To celebrate our 8 year birthday we are giving away 8 – $100 Tea gift certificates on Facebook from May 17th – 24th. Celebrate with us and help us reach 8000 “likes” by Saturday May 22nd and we will give 20% off on our site!
There was recently alot of buzz at the school over International Peace Day, and the elementary grades participated in Pinwheels for Peace.
The campus of school was colorful and the breeze nicely complimented the mission of the day … pinwheels galore were spinning and whirling
The Pinwheels for Peace folks estimate that over 3 million pinwheels were spinning around the world on September 21st. Cool!
Near the middle school and high school part of the complex, these banners were also displayed.
With no fanfare, no streamers, and no cheering, I am happy to finally declare that Birthday Season at our household is officially closed. After the chaotic sprint of birthday-birthday-mother’s day-birthday-father’s day-birthday, I’m done. I’m spent. I’m planned out. I have made more cupcakes that I ever thought possible, I have fashioned more paper pinwheels than is healthy, and I have cut and curled more party hats than I care to admit.
By nature, I’m a pretty lazy person who likes to keep things uncomplicated. Children’s parties for our family involve no games, no decorations to speak of, and typically no outrageous theme. They are actually just get-togethers with our friends and families that happen on or around a child’s birthday and therefore involve cupcakes for dessert. Reflecting on this year’s birthday season, I have realized that most of the parties that I have organized have followed the following set of guidelines hereby known as “Throwing a Good Enough Birthday Party for the Preschool Set.”
1. Take it outside. My kids have the good fortune (from a party planning standpoint) of being born in the warm weather months, which admittedly in the South can stretch for most of the year. All of their parties therefore have occurred outside of our tiny home—on our back deck or in neighborhood parks. Not only can your forego the silly step of tidying your home just to have it trashed by children but the cleanup is so much easier when the party is outside. No worries about spilled drinks if they just land on the deck or the picnic bench!
2. Who needs games when there are bark chips? My kids are still young and really don’t care why their friends or grandparents have come over; they are just excited that there are so many wonderful people to play with. In the absence of adult created games and contests, the kids invariably create their own: How many cousins can fit in a cardboard box? How much bark can we pile onto the slide?
3. Don’t cater to the kids. Who wants to stop and eat when there is so much fun to be had? When my kids get together with a large group of their friends, they seldom stop to eat anything beyond fresh fruit and a birthday cupcake. Instead of planning meals and snacks around things that I know they will safely eat but that I find unappealing, food at recent birthday parties has included things like gourmet pizzas with garlicky spinach and pancetta, orzo vegetable salads, and Asian style cole slaw. The adults are happy not to be dining on hot dogs, and when the kids get hungry enough, you’ll be amazed by what they will agree to eat!
4. Forget the prepackaged theme. Save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and money and resist the urge to deck out the tablecloth, napkins, and party favors with some animated character’s visage. Instead, try decorating around a simple idea like summertime or snowflakes. For my son’s summertime party, we made pinwheels out of brightly colored paper to decorate his cake and used paper goods in primary colors. We let him pick the color for his cake’s icing which resulted in a memorable yellow frosting with an odd shade of puce as the accent color. My clever sister-in-law used the time of her son’s birthday party to create a fun party—she invited kids over for a Donut Party at 9 am and asked kids to come in their pajamas for some tasty breakfast treats.
5. Start your own traditions. Before my children were even a glint in my eye, I had bought a set of wooden circus animal candle holders. I have used these animals on every one of my children’s birthday cupcakes save one cake. And you know what? That cake just didn’t seem right with the little tiger and giraffe on it. Start a tradition with your children’s birthdays, and they will always remember it as will you.
6. It’s not about you. At the end of the day, if the kids have had fun, the party was a success. Keep it all in perspective and have a great time with your family and friends!
