Category Archives: Activities

Baking Birthday Party!

Congratulations to “semicrunchymomma,” who wins the Estelle headband from Guavaloo for her little girl! Thanks to all who liked & shared!

birthday girl

This darling girl turned 4 this summer, & she told me back in JANUARY (she plans ahead like her mama) that she wanted a “baking party, with cupcakes & pizzas & chef hats.” What fun!

dessert table

I had a field day with my cricut’s cupcake font for the “happy birthday” banner & these fun chandelier hangings my husband suggested:

chandelier

I also used the cricut to freezer-paper stencil custom “Chef [name]” aprons for each of the kids. Kid-sized apron & chef hat sets were around $5 each from Chefskin on Amazon. I kept the party small–8 kids total–to keep cost & chaos to a minimum.

This fun garland was just cupcake papers of different sizes & colors randomly threaded onto embroidery thread with an embroidery needle!

cupcake paper garland

While we waited for everyone to arrive, the chefs colored their very own restaurant menus…

menu 1menu 2

…drawn by the very talented Sister Alison Bowe, a missionary currently serving in our ward! (I enlarged them to 11×17 for the kids.)

menu 3As the menus said, once the kids were all there & dressed as chefs, they got to make pizzas. Our local Grimaldi’s donated the dough, & “Chef Dad” tossed it pizzeria-style before the kids “decorated” them, in the birthday girl’s words.

pizza
Tasty!
pizza 2Then they made fruit, yogurt, & granola parfaits. So that not ALL of the party food was junk.

parfait makingFinally, the part everyone was waiting for: decorating cookies & cupcakes! With like 6 different colors of frosting & more than a dozen kinds of sprinkles, what could go wrong?

cupcakes and decorationscookiesTurns out, not a whole lot. Luckily all of the parents stuck around to help out, which minimized the mess, & the kids took their decorating very seriously!

decoratingdecorating 2The birthday girl loved that she got to decorate her own birthday cupcake!

candles(I used this beet red velvet cupcake recipe. Had to counteract all that sugar somehow, right? See what a conscientious party host I am?)

Each kid got to decorate 4 cookies & 2 cupcakes. They ate 1 of each at the party, & the rest went home in these cute treat boxes from Michael’s, finished with baker’s twine & a darling tag.

favor boxWhat a fun time we all had! Special thanks to Ursula Borrack for capturing such sweet photos of this sweet party!

Shared at Tater Tots & Jello

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Quick Kid Craft: Patriotic T-shirts.

patriotic shirts

This year we wanted to wear something a little different for the 4th of July, so we undertook this easy t-shirt craft after seeing a friend post a picture of her son wearing one. It takes only a few minutes apart from drying, & you can even “girlify” it with a little ribbon! I took sharp scissors & snipped small cuts in the shirt, either on the front pocket, or around the neck. Just make sure you have an even number. Thread the ribbon through & tie into a pretty knot or bow, then squeeze a little hot glue inside the knot to keep it from untying in the wash. Now, if your little girl has an abnormally large head like mine does, you may want to snip the ribbon where it doesn’t show & safety-pin it after she pulls it over her head. Didn’t think about the fact that it needed to stretch… Whoops!

Now on to painting!

What you need:

  • kid-sized white t-shirt (I got mine at Target for $5 each)
  • red & blue paint (you can use fabric paint, but acrylic is so much cheaper–usually less than 50 cents a bottle–& I’ll show you how to heat-set it at the end for the wash)
  • 1″ foam brush
  • 2 paper plates

What to do:

  1. Squeeze a generous amount of your blue paint onto one paper plate & spread it around.
  2. Place your child’s left hand in the paint, coating well. Then carefully help her stamp her hand, fingers outstretched, on the left side of the shirt. Clean off her hand &, if she’s young, let her go play while you do the rest. (By the way, 14 months may be a tad young for this craft; my little one kept squelching her fingers together & I had to spread them myself.)
  3. Squeeze some red paint onto the other paper plate & use your foam brush to paint stripes next to the handprint. The foam helps keep the stripes a nice uniform width. Paint as many stripes as you think look good!
  4. To heat-set: When the paint is completely dry, place a doubled-up paper towel inside the shirt & on top of the painted part, then iron on the cotton setting (high heat) for about a minute. Now you can wash it after they wear it!

