When I asked my daughter Dylan how she wanted to celebrate her 10th birthday – I was thinking, “Let’s take a few of her friends to the movies!” and she was thinking, “Let’s throw a carnival in our backyard.”
“But Dolphin Tale Two is out and it looks adorable!” I told her.
And I must have been very convincing because she responded, “We’ll go see it after my carnival birthday party!”
The whole thing sounded like a lot of DIY work but I’m always overly ambitious in life anyway and if the party bombed I would just say, “Oh this is how we do it in New York!”
So I emailed a friend who had thrown a super adorable carnival party a few years earlier and explained that I wanted to do a very slacker reproduction of her fabulous party and she gave me some websites to order my carnival necessities.
Then my children and I came up with a list of games – and if you ever get coerced into a carnival party by a spirited 10 year old, just do these games…
1. Ring toss (purchased very cheaply)
2. Bean bag toss (AKA corn hole – you own this or somebody you know does)
3. Pop-A-Shot (Basketball net and ball)
4. Ping Pong Toss (Mason jars and ping pong balls)
5. Shoot and Spray (Kids attempt to knock ping pong balls off the top of empty water bottles with a water shooter)
6. Spoon the Ducks (Kids try to pick up mini ducks floating in a baby pool by holding a spoon in their mouths – the party kids LOVED this one)
7. Tattoos and Nail Polish
8. Guess How Many? (Kids tried to guess how many Dum Dums were in a vase – the winner won the lollipops.)
I had prizes for each game. I gave away things like fuzzy pens, cool erasers, yo-yos, bubbles and mini notepads). Because I believe in a socialist carnival where every kid is happy, kids won a prize at every game – no matter what their skill level. There is no crying at the carnival!
All the prizes went into their goody bags. (Note: you must label the goody bags with everyone’s individual name before the party starts or else it will be goody bag confusion mania.)
You also need an adult or teenager to work each game or else the whole thing falls apart.
Apparently everyone had a pretty good time at the carnival. I really wouldn’t know because I was busy trying to make popcorn in this old fashion popcorn machine. I just couldn’t get enough popped to meet the demand in a timely manner. Next time, I might use an old fashion microwave.
After about 45 minutes of carnival games, we ushered the kids out to the front of our house for a 30 minute circus act.
(Photo Credit: Jessica Herthel)
Now I am lucky enough to have a 15 year old neighbor who spends his summers actually performing IN THE CIRCUS.
For the few of you who do not have a next door neighbor who is a circus performer, find some kind of clown or lion tamer locally. (Note: I would advise against balloon animals because they just pop and make kids cry. See my earlier rule about no kids crying.)
After the performance, we did cake, pizza and then see you later!
I was pretty proud of myself. I mean, no, I didn’t have fancy carnival popcorn cupcakes like this…
And I didn’t have elephant rides.
And I didn’t let people guess my weight or age.
But the kids seemed to really like it.
Especially my girl Dylan.
(Photo Credit: Jessica Herthel)
When it come to genius tech things, one of my favorites is the ability to take videos of my kids right from my phone. It really beats lugging around a gigantic camcorder like some sherpa as you try to get every angle of Miss Susie’s debut as the 4th flower in the school play.
So now we all take lots of video!
And then we come home and masterfully edit our videos, weaving in touching music and poignant moments and then upon completion, we send them off to our family and friends so they can marvel at our creative talents and breathtaking children.
Wait – what?!
Oh you don’t do that? Sure a few clips make it on Facebook but most of your videos are just sitting there. I mean, who has the time to edit masterpieces when you have to keep watching that 5 year old who says “apparently” every other word. You’re busy!!
Well, there is an app that can help. It’s called OneDay. And it’s FREE. At least for now. I get a little overwhelmed by all the app craziness but this one is cool.
OneDay makes it fun to create short movies of your kid’s life. You pick a topic like…When You Grow Up, Your Favorite Things or Advice For Your Parents and then the app provides 10 questions to ask your child (you can skip any of them).
Once you’re done, the app edits the recordings together, adds music and you have an adorable video to save and easily share with family, friends and on social media.
Here’s one I did with my daughter Dylan and this seriously took less than 5 minutes….
These movies take very little effort, time or skill. Hey, my specialty! And the questions really bring out your kid’s creativity and goofiness which you will appreciate a lot more than those videos where they say, “Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi mom! Hi Dad! I’m eating dinner right now. Okay, let me see the video.”
