Monday, July 14, 2014

Do you remember when "Birthday Parties" were Birthday Parties?

I have such great memories of birthday parties from when I was growing up.  My parties, my friends parties, family parties, they were all the same.  They were great.  Back then, a birthday party was simple.  Generally, the whole class was invited for simple food and a homemade cake, maybe some pin the tail on the donkey, and if you were really lucky, a pool party.  The parents would drop the kids off and not have a worry in the world.
Back in the day, the birthday party actually revolved around the child whose birthday it was.  The children played, ate, and then gathered in a circle while the birthday boy/girl opened his/her presents.  It was a momentous occasion.  The child would coo over the gifts, and the party made them feel that on that day that they were special.  The other children, having been taught manners, would sit and admire the gifts politely (even through envy) and clap with joy with each unveiling.

As any current day parent knows, things have changed.  This is how "birthday parties" happen now:
1. Meet at bounce house place
2. Set presents on a table, never to be seen again
3. Kids play, moms chat
4. 15 minutes of pizza/cake/singing happy birthday
5. Everyone leaves
6. If you are lucky you get a thank you card, if not, you can assume that your gift was lost on the table.

What happened to birthdays?  Where in this schedule is the birthday boy or girl supposed to feel special?  I don't get it.  Aren't birthday parties supposed to be about the child whose birthday it is?  Did somebody write a law saying that children shouldn't open their presents at the party?
I have had moms tell me that it's rude to have the child open gifts at the party.  My response to this is usually "Really?! Because at your bridal shower you made us sit through every stinking one".  Oh, I get it--that was "your day".  Well your child's birthday is just as important.  The point of celebrating a child's birthday should be just that - to celebrate.  Instead, we spend the time worrying about the perfect decorations and location, while the child is ignored.  For 90% of the party, they could be at anyone's party, not their own.  The 10% where we sing happy birthday and cut a cake doesn't really count as an actual birthday party.  It makes me feel sad, even if the children do not - after all, this is all they know.  Most of them have never been to an actual birthday party where the child opens gifts and is celebrated.  I know my son has yet to see this, and he is 7.

Until now all of my son's birthday parties have been family only.  Sometimes that means 5 or so family members, sometimes it is just the 3 of us.  Each one has been memorable.  I decorate and bake him a cake, or order one if that is what he wants, and we all sit and watch as he opens each gift.  It is magical, because it is all about him.  After all, it is HIS birthday.  He is a child and this is his day.  He has been asking for a "birthday party" like his friends have, and I may give in, but I have a feeling he won't like it as much as he thinks he will.  If he does, that's fine, but in the meantime I think that we are cheating our kids out of authentic birthdays.

Perhaps if we had smaller birthdays, with smaller cakes, gifts that were actually opened, and loved ones surrounding us, we would provide our children with memories, not just parties.

If you think I am wrong, just take a moment and reflect on a birthday when you were a child - opening your presents with your friends in your living room.  Think about it.
***Edited to add: IF we have a "big" birthday party this year, he has decided to ask people to donate to a charity of his choice instead of gifts, so the opening of gifts wont be an issue anyway. NO, I don't know where he got such a kind heart from, but it's probably not me!**

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week

Hooray for teachers!  This week is teacher appreciation week, and let me tell you, I sure do appreciate them because it is a job that I know I could never do.  At our school each day has a theme with something special that we do for our teachers.  Today was $5.00 gift card day.

As many of you know, I am that Pinterest mom.  You know the one- the one that makes the handmade stuff and gives them to the class.  Before Pinterest, I just considered it being crafty.  Crafting is my hobby and for me being room mom was code for "I can spend more money on hoarding craft supplies and justify it to my husband".  I also love making fun of myself.  So when I went to Pinterest in search of a cute idea for how to package the gift cards, I fell in love with these free printables from Chickabug.  The joke of giving them to teachers who know how addicted I am to Pinterest was more than I could resist.
They are so cute, and all you have to do is print them out, trim them up, and attach a gift card.  When you print them out, just glue the striped side to the back of the front side with the words.  I loved the stripe so I modified it a bit to make the stripe present on the front as well as the back.

