Alpha Mom » Melissa Summers parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:13:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kid’s Room Inspiration: Five Great Ideas Tue, 09 Sep 2008 11:44:13 +0000

We’ve decided to stay in our home for another year and so we’ll be finishing up the kid’s rooms. For the past year each of the kids have had one big square of the color they’d like on the wall. When people come over they ask if we’re painting. I like to look at them confused and answer “No, why?” Ha! Lazy home decorator humor!
Here’s a collection of five great ideas I’ve had stored in my bookmarks.
ideas for kids rooms
Check out this recreation of the Kura loft bed from Ikea.
From Ikea Hacker:

Luke got a Kura bed for his young daughter Letty. However he hated the blue panels on it. So he flipped the panels the other way round so the white sides were facing out and then used aerosol chalkboard paint to turn the tall end into a chalkboard for her.

ideas for kids rooms
I love this DIY nursery art idea. Using three paper mache art boards, paint, paper and ribbon Evie created this really striking art for nursery walls. I think I can use this idea in my daughter’s room too, provided I use the right images. Which, in her opinion should be photos of The Jonas Brothers.
ideas for kids rooms
Another excellent DIY idea for the walls is this poster size print at Black Eiffel framed as four separate images hung together. This would be cute in a kid’s room or even in other rooms in the house with pictures of your kid (s). Since my kid’s aren’t babies anymore, I could see using pictures of them with their best pals or a family photo instead.
ideas for kids rooms
The other thing I love is kid’s bedroom eye candy. Anna Spiro at Absolutely Beautiful Things has this great collection of ideas. My favorite pick above. I especially love the collection of Pez dispensers displayed on the wainscoting along with the great vintage red school chairs.
ideas for kids rooms
Even more inspiration can be found over at House To Home’s kid’s room inspiration gallery. This room particularly caught my eye because of my little girl’s insistence on a room involving fucshia and orange. These are colors I never exactly imagined together and I fear the combination will radiate right through the wall into my bedroom and I’ll never sleep again. I like how the white balances out the intensity of the accent colors.
Now to convince my daughter this is all her idea.


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Back To School: Lunchbox Inspiration Tue, 02 Sep 2008 12:00:00 +0000

Today was the first day of school and I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my kid. By the end of the year I will have made about 200-some odd peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I know, it’s crazy our school still lets us eat peanut butter and don’t remind me of the possibility they’ll ban peanut products eventually. Because at that point I’ll be picking up my kid at school and bringing her home for lunch. Every Single Day.
My hope had always been that making interesting lunches for my picky eater would encourage her to eat a wider variety of things. What appears to happen is a lot of food ends up in the garbage. Still, our options have slowly grown over the years.
lunchbox ideasMy favorite lunch to send with the kids are these (extremely) simplified bento box lunches. Just some fruit, cheese, crackers and peanut butter. Add a cookie for dessert and you’re done.
lunchbox ideasI wish I loved my kids enough to make these amazing lunches. But apparently I don’t love them like that. Okay, maybe I’ll take enough inspiration and enough love that I’ll try packing pancakes into their lunches once in a while. Biggie’s Flickr stream is a great place for lunch packing inspiration.
lunchbox ideasThe Kid Eats Flickr group is another excellent source for school lunch inspiration. Some of the lunches are a little too involved for me to pull off so early in the morning (or ever) but a lot of the ideas these parents come up with would be great fun to surprise your kid with. Like this hilarious apple.
lunchbox ideasOne suggestion I’ve read over and over while researching school lunch ideas is to get the kids involved. Now, this sounds lovely in practice and if I were a better mother I’d have the kids making their own lunches and I’d never yell in the morning or race them out the door with two minutes to spare. I made a magnetic lunch chart last year so the kids could pick and choose what things they’d like packed in their lunch…without letting the choices devolve into a bag full of pudding, cookies and a side of potato chips.
lunchbox is a new website devoted to your kid’s lunchbox. With articles like “50 Things To Do With Leftover Chicken” and an incredible index of lunchbox recipes I may be able to make lunches without falling asleep for half the year out of sheer boredom.
lunchbox ideasFinally, as always, Family Fun has some great school lunch ideas, especially those they’ve collected from readers. My favorite tips: these peanut butter (again with Peanut Butter!) protein balls. They’re simple to make and quick to eat (this is important at school when the kids have about 20 minutes to eat and lots of chatting to do). I’m also loving these mini pizza ideas. I’ve hesitated to send anything like this because keeping it warm enough seems next to impossible. But then I remembered half our dinner is spent waiting for the food to “cool off”….by the time the kids open a pita pizza at school it should be just right for eating.
Do you have any fabulous lunch ideas that work for your kids? Do your kids get bored if they’ve got the same thing in their lunchbox week after week?


