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Sunday, March 30, 2014

mommy-free time

Sometimes you need a day off. 
To breathe, think, sleep even - imagine that!?

All moms I know I'd consider to be Super Moms. Moms who do it all, be it all to everyone, and typically put themselves last. 

Sound familiar?!


We try to juggle everything... working, exercise, relationships, friendships, birthday parties, planning activities and play dates, doctor's appointments, emails, cleaning the house, cooking real meals instead of microwaved ones, ETC. The list never ends. Always something else to do, say, be, respond to, work on, organize... 

It's exhausting. 

So recently I took a personal day from work. It was a Tuesday. I slept in an hour longer than normal, got the kids up and ready, drove them to daycare (in my pajamas, bed head and all!), and didn't think twice about it. I didn't feel guilty at all. My babysitter is AMAZING and totally encouraged me to get the heck out of town and relax, the kids would be fine with her. 

I'm with her. The kids ARE fine away from mommy. Honestly, they are. In fact, they probably have tons of fun getting all that attention and new toys and friends to play with. It's their norm anyway, if I'd been working they'd have been there already. 

I think too many moms have this expectation that they MUST be with their kids at all times that they possibly can be, or else... Or else what, is my question?! Or else the world will end? Or else the kids will be mad or scarred for life for having some time away from you? 

NOT TRUE.

IT'S OK to take time away. Honestly, try it for one hour, you will feel better and probably be a more patient mom later, and the kids will have smiles on their faces. 

This is one mommy guilt I advocate that you let go of PRONTO. It doesn't do any of you any good to feel like you have to do it all, all the time.


I intended on this personal day to do the following:

  • 5 loads of laundry, at least
  • clean my room (under the bed, vacuum behind the dresser and cob webs in the ceiling
  • dishes
  • clean the kitchen, top to bottom and wash the floors
  • scrub the shower
  • respond to some emails for work, and read some articles for work
  • plan my daughter's upcoming birthday party
  • go grocery shopping
  • ETC. I'm sure there were more things in my head I thought I could attempt to do in one six-hour period.
And then I got home, after dropping the kids off at school and looked around at the absolute MESS (we hadn't cleaned up after dinner and kids went to bed the evening before because I knew I had a personal day to deal with it the next day... how ridiculous the logic - oh, mom can just handle it, it's fine.). 

You know, those things you just DO. The things that are just part of your own routine. The things you do for everyone else. All the time.

Sometimes in the past I have taken personal days to do all of the above... organizing, cleaning, preparing for parties or Christmas, etc. Things I can't do with the littles running around.


And I thought, um, no thanks. I'm all set with this mess. It'll get messy again the second they all return home this afternoon anyway, so why bother cleaning it now?!

So I decided to do this instead:


  • Watched TV
  • Called 3 of my friends to say hi
  • Ran on the treadmill while watching old One Tree Hill reruns and read a magazine 
  • Ate steak for lunch (leftovers from a restaurant)
  • Ate Girl Scout Cookies as frequently as I felt like it, without having to hide in the corner for fear my kids would want some, too
  • Put one load of laundry from washer to dryer, but refused to put another load into washer to get it going for later
  • Went to a consignment store just for me (typically I'm shopping for the kids only), browsed, tried things on, purchased, smiled!
  • Browsed Target lazily, looked for bathing suits for me, picked up some Easter things for the kids, which was fine because it's nice to do it ahead of time when I'm relaxed.
  • Actually showered. Actually put makeup on and a cute outfit instead of my typical Mom Attire.
My husband even texted me in the middle of the day asking if I could manage to pick up something at the store for him. I planned to do it... then after hanging out at home doing my own stuff, I only had a certain amount of time before I had to get the kids in the afternoon... so I chose to not go to the store for him and instead went to do my own shopping. CRAZY. I'd never done that before, chose me over someone else, said no to a request of someone I care about. 

Don't worry, I went to the store later. But it didn't interrupt my personal day. I was SUPER proud of myself for this. 

I even got myself an iced chai - my all-time relaxation treat since high school. It instantly calms me, rejuvenates me and gets me energized for whatever else is coming in my day.

I have to admit, driving around (in my mom van...) I felt like a rock star, all showered and cute clothes without kids' handprints or boogers on them, and listening to MY music, sipping on my Starbucks... hilarious these small things that make our mom days so much brighter.



