Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Rezzies

Resolutions are made because throughout the year we get so caught up in just existing that we continuously put off what needs to change. The start of a new year is a natural moment in time to start afresh. We can procrastinate about making change all year long and tell ourselves that we will make that list for the new year. Then we don't have to do anything about it until then.
This year it's not about finally making it to the gym (who, by the way is MOST welcome for my monthly donation), or quitting smoking (kicked that in the BUTT in 2010!) or paying off debt (I have become accustomed to the lifestyle of indebtedness ): It is about identifying what's stopping me from moving forward and then doing something about it. Still with me? Here we go!

1) Feel the fear and do it anyway. I bought the book for the title alone and never really read it. The title is a great mantra. I may never know if the book is a great read. I will step out of my comfort zone unless my gut starts to scream a la Meg Ryan in French Kiss "LACTOSE INTOLERANT!" I will take that as a clear sign that I need to take one step back and THEN I can take two steps forward.

2) When I am paralyzed with anxiety I will ask myself in that moment what is stopping me. I will break the goal down into tinier, less intimidating tasks until I am done. I started doing that this year with myself and my children. Case in point:
Me: "Daughter, clean your room."
Daughter (whining): "I wiiiiiilll"
Me: "What's stopping you? Is it too much? Do you want help?"
Daughter: "Yes!"
I'm not going to go so far as to say she cleaned her room, but I stepped out of my usual M.O. to break down what was stopping her and we did get through some of it together. The rest I did myself but we will file that under "A Moment for Quiet Reflection."

3) I will congratulate/reward myself for my accomplishments. I spend too much time reminding myself of all I didn't do and all that I am not. I want to devote more time to giving myself a proverbial pat on the back. This will take the form of "shopping just for the heck of it" and other activities that remind me I'm a girly girl who deserves some girly girl moments. There will be a reward for all of my hard work and I will get to see why I am working so hard. I will be re-energized.

4) LISTS! Oh yes, I will make the lists. The lists are my daily check-in that I am on track. They stop me from waking up in a panic at 4 AM (see the TEDx video on 4 AM) with a fiery arrow to my heart that I have forgotten something. I mock my Dad for having little yellow sticky notes all around the perimeter of his monitor so we'll just have to keep my list-making between us. Good.

5) Finally...SOUL NURTURING! I will identify and revel in what makes my soul sing. We all need a little soul singing in the key of "I love me", once in a while. Especially in February: bright colours, bright lights, music with a solid beat, dancing, singing, family, friends, scents and tastes to enliven the lazy senses. And humor. Daily injections of frivolity. This soul nurturing will be like an neti pot to my blocked thought processes. My creativity will flow like...okay we're done with that metaphor.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Huge Hippo Hugs to the Helpers

Wow, what a year! In our third year, Hullabaloo has seen some fantastic partners join our parties such as Bre Creative, Pawley's Reptiles and Bears 'n' Buddies. We have grown our roster of themes to include Star Wars, Harry Potter and Superheroes. Our list of helpers has doubled to meet the demand. I sit here near the end of 2010, reflecting on this past weekend which included our last corporate event of the year. Almost 100 children in total wore big smiles because they loved the face paint, balloon animal, games, crafts, Becca the Princess or our hippo mascot, Balooberry.

Through it all, these parties are my labour of love but also through it all I've seen my helpers GIVE their all. In the hour before a party they rush to blow up balloons, arrange scenery, lay out costume accessories, and set up the craft table. In the first thirty minutes of a party these helpers welcome the little guests and invite them to have face painting, tattoos, to try on something or maybe work on a craft. It's high gear and high pressure: no two parties are the same and they manage to adjust quickly to any demand.

The helpers run the games, belting out instructions with enthusiasm and ensuring every child's prize is labelled and put aside for home time.

Ahhh, home time: the flurry of reclaiming costume accessories and ensuring everyone gets his or her loot bag, thank you bookmark, and prizes. There are parents to add to the frenzy but again the helpers keep their cool and keep the situation under control.

Clean up is a rapid, organized effort so we can get out of the family's hair as quickly as possible. We try our hardest to pack up everything we brought, but sometimes we find a return visit and quick "hello" is necessary to collect an errant item.