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What They Did On Summer Vacation Tue, 26 Aug 2008 13:19:02 +0000

Just now I asked my kids what we did on summer vacation and they replied, earnestly, “Nothing.”
Which is weird because I remember a few trips I spent hours packing for and doing laundry after. I also remember several hundred dollars spent on activities and pool admission. Ah, childhood.
Getting no good answers from my own kids I thought I’d ask some bloggers what they did on their summer vacations and I didn’t even make them write 1000 word essays.
Sarah at Whoorl took a trip that, were it me, would require a lobotomy before attempting.


From Sarah at Whoorl:
We weren’t sure about attempting a 14-hour road trip from Southern
California to Sun Valley, Idaho with a toddler (especially after he
developed head-to-toe hives two hours into the drive due to a new food allergy), but the remaining drive was virtually painless.
My favorite part of our trip was being able to forget about the computer and explore a new area through a toddler’s eyes. I’m pretty sure nothing beats watching your child’s face light up with delight while experiencing mountains, dandelions and rocky rivers for the very first time.

Lindsay at Suburban Turmoil took her family (minus the younger kids) river rafting. My rafting experience was centered around my goal not to fall out. I admire Lindsay’s proverbial “Balls”.


From Lindsay at Suburban Turmoil:
The rafting trip down the Chattanooga was definitely the highlight of my summer (besides the part where I fell out of the raft, I mean). It was pretty challenging, particularly the part where we climbed down into a 15-foot hole in a rock in the middle of the river, swam through an underwater tunnel, and popped back out into the rapids, but at the end of the day, I was really proud of all of us for doing it together. I also enjoyed having a day off from our little ones, who stayed with their grandparents that day.

Claire, from Loobylu, took her family on an international trip to Canada from Australia. Funny my family spent time on the US side of Lake Huron…of course it was just an hour north of home.


From Clair at Loobylu:
Both girls had a ball – we were extremely spoilt by good family, good weather, good food (I have never seen such huge and cheap containers of blueberries… and need a tub of wild strawberries? Just step out into the yard!) and comfortable beds (so important for the making or the breaking of a holiday, don’t you think?). Now I am already imagining our 2013 Trans-Canadian mega-holiday… Vancouver to Prince Edward Island. Maybe we’ll even find some gorgeous place to set up home along the way. I do like to dream.

Tina from Swiss Miss also took her family on an international jaunt. To, where else, Switzerland.


From Tina at SwissMiss:
We went to a tiny amusement park in the area I am from. My parents used to take me and my sister there when we were litte. When I say amusement park, don’t think of big Disney World style parks, it’s a tiny tiny park that has been around for f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Driving there, with our 2 year old Ella in the back, my sister and I kept reminiscing about the rides we used to love. We both kept talking about the ‘talking garden gnome’ trash can that says “I am hungry, feed me!” and “THANK YOU” in a really deep voice when you feed him trash. We both rememered the gnome being huge. We couldn’t believe that most of the rides that we used to enjoy are still there, as well our friend the talking trash eating gnome. I was surprised to see, that he was not at all as big as I remembered. In fact, he’s quite small. But then again, seeing my daughter Ella Joy standing there, looking up to him, it all made sense. Life is all about perspective.

Georgia from Bossy took her family camping. We also went camping, but did not fare as well. You can virtually vacation with the family here.


From the Bossy Family:
The very best part of the camping vacation was togetherness. And the fact that their pop-up trailer situated the family three feet above the mud. Of course, understand that Bossy’s vacation standards are slipping.

