Tips for a Successful First Birthday Party

Tips for a Successful 1st Birthday Party

Well, we made it through the first year! We did it with a few bumps, a couple bruises, and lots of laughs along the way.

As we started planning the twins’ first birthday when they were 8.5 months old (yes, I started early), I knew that I wanted a big shin-dig (after all, I turned the big 3-0 just two days before), but I also didn’t want to upset our wonderful rhythm of the day that we had established.

Here are some tips that I would recommend to anyone planning a first birthday party:

THEME: For the theme, we were going back and forth with so many different themes, and nothing seemed perfect. But then I came across the Up theme on Pinterest, and it just stuck. We had a sketch drawn of our house and people have added their thumbprints to it to look like balloons when they were at my showers or came to visit the babies, and so it just seemed too perfect. From there, I went a little crazy. You can see our entire birthday party featured on The Wise Baby (Up-Themed Birthday Party)

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PHOTOGRAPHY: My biggest advice is to have a photographer come in for it (if you can put it in the budget). Even if it’s just a student photographer, it is worth it to not have to worry about taking pictures (or have family take pictures). That way, everyone can enjoy and someone else captures the memories… while YOU get to EXPERIENCE them!

TIMING: Ours was from 12-2. The twins woke up from naps at 11, they got milk, got dressed, and then took family pictures at about 11:45. We kept them on their normal lunch schedule (they ate in front of everyone), because we didn’t want them to be cranky or hungry. Then they weren’t starving for the cake smash (I didn’t want them to have too much sugar anyway). Before the cake, we told everyone thanks for coming, and we also said that if anyone wanted us to open presents in front of them, we would be happy to do that, but otherwise we would open them privately. When they got tired, they went down for a nap and we could then visit and be baby free. It was perfect because we didn’t get them out of their schedule.

OPENING PRESENTS: Do yourself (and your family/friends) a favor. Don’t open presents at the party. As I said before, if someone wants you to open their present during the party, go for it! But no one needs to sit through opening gift after gift… and your 1-year-old doesn’t either! Just make sure to keep a good list and write a nice thank you note afterwards.

Yes, I am aware that our twins are now 19 months old, but I thought these were good tips, despite them being not totally applicable for us at this point. But now that we are on the other side of 1.5 years, we will be reusing these tips for the 2nd birthday party!


At the beginning of the summer, I jumped on the 100 Happy Days bandwagon. I feel like I’m normally happy anyway, but I wanted a picture challenge, and this seemed right up my alley.

So, here are my #100HappyDay pictures. You know what I learned? My family is what makes me happy. Really happy. Ridiculously happy.



To see all of these pictures and the captions, come check out my Instagram page (@dorydoyle).

Family from California!

We were so lucky to have my Aunt Sherry (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Jeff come to the east coast from their home near San Francisco along with my cousin Jessie, her husband Mike, and their 5 week old daughter Matix.

We have been really fortunate to see them every summer for 3 summers in a row, even though the first summer was sadly because of my grandfather’s sudden death, and last summer was because of Papa Alan (and his twin brother Marshall)’s stone setting. This summer, though, was because of a happy circumstance! Sherry came to Cleveland for a friend’s wedding, and the whole family decided to come along and take the drive down to Virginia to see us, meet the twins, and we could meet Jessie’s baby too!

They could only be here for a short visit, but it was wonderful to see each other, pass the babies around, trade mommy stories, and just be together to celebrate life and happiness!

My mom and David:

CA Family Visit 2014

Uncle Jeff and his granddaughter Matix:CA Family Visit 2014

My mom and David in the background and Aunt Sherry and Audrey in front:

CA Family Visit 2014

Baby Matix asleep:

CA Family Visit 2014

Uncle Jeff and Audrey making faces at each other:CA Family Visit 2014

Daddy and David cuddles:CA Family Visit 2014

Matix and her daddy Mike on the couch:

CA Family Visit 2014

The two new sets of parents and their babies. Jessie and I are about the same difference in age as the twins and Matix:

CA Family Visit 2014

Uncle Jeff and David:

CA Family Visit 2014

Sweet love:

CA Family Visit 2014

We loved Matix’s faces in these pictures:

CA Family Visit 2014

CA Family Visit 2014

CA Family Visit 2014

Sherry and Jeff and Audrey and David:

CA Family Visit 2014

#DoyleBeachParty 2014: Corolla Jeep Adventures Wild Horse Tour

*In order to encourage you to take this tour yourself, I am not going to go into a lot of details about the information we learned on this trip. It is worth paying the about-$40-a-person to take this tour yourself. I promise you, it will be better than a day of parasailing or watercrafts!


