Category: Party

How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween

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If you have never heard of sensory processing disorder you are not the only one. Most parents do not know what this is until their child is diagnosed with the disorder. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may have no clear and final definition of what makes your kid tick. Every kid is different and it can take time to identify your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

As unique as your child is, so is the way their brain processes things like smell, taste and touch. Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag on their shirt, or the seam in their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. If you have a kid with sensory issues you are not alone! One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone having to wear an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

Both of my children have mild sensory issues which mostly involves volume levels and large crowds. When they were little I didn’t take them very far on Halloween. The year we let them choose on their own which houses to stop at was the year they decided they liked trick or treating. Now we let them take us as far as they want to go, we carry extra snacks and we call it quits when they get overwhelmed. We begin our evening slow and head home in time to hand out treats.

I polled some of my mom friends who are in the know about sensory processing and the sensory demands of Halloween. The best piece of advice: is to not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough. My friend Erin shares that one year she let her son go as himself at his request. “Thankfully the people around us accepted that. And he had a great Halloween because he could do his own thing.”

MOM TIPS

Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint. Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up. For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great. For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light. If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.

PRO TIPS

Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

It may also be helpful to pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand. If they know they are only going to 5 or 6 houses nearby, they can feel a sense of control ticking the number of houses off the list. Seeing familiar faces can also make them feel more at ease.

HOW TO EMBRACE

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises there is no rule that mandates they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake some great treats, make a fun meal together, or if they want to, let them help with handing out candy. Invite the grandparents or family over for pizza and a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! Staying at home where it is familiar may be just what your child needs to celebrate comfortably.

I get it moms! Having to make these kinds of accommodations often feels like our children are missing out on experiences other kids get to have, or the experiences we had as kids. But really, the holiday is about our kid’s enjoyment. If that looks different than the way other families celebrate, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable! Plus, sharing a special night in together as your Halloween tradition is way more relaxing than walking around in the cold wearing a cookie cutter costume.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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How Printables Saved My Sanity – Guest Post

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Hi! I’m Carolina and kitchen printables have saved my sanity. I spent years believing that structure was for control freaks. Then I came to the life-altering realization that I desperately need order. Yes, after having kids. And yes, the kitchen was the place in most need of a change. That’s when printables started to appear on my fridge.

I used to believe that if I couldn’t keep my kitchen exactly the way I wanted it then it was a lost cause. It felt pointless to clean a mess only to have another one moments later. Dishes were dirty and the cupboards were cluttered. Food was going bad with no meal plan for the future. Having kids meant having even less time for chores. And let’s face it, some of us don’t adjust to motherhood in a timely fashion.

Thankfully, I found printables! Turns out there are whole Pinterest boards dedicated to organizing your life via pre-made lists, and worksheets that you can print at home.  While I wasn’t looking to go quite so crazy, I was willing to start with a simple grocery list to slap on the fridge. Guess what? It helped more than I could have imagined!

Once I got used to working with a grocery list printable I decided to expand my horizons. Before I knew it I was printing off cleaning checklists, cooking tips, weekly schedules and anything else that could up my game. Some I found more useful than others as there’s a huge selection online to choose from. The best allowed me to save time, manage my chores, and they even look pretty on display.

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Fast forward a few years and I’ve created my own set of printables to help busy moms like us. These get me through all the weekly chaos between a husband, two kids, appointments, sports, etc. The meal planner gives me a leg up on the week and basically determines my grocery list. The grocery list is divided into sections, so I can shave off a few minutes of misery not having to scan the entire list over and over while running down the aisles after a toddler.

When the holidays roll around, a self proclaimed scatterbrain such as myself needs a way to organize my thoughts amidst all the holiday madness. When I came up with my dinner party plan worksheet that’s exactly what I had in mind. How can I very simply (and on one sheet of paper) jot down the gist of what’s happening and what I need to do to prepare. With an overwhelming schedule, who can expect any parent to just “whip up” a holiday party? Now I can at least see the big picture. How many seats? Does anyone have a food allergy? Did I clean the bathroom that my 7 year old son destroyed? Never underestimate the power of a worksheet!