Gabrielle from Design Mom and Kirtsy had an epic summer trip. I guess anytime you take five kids on vacation it’s epic.


From Gabrielle of Design Mom & Kirtsy:
When Ben and I purchased seven plane tickets to Utah (seven!) in early June, we paused for a moment and wondered if we wouldn’t rather spend that enormous amount of money on tickets to Paris. Or on a beach rental in the Hamptons. Or at a resort in Mexico. Any kind of vacation more exotic than visiting the familiar state we grew up in.
But the reality is, the thing our kids want to do most for their summer vacation is see their cousins. And their cousins live in Utah. And this is the same reality for every family I know that is raising their kids far from their siblings and parents — summer vacation = pilgrimage home.
Happily, Utah is the home of amazing national parks, endless mountain ranges, non-stop outdoor activities and family-friendly everything. And no one even flinches when we show up with a crew of 5 kids. So if we have to be there, at least it’s a fantastic place to spend a summer vacation.
We went all over the state. From the very southern border to the very northern border and back south again. Everywhere we went was cousins and friends and aunts and uncles and grandparents. And we loved it.
One of our favorite evenings was spent at the rock-climbing gym. A perfect air-conditioned place for kids to expend their energy when the summer heat is draining. We’ve been to climbing gyms before, but there were some big advances during this visit. 6-year-old Olive made it to the top of the wall for the first time. And then repeated that feat again and again and again. And 3-year-old Oscar, although he didn’t like being attached to the ropes, was all about wearing the harness and could even scurry up the very beginning wall on his own.
But the thing that was especially nice relates to the fact that the wild, wild West is still way more laid back (read: less paranoid about law suits) than the East Coast. Which means, that after a quick and thorough training, it was Aunts and Uncles, Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma, that were running the ropes for my kids and interacting with them. Cheering them. Encouraging them. Knowing when they needed an extra challenge. Knowing when to help them down.
In New York, the climbing gym is still a favorite spot for the Blairs, but the ropes will always be run by a random employee.

What did you do on your summer vacation? Tell us, or link to your pictures.

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Back To School: Five Excellent Fundraisers For Your School Tue, 19 Aug 2008 14:00:54 +0000

A couple of my friends are big jerks and have kids that have already gone back to school. We have a few more weeks to plan everything out. What outfit we’ll wear on the first day, what neighborhood kids will walk together, mimosas or Bloody Marys?
Late last year a reader emailed to ask for a few creative fund raising ideas for her kid’s school. School fund raisers are a necessary evil for almost every school I’ve ever heard of because no matter what the school budget there’s always more extras we can give our kids.
Still I’ll admit to shuddering when the Pizza Sale flyer comes home or when the Fresh Orange & Grapefruit sale comes around….I want to help but man do I hate selling Oranges at the office. Our PTA gets a new fund raising chairperson every two years so this summer there’s been a lot of brainstorming about new ideas.
Here are five of my favorite creative school fund raiser ideas. These fund raisers won’t replace the big programs like Market Day, Entertainment Books and Scholastic Book Fairs but they’ll bring in extra cash to build up the PTA’s budget.
school fundraising ideasWalk-A-Thon
A lot of the fundraisers that come are things like cookie dough and chocolates and pizza. At the same time schools are being forced to cut athletic and gym programs because of budget constraints. The Walk-A-Thon (or Fun Run, or Jump-A-Thon) is a great way to get kids moving and make money for the school. Kids collect pledges per lap (or jump) at $1 each for up to 8 laps. If you want to get a little more involved you could also involve the community by organizing a 5K event. Here’s a short “How-To“.
Car Wash
There are two ways to organize a car wash fundraiser. You can either collect pledges per car the kids wash or you can sell tickets before the event as gifts. Ideally the kids will collect tips to add to the revenue even more. To involve more kids, have a food stand set up selling coffee, juice and bagels.
school fundraising ideasChili Cook Off
A pub in our area holds a popular Chili Cook Off each fall to raise money for our local Boys and Girls Club. Schools love pot luck events so the Chili Cook Off is an easy stretch. Participants make their best chili, a panel of judges chooses the best and you’re done. You can charge for entries, sell tickets to attend, or both. My local pub charges $10 to each participant, and $10 to attend (and taste all the chili you’d like). The winner of the cook off gets a trophy and the participant pot of money, the money from ticket sales goes to the Boys and Girls Club. You can organize your event and distribute money however you choose.
school fundraising ideasOnce a Month Popcorn Sales
For this fund raiser you’ll need to invest in a real popcorn popper. Once a month, each class is responsible for making signs, selling popcorn after school and assigning parent volunteers to spend about an hour popping all the popcorn you’ll need for the sale. Each box sells for 50 cents or a dollar, and the proceeds go to each classroom to spend as they choose. One class at our school used the money to subsidize an end of the year trip to a movie. Another class used it to help pay for their class camping trip.
school fundraising ideasFamily Fun Night Concert
One of the biggest money makers at our schools is an annual Family Fun Night with a performance by a favorite local children’s band, The Candy Band. Two band members happen to be involved in the PTA so that makes things easy. But you can do it in your area if you can find a local children’s band willing to play your event. Look for a band at local events, concerts in the park or the zoo. They’re often willing to play for free or a reduced rate because they’re playing to a captive target audience.
What fund raisers has your organization tried?