On the Friday of our vacation, the middle generation-ers took a morning to go on a wild horse tour with Corolla Jeep Adventures.

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Our tour guide was John, and he was incredible. He reminded us of Matthew McConaughey with his accent, his energy, and his excitement, but the thing that stuck out the most was his passion. He loves these horses and knows them very well. He is an advocate for them, as many people are trying to control their populations by saying that they are an invasive species. I have to agree with John that they were anything but that. Peaceful, gentle, beautiful, and not at all harmful to the land. It was absolutely amazing to share space with these creatures who have evolved to survive but not demolish the land over hundreds of years on the island.


The 10 AM tour started with a quick overview before hitting the road in our open-air truck. Once we got to the 4-wheel beach, we zoomed down it for a ways, hitting the bumps and making me hope that the cage above us was a strong roll-bar… just in case. Thankfully I sat in the front, but I know that those in the middle and back rows had a LOT more bumps than us.

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We veered off the beach to go to Penny’s Hill, the highest point on the island. From here, we could see acre upon acre, from the ocean to the sound. We also found a huge turtle up there, just hanging out. At this point, John taught a lot about the ecology of the island, including the signs to look for with the horses.

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We also got some pretty incredible shots of all of us overlooking the area. Please excuse the wind-blown hair.

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After a short drive more, we found our first horses, and John explained about this particular pack and the history of this harem.






We even found Santa’s summer home!


On driving back on the beach again, we found an area that was roped off, and John drove closer. Turns out that it was a beached baby seal, and it looked like animal control was trying to figure out what was happening to it and how they could help. The week before, a seal was found further south on the island, and biologists are trying to figure out why they are coming so far south. This seal was still moving, but we didn’t know if it was hurt.


We found a second pack of horses further north, and it just confirmed how peaceful and amazing these gentle giants are.


Upon racing back  on the beach (after 2.5 hours of our 2 hour tour), we suddenly stopped at the water’s edge for John to pull something from the water: 2 pieces of fulgurite. Fulgurite is made when lightning hits the sand and creates natural glass. It turns out we had seen these all over the beaches of Corolla, but didn’t know what they were. Once we could identify them, we got tons and tons back at our beach house. I later found out that the 4×4 beach and the beaches of Corolla are the best places around to find fulgurite. What a neat beach find for a girl who loves searching for perfect (and imperfect) seashells.


On the drive back, I just had to capture how beautiful everything looked on this secluded beach.


And then someone shouted “Horse on a porch!”


And one final glance before leaving the 4×4 beach: a row of birds, enjoying the sunshine!



#DoyleBeachParty 2014: An Overview

Please bear with me, as this post is going to be long and filled with a TON of pictures. You know, Babies’ First Beach Trip and everything.

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The Deets*: We went to Corolla in the Outer Banks for a week with Tim’s family (his sister, brother, brother’s wife, mom, dad, grandfather, cousin, and cousin’s husband). It was amazing to have 10 adults and just the two babies. Lots of love, hands to hold, and quite a few breaks for Mommy and Daddy. We still had sleepless nights (getting up every 2-3 hours), but it made the days so much more bearable and relaxing!

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Doyle Beach Party 2014 -




Doyle Beach Party 2014 -

The Setup: Get ready to be jealous of our beach-front house for the week.  3 master bedrooms on the top floor, Plus the kitchen, living area, dining room with huge table, and a half bath. The living area also had floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the beach (yes, it is beach-front property). The second floor had 5 master bedrooms: 1 had a handicapped bathroom, 1 had a sliding door to the deck and hot tub, 1 was a bunk room with its own living area, and 2 were a little separated (and perfect for the 4 of us). Our room had a gorgeous deck looking at the ocean and private bath, and the room attached had 2 twin beds and a bathroom in between that room and ours. We moved the twin beds a little to fit the two pack-and-plays, and we were good to go. That floor also had a living space, pool table, and a wet bar with full fridge. The bottom floor had the gym, two-car garage,  heated pool, and private walkway to the beach. Oh, and the house had its own elevator!

