A Summer of Creation

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The older boys are back in school, well Theodore is back in school (2nd grade-WOW). Kaelen is home this morning, he has Kindergarten orientation this afternoon and will start all-day classes on Monday. It is a big change for us. I am especially looking forward to some private time with “the baby” who is now 20 months old. I’m also looking forward to his morning naps, allowing me quiet time all to myself. I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.
Although I realize I have not written a post all summer, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been wedging out little bits of time for myself here and there. Unfortunately these little bits of time have not been long enough to form a coherent sentence, much less a paragraph or whole blog entry. I have been exercising my creative muscles in a more visual manner though. Last May I started a Facebook page called “A Moment In Time.” A Moment in Time started with a timeline cover for bereaved Mother’s day, but is really intended to be a place to celebrate all aspects of life. I’ve been very pleased to create covers for my many cousins who were married or engaged over the summer, a few birthday covers, covers celebrating summer itself (and now fall), and some covers focused on some of life’s challenges.
Today I would like to share some of the covers I created for “A Day of Hope” which was this past Monday. Spreading awareness of the prevalence of miscarriages, still-births, and infant loss is something I feel strongly about. I think it wasn’t until 15 months after my miscarriage that I really began to understand how many families were affected by MSIL (1 in 4). My family and my doctor were very supportive, but I still felt so much more alone than I should have.

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Day of Hope Profile (2)

I am the 1 in 4

I am the 1 in 4 Personalized Auriel

For Good

Please feel free to use any of these free images (Click over to A Moment in Time to have one personalized). I create all my images for no reason other than the joy it brings me. There is never a cost. If there is a cause near and dear to your heart please share it with me. I would be all too happy to create something to help you spread the word. Blessings to you all!

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Release

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Auriel-0045 As I scroll through Pinterest I see images of balloon releases almost daily. I see them pinned to wedding and party boards, but most frequently I see them pinned to miscarriage and loss boards. I can understand the comfort and healing that can come from a release. I understand that people want to send their angels something on their special days. But, and please don’t think I’m heartless and stop reading, I don’t think these people understand the effect a balloon release will have on our world. If they did, would they really want that to be their child’s legacy? There are alternatives.

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First a little information about the damage a balloon or paper lantern release can have on the environment. A beach litter survey organized by the Marine Conservation Society has shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.  As balloons pop or deflate they return to earth as litter. Both marine and terrestrial animals, such as dolphins, cows, dogs, birds, and many other species have been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat. Sea Turtles are especially at risk because they mistake balloons for jellyfish, their natural food source.  Even “bio-degradable” balloons are hazardous. Said to break down in the same time as an oak leaf–which takes about four years–these latex balloons can lay around for years.

I was surprise to learn that paper lanterns are not any better. Beside the fact that they are not as biodegradable as you might think, these lanterns are very dangerous as they return to earth. Lanterns can cause serious burns to any animals or people who are hit by them on their descent. Wildfires and house fires have both been caused by lantern releases.

So what to do?  If you search the web you will find many alternatives to a balloon or lantern release.  Some suggestions include dove or butterfly releases (which have their own impact on the environment and can be very costly), but here are a few of my favorites:

Bubble Rain by Steve Jurvetson

A Bubble Release

There is so much I love about a bubble release.  The shiny little orbs of magic floating up into the sky can contain so much.  They literally contain your breath, but also your kisses, your love, your hopes, and your dreams.  It’s like blowing kisses to heaven.  The process of breathing in and breathing out to create the bubbles can also be very therapeutic.   The image of hundreds of bubbles for each person gathered is breathtaking.

Beside that I love that it is so inexpensive, and supplies are everywhere.  You can pick up a big bottle of bubbles from the grocery store for a few dollars or head over to your local craft or party story for fancy little bottle which can be purchased in bulk from the wedding department.  Or even go in for a little more eco-friendly kick and make your own solution with this recipe from Green & Clean Mom

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A Water Release

Float flowers or flower petals out on a pond, lake, or ocean.  Just be sure they are not poisonous to indigenous wildlife first, and not an excessive amount.