So give it a try and tell me what you think. You can download the free app here.
(Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iTouch.)
This is a sponsored post for OneDay. All ideas are my own.
I remember a moment after my second daughter Summer was born. I was sitting on the rug in their room. I was desperately trying to read my 2-year-old daughter her bedtime books while trying to nurse Summer so that she would stop howling. Except it wasn’t working at all.
Summer was crying. My daughter Dylan was crying. I was crying.
This would have been sad enough except we weren’t even alone. I had hired a part-time mother’s help who was staring at the three of us, looking kind of helpless. I’m guessing she waited a long time before having her own kids.
Eventually of course we got into a groove or at least sort of groove. But I look back at it as one the more challenging phases of parenthood. Well, I mean, there was also the time when my twins were repeatedly getting out of their cribs at night which gave me an epic nervous breakdown. And of course, that 3 year whiny phase Summer went through. And then traveling with 5 kids alone. And then…
You know what? This isn’t a competition. Let’s just say it can be an adjustment to go from one kid to two. Yes, the first kid alters your life completely. But the second takes some serious multi-tasking, patience and fortitude. But I have tips! And I have insights!!
I promise you can rock this two kid thing. Or at least not be sitting on your floor in a puddle of tears – it’s always good to have low expectations!
Newborns: Been There, Done That!
This time around you know how to take care of a newborn! But you’re thinking, “I don’t remember anything!” I know it feels that way but you actually do. It will all come back and be a lot easier.
The Invention of TV is Pretty Cool.
This is not the time to stress about TV. I used to let my daughter Dylan watch Sesame Street in 20 minute increments so that I could nurse Summer quietly. It was good for my spirit. Yes, sometimes I would read Dylan a book while I nursed. But often a mother needs to breastfeed and watch old episodes of Wings.
Kids Can Share.
Yes, kids can share a room. Dylan wore earmuffs to bed for at least 2 years to block out Summer’s crying. Listen, I share a room too (although honestly my husband Rick doesn’t cry all that much).
You Won’t Be Bored!
Remember that first baby boredom? Like I love this baby soooo much but I don’t really know what to do with him. That’s gone. Now your baby just goes along for the ride. You’re too busy to be bored.
Chaos is Temporary.
You have to sort of accept the chaos. I am a really neat person. Well, not my minivan. But I love my house to be neat. But now I let the chaos go until the end of the day. If the mess gets too crazy, just leave the house and pray your imaginary live in maid takes care of it while you’re gone.
You’re Heart Will Burst.
Your kids will actually entertain each other. I remember the first time I watched them in the bath together. Summer was in her baby bath tub (which I then plopped in the regular tub). The two of them just screamed with joy. It was amazing.
You’ve Already Got a Mother’s Helper.
Put your older child to work! I mean, why did we have kids if not to skirt child labor laws? Your older kid can do all kinds of things for you – grab a diaper, help you pick out pajamas, feed the baby a bottle, help entertain while you are getting stuff ready and this will all help your older kid feel better about this new needy addition! And it only gets better. The day your older child reads a book to your younger one will be a mighty fine day indeed.
Make Your Older Child Feel Important.
There are all kinds of ways to do this. You can have a present for your older child from the baby at the hospital. You can put a picture of your older child in the bassinet. You can buy your child a “big brother” or “big sister” shirt. Basically you want to try to put a lot of focus on your older kid. This can take some effort – especially when your newborn is the most adorable thing ever and your toddler DOES NOT STOP TALKING.
I Heart a Baby Carrier.
I’m a big fan of a baby carrier because you can pop your little one in there and you’re now hands free to spend time with your older child. And I find that babies are happier for a lot longer in a baby carrier than a stroller.
No Guilt. Just Love.
You have enough love for both. But you will feel like you don’t have enough time. If you have help, try to have solo time with each kid but don’t drown in guilt if it’s not always possible. You love your kids. You take care of your kids. You are doing great. And now you have two kids to some day pick out a really ritzy nursing home for you. Like one with a fancy spa and hot cabana boys.
I’ve been obsessively watching “Friends’ for the last few months. I don’t know why exactly. I’ve seen every episode many times. I think because it feels so familiar and I’m still in such an unfamiliar land. I know those characters. And I know that city.