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The Baby Gear: Traveling with two 6-month olds wasn’t without its fair share of challenges, especially with the gear. We started our packing list a month ahead of time, and we were constantly revising it up until the last minute as their needs changed. We have been having problems sleeping both during naps and at night, so we knew we needed to bring the rockers to help them sleep. Although I will do a separate post on packing for a week for 6 month olds, here are the big things we brought: 2 pack-and-plays (cribs), 1 MamaRoo, 1 travel swing, 1 tandem stroller with extra seats, 2 umbrella strollers, nursing pillow, Bumbo (doubles as a high chair), Summer Infant activity chair (doubles as a high chair), bath chair, diaper bag, diaper caddy, contoured diaper changing pad, travel diaper changing pad for upstairs, 2 containers of wipes, 2 huge sleeves of diapers (although we only used 1), white noise machine, video monitors, 2 Baby Bjorns, doorway jumper, stand-up walker, outfits, swim items, play mats, toys, sleepers, baby towels and bathing supplies, beach tent, picnic blankets, stroller fans, baby sunscreen, and burp cloths… Oh yes, that is a lot of stuff. But because of this, we had what we needed and didn’t have to freak out that we were without something.

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The Baby-Free Excursion: At the end of the week, the 7 middle-generationers took a trip with Corolla Jeep Adventures to go see the wild horses. It was an amazing trip, filled with lots of education (I’m such a nerd), sight-seeing, and amazing photo-taking opportunities.

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The Beach with Babies: We were blessed with amazing weather, and so it was never too too hot. In fact, with the breeze blowing, it was sometimes chilly. We still tried to avoid taking the babies out at the hottest point of the day. Because Audrey had just become a good sitter-upper, we only needed to take a Bumbo for David. They loved being down by the water with the waves, family, and sand. We tried to keep them as sand-free as possible with the sun tent and a beach blanket, but it was impossible to keep things completely sand-free. We just carried a bottle of water to wet and clean items when needed. When David got fussy, we would walk him down by the ocean and play “Hello Ocean, Goodbye Ocean,” where I would stand close to the tide line. When the waves came up, I would say “Hello Ocean,” and then say “Goodbye Ocean” when they would go away. He was fascinated with the ocean.

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The Pool with Babies: Thankfully, the pool was a salt-water pool (good for their skin) and heated, so we could enjoy it with them. Unfortunately, the air was chilly at the times of day we were ok with them outside, so we didn’t get to use the pool as much as we would have liked. Still, they really enjoyed swimming, with David kick-kick-kicking away and Audrey just trying to lick the water (so she didn’t get as much time as David).





The Dinners: Each of the adults took a night to plan and cook dinner. We ALL went all out on these nights, turning them into total theme nights. We had cold cuts, kebobs, turkey burgers with brussel sprouts and sweet potato fries, burgers and hot dogs, a taco bar, an Italian night, and a clean-out-the-fridge-and-eat-all-the-leftovers. We had 3 full-size fridges, and we used just about every square inch of space. It was quite impressive, but we will hopefully plan and coordinate a bit more before next year so we aren’t all buying and brining the same things. Still, no one went hungry at all (or if they did, it was their fault).

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The Games: Each night after dinner, we either played a game or watched a movie. My personal favorites were our annual Doyle Yankee Swap (moved from Christmastime to the beach since we would all be together) and watching Uncle Buck in honor of Tim’s Uncle Dave (David’s namesake) who passed away last summer. Basically, if you have seen the movie Uncle Buck, you know Uncle Dave. It was wonderful to see it all together.

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The Sunsets: On the last two nights of our trip, I was able to sneak away (the first night on my own, and the second time with Tim) to watch the sunset. Although the sun sets on the sound side (and we were oceanside), we still got some amazing photos of the incredible colors.


The Haircuts: Tim’s cousin Rachel is an amazing hair stylist in New Jersey. She owns her own salon and does amazing things with a razor! So, I have been toying around with chopping my hair off for a while, but I have never trusted anyone here in VA to do it. So, when I was talking to her about it, she offered to cut it for me while we were at the beach. I decided to go for it! She also cut my mother-in-law’s hair and Tim’s grandfather’s hair. She does an amazing job!

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The Family: Of course, the main reason to get away was to be with our family for the week. It felt so wonderful to wake up and have everyone there. We all see each other often, but to actually escape and be with each other and get along for a full week is amazing. Plus, it was Tim’s dad’s birthday week, and it was a great way to celebrate his special day! Oh yes, I married into an incredible family! I am so lucky! Plus, 10 adults : 2 babies = an amazing ratio!

*I’m sorry for using the term “deets.” I know that it’s SO 3 years ago (or longer?). I just had to do it so that when Audrey and David look back on this post in 10 years they will be so embarrassed.



OBaby App Mother’s Day Promotion

A few weeks ago, I told you about the OBaby+ app for iPhones. I have continued to love this app, and I use it constantly with our pictures.