Another possibility for a water release could be orange peel candles.  I’ll admit, I just thought of this one and can’t find information on the potential environmental impact.  I’ve seen orange peel candles all over pinterest, made by taking the fruit out of the peel and using the pith (the white flaky part of the peel) as a wick.  There is a good instruction guide at Home Naturale. Now, you would be releasing fire into the environment, so be aware of your surrounding. I think I’ll try this one out in August around Auriel’s due date and let everyone know how it goes then.

Just a few credits before we go: 

Thank you Balloons Blow for information on the environmental impact of balloon and lantern releases and the image of balloons on the beach.

Bubble Rain by Steve Jurvetson, Used  under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Цветы на воде by Lilizaripo, Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Children Should Be Seen

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There is an old saying “Children should be seen, not heard.”  Well, with three boys I have quite the herd, but they are generally very well behaved in public.  There is a good reason they are generally well behaved in public too—they have been out in public frequently since they were infants.  Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter lately I have seen a number of complaints about children in public.  I would wager a guess that most of the complainers do not have children based on their gripes.

The fact is, if you want a 6-year-old who knows how to sit quietly in a restaurant you need to start taking him to restaurants before that.  If you want your 4-year-old to wait patiently in line at a store, he needs to learn that at a younger age.  I have witnessed toddlers behaving better than teens.  A child’s age has very little to do with their ability to behave well in public.  I do agree with the adage “children should be seen, not heard,” especially the part about children being seen.

Training your child to behave in public

First some tips, based on my experience…

  • Set your child up to succeed:    Take your child out on days that he is well rested, healthy, and well fed (if you are shopping).  Try to avoid going out during nap time.  Catch your child at their best moments.  Remember that even the best kids have bad days, and even to worst kids have good days.
  • Pick an appropriate location:  I’ll go into this more later, but generally pick a kid-friendly location.  Someplace your child can be a child without causing too much of a disruption.
  • Set up rules before you arrive:  I usually outline our errand before we leave the house, and then again before we get out of the car.  For example, “We need to get diapers, look at shoes, and get juice.”  I usually also offer the incentive of looking at toys if we have time and they are well behaved.  It is important to let them know that we are not buying any toys or treats ahead of time.  This helps to prevent melt-downs in the toy aisle.  If it is not a great time for shopping, but the errand must be done I remind them exactly what I expect (no running, walk with mommy, no shouting. Etc.).  It has been quite some time since I have needed to define good behavior for my older boys, but the baby is getting to be the age that he can understand these things.
  • Offer incentives, but don’t bribe them:  This can be a little confusing, but it is all in the timing. An incentive is offered at the start of the trip, in the car or while getting the cart.  “If you behave you may ride the pony.”   A bribe is offered after the bad behavior has started “I will get you a juice if you stop running.”  There is a subtle difference, but the kids know that one is a reward for good behavior and the other is a reward for driving Mommy crazy.  (On a side note:  don’t beat yourself up if you have to get milk today and you end up bribing your kid just so you can get through the checkout line in one piece.  Let it go—you’ll do better next time)
  • Reward good behavior: I still point out to my 7-year-old when he has been exceptionally well behaved. Usually praise is all the reward the boys need, but sometimes I’ll surprise them with a bottle of juice or a small toy from the checkout line.  If they ask for a treat at the end of the trip I will allow or not allow it citing their behavior.
  • Be flexible:  Sometimes behavior can seem turn on a dime for the worse (there are clues, watch for them), be prepared to leave if behavior gets out of hand for the location.

Location, Location, Location…

I am going to break these down into a few categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Experienced. I am of the opinion, that with the exception of some content, there is not anyplace your children should not be able to go if they can behave.

