Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FREE Halloween Printables


 

Every year, my kids and I have made window decorations for Halloween. The teen, of course, is “too cool” to do that, but I was surprised when the 9-year old declared that she was “too busy” to make pumpkins out of orange construction paper and ghosts from computer paper. Honestly, a part of me was sad. 






Still, the window MUST be festively adorned, so I give you (drumroll, please), these simple Halloween shapes which you can quickly cut out and use for your windows. 

 


Just right-click to copy each graphic, then paste it into a blank document and print it out on white paper.  A few quick cuts and you can tape them to your doors and/or windows to add a scarey (but not too, scarey) element to your house.  I was done in less than 5 minutes. 


Happy Halloween!





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is This The Mug That Will Save Your Kid's Lunch?

Need a mug for your kid's lunch?  Read on...



Early in September, my son announced that he will be bringing his lunch to high school every day. Apparently, the cafeteria is too far from where the freshmen eat and, knowing his school, I believe him.  I want to give him hot lunches some days and he (gasp!) will not use the thermos I've been using for his sister (What? A 14-year old is too cool for a Dora mug? Unreasonable!). What to do?

So I purchased a Sistema To-Go Soup Mug from my local grocery store.  This 22.1 ounce plastic mug:

  • Is BPA free.
  • Has a large handle, so it's easy to grasp.
  • Holds a whole can of soup (it's really big).
  • Has easy-open clasps around the top (as opposed to my daughter's thermos where she has to get some help from a teacher).
  • Has a vented lid so you can heat up food in the microwave.
  • Is freezer and dishwasher safe.

All of those are wonderful features. I heated up some soup, sealed the mug, and turned it upside down – no leaks. Of course, when my son took it to school, it had somehow leaked all over his lunch bag. Yuck! I've read other reviews of this product and many people found the same thing. Also, food does not stay hot for very long, which is fine because my son has an early lunch period and, honestly, the thing is plastic so it's not meant to keep food hot. 

Soup in this mug may not be a good idea for your kid's lunch.


So is the Sistema To-Go Soup Mug a waste of money? If you plan on sending your kid to school with soup, yes, unless you place plastic wrap or foil under the cover so the soup stays inside. I also place the item in a Ziploc bag, just in case it does leak, and send my child with extra napkins. 

What the mug is REALLY good for, however, are non-liquidy things like mac and cheese, a thick chili, salads, mushy cake, and macaroni dishes. As long as the food doesn't ooze, you're good.

Does this replace a costly metal mug? No, but it's handy for, again, non-soup lunches. And with a price point of about $6 at my supermarket, it was worth a try. Find more about Sistema products on their website, http://sistemaplastics.com.

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Thanks for reading....check back in later this week for some free, Halloween printables!


 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

To The Mother I Yelled At Last Thursday

Too bad I didn't have a 2'x4' - I could have done more than just yelled!

I don't often lose it with other mothers. I get the fact that, working or not, parenting is HARD work and it really isn't my place to criticize another. Until you've walked in their shoes, you have no idea what kind of baggage anyone is carrying or what kind of pressure they're under, blah, blah, blah.  But when another parent's priorities are so out of whack that they affect one of my kids, I get angry.  More like livid.   Here's what happened:

Moron (not her real name, but what she is) texted me earlier in the week, asking if my daughter, Lily, could come over. Sure, I responded, and thanked her. I didn't think twice about it. Lily has had many playdates with Moron's daughter, Idiot, and even had a sleepover at their house. I trusted Moron, even though I knew Idiot is wild and undisciplined (the child once did a cartwheel and when I was spotting her, knocked so hard into my mouth that she dislodged one of my fillings. While I sat there in pain, Idiot then laughed about it.  Thanks, Kid.). I wasn't going to have Moron's kid at my house, but if Idiot wanted to invite Lily, okay. So I wrote a note and stuck it in Lily's backpack, saying that Lily would be going home with Moron (who, at this point, I did not know was a REAL moron).

20 minutes after school ended yesterday, I received a call from the Main Office. “Lily is here. Idiot takes the bus and we called her live-in nanny who knows nothing about the playdate. Please come and pick your daughter up.” I raced over there and on the way received a call from Moron. “I just got a call from the school,” she said. “I'm not home, Idiot takes the bus so isn't on the pick-up line, and I forgot to tell my nanny about the playdate, so even if there had been one, you would have had to pick Lily up from school to bring her here. Oh, and Thursdays aren't good for me anyway.”

I pictured my frightened child, sitting in the Main Office. I thought about how embarrassed and sad she had probably been, standing with her teacher with no one picking her up. I considered how fortunate it was that I was home to pick my daughter up – what if I'd been on a job interview or in the middle of a root canal? How would I have been able to get Lily? I realized how irresponsible Moron had been. You want to forget your own child? Be my guest. But NOT MINE! And so I lost it.



