Zachary McKeown, 2, gets some bounce time during his birthday. He was with friend Charlotte.

Sarah Mckeown

Being mommy to my son Zachary is one of the biggest blessings I have been given. So when Zachary recently turned 2, planning and hosting his birthday party was right up my alley.

First up: a dinner party on Zachary’s birthday. We invited my parents Lois and Royal as well as my husband Shane’s parents Connie and Scott (who came from California to celebrate), to join us for the celebration.

Shane and I decided to make beef stew for dinner, with bread and salad on the side. After all, Zachary really likes soups, and it’s his birthday, right?

Zachary isn’t the biggest cake fan, but he sure enjoys ice cream. I chose one of his favorite flavors — mint chocolate chip — and made an ice cream cake. I found a delicious chocolate ganache recipe that I used to cover the rectangular ice cream creation. I poured the hot ganache on a bit too early, which resulted in some fast-melting ice cream. A quick run to the freezer combined with Shane and I spooning the ganache back onto the non-melted portion put us back on track.

When asking Zachary what he might want on his cake, he cleverly came up with a monkey. An orange monkey. My guess is that’s because he won two little plastic orange monkeys as a prize at a local pizza joint recently. Every time I asked, Zachary was adamant about having an orange monkey on his cake.

Not being a particularly detailed artist, I took the easy route and placed those two orange monkeys atop his cake. Orange icing that read “Happy 2nd Birthday, Zachary!” and we were good to go for the night’s festivities.

Zachary hammed it up for the grandparents that night, full of smiles, laughs and entertaining faces, phrases and movements. That’s our boy!

Our little man enjoyed his dinner, and when it came time to light the candle on his cake, he watched the flame intently. With a little help from Papa (aka Grandpa), he blew that candle right out, clapped and yelled “Yea,” then promptly said “More.”

Of course, we lit the candle again, sang a second round of “Happy Birthday” and watched our boy blow out the candle. This was the start of several rounds of birthday singing and candle-blowing during Zachary’s birthday weekend.

Up next: the friend and all-family birthday party. In anticipation of this event I’ve spent the last several months daydreaming about themes, cakes, guests and party favors.

Knowing how much Zachary and his friends like jumping castles, Shane and I ordered one that would be set up in our backyard since our house served as the party location. For lunch we settled on pizza, side dishes and drinks.

My sister Amy makes beautiful cakes, so we asked her to make one for Zachary’s party — remembering, of course, a big orange monkey face decorating the top of the cake.

The night before the big party I stayed up late putting together jungle animal-themed party-favor boxes. I was as excited as a child anticipating his own party.

The morning of the festivities, the jumping castle arrived so early that Zachary was still sleeping. So it was quite the surprise when he went into the backyard to see Shane powering up the giant inflatable. Zachary and Papa had some special one-on-one jumping before guests arrived.

Six 2-year-olds (including one almost 2-year-old), three infants, eight children ages four and up, a lot of mommies and daddies and several grandparents scurried around our house on party day.

They bounced in the jumping castle and played inside and outside with balls, puzzles, trains and toys around the house. Top it off with lunch, more birthday singing and cake. It was busy, but it sure was fun!

Scott mentioned to me later that he noticed how sociable Zachary was. He played with all of his friends, and not once did he get upset. As he usually is, he was a very happy and kind host to his guests.

Family and friends gave Zachary some wonderfully special gifts. A favorite on the night of his party came at no cost: confetti. The crinkled strands of colored paper served as entertainment for quite some time as our little boy threw handful after handful into the air, watching it fall to the ground. Zachary’s papa even got into it, throwing up fistfuls and watching as Zachary squealed with joy as the paper rained down on him.

Zachary definitely enjoyed the weekend-long birthday celebrating him turning 2. Our sweet boy is growing up, and I have to say, I grow more in love with him every day.

Sarah McKeown works at a local charter school and lives on the east side with her husband and son. Email her at