Our most recent family holiday was a long weekend in Holland to see the tulips in bloom. We arrived a little too late in the season to see all the tulips in the fields, but we had a wonderful day at the Keukenhof gardens just southeast of Amsterdam. It’s a great place to visit with kids. There are tulips from all over the world, as well as a wonderful petting zoo and fun playground for the kids. Olivia loved taking photos of everything and both kids are pretty silly when we take photos of them! Our favorite tulip was the ‘ice cream’ tulip. We took our bikes along and went riding every day. Holland is the perfect place to cycle, especially with young children. It’s flat, easy riding and there are bike lanes and trails everywhere. We stayed along the coast and were able to do some beautiful rides each day along with our daily ride into town to do our grocery shopping. We even got to watch some gliders taking off and landing. Olivia just received a new bike with gears for Easter and was really excited to be able to ride along next to us. She declared she loved Holland because she got to ride her bike on the streets in town like an adult. D and I ride our bikes through Brussels, but there are not as many bike lanes and it is too dangerous for us to let Olivia to the same. When cycling in Brussels, I use my Dutch made “Bakfiets” which allows both kids to sit in a box in front of the bike. It’s big and heavy, but very secure and I take the kids to school in it as long as it’s 10 degrees centigrade (about 50 degrees F) outside…and not raining!
We had a wonderful time in Holland and plan to return next year with all of D’s family. We want to go at the time of the Tulip Parade which travels through the entire tulip producing region and is held when all the fields are in bloom. And of course, we’ll take our bikes!
We’re off now for a two week camping trip to the Italian Dolomites. It will be the first time we’ve taken the kids camping and they are so excited. It’s already been an adventure getting all the gear and figuring out what to pack. But no more time to write about that now. It will have to wait for our return!
As a couple, my husband and I traveled as much as possible and now that we have a daughter, we are pleased to announce she is one of us. Although we are troubled by the fact that she will not eat salsa, she indeed loves to travel and so we will, in turn, allow Olivia to remain in the family. Traveling is deeply seeded in her DNA. Okay, that was dramatic. The truth of it is that she thinks everyone does it and it is normal everyday life. We have had only one mild passive-aggressive objection from her and it was on her 1st birthday celebrated on the big island of Hawaii. She took her first steps there, which we thought was especially magical as her namesake is Hawaiian. However, during that week of her birthday (we celebrate “birthday weeks” at our house) we continued traveling and she continued walking in Hawaii, then California and then Chicago. This is when she went on strike and didn’t walk again for 2 weeks. We got the message, three states in one week is too much to ask of a one year old.
There are so many travel tricks that we have used over the years to make the air portion of our travel smooth. As she gets another year older we have to come up with new solutions for cohesive travel. We started her traveling as an infant using the obvious trick of breast-feeding on take-off and landing. Bottle, boob or pacifier is essential to make sure you do not have the screaming baby in row 4 that rows 5, 6 and 7 wished was not there. Seems obvious but I have witnessed many-a-parent traveling with their child screaming in pain upon the landing. The baby has to swallow to break the building pressure in the ear canal upon take-off and decent thereby keeping baby free from pain and allowing the parents to smile an elitist smile when all members of row 5 state “that is the best baby I have ever seen.” We flew today from San Francisco to San Diego and a box of soy milk with a straw and carrots were on the no-ear-pain menu now that she is 5. Although Olivia’s Berkeley/hippie pediatrician states I can breast feed until she is 6, I opt for carrots at this point.
There have been a multitude of travel secrets between her infancy and 5 years old. Some I am afraid to mention or should I say that I am too embarrassed to mention. Two of such involve the airplane bathroom. Our current all-important travel secret is… podcasts. Olivia has a Nano iPod filled with podcasts. While she prefers the podcasts I download which contain video, I have also loaded it up with stories sans video. Everything from French lessons to Sesame Street. We used to travel with the portable DVD player, which was both heavy and bulky. It was always running out of battery life but worse yet, her movie would be mid-point and she would hear the instructions to turn it of by the invisible pilot. Very frustrating for her. Podcasts are great for short flights with short humans with short attention spans. Great for driving around Saudi Arabia too but that is an entirely different story.