10 Reasons why this Mom Loves Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is a new app that launched for Android and iOS platforms about a week ago. Chances are, you’ve heard about it, or you’re living under a rock nowhere near a Pokestop. I was hesitant to download the app for my almost-8-year-old. I’m not a fan of games on my phone, I don’t like fighting my kids for possession of my device, and we already have enough electronic distractions in this household. But, after hearing what my friends who were playing the game had to say, I jumped in. And I’m so glad I did!

10 Reasons why this Mom is excited about Pokemon GO!

We have something to talk about.

When my son has questions about the Xbox, or wants to tell me about his favorite Minecraft video, I’ve got nothing. That has changed with Pokemon Go. I downloaded the app, then called him over. He read the professor’s lines to me, and we started the game together. When either of us has questions about parts of the game, we look them up together. I’m not struggling to catch up – in fact, I’m ahead of him on the learning curve, because I look up articles after he’s gone to bed so that I can know new things to teach him tomorrow. We can talk about our favorite Pokestops, when to use the Lure we just got, how close we are to leveling up, and what characters we want to collect enough candy for so that we can make them evolve. I’m speaking my son’s language!

Pokemon Go is our new incentive.

“Get jammies on and brush your teeth… if you’re done by 7:15 I’ll let you use the incense to bring Pokemon to the house until bedtime.”
“Keep that up and there is no more Pokemon for the day.”
“Do a great job, and we’ll head to the park this afternoon.”
“Come to the grocery store with me, there are two Pokestops at the library behind it.”
I don’t know how long it will still be exciting for him to play Pokemon Go, but as long as it lasts, I’m using the game, and the various aspects, to bribe my son reward good behavior. And it costs me nothing but cell phone battery. #Momwin.

playing-Pokemon-Go-with-oth

We’re getting out of the house, and going FUN places.

Last week we went to the park for a picnic. A stranger walking by our house as I was trying to pack the basket while getting the kids ready would have thought that I was about to lead them on a death march to the dentist by way of getting some vaccinations. They couldn’t have been less enthused. Now my son is excited about heading to the park (where there are 6 Pokestops), and is even willing to walk there.

One of the first things I noticed was that the Pokestops are connected to landmarks. The more landmarks in a given area, the easier it is to collect the items you need to play the game. We’re still fairly new to this city, but this gives us a reason to explore fun new places. The map in the game only lets you see about 3 blocks from where you’re standing, so you need to go places to see what there is to see. Also, the places we go aren’t just rocks in the ground – they are parks, libraries, and museums… and are fun for my non-Pokemon playing son, too!

He is willing to walk places.

Willing and excited. In Pokemon Go, one of the items you collect are eggs. Put an egg in an incubator and it will hatch when you walk the specified distance. In the last two days my phone has logged almost 10k of walking! And while walking, we might run into some fun new Pokemon to catch!

 

waiting

I’m teaching him about cell phone safety.

When he learns to drive (which he thinks will be in 8 years or so, but I’m hoping will take much longer than that), he’s going to need to understand cell phone safety. I’m starting to instill that in him now. When we walk into a parking lot, or into a street, his arm has to extend straight down so that it is by his leg. It stays there until we’re on a sidewalk or otherwise safe situation. Even if it vibrates to tell him there is a Pokemon close by. While still young, he’s learning there is a time and place for phones, and a time to NOT have your phone out.

He’s learning basic orienteering.

Pokemon Go is augmented reality – a fantasy world placed on top of our actual world. When he looks at the map in Pokemon Go, he is seeing real places and real streets. He learns to turn the phone in the correct orientation, and walk that direction. It is fairly rudimentary, but learning basic map skills is important – even when Google maps can give you turn-by-turn directions!

catching-a-pokemon

The social aspect.

There is absolutely a social aspect to the game. Meet up with other players, swap battle stories, and learn tips about the game. After level 5, players pick a team (Go Team Instinct!), which gives players something to talk about, if they’ve don’t have any more stories of favorite characters and where they found them. This is such an amazing learning opportunity around appropriate conversations to have (and not have) with new people. So is learning how to open a conversation with another person you’ve never met before.

It is mostly non-violent.

As a mom, I have to add this to my list of great things about the game. Pokemon Go isn’t about running around slaying beasts. In the game you catch and collect the creatures. While there are battles that can take place after level 5, it isn’t warfare. More like a boxing match. And unlike some games where characters simply “regenerate”, your characters take damage that last beyond the battle, that needs to be repaired.

playing-Pokemon-Go-with-oth

He is tethered to me.