Almost every episode includes a shot of the World Trade Center Towers. I never noticed this until after 9-11. I’m glad they didn’t edit out all those images. Because seeing the Twin Towers is important. Remembering is important. On the 13 anniversary of the attacks. Or every ordinary day that follows.
We live in a scary time. Or at least it feels that way. Fears over Al Qaeda are now being trumped by the threat of ISIS. How brutal and cruel can people get? The fear of terrorism and the gun violence in our own country is all well… overwhelming.
No wonder we all watch dumb reality TV and sitcoms from the 90′s. We stress over after school schedules, homework and playdates because those things feel manageable. We don’t know to process or solve the rest of the craziness.
My children are now learning about 9-11 in their history books. But I want them to understand the way my own mother wanted me to understand about the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr and JFK. Those tragic events changed her. They ripped away her innocence, stole her unbridled optimism and transformed a nation.
That’s what I want my children to eventually understand. 9-11 changed us. We felt innocent before that day. We felt protected in our home country. Wars were something that belonged to past generations. But on 9-11, suddenly we were the ones under attack.
As I wrote several years ago… “There are some moments in life you don’t make peace with. They just become a part of you. Your fabric. Your layers. 9/11 is one of those days.”
My daughters know what happened on 9-11. But I want them to know what happens next. We are a country that embraces freedom, democracy and the human spirit. We know how to rise up against hate.
And yes, the evil of the world is overwhelming and complicated. But doing something good is simple.
So I ask you to really take a moment today to remember everyone who didn’t come home that night 13 years ago.
And the ones who lost their lives inhaling toxic fumes at ground zero.
And the ones who died fighting overseas.
Really remember them.
And then in their memory, do something kind for someone else. Someone you know. Or someone you don’t. It doesn’t really matter. And if possible, involve your children in this act of kindness. So they watch and they learn.
Because if we all embrace the good, hate really doesn’t stand a chance.
When my husband and I (along with our new baby girl Dylan) lived in the West Village, we had these nice neighbors named Barbara and Arthur. Barbara and Arthur had two kids (in their early and mid 20′s).
One day I noticed a large group of women convening at their home. I asked Barbara, “What’s the occasion?”
“The 25th anniversary of my daughter’s first playgroup!” she replied.
“Gosh, that is so nice! How wonderful that you all kept in touch,” I said.
But I also thought, “25 years?! That’s crazy!!”
I had my own moms’ playgroup at that time. Our babies were a few months old and we would convene once a week to let them roll around while we obsessed over whatever baby issues were overwhelming us…. eating, sleeping, nursing, not nursing, taking a pacifier, not taking a pacifier, and everything else that seemed to go with these little strange beings.
Having your first baby is a blip of time that seems like it will go on for a million years but it’s really 3 seconds. You live in some weird time capsule, where you see other people go on with their normal lives but yours is just a replay of the same day… nightly feedings, lack of sleep, changing, more feeding, argument with your spouse because of lack of sleep, repeat.
Your past life is gone and you don’t understand how to navigate your new life.
But this ridiculous passion you have for your baby keeps pushing you along, nudging you ever so slowly back to a life you sort of recognize but is still forever changed.
And that’s why you need the playgroup. Because the only moms who really understand at that moment are the ones right there. They will calm. They nod knowingly. They laugh along with you. You’d look at one of the moms and think, “Why is she so obsessed with strollers? She should be obsessed with sleep. Let’s talk about sleep. Why is my baby not sleeping?!!”
Then the babies grow. They become toddlers who become preschoolers who become elementary school students.
You have a living reminder of the years whisking by.
And one day, you look at your baby and she is turning 10. Ten. And you know it won’t stop there. Ten will turn into prom dresses which will turn into high school graduations which will turn into college diplomas.
My daughter Dylan will soon be ten.
I wish I could go back in time for just a moment, to experience the magic of her baby-ness. To hold her in my arms and press my lips to her incredibly soft cheeks. To just for an instant experience that moment when I couldn’t even imagine she’d talk to me one day, let alone turn into a beautiful, sensitive, creative, loving, amazing 10 year old girl.
And yet she did.
I still keep in touch with many of the women in that playgroup from so long ago. We shared something that I will forever hold with me. That first time mom thing. When life became a blur of love and care taking and nightly feedings and fatigue. When a baby sleeping in my arms made me feel like a superhero.