Here's the thing... it's a necessity to relax. To be yourself sometimes. To remember you were a girl, woman, wife, friend, sister, etc. before you had kids. There is NO shame in time off, especially when it makes you a better wife, mom, friend, and even worker. I returned to work the next day refreshed, more focused and thinking clearer. I was more effective as an employee because I made time to rest.

I was a cooler mom in the afternoon, too when I picked up my kids. We were laughing and playing and just had more fun than if I'd worked another day and been run down, tired, snippy and lacked patience with them. 

So try it. Take some time for yourself. I encourage a whole day off from work and kids... but if not, at least take an hour to go grocery shopping alone or to go running or meet a friend for coffee after the kids go to bed at night. It doesn't have to be long, but it's important, quality time alone is so important. 

Lastly, you know what ended up happening? The world didn't end. My kids were not mad at me or put off because I had a nice day away from them. I didn't feel guilty or like a bad mother, because I KNOW I'm not a bad mom for making myself a stronger mom. 

Moms have needs, too. We're so busy and focused on our kids' needs that we forget we have them, too... but like that airplane quote of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping your kids or others... we MUST take care of ourselves sometimes. 

So, let go of the guilt already, and take some time for yourself. It's important. You know it is. So treat yourself the way you treat your children... be more nurturing, caring, loving, and supportive of what you need. It will make you that awesome mom you are striving to be already. 

Love, a rested, relaxed and happy momma





party on - Hannah Contella!

Listen, I'm a lover of all kids parties, they're just so adorable, fun and awesome. BUT then there are these types of parties that send me over the edge with laugher and awe of how a mom could be so super creative. This party is one of those! 

Hannah Contella is receiving my "Most Creative and Boy-Friendly Party" award today for her son's 8th Fear Factor birthday party last year! This is AWESOME. I can see all boys in the world wanting a party like this someday. Check it out!


All photos from Hannah Contella 

1. What was this party's theme and the age of your child? 
It was my son's 8th birthday, and the theme was Fear Factor.

2. How far in advance before the party did you start researching ideas, planning, etc.?
Conner decided the Fear Factor Theme in June (3 months prior to his party) and then I started planning and looking up ideas.
3. Where did you find your inspiration, ideas? Any good Web sites, books, etc. you used for ideas?
I googled Fear Factor Birthdays online. Several came up. Birthdaydaypartyideas.com had the most Fear Factor party ideas.

4. What words did you want to describe this party?
Memorable, fun, gross, silly


5. Why did you choose this particular theme this year for your child's party?
I always allow the kids to pick the themes. This year Conner was really into watching Fear Factor and loved all the gross stuff they did. I figured it would make for a fun party.

6. Where did you get the supplies- decorations, paper products, etc.?
I made a lot of the decorations myself. Then went with the yellow and black color and bought mostly everything at Walmart. 
7. Did you do treat bags for the kids? If so, what and where did you get them?
I didn't do treat bags for the kids. I rather put that money into doing more activities during the party.

8. How did you invite people to the party - paper in the snail mail invitation, Evite, email, FB event invitation, etc.? What worked or didn't work with this way of inviting people? And about how many people did you invite, why?
We made the invitations by hand and mailed them (snail mail) to everyone. We invited about 20 of Conner's friends and we also did his family party that day as well. I believe there ended up being around 45 people at his party this year.

9. Did you have any games at your party? If so, let us know how they went. The whole party was based on games. 
Game 1: First we split the kids into 2 teams. Taking turns they did a obstacle course. You first had to walk on the wood planks I made, then had to get 1 marble out of the pool that had freezing cold water in it, they then had to drink yellow lemonade (pee) then find the tootsie roll in the dirty diaper. It was chocolate pudding. The kids were all gagging it was so funny. Then find a creepy crawly bug in the shaving cream.

Game 2: Balloon pop. I had blown up over 100 balloons. Each kid got a cup and all started at 1 end of my lawn they had to run to the balloons and grab one and try to pop it with there feet or butt. Then put the popped balloon in their cup. (It was my secret way of not having 100 balloons to pick up at the end)

Game 3: Whip cream race. Each kid had a plate of whip cream. The 5 kids who could eat it the fastest moved onto the next round.