I’m no Martha Stewart, nor do I want to be. But I also don’t want to live life constantly at the mercy of my limitations as a parent. If I spend a few minutes per week scribbling off a few ideas on these printables it saves my sanity down the line. You know, like the grocery store line that you’ve waited in for 20 minutes only to recall a dozen items you forgot to pick up when you’re FINALLY next at the register. Ugh.

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Give yourself a boost and try out the grocery list or meal planner I’ve put together (everyone needs groceries!). See if it helps you gain a sense of empowerment in the kitchen. It sure did for me when I needed it the most. And besides, I’m always looking for help in the kitchen whether it’s an extra pair of hands or a to-do list I can print at the push of a button.

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* This season on my food & kitchen blog, A Butterful Mind, I’m connecting with busy mamas who are hosting for the holidays. Some love it, some hate it, some just need help! I’ve got a time saving solution that’ll further save you your sanity. Stay up to date with the progress of this e-book via Facebook and Instagram!

carolina-circleCarolina Weick is the creator of A Butterful Mind, a food blog with step by step recipes and kitchen tips. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two kids and is all about the local food scene in Charleston. She’s a goofball who loves Jesus and hates chocolate.

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Oh The Humanity of Game Night

Oh The Humanity of Game Night

Recently a group of my mom friends and I gathered for a game night event that can only be described as adventurous. Nothing about it was hazardous. We didn’t even leave the living room. We simply gathered to play just one game: Cards against Humanity.

Let me start by sharing that this game is NOT for anyone who is uptight, or timid about hearing and using colorful language that includes descriptive sex acts, body parts, bodily functions and worse. The list of offenses can go on. But, now that the disclaimer is out there let me share why this game was so much fun!

As moms we spend our entire day being appropriate. We model for our kids the appropriate topics to discuss at the dinner table. We teach them to use manners and respectful language. We even refrain, with intervention from a force deep inside, from dropping the ole F-bomb on a daily basis. I KNOW I’m not the only one who has stepped on a Lego piece and held back a generous amount of curse words.

Cards against Humanity

Our night wasn’t about getting together to use bad words and yuck it up over innuendos. It was about getting to share some laughs. Plus, it was nice to be in a kid free space eating snacks we didn’t have to share, and drinking our own beverages. We didn’t have to worry about whispering or spelling out words our kids can’t spell yet.  We could really relax and know no one will judge us for the non-politically correct things leaving our mouths because we could blame it on the cards. No one panicked about “how am I going to explain this to my kid later.” The freedom to let loose and go uncensored was darned exhilarating.

Moms playing Cards against Humanity

After the game was over and the cards put away a group of us lingered to talk. We were up well passed our routine bed times. The last time I was up until 1:00 a.m. it included a puke bucket and a thermometer. So, it was a thrill to be up that late catching up with moms I only get to toss out a quick hello to in passing.

I highly recommend starting your own game night with friends! You don’t have to play this game, any game will do. Just find a kid free space to let down your mommy-guard for a short time and relax. I know I felt refreshed and ready to tackle my mom duties the next day.

Tips for hosting an Epic Game Night:

Make sure you have a place for the kiddos to go. Whether it is off to grandma’s house, or upstairs with daddy, you will want a distraction free environment. Make it a place you can truly relax.

Ask everyone to bring their favorite snack to share! It can be as simple as chips and dip, or as fancy as a decadent dessert. Can’t go wrong with store bought!

Decide in advance on beverages. If you want an alcohol free space, or if you would like to include a little wine, make sure your guests know what to expect in your home.

Don’t worry about cleaning the house to white glove standards. You’re inviting moms! They get it! Just make sure there are plenty of comfy places to sit and maybe clean up some of the sticky parts.

Have the group decide on a game and let the fun begin! The mission of game night is to just laugh and connect with friends. Keep the game simple and energetic and the crowd will do the rest!

