Dude, we watch a lot of TV. I used to feel really embarrassed by it, and at parties would downplay it like, “Oh, we’re always out and about in the City (never), but on the occasional “in” evening (every damn night) we might (absolutely will) stream a Netflix show (or fifty).” That is until I learned a dirty, little secret: Every other parent I know is in the same boat – sitting their tail down on the couch once the kids are finally in bed, so tired they’re barely able to lift the remote, praying to the HBO Gods that a new Game of Thrones is online.
Once I realized this, I ripped the band-aid off and started aggressively selling helpfully educating people on shows that I KNOW they will love if they just give them a chance, like Silicon Valley. But, I would never do that to you, hound you into watching a show. No way. But…have you seen it? Because I’m pretty sure if you’re looking for a funny TV show to watch, it is your best bet. No, seriously, you will LOVE it. It’s pretty much the funniest show on TV right now and it’s the perfect mix of satire and character development, which seems like a really hard thing to do, and don’t you want to support innovative comedies? Of course, you do. Because, pretty much, if you don’t watch it, it’s going to go off the air and you will be responsible for the demise of a show that has some of the best, most offensive one-liners in the history of TV as we know it. That is a large burden to bear. One your children might crack under, sooooo, it’s probably better if you simply watch it and then report back tomorrow on how much you love it and then I can recommend a bunch of other shows that I know you will love and WHY DOES EVERYONE SUDDENLY HAVE TO GO AND PICK UP THEIR KIDS?!?
Okay, point taken. But, are you watching Better Call Saul?
-I made Bennett his shirt (which is from the show – see? hilarious!), but they also sell them over here.
Growing up, we had epic birthday parties. Not epic in the Pinterest sense – there weren’t dessert tables or crazy goodie bags – but rather that kids would talk about them for weeks afterwards because my mom made them so much fun. There was always a theme that everyone committed to fully: If we were going to be dogs, you better come with ready to bark and wag your tail; if we were fortune tellers, my mom would practice her accent for weeks ahead of time and it wouldn’t falter all the way through pick-up. I learned from the best.
So I’ve been dying for Alice to get old enough we could throw a themed party. I had a million ideas: slumber party on the moon! favorite occupations! disco!, and she had one: Frozen. And, because, the party really is about the birthday gal and not the idea in my head, which would blow your mind, I put my (non-existent) DIY skills to work and came up with a Frozen party.
Time, as always, was at a premium so my goal was to give us the biggest bang for our buck (ie. give the kids something they would tell their parents was the coolest thing ever, but, in reality, took no time at all). I decided to forgo a ton of decorations and just put up these Arrenndale-esque garland flowers, bought this Frozen paper plate pack, and decided to spend my currency on fun.
I wanted all the kids to feel comfortable right off the bat, so my sister had the great idea to kick things off with decorating crowns. My instinct was to create personalized crowns for each kid, depicting their three favorite things, which they would cherish for all time and, most likely, hand down to future generations. My instincts, as always, were terrible.
Instead my sister pointed me in the direction of these lovely foam crowns, which are pre-cut and ready to go. I raided the Michael’s aisle for anything sparkly, pulled out some markers and we were set. (If you want to make it even easier, here’s a full crown kit so you don’t even have to go to the store.)
They were a huge hit (most kids made several) and it was an excellent ice breaker, plus is there anything cuter than a bunch of four-year olds in crowns? Um, their parents didn’t think so – score one for Party Planner Extraordinaire.
The kids worked up quite an appetite making the crowns so we decided to take a lunch break, even though it was only 10:50. We were crazy.
Again, my original lunch plan was totally overblown and at various points involved every Frozen idea you’ve ever seen on the Internet. You know what the kids liked? The jello. If I could have filled a swimming pool with it, they would have never left. Lesson: Forget the fancy foods. Kids like jello.
After lunch, an impromptu sing-along/dance party broke out, which was pretty much all my parenting dreams coming true.
Once I got lunch cleaned up, we went off to do Craft #2, Cotton Ball Snow Shooters. Is your head spinning yet? Mine actually started to at this point, because this is when my sister had to leave and I was left alone with eight kids.
In hindsight, this probably wasn’t the best craft to do on my own. The night before I had cut out all the Olaf pieces and glued the balloons on the cups (you can find the full directions here) so I was thinking there’d be no problems with having the kids glue on their own faces. I didn’t take into account that it’s actually kind of tricky figuring out how faces go on. I also didn’t have enough glue sticks so I ended up doing most of the gluing and was sweating bullets by the end.
It was totally worth it, though, right? Plus, the kids had a great time “shooting” their cotton balls.
Our final activity was originally going to be a Foaming Snowman, but about midnight the night before I changed it to a foaming Marshmallow (the bad guy in Frozen) because I didn’t have the stamina to get any snowmen accessories ready (you can check out the original adorable tutorial here). It didn’t matter at all.
The kids loved playing with the “snow” to create their Marshmallows; even better, was using their magic powers to melt him.
Up until this point, I know you’ve been thinking, “Bravo, Kara. Way to keep it simple and easy!” And then you see the cake and all the good will I’ve built up, your hard-earned trust falls away, as your betrayal sniffs, “And how long did that take to make?”
You guys, I have no idea. A magic fairy named Jill brought it over and I cried and my daughter cheered and we all marveled at its magnificence. It was a good party up to this point, but the cake really brought it home.
Unfortunately, I have no words of wisdom for how to create this part of the party. I probably would have done a sheet cake with the characters on it and patted myself on the back. There’s also a chance I would have passed around a bag of marshmallows and called them mini-Olafs (let’s keep in mind these are Jello connoisseurs we’re dealing with so I bet I could have gotten away with it).
