Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Politics of Presents

When I meet with parents to go over their child's party details, one of the questions I ask is "will there be gift unwrapping at the party?" For the most part, parents still accept gifts for their children at the birthday party (more on those who don't later), but are divided on whether or not the gifts should be opened in front of the party guests, especially if there are quite a few children invited.

The unwrapping of the gifts can become a laborious process that sees a few children getting restless and wandering away from the group. Eventually, it's difficult to keep everyone focused on the birthday child who is lost in a frenzy of paper, toy packaging etc. and no longer remembers what gift came from whom.

The other way of thinking about the gift unwrapping is that the guests have taken the time to find the perfect gift for your child and want to see his or her reaction. I would suggest letting the size of the party dictate whether or not gifts will be unwrapped during the party. To avoid chaos, I like to put a number on each guest's name tag and then let them know that will be the order of the unwrapping. The children totally buy into that method because it seems fair.

Let's face it: 20 gifts are not only 19 more than what your child even needs, will no doubt include at least one gift with teeny parts you will step on until the whole thing quietly disappears, but they can also appear to be your reason for having the party. On top of that, the other children shouldn't have to sit through an endless stream of gift after gift: that's not why they're there.

An ever-growing idea around gifts is to request that in lieu of gifts, a donation be made to the birthday child's favourite charity. If that is too extreme for your child whose understanding of a birthday party includes gifts, there are also options that allow your guests to give a donation and also go in on a group gift that you pick. At the most recent party I did, the Mom made sure all the guests knew about the charity selected and that they had also contributed to the gift that the child then unwrapped for them to see.

Finally, there are parents who ask for "gently used" books and toys from the guest's own home. I haven't seen this in practice yet, so I'm curious to know if this is well-received.

These last two options are also eco-friendly as there is little to no packaging or wrapping materials.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Screamingly Fun Hallowe'en Games for Kids

Hallowe'en is my second favourite holiday of the year - next to Christmas! It's a chance to be devilish, to dress up as anything or anybody you want, and best of all, the chance to pig out completely on candy! (wiping slight moisture from upper lip)

I also love Hallowe'en because my kids like to throw a party for their friends and they let me do it! (wait a minute, something sounds wrong with that)

Here are some ideas for Hallowe'en party games your kids and their friends will love:

I Want My Mummy!
In this game, the children are in teams of two (or three). One child is the "mummy" and the other child has a roll of toilet paper and, starting from the ankles, will wrap the "mummy" until all of the toilet paper is gone. I know it's tempting to buy a double roll and then go for a long car ride while they finish off the roll, but stick with a single. Try not to go too cheap on the roll either, or the kids will be breaking and re-starting the roll over and over again; and you know kids - if it's a teeny bit frustrating, they might flop to the ground and flail around until going home time. (Can going home time ever come soon enough?)

Haunted House
I could probably just send a group of kids into my son's room and that would be enough to have them screaming in fear (and their parents calling me later, all angry and self-righteous), but let's use some imagination here. I like to make the "haunted house" on the second level (if you have one), so the kids have to start their journey of fear by walking up the decorated staircase. They'll hear sounds from upstairs and their anticipation will build. Depending on the ages of the children, you can try and make the room as scary as possible, with masked people jumping out, etc. or you can opt for slightly scary challenges in the room. Which leads us to...

Blindfolded Icky Stuff Touching
I could all out with this one, but my kids said this year "no squid." Place some food items in bowls or on plates (or in shoeboxes - you get the idea) and cover with a cloth. The child reaches in and touches the item as you say what it is. If it's green olives (with pimento, of course), you say it's eyeballs. Spaghetti - intestines, cheesestrings - fingers. You get the idea. We even bought a brain jello mold this year! Can't wait!

Have a wonderfully creative and fun Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Search for a Scary Mommy...Ends Here!

Pick me, pick me! This is a blog entry into the Scary Mommy contest ( Please read, and if you agree I'm scary, comment below. Your comments will help me win!

Let the willies begin! In my home, it's perfectly normal for my three children to see me walking around with a life-sized skeleton, Harry Potter cardboard cutout or fairy wings. These are some of the props I use when I do children's parties. Scarier for my children is when I approach them with a critical eye, sizing them up to wear a princess dress, pirate costume, knight chainmail...I believe our "family business" should include child labour! My kids are great at filling loot bags, helium balloons, stamping thank you bookmarks, and gluing treasure chest invitations! It's when I get a glint in my eye and say I have a new theme that their pupils dilate and they try to run from the room. But that's just the weekend.

Through the week, I'm your standard geeky programmer whose day in sprinkled with tweets and Facebook posts. My closest friends are online, or "virtual" as my other half, Rob says. Dinner table conversation revolves around who won a Tassimo coffee machine on Twitter or how my Farmville farm is doing on Facebook. Sometimes I let everyone else talk and we play the "high-low" game: what was your high today? What was your low?