If you’re looking for a place to wear your new shirts, how about organizing an indoor “parade” through a nursing home? That’s what we did yesterday, & it was a wonderful experience. We rounded up some friends from our MOMS Club, decorated up our wagons, waved some little flags, & played “Stars & Stripes Forever” on repeat on my iPhone with some little speakers as we marched through the halls. The residents were very appreciative of visitors, & it was a great experience for the kids! They loved marching & getting so much attention, & it was a great teaching moment about how good service can make us feel. My 4-year-old kept saying, “Mommy, they’re so happy to see me!”

decorated wagon

nursing home parade

Where will you wear your patriotic shirts?

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General Conference FHE

Hi friends! I’m hoping to start getting back into posting, at least occasionally. I still have lots of great ideas; I’m just trying to focus right now on living them rather than photographing them. But I think this one in particular will help many of you.

This weekend is General Conference, when the prophet, apostles, and other leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak to the entire Church and tell us what the Lord would have us hear about how to keep Christ in our lives and be better people. I’m sure many of you have tricks and traditions to keep your kids occupied and focused so that everyone can hear the messages. We play Conference Bingo, let my preschooler color pictures and do activities in special Conference packets, and have picnic lunches in the living room (the only time food is EVER allowed there).

But the big challenge we were facing was how to remember, retain, and apply what was said during that special weekend! Here is what my husband and I came up with two Conferences ago:

Conference FHE poster

We made 2 posters, with photos of each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, and every week for Family Home Evening, we taught a 3-year-old-friendly condensed version of one of their talks. We distilled the talks down into either a direct quote or a summary (often the talks touched on so many topics, we had to just choose the one we felt applied best to our family) and wrote that next to the speaker’s name. Then I did my best to draw a symbol or picture to help my pre-reader remember. I am no artist, but I like to think that my drawings mostly resemble what they’re supposed to represent…

The posters hung in our hallway, where we (and any visitors to our house) could pass by them often and recall some of the lessons. I can’t tell you what a difference this made in our family! My older daughter now knows all of their names by heart, and could tell us what they taught. It was a huge help for my husband and me too; I still remember the topics of that Conference better than any before or since (we moved the day before last Conference, so that whole weekend was a blur).

As an added bonus, our FHE lessons were pre-planned for 15 weeks!

conference poster

To do this in your family, just buy 2 standard-size white posterboards. Divide each into 8 parts. Print approx. 3″x2″ (wallet-size) photos of each member of the First Presidency sand Quorum of the Twelve. Hang the posters in your house. Ahead of every FHE, consult your Conference Ensign or lds.org for your lesson topic. We always reviewed the previous lessons each week as well.

What Conference traditions and tricks do you use to be able to listen and remember what is said?

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Getting into the Olympic spirit.

I love the Olympics.

I love the athleticism, competition, the drama, & how for 2 weeks every 2 years (we’re thinking winter too) everyone becomes an expert. I love watching people from all over the world come together in the spirit of sportsmanship. And I love that this year I get to pass it on to The Munchkin.

Why are the Olympics so important? Why bother giving Olympic Fever to the rising generation? My friend Kalani wrote a fantastic essay answering that question. There are so many important lessons that athletic competition can teach kids: patriotism, the importance of working hard, how to be a good sport, & – perhaps most importantly in this age of rising childhood obesity – that moving is fun.

So I encourage you to let your Munchkins watch a competition or two with you this year to help them catch The Fever. Here’s how we’re starting with ours.

We’ve decided to let her stay up late to watch some of the Opening Ceremonies Friday, & have started getting her into the spirit by introducing her to the logo & the colors this week by decorating the apartment a little at Munchkin height. We made our own Olympic Rings into a paper chain, with The Munchkin telling me which color strip came next. After just one sheet of construction paper of each color, she had those colors down!

Next she drew her own Olympic Rings. Not a bad first attempt!

Finally, to help her learn a little more about the sports & the competition, I made up a quick medal count chart using clip art to illustrate each category. I had no idea there were so many! If you want one of your own, download it here. Get the medals here — you may need to add extra paper on the side for the swimming category, if it’s anything like 2008 was!

We have a couple other ideas too that I’ll be posting soon. How are you introducing your kids to the Olympics?

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Mermaid Party Redux.

