Birthday Party Plan B

Birthday Party Plan B

Our identical twins Mr. B and Mr. C’ 5th birthday party has been scheduled to happen tomorrow for over a month.

We even reserved an inflatable jump house for the event. We’ve been excitedly anticipating the event for weeks.

Given the season, we knew there could be a chance our plans might be fouled by the weather.

And sure enough, tomorrow’s forecast includes a 100% chance of precipitation.

Sarah and I have talked about what our ‘Plan B’ looks like for a rain out, but I think we’re both a little bit disappointed.

Not for ourselves, more for the lost opportunity of the bounce house for the boys and their friends.

But, we’re moving forward unhindered by the wet weather and ready to have a good time indoors, all the same.


Sarah has come up with some fun indoor games and prizes for the kids to enjoy. We have a play room upstairs and we think this will be the best indoor alternative.

We’ll gather up some big, floppy clothes and organize a relay race. Two teams of kids will line up and each take turns running to the end of the play room and back, each time dressing and undressing in some funny, floppy clothes.

For the clothes, we’ll use some from our own closet.

The winners will be awarded some candy. Yes, many of the eating rules get broken during birthdays and holidays at our house, too.

Then we’ve also considered setting up an indoor scavenger hunt, complete with clues and some kind of prize at the end.

This will involve creating some materials, maybe some clever rhyming clues with pictures and some prep work to hide them around the house.

For a prize, we thought it could be fun to hide the boys’ birthday cakes and let those be the final reveal. Although Sarah is making the cakes, so it could be difficult to hide the cakes from the boys for 24 hours. We’ll have to see is that is feasible.


The ‘eating cake’ part of a children’s birthday party typically plans itself. Make cakes, light some candles, sing Happy Birthday, portion out the slices, sit back and watch the feeding frenzy.

Birthday parties on a day with nice weather allows for kids to go outside to play, but we won’t have that luxury.

So it will be important for us to schedule some physical activity for the kids after the ceremonial sugar ingestion is complete.

If things get too wild indoors, as a last resort, we could clear out the garage and let the kids go nuts on each other with some cans of silly string. I can only imagine how much our guest’s parents will love this idea.

Maybe if we get the kids hyped-up enough we could give them some swiffers and turn them loose on our hardwoods.

Is it unethical to load a dozen kids up on processed sugar and arm them with Endust and rags?

Another idea I considered was to have a painting party in the garage.

We could put down a bunch of tarps, set each kid in front of a canvas with a brush and some paints and let them go to work for 45 minutes or so.

When the activity eventually devolves into a paint fight, we’ll sit back at a safe distance and enjoy the melee.

In Conclusion

The boys’ 5th birthday party most likely isn’t going to go as planned.

As much as that’s a bit of a disappointment, we have no doubt we’ll be able to create some fun indoors.

As long as they have some fun, it will be a success.

How have you handled birthday party showstoppers like a rainy day?


Halloween Candy Alternative

Halloween Candy AlternativeWe have often debated with ourselves about the merits of handing out candy to trick or treaters at Halloween.

In a country like America, where 1 out of every 3 kids is overweight or obese, it’s easy to feel like just going with the flow is only contributing to the problem.

On the other hand, almost everything is ok in moderation. And we don’t want to be “that” house on the street that hands out toothbrushes or dental floss on Halloween.

After all, our own kids enjoy a treat every now and then, so who are we to think we know so much better than others?

But what if we could at least give trick or treaters a choice?


Offering An Alternative

So this year, we’ve decided to give the kids who ring the doorbell a choice.

We will offer a bucket filled with candy and, at the same time, offer a bucket filled with cool, neon glow sticks and glow bracelets.

This way, kids will have a choice.

The glow sticks and glow bracelets offer a neat alternative to candy, which many kids will have their Halloween bags full of by the time they get to our house anyway.

Glow sticks and glow bracelets also offer a fun alternative for kids who have dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating candy.

But the potential benefits continue.

For the parents of the kids who really get a kick out of the glow sticks and bracelets, they will take with them an idea for a memorable alternative which they could try at their own home next year.