Normally, in a public place, my head is on a swivel. Constantly checking to find one son, then the other. They’re often completely oblivious to how far they’ve managed to wander off. Pokemon GO is an app that, because it uses GPS positioning, eats up a phone’s battery life like a mom eating Halloween candy after her kids have gone to bed. To combat this, Pokemon GO users add an external battery to extend their battery life. We do this, but put the external battery in my backpack. My son holds the phone as we walk around. The phone is connected to the cord, the cord is connected to the battery, and the battery is in my backpack… keeping him tethered to me with the charging cable serving as a very intentional leash. We were hanging out in a public place for two hours, and I always knew exactly where he was!

Pokemon Go has him doing math and reading.

Each time we get a new Pokemon, he sounds out and reads their name. This is excellent practice, especially on Pokemon with unusual names. We talk about why a Pokemon’s name might be pronounced a certain way … is Horsea pronounced Horse-sea, or is it Horse-a? We also do math. If we need 7000 points to level up, and we’re at 3500 – how many more XP do we need? If a Pokemon takes 50 Pokecandy, we have 35, and each new character gives us 3… but we get one extra for trading it in, how many more do we need? He’s entering 3rd grade next year, and these word problems are perfect for him!

I’m sure I’ll find other reasons to love this game as it evolves, please leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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How to Host a Party at a Party Place

Usually, we have birthday parties for our kids at our house. We have a kid-friendly home, and enjoy having people over. Our new house isn’t quite as spacious as our old home, so I thought I’d host my son’s birthday party this year at a party place. Overall, it was a success, so I thought I’d share with you my tips on how to host a party at a Party Place.

How to Host a Party at a Party Place - all the tips to make your party a success!

Party Place Research

Start by researching locations. On my phone, I went into Google Maps, and typed in terms “Play Place”, “Kids Party Place”, “Play Area”. Since we’re new to the area, this gave me a good idea of the options that were not too far from our house. I chose three to check out – an indoor playground, a trampoline park, and an arcade/fun center.

What to consider when choosing a Party Location

I took an afternoon to check out the locations. I brought my son with me so that he could weigh-in as well. It is good to check hours of operation before heading out, two of the locations I was considering were not open in the mornings. There were certain criteria that I was looking at for our party, so I kept these in mind as I looked at the locations.

Price – Price will always be a factor when choosing where to host a party. But different party locations break down their pricing differently. Some only factor in children, and food for adults needs to be added on for an additional cost. Some offer a limited amount of time in the party room or playing on the attractions. The final price tag can vary greatly when you consider items that you would think are standard, but the location considers “add ons”.

Location – How far will my guests have to drive? I was looking for a location no more than 15 minutes away from our home. This distance will vary depending on if you are in a more urban or rural setting.

Activities – For my 4-year-old and his friends, I wanted activities that they’d enjoy doing. Slides are awesome at their age, Laser tag is frustrating and hard.

Variety of food – Most party places don’t allow you to bring in your own food, and they have a limited menu. I have two picky eaters, so I wanted food that my boys would enjoy.

Space – How much space do we have for the party? How far is the party space away from the activities?

Other considerations – Other things I considered were how much time they allowed for the party, how far the parking was from the location, and how friendly the staff was. You might also want to consider looking at upgrade packages (some offer party favor bags, or bonus gifts for the birthday boy/girl), if those interest you.

Questions to ask when choosing a Party Place

When you host a party in your own home, you have an idea of what to expect, but when you’re hosting it offsite, you’ll want details on how they structure your party.

Food – how much, and when is it served? Can you bring your own cupcakes/cake? If there are children with allergies attending, are there other options?

Party Host – are you offered a host? What are their responsibilities? Do you share the host with other parties that are happening?

Decor – do they offer decor? What does it look like? Can you bring in your own decor? Is there anything that they do not allow (glitter, helium or mylar balloons, etc)? Are you able to come in advance to decorate? How far in advance? If your family loves pinatas, will they allow a pinata? A traditional one, or a pull-pinata?

Invitations – do they offer invitations? Is there a parent consent form that needs to be included in the invitations?

Deposit – do they require a deposit, and how much?

Final head count – when do they need the final head count for the party?

Rain contingency – if any part of the facility is outdoors, is there a rain contingency?

