The Birthday Party

This year I decided to go with a Sesame Street theme for Champ’s birthday. It was his first birthday party with kids his age over, and it was a blast.

This will likely be the only party he has with over a dozen kids, plus their parents attending. Not that it wasn’t super fun, and it honestly wasn’t overwhelming, but next year I’m guessing Champ will be at an age in which he has formed tighter bonds with a few kids. I’ve heard the idea of inviting one child per age of the birthday, so next year we will plan on inviting 3 or 4 kids.

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The invitations

Everywhere I looked online said it was bad taste to include any mention of gifts, even if it’s to say you don’t want any. Who are you to tell people what to do with their money? People like giving gifts—don’t deny them that joy. Et cetera.

So I decided to call it an ABC party. I asked parents to bring their favorite cookie recipe and a list of three of their favorite books. Then I’d compile the list and distribute it to all the parents. We got a ton of ideas, some people didn’t feel obligated to bring gifts, and others brought really great ones. Champ loves them all, and he’s slowly, slowly coloring thank you notes for his friends.

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I designed the invitations, of course, and printed them at home. I designed some cookies based on a Cookie Monster coloring page, printed those out, cut them out, and included them in the invitations. Parents wrote the list of books on the back.

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Presents from us to him

We don’t want our kids to be materialistic, so we limit how much we give them. I’m really big on gift giving, so this has been hard on me, but also freeing. Here are my rules for buying gifts for our kids:

  1. Is it something my child would want or need?
  2. Is it a good deal? (I make a note to never pay full price)
  3. Is it clothing?
  4. Do we already have something similar?
  5. Will it last through at least one other child?
  6. Is it educational?
  7. Is it open-ended / can it serve more than one purpose?
  8. Will it foster imagination and creativity?
  9. Is it something that promotes group play or family time?
  10. Is it something worth buying (as opposed to borrowing or making ourselves)?

We bought him a bean bag chair that was PERFECT. He fell in love with a huge one at my aunt’s house and when we looked, ones of a comparable size that weren’t overstuffed cost $70–$200. We bought what I’ve dubbed “the prune” new at Dock 86 for $30.

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We also got him a LeapPad game, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, to teach him math; a dry-erase book for practicing letters; a Look & Find treasury book; and the Disney animated Robin Hood on Blu-Ray.

Champ also received birthday money this year. We took out 10% for him to give to church, 10% to put into savings, and let him pick whatever he wanted with the extra money. When he starts to get an allowance, he can tithe out of that, so we won’t take 10% out of his gift money for church, but we will still have him put 10% of gift cash into savings.

He chose a water blaster, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask, a Toothless figurine (from How to Train Your Dragon), a play camera, and a tape measure.

From friends, he got play-doh sets, puzzles, a football, books, construction sets, gardening tools, bubbles, sliceable play food…and he’s been playing with all of the toys for the past few weeks. It will take us a while to get through the books!

Party games

What do you do with a dozen preschoolers? I had three mostly unstructured activities for the kids: Homemade Play-doh inside and a Cookie Monster cookie toss and “parachute” game outside.

This is the recipe I used to make a big batch of play dough, but next time I’m going to try this one, which is only slightly different and makes a smaller batch.

Here’s the Cookie Monster cookie toss game. I got the idea from here, but made up different rules and made and painted the cookies with this recipe for dough. The kids loved it, and liked the point system even more when I told them how many points they got.

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How to Play:

1. Have kids line up behind one another, with the box facing the first person.
2. Give 3 cookies to each of the first few kids in line.
3. Each child gets three tosses per turn.
4. Award 1 point for hitting the box, 2 points for getting in the box, 3 points for going through the mouth.

I made a ton of the fake cookies. Some of them cracked while drying, and some broke while throwing. The ones that turned out best were not made with cookie cutters. My advice: shape the dough into balls and squish rather than rolling out and using a cookie cutter. And do not flip them over as they are drying. I turned mine because they were starting to warp, but that just made them crack when they warped back the other way. Warping isn’t much of an issue if you don’t use cookie cutters.

For the parachute game, I bought 100 ball pit balls here and a sheet from Goodwill. The kids grabbed the sheet and shook while I poured the balls onto the sheet, then they flew up like popcorn. We tried it twice before letting the kids just throw the balls everywhere. It was a bit too much structure for some kids that were really excited, and would drop the sheet to try and jump into it. Couldn’t blame them for wanting to be in the middle of that!

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We made a game of picking up all the balls. With some kids I told them to pick up by color, but we just made it a race with most of them.

Party Food

Here’s what we had for treats:

  • Ernie’s Rubber ducky punch with lemon sherbet (where on earth can you get the pineapple flavor?)
  • Oscar’s trash (store bought chex mix on sale)
  • oscar broccoli tray and strawberry elmo tray
  • Big Bird cupcakes
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • “Slimey” sour gummy worms
  • Elmo’s goldfish

Captain also made some pizza bread (Italian loaf, toasted, with pizza sauce and cheese and toppings, heated in the oven)

plates-puzzlesI totally forgot about the fruits and veggie plates until guests started to arriving, so two of my dear friends put them together. The eyes were condiment cups from Culver’s with blueberries for the pupils. Oscar’s were filled with ranch, and Elmo’s were poppy seed dressing. The puzzles were hand-me-downs from my brothers.

I bought freezer pops for all the kids, but just realized they are still in our basement freezer. Oh well.

The cupcakes were my first attempt ever at frosting cupcakes with a frosting bag. hahahahahaha. Candy corn for the beak, and candy eyes from here. You can get them from Walmart or Michaels, too, in the cake decorating aisle.

