It was about a month ago I realized something very important was looming on the horizon.

Ainsley’s third birthday party.


Birthdays one and two were affairs mainly for adults. But three? Three-year-olds have classmates and themes and preferences. And are vocal enough to tell you about them, especially when you get it wrong.

PURPLE cupcakes, Mommy. PINK plates and napkins. These gummy bears, not those. DORA!

So-and-so’s birthday party had inflatables. Such-and-such’s mommy brought us all goody bags. Well, good for them.

I blanched when I saw inflatable prices and could not even begin to imagine the logistics in planning around December’s unpredictable weather. And goody bags?

I don’t remember getting presents for coming to a birthday party.

What do I put in them? What is the standard for goody bags these days?

It got overwhelming with a quickness. I maybe felt a little faint.

To make matters worse, our girl was born just before Christmas, meaning calendars fill up early and often. Plans had to be made. Now.

We researched several options, ruling out those that were outside because the weather was too much of a wildcard.

That left us with a party at home (cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning) or moving to a venue (money, money, money, money).

Attending other children’s birthdays didn’t help. Scores of inflatables and stories of pony rides left us feeling quite inadequate as parents.

Up against deadline, we opted for a party at home. We based it on Ainsley’s favorite book, “Bear Snores On,” in which a hibernating bear’s friends invade his cave and make all sorts of treats while he sleeps.

It helps that Ainsley’s nickname is Bear. It’s also a theme that, while wintry, is far from Christmas.

I whipped up miniature chocolate cupcakes (always a favorite), poured Swedish Fish and gummy bears into bowls and popped white corn (just like in the book).

Ainsley was delighted — especially because the candy was kept within reach.

I did deviate in that the characters in the book made stew and the thought of a herd of toddlers armed with hot stew made me woozy all over again. Instead, I opted for crowd-pleasing, appetizer-sized meat pies that were perfect for both big and little hands.

I offered them up with a ketchup kicked up with Creole seasoning and Sriracha hot sauce for the grown folks and a store-bought, sweeter dipping sauce for the kiddos.

They were gone in minutes. And maybe, with all their attention focused on pies, the guests didn’t notice the crumbs on the counters or the dirty laundry hidden in the bedroom ... Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at