Where is the party hosted? – is there a special room? Upstairs/downstairs/outside? You’ll want any special instructions for the invitation.

cupcakes for party

 

Booking your party

Call or show up to book your party, and make any deposit needed. Confirm any special details at that time, and confirm the time and date to send out invitations. Depending on the popularity of the party location you’ll want to book a month or more in advance of the date.

Send out invitations, either those that were supplied by the location, or your own. Make sure to include your contact details for RSVP.

Party Prep – the week of

The week of the party, you’ll want to square away the final details.

Cake – if you’re ordering a cake or cupcakes, you’ll want it ordered already, or order it now. If you’re making your own, you’ll want to decide on your recipe or boxed mix and frosting.

Favors – will you be offering a traditional favor bag? What items do you want to include? Purchase those items, and put together the favor bags based on the number of RSVPs (plus your child and any siblings), adding a few extras for any extra guests.

Decorations – will you be using the standard decor, or adding your own touches? Themed confetti, plates/cups/napkins, balloons, streamers, or special table cloths will add to the theme, but can also add to the expense.

Final Head count – get a final head count including family, guests and family of guests.

Confirm with the party place – mix-ups happen! Call a few days before to confirm the day and time of your party, as well as any special details. Clearing up any misunderstandings before you show up will make the special day much less stressful!

party decor

Extras to put in your Party Bag

In addition to the cake, favors, and specialty decor, there are a few things you’ll want to have in your bag. These are things you might be used to having at home, but you might forget to bring to an offsite location.

Scissors – these will come in handy for cutting tablecloths, opening a stubborn gift, or cutting ribbon on balloons.
Candles – your candles might already be on your cake – if not, be sure to grab them and have them with you.
Matches or a lighter – so easy to forget! Remember to pack something to light those birthday candles.
Cash – you’ll probably want to tip the party hostess, and servers always appreciate cash – consider having cash on hand to tip at the end of the party.

tables at party place

The day of the party

Here are a few tips to have a great time on the day of the party:

Show up early – if you’re adding to the decor, show up at least 30-45 minutes early to help set up.

Check in with the party host or hostess – be sure to remember their name!

Take photos of your party set-up before the kids come.

Take lots and lots of photos during the party.

Enjoy yourself!

playing party games

How to rent a home in three days

Yes. How to rent a home in three days. I did it. Together with my husband, we spent 3 very stressful days finding a place to rent in the very pricy San Diego area. Mid-January hubby was offered a promotion, which we immediately accepted. Knowing that it would mean a move from our home of 8 years in Las Vegas to San Diego. This was a good thing. While we loved our friends in Las Vegas, and had an amazing community there, this move not only meant a promotion for him, but also a move closer to our family.

Once we knew the move was certain, we had about a month to find a new place, pack, and move. Not a lot of time. So we got started. If you have a big move in your future, here is how we did it (and some thoughts on how we would have done it differently).

moving truck

Day 1: Prep Work

The first day was preparing for our rental-hunting trip. Thanks to the internet and telephones we didn’t have to be in San Diego to get started. First, we had to decide on our wants and needs. We decided we needed 3 bedrooms (or two and a bonus space), we needed pet-friendly to bring our cat, and we needed garage space (attached or not did not matter). Wants included a yard for the kids, space for our furniture, on-site laundry (preferably in the unit) and a location close to hubby’s new work. We also set our budget, and knew we wanted to consider what school the rental was zoned for. We were pretty confident in our credit scores, but if you don’t know yours – now is a great time to check.

I went to websites to find locations. I started a list with the details: Address, rooms, cost, amenities. Then added the school district, school, and the school’s rank on GreatSchools.org. I checked with family to find out the areas to avoid. I tried to keep within our price range while still giving us as many options as possible: apartments, townhomes, and free-standing houses when possible. Having a list kept me from “finding” the same place twice – some were listed on multiple sites. I also added a couple that were more than we were willing to pay – it is always interesting to know what extra dollars can buy, and some of those amenities might make you re-consider your budget.

I printed out the school district maps, and bookmarked just about every website I visited so I could more easily find it again later. Google doesn’t always give you the same search results – especially if you don’t type in the exact same search term. I scoured property management websites. I made appointments where possible for Day 2 – our first day of searching.

One last important thing: I measured all of our furniture, and wrote down the measurements. We knew that we would be renting a much smaller place (about half the size), and we would need to know what furniture we would be taking with us, and what we’d want to sell/gift/donate before moving.