My last post talked about why we shouldn’t overdo it on the party planning. But purchasing everything pre-assembled can get pricey, so here are a few cute things I did to save money & personalize it a little for my Munchkin. I was so busy having fun that I didn’t meticulously take pictures of my handiwork, but I think that’s a good thing (except when I’m trying to explain to other people what I did).

For starters, this is the party theme I bought. However, rather than buying everything to fit the theme, I saved money by only buying the swirly hanging decorations (see below), tablecloths, invitations, & dessert plates. For everything else–flatware, napkins, dinner plates, & even a couple extra tablecloths–I bought cheaper, solid-color items in the party’s colors: light blue, purple, & hot pink. I also got balloons in those colors.

The Munchkin was insistent that the kids all wear party hats, so we got assorted solid-color ones at Party City that happened to match the theme colors really well, then decorated them with sea animal stickers together. She loved helping! In previous years I would’ve been too much of a perfectionist to let her help.

(In the interest of full disclosure, we learned rather quickly that paper hats tend to dissolve after several minutes atop wet heads. But they were fun & they stayed on for the cake, which is what The Munchkin wanted anyway.)

Now for my favorite part: the favor buckets. I bought these sandcastle buckets from Party City for 99 cents (my advice: sign up for their emails before you order; I started getting all sorts of discount offers after I’d placed my order!). They come in 8 different colors, so I’m sure they’d match your theme colors. Then I filled them with awesome cheap sea-life-themed favors from Oriental Trading Company. I hate the buckets that are full of useless crap, so I tried to choose things the kids would actually like to use. The Munchkin loves bubbles, stickers (those were from Party City & also delightfully cheap; we bought extra to decorate the hats with), & stampers, so we included those & a squirty fish thing, then a bag of Goldfish & just a few pieces of candy. To assemble them, we grouped like items together & formed an assembly line; it taught The Munchkin to follow patterns!

These buckets would be great for any ocean-type theme. They received lots of compliments, & they were simple & inexpensive!

Next, the thank-you notes that came with the party supplies were the fill-in-the-blank kind. Those are great for kids who are learning to write, but The Munchkin’s still young enough that I’m doing the writing for her. So fill-in-the-blank would be kind of a copout. Instead, I bought blank notecards from Target (again, they come in lots of cute colors) & puffy stickers from Michael’s (can you tell I like stickers?). The Munchkin & I decorated the cards in little sea life scenes. You could do this with any theme imaginable & it’d look great!

Last but not least, activities. One of the great perks of having the party at the splash park was I didn’t have to coordinate activities. But with Tropical Storm Debby threatening, I came up with a couple last-minute things to keep the kids busy under the pavilion in case we had a momentary downpour. I printed an Ariel coloring page & a couple of sea animal coloring pages & had a bucket of crayons. Then we let the kids make jellyfish. To prep, just cut cheap white paper plates in half & have streamers & a stapler handy. The kids color their jellyfish, & then you tear off some streamers & staple them to the straight side. So easy!

So there you go! Hope this helps with the planning of any ocean-themed parties in the future. Just remember to listen to your own Munchkin rather than what the professionals on Pinterest think, & keep it simple: if you overdo it this year, you’ll just have to try to outdo yourself next year!

Good luck!

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The Munchkin’s Best Birthday Yet.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t make a single thing for this birthday party.

And it was AWESOME.

And I don’t regret it one bit.

Way back in February The Munchkin told me she wanted a mermaid party. “Not a ‘Little Mermaid’ party, a mermaid party.” I love this girl! She makes up her mind & sticks to it. With all this prep time, I had grand designs for customized printable invitations, themed food, etc., but the reality of a newborn, & family in town for said newborn’s baby blessing (isn’t she cute?), set in really quickly. Still, it took awhile to get past the mom guilt brought on by picture-perfect Pinterest parties. Do I love my child less because I bought my (still cute) decorations from Oriental Trading Company, hand-wrote fill-in-the-blank invitations, & ordered a — gasp! — supermarket cake?

Absolutely not! I realized that in past years I had poured so much of myself into these events that, not only was I so stressed out I was stressing everyone else out, but I was seeking validation from other people instead of my Munchkin. This year my only pre-party panic moment was about whether we should pay a hefty deposit to move the outdoor party inside because of Tropical Storm Debby. Thanks to a lot of prayer (& even, in a weak moment, an email to the FOX 13 morning meteorologist), we kept the party at the splash park just like she wanted, & we all got to actually enjoy it.

