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Saturday
Apr112015

In Praise of a Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party

Best. Day. Ever.

I’ll admit that when Nic decided over a year ago that he wanted his 5th birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, I was less than excited. As a kid, I LOOOVED Chuck E Cheese. But now that I’m a parent, I’ve seen too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU that get there start in an eerily similar place, and sometimes I have a hard time getting past the germ factor.

Nic stuck to his guns though, and when it was time to make serious plans for the party, he still wanted Chuck E Cheese. I knew the party would be loud and chaotic, but I also knew that I wouldn’t have to clean up, so I booked it. And I am sure glad I did.

He was a bit nervous the morning of the party—an upset stomach and a little slow getting dressed. I remember getting nervous before my parties when I was a kid and he seemed to really relax once I noticed how he was feeling and acknowledged it. As soon as we got loaded up in the car he was ready to shine, this was his day and he knew it.

I can’t even explain how happy he was at the party—it was easily the best day of his life. He laughed, he danced, he participated in ways that I’ve never seen him participate before. He soaked up the celebration and we all could see it.

From the special cape to the Chucky Dance to happy birthday song to his time in the “ticket blaster,” Chuck E Cheese really did a good job of making this day different than a regular trip there. They let the birthday boy shine, made it fun for his friends and made it a really easy party to plan and execute.

As much as I love a “Pinterest Birthday,” Chuck E Cheese made quite an impression on me. I’d guess that this isn’t our last party there.  

Paying close attention to Chuck E, the giant rat. With Grampy and his haul from the "Ticket Blaster."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(NOTE: This post was in no way sponsored by Chuck E Cheese.)

Saturday
Apr042015

The Problem with Summer

I want my boys to spend their summers working together to find bugs and climb trees.As of now, I have to take them to the park or hiking to get this kind of experience.

There are some great posts making the internet rounds right now about retro summers and how we should kick our kids outside—teaching them to navigate their surroundings and make their own entertainment. This is how I spent my summers and my husband did the same. We would LOVE this for our kids. The problem is, I just can’t see how it’s possible.

First off, we don’t live on rural acreage (my husband and I both did). I can send my kids out the backyard and they can occupy themselves for a pretty good amount of time, but with only a few thousand square feet of yard and no small creeks or climbing trees, it’s only a matter of time until they’ve exhausted their options. I long for more outdoor space and mature trees, but I don’t see it anywhere in our near future.

Secondly, we live in an awesome little suburb on the San Francisco Peninsula—our neighborhood is safe and there are tons of kids in the area.  This sounds like a plus, right? Well, it is if everyone lets their kids run around. But if you’re the only one, you have to worry about a nervous neighbor calling Child Protective Services because you let your kid ride his scooter around the block. And when all the neighborhood kids aren’t out roaming, you lose safety in numbers and that network of moms who are looking out for each other’s kids.

So how do we get summer back for our kids (and ourselves)? I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars in camps and shuttle my boys around all summer for the rest of their lives. I want them to make their own adventures, solve their own problems and for them to be out of my hair for hours at a time.

And I know I’m not alone. I had this conversation with a local mom just the other night and she felt the same way. How do we work together as a community to give kids back a little of the freedom they once had?

Monday
Mar302015

Eversnap Pro: Photographers On-Demand

 Casual family portraits with Eversnap Pro.

Ever wanted kids’ portraits or great pictures of a birthday party without shelling out big bucks for a photographer? If the answer is yes, keep reading.

When the team at Eversnap Pro reached out to me a few months ago, I hadn’t heard of their service and thought it sounded almost too good to be true. An experienced, friendly photographer and all the digital files for $100 an hour? And I can book online or through an app? Yes please!

Eversnap Pro offered me a one hour photo session to try out their service (full-disclosure!). I decided to use it for a photo shoot with the boys and their littlest cousin, with the idea of using the photos as Mother’s Day presents for the grandmothers.