Got a game night suggestion? Leave it in the comments below!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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On The Sixth Day of Service Rise Together

12 Days of Service

As we are counting down the days until we wake up on Christmas morning surrounded by our families, there are thousands of children in our foster care system just hoping for a family for Christmas. Currently there are around a half of a million children in foster homes in America; many of them waiting to be adopted by a forever family to call their own.

This statistic is pretty heart breaking. But, to hear that foster kids are handed two trash bags upon entering foster care tugs pretty hard at my heart strings too. They move from home to home with their belongings in plastic bags meant to carry garbage.

Kids in foster care get two trash bags to carry their belongings.
Kids in foster care get two trash bags to carry their belongings.

My friend Rachel adopted her beautiful little girl from foster care. At her celebration party Rachel and her family collected comfort items to donate to our local foster kids. They decorated canvas bags and filled them with teddy bears, toys and hygiene items. They donated the bags to the local foster care division at the Department of Social Services.

How can you help? Contact your local Department of Social Services to ask for a list of needed items and arrange for a drop off date. Ask your friends and family for bags and the needed items. Host a get together to decorate the bags and fill them. Kids of any age can help stuff items into a bag and help bring comfort to these vulnerable kids.

The GIVEBACK BOX can assist 10 children in your local community with Care Packages this holiday season.
The GIVEBACK BOX can assist 10 children in your local community with Care Packages this holiday season.

Not sure you have the time to get out and gather up the items yourself? Together We Rise makes it even easier! Make one online donation of $50 to sponsor a sweet case and you’re done! Sweet cases are duffle bags filled with comfort items and hygiene items and it gives children in foster care a more dignified way to move to a new home. You can sponsor one case, or call upon your friends and family to split the cost of a Give Back Box!

For a $250 donation ($25 per person times 10 contributors) you can purchase a kit filled with all the items you need to stuff 10 sweet cases. Host a get together in your home, or round up co-workers at the office to decorate and stuff the bags. Then, deliver to your local foster care agency. Shipping is FREE on the first 20 bags. LAST SHIPPING DATE IS DECEMBER 14TH via FEDEX.

Whichever way you choose to give back it will have a great impact on a child going through a difficult transition. This is a great way to help instill compassion in your young children, and it gives them greater perspective that some kids just need a family.

Watch this clip to learn more about sweet cases:

 

 

Related posts:

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make a Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

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On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

12 Days of Service

My twins birthday is just before Christmas. So, I often like to tie in a holiday give back to their party or on their actual birthday. I found a local agency near me that offers a Birthday Booth. Families who utilize the food pantry began asking for help to provide a birthday cake for their child’s birthday. The director of the agency decided to take it step further and offer a birthday swag bag and one free unwrapped toy along with the cake.

What is a birthday swag bag? It has party supplies (decorative plates, napkins, cups, etc) and a few decorations for a family to enjoy at home. It can also include a gift card from a bakery to purchase a cake. Kids can feel special getting a party of their own and parents can feel relieved being able to recognize their child’s birthday.

Birtday Swag Party

Families who face food insecurity often have difficulty providing a birthday party even for their family at home. Friends of mine who are teachers share that they often host (at school) the only party some of their students will get. But, the birthday booth will help kids get a special party with their family.

How can you help? If there isn’t a specific agency in your area that offers a birthday booth, perhaps you can ask a teacher at your child’s school to start a birthday closet. Teachers often know which families need the help and can hand out swag bags. Ask your friends and family to help you stock the closet by dropping off items at your home. Host a party where the guests can help pack the bags then you can make one easy drop off. For around $10 or less you can fill a small gift bag with coordinated essentials like a table cloth, paper plates, cups, napkins, crepe paper, a package of balloons, a birthday banner and a package of birthday candles. All of these items can be found at the dollar store, or on clearance at other retail stores.

Swag Items

If that sounds like too much for you to coordinate and it’s easier for you to make a donation online here are a few places to donate: The Birthday Project Birthday Wishes The Birthday Box

I am very fortunate that I have some seriously generous friends who donated enough supplies to fill 25 swag bags. After rounding up the donations at my home, the girls and I sorted, packed and delivered the bags on their actual birthday. They got to see the birthday booth in action and I felt like we gave an amazing gift on the day I received my two most precious gifts!