For Mother’s Day, Obaby will now drop from $4.99 to FREE for a limited time. This is a special Mother’s Day Edition, with 22 additional new illustrations to celebrate moms. I have upgraded my app to include these extras, and I really love them!

OBaby Mother's Day Art

The new overlays are sponsored by Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets and are designed by Kelsey Cronkhite. Each purchase (or download for free for this limited time) will include 300+ custom-made illustrations in addition to the Mother’s Day artwork. With the Obaby app, you have the option for in-app purchases for more artwork.

If you would like the Obaby+ app, which includes all of the basic illustrations PLUS all of the extras that are available for in-app purchasing, there is a special low price for $9.99. This is the version that I have, and I really love it!

You can see all of the illustrations on the app’s website,

Obaby+ can also be gifted from the App Store by pressing the share button and then the gift button.

*I did not receive any compensation for this post. I received the Obaby+ app for free for the original review, but I wanted to pass on this great deal to my readers!

Phone Dump Friday #2/OBaby+ App Review

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Disclaimer: I received the following app for review, but all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

OBaby App Review -

I thought that today’s Phone Dump Friday would be a great time to discuss a new app on the market: OBaby. It is a great photo-based app that lets you add in text to your pictures. Not just any text, however, but beautiful already-completed text options and doodles done by an artist.

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Image courtesy of Obaby

OBaby App Review -

Image courtesy of Obaby

The text options are based on pregnancy and baby-related pictures, with categories such as dates, doodles, borders, anytime, announcements, pregnancy, labor & birth, adoption, first year, second year, and family & friends.

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Image courtesy of Obaby

I have been playing with OBaby+ on my phone for a couple weeks now, and I LOVE it to add just that extra touch to my photos. I haven’t posted too many on Instagram yet, as I wanted to keep them secret until now. But now that I have done today’s Phone Dump Friday, get ready!

OBaby App Review -

Image courtesy of Obaby

OBaby has a $0.99 version and a version for $14.99 (currently on sale for $9.99) with more artwork. There is also a section in the app where you can suggest more artwork. I plan on using that feature to request some more twin-specific wording, as well as something like “siblings.”


I love that you can save your pictures in a variety of sizes, so it will be fantastic for regular 4×6 photos AND Instagram squares.

OBaby App Review -

Image courtesy of Obaby

The biggest drawback is that you can’t use the alphabet to create any word you want, and there isn’t a search function. Besides that, I’m in love with this app!


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Image courtesy of Obaby

Here’s a quick tutorial: first you pick the picture and the size you want to crop it to (you have lots of choices). Then you can browse through the different categories and pick the types of words/doodles that you want to add to your photo (you can see all the ones you selected in the teal space in the bottom of this example picture). Then, you can add those to your photo, choosing the color of the text/doodle, resizing, and rotating it as needed. As you can see in the picture, you can also have more than one decoration on your picture, if you so choose.

Here is my phone dump for this week, thanks to OBaby+! Remember, if you want to do a phone dump on your own blog, grab the button using the code below!


Phone Dump Friday with Doyle Dispatch

FrameEvent Review


Thanks to, I was able to try out a new website to help further personalize your pictures. Here’s the information from the FrameEvent:

FrameEvent ( allows its users to easily capture and personalize life’s most memorable events by providing the tools and creative elements needed to personalize their digital photos.

It’s time to take those photos off of your phone and computer and start creating precious memories! With easy to use tools to add themes, flair and text, FrameEvent makes personalizing your favorite photos easy and fun! Users can choose from a wide range of print sizes ranging from a 3×3 up to a 16×20 and have them professionally developed and delivered directly to their home.

FrameEvent is currently offering a FREE personalized print with every order. For customers purchasing more than one print the most expensive print will be free. (Shipping and handling charges are not included in this offer and only one free print per order).

As I tried it, I found that there were some things that I both liked and disliked about the website.

First, the likes:

  • One free print per order (shipping and handling not included)
  • Cute graphics, banners, and borders to add to your pictures
  • Many fonts available to add to your pictures
  • Editable colors for graphics and writing
  • Pre-made ideas for your pictures (and they are editable): birthdays, weddings, celebrations, holidays, vacations, sports, seasons, etc.
  • Easy upload of photos
  • Ability to try different gallery layouts for multiple pictures on stairways, focal walls, etc.
  • Quick customer service feedback

Now, the dislikes:

  • Sometimes slow interface (i.e. “spinning wheel of death”) that needs refreshing
  • Resizing pictures, text, and graphics isn’t intuitive and takes some practice
  • Difficult to get to a simple edit screen from the homepage