I spend hours in preparation before a party even starts. It's hard work. But my helpers have only a brief moment in time to make an impression. They come through for me over and over again. If 2010 is a hint at things to come in 2011, I say bring it on - and HUGE HIPPO HUGS to my helpers (past and present) for getting us here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My New Space

It's been a long time coming, but I finally have a beloved work space. On your left, you'll see a big desk where I do my Monday to Friday (and then some) work as a Senior Consultant, telecommuting for almost ten years. On your right is a big IKEA work bench laden with face paints and craft supplies.
It took having my 18 year old move onward and upward (and out of the house!) to university to free up the space. I sold off all the power tools I was finally resigned to not using to free up space in the garage for party supplies, stacked high in bins on shelving units. Another room, in the basement, houses more delicate party decorations.
But it's my work space that is the piece de resistance: shelves of loot bag contents, candy bins, prizes for every theme - everything now within arms reach.
I come from a cute office space built into the dining room closet and the dining room table as my craft area. When it was dinner time, I would clear everything into a laundry basket, only to retrieve it again to prepare for the party the following day.
A cluttered space is a cluttered mind and my mind is revelling in the new spaciousness and structure.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Fine Art of RSVP-ing

When I go over invitation details with parents and we discuss the RSVP date, I'm often met with a big sigh from the Mom or Dad. Parents are notoriously bad at responding to a child's birthday invitation. As a Party Planner, I ask for the final number two days before the party. I need this time to build the decorative loot bags, thank you bookmarks, etc. Sadly, the parents have to give me a give-or-take number and may end up having to pay for more children than actually attend, simply because they did not get responses.

We've all been there. A party invitation is lost at the bottom of a napsack, only to be discovered the day before said party, or a parent calls you, asking if your child will be at the party and you've forgotten to RSVP, or children tell each other they will be at the party but it doesn't get passed along to the hosting parent.
These are all forgiveable scenarios for not RSVP-ing to a party, but it still creates stress for the party Mom or Dad who doesn't know how many loot bags to prepare, how many places to set at the table, or how much food to provide.
It has become a very bad trend lately for parents to not RSVP at all. Roughly translated, RSVP means "please respond because I really do need to know how many children will be at this party that is already an overwhelming thought for me."

Some parents have the phone numbers of the little guests and can follow up, but why should they have to?
The next time you receive an invitation, take a moment to make responding your priority. Nothing says sad like a child arriving unexpectedly at a party, forcing the parents to scramble when they already have enough on their plate. To those parents whose children are not attending, have the courtesy to let the hosting Mom or Dad know so they don't go to the added expense and effort for nothing.
Oh and P.S. - check your child's napsack!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ARRGGHH! It's Treasure Ye Seek!

Having conducted a few treasure hunts for pirate parties, I've figured out what works and what doesn't work.
Find a bunch of half shells that your clues will go in. This makes it easy for the children to know what they're looking for and the shells go well with your theme. The clue itself could be a short rhyme that hints at an object in your house, such as a fridge. I usually print off pictures and place those in the shells. That way children of all ages can easily participate in the hunt.
Decide ahead of time if you want the clues to be throughout your house, including your child's room, the bathroom, etc. and order the clues so they are going from one end of the house to the other, back and forth, instead of all in one or two rooms. Make sure the shells are well hidden or throughout the party the children may find them and bring them to you. That will mess up the flow of the whole hunt, as you manically try to redirect the children to the next clue.
Schedule the hunt to be toward the end of the party. Parents arriving early can witness the fun and as this is perhaps your most boisterous activity, you can get them all riled up and then send them on their way. You can make their loot bags the found treasure, so having the hunt at the end of the party means the children aren't opening the loot bags during the party.
As the hunt gets underway, explain to the children that you're going to show or read the clue and they have to go together to search for the next clue. Now this next part is important. Tell them that when they find each clue, they have to bring it to you. This will prevent a stampede of older children racing all over the house and leaving the younger, smaller ones behind. Everyone gets a chance to see and search for each clue.
It's up to you if you want to have mini prizes at each shell location, such as gold coins. If you do, make sure the little pirates have small bags to carry everything in.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Name Tags with Numbers

I've said it before (on Twitter search for #partytip) and I'll say it again: name tags with numbers. As your party guests arrive, make sure each one gets a name tag. This will make it easy to label the crafts, prizes, etc. More importantly, put a number on each name tag, starting with the birthday child as #1. It's his or her special day and I've long since given up on imposing my will of how to be a good host on an excited child.

These numbers will let the children know in which order they will go for games and gift unwrapping. They live and breathe by these numbers and don't crowd in asking if they can go next. It's magical. I've seen parents embrace the numbering system as their own and it really works: no hard feelings, no competitiveness, just eagerly anticipating their numbers to be next.

