Posts Tagged ‘kids birthday party’

25 Days of Christmas – Day 1: the Rainforest and Tangled

Wednesday kicked our the start of a new advent calendar for us, the 25 Days of Christmas. My youngest daughter turned four on that day so our advent activity was determined by her.

To the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.

The Rainforest Cafe is my daughter’s favourite restaurant, at the moment. Each of our kids has a birthday restaurant, a place we go on their birthday to celebrate their birthday as a family; the Rainforest Cafe is my youngest daughter’s birthday restaurant. I think she loved the show, the animals dressed in their Christmas finest dancing in during the storm, and the Volcano ice cream at the end. Reluctantly she shared. The big surprise was the show the kids got leaving the restaurant; an employee in a scuba suit submerged in one of their big tanks, cleaning it. Now there’s a job.

After dinner is was time to head open and open the presents. I think my daughter had an idea about what she was getting from us, due to no small part on my son’s end (he’s really not good at keeping a secret), but that didn’t affect her excitement. Although I love my iPhone, it doesn’t do a good job at grabbing clear pictures of a super excited child. She loved the Tangled movie and was ecstatic to receive the dolls and Tangled Tower for her birthday. The tower is so big standing at 3 feet it’s almost as tall as my daughter.

Of course the big surprise of the night was my 6-year old son’s enthusiasm for my daughter’s gift. Sure he was happy that his sister was excited about her gifts. He was happy that he played a part in making her so excited. He enthusiastically helped my daughter get all the castle parts out of the big box not because he wanted to wanted to help her set it up (that fell on dad to do), not because he wanted to play with her. No it turns out he wanted the big box for himself.

My daughter had a fantastic birthday and we kicked our 25 Days of Christmas in a big way. I think we’ll take it a little easy on Day 2.

The Birthday Cupboard

A tweet by Real Life Sarah (@RealLifeSarah) this morning about buying gifts last-minute had me thinking. With 3 kids we have our share of birthdays, not to mention parties they’re invited too. I’m not very good at getting out to buy gifts. In the past I would be one of those moms who would buy it on the way to the party. Thank goodness most independent toy stores offer gift wrapping as a service or else I’d be putting a bow right on the store bag.

This started to become stressful. And shopping with the kids in tow meant having to explain to reluctant little ones that the shopping was for a gift for someone else, not them.

But I think I found a solution. We have a Birthday Cupboard. During toy sales, like the big Mastermind Annual Warehouse sale that just happened, I scoop up great finds and store them away. My birthday cupboard is full of Lego sets (big and small), Hot Wheels, Barbie outfits, books, games, arts and craft supplies and more.

For my son’s most recent birthday I had a Lego set we picked up on the Lego store’s clearance table. He didn’t care that it wasn’t the latest Lego. It was Lego and that’s all that mattered. I didn’t have to stress about running out to the store to buy something plus I got a great deal on what could have been an expensive gift.

Now when my kids come home with party invites we head to the Birthday Cupboard, I pull out 2 or 3 items that might be appropriate and the kids pick. This way they feel they’re still choosing the gift for their friend (versus mom choosing it) and they know what it is when their friends open it.

We’re lucky now that our kids’ interests are pretty generic; they’re not requesting certain gifts by name. And yes, sometimes we do go out and buy a specific gift item when the time calls for it but for all those other times the birthday cupboard has been a relief.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Things I’ve Learned from a Sleepover

My daughter just celebrated her eighth birthday by having her first sleepover. Actually it was her first, her friends’ first and our first as parents. Yup, we were all sleepover virgins. So as a first time sleepover parent I learned a few things and what better place to post them than as part of Oh Amanada’s Top Ten Tuesday post.