Overall, FrameEvent is a neat website for editable pictures. To be 100% honest, I don’t know how often I would use it, as I can do most of the editing available on my computer and then print locally. Still, for those that don’t have something else on their computer that they can use, this is a great resource. Plus, I do love that you can take a look at the gallery layouts before you spend a fortune on printing and frames, only to realize that the sizes and look don’t quite work.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

DIY Camera Strap Wrap

I had every intention of making two different kinds of camera straps for this post. Then (blame it on the pregnancy), I got tired. So, I am presenting to you a tutorial on how to make a camera strap wrap. I hope at some point I will turn this  into an additional camera strap, but for now, this will do.

Camera Strap Wrap - Doyle Dispatch

1. Start with your favorite fabric. You can have different fabric for your front and back (like me), or you can make it easy on yourself and have the same for your front and back.

2. Cut it as long as your strap + about 1/2 inch (seam allowance). For the width, make it just slightly wider than your straps + about 1/2 inch (seam allowance). I cut mine into 22″ x 4″ rectangles.

3. Fold and iron the seam allowance. Once it is all ironed, you will be able to see the final dimensions. Mine were 21″ x 2.5″.

4. Sew the perimeter of each rectangle individually.

5. Sew the two pieces together lengthwise only.

6. Thread through the strap.

Camera Strap Wrap - Doyle Dispatch


Adding a pocket:

Now, if you want, you can add an additional pocket onto your strap. This is just another piece of coordinating (or identical) material, sewn on three sides of the strap. Make sure to add this pocket before sewing the front and back together, otherwise, you will close up one of your sides of the strap wrap. I did a “fancy” pleat to give more room in the pocket, but this isn’t necessary.

Finished rectangle dimensions: 3.25″ x 4.25″.

To add the “fancy” pleat:

Fold and iron so the inside portion is 2.5″ wide.

Make an accordion fold and iron. Add this pocket to your fabric before sewing the two sides together, or you will have trouble getting the strap wrap through.

Camera Strap Wrap - Doyle Dispatch


Maternity Pictures

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Back in May, my fantastic mom gave me a priceless First Mother’s Day present. Just as I was facing awful nausea and all-day sickness, we received a terrific gift in the mail: a gift certificate from our wedding photographer for maternity pictures.

(Just in case you want to see some of her work from our wedding, check out our Wedding page.)

Now, I had never wanted to get maternity pictures. I thought that there was something a little self-serving about being the subject of these pictures.

Then I became pregnant and realized that it would be fantastic to document the amazing things that my body is going through. I mean, there are two living beings growing inside of me. And soon they will be in my arms. Astounding.

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So, we used our gift certificate with the amazing Sarah Cramer Shields of Cramer Photo when I turned 30 weeks pregnant. I am so glad that we did.

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Sarah has this amazing gift for really getting to know us and really display our personalities with the pictures. This is just a talent. She spends so much time talking to us throughout the entire session. It feels almost like an interview with just a couple of snaps of the camera… and then she ends up with hundreds of amazing pictures!

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What I loved most about the whole experience was that it was a time for Tim and me to have some time together to reflect on our relationship, our supportive family, and the way that our lives are about to change forever. We could snuggle,

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Maternity Pictures by Cramer Photography - DoyleDispatch.comsmile,

Maternity Pictures by Cramer Photography - DoyleDispatch.comtalk,

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and just love each other in a way that will change when we are no longer a family of 2, but a family of 4. What a priceless way to document this change.

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When getting ready for our wedding pictures, Sarah had asked if I had any pictures that I wanted taken. I had a list a mile long. Literally. A mile. Looking back, it is a little embarrassing to see everything that I wanted photographed and the specific “popular” poses, when Sarah is such an expert. She did an outstanding job and got everything on my list, but I should have just let her do her thing.

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For these maternity pictures, I had no plans. Yes, I’d looked at the “popular” maternity pictures that are circulating, but I didn’t feel the need to recreate those for us. I just had one request: I wanted to incorporate my grandfather’s shirt quilt in some of the pictures. Other than that, Sarah could ask us to do whatever.

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We took all of the pictures around my parents’ house in Charlottesville on a comfortable October afternoon at about 4. The light was magical. The temperature was perfect. The leaves were  starting to change and fall. It was… memorable. It wasn’t just pictures for us. It created this memory of one of our last times just the two of us. So special. Thank you to my mom and Sarah for making this happen!

Here are our favorite pictures below. You can click on any of them to see the full-size version (and not in thumbnail size or cropping).