Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

door sign

With how much we’ve had going on the past few months, it crossed my mind for a fleeting moment that maybe we shouldn’t have a big party for Ryan this year.

Then I laughed. It was no use; I knew I couldn’t help myself. Because you know what? I threw him big parties for his first and second birthdays, both of which he didn’t really “get.” This birthday he would actually understand. He would know it was his special day, he would know the cake was for him, he would tear through the presents. This was the first birthday he might actually remember.

I wanted him to experience that. Hell, wanted to experience that.

Plus, his birthday happened to fall on a Saturday this year, which basically screams “Celebrate me!”

However, considering we just bought a house and then promptly discovered we needed a new roof and gutters … I set out to throw said party as cheaply as possible.

To do so (and to really ramp up the excitement for Ryan), I decided to capitalize on his greatest love: Dinosaurs.

To start, I didn’t want to throw a ton of money at invitations, so I went to for inspiration:

3rd bday invitation blurred

Then I revamped a decor idea I used for his second birthday party: making cute DIY signs with stickers, budget-friendly stencils and construction paper. One for the door (top of this post) and one for the food area:

cretaceous cafe sign


I also wanted to do something extra special and personal. I started skimming through photos and realized something: We have a LOT of pictures of Ryan with dinosaurs. Ryan playing with dinosaurs. Ryan wearing dinosaur shirts. Ryan pretending to be a dinosaur. Ryan assembling dinosaur puzzles.

I saved them all to a file and printed out my favorites. I cut up a large cardboard box leftover from our move, covered it in some colorful wrapping paper I already had on hand and created this photo collage:

Roar poster

It was a hit. Everyone got a kick out of seeing photo evidence of his obsession; even Ryan liked looking through them and identifying all his favorite dinosaurs.

Then, finally, it was time to spend a bit of money. I found a pack of dinosaur favors at Party City that included plastic dinosaur toys, stickers, activity sheets, bookmarks and other little trinkets. One of my nieces declared it the “best favors EVER.” For just $10, I figure that was money well spent.

Now then … Cake. My mom says a party is not a party unless there’s really good cake. She’s right.* For a couple of weeks, I was thinking I would make my own cake. I thought I could make a sheet cake and free-hand carve an apatosaurus.**

Then I wizened up and realized I didn’t need that stress the morning of the party when I had family coming in from out of town and plenty of other food to make. So instead, I spent $38 for this beauty:


A Dinosaur Train cake! With a train that actually rolls! Well. Worth. Every. Penny. First of all, Ryan was super impressed. Second of all, it was really freaking good. Third of all, I still somehow get the credit for it. Boom, boom and boom.

Then we needed balloons. I’m a fan of spending money on one really cool balloon and then buying cheapies to add color in other places. I also think we could have done without the balloon if we were really pinching pennies. It just added an extra pop of fun.


For free and functional seating, I borrowed extra tables and chairs from my in-laws and pulled out every colorful table cloth I had. I still felt like we needed more dinosaur in the dining room, so I put up some dinosaur wall stickers that Ryan already owned. Then, I went hunting through Ryan’s massive bin of plastic dinosaurs. I picked out the biggest, best dinosaurs and set them up as centerpieces on the dining tables. I used smaller, colorful dinosaurs as accent decor in smaller spaces.



Full room view:


Oh yeah, I bought the banner, too. I made the banners for his first two parties and figured I would make this year’s banner, too. But I couldn’t pass this one up. It was huge, had lots of dinosaurs and was only $6. When Ryan saw it, he yelled, “You made that for ME?!?” So again, I still got credit. 😉

Turns out, family and friends really get into the fun of the theme, too. Not only did Ryan receive approximately a million more dinosaur toys and clothing, but Mike’s aunt also brought a couple of fun dinosaur costume heads, which kept Ryan and his uncle busy for hours.


Anyway, a roarin’ good time*** was had by all.



*Mostly. I’d also argue the need for beer. But hey, to each their own.

**Everyone knows what an apatosaurus is, right? Anyone? No?

***Get it?! ROAR. You know, like a dinosaur. Ok, I’m done now.


 Ryan’s “First Fiesta Birthday Party” recap.

Ryan’s Train-Themed Second Birthday Party recap.