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Favors

For the favors, I bought bright colored bags ($5 for 12) and added paper cutouts to make them look like muppets.

Inside:

  • a small container of play-doh from Walmart 10-Packs ($6 for 10)
  • a couple cookie cutters (ABC and 123) from this set of 50 for $17.50,
  • a snack size bag of mini-cookies (Walmart brand, 100 calorie variety)
  • a mini rubber ducky ($6 for 12)
  • a punch balloon

They cost about $3 or $4 per bag. I ordered from Prime or bought locally, so I didn’t pay shipping.

Well, I was hoping on including the book and cookies list here, but this has taken a huge chunk of time to compose, so I’ll have to do it later. I’ll link back here once it’s online.

Christmas Party

Yesterday we had an outrageously fun Christmas party, with ugly sweaters, awkward family photos, an ornament exchange, games, food, and much laughter.

Photos

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We had some nice ornaments…

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And some White Elephant ornaments…

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Adam West as Batman, and Nicolas Cage Cats ornaments…
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If you have a weird sense of humor and want some Adam West or NickCageCats ornaments yourself, you can download and print my file here. I don’t own any of the images and made no profit from using them—these are for personal use only!

Menu

  • Cocktail Meatballs
  • Homemade peanut butter cups (filling: 1 cup peanut butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 stick of butter; coating: chocolate almond bark)
  • Chocolate Fondue with fruit, pretzels, and marshmallows
  • Pinwheels (tortilla, cream cheese, ham, and pickle)
  • Da Vinci Dip
  • and these, made with peppermint Kisses (click image for how-to): https://i1.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/-zuSLkgkgeRg/TzG8LNyxQmI/AAAAAAAABII/2Mp5STEOWQY/s1600/pretzel+buttons.jpg

Games

Daily Mom and Toddler Schedule

(Update from 2013: Let me get this out in the open. The following blog post is extremely optimistic. I’m not an organized person, and Life Happens. For a bit of a reality check to compare with the idealism you’ll read below, check out Mom Stress Test and Guilt-Free, Survival Parenting and Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Mom of Two. And in case you’re wondering, I did make up a Mom and Preschooler schedule in the summer of 2013, but I’ve yet to have a day where something didn’t get in the way of our plan for the day.)

As a mom, I feel like I’m always trying to get my life together. I’ve been a preschool teacher, I’ve been a writer and a designer, and now I’m a mom that writes, designs, and takes care of my little man. Don’t even get me started on housework.

But I feel like I’m not alone. Most mom blogs out there talk about getting a good balance between ME time, KID time, HUSBAND time, and HOUSEWORK time. If you’re a Christian, you know you’ve got to throw some LORD time in there, too.

I’ve learned the hard way that even though I’m pretty free-spirited, I need structure in order to actually get things done. So today I took some time out and looked at child care schedules and adapted it for me and for my little man. I’m not a paid day care provider, and there’s only one of me, so I’m not going to be teaching or playing with my son 100% of the time—I’m the cook and the custodian, too.

Here’s our schedule. Already it’s going to be a bit flexible because we have things going on every night this week, and I’m going out to lunch later this week during his usual nap time, but here it is, ideally:


A few notes, in no particular order:

  • “Husband” is underlined in the chart because my word processor doesn’t like gender-specific words. The image is a screenshot because screenshots are easy.
  • Because we’d like to grow our family, I am starting to get Little Champ used to quiet play in the morning, when a baby might be taking another nap. Our family isn’t growing yet, but when it does, then it won’t be as big of an adjustment when there’s another napper in the house. Until then, it’s nice to get some quiet play, for both our sakes.
  • My time is divided between faith living, time with my son, time with my husband, cleaning, cooking, writing, design, drawing (something I need to work on), and reading.
  • Little Champ spends the day playing. I’d like to start structuring his play so that he has some artistic play, building play, and pretend play. Story time is also educational. I am a firm believer in the effects of imaginative learning—the more of your brain you use daily, the smarter and more creative you become.
  • How you spend your time is a good look at what is important to you. My husband and I are trying to be more intentional about living out our faith with our son, even at such a young age. We are also trying to make a point to eat together at meals. Families that eat together and pray together stay together; children who eat meals with their families are less likely to partake in drugs, underage drinking or sex; and intentional eating (opposed to distracted eating) keeps people from overeating and gaining weight.
  • Little Champ is a bit young to understand responsibility (he’s not yet 2), but he sees my husband and I cleaning, and we try to involve him. I let him help me put the clothes in the dryer, he helps me “sweep” with his own broom, and he helps us put away his toys. If he didn’t eat in a high chair, we’d be teaching him how to bring his plates into the kitchen. Maybe I’ll start looking into a little table for him to sit at, so he can learn to pick up after meals.
  • I’ve seen other moms’ schedules here in the blogosphere, and most of the time is spent watching TV. There’s a reason we don’t have TV. Educational shows or not, TV teaches kids to be absorbers, not performers; consumers, not creators. That’s why I highly value play time, and learning through play. I also want to teach my children to be active and responsible. I may allow my son to watch Shaun the Sheep (purely for fun) or Sesame Street (educational), but I limit it to 1 hour MAXIMUM per day. He probably watches about 2 hours per week.

Your turn. Are there ways you can see that I might improve this schedule? What has worked for you?

(Future me again, from 2013. Champ watches way more TV when I’m exhausted or when Lion is teething or sick. I don’t want to know how many times he’s seen every episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates and The Magic Schoolbus. Educational TV has helped his vocabulary and ability to empathize. However, he has far more fits on days I let him watch TV. So don’t feel bad if your child’s been watching a ton of television! Just be sure to get them creating, playing, and socializing in real life, too)