Maybe it could even lead to another house in our neighborhood offering an alternate like this in Halloweens to come.


What If the Kids Don’t Like It?

If, on the other hand, this idea is a flop, then we’ll have a bunch of glow sticks and glow bracelets left over to use in some upcoming project with the kids.

Since we will still offer candy as an alternative, the kids who think the glow stuff is lame can take their candy and be on their way, no harm done.

Either way, we get the chance to try out something new and maybe create a new twist on our family routine that could last a lifetime.

Plus, if the glow stuff is a flop, it could only mean that we need to offer a different sort of alternative next year.

Another option I read about online was temporary tattoos. These would have the additional benefit of not cluttering up homes with junk. The kids use the tattoo, then after it fades it’s done. There’s no accumulation of cheap plastic trash t clutter up homes or landfills.

I decided to go with glow stuff as our alternative because I like the idea of offering something that can be fun immediately. It’s unlikely that most kid’s Halloween costumes will allow them to quickly apply and display a fun temporary tattoo.

But a glow stick or a glow bracelet can be instantly added to a Halloween costume in an immediate, fun way. So I feel like the potential ‘WOW’ factor is higher by offering kids the glow stuff.

No matter what the outcome is, I’ll report back with the results after Halloween. Maybe I’ll even go so far as to count the total number of pieces of candy vs. the total number of glow sticks and bracelets and announce a “winner.”

What do you think?

Are we going to be the hit of the neighborhood, or will the glow sticks and bracelets be a flop?

Let us know by writing or dropping a note in the comments below!




parenting, simplicity, kids, birthday parties, invites

The 2 Things You Should Be Focusing On

parenting, simplicity, kids, birthday parties, invitesLast week I loaded up the minivan with all three boys and headed to Target.

“Why are we going to Target?” Mr. C hollered from the back of the minivan.

“To get birthday party invitations for your birthday party later this month,” I told him.

“But Mamaaaa, we already have paper and crayons and envelopes, why do we need to buy invitations?”

I felt like I had just been simultaneously doused with cold water and kicked in the stomach.

“Well,” I replied, “I didn’t know that you would want to make your invitations.  There’s a lot to make.  Are you sure you want to make them all?”

“YES!” they both replied.

And so, I turned the car around and went back home.

Sometimes it’s our kids that bring us back to what’s important.

It’s easy in our fast-paced adult world to lose focus of what we value and we’re striving towards.

Of course we can make our own birthday party invitations.


Because our focus should be on:

Limiting consumption

I know it’s hard.  It’s hard because companies spend billions upon billions of dollars to make it hard.  How can you compete with that?

Here’s what I do:

1. I limit my exposure to advertisements.  That means not watching live TV or listening to radio.  I also don’t buy magazines.

2. I shop online.  I bought some laundry detergent from Amazon the other day, and when it arrived I told Chris, “I just saved us $80!”

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Well,” I proceeded proudly, “if I had gone to Target for just laundry detergent, I easily would have spent $100 (because we all know the price of entry to Target is always $100) on stuff that I suddenly felt I needed.”

Just buy what you need online and eliminate the urge to impulse buy.

3. Try to remember 5 things you bought at this time last year.  I bet you can’t.  (Unless it was an experience).  If you feel yourself really needing to buy something, see if you can make it, borrow it, or go without it instead. 

Alternatively, one of my favorite things to do is to add items to my Amazon wish list and then just leave them there.  This is a win-win for 2 reasons:

– it gives me time to really reflect on whether I want or need the item.  If I’ve forgotten about it in a few days, nothing lost, I just don’t buy it.  If I’m still thinking about it, I can easily find it and buy it.

– when my birthday or Christmas rolls around and people need ideas, my Amazon wish list is full of ideas!

Keep it simple

We are so overwhelmed daily with images and articles and ideas about all the things we could be doing (DIY-ing curtains, scrapbooking, taking trips, 15 things to do with a pumpkin instead of carving it) that sometimes it feels like if we’re not moving, we’re not succeeding.

I will give you the permission now –  it is okay to not do any of the stuff.

Just don’t do the stuff.