  1. Air Mattresses aren’t really designed for sleeping on. Call me foolish but I always thought the purpose of having an air mattress was so you didn’t have to sleep on the hard floor. Turns out air mattresses are really designed to be slides off the bed, trampolines, lean-to tents, barriers to keep siblings out, basically everything and anything but sleeping on. The girls ended up sleeping on the floor UNDER the air mattresses.
  2. Labeling a room off-limits only attracts siblings. I think if you have the space, each child should have their own area, their own room. We’re fortunate enough that all 3 of our kids have their own rooms. The kids play well together but sometimes everyone needs personal time. Our kids know to respect each other space and stay out of each others rooms unless invited. That is until the words ‘Do Not Enter’ are attached. My daughter and her friends were in her room, the younger 2 were told to stay out but the ‘Do Not Enter’ label is just too enticing. Sometimes the 2 youngest would play together just outside my daughter’s bedroom door, flirting with the danger of being caught.
  3. The later the evening the louder the sleepover guests become. Maybe it’s because there’s less outside noise, maybe it’s because the girls are overly tired. Maybe it’s because I’m overly tired. Whatever the reason, as the sky got darker the sound from my daughter’s room seemed to get louder.
  4. The more warnings you give the louder the sleepover guests become. I expected the girls to be excited and get loud but I had two younger kids who were trying to sleep and I didn’t want to be the one trying to console them when they were woken mid-dream from fits of laughter coming from down the hall. You would think the obvious solution would be to tell them to keep their voices down. And each time I made that request they were quiet initially but the noise level would increase to the next level and rise from there.
  5. The term sleeopover is a misnomer. You would think by the term ‘sleepover’ the girls actually do some sleeping. Not these girls. I think in the future the sleepover should be called the stayover.
  6. Sleepover guests can function on very little or no sleep at all. It was 1 a.m. and my daughter and her friend were still awake chatting and giggling, though much quieter at this point. I was asleep before they were. In the morning they told me they all didn’t go to sleep until 6 a.m. I remember laying there thinking how much ‘fun’ it was going to be getting the girls up for church the next day. But they were up before more and they were cheerful! Why can’t my daughter wake-up like that every day (on more sleep)?
  7. Family rules don’t seem to apply. My daughter is usually very good at following the rules at home though I have noticed lately she’s been pushing the limits more. I’m sure this is just the start of what’s to come. But through friends in the mix and she’s a little more daring. She knows she’s not suppose to jump on the bed but at the sleepover bed jumping was the first thing on her list. No water before bed, but all 3 girls were in the bathroom many times getting a drink. Perhaps she wants to look cool in front of her friends. Maybe she thinks I won’t call her on breaking the rules. When I did remind her politely she stopped (at least when I was looking). It is a party so I tried to be a little flexible too.
  8. Kids at a sleepover require more food in a night than they do in a week. My daughter is a good eater, always has been. Some nights she eats more dinner than me, though I don’t know where she puts it. Oh yah, she eats it and I seem to wear it. There’s something about a sleepover that stirs up a kids appetite. They had snacks when they arrived. They ate dinner. They had snacks at the movie. More snacks at home. Midnight snacks. Crack of dawn snacks. And they still ate breakfast. It must be all that trampolining they’re doing (see point 1)
  9. I’m not as cool or as hip as I think I am. My daughter was excited about her sleepover and who could blame her. She was having 2 of her friends over for almost a whole day and night. No homework or school assignments just talking and joking and giggling all night. At first my only fear was some child wanting to go home early, a child not having fun, but that didn’t happen. No, as the night wore on I found myself worried about something getting broken in the room, the siblings being upset about not being able to join in, the kids not getting any sleep. I felt I was in there telling them to stop jumping, stop yelling, stop laughing so loud. I realized that I was behaving like a grumpy parent and not the cool, hip parent that I’ve always thought I was. (see all the points above)
  10. I would do it again. Yes, even with the late night and jumping and occasional fights, I would let my daughter host a sleepover again. I would be more prepared now having done it the first time. Okay, maybe not more prepared but certainly less unaware. Like anything, it can only get better the more you do it right? Now I’m off to console my 3-year-old. I told her she’s too young to have her own sleepover.