Setting up the session online was super easy and our photographer, Sarah, arrived on-time and with a big smile. Sarah said she’s been working with Eversnap for a while and shoots everything from portraits to weddings. She was professional and good with the kids, who were not particularly excited about having their portraits taken. The only criticism I have is that I was hoping to get pictures of each of the boys individually, but I don’t think I was clear enough with this request. We ended up with pictures of the two of them without their cousin, but not individual shots.  

Aside from easy booking and a really fair price, the other great thing about the service is that I had my photos the same night as the shoot. Sarah said the turnaround is usually 1-2 days, which is awesome. The photos aren’t highly edited, but ours looked really great. I was also able to invite my sister-in-law to view the photos directly online, so I wasn't stuck distributing CDs or being the sole person resposible for ordering prints. This would be great for a large event. 

I’ve been lucky to have a good friend who is also a very talented photographer and she’s taken pretty much all of the boys’ pictures to-date. To me, Eversnap isn’t going to replace this kind of high-level, artistic photography. It’s a different thing all together—I see Eversnap as the perfect solution for family reunions, first birthday parties and casual portraits.

If you want to give Eversnap Pro a try, you can use this coupon code for 25% percent off: Nathalee775 (more full-disclosure: I’ll receive a $25 credit toward Eversnap for the first three people who use this code). 

Here are some of my favorite images from the shoot:Wrestling: All day, every day.

Hug or headlock?Let's make our stuffed animals toot!
The alternate universe in which I have three kids. If only it would be as easy as it looks!

Monday
Mar232015

Stop, Drop and Roll

 

At Elle's preschool today, one of the dads who is a fireman came to speak to the class. Parents were invited to stick around for his little presentation so we did as I thought Reid might like it to see all the gear. I didn't realize it was also a wake up call for me and my lack of safety education for Elle. As a four-year-old she is fully capable of following a safety plan. So, I thought it might be a good reminder for other parents too. Just a little refresher course since it's been a while for most of us.

First, teach your children what to do should they catch fire. We all remember this, right? Stop, drop and roll! 

Second, set up a plan with your child in case a fire happens. How do they get out and where do you all meet up? When describing this, it's important to talk about how to navigate a house on fire. The fireman today told the kids to put their hand close to the door to see if the knob was hot. If it was, back away as the fire is outside of their door. (Before a fire, you should best determine and discuss alternative ways to get out if their door isn't an option.) If their dooknob isn't hot, they should open the door, stay low to the ground, get out of the house and meet at the meeting spot.

Third, remember to explain the fire alarms, how they work and what they mean. Also, show them pictures of actual firemen in gear so they know not to be afraid when they see one. It's surprisingly kind of scary! 

Any other tips to share? I'm sure I've missed some!

 

Monday
Mar232015

Goody Bag Alternative: Art Jars

Art supplies instead of a goody bag!

For each of Nic’s birthdays, I’ve done a “non-goody bag” favor. Goody bags can be fun, but I prefer something a little different. Usually, my favors are a bit crafty, and for Nic’s 5th birthday, it was no different.

The boys and I made “art jars,” for each party goer. These were mason jars stuffed with craft supplies for Nic’s favorite activity, project-making. Here’s what we used: 

  • Mason jars
  • Feathers
  • Beads
  • Dyed pasta
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Old fashioned clothes pins
  • Googly eyes
  • Layard string
  • Pom poms
  • Glue sticks or tiny Elmer’s Glue (I actually didn’t put these in, but wish I had!)
  • Gift tag
  • Ribbon for tying on gift tags

The art supplies make these favors so colorful!

If you can get a good deal on the mason jars, these are really inexpensive favors, and they look terrific! Scope out dollar stores for great deals on craft supplies.

Mason jar favors, the finished product,

These were really fun and easy to put together with the boys. 

Nic loved getting involved in making the favor for his party.

Pro Tip: Keep the mason jars in the boxes they come in. Do this for two reasons.

 

  1. When filling the jars with kids, a bunch of supplies end up between the jars. Having the box there makes clean up way easier.
  2. The boxes make the jars super easy to transport if you are having an off-site party. 

 

The kids and parents all seems thrilled with the jars at Nic's party. I'm already coming up with ideas for more mason jar favors. What would you put inside?