So I’m writing this to let my fellow “just moms” out there that you don’t need to order custom everything from Etsy or specialty bake shops or whatever. You don’t need to impress the grownups there. Sometimes a splash park, a Publix cake, & some party hats with stickers on them are all you need to make a birthday girl’s day.

That’s what’s important!

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TV: What they should (& shouldn’t) watch… & what you should watch after they go to bed.

TV is EVERYWHERE. I lost count of the number of TVs in the Red Robin we ate at on Labor Day (there was even one in the floor… what?!). There were TVs in the waiting room in The Munchkin’s pediatrician’s office in NJ. There are even TVs in the checkout aisles at grocery stores, above the pumps at gas stations, & on the PATH trains into the city! So how can you keep your kid under that 2-hour suggested screen time limit?

I can’t answer that for you.

What I can answer for you, though, is what we do to at least try to limit The Munchkin’s time in front of the tube, & how you can help your kids make better choices about what they’re watching in those 2 hours or less.

As well as some good choices for you too.

My good friend Lauren is blogging on TV choices as well over at her blog today; check it out!

Screen time tips

  • Don’t leave the TV on. It sounds silly & obvious, but I’ve walked into too many homes where the TV is just on for background noise. When the program you have chosen for your child (yes, chosen… see below) is over, turn it off. No amount of kicking & screaming changes this in our house. Also, if you need to have news in the morning as you get ready, use the radio in the kitchen.
  • Set expectations & stick to them. The Munchkin knows that she can watch in the morning while Mommy’s getting ready, & sometimes in the evening while I’m making dinner, if it’s not one she can help with. That’s it. Occasionally we will have a rainy-day movie, but it’s just that: occasional.
  • Know that kids are sneaky. & take the appropriate precautions. Even at her age, The Munchkin knows how to turn on the TV & DVD player (thankfully not usually at the same time). Keep the family TV & computer in public view, & hide the remotes. (That last tactic worked wonders when I was growing up because we’d broken the power button on the TV, so no TV ever got watched until after homework was done. We never did find where my mom would stash the remote all those times…)
  • No TVs in kid rooms. Period.

Choosing what to watch

When they’re young, it’s easy. They don’t have friends & commercials telling them they should be watching. Though, in the aforementioned pediatrician’s office one day, Spongebob — the Ren & Stimpy of the new generation — was on, & despite my best distraction efforts, she zoned completely. Then like a week later we were walking in front of Dylan’s Candy Bar when she saw him again & recognized him. How do they do that?! Those Hollywood ad people have no souls.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I think it’s important to help your kids choose shows that you can tolerate. I, personally, want to take a power drill to my right temple every time Dora is on. So we don’t play it in our home. You can’t say “no” to everything (which I imagine will become very tempting in the tween years judging from the after-school lineup on Disney Channel), so suggest something you can say “yes” to. I have very fond memories of evenings spent with my dad & my siblings watching Rocky & Bullwinkle, followed by The Muppet Show.

The only suggestions I have are for little kids, because that’s who’s watching TV right now. Those of you with older kids, please give your suggestions!

  • Sesame Street: Teaches kids stuff (The Munchkin may or may not have taught herself how to jump after an “Elmo’s World”), not annoying (except “Abby’s Flying Fairy School”), & even celebrity guest stars & jokes that parents can appreciate (I still think of the Sesame Street versions when I hear Feist’s “1-2-3-4″ or Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” on the radio). But even The Munchkin got over it after awhile. Now she’s into…
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Okay, so the writing’s not going to be winning awards any time soon, but at least not everyone has the EXACT SAME voice with the EXACT SAME inflection (cough cough, Dora). The characters solve a problem in each episode, & I like that they’re resourceful with their “Mouseketools:” for example, they needed to transport sand somewhere, & one of the tools was a few pillows — they emptied them to carry the sand in the pillowcases.
  • Curious George: Honestly, this is my favorite. (Is that weird to say?) It’s well-written & teaches kids about lots of different things. The Munchkin & I always have lots to talk about after each episode.