I printed each card twice, so that I could trim the front (the spot where you put the gift card) a bit smaller and allow the background to show.

This way I had one striped sheet for the back, so it looked professional and used the other sheet as a border for the front. 

I used pop dots to add a bit of dimension, both on the white card with lettering when adhering it to the background, and on the actual gift card.  I then tied it up with some twine (after all, I had to make it more "pinteresting" - I couldn't help myself) and sent them off to school today. 

I am so excited to have discovered the Chickabug blog via pinterest.  I love free printables, and these cards only took about 5 minutes to make.  It also is a good idea to poke fun at yourself once in a while.  After all, there are only so many pencil covered vases a teacher can use. ;)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Christmas Photo Cards

This post might just offend many people I know and decrease the number of Christmas "cards" I get, and I am OK with that.

Dear everyone,
I love sending Christmas cards.  I also love receiving them.  I take pride in selecting the perfect card every year.  My cards are generally glitter bomb Thomas Kinkade cards from Hallmark.  Those who know me well know to open my cards outside.  What can I say? I love glitter and Thomas Kinkade.  Each year, I carefully select my cards, go through my address book, and carefully write out a message in each one.  As a handwriting perfectionist, I have to use just the right pen, with just the right style of handwriting, and when writing out the address I go through far more envelopes than I should.  If I make a mistake, it must be re-written.
You see, all of these years, I have been mesmerized by Christmas cards.  When I was a child I loved looking over them all, reading the messages from people who we had lost touch with and admiring the glitter of it all.  I also admire the time it takes for people to sit down, write out cards, and include a heartfelt holiday sentiment to those who they are sending the cards to.

Enter the photo card.  Or, as I call it, the death of the Christmas card.  Let me tell you something.  Snapping cute pictures of your kids is fine, but there are basic rules of decency that should be followed.  These rules seem to have been lost in the photo card land of lazy people.

1. If you send out a photo card, take the time to sign the back.  Sorry not sorry, but shoving a photo card into an envelope does not equate "sending out a Christmas card".  Really?  Is it that hard to write a note?  Are you so popular that you have to send out 200 Christmas cards and just don't have the time?  If that is the case, maybe you should re-think the purpose of Christmas cards.

2.  Yes, your kids sure are cute!  But when you send a photo card that contains pictures of your children exclusively, with no adults or names listed, chances are I have no idea who the heck those kids belong to.

3.  The same thing goes for dogs.  I love seeing pictures of your dogs, but I need to know who sent the card.  "Milo and Otis say Merry Christmas" doesn't cut it.

4.  This is number 4 , and quite possibly the worst.  The photo card with no note, accompanied by a 1996 inkjet printer address label.  Really?  Is it that much of a hassle to address a card?

The holidays are supposed to be a time of reflection, reconnection, family, and love.  Shoving a photo card into an envelope is not exactly indicative of the season.  Please at least take the time to sign the back.  I love seeing pictures of your family, although it does become a bit awkward when I throw them away on January 1st.

P.S.  You know those photos that you just spent $700.00 on for the "perfect" Christmas card?  The ones that you spend hours going over and editing for the perfect layout?  The ones that you put so much time and effort into, yet once they were delivered, couldn't be bothered to sign your name on the back?  Yeah, those either go into the trash in a fit of guilt about throwing away pictures of kids, or into a box that belongs to a hoarder who can't throw anything away.  Hope it was worth it.  As for me, I will take a traditional card with a heartfelt message over a photo card that is as impersonal as a convenience store any day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

You've Been Booed!

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting it up with the little neighbor girl who lives across the street.  "Have you ever booed anyone?" she asked.  My reply? "Well, yes, I boo Kyle Busch and the occasional baseball player but it is not really polite."  She seemed confused, but we left it at that.

Fast forward to last week, when we arrived home from school to find a gift bag by our front door.  It was a bag of treats!  I was so excited, as I am just getting used to living in a neighborhood full of lawns, trees, kids playing, and all of that fun stuff.  Who had left it?  What was in it?  What glorious person dropped off this bag of treats at our door?  Turns out we had been "Booed".  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it does not, as it turns out, have any relation to Kyle Bush during driver introductions at a NASCAR race.  It does have to do with leaving treats for your neighbors and then passing on the magic.  (You can imagine my thoughts when I put 2+2 together and understood the confused look on the neighbor girl's face).

