Posted by: Hallie Levine | March 6, 2013

A Party Fit for a Princess

Jo Jo turned five last Wednesday.

We actually celebrated a couple weeks ago, during February break, with a Mommy and Daughter trip to the American Girl store in Manhattan. Which is something I’d been planning for, well, ever since the 18 week ultrasound when I learned I was pregnant with a little girl.


We started off with a birthday lunch in the American Girl café. She sat wide-eyed next to her mini Jo Jo doll (notice the matching pigtails!) and just took the room in. We were surrounded by other little girls and their moms, feasting on miniature hamburgers and mini hot dogs. (There was one dad next to us who sat frozen at the table with his wife and daughters, eying the dolls as if they were all Brides of Chucky. He was only way too happy to leap up and take our pictures.)



I think Jo Jo was a little overwhelmed and excited—she didn’t really touch her food—but every time the staff came out with a birthday cake to serenade someone she clapped her hands and sang along as well. The moms at the tables near us kept looking over at us smiling, murmuring “she’s adorable” and I sat there in my mommy stretch pants kvelling over the compliments.



After lunch we picked out the dolls together, the Bitty Twins. I showed her the box I wanted—a little blonde girl and her brunette brother—and she pointed and said simply, “Jo Jo and Teddy.”

So there you have it. Big Jo Jo and Big Teddy now have their own little mini mes. Along with all the assorted paraphernalia—a trundle bed, various sporty outfits (including a biking set and PJs) and, best of all, their own dolly potty.


You try schlepping 20 zillion pounds of doll crap across Manhattan—it’s not easy. But we did it. And when we got home, Teddy was thrilled with his doppelganger.



Then, this past Sunday, she had her 5th birthday party at Stepping Stones museum. Where a great time was had by all, especially Geoffrey.




ImageWe tried to get a group photo of all three of our small progeny, but Jo Jo and Teddy took off, leaving behind a perplexed Geoffrey, who smiled gamely at the camera for his photo op.



I’m always a bit apprehensive when it comes to Jo Jo and her birthday. The day she was born was both the best day of my life and the worst. I’m still a little bitter that we had to deal with the shock of her diagnosis on that day, and all the accompanying stress that went with it (including her having to ride in a baby ambulance the next day for surgery). I felt cheated that my first birth experience—which is supposed to be some sort of hormonal Nirvana—was actually such a traumatic mess.

But at the same time I can look back at that day and laugh about how scared we were, and how misguided and uninformed we really were.

I can say with all honesty that I love Johanna more and more each day, and oftentimes when I look at her—her silky, flaxen blonde hair, her delicate, cat shaped hazel eyes, her little button of a nose, her rosebud lips—I am blown away by how gorgeous she is.

She’s my fairy princess daughter, my Johanna.





  1. She is gorgeous and reminds me of you.

    • Thanks Colette!
      She’s way cuter than I ever was


  3. Hi Hallie!
    Okay… so it was so nice to meet you yesterday during our afternoon coffee chat in Washington, D.C. Evan and I really enjoyed talking with you and learning about your family. Here is the crazy thing I kept thinking to myself Johanna is a name that I have read before. I was really tired yesterday afternoon, and I think I even remembered saying Jack woke us up at 3:30 am and was pretty much up from that point on! I remember you then saying Jo Jo and it just did not click until last night when I was falling asleep. So of course I got out of bed and did a Google search right away. BINGO! It all clicked together, and I was of course embarassed that I did not make the connection earlier in the afternoon when we were talking. I remember reading your article in Parenting when I was pregnant. Even though the doctors felt confident that Avery did not have Ds I still found myself researching and preparing from time to time. I really just think I knew… can’t explain it just did! I vividly remember seeing your article and my hands were shaking at my desk as I clicked on the link to read something that seemed scary to me at the time… little did I know it would turn out to be wonderful. When I finished I remember feeling so calm and I picked up the phone to call Evan to share your story. So 3 years or so later it was very nice to meet you. Jo Jo is beautiful and I can’t wait to read more of your blog. I hope our paths cross again sometime so we can share stories about our fantastic children.
    Katie Routzahn
    PS- Jo Jo looks so much like you! I am loving the American Girl visit… can’t wait to take Avery in a few years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Oh Katie, that made my night!!! Thanks so much for sharing. I loved meeting you guys. I’m sorry I missed the dinner last night so we couldn’t hang out more. But I’m sure I’ll see you next year…and when you take Avery to NYC let me know and we can go together and make a girls day out of it. That place is crazy and so much fun, I swear

      I hope your meetings went well (ours were awesome) and so inspiring….am totally pumped up now


  4. Hallie,

    I’m not sure what strange series of links led me to your blog–suddenly I thought, “Hey, I know her!” and thought I should say hello. Anyway, your kids are beautiful. I got my own glasses when I was four, so I find Johanna’s pictures with hers familiar/charming.

    I’m sorry for your recent loss.

    I hope all is otherwise well with your family.

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