 

Day 2: Hunting

We started day 2 at a free-standing house in a fair neighborhood, about 15 minutes from hubby’s work. It had a lot of what we were looking for, but we didn’t want to jump on the first house. In retrospect, filling out an application and paying the fee would have been a good idea. It would have given us first right of refusal if we found something better. Even though it would have cost us about $50 in fees, it would have been money well spent for peace of mind.

We went through our list, taking photos as we went. I wish we would have taken more photos. Learn from my mistake: TAKE ALL THE PHOTOS. Take photos of everything. Take video as you walk through the space. It is all digital, you can delete what you don’t end up needing. You’ll think that you remember, but you won’t. Measure walls, and record them so that you’ll know later what furniture fits. Treat each place as if it might be THE ONE. There are no second dates when you’re house hunting with a tight deadline.

Our plan of attack took us across the valley. We started at the West end and moved East. This was an important time saver. Hopping around, on and off freeways in an unfamiliar city would have been a huge waste of time. Instead, we took it as systematically as we could. At the end of the day, we were exhausted. We decided that of all the places we looked at, the first place was the best. We called to get the paperwork started, but someone else beat us to it. We missed out on the first house because of our hesitation. Nothing else had us excited, but we had an idea of what the rental market here looked like.

Back at “base camp”, my Aunt and Uncle’s home, we got back to work. Hubby re-scoured all the rental sites for new listings or listings we might have dismissed too early, and I googled for property management sites. It was the beginning of a new month, and I wanted to see if they’d posted new properties. I also wrote down the name and phone number of each property management company to get us started on Day 3.

view of coranado

 

Day 3: Desparation

We had 4 days set aside for house hunting, and we were only in Day 2, but we felt like we’d already seen most of what San Diego had to offer. And though we knew that our new home would be much smaller and much older than the beautiful new-construction home we were coming from in Las Vegas, the reality was more stark than we’d realized. I began the day at 9am calling the list of property managers I had created the night before, asking if anything new was available that wasn’t on the website yet. After half a dozen calls, someone said yes, and off we went.

The apartment was newly renovated, and they were adding the last touches, installing a new fridge as we looked around. It was also tiny. 900 square feet. I measured the living room and started to cry. I didn’t own a single piece of furniture that would fit. My sofas, my tables, nothing would fit in this apartment that was barely larger than our master bedroom suite back home. Yes, I knew we’d been spoiled at the price of real estate in Las Vegas. Yes, I was ready to give up furniture and live in a smaller space as we made this step forward as a family. But as a work-at-home mom, I couldn’t see myself living, working, and raising my family here. I cried the ugliest cry right in front of that poor property manager and my baffled husband. It was the rock-bottom of house hunting, y’all.

We left. Not sure where to look next, we were close to a home that we weren’t allowed to schedule a tour for until we had driven by. With nothing else to do, we drove by. As we pulled up we noticed “open house” signs out front. Taking that as our invitation, we parked and walked through a cute little bungalow. The property manager was working in the kitchen, so we didn’t wander in there. We walked through the rooms. It was a little more than we had planned on spending, but not by much – and it had everything on our want and need lists – 3 bedrooms, an attached garage with washer-dryer hookups, 5 minutes from hubby’s work and walking distance from a school rated a 9 out of 10. It was expensive… but possibly worth it? We had a “maybe” house.

We spent the rest of the day calling property management companies, and looking at what was available. We went by a condo that was zoned for an amazing school – but it was hard to see the beauty in between the mess of the tenant who was still trying to move out. In the end, the maybe house won. We called, and submitted our forms. The house hunt was over.

house packed in boxes

Epilogue: The Days After

We were approved for the house, so we headed back home to the kiddos. My Mother in Law had watched them while we were house hunting so that we could focus on our task. Before leaving town we picked up an enrollment packet for school.

When we walked through the “maybe house”, we hadn’t taken any pictures. We weren’t seriously considering it at the time. We took a few basic measurements, but didn’t record any. This was a mistake. We knew our big couch would fit, but not which table. We should have done a better job recording these details, even on a house we didn’t think we were seriously considering. Relying on our memories – especially mine which was barely 30 minutes out of meltdown mode – was not a good plan. Especially… well, especially considering what we missed.