Game 4: Lemon slice. The top 5 kids all had to put a lemon slice in their months and keep it there. I figured this would be a fast one after 10 minutes and no one was out i decided that instead of the top 3 moving on all 5 kids would move onto the final round.

Game 5: I made about 6 boxes of spaghetti added a lot of oil to it and hit 3 dozen cherries in it. Each kid had 25 seconds to race down and grab out with their months the most cherries. The kid with the most cherrys was our Fear Factor Champion. (They also got a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card)



10. Where did you hold the party, and how did that work, pros and cons of having it at this location?
We had the party at my house. It worked out great cause it was a beautiful day. I did have a rain date on the invitations just in case. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to have this inside my house.

11. How did the party run, the agenda of when you did things (cake before presents? snacks and treats before cake?)?
While the kids were arriving I had a table for them to make slime. That way the kids were not bored while waiting for everyone to show up. Also they could take the slime home with them. Then we had the first 2 games, had lunch (hamburgers and hot dogs) finished the games. We did presents and then cake and ice cream.

12. What time was the party? Why did you choose that time, and did it work out well or not?
Party was from 12:30 to 3:00. It worked out great. 


13. Thing you are most proud of about this party and why?
That I was able to pull it off and everyone had fun. Kids at Conner's birthday party this year were still talking about it.
14. How do you think your child enjoyed this party?
Loved it, he said that one and his Mario theme party have been his favorite so far!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

party on - Kassy Flagg!

I LOVE THIS! Super fun, sweet and silly party for a big one year old! Thanks, Kassy Flagg, for sharing such a creative party, as well as your tips for making it go smoothly... including not needing to be the one taking the photos or doing it all! Great ideas :) 


                                           All photos by Photography By Kay

What was this party's theme and the age of your child?
Our son turned one and we had a monster themed party!
How far in advance before the party did you start researching ideas, planning, etc.?
About six months. The idea just kind of popped into my head so I used newborn nursing sessions to do a lot of research!!
Where did you find your inspiration, ideas? Any good Web sites, books, etc. you used for ideas?
Pinterest mostly!



What words did you want to describe this party?
Colorful, silly, creative!




Where did you get the supplies- decorations, paper products, etc.?
Oriental trading, BJ's and the dollar store! I also made a lot of the decorations and those supplies came from michales!
7. Did you do treat bags for the kids? If so, what and where did you get them?
I got party favors off of oriental trading and had them in a basket by the door.



8. How did you invite people to the party - paper in the snail mail invitation, Evite, email, FB event invitation, etc.? What worked or didn't work with this way of inviting people? And about how many people did you invite, why?
I sent out paper invitations that I ordered from snapfish. It worked very well! I don't like facebook invites because people always miss them. We invited about 50 people. We have a huge family! We figured not everyone would come, but they almost all did!!
9. Did you have any games at your party? If so, let us know how they went. 
No games. I had a ball pit for the kids and a "make your own monster craft".




10. Where did you hold the party, and how did that work, pros and cons of having it at this location?
In the room above our garage. It was perfect because I had all week to decorate. I just did a little each day at nap time. It also gave me lots of time to clean up, and it was free!!
11. How did the party run, the agenda of when you did things (cake before presents? snacks and treats before cake?)?
Everyone came at 2. We did Reagan's smash cake, and then sang and cut his big cake. Then he opened a few gifts. After that he actually fell asleep!! He slept on my shoulder for about an hour! After that we opened the rest of his gifts and he played! The other kids did the craft and played around the whole time.




12. What time was the party? Why did you choose that time, and did it work out well or not?
It worked well, it was on a Sunday so it was after church. The only downside was that it was afternoon nap time, but he was a champ and stayed in a great mood the whole time!
13. Thing you are most proud of about this party and why?
I'm proud of the whole thing!! I made a lot of his decorations and I think they came out really well! I kept the whole day running smooth! Nothing was overwhelming.

14. How do you think your child enjoyed this party?
He had a blast!
15. Anything else you want to share about party planning in general, or advice to others about planning a child's party?
The best thing I did was hire a photographer. All my photos were taken by Photography by Kay. She came and did a little photo shoot in his room, and then stayed for about two hours. She got photos of everything so I could be in the moment and not think about pictures! 

I also asked for help! Christy Witham made his monster shirt, and my friend Amanda Kelley made both of his cakes! Thanks to great friends and family it was a great day!!!

party on - Jillian Brooks!

