Thursday, February 23, 2012

Party Time

Here's to sharing the big #2 party with family and friends who live too far away and couldn't be there to celebrate!  Watch out for massive details below. You know how wordy I can be!

Read my previous post, A Different Kind of Birthday Party, about how we used Echoage for this party.

So for the second birthdays, we wanted to do something simple, at our house.  Well, when I told Brad how many people were coming, he said, " our house?"  Our house is not tiny but not large at all and there really isn't a big open area or anything like that.  It would have been cramped!  He was right. We were having dinner out with the kids one night at Picasso's Pizza, on their enclosed patio, and he suggested we have the party there.  Well, there was no fee for the room. Just buy food and meet the 2 hour time limit and you don't have to clean anything up- ANYTHING, except what we wanted to take home with us!  We were all over it!

In my previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to do a party that was low stress and would like to try to go green.

Here's the only "go green" detail we managed and only by chance:  Real plates and cloth napkins.  Much better than if it had been at my house because we would have done paper all the way!

The party wasn't stressful to plan but I really felt like with kids mostly around age 2 but ranging from 1 to 8 years old all running around, they needed some directed activities or we'd all go crazy, especially knowing how wild my two can be. So to the internet I went. And yes, I got a little carried away from "simple party" but I enjoyed planning and implementing!

The theme was circles and colors were green and yellow!  I found only a couple sites online with ideas for the circle theme. Real Simple and Design Mom - Round and Round Party.  For a few evenings, I used a circle punch to cut out circles and hot glued them on a string for circle garland.  I hole punched the leftover paper to make circle confetti.  I cut out all different sizes of circles just to lay around the tables and I made a few paper chains. Finally, I picked up some helium balloons just before the party.  I was so thankful that my brother and his wife helped us decorate!  The activities, cupcakes, gifts and favors all went along with the theme, too!

Upon arrival, the kids headed to a table to string fruit loops on a shoe lace to make a party necklace.  My kids arrived with Brad a little early so they ate lots of them while we decorated and put maybe 3 on a shoe lace and then wouldn't wear the necklace. haha! Obviously parents needed to help and some kids still ate the goodness right off the necklace...wouldn't you? And some took it seriously and made some awesome necklaces!

Once everyone got there and had a chance to make a necklace, we headed to the middle of the room for story time.  I read Duck on a Bike (to build some anticipation for the boys' gifts).  I really wanted someone else to read but Aunt Jessie and Auntie Krissie, the perfect animated readers and the only ones who would probably be up for it, both live in other states so I was it.  The kids all seemed pretty excited about it, all except for Nolan.  I think he had spotted the markers on the next table and wanted to get to that activity immediately and he hardly napped. He kept coming up to me, trying to take the book and throw it on the ground.   Brad kept trying to distract him.  I ended up skipping a few pages (sorry kids)! But it is a really cute book!
looks sweet but he is totally trying to take the book away from me!

Next we headed to the hat table.  My school sells color paper by the roll for super cheap so I bought lots and made a bunch of green and yellow hats. They were super easy to make!  The kids got to put lots of circle stickers on their hats and color with crayons and markers. Markers are huge with my kids right now!  Carter and Nolan's hats had some special little circle antennas.    The kids really loved coloring their hats and could have done this for the whole party probably!

Chips and Salsa were out the whole time. Then pizza and fruit arrived and parents dished up a plate for their kids and everyone snacked.

We had all the kids come sit at the circle table and we sang happy birthday twice (I don't care, they have to share birthdays but at least can get their own song!)  Carter and Nolan blew out the candle in their cupcake then everyone chowed!

Our friend, Kendra made our cupcakes. She makes some amazing things! Check them out at Cakes By Kendra. Ours were circle themed and delicious!

Last, the boys got to open their gifts. They each received a bike!  We knew they loved sitting in the bike seat on our bikes and they needed a ride-on toy so their group gifts were balance bikes! You sit on the seat and walk with the bike, no pedals or training wheels and the front wheel turns just like a real bike.  The idea is that eventually they will run on it and start to let go and balance.  Mine are right at the starting age for this so we'll see how it progresses! 

They were super excited but really struggled on first try.  Nolan now loves walking around on his. Carter prefers sitting on the bike with his feet propped up while we push!  His is a little taller so I think he still needs another inch in height to feel comfortable.

Guests began leaving and took with them a balloon, their necklace, hat and the party favor.  We made a CD of songs the boys love and some we love for them to love...they aren't too bad for the adults to listen to (at least that's what we think)!

So I don't think I took really any of those pictures.  A lot of family and friends were snapping away and I seriously appreciate that!

The whole party was wild and crazy but I think the kids all had a good time. I still can't believe my babies are two! The older I get, the faster time seems to go and having kids seems to have tripled the rate!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Different Kind of Birthday Party

Carter and Nolan turned 2 on February 3rd!  I'm a little behind but want to share our celebration!

I have written a separate post all about the party details, here, but first I have to tell you about the type of party we had.