On The First Day Of Service Host A Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host A Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make A Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

12 Days of Service

You’ll start to notice a pattern in these posts. I confess I didn’t leave my house for much the first few years after the twins were born, it was just too chaotic to do by myself. So, I had to get a little creative and figure out ways to streamline my community service without really leaving my house. I held a lot of drives in my home and delivered to one outside location. This made it much easier for me, we met the needs of people in our community and my toddlers could help right alongside of me.

Volunteering your home as a collection site for warm clothes is super easy. Start by contacting a local agency that you know is collecting items and arrange for a drop off date. Decide if you want to collect for one day, or collect over a longer time frame. Send out an email, text or Facebook event asking friends and family to bring their gently used/like new winter coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, snow boots and snow suites they are willing to donate. Put out a collection box and have everyone drop their items inside. That’s it! Once you have collected from your last volunteer you are ready to deliver the items on the scheduled drop off date!

Our coat collection during the girls' 4th birthday party.
Our coat collection during the girls’ 4th birthday party.

If you are not aware of any coat drives happening near you, you can contact your local department of social services and ask if they are collecting donations. Very often they collect for children in foster care who do not have enough winter wear. Most often children taken into foster care leave their homes in a hurry and there may not be enough time, or funds, to secure a coat or boots quick enough. Your donations will help fill that gap for them.

If you are feeling especially festive you can host a drive for an hour or two and put out some cookies and cocoa, or eggnog. (After all ’tis the season to celebrate!). Be sure to send a follow up thank you to everyone who donated. An email or Facebook update with a photo of you and the kids dropping off items makes for an excellent digital thank you card.

Related post: On The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

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Dreams of Chicory and Powdered Sugar on A Winters Day

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Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!

That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.

I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!

Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!

Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:

  • Frozen bread dough
  • Coconut Oil
  • Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
  • Paper lunch sacks
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Ingredients for a delicious snowy morning.

 

Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.

Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).

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Little hands love working the dough!

 

Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.

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The shapes aren’t perfect when you let the kids help. But, it all cooks the same!

 

You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).

Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).

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Doughy goodness before adding the sweet stuff.

 

Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.

Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.

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Personal preference on which type of sugar to use.

 

Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!

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Covering the dough in sugar is the best part!

 

If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.

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Beignet Knock-offs

 

Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).

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Toasting to 30 at the French 75

 

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Pom-poms and cardboard- expensive toys are overrated

My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.

I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.

It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!

 

Easy materials you may already have at home.
Easy materials you may already have at home.
  • Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
  • A pair of tongs
  • 2 empty paper towel tubes
  • 2 empty baskets
  • Tape

 

Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.
Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.

Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).

 

Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.
Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.

To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).

This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.

Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:

 

Pom-pom transfer game – great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and just plain fun!

Pom-pom turn taking game – teach kids the art of patience while they wait to take their turn! Just like Kerplunk!

Pom-pom baby play– For the moms with toddlers (age 1+)

Pom-poms– 10 ways to have fun!

Pom-pom catapult– because this is fun at any age!

 

Why bother buying expensive toys when kids really will play with cardboard and tweezers?

 

 

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Kids just wanna have fun!

If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.

mcdonald's party

If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.

We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.

This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.

Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:

Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.
Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.

I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00

After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.

Our dining room under the sea.

Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.

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Scrap book embellishments are a perfect addition to our fishnet.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.

I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.

Total for decorations = $23.00

For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).

I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.

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Pirate booty.

Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!

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Materials for DIY goody bags.

 

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Our finished goody bags.

 

The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added  “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).

Under the sea mystery box.
Under the sea mystery box.

I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!

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Under the Sea photo booth.

Total for activities = $45

I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that).  Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00

Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).

Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.

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Collecting donations at a birthday party is a super easy way to give back!

 

 

After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.

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Hand crafted and personalized thank you notes.

 

The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!

 

 

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