Jillian Brook is one super mama, this I know from getting to know her via the Mommy Stories Facebook group. She's one of those moms who I always find myself wishing I could hang out with for coffee or just a play date with the kids. So creative and fun, she seems!

So when she offered to do a blog post about her son's last second birthday party, I sorta was jumping for joy myself! This is the CUTEST carnival themed party I've ever seen. You will love this! Check it out :) 



All photos from Jillian Brooks


1. What was this party's theme and the age of your child?
Carnival party age 2

2. How far in advance before the party did you start researching ideas, planning, etc.?
I start pinning 3-6 mos in advance lol. 

3. Where did you find your inspiration, ideas? Any good Web sites, books, etc. you used for ideas?
Pinterest! 4. What words did you want to describe this party?
Fun! 




5. Why did you choose this particular theme this year for your child's party?
I knew a carnival would be full of games and yummy snacks! 
6. Where did you get the supplies- decorations, paper products, etc.?
Oriental trading/ dollar store

7. Did you do treat bags for the kids? If so, what and where did you get them?
The kids took home a "pet goldfish" (plastic fish in handsoap) and they filled paper popcorn bags with candy.




8. How did you invite people to the party - paper in the snail mail invitation, Evite, email, FB event invitation, etc.? What worked or didn't work with this way of inviting people? And about how many people did you invite, why?
Snail mail! Invited 30ish
9. Did you have any games at your party? If so, let us know how they went. 
We played ring toss, pin the nose on the clown,bounce house, had a tattoo station. They were very relaxed and no real "rules"
10. Where did you hold the party, and how did that work, pros and cons of having it at this location?
In our backyard! I love having it at home, we have the best backyard!
11. How did the party run, the agenda of when you did things (cake before presents? snacks and treats before cake?)?
Cake before presents...I think. Snacks were out from the start.
12. What time was the party? Why did you choose that time, and did it work out well or not?
Party was at 2- worked great!



13. Thing you are most proud of about this party and why?
I love the final product! Everyone had a blast! The weather was perfect! I was very proud of my cupcakes and whirley pop cake!
14. How do you think your child enjoyed this party?
Max still talks about his bounce house...he loved it.




15. Anything else you want to share about party planning in general, or advice to others about planning a child's party?
Parties are what you make them! I take my time and always look for the best deals. I keep a tight budget but it always works perfect with the amount of time I give it.

Also- I love sticking to a theme but NOT a pre-fab kit theme like Disney characters etc. I like hunting for all different things that pull your theme all together in the end!



Sunday, March 23, 2014

tidbits from Parents - April

A few great things I found in the newest April issue of Parents magazine!