This letter accompanied the gift bag, which was filled with Halloween brownie mix, a candy apple kit, a glow stick, and other assorted goodies.
You can download this for free here, thanks to Happinessishomemade

So I set out to make my own Boo Bags to give away.  I found everything at Target, and I had so much fun picking things out.  Mine are pretty simple, but now that I know of this tradition, I am already plotting my Boo Bags for next year.  Pinterest here I come!

I gathered some cute, Halloween inspired baking supplies, along with a cookie for good measure.  The claw bottle opener on the bottom right is spooky and kind of goes along with the rest of the goodies that follow.

A bottle of wine - get it?  Ravenswood, with it's creepy Raven on the label? 

 I can't take credit for remembering the creepy Raven on the label of Ravenswood.  Target had all of the wine with creepy labels/names on one shelf.

Along with the claw ("The Clawww" - sorry, I am a mom and I keep picturing Toy Story 3 when I write that) bottle opener, I picked up these skull and crossbone wine stoppers and tied them to the bottles.

Then, because I didn't feel it was creepy enough, I stuck on a fake bug to get my point across.
Creepy yet cute
I then shoved everything into a gift bag and tied it up with some orange organza ribbon I had lying around.  Next year I intend to do something really cute like little bushel type baskets or something.  I normally take more pride in my packaging skills, as gift wrapping is one of my favorite things to do, but I am going to let myself slide since "booing" people was new to me.
Don't judge me, my gifts are usually impeccably wrapped.
All that was left to do was sneak around and drop our treasures off to two neighbors who had not yet been booed.  Once you have been booed, you take the paper that I linked to above and make two copies of it.  Take the original and cut in in half, then hang the side that says "We've been Booed" on your door so that you don't get booed twice.  Place a copy of the full sheet in each of your boo bags.  Our neighborhood is pretty much fully booed, and I think that is so neat.
Go Boo someone!  (besides Kyle Busch).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fun Fajitas And A Sinful, Easy Dessert

When I plan out my meals, I have a category for each day - Tuesdays are for tacos, but to me that really means any Mexican dish.  Last night, I made fajitas, and I must share this recipe with you because it is,  by far, the greatest fajita recipe in all the land.  Seriously.  I have made it about a million times and it has never let me down.  It is also super easy, since basically all you have to do it throw everything in a blender, marinate the meat with the blender contents, and grill it off.
Here it is, it is from Tyler Florence (the fact that he is super cute has nothing to do with my love of this recipe).

If you look at the ratings, you will see that I am not the only one who thinks this recipe is to die for.
The recipe works for chicken as well as beef, and the only thing you have left to do is chop up some onions and peppers to saute (I only do onions because nothing makes me gag quite like a green pepper does), put some cheese in a bowl, and warm up some tortillas.  Seriously, this marinade is the best thing ever.

The other thing I made was a dessert.  I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I rarely make desserts.  My husband, however, has  a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, I have been working on making some sweet treats for him.  Over the weekend I was watching a Pioneer Woman episode on the Food Network, and she made an incredibly simple ice cream pie.  Now that I am living in Texas and have easy access to Blue Bell ice cream, I knew that I had to make it.  Here is the recipe for it.  It is so easy, you can make it in advance, and the caramel sauce that goes along with it is now my go to caramel sauce.

So there you have it!  An easy weeknight meal complete with dessert.  I must admit, I am feeling quite proud of myself.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I Cannot Be Trusted With Electronic Devices.

It's been a rough week for me on the phone/camera/anything else I can break front.  I will start from the beginning.  I have an Iphone 5, my husband got it for me and I don't really understand it, as I've always been a Blackberry kind of gal.  Nevertheless, I use it for what I need - which is really just phone calls, texts, and pictures.  I don't have much use for all of the crazy apps and stuff.  When my dear husband bought it, he was also smart enough to get me a lifeproof case, since I have a tendency to
(A) Dunk my phones in coffee as if they were donuts
(B) Hurl my phones into walls during fights (the wall got a hole, the phone was fine)
(C) Drop my phone at least 3 times a day.