Beginner Locations:

If you are not a parent, and want to avoid ill-behaved children all together, here places to avoid. You will get little to no sympathy for encountering less than perfect angels here.

If you are a parent looking for someplace you should be able to go without offending the childless here are some places I would consider good.  These are places your child can learn how to behave.

  • Shopping: I have found shopping trips to be the best place to start behavior training as they do not require the child to sit still, only to restrain from running. If a store exclusively sells children’s items or has a children’s dept., a toy dept., and sells diapers, this is family territory. Some examples would be Target, Walmart, or Toys ‘R Us. This is a store parents can take their kids as they are learning how to behave.  If you visit these stores regularly you will witness temper tantrums and children running and being loud.
  • Dining out: If you want a quiet dinner do not go to a restaurant on “kids eat free night.” This is the perfect time to acclimate toddlers or older children to eating out.  Other visitors should expect the restaurant to be louder than normal on this night.
  • Entertainment: The drive-in or week-day matinee of kids movies or live shows fall very firmly in kid’s territory.  The drive-in was created for the purpose of allowing parents to take their kids to the movies and to see movies while their kids slept in the car.  I would also categorize most sporting events, which are loud by their very nature, to be ok for kids.
  • As a general rule anyplace outside is kid friendly, the park, the zoo, etc. (But you smart folks already knew that!)

Intermediate Locations:

These are places that do call for good behavior, but still should offer some wiggle room for kids to be kids.  Be sure to put a stop to rambunctiousness ASAP.

If you are out at these locations without and a parent is doing their best, try to cut them a little slack.  Parenting is tough work. Society will benefit from children learning how to behave, but every kid still has a few tough days and makes a few mistakes.  We don’t want you to have to deal with their bad behavior anymore than you do.

  • Shopping:  If a store has a children’s dept., a toy dept., or sells diapers, this is a middle ground.  Shopping in the misses dept at Kohl’s does require a quiet and mostly still child, but if they are talking a little louder or moving a little faster (not running and screaming) in the children’s/toy dept. that is ok.
  • Dining Out: Generally, I would say any restaurant that has a kids menu with crayons is a good place to take young children, although you have to use your judgment on what level of fidgeting or loudness is appropriate at any given time.  Restaurants like Chilli’s or Applebee’s may call for different levels of good behavior based on the time of day and ambient noise.  Even the location of a corner booth or a central table may have different demands on your child.  Be prepared to take the child out if he gets too loud.
  • Entertainment:  G or PG movies/theater at any time, week-day matinee of other shows.  You know your own kid, you are the best judge of whether or not something is appropriate for your kid, and how much your kid is actually going to pick up from a movie.  I have taken the boys to PG13 movies in the middle of the day during the week.  The movies are not as crowded then which puts less pressure on your child to be perfectly behaved, which actually makes it easier for them to behave well.  It is harder to behave in a crowded theater, but if you are seeing a kid’s show you are going to have to expect kids to be there, sorry!

Expert Locations:

These are places that require your child to be on their very best behavior, and that very best behavior is to behave like an adult.  If you are taking your child here be prepared to remove the child at the very first signs of bad behavior.

If you see a child here, don’t automatically assume the worse, I have taken young kids into all of these situations and not only did we not disrupt the public, we have been complemented on our behavior. Yes, someone at these locations is well within their rights to complain if a child is misbehaving, but not just because a child is present.  Give the family the benefit of the doubt to begin with.

  • Shopping: Boutiques and antique stores are filled with breakable items and other delicacies that should not have sticky fingers all over them.  Clientele here is expecting a quiet and serene experience.  The most important thing to enforce here: No Touching!
  • Dining out:  If there is no special kid’s menu, or it is only printed at the bottom of the regular menu, then this restaurant is not going to be very forgiving of fidgety kids.  I would not recommend  eating out at a place like this without two adults, that way someone can stay behind to pay the check and box up un-eaten dinners if necessary.
  • Entertainment: I know the movies are considered by many to be adult-only territory, but I disagree.  Again, you do have to be prepared to leave at the very first sign of bad behavior.  Sit on the aisle, not too far from the exit, so you can get out fast if the child starts to act up.  You are the best judge of whether the content of the movie is ok for your family.  Honestly, to see a movie for adults with a baby or toddler, I would recommend going after the child’s bed time if he will stay asleep.  Movies and live theater call for the highest level of discipline, but if your kid can handle it I say go for it!