Review: T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disneyworld

On our recent surprise trip to Disneyworld I wanted to plan a special birthday dinner for our son’s fifth birthday (the reason we were on the trip). I had heard about the recently opened T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney (from the owners of the Rainforest Cafe, it had been open since the fall of 2008). My kids love the Rainforest Cafe and dinosaurs are always popular with my three so I thought we’d give it a try.

The restaurant is located at the end of the market portion of Downtown Disney, just before you cross over to Pleasure Island. Visitors are greeted by a large dinosaur skeleton at the entrance. It was a good thing we made a reservation since the wait time when we arrived was an hour and a half.

Enter the dino zone

Enter the dino zone

We arrived early so we could hang out in the gift shop. You could by dinosaur books, hats and shirts; dinosaur place settings and toys and fossils. We picked up some great Dinosaur fossil ice cube trays that I can’t wait to try out. The Cafe also has it’s own version of Build-A-Bear in the form of Build-A-Dinosaur. It seemed to be pretty popular judging by the number of Dino boxes we saw leaving the Cafe and throughout the Marketplace.

As we head over to our table, the hostess walks us past the bar and aquarium dining section. There’s a large fish tank and many automated over sized sea creatures hanging from the ceiling One large table was lit by a giant hanging jellyfish overhead.

Hanging out with sea creatures

Hanging out with sea creatures

Another part of the restaurant was in the lush jungle. Guests ate surrounded by various dinosaurs who moved and roared occasionally throughout the meal. We sat in the Ice Cave, a translucent coloured cavern with icicles hanging from the ceiling. The cavern colour would change periodically. Once it was blue, then it would turn pink. This made reading the menu a little difficult as your eyes had to adjust to each colour change. But during the rest of the evening it was fine. The kids enjoyed it because it made the colour of their drink go from white to blue. The restaurant was very busy and very noisy but I think the Ice Cave reflected the sound more than the rest of the restaurant. But even with that said, I would still request to sit in the Ice Cave on a second visit. It was a completely different experience then just a dinosaur version of the Rainforest Cafe.

Eating in the Ice Cave

Eating in the Ice Cave

Meteor shower in the Ice Cave

Meteor shower in the Ice Cave

The Rainforest Cafe is known for it’s interactive storm that erupts in the jungle every twenty minutes or so. The T-Rex offers similar entertainment in the form of a meteor shower. Approximately every twenty minutes the sky in the main entrance fills with scenes from a large meteor shower. The creatures all around the restaurant talk and move throughout the crazy event. The Ice Cave area flashes into bright colours of red and orange.

The food on the menu is similar that offered at the Rainforest Cafe, but with a Dino theme and works from water (drinks), fire (main food) and ice (desserts). The kids menu is also similar in offering pasta and chicken nuggets and mini burgers. But no matter what you eat, you need to save room for the Eruption, a delicious concoction of chocolate brownie, ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Servers bring it to the table with a cup in the centre full of dry ice. The presentation is like an erupting volcano. We ordered it for my son’s birthday finale and it was a perfect dessert for all five of us to share.

Surprise!

We recently hosted my seven year old daughter’s birthday party and barely survived.  Imagine hosting a party for my boisterous, energetic son, times five. Not a pretty picture. So we convinced our son that instead of having a party we could go away for a family celebration, like to a water park hotel. He was sold.

Then two weeks before his birthday I received my weekly Top 20 email from Travelzoo.com. Next thing I knew, we had a trip to Disneyworld booked for my son’s birthday.

So now the task was keeping it a secret, for two weeks. My husband and I use to call each other on the phone during the day with little messages like “I’m going away and I can’t tell anyone where”, or “M-I-C—K-E-Y—M-O-U-S-E”. To be honest, I never thought we’d make it; either my husband and I would crack. And there have been a few slips, thankfully unnoticed.

Our first obstacle was the border crossing into New York State (see we were staying overnight in Buffalo and flying out the next day to Florida). As my husband was telling the boarder guard our plan, my seven year old let out a little squeal. Damn, so close. I look back to my relief to find out she was excited about a move she made on her DS game. Phew.