Let me tell you, those lifeproof cases are amazing.  They are waterproof, idiot proof, Meredith proof.  This is, until you remove the phone from said case to plug it into a speaker so that you can dance while you do the dishes and promptly drop it, shattering the screen into a million little pieces.  At least, that is what I did.

$180.00 later, I had a shiny new screen and I vowed that never again would I remove my phone from it's case.  All was right in the world!!  That is until Apple, in its infinite bid to improve things, came out with a new operating system.  My husband immediately updated his, but I didn't really see the point in updating mine since I didn't even understand the old one - why confuse myself further?  Nevertheless, that little red "update" thingy was on my phone so I pressed it. I forgot about it, and after a while came back to my phone and asked my husband why there was a weird USB pointing to Itunes on my screen. "Did your phone do that?"  I asked.  "no, but I'm sure it just needs to be restarted" he replied.  Oh, if only it were that simple.  The update killed my phone.  Killed it, I say!

I spent an entire day (ok not an entire day but about 5 hours) on the phone with various Apple employees who were befuddled as well.  Let me say this - I have always been a "PC" person, not and Apple person. "I am a PC" -get it? Like the commercials?  But I must say that the helpful people at Apple are changing my mind.  Not only are they located in the US but they are nice and you never have to spend hours on hold.

So, after realizing there was no hope for my phone, I got the good news that it is under warranty so they will just send me a new one for free.  After about an hour on the phone with the tech support man who I now considered a friend, it occurred to me that I should mention the screen replacement in case it was an issue regarding the warranty.  BOOM! no free phone.  I voided the warranty 2 days before my phone fried through no fault of my own.  How's that for luck?

The point of this story is that I had high hopes for showing you pictures of my office today, but I can't.  The backup Iphone I am using doesn't take the best pictures, which normally wouldn't be a problem because I usually use my camera.  The camera I just dropped that no longer works.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The End.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Drowning in school paperwork

Our new house doesn't have a good spot for a landing/launch pad that can handle the hoards of paperwork that get sent home everyday from school.  Every morning when I send the little one off to school, I get that sickening feeling that I forgot to sign something, send in something, write a check for something, etc.
In our old house I converted a cabinet into a work station, but I do not have the space to do that here.  The paperwork and homework were just getting tossed onto any available open space, so I needed to fix it.  This is what I came up with and I am quite pleased with it. 
I started looking for vertical poly files, and since they are usually in bright colors, I hung it in the pantry so it is out of sight since it doesn't exactly match my kitchen.  My son's homework is usually sent home on Monday but is not due until Friday, so I have a pocket for uncompleted assignments and completed.  The pocket for sign/return is great for picture orders and other things that need attention but do not need to be sent in the next day.  When such items are ready, I put them in the "send in" file so that in the morning I can put them all in his folder.  The other folders are pretty self explanatory - his cub scout memos and my room mom memos.  Gone are the days of piles of paperwork and anxiety sitting on my counter!

Here is the best part, and I have to brag about Staples for a minute.  Note: Staples has no idea who I am and this is not a sponsored post.
I couldn't find a vertical file I liked at Office Depot/Max, which are the two office supply stores here in town. I am an office supply hoarder, always have been, and I am very particular.  I love Staples, even though I don't think I have ever set foot in one of their brick and mortar stores.  This is surprising, due to my hoarding of Martha Stewart office supplies.  I found this vertical file at Staples for $5.90!  I also needed a couple more of these beautiful Martha Stewart binders, and that qualified me for free shipping.  I love these binders, and my entire office is pretty much made up of the Martha line from staples.  Since we don't have a Staples here, I had to order online but this is the crazy part:  The closest Staples is (I think) in Houston - roughly 3 hours away.  They sent my files by courier to my house yesterday, for free, less than 24 hours after I ordered.  CRAZY.  They sent the binders via UPS and they should be here today - less than 48 hours after ordering.  That is service.  Why would I go to the office supply store when I can just sit at my computer, tap in an order, and have it delivered by an actual person the next day? I guarantee they lost money on the deal, after all, it was a $6.00 item that probably cost more in fuel than the item's worth.  But they gained a huge fan, and that is a good business model.