This is just one sanity saver you can use when hosting your child's party!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Party Food ~ A Princess Party

When planning a princess party, inspiration for the food can come from a traditional tea party. Delicate sandwiches made with pink dyed bread can be ordered from your grocery store's bakery. I don't recommend green, as the bread looks moldy. Ask them to slice the bread horizontally and then spread peanut butter (if no nut allergies), cream cheese, Cheez Whiz, egg salad, and jam. Roll the bread and then slice it to make pinwheels. Crustless triangle or finger sandwiches with lunch meats provide a variety of shapes for visual interest.

Line the serving dishes with paper doilies. Have colorful floral napkins on hand to add flourish to the display. Use multi-level serving dishes and adorn them with silk flowers. Scatter silk petals on the table.

Hot chocolate served in a mini tea set will add to the fun. Instead of a birthday cake, have mini cupcakes that the guests can decorate with sprinkles and royal icing roses (from a bulk food store). Delicate and feminine is the feel you are going for with a princess theme!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Quickest SPECIAL Cake That You Will Ever Make

Very special thanks to Lisa McDonald, a.k.a. @those2girls for her guest blog. This fun poem produces a very special cake! (You can even rap to it. I tried.)

The quickest SPECIAL cake
That you will ever make:

It’s an important date,
So don’t sit around and wait!

Find your favourite Jello flavour
That your guests will savour,

What soon will become
The SPECIAL cake second to none!

You still have time to get the house spiffy
Because the gourmet part is done is a jiffy.

The fact is, it becomes swirly
As you make it a DAY EARLY!

Where do you start?
Well here’s the best part.

Grab a regular white cake mix;
Soon it will do tricks.

Bake as directed
But soon it will perfected.

Let your cake cool -
That it the rule.

Now time for Jello that you next make
But don’t refrigerate!

Instead, grab a fork
And pop holes in the cake (no I’m not a dork!)

Now grab your liquidy Jello
And pour over the cake, but be mellow.

Next you grab some Cool Whip topping;
You’re almost done, so no stopping!

Slather it all over the cake’s top
And into the fridge, but be careful don’t slop

When you wake the next day,
You are free to yell HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

You see they think you will have slaved
Because one MARBLED cake is what you made.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Party Tasks Part Deux

In the last post I talked about some aspects of your child's party that you might want to take on when it comes to the cake and decorations. This time let's tackle the activities. So many parents say they are stymied when it comes to what to do with their little party guests. Nothing says "chaos" like a house full of kids who are bored. If they're climbing the furniture, having a balloon fight or running into walls, it's time for "Party 911."

You can choose to hire someone to entertain the kids but that will not eliminate the stress altogether. You still have to inject your own system of order.
As the kids are arriving, have something to keep each child occupied, like working on a craft. Once everyone has arrived, it's time to start some games. This can be in lieu of an entertainer or until he or she arrives. I like to start with the quieter games like bingo, musical boxes, pin the X on the map, or movie scripts - depending on the theme and age of the children. The more raucous activities come near the end of the party when the kids are all sugared up and just about to be swept out the door.
Have the children sit in a circle on the floor. "Circle" is a shape that is difficult to acquire with a group of constantly moving bodies, but I leared a trick: while everyone is still standing, have them hold hands and spread out while still holding hands until you have near enough to a circle and then say "drop your hands and sit."
Another trick to help with the games: put a name tag on each child and then put a number on each name tag. Let the kids know the number tells them when it's their turn for something. This goes a long way in keeping the peace and you don't get the shoving and "my turn, my turn" pleas. I use the same numbering system for gift unwrapping time. The kids readily embrace the concept because it's "fair."
My final piece of advice for the do-it-yourselfer: if you're doing games and giving prizes, make sure everyone gets a prize and make sure everyone knows ahead of time they will be getting one. Civility maintained.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Party Tasks - Should You Own Them All?

It's that time of year again. Bet you didn't think it would come around this quickly, did you? It's time to plan your child's birthday party. The question is, how much should you have to do and how much would be better off in someone else's hands?

The Cake
I know some fabulous bakers who make brilliant cakes. Your friends will be impressed. But my favorite cakes are those baked by the parent with love and sometimes even decorated by the siblings and/or the party child. Nothing says "sweet" like the memorable picture of a slightly lopsided buttercream icing cake. (I threw in the buttercream for myself.)

