby J (yet another one of his nicknames!) has grown up faster than I would have wanted. One thing I’ve learned is that life never slows down.  There is no physical way to stop time. But one thing that has seemed, to me, a way to “pause” the clock is to set my phone down, give my undivided attention to, engage fully and tune in to my little family. For me, that looks like taking an extra 60 seconds to snuggle with Little Monkey before putting him down for a nap, reading an extra book with Little Bear before bedtime or taking time to sit on the floor and play blocks with the boys, even if its only for 10 minutes.  Its in these moments that I don’t feel like time is flying.  These are the little moments that memories are made of.

So when I had gotten past Christmas and helped plan my friend’s baby shower, I enthusiastically jumped into planning a penguin themed birthday party for our little guy’s first birthday.  Penguins are actually one of Andrew’s favorite animals.  But we decided to make Baby J’s “animal” a penguin because when Victoria one of my best girl friends found out I was expecting again, she sent me a HUGE box of penguin themed baby gifts! They were all SO cute that we knew we just had to go with it!   As I searched Pinterest Andrew would peer over my shoulder and say, “You know you’re turning into THAT mom, right?”  I took a swat at him and said defiantly, “I know, and I PROUD of it!”  While I couldn’t invite every one of you I figured I could at least invite you in via this blog!  Here’s your invite!

Penguin birthday party invitation with arctic animals on it

Frost on a window with snow covered pine tree in background

I couldn’t help but include this ADORABLE onesie that Grandma gave Baby J.  I feel like it sums him up so well!

Penguin First Birthday Invitation spread with little boy shoes, onesie and stuffed penguin

The Prep

Not gonna lie… I started prepping and baking for Sunday’s party on Tuesday. Penguin cookies were a must for a penguin themed birthday party (Andrew and I had bought the cookie cutter when we were up in Old Forge this past fall to run our 10k!) and I REALLY wanted to use it!  Little Bear wanted to help so I gave him some flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips and two bowls so he could stir and transfer them from one bowl to another.

Collage of penguin cookies being rolled and cut out with cookie cutter, rolling pin and Kitchen Aid mixer

I might have initially thought that he shouldn’t eat his “batter” but GOOD NIGHT!… he was having so much fun!  He LOVES his “chock chock”.

Little Monkey did a great job of entertaining himself and then Little Bear “helped” me with the dishes.  You can see the aftermath BUT he was so proud of himself!

Another side story… the brake lines on my car went last week so when I needed extra frosting, my mom ran to the store for me, brought it over and helped me decorate the penguin cookies!  Bless her sweet heart.

Up close picture of hands frosting penguin cookies

Now any time I get out the Kitchen Aid mixer, Little Bear immediately asks for the beater or spatula.  As long as he’s eaten his “apple snacks” (our WAY more fun name for apple slices) he could lick the spatula.  All for that smile.

Collage of little boy licking cake batter off a beater

My last minute, day before idea for a banner.  Too late to order from Etsy so I opted for the free version by printing large letters and a penguin clip art from a Word document!

1st birthday penguin banner being assembled

Anyone who says that chivalry is dead is wrong.  If I were to make a list of everything Andrew did to help me put this part together, you’d leave this post before you got through the list.  Saturday he put together the chili for our meal on Sunday and of course, Little Bear wanted to help “tirr” it up.

Dad helping little son make chili together at the kitchen counter

The Party

After a late night of putting everything together, running around on Sunday and thinking the party started at 4 instead of 4:30, we found ourselves ahead of the game and able to relax before everyone showed up!  Sheesh, I should do that EVERY time!

First birthday Penguin themed dessert table with cupcakes, fish food, penguin cookies and banner

Arctic Circles, Snow Covered Ice, Penguin cupcakes and cookies and fish food were what we had for dessert for Baby J’s penguin themed birthday party!

Collage of all penguin party themed desserts

Fun fact: I don’t collect many “trendy” things but I REALLY love Willow Trees and think they’re the sweetest!

Willow tree figurine with birthday boy balloon

Here’s Baby J, the birthday boy himself!… with his black vest, penguin onesie and balloons!

One year old birthday boy with his balloons

For our dinner, since our party theme was rather “chilly” we had a chili bar with all sorts of yummy toppings along with corn muffins, Italian bread, a salad and frosted lemonade!

If you’re blessed by a family who’s close, you’ll know the sweetness of getting everyone together to celebrate.  Between my brother and sister in law, my parents and my aunt and uncle, there were many laughs around the table!

Also, I think its safe to say that Little Bear’s favorite person is “Bumpa” (Grandpa” followed closely by Da.  I’m happy to say though that I think I’m still Little Monkey’s favorite.

My aunt can make ANYTHING (she did my flowers and cake for our wedding!) and she knitted a sweater for this penguin she gave Baby J!

One year old penguin themed birthday party as he opens his gifts

Uncle Thomas (Uncle Tos) and Aunt Snay gave Baby J two of the most adorable books ever and we were all very entertained to hear his rendition in a variety of character voices!  Little Bear also thought that every gift was for him.

Baby J hasn’t ever had cake before so I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his penguin cupcake.  In the end, I’d say he did a pretty good job with his cake smash!


Balloons… seriously the best gift providing HOURS of entertainment for both brothers!

My dad got this sweet picture of the four of us!… toy mess and all!  This is real life people!

Mom, dad and two little boys play with birthday balloons for son's first birthday

The Portraits

A couple of days later I made sure to get Baby J’s one year old pictures!  When we moved into our “new” house, this bedroom was painted a light blue and I thought it was perfect for penguin themed pictures!

one year old birthday boy portrait

Its so fun to observe the difference between Little Bear and Little Monkey’s personalities.  Both boys are relatively laid back but Little Monkey definitely is a bit more of a determined go getter.  So when I sat him beside the crate and balloons I wasn’t surprised when he immediately got himself tangled up in the strings and started crawling towards me.

little boy crawls towards camera during 1 year old portrait session

I’ve also loved taking pictures of my Little Monkey every month because he’s continually learning new things and making new faces.  The picture in the top left hand corner is a new one that he’s been making lately and I’m SO glad I have this captured in a photo!  And the picture on bottom left… my Mom calls him Mr. Smiles for Miles!

He’s also known as Mr. Grabby…. case in point below.

And this past month, Little Bear has started to really watch out for his brother.  He alerts me when Baby J is climbing the stairs or getting too close to the fireplace.  These two chase each other around the kitchen giggling all the way, he comforts Baby J when he’s crying and asks if they can have a bath together.  We all love this little guy and were happy for the chance to celebrate his little life.  Just one more way that for me to engage fully, tune in and pause this sweet, fast paced life we live.

I’d love your opinion though, on how to make the most of these fleeting moments.  I may have a few ideas but I always love to learn from other’s experiences!

big brother kisses little brother on the head during one year old portrait session



  1. Aunt Nancy says:

    What a wonderful way to capture Little Monkey’s first birthday!!! Very impressive, indeed😀 Looked like a lot of fun and everything was so cute!!!😀

    Well done, Hannah and Andrew!!😀

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