I don’t normally do party favors, but the Target bin was so full of Frozen goodies we had to splurge. I tried to get things the kids would actually use (and the parents wouldn’t curse me for bringing more junk into the house) – we ended up with bath colors, an Olaf cup, a poster to color, and a sticker book, which seemed to end the whole morning on a high note.
Personally, I think it was a smashing success – I didn’t lose my mind beforehand, the kids all talked about it the next week at school, and the birthday girl couldn’t stop smiling. See, Mom, I took excellent notes.
-We put out a Frozen sheet to eat on, picnic-style, which worked great because I could just pick it up and move it all out of the way once lunch was over.
-I know I said it earlier, but I think having an independent craft when the kids came in really helped the party start smoothly. Everyone had something to do right away, it made saying good-bye to mom and dad easier, and it didn’t feel like we were waiting around for people to arrive before we could get started.
-I was worried about not having enough to do (it was a two hour party), but the kids spent a long time on each craft. They were also just excited to play together in a different space so next time I’d probably leave a bit of time for that.
-I also planned on playing “Freeze Tag”, but we ran out of time!
-I put a stool by the kitchen sink so the kids could wash their own hands without needing an adult’s help. When I was on my own, this saved me!
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips!
If you’ve known me for 45 seconds then you know I have three sisters, with whom I’m obsessed. We have fun like no one else (where do you think I learned my love of dance parties?), are who I turn to when things get rough, and are probably the only people who can talk a subject to death as succinctly as I can (my husband can always tell when I haven’t been able to talk to them because I have A LOT more words than usual for him).
One of the best things that ever happened to me was when my little sister decided to move out to San Francisco to be near me (fine, open the most delicious baking company ever). I mean, is there anyone else who would let me beat her on the head with a smiley-faced balloon?
She’s awesome. She’s the kind of gal who when you say, “Let’s buy Bando goodie bags and then trade what we don’t like!” says, “Sure!” and you know that’s she’s totally lying and isn’t going to trade you any of her good stuff, but it doesn’t matter because you also know you can sit on her until she finally gives you what you want. Sisters are the best.
Or like when you finally get your goodie bags (which were thankfully exactly the same) and you suddenly think it would be fun to do an impromptu photo shoot, she’s totally on board, even though she’s been working every day for weeks and hasn’t had a chance to go home and change.
She doesn’t even get annoyed that you’re better at blowing up balloons than she is.
And you don’t get annoyed that she looks totally adorable unshowered while you had to really work to look halfway presentable.
People always think it’s weird that we’re so close even though there are a lot of years between us. Genuinely, I don’t know if would have made it through these past couple of years without her here (and my other women friends); she tells me the truth (um, “it’s time to teach your kids to pick up their toys”), lets me cry about things like sleep and unloading the dishwasher and then lets me sleep while she unloads the dishwasher, and continues to believe in me when I’m not so sure. She’s much wiser than her years.
So cheers to sisters, whether they be biological or chosen. We raise our pixie sticks to you! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wrestle my sister for a doughnut she just brought over.
On Kara: Jean tank: Roxy, years ago // Floral skirt: Express, sold out, but here’s another cute one // Gold shoes, which are now $20 and practically free so please go buy them!: Rebel
You guys, there are so many things I’m bad at: cooking (why does it take so long, yet last for such a short time?!?), putting together Ikea furniture, Physics (ohmygawd, I hate Physics and, based on the number of things that fall on my head in a week, it hates me), dancing (although not for lack of trying), keeping my car clean, remembering words, showering… The list goes on.
But, it has recently come to my attention that I am also good at a couple of things: the hand jive (which I was surprised to find not everyone knows), finding new ways to wear gold shoes, parallel parking (omg, it would blow your mind the small spaces I can fit my big ole car into), and coming up with easy ways to have fun with my kids.
See, I’m your gal if you need someone to entertain a roomful of kids for 5 minutes while you run to the car (dance like robots, play the quiet game, hide in a closet to scare the crap of you when you get back) or for 45 minutes on a park bench while you take a meeting (put band-aids over every inch of their body, pretend to be statues and see if you can get birds to land on you, play “Red Light, Green Light”). Lately, I’ve realized I’ve earned this ability – my years of working and volunteering with kids coupled with my acting background and general lack of inhibitions has lead me to this place.
A place where I see packing supplies and think, “Oh, I could so smash those over my kids’ heads.”
So, I’m thrilled to introduce a new series on the blog today: 5 Minute Fun, which will be short, easy ways to connect with your kids that don’t take much planning or money. They’re ideas you can do right now without adding stress or extra to dos to your list, and also give you a big bang for your buck.
Because while there is a ton I have to learn about parenting, I do know one thing for sure: Your kids are always ready to have fun with you. In fact, that’s probably all they ever want – to laugh and giggle and connect with you right now. And I don’t think it has to be a big deal – you don’t need the right toys or even the right time.
Right now with what you have on hand is perfect, I promise.
So if you do happen to get an order from Amazon today and have extra packing supplies on hand, may I recommend smashing them on your head? It’s a bit of a clean-up, but the amount of surprised faces and giggles makes it worth it. Plus, it’s strangely satisfying to break things for no reason…
Don’t have packing supplies around? How about wadding up paper and having an indoor snowball fight? Or hitting each other over the head (gently, of course) with pillows and pretending to fall down? Or have another good idea? Let me know in the comments! xx.