The Decorations
It's so darned easy to run out to your local party supply store and pick up those Barbie hats, plates, balloons, streamers, loot bag contents. But if you're going for unique, less expensive and more personal, it's time to think outside of the party box. Homemade decorations are a huge hit. They allow you to be creative (with or without your child) and your party guests will be suitably impressed. Some of you are scoffing right now and rightly so. You're very busy! So how about this: Nothing says "party" like balloons. Lots of them. So many that you beg your guests to take some home. Helium filled? Expensive to order, but do-it-yourself tanks won't last nearly as long as "ready blown" (they put some chemical in the balloon to make it more airtight), so spend the extra to have them last longer.
Next post...To Clown or Not to Clown...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Greatest Job in the World!

Through the work week, I'm a Senior Consultant (read Programmer in tights) for a company in Toronto that designs and builds financial documents. But by "night" (and on weekends) I'm a Children's Party Planner!

Here are the top ten reasons why being a Children's Party Planner is the greatest job in the world:

1. Shopping. Lots of it.

2. Colour. It's a very flamboyant world where sparkles, twinkle lights, feather boas and balloons fill the space around me.

3. I make kids smile. From the moment they get their treasure box invitation.

4. Birthday cake. Sometimes a hazard of the job, but I'll take my chances.

5. It lets my creative juices flow as I'm always sourcing out the coolest decorations, invitation ideas, costume accessories, activities, loot bag contents and prizes.

6a. My kids can boast about what I do. 6b. Their friends think I'm cool.

7. I always have supplies on hand for my own kids' parties. (How many people keep helium in their basement?)

8. I have to test the karaoke machine once in a while. These "sound checks" can last for hours.

9. It's a great excuse to get out of doing stuff you really don't want to do, like housework, laundry, feeding your kids...
10. It's very freeing to slip into a hippo costume for a few minutes and dance around or give hugs to kids who are instantly impressed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Moms - You DO Enough! You ARE Enough!

This is my favourite kind of contest because it rewards the moms! It's a fact a mom is mostly responsible for taking care of her home and family, even if she has a full or part-time job. Women feel almost daily pressure to look our best and be our best. We think we can't do it all, yet somehow we do. You should be rewarded.

This Mother's Day, you could be the winner of a visit to The Waters - An Urban Spa Retreat in Waterloo where you will luxuriate in spa treatments totalling $100!
To enter, you need to book a children's party with Hullabaloo between March 1st and May7th, 2010. The party can take place any time before May 6, 2011, but the deposit must be received by us no later than Friday May 7th, 2010.

Moms, you do enough. You are enough. Let us take away the burden of planning that perfect party for your child and you may have the added bonus of a spa treatment!
Please visit our website at for more information about our parties. Good luck! (Don't forget to mention the contest!)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mabel’s Labels BlogHer ‘10 Contest

Contest Premise:
"Write a post on your blog in response to the following hypothetical situation: Electrical storms are going to wipe out the Internet (perhaps forever). You have one day left to write about your passions: what do you want to say to the blogosphere in 300 words or less?"

Through all the glue-gunning, basket-packing, balloon-blowing, child-herding and finally vomit-on-the-carpet-cleaning, one thought resonates with me: “Mamas – you’re doing it wrong.” But that’s okay, because I’m here to help. I’m a Children’s Party Planner and from “do I get a pwize?” to “that was the best party EVER!” I’ve seen it all.

People call me because they are stymied when it comes to meeting their own over-the-top expectations when it comes to their child’s birthday party. I’m here to say, don’t let the “Four Lacks” get you down: Lack of Money, Inspiration, Time or Help (MITH). Keeping up with the Johars should come down to one thing: did the kids have the best party EVER? (and did they get a “pwize?”) Let’s blow MITH out of the proverbial punch bowl and put Inspiration at the top of the list. The rest will follow because if you have a really great idea for your child’s party, if you’re really letting the creative juices flow (can I get a Disney Princess napkin over here?), then your excitement, CONFIDENCE and newfound energy to make this thing happen will overcome the other obstacles.

Sit down with your child and ask what he or she would like for a party. Brainstorm about themes because everything from colour scheme to food to activities will need a solid foundation that is your theme. Write down everything your child says and reject no idea up front.
Finally, it’s okay to say “no”, both to yourself and your child. It’s okay to say “this is my limit and no one will suffer because of it.” Now go have a great party!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hullabaloo Wanted to Know - So You Told Us!