I didn't really even think about plans for their party until mid January.  I started google searching ideas for inexpensive, low stress, go green types of parties.  I'm just not cut out for some of these over the top parties for two year olds!  We also just had Christmas and the idea of more toys taking over our house didn't sound appealing to me (although I'm sure it would sound great to the boys!) 

So I came across  I loved it at first read! Though I ended up reading lots about it to be sure it was credible.

It works like an evite.  When guests get the invitation, they rsvp and are encouraged to contribute any amount of money.  They don't have to contribute anything.  Half goes to the charity you choose and half comes as a check to you to buy a single gift for the child.  The idea behind it is to teach children about giving while still celebrating the special day.  The gift is from everyone at the party and can be something big rather than lots of small gifts.

Our kids are a little too young to get the whole giving thing, in this scenario anyway.  But I loved a lot of things about having an echoage party:
  • Keep gifts to a minimum and truly just celebrate the day.  Especially just following Christmas.
  • Avoid so much wrapping paper waste by only having two gifts, one for each. Again, especially just following Christmas!  I would have loved to really go green with the party but that is REALLY tough if want to decorate at all! More about that in another post, though.
  • Avoid getting many, many gifts that the boys may play with for a week and never again (not to say that the gifts are bad but that my kids are age two and that's how they play with toys...for a week then never again! unless I hide them and we pretend like they are new a while later).  There are always things we want for the boys or things they need but we'll typically just go buy them unless someone specifically asks what to get them as a gift.
  • Save guests time and possibly money by not having to shop for a gift. (Although I felt like people contributed a lot)
  • Make people feel good for the donation.  Giving feels good.

Things I did not love:
  • Echoage charges a percentage to use their site, to fund it.  That's fine. I get it...just don't love it.
  • The invitation doesn't give enough information to people who are unfamiliar with the process and there is not free space in the invite for you to add your own two cents.  We didn't like the idea of requesting money from people and so to make up for all of that we sent an email along with the invite to explain our purpose to the guests.
  • The site gives info indicating that you will not buy your child's gift until after the party, when the check comes in the mail. We, and I would assume lots of families, want their kids to open some present for their birthdays so we bought ours ahead of time and presented them at the party so everyone could see what they contributed to!
  • Echoage needs more charity choices. You can request that they add a specific charity but that takes time.

We tried this out with an open mind. We wanted to see how it went.  Overall, I was pretty happy with it and would do it again or continue to search for something similar.  I did come across a couple other neat ideas for ways to give or minimize gifts at birthday parties.
  • Ask everyone to bring a book and donate them all.
  • Ask everyone to bring one toy they no longer play with and do an exchange so everyone leaves with something "new."
I'm sure there are more ideas out there!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Potty Training Update

In my last post, Potty Training Failures and Successes, I talked about our one weekend of many poo poos in the potty. 

It was great but it seems to be over.

They had a week of no effort at daycare and the next weekend was so busy we could hardly think about training. Then another week at daycare.

This weekend we tried again a little.  I still kinda want to do some boot camp style but Brad doesn't and a lot of people say to just let the kid do what he wants.

They still get rewards when they go pee or poo in the potty.  They get to wear car diapers (pull ups with cars on them). We tell them not to pee or poo on the cars! And they were getting a sucker but those are just too messy and take too long to eat.  So now they get one M&M candy.

We also still put them on the potty often. Right when they wake, again after breakfast, before and after naps, before bath, before bed.

Carter will seriously sit there and read his Elmo potty book FOREVER. Just go, dude!  But I guess these things can take time to work out!  He also seems to have mastered getting just a little tiny bit out, just enough for reward, only to finish in the diaper later. Not cool.

Nolan will sit for just half a second, do nothing, then say "done!" and beg to get off the potty.  So today we got out the little potties again. He seems to like those better and will sit a bit longer.

Both boys still seem to mention something to us when they need to go, they just don't like doing the business on the potty anymore. 

BUMMER!  We'll see where all this goes.  I don't want to be so forceful that they freak out and totally quit but I also want to get this show on the road!  The road just seems a little longer now!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

my new love

Today is a very good day.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i with 18-55 lens and 55-250 lens

is about to be in my possession.

Extra lens and all.  

It has been a VERY long time coming and FINALLY, after hours reading consumer reports and comparing prices (and after getting our tax return!), this is the camera in our price range that seems to be the best option.

I have honestly, desperately been wanting a nice camera for probably 3 years now so I can't even put into words how excited I am right now!

Move over flowers and yummy perfume I got for my birthday. This is my real birthday present! And Christmas present (since I returned the kindle B got me) and probably Brad's March birthday present, too.

But now I'm kinda wanting the new kindle and an ipad and new iphones and a macbook...geez! But priorities win and this, my friends, is high on my list!  All else can wait.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Interesting Article on Parenting

Just in time: 

My daily battles with two toddlers are becoming more and more common, as anticipated, but I can't help but believe there has to be a way to train them to behave!  Now they are not terrible little boys by any means.  Also I know there is no right way to "educate" them, but I'll take all the tips I can get.  I just want them to know that I'm the boss (ha ha) and I want them to have some patience, even with themselves. They get so bent out of shape if they can't get the toy back in the case right or something like that. Any they have no sense of the meaning of "wait one minute please."