My husband and I were so excited about our plan, we didn’t really think how the kids would react when  they discovered their  plan, going to the waterpark hotel, wasn’t going to happen. Pulling into the Red Roof Thursday night, my son was a little disappointed, to say the least. It was so hard keeping things a secret with my son’s sad face in the back of the van.

But come Friday all was revealed and I’m glad we waited. (Though I have to point out the secret was revealed by a woman in the airport line and not us. Oh well).

We're going where?

We're going where?

Of course now we’ve set a terribly high bar when it comes to birthday celebrations. I’m  expecting my three year old to request her birthday be celebrated in Hawaii now.

We had a great party, but I’m glad that’s over.

In an earlier post I mentioned how my daughter convinced me to host her birthday at our place. I must admit I was a little stressed about the whole thing: would I get everything done on time, would there be enough to keep the kids occupied, will the kids enjoy themselves, would I have enough medication to get me through (okay, maybe that last point wasn’t really on my mind). I sometimes think parents get themselves worked up over things that kids don’t think about or care.

So party day had arrived. My daughter is a huge Webkinz fan so she wanted to host a Webkinz themed party. Their website was actually pretty helpful. It gave us a great starting place.

In the Webkinz environment they have a Kinsville News that opens each time a player logs in. This is like a newspaper and gives you information on any new content or activities in Webkinz. So to announce my daughter’s birthday we created a birthday edition of the newspaper for the invites. This set the theme and gave the guests an idea of what to expect.

When the kids arrived they got to choose a crown as their Crown of Wonders, like in Webkinz. But instead of collecting gems for their crown, the kids collected stickers. For each activity we had, the kids added a sticker to their crown.

OK, great idea, but now what to do to keep the kids entertained?

making party hats

making party hats

Webkinz party table

Webkinz party table

and more party hats

and more party hats

Well, since this was a Webkinz party, we told the kids to bring their Webkinz along (my daughter had a stack sitting in the hall for friends to borrow in case they forgot theirs). They decorated hats for their webkinz and gave them balloons (a bunch of little balloons came in our bag of balloons, perfect size for the webkinz). Then the Webkinz sat and partied at their own special table.

gem hunt

gem hunt

Super, the dolls were set, but kids can be a little harder to entertain. It was actually my daughter who came up with the first idea. We had a Gem Hunt. I created the box (or the cave actually) and my daughter created all the gems, including two slag. The kids took turn reaching into the ‘cave’ to grab a gem. If they got a piece of slag, they could choose again. If they got a gem, they could barter with the owner of the min (my hubby) and see if he would buy their gem. Funny, all the kids wanted to sell their gems. It doesn’t help that my husband is a bit of a pushover.

gunk or surprise?

gunk or surprise?

making smoothies

making smoothies

Then I thought of having a test kitchen, like Chef Gazpacho. Of course it didn’t help that I forgot I had planned this and didn’t get recipes or ingredients until the last minute. Thank goodness for Twitter, I was able to get a few recipes. The kids were able to work in teams and make one of two recipes. I let the kids do everything, from cutting the fruit, to measuring the yogurt and breaking the ice. They loved watching everything blending, but their favourite part seemed to be tasting the finished product. I was surprised at how much the kids enjoyed this. We had to do another batch even after eating lunch.

There was also a Jellybean count (note to self: don’t buy jellybeans too early in the planning stages or else you’ll end up eating most of them and have to go buy more). The kids pondered and collaborated and calculated how many beans they thought were in the jar. We had some great estimates, but we ran out of time before going through them. That’s okay, because I forgot to count them when I put them in the jar. Ooops!

scavengerhunt maps that didn't get used

scavengerhunt maps that didn't get used

After lunch we did a Magical Forest Scavenger Hunt. I had made up three maps, winding all around the downstairs rooms. My daughter and I ran around hiding the little Webkinz figures early in the morning. Now after lunch we’re ready to unleash the kids to discover them. Only problem, I find out that throughout the day the kids found some of the figures and moved them around the house. So the kids didn’t follow the maps since they remembered seeing the figures and just ran around to the spots. Then the three teams combined to try and find the missing figures, ones that were moved into other locations, ones that I didn’t know where they were hiding. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find the missing ones when I vacuum.

