Thursday, May 20, 2010

Throwing a party for your child?

It doesn't have to be expensive to be fun and creative!

I know it can be a daunting task. With my daughters 7-yr birthday approaching this summer, I'm here again, trying to figure out what to do for her.
It will be hard to "out-do" last years Pirate Party (see below), and in fact, I don't think I want to get into the habit of always "out-doing" the last party. So my brain has been mulling.

We went to a birthday party last weekend. It was splendid and simple. It was a bunch of children (maybe 15? 20?) and their parents. It was at the birthday boy's house which also happens to be on a beach. There was no agenda. No planned games, party decorations, not even much food. Just a bunch of kids, a beach, a lovely grassy yard, some watermelon, a hose, and a beautiful sunny day. The parent's all stayed and it was a lovely gathering for all.
When we got home, my daughter said it was the best party she had ever been to.
Holy cow!

This got me thinking.

Her Pirate birthday, was, in contrast, incredibly detailed. It was also a great party and lots of kids said it was the best ever, but in hindsight it was a lot of work, and definitely has got me thinking. Is it really all about the themes, the goody bags, the games? Yes and no. Children don't have the expectations that we as adults have. They are so easy to please at this young sweet age. All they need is friends, a little water to play in, and a beach apparently.

If you're leaning towards something a little more exciting and 'planned' there are a wealth of ideas to save money.

Our Pirate Party was a huge success. We planned it at a park with a beach. Here are some of the details that were involved, all on a budget!

Scavenger Hunt with Buried Treasure:
To do this, we took an old trunk we had lying around and filled it with our 'loot' bags, and buried it on the beach. We marked the spot with a big X made out of sticks.

The children digging up the buried treasure chest

Everyone carrying the treasure chest back to base camp

Scavenger Hunt Clues:
This was so fun. I wrote out each clue in a rhyming, piratical lingo, then typed it in the font called Cezanne (very Piratey, but you can use anything). Then, I tore it around the clue (no straight edges). Then the clue got soaked it in coffee. After it dried, I brushed lemon juice onto the paper, and using a craft heat gun, dried the lemon juice to give it an antique look. Incredible transformation!



The other clues

The first clue was a letter that Captain GoldenEye had left for the kids, stuck on a tree at 'base camp'

And here I am reading the letter from Captain GoldenEye. The children were mesmerized! Is it real??

They found the last clue in a bottle washed up ashore, and the bottle had an 'old' treasure map in it showing where the treasure was buried.

Holding up the treasure map!

Loot Bags:
To do this, I went to a local coffee roaster and got several free burlap bags that the beans come in. I cut the burlap, filled it with the loot and tied with hemp twine.
We filled the loot bags with GOLD. This consisted of rocks we collected from the beach and river, and spray painted. The kids *loved* the gold!

Painting gold nuggets

There is all but one burlap loot bag left in the chest (there were 15 total). You can also see a smattering of gold still left in the chest. The kids thought it was real gold!

Pirate Sword Craft:
We cut swords out of cardboard, and wrapped the handle in black electrical tape. The children wrapped their own swords in tinfoil, then decorated them with glitter and 'jewels'.

Pirate Josh manning the pirate sword craft table

The swords

Pirate Cake:
This was easy and fun. I made two simple round cakes, and put them on a big piece of blue poster board. I iced them white, and sprinkled crushed graham crackers all around for the 'sand'. Then I simply used my daughters collection of Pirate Playmobil toys to decorate.

We bought a bouquet of Red, Black, White, and Gold balloons to make the party spot.

We called it a potluck, parent's brought the food, and voila! Pirate Party!

We had all the party guests come wearing white shirts. We dressed them with a red sash (just red scrappy fabric we got for very cheap) torn into long swatches. Then we wrapped more black scrappy fabric for the bandana. I had also scored a big pack of eye patches off eBay for $5. Arrrrrr!

And here are some of our party guests. We had about 15 kids plus parents, and my sister did a little face-painting for them, hence the little skulls on some of their cheeks!

So, while it was very affordable, it was a huge amount of work to put together, although worth every minute! This year, I want to take a different approach. Especially after the incredible beach party we just went to last weekend.
Stay tuned!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day...the heavier and lighter side

Mother's Day is just around the corner.

Right now, my almost-7 year old is busily crafting away, while my 1 1/2 year old is taking a much needed nap. We had a typical 'rough' night last night, nursing all night long and hardly sleeping. My toddler is getting all 4 of her canine teeth at once, and it makes for very long and exhausting nights.

Mothering is such a amazing mix of the best and the worst of things. The immense vulnerability we have with the birth of our first child is of epic proportions. We love our children so much that it hurts. Does it hurt because life is so impermanent? Thoughts of my own mortality run though my mind when this little innocent and fragile being is so dependent on me. This is love.