So that’s it.  That’s my two cents on children being seen in public.  I suppose I should add that infants who will take a pacifier, bottle, or breast and be quiet should be welcome anywhere, but a colicky baby is best left at home except in the most dire circumstances. As always, this is what works for my family.  Yes, I can take my 7 and 5 year old sons into expert locations sometimes, but there are also days I would cringe to take them to a beginner location. Such is the nature of childhood. You know your children, you know what they are capable of, you know what is best for your family.

Bereaved Mother’s Day Blessings

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IMG_3405May is the month for mothers.  Unfortunately, not all mothers will be celebrating.  I consider myself to be extremely blessed to have my three sons here with me.  I look forward to celebrating Mother’s day with them in a few weeks.

I also consider myself very blessed to have a son in Heaven.  I lost Auriel in a first trimester miscarriage in December 2010.  I’m not going to share much of his story now, but I do want to share a little of how he has changed my life.

Auriel has given me a gift of patience.  I find that I am more patient with his brothers.  I am also more patient with others.  I more easily sympathize with what they are going through, even if I don’t know what it is.  I am more aware that people are struggling with invisible baggage that sometimes their closest friends and loved ones don’t understand.  If I can help even a little just by offering a kind smile I choose to do that.

Auriel has also made me more short tempered in some aspects too.  I find that I treasure life even more since his loss than before, and I get very irritated when others do not respect life.  I see this in the news, innocent victims of horrible crimes.  I see mothers grieving because their child has been killed.  I see mothers being attacked for grieving and loving their child who has done the unthinkable.  ALL life is precious.

Driving has become a nightmare for me.  I want to shout at folks who put their own schedule ahead of the safety of others.  People who have so little disregard for the lives of others that they speed down the street weaving in and out of traffic.  People in such a hurry that they cut the wrong way down a (temporary) one way street in front of my son’s school.

Where these things bothered me before, now I just want to yell at the top of my lungs “What do you think you are doing?  Why are you so fast to put yourself before others, so fast to hate?”  I find it both easier and harder to see the good in people since Auriel.

In many ways Auriel has given me more as a woman than his brothers, more as a mother than his brothers.  Yet it is the presence of his brothers that makes me a mother in our society.  One in four American women are affected by miscarriage, still-birth, and infant loss.  One in four American mothers are not considered mothers by our society.  If you are one of those mothers I want you to know that I think you are a beautiful mother.  I know that your baby matters.  You matter.  You are a mom even if all your children have their wings.

For the very brave women willing to share their losses with the world I would like to share these graphics with you.  They are sized for a Facebook timeline cover and please feel free to use them if you would like.  The quote is from Francesca Cox, and we all know it to be true, “A Mother is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love she holds in her heart.”

International Bereaved Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 5th.  If you know someone who will be remembering and mourning their child please take a moment to let them know that you care.

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Muppet Mania Party

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Ok, this is the last party post for a while–I promise.  As I mentioned in the train party post Kae’s theme last year was the Muppets.  He had seen the new movie the previous fall and love it.  I thought that since the movie had just come out in theaters a few months previously supplies would be easy to find.  I was wrong.

I had a standard formula for party decorations: themed dessert plated and drink napkins, one themed table cloth for the cake table, themed banner, one themed mylar balloon, themed goodie bags with mixed themed/generic filler. Then I fill in with solid color table wear and more balloons as needed.  Well, the Muppet party was the first time I couldn’t find my themed stuff.  There were some plates and napkins I found available in the UK, and one large Kermit head balloon on Amazon.  Mostly when I searched “Muppets Party Supplies” I got Sesame Street.  But I pulled together some ideas (mostly from–you guessed it–Pinterest) and We all ended up very happy with the results.