EASTER IS COMING!
  • Tons of great Easter-related ideas, crafts, foods, and treats to make. So fun! I love this time of year with spring approaching!
MEDICAL INFO
  • 600,000 Angelcare Movement and Sound Baby Monitors sold from Oct. 1999 to Sept. 2013 are being recalled because the cord attached to the sensor pad poses a strangulation risk. You can receive a free repair kit at their Web site.
  • "Slips and falls in the tub send more children to the emergency room than any other type of bathroom injury." page 39
  • The Vitamin K shot newborns get in the hospital IS very important! Vitamin K helps a baby's blood to clot and newborns don't produce enough of it on their own. (page 41)These shots have been given for more than 50 years. No known risks or side effects of taking the shot. 
  • Signs of Whooping Cough: violent, rapid cough that lingers for weeks, vomiting or extreme fatigue after coughing fits, sharp inhale during the cough that sounds like a "whoop" (page 46)
WHAT NOT TO SAY TO YOUR KIDS
  • Really great article about 10 things you should not say to your kids, including: (read the article to find out more - GREAT info!).
    • Let me help. - Don't jump in too soon to fix things, instead offer some guiding questions, "Do you think if you put the block there it will tip it over?"
    • Great job. - Too much praise is not a good thing.
    • Be careful. - Your words distract him and then make him lose focus and he falls... instead if you're worried, move closer to support instead of speaking.
    • You're OK. - Don't diminish their feelings or experience if they fall and aren't OK. Say the facts, "That looked like a tough fall." Give a hug, and offer support.
    • Practice makes perfect.
    • Hurry up. - Makes them get overwhelmed and go slower!
    • No dessert unless you finish your dinner.
    • We can't afford that. -Shows them you aren't in control of your money, which seems scary to them.
    • Don't talk to strangers. - Because most abductions occur with someone the child knows, make it clear that if ANYONE makes them feel uncomfortable, etc. they should not go with them and should report it.
    • I'm on a diet. - Because they'll copy you... not good!
YUMMY
  •  4 recipes I can't wait to try!
    • Kid-friendly deviled eggs
    • Cheesy Casserole
    • Chicken and Egg Fried Rice
    • Pasta Carbonara
SPECIAL CHILDREN
  • 1 in 6 children in the U.S. have a disability. 
    • GREAT articles about children with Autism and other disabilities. Resources for family members struggling through this type of situation with their children. How to get financial support, therapies, great places for vacations for children with handicaps, etc. Great information! I really recommend this portion of the magazine this month if you or someone you know is in a situation like this.  
NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT
  • Awesome article on page 114 by Denise Ullem about trying to achieve perfection as a mother. She wrote:
    • "Motherhood socked it to me, with sleep deprivation, a traveling husband, marital spats, a dirty house, and 35 stubborn pounds of baby weight... Perfection sat in the corner and mocked me, luring me with the notion of gleaming toy-free floors, impeccably mannered children, skinny jeans, restful nights, and healthy dinners served with sides of local, organically-grown veggies. Instead of joyfully playing with my daughter, I scurried along her trail of toys, constantly cleaning up after her." 
    • She said then one night she was looking at pictures of her kids and realized that she took those pictures, she was with her kids, but she doesn't remember those moments... she was just "wishing away the days" with her children instead of being present in the moment. 
Great issue of Parents! Check it out today!



books - feeding them the good stuff

I read a few interesting books recently about what we feed our children and how it impacts their behaviors, attitudes, emotions and physical bodies. GREAT information! If you find your child having strange reactions to food, or if you have some unexplained behavior issues with your child, these books are great resources.

I've broken down the basics for you. I encourage you to pick up these books though if you are struggling to determine what is happening with your child's nutrition, or in general for better food for your kids.

 Images from Google


Optimum Nutrition for Your Child's Mind
by Patrick Holford and Deborah Colson
(2008)

I really enjoyed this book. It is a great resource for anyone who is trying to figure out if diet and nutrition is affecting their child's behavior, moods, and physical symptoms. I'd highly recommend it to parents who are struggling to find answers. There are checklists and questions, short surveys, etc. at the start of each chapter to help parents in figuring out if a certain symptom means something more nutritionally. 

A few things I learned from the book:
  • 5 essential brain foods: slow-release carbs, essential fats, phospholipids, amino acids and vitamins and minerals. These are good!
  • 5 anti-nutrients, as the author calls them: refined sugar, damaged fats, certain chemical food additives, toxic minerals, and food allergens. These negatively impact the brain and other body processes. 
  • Brains are mostly made out of fats. 
  • Too little sugar in kids could result in: fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, aggression, anxiety, sweating (especially at night), poor concentration, excessive thirst, depression, crying spells, or blurred vision (page 15). 
  • Protein + Fiber = perfect! "the more fiber and protein you include with any meal or snack, the slower the release of the carbohydrates," (page 15). 
  • If your child doesn't like to eat in the morning (breakfast is the most important meal!) then gradually increase what they eat. First give one strawberry. Next day two strawberries. Third day the strawberries with some nuts. Over a few weeks they will be eating more. (page 29)
  • Include protein with each meal. 
  • Antioxidants food = carrots, yams, dried apricots, squash, broccoli, peppers, kiwi, berries, tomatoes, citrus, seeds, beans, nuts, fish, wheat germ, tuna, onions, garlic, red grapes, beets, prunes, etc. (page 64) These foods help fight medical issues.
  • Many research studies show that eating foods with preservatives and food colorings negatively impact kids' behavior. 
  • Top allergies among kids: wheat and gluten grains, milk, eggs, yeast, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, garlic, soy. (page 83)
  • 1 in 5 adults and children have allergies. (page 80)
  • If you think your child has an allergy to a food, simply stop feeding your child that food for a few weeks to a month to determine if there are changes physically and behaviorally. 
  • Hyper children eat more sugar, studies have found. (page 133)
  • Feeding hyperactive children good fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 helped decrease the irritability and other hyperactive behaviors. (page135)
  • More than half of hyperactive children test positive for a food allergy, especially MSG or food colorings and flavorings, additives, milk, chocolate and some to oranges. (page 136)
"From the very start, eating should be a matter of satisfying appetite, not something done for Mommy (or even starving people). Nor does it need to be a tidy activity. So let your child's appetite, not your desire to feed him, be the governing factor at mealtimes. If he wants more food one day, give it to him - he could be preparing for a growth spurt. Equally, if his hunger wanes the next day, don't force-feed him. He may be unwell or just tired." (page 190)