I think the important thing is to teach your kids (when they get old enough, of course) to be active consumers. Just because my friends were all watching Beavis & Butthead in middle school, doesn’t mean that I could turn off my brain (or stay up that late, for that matter) to watch it too. But how can you teach them that?

The main thing is to be an active & discerning consumer yourself. So we’re old enough to watch TV-MA now. Does that mean we have to? Well, that’s up to you & your family. But here are my 2 cents:

I don’t like to watch stuff that makes me feel gross, sad, or uncomfortable. We had to stop watching 24 after a couple seasons because of all the torture. The Office just wasn’t funny anymore — just awkward. The Mentalist was really good, but it just left us feeling depressed or disturbed afterwards most of the time. So if something you’re watching leaves you feeling less than desirable — or like you just murdered 85,000 brain cells by watching it – just stop watching. Here are the shows that make us happy:

  • Psych: This show makes me laugh harder than anything else. Lauren should be talking more about the finer points of this gem, as well as Monk, which is sadly over but still great.
  • White Collar: Another USA Network program that does a great job of keeping it clean & entertaining. The cinematography & costuming are beautiful (oh, ok, & so is Matt Bomer). Rundown: FBI agent catches brilliant con artist & gets him a “work release” from prison to help out his elite team in New York.
  • Chuck: The usual nerd-boy-meets-hot-girl-&-goes-on-spy-missions-with-her love story. Brilliantly written, clean, funny, action-packed. I have yet to introduce this show to someone who didn’t immediately love it. But this is the last season, so if you’re just tuning in, start at the beginning. Please.
  • Bones: The only drama on the list, this is actually classified strictly as a “dramedy” because it’s generally so lighthearted. Brilliant Smithsonian forensic anthropologist (Emily Deschanel) consults on murder cases with strong but sensitive FBI agent (David Boreanaz). Her team of “squints” is awesome too. I’m just sad Zac had to leave… I hope they write him back in eventually.
  • The Middle: We first started watching this because it was about a family in Indiana (we were living there at the time), starred Patricia Heaton & the janitor from Scrubs (see below), & it looked funny. We keep watching it because it is funny. Each of their 3 kids falls on a different point in the social spectrum, & their misadventures are totally relatable. It’s a very family-friendly comedy with no social agenda, unlike the family comedy that comes on ABC after it. (I think Lauren will be covering that one, since I’ve only seen one episode.)
  • Frasier: An oldie but a goodie. Still SO funny. Niles is my absolute favorite.
  • Scrubs: A story of love, friendship, bromance, & what it’s apparently like to be a young doctor who reminisces to himself all the time.
  • How I Met Your Mother: We just started watching reruns because they were on after Frasier, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but it’s funny. & it takes place in New York. Win! Oh, & it’s also what I watched while I wrote this post.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 2 of 2: Settling in.)

We’ve been here a week now & only have a few (granted, giant) boxes left to unpack! Hooray! It feels a lot better than where we were 3 weeks ago. Or even a week & a half ago:

Yikes!

Now that we really are settling in, I thought now would be a good time to post part 2 of my “preparing your child for a move” series. Part 1, before the move, is right here.

The Munchkin playing in the boxes before the move... Recognize the beer boxes I talked about in the last post?

Here some ideas about how to help your kids adjust to your new home & neighborhood:

  • When you & your stuff first get to your new place, let your child help unpack & decide where something should go in her room. This can give her a sense of control when things are crazy.
  • Set your kids’ rooms up (the furniture, at least) right away. Especially if you’ve been driving a few days, it’ll feel good to be reunited with your stuff. Plus, sleeping in a new, big, empty room is creepy.
  • Try to get pictures back up on the walls again as soon as possible to make it start feeling like home.
  • As you unpack, talk about what’s better about your new place: “There are so many shelves in your new room for all of your toys!” etc. (The Munchkin’s new room is so cavernous we need two nightlights just to see at night! Whereas ours is barely big enough for our bed & dressers. How is that fair?)
  • Even though things are hectic, try to get involved in your new community as quickly as possible to make new friends. Congregations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as wards, are organized geographically. So as soon as we knew our new address, we were able to find out which ward we would belong to! If you’re not LDS, find a church or temple to attend. Involve your children in lessons, Gymboree, or after-school groups to meet the other parents & help your kids make friends.
  • Speaking of making friends, teach your child how to introduce herself to new people.
  • Just like before you moved, try to take a little while off from unpacking to give your children attention. Take an hour or two to drive around your new town. Find a new neighborhood pizza place to call “yours” (we just found ours!). Locate the library & get a library card. Go play on the playground nearby!
  • Once you get more settled in, if you feel up to it, hold a housewarming party & invite people from your new community!
  • Even with all the craziness, try to stick to naptime & bedtime routines as much as you can. With everything else changing, it’s helpful to have a familiar routine to hold onto.
  • Understand that certain milestones like potty training & sleeping through the night may regress or suffer setbacks for a little while during this transition. Your kids might start acting out a little more than usual (ours sure did) too. It’s normal.
  • Lastly & most importantly, emphasize that no matter where you live, your family will be together, & that’s what matters!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

