Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Gift Opening at Kids' Birthday Parties: Preposterous or Brilliant?

I recently spent an exorbitant amount of time at a department store, trying to pick out the right gift for a five-year-old boy. My husband, baby daughter, and I had been invited to his birthday party as friends of the family. My thought process was comical. Would he be excited to open this? Would his mom be upset if I got him that? Did he already have this toy? The conversation went on and on, while the patient friend I'd brought shopping humored me.

No Gift Opening: The Experience of a Party Guest

That weekend, we arrived at the party, carefully selected gift in hand. This was a destination party, held at The Little Gym. After playtime, games, and birthday cake, the designated end time of the party arrived. But we'd yet to open the gifts.

"Are we opening gifts here?" I asked my husband. He answered that the gifts had already been packed away. I was incredulous. A birthday party with no gift-unwrapping ceremony? The idea seemed preposterous. Isn't that the whole point of a kids' birthday party? How would I know what the birthday boy's reaction would be to our gift? I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by disappointment as we left the party.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Family-Friendly Labor Day Activities with a Frugal Twist

 Labor Day is the perfect time for families to hang out and have fun while summer is still upon us. But it's not always easy on the family budget to have a big Labor Day adventure. If you're looking for a family-friendly activity that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, consider these traditional activities with a frugal twist.

Backyard Barbecue with a Frugal Twist
My husband and I love to have people over for a cookout in our backyard, but it can get costly to provide food for a bunch of people. Instead, have a themed potluck and ask your guests to bring their favorite summer dish. Or try hosting a somewhat less expensive Labor Day meal: breakfast.

Shopping Trip with a Frugal Twist
What one word is synonymous with Labor Day? Shopping. But sometimes, even sale prices are a little hard on the budget. Instead of going out and shopping, try coordinating a Labor Day clothes exchange for your kids. Have each kid bring along a couple of outfits or accessories they're willing to part with. The kids will get new-to-them outfits to wear, a lesson in sharing, and some time to socialize. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Favorite Baby Tunes on Pandora

We're developing quite the Pandora station for our baby. I actually don't mind having it on pretty much all day every day. Here are some of our favorite tunes that often show up in the queue:

  • All kinds of Disney music. I wouldn't even mind if it was all Disney all the time, but I suppose variety is the spice of life. We hear a lot from Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid.
  • Oldies. We get some awesome tunes like "My Girl" and "Sugar, Sugar" that come up in the queue every once in a while. They're so fun to dance to! Some of the lyrics are a little sketchy, but I figure the happy music will get us by until the baby understands the words.
  • Classic kids songs. We hear lots of songs that were near and dear to our hearts when we were little, so it's fun to resurrect them and share them with our little one. We get to hear them with new ears, too. For example, I had absolutely no clue how political Schoolhouse Rock could be, as in "Tyrannosaurus Debt." Raffi comes on a lot, and we learned that he actually has it out for my husband and me. In the song "Willoughby Wallaby Woo" he says an elephant sits on both "Jennie" and "Joel." In the same sentence. Those are my husband's and my names. Coincidence?
  • New kids songs from musicians we had no idea did kids songs. Like... Barenaked Ladies. And Jack Johnson. Did you have any idea these folks put out kids songs? It's so fun to hear them in another light.
There are so many more choices, too, like songs from musicals, Muppets songs, and even the Beatles. We may be having more fun listening to Pandora with our baby than she is...

Read more about why we love Pandora in my latest article.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Printable Infant Care Chart

As a new mom, I felt completely overwhelmed until I created an infant care chart. I used one on my own to help me get to know my baby, establish a routine, and identify any concerns. Then I was able to pass my infant care chart along to my full-time babysitter so that she could help me keep track of my daughter's schedule and development. We used the infant care chart to document the baby's feedings, diaper changes, naps, and (before she started crawling) tummy time, and we only just gave up using it when she turned nine months old. (And, to be honest, I miss it sometimes!)

Here's a copy of our chart so that you can use it or adapt it for your own needs.