As the movers were bringing in the big pieces, I was taking smaller things out of my car. Including the boys’ sippy cups. I brought them into the kitchen to put in the dishwasher… the dishwasher… there … is … no … dishwasher. Our beautiful 1950’s bungalow did not come with a dishwasher. Luckily, we’ve moved one in – me.

the kitchen

There were other things we should have looked at. Like outlets. In Vegas, each wall had at least 2 outlets. Here, you’re lucky to find one per wall – and it probably doesn’t have ground.

outlets

So now, almost exactly a year later, we’re starting to feel settled. I thought I’d bounce right back in a month. Maybe 3. It has taken a year. I think it is all the firsts that makes it so hard. The first Christmas (where will we put the tree?). The first day of school (will he like his classmates?). The first Halloween (how much candy do we need?). It is also all the things that I never thought I’d have to decide again. After trying three different preschools with my oldest, I knew exactly which preschool would be perfect for my younger son – but I had to audition preschools all over again.

It has taken a while, but I no longer need Google Maps to tell me how to get to my favorite fabric shop. Or to the beach. I still need help getting to Ikea or the airport… but we’re making progress.

feeling like home

Snow Party

Over the winter break my boys and I had a snow party. A great way to celebrate the winter, any time of year!

Snow Party

The Snow Party Included:

Snowy Decor

Food:
Donuts on Sticks
Cakes
Cookies

Activities:
Snowball Fight
LCR with Snowballs
Coffee Filter Snowflakes
Borax Snowflakes

Party Favors
Mini Snow Dough Jars

Snowy Decor

For the Snowy Decor, I put down a blue plastic tablecloth, with snowflakes I cut with the Silhouette. Here is the snowflake file I used.

supplies for snowball backdrop

For the backdrop, I hung white plastic tablecloth, and strung styrofoam balls onto yarn using a doll needle…

pierce ball with needle

And sprayed with glitter blast.

spray with glitter dust

Then hung in front of the white.

snowball party decor

I also hung these large snowflakes cut with the silhouette from the ceiling.

snow decor

Snow Party Food

For the food, I picked out some white treats. Just simple and sugary.

cakes-and-cookies

I also skewered donuts and donut holes onto bamboo skewers and put them in a vase – food that doubles as decor!

Snow Party Activities

We had a snowball fight with our no-melt snowballs.

throwing snowballs

And played Left, Center, Right (a dice game – find it at Target in the games section), using pom poms as chips.

snowball left center right

We played for about 30 minutes, and the kids loved it! My 3 year old had no problem understanding how the game worked – and even ended up winning!

playing left center right with pom pom snowballs

Coffee Filter snowflakes are simple to make, and cost almost nothing. You just need scissors and coffee filters.

supplies for coffee filter snowflakes

Fold the filter in half, then in thirds.

fold coffee filter into thirds

Then cut away. The more cuts, the prettier your snowflake will be.

coffee filter snowflakes

coffee filter snowflakes

Making Borax snowflakes was lots of fun.

Borax Crystal Snowflake

You’ll need:

supplies for borax crystals

Mason Jar
Borax
Scissors
White Pipecleaners
Measuring Spoons
Pencil
String
Boiling Water

Cut the pipecleaner into 3 sections. Make sure the sections are shorter than the diameter of the jar.

cut pipecleaner

Twist together to make the snowflake. Tie a string to the top.

twist together pipe cleaner

Measure 3 Tablespoons of Borax into the jar, then fill with boiling water (kids don’t get to help with this part!). Stir with the pencil, then hang the pipecleaner snowflake in the jar. Allow to sit overnight.

making borax crystals

The next day, you’ll have gorgeous crystals!

finished borax crystals

And, of course, we needed snowy favors, so I made snow dough.

Snow Dough Party Favors

You’ll need:
2 cups Cornstarch
1/2 cup iridescent Glitter
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil

supplies for snow dough

 

Mix ingredients.

mix snow dough together

Put the snow dough into jars.