What's Eating Your Child? 
By Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND
(2011)
  • Encourage you to feed children a fruit or vegetable with each meal for optimum heart health. 
  • "Most parents are unsuccessful with eating issues because the steps they are taking are too big and overwhelm the picky eater, and they are not prepared for how long it can take to change habits. ... picky eating was caused by  parents indulging in kids' natural tendency to restrict their food choices." (page 46)
  • Dairy is the most common food irritant.
  • Signs that your child may have a food allergy: pale, pasty-looking complexion; skin anomalies (eczema, hives, dermatitis, rashes); bowel issues, especially constipation, or frequent diarrhea); sick all the time; craving beyond reason dairy or wheat-based products (page 48).
  • E.A.T. system = Eliminate any irritants that are maybe causing negative reactions. Add one food at a time. Try one bit of this food each night for two weeks. (page 52)
  • "Resisting the urge to respond immediately to a child's initial dislike of a food takes a lot of patience on the part of parents and caregivers... it does require you to stay calm, cool and collected and to persevere. Don't stop after one success or failure - keeping going!" (page 53)
  • Tips for picky eaters: (page 56)
    • Give the child a choice of two foods so he has some control. 
    • Choose a food with some "familiar characteristics and try it at one meal or snack for two weeks." 
    • Be consistent - new foods can take 10-14 days to get used to. 
    • Ask children to eat one bite, and offer an incentive "eat one bite and we can go watch your show or play that game." 
    • Remain calm. 
  •  There is a great chapter on reflux, why it happens, why it's common, etc. 
  • Great resources, Web sites, etc. about being gluten free, including: (page 96)
    • celiac.com
    • livingwithout.com
    • celiac.org
    • glutenfreeliving.com
    • celiaccenter.org
    • celiachealth.org
    • whatnowheat.com
  • Constipation in children is typically caused by either withholding or too little fiber in the food they are eating (page 122).
  • Adding fruits or vegetables to kids' food intake is the best way to avoid constipation. 
  • Some fiber foods include: baked beans, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat English muffin, raisin bran, carrots, strawberries and watermelon. peanut butter, popcorn, raisins. 
  • Every child should poop at least once or twice a day. What goes in the body in a day should come back out the same timeframe. (page 133)
  • Great chapters on anxiety, ADHD, processing, and ear infections. 
  • A good chart on page 257 about which foods to purchase organic. These are the ones that are best bought organic:
    • apples
    • peaches,
    • sweet bell peppers
    • celery
    • nectarines
    • strawberries
    • cherries
    • carrots
    • pears
    • frozen winter squash
Overall an excellent read, very informative!



Saturday, March 22, 2014

party on - Aurelie's ideas!

Aurelie Swasey is SUCH a great party planner mom! Love these ideas for other parties she's had. Very creative ideas and themes. Check thees out!

Halloween party ideas:
(all photos by Aurelie Swasey)






And fun at a SheRa party!






Harry Potter party?! Love this idea!




SUCH FUN PARTIES, THANK YOU, AURELIE!


party on - Aurelie Swasey - Jessie cowgirl party

Aurelie Swasey is quite the party planner! 
She has created such a beautiful and fun cowgirl horse party for her daughter's sixth birthday party. Check it out!

1. What was this party's theme and the age of your child? 
The specific party I chose was Lilly's Jessie the Cowgirl themed party and she was 6.

2. How far in advance before the party did you start researching ideas, planning, etc.? 
I usually start brainstorming a couple months prior. Of course I usually have an idea based on what they're into at the time. I start looking online at ideas two months before and a month before I start buying the supplies and making the crafts.