We used mostly solid color tableware. Kae chose green and orange for his colors.  We did find some great bright “Happy Birthday” plates for the cake at Walmart. Most of the theme was carried out in the food.

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I saw some great pictures of Elmo and Oscar veggie trays so we tried out character fruit and veggie trays too:

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Fozzie was made from orange cauliflower (which I had never seen until one day before the party) and red and yellow bell pepper with a tomato nose.

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Gonzo was made from blue berries with a banana nose and eyebrows.  The banana did turn kinda brown, and no one wanted to eat the face anyway, so next time I probably would not peel it.  You can also see in the back ground a Kermit apple head.  I wish I could take credit for him, but he is from the blog Party Frosting.

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My AWESOME mom made an Animal cake and Muppet cupcakes.  The awesome part is she used an Elmo cake pan and frosted it to look like Animal.  The fancy star candles are from Dollar Tree.  We very nearly missed this shot of Kae blowing the candles out because he got them all in one huff the instant the song was over.

I couldn’t find invites, a banner, or goodie bags.  But I did find some great clip art at Muppets in Sermons.  Which I used to create this  invitation and a sticker for the goodie bags:

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I also printed out a clip of Kermit which I glued to a generic birthday banner from Target.

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DSC09870We just sort of stuck to bright colors for our generic decorations and added little Muppet details (including a Muppet Show CD playing in the background) where we could and it turned out great!  This was a really fun theme, I might consider doing it for an adult party again sometime in the future.

 

Jedi Padawan Party

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I’m still in party planning mode.  I only have a few weeks before I need to start putting together things for Jensen’s first un-birthday party in June.  By the way, we are planning a Wonderland/Mad Hatter Tea Party theme, but most of what I find is very girly.  If any one has any suggestions for a BOY Wonderland party I would love to hear them.

This was Ted’s party from a few years ago.  I received so many compliments on everything I thought I would share.  Anyone who know my oldest knows he is a HUGE Star Wars fan–he comes by it honestly–so it was no surprise that he chose it for his theme when he turned six.  While there is no shortage of Star Wars themed party supplies, this was our first party with school friends, and I was not sure how many activities I needed to have planned.  After searching online I came across a few blogs with ideas.  Unfortunately this was BP (before Pinterest) so I scribbled notes down on a scrap of paper and now have no clue where the ideas came from, so I don’t have the original links.  Sorry, and thanks whoever you are who inspired me!

First a few decorations:

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We pretty much just used store-bought themed banners, balloons, and other party supplies.  My mom made the R2D2 cake that she has made MANY times before. It is a Wilton cake pan from the 80’s, but you can still find it online.  We also brought in a few things from home that fit the mood including Ted’s Build-A-Bear friends dressed as a Jedi and Darth Vader, and my R2D2 Toy Box.  The toy box served the additional purpose of holding the supplies for the craft we did: build your own lightsaber.

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I’ve seen something similar to this on Pinterest using colored pool noodles with a handle added before the party.  The kids loved this so much more!  We brought in plain pipe insulation and a bunch of different colors of duct tape.  The kids all got to design their own light saber by wrapping the duct tape around the insulation.  They all were very creative, most of them used several colors and different designs.  We had enough supplies left over that several of the adults also made light sabers. (By the way, do you like my Padme Amidala costume, I had been working on it for about 7 months)

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Designing a light saber was intended to be the first step of four in completing the Jedi Padawan training.  We had also planned to take the kids on an obstical course and to have them work together to carry a balloon with their light sabers.  However, once everyone was done building their light saber, and huge battle broke out and we decide not the intrupt the fun with planned activities.  We did complete the last step of the Padawan training though, destroying the Death Star.