The results are in! First I would like to thank the many moms and dads who participated in our survey. You gave us some very valuable insights into what parents are thinking when it comes time to plan for their child's birthday party. We've met with many parents but we've never captured the metrics of their opinions about party planning. Let's take a look at what you said!

We asked what was the most important factor when planning your child's party. It was almost a three-way tie, with "budget-friendly" in the lead, followed by "less stressful for you" and "most fun for your child and guests." We didn't offer up "keep up with the Joneses" as an option.

Among all of the options you could include in your party package, games were selected 92% of the time (multiple choices were allowed), followed by crafts, and then face painting. This tells us that keeping the children occupied was your greatest concern and that would be your expectation of a party service.

Next we asked how important it was to you that your party be environmentally-friendly. 71% of you were somewhat to very interested in having that as a consideration. Food for thought for us! What did Kermit say? It's not easy being green? We'll prove him wrong!

Ah, then we asked you what was the most difficult part of planning a party on your own and almost half indicated TIME - not having enough of it. Next was how to occupy the children. Running out of valium didn't make the list.

You went with the very traditional themes as your favourites:

1. Pirates and Mermaids
2. Knights and Princesses
3. Jungle/Rainforest

Oh, Hannah - time for career change?

This next one was important to us because we have, on occasion, offered a higher-end craft instead of a loot bag but didn't know if it should be a standard option for our clients. 63% of you essentially said "keep your stinking loot bags and give us something we can treasure." (For the record, our loot bags do not stink. Humph.)
Here's where it's not surprising, but I do so love to mention what most of us already know. While 71% of you said it's mostly the mom who makes the decisions about the parties (our mom clients do consult with the dads about our price before going ahead with a party), almost 91% said moms do the majority to all of the work for a party. In "all my years" of party planning, it's the moms who contact us, meet with us (sometimes with the dad looking on, and rarely sitting with us) and coordinate with us. I have only ever had three dads approach me about booking a party. (Here's where I wave my banner that says "You Do enough! You ARE enough!")

Thanks again for participating. Your opinions shape who we are. Congratulations to Janine Murray, winner of a $25 Swiss Chalet gift card!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Small House with Big Dreams

I wish you could see the room where I keep all of my party supplies. Well, actually I don't. It was once the crown jewel in the basement, my huge walk-in closet, carpeted and decked out with IKEA wire shelving that I kept exposed for easy access. Flash forward to today and my daughter now uses a part of that room, and shelving units with my party supplies take up the rest of the space.

On any given day my daughter could walk into the room and walk smack into "Captain Skinny" the life-sized skeleton I dress up as Jack Sparrow. (That's a step up from the mannequin I had from my e-Bay seller days. We were lucky if she was even dressed, most days. A long red wig, slightly askew on her bald head, did not count as "dressed.") Other obstacles now present might be a huge pink chest with dress-up clothes, some fairy wings, a karaoke machine, a Darth Vader cardboard cutout, a bag with face painting supplies, or a butterfly net (useful in both Rainforest and Castaway Challenge parties).

Yes, I think back on the days before I heaved a dozen or so boxes of supplies onto those shelves and wonder what I used to do with me weekends. Heck, what I used to do with evenings, before I stained treasure chest invitations, crafted thank you bookmarks, or filled "loot bags." By loot bags I mean "gift baskets" because these have been lovingly thought out and put together, each occasion a moment of wanting to do better than with the last batch and hoping the children will be entranced.

I do love the shopping that requires me to scout out items of quality for each theme, while at the same time maintaining a semblance of a budget. My team of helpers and I often exit a store with multiple bags with every combination and permutation of party supplies. Occasionally I'll go to a fair and while chainmail would be a rocking addition to any party, have you ever priced out chainmail? When something is out of my reach financially, as in it's a bad investment, I'll try to think of ways to create the item on my own. Like the cardboard castle. It took some help from those who better understood how to replicate stone walls using tape and paint, but I'm proud of the result. The acquisition of a new large piece means rethinking my storage options.

My dining room is often the staging area where photo shoots, crafting and assembly take place. The living room becomes the temporary storage facility the night before a party because I want to know before I go to sleep that everything is ready to go. The laundry room is where I recently installed more shelving to accommodate loot bag supplies and prizes.

I didn't think the house was big enough to accommodate five people and two dogs, let alone a home-based business. I was wrong. It's a small house, but it contains big dreams.