Anyway. I like this article. Someone posted it on facebook and I found it interesting. Maybe you will, too.

Why French Parents Are Superior

Sunday, February 5, 2012

major makeover

Look at my blog!

Just look at it!

After a few months hiatus, I finally picked up blogging again and my very good friend, Stephanie from This Casita, kindly encouraged me to give it a much needed makeover! As a result of her honesty, talent and skill, we now have the new and improved kowalski cafe!

I absolutely love it and hope you find it more pleasing to the eye!

Stephanie has an amazing talent with designing.  I also love reading her blog where she tells fun stories, gives honest reviews, and gives us peaks at her adorable and busy little boy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Potty Training Failures and Successes

Someone has to post about the grueling potty training stories, right? If it totally grosses you out, don't read any further.

First, let me fill you in on my potty training feelings:

1. I HATE diapers for many reasons.  Waste, diaper rash, odor, etc.

2. I believe you can train them young but understand it could be VERY hard work!

3.  I kind of want to potty train mine young just for the challenge of it....and because I hate diapers.

4.  I also believe you should wait for them to be ready.

5.  I'm a little afraid of the potty training phase because the diaper bag becomes the change-of-clothes bag and you must know where a bathroom is at all times.


Over Thanksgiving break (they were almost 22 months old), I had the bright idea to go ahead and try to train my boys.  Boot camp style.  Brad was totally not on board but he did a decent job faking it.  We bought a potty and borrowed a potty and set them up right in front of the TV, with plenty of salty foods and drinks.  We got a tiny pee from Carter but eventually we felt bad for their toilet-ring bums so let them get up and wear pants sans diaper.  Keeping a close eye on them, we had a couple of pee accidents, tried to get them to the potty to finish but failed. Then one of them pooped in his pants.  Ooohh, no.  Gross. Way worse than diapers.  Brad had to do the clothing clean up while I gave the bath. WAAAYYY too much work.  We looked at each other and decided to enjoy our T-day break and so, called it quits on the potty training.

Total Fail.

For the next week or so, we kept the potties out in case anyone had a sudden desire to participate!  But there is something about the little potties I don't like.  I think it was the thought of having to clean them out in addition to the bums.  More work. 

I bought a little insert to go under the seat on the real toilet.  I was hoping the boys would like getting on the real potty, too, like mom and dad. =)

Since that purchase, mid December, the boys would sit on the potty here and there and do NOTHING AT ALL.  So annoying but I'll support it. I don't want them to fear the potty!  Once in a while, if we saw one of the boys "working on it," we'd rush them to the potty in hopes that they'd finish there but no such luck.
(poor kids are really going to hate me for these pictures some day!)

So then last Saturday happened...

We were about to put the boys down for their nap after lunch and often, they go number two around this time so I urged Nolan to leave the bedroom and go walk around the house to get his business done (he likes to be alone for it).  The conversation went a little like this:

Momma:  "Nolan go walk around and go poo poo. Hurry up so we can go night night."

Nolan:  He walks to the bathroom and says, "poo poo." 

Momma:  "Oh you want to poo poo in the potty?" Thinking, okay, I really need you to hurry and get to the nap and don't want to wait for you to sit on the potty and do your usual nothing, but whatever.

So I insert the kiddie potty and start to pull his pants down but he resists and starts to leave.  Make up your mind kiddo.  But then he comes back.  He lets me put him on the potty. He grunts, there's a plop followed by a few more plops. 

Oh. My. Gosh.  Did that really just happen?  CELEBRATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yep. We celebrated like it was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened.

Oh. Carter was jealous.  He wanted in on the action. What did he do? Well, he sat on the potty and pooped, too!

More CELEBRATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We called their grandmomma so they could share their good news.  They told their poppy all about it when he came over that evening, too.  They were very proud.
They were rewarded by getting to flush the toilet (something they used to do all the time for fun and we had to make them stop!) They also got to wear big boy diapers, pull ups.  We happened to have some that were given to us when an older cousin stopped using them.

Okay so we just went through the day normally, figuring if they wanted to do this, they could.  We wouldn't push it.  Well, almost every poop after that one for rest of the weekend made it into the potty.  The only downside was that often they'd start in the diaper, finish in the potty or start in the potty and finish in the diaper.   And no one ever peed in the potty, at least not that we saw! Isn't that weird?

I have no idea what has been happening at daycare. I keep telling the boys to tell Nana when they need to go potty. So definitely still in diapers but they've been going on the potty at home every evening.  Next weekend is their big birthday party so we won't be doing any serious training then either.  So I have no idea how this is going to go down.

But this is it, I think.  We cannot let the opportunity pass, right?  They are ready, right?

See an update from two weeks later, here.