I kept my tone even, but cold, and reviewed the details of the playdate with Moron...how SHE'D invited MY kid over today (THURSDAY); how I had no idea that Idiot took the bus and would not be with the teacher at pick-up. I told her, my volume rising, that I TRUSTED HER TO PICK MY CHILD UP FROM SCHOOL. She was taken aback by my tone, went on the defensive (“I'm so sorry YOU now have to go pick up YOUR DAUGHTER”) and said, “Maybe Lily can come over another day.” I said, “I don't think so” and hung up.

Usually when I yell at someone, I feel bad, embarrassed. I regret my tone and what I've said.  Not this time. I arrived at school and scooped Lily into my arms saying, “I would never, EVER forget you! EVER!” I apologized to the teacher who was waiting with her and I explained the situation. The teacher kindly shrugged it off. On the way home, I again, explained what had happened to Lily. She understood it was the other mother who had messed up and not me.

I get people being “ditzy.” I'm not on my game all the time, either. I forget to pack snacks until the last minute, lose my cellphone, and often run back to the house to make sure I locked the door. But when it comes to the safety of children, I'm fully present. And I would never, ever forget to pick up a child from school. In my book of priorities, kids come FIRST, never second. They are my Number One concern and if your kid is supposed to play with mine, your child is MY child while they're in my care. If there's any doubt that your child is coming with me, I confirm and then I'm there.

If you're reading this, Moron, I lost it with you. You were negligent and hurt my child. She's nervous now about going on playdates, uncertain that a parent will pick her up.  It's affecting her social life, although, with you out of her life, I believe this, too, shall pass.  Still, as far as I'm concerned, you deserved getting yelled at. 

--

Please note, a more polite version of this post was submitted to Jersey Moms Blog.  Oh, and I've learned my lesson.  From now on, ALL PLAYDATES GET CONFIRMED THE MORNING OF, although, they've never, ever needed to before.  


Thanks for reading! 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Need An Inexpensive, But Personal Party Favor? Here It Is!



My birthday girl, just "horsin'" around!

Update:  This was a big hit at the party today!  The girls loved how practical the gift & contents were!  Just an FYI.  :) 


I wrote yesterday about the low-budget gymnastics party I threw for my daughter this past weekend.  At the end of the post, I immodestly (forgive me - brilliance doesn't come often) bragged about the party favors I'd made.  Well, here they are!


I scooped up a bunch of those Design-Your-Own Cups at the Dollar Store when I saw them there (pictured at the top of the photo below).  Since everyone drinks water out of re-usable bottles, they're a no-brainer gift that all the kids will use.  I discarded the outer insert because the instructions are on the sticker on the outside of the cup anyway.

The parts to the party favors...


I bought some cheap scrapbook paper at Michael's for $.05 a sheet and made a template to fit in the cup out of the side of a cereal box (pictured right above).   I got two pretty inserts from each sheet of scrapbook paper.


After cutting the pretty paper to fit inside the cup, I just rolled it in.  Then I added three pieces of candy, a rubber duckie, and assorted hair stuff (clips, elastics, etc.) to complete the party favor.  Voila!


...and the completed party favor.


There's still a sheet in the cup with a design the kids can color themselves that came with piece, so after the party ends, the kids can go home with an activity.  All in all, I think each cup probably cost under $2 each to make, including candy.  Sweet!


Stay tuned to this blog next week because I had so much fun offering FREE GHOSTING OR BOOING SHEETS (find them here), that I think I'll offer something brand new over the next few days.  And, as always, THANKS FOR READING!!!







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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Yes, You CAN Throw A Gymnastics Party At Home!

Lily's school notebook - can you tell she loves gymnastics?!  




Lily, my soon-to-be 9 year old, wants some big-ticket items for her birthday, but with our budget being limited, we agreed that she could have the electronic device ONLY if we celebrate at home.  With our house being tiny and her group of friends, plus gymnastics team, being large, we proposed two small parties.  My little girl readily agreed. Thus, began my brainstorming for how to hold a gymnastics-themed party at home, on a budget, without equipment. Here's how I did it:


Invitations: These were easy. Evite has some nice Olympic-ring-style invitations which were appropriate for her party.

Decorations: Some posters of famous gymnasts, plus a home-made banner which read “You know you're a gymnastic when your whole world is always turned upside down!.”

Snack foods: Onion rings, celery balance beams (celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese), pretzel rods (like uneven parallel bars), and carrot sticks.