As with every family, we take trips to the mall, but I always have my eyes open for new party ideas. I wouldn't say my kids resent my sporadic attention span per se, but when we arrive back home with bags and bags of party supplies and little Timmy (re-named to protect the innocent) still doesn't have back-to-school shoes...Mommy has lost focus.

One "fun" family activity I came up with was "family gym night" with Rob and my son. Three times a week dwindled to two (let's face it, this summer needed no bikini-ready body!) and then none. When the moment of truth arrived (a.k.a. time to strap on my gym shorts) there were more groans coming from my son and me than from a maternity ward.

Oh, did I mention my house? (If you need more scary.) See, I'm building an empire, as it were, so my house has fallen by the wayside. I think I had the ducts cleaned hoping that would also take care of the dusting for a while. Hey, we can't make little grey snowmen on the table quite yet, so how bad can it be?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Trying to Find the Good

I was already apprehensive about having lab work done today: what if I can't pee? What if I faint when they take my blood? (it's happened) And worse still: how do I survive the 12 hour fast?! No coffee?! (My fast was not going to include cigarettes because I reasoned the lack of them would only skew my "score.")

So when I arrived at the lab and stood behind the only person in line for the receptionist, let's face it, I was looking for a problem. A woman came through the door and was instructed to take a number. "I'm here too!" I said, leaning in. I was told to take a number too. Now wouldn't you think the woman who just took a number would have given me hers? She didn't. I sat there grumbling to myself and tried to find the good. Maybe the woman was there for a real sickness, not for standard tests, like I was.

When it was my turn to speak to the receptionist (10 minutes after the woman with my number had gone in), I was still not finding the good. Maybe the receptionist picked up on it and felt the need to do battle. Or maybe she was just spawned from the shadows of hell...Either way, she was down on me from the start. Everything from "'standing order every year' doesn't tell me the frequency" to "you'll have to come back tomorrow for this other test because it's for a different doctor." I was jamming paperwork back into my purse, trying REALLY HARD to find the good, but it just wasn't coming.

Then along came Ingrid. Sweet Ingrid with the blood-letting equipment. She had this soothing, horse-whisperer tone and she quickly and effortlessly smoothed things over. She even did the tests for the other doctor and listened consolingly to the story of the number-stealing-woman. Where did this woman come from and how was she able to turn the negative into the positive so easily?

I mused about this on the way home, as another woman drove into my lane and threatened to hit me head on. "Why, she must be late for something, God bless her little heart" I murmured, as I slammed on the brakes and honked my horn. Nope, it wasn't working. I'm no Ingrid. But I'll keep trying. The good news part of the day? I didn't have to pee into into a cup! (Maybe they just didn't want to have to take that on too.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm the Kind of Mom...

I'm the kind of mom...who has taught my children by example that you make make horrible mistakes in life but still bounce back.

I'm the kind of mom...who is sometimes too tired to remember about homework, signing agendas or filling out trip forms.

I'm the kind of mom...who can spend hours organizing her children's things and feel at peace while doing it.

I'm the kind of mom...who is plagued by guilt in the middle of the night over things not done, promises not kept, or disappointments made.

I'm the kind of mom...who managed to raise children I can take anywhere and they behave, but I didn't have to go to any great lengths to achieve this.

I'm the kind of mom...who finds parenting magazines stressful, constant reminders of all the things I am not doing with and for my kids.

I'm the kind of mom...who can't understand why, if I was an English major, 2 out of 3 children are horrible spellers and one has illegible handwriting. Child #3 is showing high hope.

I'm the kind of mom...who dreads the end of the school day but then misses the children when they're gone.

I'm the kind of mom...who knows my son is overweight but doesn't want to scar him for life by telling him that. So it's trips to the gym and half-hearted talks about diet.

I'm the kind of mom...who physically dragged my 17yo daughter back into the house this past summer, after she threatened to leave. I'm glad I did.

I'm the kind of mom...who thought I was going to teach my daughter all about shaving, only to find she had been doing it on her own already.

I'm the kind of mom...who agreed to have my daughter go on the pill and was glad she asked me.

I'm the kind of mom...who finds the kids so draining that sometimes I withdraw. They always bring me back out though.

I'm the kind of mom...who fears my children will one day also be diagnosed as being bi-polar.

I'm the kind of mom...who tries to get my kids excited about karaoke but it's usually me who ends up singing.

I'm the kind of mom...who loves to have the kids' friends over. If only my house were bigger so I could have proper space for everyone. Island in the kitchen, with all the friends gathered round to eat the snacks I made...

I'm the kind of mom...I always wanted to be.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Yummy Mummies on Twitter!

Who's missing?