I used mini jars I found in the wedding section of the craft store.

fill-jars-with-snow-dough

I foiled the snow dough labels. Here is the printable snow dough label file I used, printed on a laser printer onto OL1762 from Online Labels .com.

snow dough labels

I then used a laminator and Thermoweb Decofoil (in blue) to foil the labels.

run foil through machine

foiled snow dough labels

It adds the perfect touch!

finished snow dough favors

The party didn’t take too long to put together, and the kids loved it! They’ll be asking for a snow party every winter!

snowball party decor

 

Monster Brownies and Vampire Coke for Movie Night

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeItAMovieNight #CollectiveBias

I love making fun memories with my family. Sometimes this includes outings, but often this means doing something fun at home together. A fun and crowd-pleasing way to spend family time is a movie night. Recently, I got to sit down with my family to watch the new Hotel Transylvania II, and these Monster Brownies and Vampire Cokes are the perfect treats for you to whip up for your own movie night! Be sure to take advantage of the $10 VUDU offer on your next movie when you buy the Movie Night package at Walmart… more about this deal in a second!

Monster Brownies and Vampire Coke - delicious treats for watching Hotel Transylvania II

To put together our family movie night, I hit up Walmart…

 

find exactly what you need at Walmart

I grabbed Orville Redenbacker Movie Theater Popcorn bowls, a 6-pack of Coke, and M&M’S® Chocolate Candies. I found the M&M’S® Chocolate Candies over by the checkout – in the cutest 3.5 oz canisters, perfect for snacking and sharing during the movie… and also great for making Monster Brownies!

Hotel Transylvania 2 Movie

You’ll want to grab the Hotel Transylvania 2 Movie, and other ingredients, if you don’t have them at home. After you purchase your movie night supplies (when you buy all 4 participating products listed in one transaction at Walmart between 12/22/15 and 2/2/16), you can take a picture of your receipt and visit the Redemption Page to get a $10 Vudu movie code by e-mail (While supplies last, limit 1 per person). Go ahead and click the link now, bookmarking it for later. Then come back, and we’ll whip up our movie night treats…

Here’s how the monster brownies come together:

ingredients for monster brownies

Ingredients:
1 boxed brownie mix
2 eggs
1/3 c vegetable shortening
2/3 c water
1 c M&M’S® Chocolate Candies
1 c Oatmeal
1 pkg candy eyes

Mix together all ingredients except the eyes. Pour into greased 6×9 baking pan, and bake as directed on the brownie mix box.

After you take your monster brownies out of the oven, gently push on the candy eyes before the brownies have a chance to cool.

I can see Mavis whipping up these brownies for Dennis in the Hotel Transylvania kitchens, and I’m sure that Johnny would stop by to snack on some of the eyeballs. But only because they’re candy eyeballs!

add candy eyes

Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Pair these brownies with some Vampire Cokes. In the movie, Dracula is concerned that his grandson might be more human than Vampire, and he does all that he can to make sure that Dennis gets his Vampire fangs. I’m sure if Drac had this recipe for Vampire Cokes, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble!

For your Vampire Cokes, you’ll need:
Coca-Cola of your choice
Grenadine
Cherries
Ice

vampire cokes

Put ice, cherries, and 1oz grenadine in each glass.

preparing vampire coke

Fill glass with Coca-Cola, and enjoy!

Monster Brownies and Vampire Coca-Cola

And can I just take a second to give a shout-out to these Orville Redenbacher Pop-up bowls? You pop the popcorn in the bag, peel away one side, and you have a bowl filled with delicious popcorn! Less dishes are always a win in this house!

popcorn in the easy pop-up bowl

 

Be sure to check out more awesome movie night ideas here, and don’t forget to submit a photo of your receipt for your $10 Vudu Coupon!

#MakeItAMovieNight
@SonyPictures, @OrvillePopcorn, @CocaCola, @MMsChocolate

 

Why my Elf on the Shelf is Boring

Let me start off by saying that I have no problem with one-upmanship. Or one-upMOMship. I’m totally fine with moms who want to spend thousands of dollars on their child’s first birthday party (though I’d suggest spending some of that money on a professional photographer so the child will remember it), or who make their children get up an hour early on the first day of school so they can get the perfect in-front-of-the-door-first-day-of-school photo. Partly, because I’m guilty of some of these crazy antics as well (I threw my son a half birthday party), and partly because I know that while you are taking a photo of their child dressed in the perfect princess costume, accessorized with rhinestone-studded kitten heels you DIYed the night before, you are wearing yoga pants, uggs, and yesterday’s mom bun.

Why-my-elf-on-the-shelf-is-

But your Elf on the Shelf baloney is one step too far. Sure, it is cute to have your elf make a mess of cookie crumbs on the counter, have snowball fight with marshmallows in the living room, or play dress-up with Barbie’s clothes and mom’s makeup. But that isn’t the point. The point is: READ THE BOOK.