 

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 1 of 2: Before you leave.)

We’re moving. In a week & a half. Yikes!

Since that’s what’s on my mind right now, & since lots of people move during the summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips for helping your kids adjust to moving to a new place. Today I’m posting on how to prepare for the move itself; later I’ll post on how to settle in.

  • Show your kids photos of your new home & new town. Help them find reasons to be excited about the new place. The Munchkin is especially excited to be near the beach.
  • If you are packing yourself, START EARLY. Last year, with a husband taking law school finals, I started packing two months in advance while The Munchkin napped. There’s only so much you can pack that far ahead of time (you’re using everything else too frequently), but it really helps as you get down to the wire. It also helps your 10-month-old skip crawling in favor of cruising, because there are handholds everywhere!
  • Also if you are packing yourself, don’t pay for boxes! I had hoarded diapers.com boxes for months. Any time you get a package, collapse the box right away & stash it in a closet. Another great resource for free packing boxes is liquor stores; just go in & ask for some of their beer boxes. They’re the perfect size & durability for books & other heavy things. The people helping you move in might look at you a little funny though…
  • If your firm is paying for movers, PRAISE HEAVEN. The end.
  • Try to keep pictures up on the walls as long as possible. Even if there are boxes everywhere, having these familiar touches will help keep home feeling like home right up until you move.
  • Moving is a time-consuming process. Even if you’re not having to pack everything yourself, there are still things like getting a place to live, arranging for utilities on both ends, forwarding mail, etc. Kids can feel neglected; take a few minutes every day to just listen to them & give them your undivided attention. Even better, let them choose something special to do to take some time away from moving. This brings me to…
  • Have a “bucket list” of one thing each family member wants to do in your old town before you leave. This will help everyone feel valued (see above) & let all of you “say goodbye.” The Munchkin really wanted to go on the “mewwy-woun.” We’re also planning final visits to Magnolia & Shake Shack.
  • If you have time, throw a goodbye party with friends! Or let a friend throw one for you! That way everyone can say goodbye at once.
  • Speaking of friends, explain to your kids that they won’t get to see their friends all the time anymore. Let them know it’s okay to be sad & miss them, but encourage them by saying that they’ll be able to make new friends in your new town.
  • Explain the moving process to young kids: “A man will pack up your toys & clothes & put them in a big truck (bonus points for showing them the truck if they love trucks) & drive it to our new house! We’re going to drive separately in the car, & our things will meet us there!” {We just had a Family Home Evening about moving, where we talked about Nephi’s family in the Book of Mormon & how they moved to a new place too, & they packed up all of their things as well (see 1 Nephi 18:5-6). After we explained the process, we did the activity below.}
  • Parents magazine just had an article about helping kids adjust to moving, & one thing I thought was a great idea was to let your child decorate her own “treasure box” with stickers to put her favorite things inside. Then take it with you in the car so she isn’t separated from it. Here’s The Munchkin’s treasure box; the first thing she did was put in the 3-inch plastic Woody & Jessie dolls that go with her everywhere lately.
  • MAKE SURE THE LOVEY DOESN’T GET PACKED. IT GOES IN THE CAR. THE END.
  • Lastly, take a minute to say goodbye to your old house. (This was another Parents idea.) During your last meal there, likely on paper plates in your empty house, let each family member say his or her favorite memory of living there. Get your kids excited about making new memories!

Any other tips for moving with kids?

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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How to make a licensed character party look homemade.