3. Where did you find your inspiration, ideas? Any good Web sites, books, etc. you used for ideas? 
I find my inspiration from what my girls are most into at the time of their birthday. Lilly's been into horses for years. When she was quite little she took a liking to Jessie from Toy Story and the love grew from there. Before Pinterest I'd just Google ideas on the web. Now Pinterest is my go-to for party planning. 



4. What words did you want to describe this party? 
The words I'd use to describe the Jessie party would be dress up, country, hands on.

5. Why did you choose this particular theme this year for your child's party? 
Like I said Lilly's really into horses. And once I started looking into ideas and brainstorming activities I started thinking pony rides as an activity.

6. Where did you get the supplies- decorations, paper products, etc.? 
I usually get my supplies and decorations at IParty/ now party city, Celebrate Express online and sometimes paper goods and smaller things like some of the favors at Dollar Store.  

7. Did you do treat bags for the kids? If so, what and where did you get them? 
I did do treat boxes for the kids, I got them from CelebrateExpress.com. The stuff I filled them with were from IParty at the time. I got the foam hats, bandana's and the foam frame crafts from Michael's.



8. How did you invite people to the party - paper in the snail mail invitation, Evite, email, FB event invitation, etc.? What worked or didn't work with this way of inviting people? And about how many people did you invite, why? 
I create an event on Facebook for family and immediate friends and I email any classmates. The Facebook event works the best. In the past couple of years I've stopped bothering with paper card invites because they make a good save the date but people lose them and you end up having to call everyone in the end after all. The emails and Facebook invites work the best. 

9. Did you have any games at your party? If so, let us know how they went. 
At this specific party we had pony rides because it was right at a horse stable/ farm. Usually I do games, for Lilly's more recent birthday we did a Halloween theme and I had jars of candy that kids had to guess the amount of and I made a witch hat ring toss game that was pretty awesome. Instead of games at this party the kids wore bandanas and cowboy hats and we took a picture of each child on the horse. After they all got their rides they came in and we did a foam frame craft. While I helped them create their frames my brother printed each picture and we then put the picture in each frame to send home with each child. 




10. Where did you hold the party, and how did that work, pros and cons of having it at this location? 
We had the party at Lyman Hill Farm.

www.lymanhillfarm.com/

It was amazing! It was very, very affordable. I found the $200 for 2 hours to be much better than a lot of the other places we'd held out parties and this place did an amazing job. We set up, because I wanted to buy all the supplies, though I believe this venue has a package where they can include the paper goods and supplies right into the package. I wanted it more personalized. They had a nice party room, outside the kids could pat the horses. The owner let the kids help brush the horses that were going to be giving the children rides. There was a nice arena for the rides to take place in. No matter the weather the party would have been fine, none of it was directly outside, though it was beautiful the day of our party and our guests were sitting in adirondack chairs outside so it was wonderful.

11. How did the party run, the agenda of when you did things (cake before presents? snacks and treats before cake?)? 
We did cake and presents after all our activities. I think we always do cake first and presents last. We also had pizza for our guests.

12. What time was the party? Why did you choose that time, and did it work out well or not? 
Our party was at noon. For my more recent parties we do 1pm. I find that since the girls are in school now it's easier on me to do the parties after lunch so the kids have been fed and then have snacks, drinks and cake.

13. Thing you are most proud of about this party and why? 
The thing I was most proud of from this party was my tables scape. The room was absolutely beautiful and I really loved how the table came out. I also loved how the venue tied so well into the theme. Above the table were all the horses ribbons and it looked beautiful.
 


14. How do you think your child enjoyed this party? 
My daughter absolutely loved this party. She got to see horses up close and it was all very safe, clean and organized. I felt very stress free for this party! It was very well planned! 
 
15. Anything else you want to share about party planning in general, or advice to others about planning a child's party? 
My biggest piece of advice for planning a child's birthday is to plan ahead. When I wait til the last minute I'm stressed out to my max. 

We live in a townhouse so we always have to rent a hall or venue. We've done the Mason hall, The rec department, the Pavillion at Frost Tufts, we've done it all. Having to rent a hall can get pricey. Especially when you still have to buy all the supplies and provide activities. If you're renting a hall make sure you have games and crafts or the kids will end up just running around and yelling. 

I try to keep my parties on a schedule and have constant activities you're doing. I think the max time for a party should be 2 hours for your sanity and the parents that have to come. More than 2 hours and kids just start getting bored and running around.