When planning, I was worried that the kids would be sitting around wishing things were over or worse still, running around like lunatics, swinging from the curtains, jumping on the couch. But the kids were busy and seemed to be having fun and before I knew it, parents were showing up for pick-up. No furniture broken.

yeah for party food

yeah for party food

birthday cake

birthday cake

The party seemed like a success, even though I forgot to put the tray of veggies out that I prepared the night before. I couldn’t believe how tired I felt when it was all done. I’ll be the first to admit it, I think I enjoyed running the party, but I’m glad my son decided to have a family weekend away for is birthday instead of a party.

What? Me host a party?

Hanging out with just a few friends

Hanging out with a few friends

My oldest is turning seven this month and so we’ve entered party planning mode. We’re all fairly new to the party scene. My oldest is the only one who, so far, has had a birthday party with friends and it only started when she was school age. I know there are moms out there who have opted for parties for their kids when they turn one or two, inviting other babies and toddlers to participate in cake smearing fun. That’s just not me. I actually hoped we wouldn’t have to worry about parties until my daughter was in grade two or three or eight. No such luck.

I sound like I’m complaining. I actually enjoy the whole planning process. I like developing creative invites and gifts for the kids. But this year will prove to be a challenge for me. In the past we’ve hosted the party off-site. One year it was a princess party at our neighbourhood independent toy store. Another year a cooking party at a cooking school. Last year the kids worked with clay at a ceramics studio. All were great fun…and easy since I didn’t have to do much. This year the party will be here, at my house.

Yup, I don’t know how she did it, but my daughter convinced me to hold the party at home. What was I thinking! Okay, it’s not all that bad. We’re only talking a few hours with a few friends (we have a party rule that whatever age you are turning, you can only invite that many people, i.e., 7 kids this year). How bad could it be. I mean lots of moms do this, right?

That’s what I thought, then I sat down with my daughter to plan her party.

Like so many kids her age, my daughter is completely hooked on Webkinz, so she decided she wanted to have a Webkinz themed party. No, no computers will be involved. We had to think of how to bring the online world to life in the real world. Actually, not as hard as I thought. The problem was where to stop.  I must admit, I was getting excited about the planning. I thought the best thing to so was brainstorm and write down all our ideas, then we would narrow down our list. I guess I was the only following that plan, because my daughter thought we were going to do everything on our list. I had a hard time trying to convince her that some things had to be dropped. I was trying to not take over her party, but I knew I would end up being the one creating all the elements and I’m not a superstar. It’s true, I’m not.

So I think after some ‘discussion’ we both have came to an agreement of what will happen at the party: Curio Shop Gem Hunt, Magical Forest Scavenger Hunt, Jellybean Jar Count, Crown of Wonders, and Making Chef Gazpacho Smoothies. Since the kids will be bringing their Webkinz to the party, my daughter thought the kids could make and decorate hats just for them. Or course each time my daughter talks about the party, she thinks of something else to add. To help my daughter understand the work involved in putting a party together, and hopefully curb her focus on making it bigger than the two of us can handle, I’ve given her tasks to do. She’s created the gems for the Gem Hunt and is now on the lookout for items for her Scavenger Hunt. The best part to keeping her busy, she hasn’t been trying to add more things to her party. Now I need to do my part, the biggest of which is getting the invites created and out. Maybe this party at home thing won’t be so bad (you’ll have to check back in after the 18th to know for sure).

At least for my son’s birthday, which is next in the calendar, we gave him the choice of a party or a family weekend away at Great Wolf Lodge or Splash Lagoon. He opted for water park. That’s my boy 🙂