Games:

  1. Races – During training, the girls do a lot of races. Hubby had them do relay races, obstacle courses during which they had to do cartwheels.
  2. Balance Beam - Lily placed two lines of duct tape across our patio which the kids used as a balance beam. They then took turns doing their beam routines.
  3. Hula Hoop Competition – The girls competed to see who could keep the hoop up the longest.
  4. Head Stand Competition – At meets, while the judges are tabulating the winners, they hold contests to see who can stand on their head the longest.
  5. Ribbon Wands – I bought these wands fairly cheaply at Amazon and they were great for the girls to twirl as if they were doing their floor routines.
Ribbon wants - perfect for a gymnastics party!


I also had  my FAVORITE party game, Hullaballoo (read my review here), on the back burner just in case they got bored.


Favors: Goodie bags had a little candy, but also stuff they use at meets for their hair including elastics, brightly-colored bobby pins, hair clips, and mini-hair sprays. They also received a small trophy.
Yes, everyone received a trophy!


Cake: A simple sheet cake was decorated with 5 Twizzlers shaped in rings (like the Olympic rings). 


The girls had a blast and since Saturday, I've seen some of them sporting the clips and bobby pins in their hair. I think the team enjoyed being together, outside the gym, and my daughter had a blast. Sometimes the best parties are the ones you have at home that don't cost a lot. 


My simple sketch of Lily on the balance beam at gymnastics.  Clearly, I should not quit my day job to become an artist...


Lily is having a second party this weekend for a few school friends and I've come up with some BRILLIANT favors (even if I do say so myself). Stay tuned for more details! 




Thank you for reading!




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Worried Your Kid's Party Won't Go Well? Here's How To Make Sure It DOES!

What if my child's birthday party doesn't go well? What if it tanks?!

I was nervous about Lily's at-home birthday party this past Saturday. Of the 8 kids we'd invited, only three were scheduled to show up (with several people not RSVPing until the day before – SERIOUSLY people?! Show some consideration!). It was starting to look more like a playdate than a party. So what do you do when your child's birthday party could, potentially, fall apart? Here's what saved the day:

  1. Have an agenda and back-up plans. With the party being in October and the uncertainty of the weather, we had an indoor itinerary and an outdoor one. I'd planned on the kids doing a craft, but the birthday girl nixed that idea at the last minute. Since the weather was nice, we opted for relay races, obstacle courses, and Lily even made up a few games herself.

  1. Have extra food on hand.   Munching kids are busy, happy kids.  Based on the mid-afternoon time slot of the party, I'd vetoed the idea of pizza in favor of having just snacks and cake. Bad idea. Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to buy the ever-popular Bagel Bites on hand and when I saw the kids gorging on the Doritos, I whipped up a batch of those easily-microwaveable pizza bagels. They were a hit.


     
  2. My FAVORITE kid's game - for parties or playdates!
    In advance, PURCHASE THE GAME HULLABALOO! I bought it years ago, when my son was in preschool and am convinced that it's THE GREATEST GAME EVER INVENTED FOR KIDS 9 and under! It's so simple that they can play it on their own, with friends of all ages. The game consists of different colored and shaped pads you place on the floor and a main “console” with one button that plays clear-cut instructions. You go from pad to pad; sometimes you dance on the pad, other times you contort into Twister-like positions or pretend you're playing a musical instrument, etc. The unit goes off if the kids haven't played it in a while. I used to carry it in my car because if the kids ever got bored at a relative's house or were on a playdate that they didn't get along with, I could whip it out. The game can be played indoors or out and it's tons of fun. Even the teen will play it with his sister. We brought Hullabaloo outdoors and the girls played it on the patio for at least 45 minutes.


  3. Give the birthday kid some control. Lily, thank God, is an outgoing child who manufactures merriment when she's with people. She came up with variations on the races, threw some duct tape on the patio which the kids used as a balance beam, good naturedly mocked her own performance, and was having so much fun that it became infectious. Her out-of-the-box thinking and positive attitude really made the party enjoyable for all of her guests. 

    What would a kids' party be without music & dancing?

  4. Make sure music is involved. Kids LOVE to dance and be silly, so either have a dance party or play Freeze Dance. To play, just put on an upbeat song. While the music is playing, the children dance. When you pause or stop the song they have to freeze. Technically, whoever keeps dancing after the music stops is out, but we modified it so that whoever had the silliest face on when the music stopped won. I didn't give out any prizes, but everyone laughed at the goofiness of the game.

Don't forget that you need to have a positive attitude, too. Kids get a lot of cues from adults. When they see that you're honestly trying to please them, they respond accordingly. Really, it's about the birthday child having fun, the cake, games, and favors. Children know that “party” means “fun” and they're prepared to have a good time.

What could have been a flat party, turned into one where the children were all begging to stay even longer (we wound up extending the festivities for another hour). Thank goodness, Hubby and I were able to relax and enjoy Lily's big day. And the biggest payoff – Lily had a blast!

Here are more tips on how to survive your own kid's birthday party.

Thank you for visiting my blog!  Come back again, won't you?