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Burning Daylight: Toothpick Sculptures Tue, 12 Aug 2008 15:02:45 +0000

This week I was (as always) pressed for time since we went on our camping trip over the weekend. I usually work on the Burning Daylight series over the weekend but this weekend we were in “The Wild” as I called it every time I didn’t want to worry about something. For example, “Oh, sure…eat a handful of tortilla chips for lunch! We’re in “The Wild”.”
I said I’d update you on how our trip went and I’d say it went really well. I felt far more organized because of all the tips I collected along the way. However, there were no tips pertaining to rain and even though our weather report called for sunny and 80 degrees all weekend we were stuck in a down pour. It filled our tent with dirt and rain and in general gave me a really bad attitude even though I liked the experience before the rain.
All afternoon and evening Friday and until the rain started Saturday I wondered why people seem to hate camping so much. What’s not to love. The kids were swimming and running around and I had an excuse to do just about nothing all day long except read a variety of magazines. Then, on Sunday morning when I put my bra on after it sat in the dampness of the tent all night I realized what it is people don’t like about camping. The potential for soggy undergarments.
So my piece of advice is: camp somewhere it doesn’t rain. But also where it’s not too hot. Camp in paradise I guess is what I’m saying.
Today I looked around my Burning Daylight bookmark folder for a project we could do with things we have around the house. This is harder than you’d think since I am the opposite of a Pack Rat and throw out or give away everything not being used at any given moment.
Like, for example, my husband’s winter coat that’s been JUST SITTING in the closet since March!
I did have toothpicks and putty however so we made these Toothpick Sculptures I saw at Kid Haus months ago. They used marshmallows in place of putty on their sculptures but the temptation of edible marshmallows caused a breakdown in the structure. Hopefully my kids won’t eat putty.
This was a pretty easy project that kept the kids busy for an hour. The how-to is pretty self-explanatory but here are some pictures of the process.

Putty Toothpicks

Creating a triangle

Max's work.

Blurry Maddie



Excellent playground Equipment.


This wasn’t a difficult project but the delicate nature of the toothpicks in the putty requires some patient hands. I’d recommend it for the 7-10 set. One of our sculptures is now decorating our mantle and the other has been taken apart and reassembled three times in the last couple of hours. Who knows where its final resting place will be.
It took about an hour to make the first sculpture and the kids took them apart and rearranged them for another half an hour or so by themselves. Working together. Without killing each other.
It’s a miracle.