See the stuff, appreciate the stuff, then go sit on your back patio and watch the kids play soccer.

It’s okay to not have a fall bucket list.  It’s okay to not go to all the Oktoberfest celebrations and pumpkin patches and birthday parties.

I know it feels like it’s not, but it is.  I promise.

Make frozen waffles for dinner if that’s what you have.  Buy one pumpkin to carve and just make two awkward triangles for eyes, one for a nose, and then cut out a crooked mouth.

Who cares?

What’s important is that you keep it simple.

I know you have your own items of focus for your own family.  We would love to know what they are and how you accomplish them.  Leave us a comment below or send us an email.

You Are Not Too Busy To Read To Your Kids

43115744_s_optIt’s time for a reality check.

An article this week from The Guardian begins by lamenting the difficulty parent’s face in making time to read to their kids.

“A survey by Settle Stories, an arts and heritage charity, of more than 2,000 parents with children aged four to 10 claimed that only 4% read a bedtime story to their child every night, with 69% saying they did not have the time. In February a study by TomTom of 1,000 parents of children aged one to 10 found that 34% never read a bedtime story to their children, with 29% blaming late working and 26% the daily commute.”

This is a big load of baloney.

Here’s another quote from the same article, which begins by presenting the totally unchallenged assumption that parents just don’t have the time:

“Parents lead very, very busy lives,” said Diana Gerald, chief executive of the Book Trust, which encourages children and families to enjoy books and develop their reading skills. “We live in a world where parents are juggling work and home life. Lots of parents are working shifts and there’s a lot of pressure on families. People are increasing their hours.”

This is a very, very big load of baloney.


We’re All Just So Very Busy, Right?

People complain that they are all just so very busy.

They complain about it on their twitter feed, they complain about it at the coffee shop, they complain, complain, and complain about it to anybody that will listen.

Too busy for something as demanding as spending 30 minutes reading to our kids once a day, an act which has been shown by hundreds of scientific publications to have life-long benefits for both children’s literacy and parent-child relationships.

The sad truth is that the generations of Americans who are living in this country today have more leisure time than any American generation in history.

Let that really sink in for a minute.

Your work colleagues, the busy housewives in your neighborhood, the people you socialize with: none of them are as “busy” as they claim to be. Not compared to the millions of parents who have come before us.

The avg work week 200 years ago ranged from 50-70 hrs per week of grinding physical labor. The average work week 100 years ago included “for at least six months of the year, an eight to ten-hour day of hard labor.”

And we’re the generations of Americans complaining about not having enough time or energy to read a book to our kids after work?

Of course, aside from the rationalizations,  what’s really going on here is that our culture has wholeheartedly embraced the idea of wasting away our abundant free time each day staring passively at screens.

Children’s author Michael Rosen believes the TV in the bedroom is the killer of bedtime stories.

“I sometimes ask audiences of children, ‘How many of you watch TV till you go to sleep?’ and it’s well over 50% in most cases.”

The BBC recently reported the latest findings on the amount of time kids are spending in front of screens:

“Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.”

The parents of our culture, of course, are enthusiastically leading by example:

“According to a new Nielsen report…the average American adult over the age of 18 spends more than 11 hours per day on electronic gadgets.”

What does all of that time spent in front of screen media add up to?

It adds up to thousands of hours a year for both parents and kids of free time.

But how are you choosing to spend that free time?


Alternatives Exist

If you aren’t reading to your kids each day, there are solutions to take the effort out of the activity.

On our homepage, we offer our subscription series of original children’s audio stores, called Imagining Aloud.

For $7 a month you will receive 2 new stories per week. You can look forward to enjoying storytime with your kids each week and not stress over obtaining books or doing funny voices. I’ve done them for you.

Another baby step you could take is to turn off the TV and put down the device one night per week, all night long.

If it is a difficult change, you are very likely facing a physical or emotional addiction to screen time. In that case, this article might be a good place for you to begin, with 5 ways to break yours and your kid’s screen addictions.

Don’t become discouraged if these difficulties are present in your life. Even small changes, when applied consistently over time, add up to big gains for you and your family.