The Elf on the Shelf is a family tradition that was Hallmark-isized. It was mass produced as boxed sets and manufactured dolls. And I bought one. I read the book and fell in love. Haven’t read the book? There is a movie. But if you missed that too, here are the Cliff’s notes: the elves are spies sent down from the North Pole to check on children. Each night they fly home to the North Pole to report to Santa, then fly back to your house to find another hiding spot so that they can listen to conversations and take notes on the behavior of small children. And if someone touches them, they lose their magic and can’t fly home.

THEY ARE SPIES. Sent to live among us, in secret. And wherever they stay during daylight hours – they are not supposed to be touched.

These moms who create elaborate dioramas that span the length and breadth of their dining room table – you really leave these up all day? You’re not worried that the ants are going to find that sticky syrup trail that Snickers McCandyCane left? You are going to walk around the livingroom, avoiding the cocktail party that Chappy Stockingfill is throwing with Rainbow Brite and and the My Little Pony twins? Really? Between Christmas shopping, baking, and shipping, you have time to dedicate sections of your house as shrines to a stuffed toy?

elf-binge-drinking

When I was a child, the warning that “Santa is watching” was enough to keep me in line. It seems kids today need a little extra coaching. But what kind of sports metaphor has the assistant coach pitching goals into their own basket? Not a successful one.

We’ve taken a story that was cherished by one family, shared it with the world, and allowed social media to bastardize it.

The Elf on the Shelf is the silent, unpaid Nanny who reminds our children to be good. After a two weeks of fall break in October, a week of Thanksgiving Break in November, and two more weeks of winter break in December, we moms need all the help we can get. So why are we tossing down tequila shots with our nanny elves each night, and leaving the trail of salt and lime rinds for our children to witness in the morning?

elf-shooting-down-lego-guys

If you must be a Pinterest Mom or Instagram show-off, have your elf dress up, challenge the kids to do a good deed each day, or leave treats for the kiddos as an early reward for good behavior. Remember that your elf is on a mission from Santa – not out on Rumspringa.

Lego Birthday Favor

When I was a kid, we’d bring cupcakes to school on our birthday to share a treat with the class. With 32 kids in a class, that can add up to a lot of cupcakes. But we didn’t mind. However, schools are trying to teach healthy choices to students, so many schools (ours included) have adopted a “no food treats” policy. Only a couple times a year are we allowed to celebrate with food. The rest of the year we’re encouraged to find other ways to celebrate.

DIY Custom Lego Favors

With this in mind, my son and I headed to the Lego Store. I was hoping to scour the pick-a-brick wall for an idea, preferably one that used 10 or less pieces. We were successful on the first, but not on the second. My son and I came up with this fun little car.

mini lego truck

We then picked out 35 sets of pieces. Whenever possible, I put pieces together into 5s or 10s. This made it easier to keep count, but also meant they took less room in the containers (YAY!)

pieces for lego favor

I then cut out and put together boxes, made labels, created custom Lego Instructions, folded the instructions, (with help from my awesome SIL) and put the pieces into baggies. This process took a whole day! But the result was pretty awesome.

custom lego favors

They ended up costing just over $1 each. Not including my time. And my son LOVED passing out little Lego truck kits to all of his friends. And the kids were super excited to get them.

And I have a craving simpler times. And for store-bought cupcakes.

San Diego Maker Faire

We headed to the San Diego Maker Faire Today, and though we were there most of the day… we didn’t even see half of what there was to see! We hit up the Northeast end of the park, and my little guys (7 and 3) had a blast. The youngest passed out in the car on the way home… and won’t wake up again until tomorrow.

The San Diego Maker Faire was in Balboa Park. We parked in the Inspiration Point Parking Lot, and took the Trolley up to the Mayor’s Maker Plaza. From there we went East, hitting up several of the exhibits. Each section is set up in one of the museums in Balboa Park. For Example, the “Families, Kids, and Fun” Section was in the NAT. There were other sections within other museums – so we got to check out both the museum exhibits AND the booths that were part of the San Diego Maker Faire. Which was awesome. As a newbie to San Diego, we got to check out several of the awesome museums that Balboa Park has to offer while getting the added bonus of the Maker Faire. All for the price of the Maker Faire. Which was pricey – $25 per adult and $15 per kiddo.

I didn’t have time to take pictures of everything… but here are some of the highlights.