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Burning Daylight: Button Necklaces Tue, 05 Aug 2008 10:08:17 +0000

Another week of daylight to burn, another few necklaces. I know I’m leaving my little boy out these last few weeks but he’s been the one with a million things to do each day and my daughter is the one who’s sitting around a little bored.
We ended up making these button pendant necklaces I saw at Crafty Crow because the girls in the neighborhood liked the paper bead necklaces we made last week and wanted more jewelry. When there’s daylight to burn, your wish is my command.
Here’s my first tip O’ the day. CLICK THROUGH THE LINKS when you see interesting things at a “Craft Collective” website. I thought I didn’t need to click through to the original project and could figure out the process all by myself. This is a lot like my (false) belief I have a good sense of direction and don’t need maps.
I decided to use a hot glue gun, buttons, wire and elastic cord to make our button pendant necklaces. (In case you didn’t click through the other links (shame on you); the original idea involved plastic canvas, a needle and thread. This seems much more kid friendly than my version, even with the needle. Hot glue and the way it burns my fingertips takes me right back to those four years I spent as a day camp counselor making the (incredible) salary of $650 for six weeks of searing my fingerprints off.
Still, the kids loved what I came up with, unfortunately my process made it difficult to give a kid free reign to do the project. Maddie had total creative control over where we placed our buttons but, because I lost the roshambo round am the oldest, I was lucky enough to burn my fingers on the hot glue.
Here is our bowl of buttons ready to go.
button necklace craft
This is Maddie arranging her first layer of buttons (almost) exactly as she wants them.

I made our designs by layering several different buttons with a lot of (very hot) glue from the glue gun. Did I mention how it burned my fingers?
button necklace craft
Here I am moving buttons around by demand. Maddie didn’t care it was burning my fingers, she wanted a necklace. A necklace the way she wanted it to look. Is it her fault her mother didn’t read all the instructions before embarking on this task? No.
button necklace craft
To connect our necklaces I used a little wire, twisted into a loop with a long enough tail to be glued along the back of our pendant.
button necklace craft
Here you can see the attached loop with my double chins, you know, as a bonus.
button necklace craft
Here’s another picture of the attached loop where I got wise to the double chin and tried to pretend I was looking for the mailman out the front window.
button necklace craft
To make the pendant turn into a necklace I used the same elastic cord we used to make our paper bead necklaces last week. I cut a length to fit Maddie’s neck and folded it in half, pulling the loop through the wire loop on the buttons.
I then pulled it tight, making the pendant stay put in the middle of the cord rather than swinging around from side to side like a desperate politician. [Rim Shot]
Here is our completed project when my daughter thought I wasn’t going to get any of her face in the frame. Her smile is the focus in this picture, not the necklace. But we’re entering the age when all smiles are precious so I thought you should see it.
button necklace craft
Here is our completed project when my daughter realized I was getting some of her face in the frame. She is frowning, but the necklace is in focus so you can see what we ended up with.
button necklace craft
We made four necklaces and Maddie was excited to give them to the girls down the street. We burned around an hour doing this project because we already had all the supplies we needed. On the one hand it’s not a lot of daylight to burn, on the other it makes it a pretty easy project to throw together with your favorite little kid.
It’s especially nice if your kid likes to see your fingers burned and relishes the chance to tell you exactly what to do (at least when it comes to placing buttons).

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Burning Daylight: Paper Bead Necklaces Tue, 29 Jul 2008 13:00:57 +0000