Have you ever noticed that the parties featured on all those professional party planner blogs all have generic themes, like bubbles, cars, or even just colors? But your kids aren’t going to request a “pink damask” party theme; they’re going to request Hello Kitty, Superman, Elmo, or, say, Mickey. So how can you give them what they want while still adding a personal, homemade touch like the professionals do? Do it yourself!

The Munchkin and SIX — yes, six — of her playgroup friends all have birthdays within a few weeks, if you can believe it. So the moms all got together & decided that, rather than spend the whole month of June going to each other’s birthday parties, why not do a joint party? We just had to figure out the one thing all seven could agree on: “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”!

I quickly volunteered to be in charge of the decorations, & I did everything with a personal, homemade touch with just over $30! You can too!

Here’s what I used:

  • a few feet of grosgrain ribbon (you can see it in the banner in the photo above)
  • 3 sheets of posterboard (34 cents each at Target)
  • 3 rolls of streamers: red, yellow, Caribbean blue
  • 3 cheap vinyl tablecloths in the same colors
  • The Munchkin’s coloring books
  • a few minutes at Kinko’s
  • The Munchkin’s crayons
  • my friend’s Cricut & her Mickey cartridge
  • free Disney fonts I downloaded from online

That’s it!

I started by going to my friend Maile’s house, where she very graciously helped me cut out dozens of Mickey shapes. That shape is forever seared in my brain. It reminded me of when we learned about children’s book author Bill Peet, who got his start as an inbetweener in Disney’s animation department, but quit when he had a nervous breakdown while animating a Donald Duck cartoon & ran out of the building screaming, “No more ducks! No more ducks!” As I was gluing (& gluing. & gluing.) I thought several times, “No more Mickeys! No more Mickeys!”

But seeing it all put together was totally worth it. The Mickeys ended up all over the place, like on these treat bags. It was a great way to reinforce the theme in a less cartoony way. (I attached a Sharpie on a ribbon to the sign to let the parents write their kids’ names on their bags.)

I used more Mickeys & some brightly-colored cardstock I already had to make placecards for the dessert table. Please forgive the really horrible rubbing out of names… I haven’t spent the $24.95 for the good version of Picnik to do name-blurring the right way. But under the horribleness is each name in free Mickey font. The other 6 kids got Wal-Mart cakes in the Disney character of his or her choice, but we’re cake snobs in this house, & besides, I’d been envisioning this Toodles cake for months. So that’s what The Munchkin got. I’ll post the tutorial Friday!

The signs were photocopies I enlarged from The Munchkin’s coloring books at Kinko’s (for a whole $2.06 total) & glued onto pieces of posterboard. Then My Husband The Artiste & I spent an evening coloring them in while watching Newsies. (Could our family get any more Disney? Maybe I should look into sponsorship or something for all this product placement…) Here are some of them; the “Birthday Clubhouse” logo was designed by the aunt of one of the birthday boys, who’s a professional photographer & graphic designer. She used it for the awesome invitation she made, which I for some reason can’t edit my ghetto way & still save. I’ll try to get it from her so you can see all its awesomeness.

We put each of the characters on a pillar of the Clubhouse, which was the gazebo outside our apartment complex. Perfect, right?

Even more perfect was the fact that Mickey Park was right next door! The kids entertained themselves by playing on the adjacent playground, drawing with sidewalk chalk like Daisy, & fishing for more treats for their treat bags with a “handy fishing rod” my friend Wendy made from a paint stirrer, some yarn, & 2 felt hands glued on either side of a clothespin. Total cost: $2.

Finally, here’s the food table. We had two kinds of chips & homemade salsa from my friend Halley (one was a fruit salsa I am definitely making & hopefully posting in the near future), Mickey-shaped cheese (find them at Wal-Mart) & crackers, chocolate covered raisins, Swedish fish (I mean, “Gooey Fish”), fresh fruit, & Hot Diggity Dogs (find them at Costco).

I made the banner & table tents from more of that scrapbook paper & free Mickey font.

So there you have it! All you need is some paper, coloring books, & creativity, & you can have a beautiful birthday party & a very happy birthday Munchkin…

…or seven!

Don’t forget to come back Friday to see the Toodles Cake tutorial! Here’s a sneak peek:

works for me wednesday at we are that family36th Avenue

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