My children have caused me more stress, exhaustion, grief, sadness, heartache, worry, pain, struggle, and frustration than I could ever believe imaginable. When it feels like all is falling apart, all we can do is keep on truckin'. There are no breaks, no time-outs for moms, no 'pause' button (oh, wouldn't a 'pause' button be so nice??).

And yet, my children also give me more unconditional love, beauty, excitement, rejoicing, celebrating, learning, growth, power, creativity, independence, and strength than I could have ever imagined.

Trying to describe this to someone who has never had children is like trying to describe an orgasm to someone who's never had one. It's just impossible, and you just can't know until you do it.

So, here's to all you amazing mothers out there, who will just keep on truckin' no matter what, keep on feeding those mouths, wiping those bums and laughing and weeping all through the preciously short childhoods.
Soon, they will be grown and out of the house, and suddenly we won't have never-ending piles of laundry to fold, messes to clean up that we just cleaned up two minutes ago, endless meals and snacks to prepare.
Our homes will feel empty, and we'll miss it.

And so, on that's something a little on the lighter side.
Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful women out there!

MOTHER - Job Description

Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma


Long term, team players needed, for challenging,
permanent work in an often chaotic environment.
Candidates must possess excellent communication
and organizational skills and be willing to work
variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends
and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
Some overnight travel required, including trips to
primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities!
Travel expenses not reimbursed.
Extensive courier duties also required.


The rest of your life.
Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily,
until someone needs $5.
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule
and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat
in case, this time, the screams from
the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges,
such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets
and stuck zippers.
Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and
coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings
for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
Must be willing to be indispensable one minute,
an embarrassment the next.
Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a
half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Must assume final, complete accountability for
the quality of the end product.
Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and
janitorial work throughout the facility.


Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills,
so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you


None required unfortunately.
On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.


Get this! You pay them!
Offering frequent raises and bonuses.
A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because
of the assumption that college will help them
become financially independent.
When you die, you give them whatever is left.
The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that
you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.


While no health or dental insurance, no pension,
no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and
no stock options are offered;
this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love,
and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Our garden and scavenger hunts!

I live in the beautiful community of Nelson, BC. Since March, most of my friends have begun their spring gardening, and even at my 6 yr old's Waldorf school, they are embracing spring with their lovely songs and planting projects.
WELL, where my family lives, it's a bit of a different story. While we're only 15 minutes out of town, we're also those short 15 minutes towards the famous Whitewater Ski Hill.
What this means, is that we are in a serious snow belt. Our snow isn't completely melted yet. My garden is only just now starting to show it's little crocus colours. And out of impulse, mixed with a bit of jealously of my neighbours in town, I went to the local nursery here and spent way too much on wistful purchases.

One such purchase occurred last week, when I made a trek out to Georama (the nursery) innocently to buy some beautiful Crocosmia that i had special ordered. I meandered through the enticing outdoor displays, when i found myself in the fruit tree section. Danger, danger Will.

Ok, so I left there about $150 broker, but two beautiful apple trees richer!!
Apple trees.... mmmm, crispy crunchy sweet. These are early ripeners for our harsh, cold climate (15 minutes to the tropics, bah), and they will have fruit within 2-3 years, just in time for my almost two year old to climb with her then to be 10 year old sister. Perfect.

And while I'm on the topic of trees and planting out in nature, I wanted to mention our lovely new little product, just in time for spring, the Nature Bag!

A little bag, chock full of outdoor projects and ideas for children, it's an award winning green eco-toy, made by a lovely company based in Vancouver.

My daughter loves 'scavenger hunts' and they always seem to be an exciting theme to her birthday parties, and playdates. Kids never tire of scavenger hunts.
So, I am leaving you with a wonderful way to make being out in nature ever so much fun for you and your children!

Scavenger Hunts

When you are in the outdoors, one idea to help make a nature walk or hike more appealing to children is to offer them the challenge of a scavenger or treasure hunt. Just remember to leave nature undisturbed and respect the natural surroundings.

We have collected together some ideas to encourage children to think creatively and use their observational skills.

Alphabet Nature Hunt

Spot items that begin with the different letters of the alphabet eg acorn, beetle/berries, catkin, dead tree etc

Miniature Scavenger Hunt

Provide a small container such as an empty matchbox and ask the children them to fit as many different natural things inside as possible. Search for a seed, a blade of grass, a pine needle, a tiny stone, a small leaf etc. After about 20 minutes all come together and carefully tip out the contents from each container, counting how many tiny objects you each found.

Texture Scavenger Hunt

Take a nature walk. How many of these textures can you touch? Can you find any different textures not mentioned below?

furry moss
prickly pine needles
smooth flower buds
waxy evergreen leaves
rough tree roots
silky flower petals
soggy decomposing leaves
brittle twigs
flexible grasses
sticky tree sap
lacy skeleton leaves

Treasures from your Imagination

How about using ideas from a storybook or film and try to find a fairy’s cloak, a dragon’s scale, a hobbit’s hole or a goblin’s den. Such imaginings could lead to the discovery of all sorts of wonderful treasures.


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