In summers past, I’ve spent a lot of the time moaning about the endless amounts of daylight I needed to burn with my kids. As evidence please see July of last year and the non-stop stream of craft projects going on in our house and being written about here at the Buzz Off. This summer has been a lot easier and I wish it was because I’m almost 35 and I’m now a nicer, calmer mother who enjoys the endless hours with my kids each summer. Unfortunately that isn’t the case but between my kid’s growing sense of independence and our new (child-filled) neighborhood I haven’t been able to sit down with the kids to do a project of some sort until this week. Even then I was racing to get the project done so the kids could go to a neighbor’s house to swim.
We spent some time at the craft store trying to come up with a project to do together. This paper bead necklace kit from Martha Stewart’s craft line caught my daughter’s eye but it seemed a little silly to me to buy the kit when we have all sorts of extra paper sitting around our house and could reuse all of that.
We came home empty handed and decided to do the project ourselves. Here’s how we made our own paper bead necklace.
This is what you need:
Various paper.
You can use any paper you have around the house, construction paper, newspaper, junk mail or even wrapping paper. We used some crafting paper we had in the basement.
A Glue Stick
Elastic Cord
A Wooden Skewer or Straw
Something to roll your paper around, you don’t need this but we found it kept our beads tight.
Cut your paper into strips. If you make your strips triangular you’ll get a more interesting pattern when you roll up your beads.
With the backside (the part of the paper that rolls up inside) face up, apply glue to the thinnest part of your strip down to about the middle.
Starting at the widest part of your paper strip, start rolling your paper around the skewer. If you’re careful to keep each side rolling at the same rate, you’ll end up with an oval bead. This is more important to your anally retentive mother and less important to the nine-year-old crafter.
Paper Bead Necklaces
When you’re all done you’ll have a bead. Make sure you have enough glue on your bead or it will start to come undone.
Paper Bead Necklaces
Do this a lot more times and you’ll have a small pile of beads ready to be strung on your elastic cord.
Paper Bead Necklaces
Now cut your elastic cord to the size you’d like and start stringing on your beads. You can do them randomly or you can have a pattern in mind. We had a very well thought out pattern that involved several failed stringing attempts.
Paper Bead Necklaces
Ta-Da! Now you have your own handmade necklace that is, coincidentally, sort of green (if you reuse paper and don’t just buy new).
We burned just about an hour of daylight working on this project but we could have easily spent more time making more necklaces for friends.
This project really only works for the 10 and up set. My nine-year-old had trouble rolling the paper and got a little frustrated. My seven-year-old didn’t want a necklace to begin with and would have had trouble making the beads.
The Martha Stewart kit we were inspired by came with the self adhesive paper strips which would be quite handy. However, it seems a little wasteful to me when we have so much paper just sitting around our house for this project. I think to make your beads especially strong and to keep them from unraveling it might be a good idea to coat them in Mod Podge once they’re all rolled up. Let them dry and then string them onto your cord.
Overall this is a nice project for older kids, not so much for little ones.

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Five Great Backyard Birthday Party Themes Tue, 22 Jul 2008 16:47:04 +0000

I have vast amounts of envy for people who have children with summer birthdays. I have a late fall baby and an early spring baby, neither of these birthdays lend themselves to an outdoor party in our climate. If you’re reading this you have the luxury of planning an outdoor birthday party and I’m jealous. No expensive jaunt to the indoor bounce house place, germ-laden romp at the indoor arcade, or stressful house parties for you.
Here are five backyard party themes to inspire you.

Backyard Birthday Party ideas

The “Under The Big Top” circus theme is one of the most easily festive ideas for little kids. Here are some beautiful photos at Toast and Tables to get you inspired. With bright colors and easily recreated “Fair Games” this one is simple to pull off. Try a bean bag toss game and for really young kids a small tub of water filled with floating rubber ducks. Mark the bottom of the ducks with different shapes and give out small prizes that correspond to the shape. Playing down the clowns will assure you no one freaks out at the event.
Backyard Birthday Party ideas

This Messy Party would make my kids so happy and would make me a babbling lunatic, but sometimes you have to sacrifice to celebrate with your kids. Boston Mama’s gives you everything you need to get this party going with messy activities (cornstarch!) and messy party food. A beach towel party favor lets the guests get home without ruining the car!
Backyard Birthday Party ideas

Martha offers a Tee Off! mini golf party complete with plans to transform your backyard into a small course. A baking sheet with play sand becomes a “sand trap” and a cardboard gopher cheerfully marks the last hole. A lot of fun and much easier than trying to cart seven seven-year-olds to the mini golf course.
Backyard Birthday Party ideas

I’m not a fan of spending a ton of cash on birthday supplies but the Pottery Barn Kids Water Party Collection is a great source of inspiration for a water party in the back yard. You certainly don’t need a giant octopus sprinkler but you could have a pool, a sprinkler and the classic Slip and Slide. Add some squirt guns and water balloons and it’s a water party extravaganza in your backyard.
Backyard Birthday Party ideas

A Race Car Birthday Party would be great fun for the wheeled vehicle obsessed kid. The theme lends itself to lots of game and craft ideas at Family Fun. The race car relay with cardboard wearable race cars would be great fun, even after the party. Making vanity license plates as a craft during the party would make a great Non-Clutter party favor to go on a bike at home.
When planning a party for kids, keep “simple” in mind. The best birthday party my son attended this summer was a simple event held at a local park. The kids played on the equipment, ate cake and ice cream and then threw water balloons at each other. Simple ideas are really the best ideas.