Sunday, October 12, 2014

DID I Turn Off The Stove? Sanity-Saving Ways To Hep You Remember If You Did

DID I remember everything I needed to?!!!



Update:  The other morning as we're leaving for school, my daughter yells, "Mom:  did you remember to turn off the toaster oven?  The stove?"  Love that! 

~~~

I am famous, or infamous, in my family for pulling out of the driveway and pulling right back in again, afraid that I'd forgotten to turn off the stove, left the back door open, etc. I've heard too many stories of people who did that and worse - left candles burning, only to find the fire department waiting when they returned home. So here are some ways to help you remember that you did, in fact, turn off something important:

  1. When my daughter was very into the Rainbow Loom, I had her make me some rings. I use one of them, along with a plastic ring she got at a birthday party.  Every time I light a burner or turn the oven on, I slip one of those rings on my finger. It reminds me that that appliance is on and has saved me many times from forgetting that it was active.  You could also put a loose rubber band around your wrist as a reminder. 

    These rings help me remember when the stove is on.

  1. Put your cellphone near the appliance. You're not going to bed or out the door without your cellphone! If you put that item near the candle or stove, you're going to 1) think it's weird that your phone is there, alerting you that something is unusual 2) retrieve the phone before and, hopefully, remember why it was there.
  1. Say out loud “I have turned the oven off.” You will remember the sound of your voice and how insane you felt when you spoke to no one. 


    Hearing your own voice will help you remember


  2. Leave a checklist by the door. This is especially helpful for when you're going away. My checklist includes making sure no major appliances are running, no candles are lit, no cups have been left near the computer (the cat likes to knock them over), etc.

  3. Get your family in on the act. After I've checked, I'll ask my husband or teenager to double-check for me. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

  4. Give a neighbor a key to your house so that you can ask THEM to check for you. I've done this for others as well.

  5. Put your purse or wallet near the appliance. Like #2 above, you're not leaving your house without your ID and cash. When you find it, you'll know why it was there.

    When you remember your purse, you'll remember to check your appliance.


  6. Give the house a once-over before you go to bed. Check every room. The time will be well spent and you won't wind up getting out of bed to check.

  7. If you're worried about whether you've left your car doors/window open (hubby did this one time – ALL the windows and the moon roof - and it almost ruined his new car), check before you go to bed. I've gone outside many times in my jammies just before retiring, only to find out my daughter, unbeknownst to me, had left her window open a sliver. Thank goodness I checked!


    Remembering is sometimes hard.  Everyone needs tools to help!


Everyone is so busy these days, it's no wonder we don't forget more! It's always better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully, using these tips will save you some worry and reassure yourself that you're smarter and more aware than you think!

~~

I'm so happy you stopped by! 
Please come again!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

5 Thought Provoking Columbus Day Resources For Adults And Teens - Can You Say "Hmmmmm"?

Columbus definitely had an impact on the world...
Columbus Day is this Monday and, being of Italian descent, I thought I'd search for some fascinating websites and articles which give a more balanced view of Columbus than the trite “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” tales we teach our kids:

  • http://columbus-day.z12.net/2014.php – This site point out that, contrary to what we were taught, Mr. Columbus didn't “discover” America, but rather re-discovered it since people were already living her. It also provides information on all four of his voyages and his death – he was 54 when he died. 

  • http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/10/christopher_columbus_the_good.html – This link is to The American Thinker's article on Columbus which presents him not as pure good, but not as pure evil, either. Did he destroy a native paradise? Perhaps, but maybe that “paradise” wasn't as good as originally thought. This is a fascinating article which will really get you thinking!

  • http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1242074/posts – Read this intriguing essay by Dinesh D'Souza who points out that, despite Columbus' crimes, many of the Native American tribes he encountered on his voyages were less than angelic themselves and were, in fact, known for their brutality. In the midst of setting blame for what the Europeans did, should we, in fact, be looking at the repercussions of Columbus' discoveries? It's one viewpoint.

  • http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=2812157 – This tidy article from TheologyOnline asks whether Columbus was really a villain or whether the European discovery of American was inevitable.  If he hadn't "discovered" the New World, would someone even worse have?

  • http://www.livescience.com/16468-christopher-columbus-myths-flat-earth-discovered-americas.html – Read 5 Misconceptions About Columbus and you'll understand that Columbus wasn't just an idiot who got lost and was made famous for it and nor was he a devil. Perhaps the truth about this man lies somewhere in the middle.

No matter how you feel about Columbus, it can't be denied that he influenced the world. After you read the articles above you, like me, will have a more balanced view of this explorer.  (Tip:  Asking your teenager whether Columbus was "good" or "bad" should spark an interesting debate.  Give it a try!)

I'm proud to be part Italian...maybe not so proud of fellow Pisan Columbus, though...



Thank you for reading!  Come back again, won't you?