When my oldest met R2D2… that made his day. We were less than 30 minutes into the event, and if we left right then, he was set. He has already asked that I print these photos for him.

meeting-r2d2

Of course there were several booths with the Lego Mindstorm robots. One of these days, we’ll need to get one of these for my tech-loving kiddos. We saw them earlier this year, and they combine Lego and programming… but they are not cheap!play-with-robots

My oldest and I hit up a presentation that Qualcomm was giving using their Dragon Boards. We used wires to link the board up to a motion sensor and a color sensor. It looks like this board is basically a smartphone backbone that you can use to create all kinds of devices.programming-with-dragon-boa

The boys also loved using smartphones to control cars. Here is my youngest operating a little smartphone car. He’s 3, y’all!! These kiddos can manipulate tech so easily… it is normal to them!robot-phone

And there were some less “tech” focused areas. Like this artwork made from pushpins.thumbtack-art

And digging through dirt at the NAT. Though… they showed how archaeologists scan the items they find, and then 3D print models so that they don’t handle the artifacts more than needed.

digging-at-the-NAT

Really, robots were the highlight of the day for my kiddos.controlling-robots

And robot cars.driving-robots

Even if they weren’t manipulating the robots… just watching the robots was pretty cool.  go-robot-go

They also liked making Marshmallow guns from PVC pipe. Which was also one of my favorites – all the pre-cut PVC pieces were right there for making the gun. It took seconds to make – instead of hours of mom’s time to source all the joints, cut all the PVC – and then seconds for the kiddos to assemble.

There was one thing that trumped robots… Legos. There was a booth where they were engraving lego bricks with each child’s name. Personalized Lego bricks? WINNING!

engraving-lego-block

Some links to cool stuff from today, in case you’re interested:

San Diego Maker Faire
Engraved Lego Bricks
Balboa Park
Robotics Competitions

Southwest Robotics

Babysitter Information Sheet

At the end of last year, I shared a Date Night book over on 30 Minute Crafts. The other half of date nights is babysitters. So, I came up with this simple babsitter information sheet to help keep date night fun and stress free!

babysitter's info sheet

Simple Babysitter info sheet

babysitter contact sheet word doc: https://app.box.com/s/9avk8jbb1imfef2tzsni

babysitter contact sheet pdf: https://app.box.com/s/nkdlmgqyrqnf4l8t9eyj

Funfetti Waffle Recipe

Funfetti waffles recipe

Looking for a fun recipe for a birthday, New Year’s Day, or other special occasion? These Funfetti Waffles are perfect! It took me a couple tries to perfect this Funfetti Waffle recipe, but now it is perfect – fluffy waffles with the perfect amount of sweetness. Great with syrup and butter, whipped cream, or just on their own!

They are actually made using Funfetti cake mix, which give them a sweet flavor, and add fun sprinkles of color throughout the batter. I wish I could say that I came up with this idea out of sheer genius… but it was actually sheer desperation! I had promised my boys that I would make waffles for breakfast, then discovered we didn’t have enough flour. I searched through the kitchen cabinets to find something that might work as a flour-substitute… and found the perfect solution in a box of Funfetti cake mix!

funfetti waffles

The boys immediately declared my Funfetti waffles to be the “best waffles ever!” Though, the first batch was much to dough-y. It took a little tweaking to find a recipe that I was happy with – but the boys didn’t mind being my taste-testers. These picky eaters declared each batch to be awesome!

birthday waffles made using funfetti cake mix

I served my waffles up with syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles, but you can serve yours however you like. If you’re making these for a birthday breakfast, you might want to add a layer of frosting (maple buttercream, perhaps?) You can add a candle or two if you like to celebrate.

We have a small family of 4, so there were plenty of waffles to store in the freezer for future breakfasts – an awesome, quick breakfast that the kids look forward to! Not the healthiest… but they keep in the freezer for weeks, so I’m not worried about them getting a sugar overload!

 

Funfetti Waffles Recipe:

Yield: about 18 waffles

1 box Funfetti Cake Mix
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 c milk
1 stick melted butter
3 eggs

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Don’t worry about a few small lumps. Scoop batter onto a hot waffle iron, and bake until browned. Remove carefully using tongs and spatula – waffle may be soft, will crisp as it cools.

Funfetti waffle recipe

I hope you enjoy these waffles – they are a breakfast favorite around here… and I’m sure they will be a Birthday Breakfast tradition!