Related Kids’ Birthday Articles:
* Birthday Party Decorations
* Best Birthday Party Favors
* The Best DIY Birthday Cakes
* Inspiring Ideas For Kid’s Birthdays
* Great Children’s Birthday Traditions


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Five Ways To Keep In Touch While Your Kid’s At Camp Wed, 16 Jul 2008 10:46:36 +0000

Do you have kids who go away to camp? Tell me what it’s like…to have kids who go away in the summer. And don’t need your constant attention or need you to keep them busy or want you to take them to the pool or feed them 3 or 4 times a day(!).
I have children I don’t think will ever make the leap to sleep away camp. I could be wrong, but I’ve come to accept that summer will be my time to remember why I had two kids even though it’s so much easier now than it was when they were under 3.
For now sleep away camp will remain a glorious dream.
When I went to camp, I loved hearing from home because I was constantly inexplicably homesick. Even though I was having fun at camp and even though I would be having no fun at home. A lot of kids need a little love from home to feel comfortable out of their normal routine. Also some lovely models of children simply like getting cool things from home to share with friends at camp. Here are five ways to keep in touch with your camper while they’re having fun and occasionally feeling homesick.
Send Mail Ahead, Make Replying Easy
A friend’s mother would always send her daughter off to camp with mail waiting at camp for her to open on arrival. She also sent her off with stationary, addressed envelopes, and to encourage more writing than “Camp Is Fun” she included prompts to open her up, like “Tell us the funniest thing that’s happened at camp so far.”
keep in touch with kids at campIndulge Their Desire To Be “Cool”
Do the kids at camp love trading cards? Candy? Find out what the kids at camp like trading or consider especially valuable and send it along with them. This is one of those times it’s okay to indulge your kid in a little peer pressure.
keep in touch with kids at campStart a Craft Trend
Do you remember making friendship bracelets from embroidery floss? I spent many hours making specially ordered bracelets for my best pals at camp. What about beaded friendship pins to stick on your shoelaces? Help your kid be a trend setter at camp and send along everything they need (and enough extra to share) to make these fun little crafts. Here’s a great tutorial and supply list for the bracelets and another for the friendship pins.
keep in touch with kids at campSend “Fun” Mail
Don’t just send letters off to camp. Try sending along pictures of pets, siblings and friends from home, maybe in a cute picture frame. Hung up in their cabins and they let their new pals know who they are at home. Mad Libs are a great cabin activity kids can do together and I know if I sent a teen celebrity magazine to any cabin my daughter was a part of, she would never even consider missing her family again.
keep in touch with kids at campCamping With Technology
If your kid has access to a computer or even a cellphone (though don’t get me started on why eight-year-olds think cellphones are must haves) try sending emails and pictures over the net. This is undeniably the quickest way to keep in touch and have back and forth conversations about what’s going on at camp. Other clever ways to use technology to keep in touch: sign your kid up for a private Twitter account and send and get updates throughout their big adventures. If your kid has a camera, have them email digital files they’ve got of friends at camp and send back prints for them to share with friends.
If you’ve got a kid at camp, what creative ways do you keep in touch?

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10 Great Activities For Your Block Party Tue, 08 Jul 2008 12:35:44 +0000

It’s Block Party season across suburban America. Although, those of you in bigger cities, do you have block parties or are those called “Street Fairs”? My neighborhood is kind of known for the activities they put together. “Happy Hour(s) Fridays” throughout the summer, “Pancake Breakfast” for the Fourth of July, “Group Grilling” events….

If you don’t want to know your neighbors, I’m going to recommend you don’t move here. However, if you’d like a chance to meet your neighbors, build a community on your block, or you just want an excuse to keep people from speeding down your cut-through street for a few hours this summer, a block party is a great idea.

This post isn’t exactly a “How-To” but here’s a quick run down:
1- choose a date with a few other neighbors,
2- send out flyers announcing the event,
3- check with the city about getting barricades for your block (our city requires a petition signed by 50% of the block).
4- you’ll also need to arrange for food (pot lucks are easiest),
5- arrange for tables
6- plan decorations

If you’re like me, the decorations are the most important part of the party. If you’re a kid, the most important part of the party are the activities.

Here are 10 great things to do at your block party, most of them culled from our neighborhood’s past block parties.

Block Party activities

1. Bike Parade
It’s not everyday you’re allowed to cross the street without looking back and forth two or three times. It’s also not often that your parents don’t yell at you for playing in the street. To get the party going, relish the car-free status of your block by having the kids decorate their bikes with streamers and balloons and then make parade of kids right in the middle of the street. Adults watch and older kids help the younger ones.

2. Motorcycle Police Officer Visit
Our city is not particularly crime-ridden, so whenever a block asks for a barricade for a party, a motorcycle police officer makes an appearance during the event. The kids get to look at the motorcycle up close, and if you have a nice police officer, he or she will let the kids sit on the bike. The kids love this and, if we’re being honest, so do I, if the officer happens to be a man. I have a cliched thing about men in uniform.

3. Group Grilling
This year my husband got a grill as a Father’s Day gift. When I asked him what he wanted he said “A grill, so I’m not humiliated at the block party this year.” When it’s time to cook food, every one brings their grills out to the street and 8-10 people get all the hot dogs and burgers cooked for everyone in the neighborhood. This may not be the kid’s favorite activity, but I think a few dad’s have had the “Suburban Kool Aid” and love to grill with other guys.

Block Party activities

4. Silly String Fights
You’re going to need to buy this stuff in bulk, you can find it many places online for about $1 a can. Little kids love to spray it all over, older kids love spraying each other and, at least where I live, the temptation is too great for the adults too. Be warned, it makes a huge mess but whatever it’s summer.

Block Party activities*

5. Bubble Battle
Bubbles are always a hit with kids but for this activity, everyone is going to blow bubbles all at once until the entire street is full of bubbles floating through the air. Supply bubbles and regular wands and have all the neighbors bring any special bubble wands and devices they might have. *Photo from Flickr User ScienceDuck.

6. Water Balloon Toss/Fight
This is a pretty self explanatory activity, but have you seen these water balloon filling valves? They’re the perfect size to fit into the neck of a balloon and they have a valve so you can turn off the water without having to stand over the faucet. Make as many as you can stand to make without losing your mind and then make 75 more. Believe me you’ll need them.

7. Kid’s talent show
The neighborhood kids like to show off their talents at most of our neighborhood parties. Some of the “talents” are, well, rough, but it’s still fun for the kids to perform for an audience. This year I’m trying to get my husband to break the kids-only rule and participate. He can juggle like you would not believe.

Block Party activities

8. Men’s Bake Off
It’s good fun to watch a bunch of guys fretting over their pecan oatmeal bars or trying to sabotage somebody’s souffle. Our block party includes a bake off where the required ingredient is chosen by last year’s winner of the Golden Spoon. Last year it was sweet potato and, after a lot of test batches, my husband took home the Spoon. He’ll carve his name in it, it dates back to the early 90’s, and pick the required ingredient for this year. Four or five judges do a secret testing and the winner is chosen.

9. Kid’s Bake Off
A kid’s bake off is great fun for them too. It’s the same set up with a required ingredient chosen by the previous winner and four or five judges choosing the winner. Some of the creations are….a little terrifying to eat…but kids love it. My kids mostly like taste testing as they create, ending up with a sugar rush.

Block Party activities

10. Outdoor Movie!
When it starts to get dark out it’s fun to set the kids up in the yard with blankets, sleeping bags and popcorn for an outdoor movie. Parent Hacks shares a “How To” make an outdoor movie screen. You’ll need a projector (you can rent one or check them out from your library) This is a great end of the evening activity and allows you to keep the party going a little later even with little kids.
Our block party is coming on July 26th. I’ll be sure to share pictures and decorating tips then.

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