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I am not a fan of piñatas but this one was two good to pass up.  We made the Death Star piñata at home.  It was a simple as getting a round balloon (we used a punching balloon) and forming your piñata over it.  Once it is dry cut a  circle out of the side, add your candy, then place the cut out back in the side of the piñata but turn it inside out so you have the divot. Paint and you are done.

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We decorate our piñata stick to also look like a light saber.  If you are making your first piñata at home remember it does not need to be as heavy-duty as you think.  We made this one WAY to thick, but it worked anyway.  No one was able to break it, but when the hook came out we just tossed it up and let it explode on the pavement.

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I’m sure we will be doing this party at least once more, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Happy Birthday to Choo, Choo, Choo!

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This past weekend we celebrated Kaelen’s 5th birthday with a train party.  This kid has a habit of picking interesting, but hard to shop for party themes.  Last year it was the Muppets (I found a balloon online–that’s it).  This year it was a train party, which I thought would be easy, but it was NOT a Thomas the Train party, which made things here in Ohio much more difficult.  But, thanks to Pinterest, I came up with a lot of easy ideas for decorating.

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We set the mood with an outside railroad crossing sign:

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The sign was just two big circles cut out of yellow poster board glued to a wooden post.  I used electrical tape to make the X and my Cricut for the R’s, but you could just as easily hand draw on the detail with a black marker. In fact if I didn’t already have the Cricut out for the banner that is probably what I would have done.

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We made the banner with pre-shaped chip board pendants and scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby. I was torn between the denim look paper and a ticking stripe paper.  Ultimately I thought the stripes that were available were dizzily narrow and choose the denim.  Once the banner was complete I thought the denim was too dark and wished I had gone with the stripes.  Oh well!  We used two 15 ft spools of ribbon to hang it because we could pick a color, one would have worked fine, and we had plenty of length left over to hang the banner anywhere we wanted.

We added lots of little train details inside including a wooden track on the snack table:

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and tracks on the floor:

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The floor tracks were a big hit.  We got lots of complements on it and the cost was $1 for a pack of electrical tape from the Dollar Tree.  The wooden track came from our pre-existing toy collection, but if you don’t have tracks already you could make them part of the birthday kid’s present.  Ikea has a few nice sets.

Even the cake had a train track on it!

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I know fondant cakes are all the rage, and I saw a lot of cute ones online, but I hate the frosting.  My mom makes this REALLY awesome frosting (I think it is an old Wilton recipe) and makes all the boys’ cakes.  This one was super simple.  We found the train candle holder at Amazon.  My mom even added a little bit of frosting steam coming off the top of the engine (which the birthday boy enjoyed licking off after blowing out the candles)

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My niece also came up with the very cute and cleaver idea of adding “choo, choo, choo” to the birthday song instead of “cha, cha, cha”.

The kids all received a conductor hat and red bandana.  My brother also brought stick on mustaches which were a big hit.

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The hats were from Oriental Trading Company and were an excellent buy.  I paid $13 for a dozen cloth adjustable hats (I think the price went up since my purchase).  The hats fit the two-year-olds and adjusted up to fit the adults who scavenged the extras.  The bandanas were purchased from amazon for $8/dozen.  They were so stiff when I received them that I washed them.  They were much softer after being washed, but also VERY worn looking. If we do it again, I will probably just pick up the $1 cotton bandanas from Hobby Lobby.  A lot of train party blogs also included a wooden train whistle for their guests, but I know how loud one child with a train whistle is, and I am not (completely) insane.  Also, I like the parents of our young guests, and I want them to like me, so I very rarely include any toy that makes noise in goodie bags.

Speaking of goodie bags:

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Because the kids were receiving a hat and bandana we kept it simple.  A bottle of bubbles, a piece of sidewalk chalk, and a sheet Thomas stickers (we couldn’t find any plain train sticker).  They also all add a balloon added at the last-minute.  Our local party story has been out of helium for months so I purchased balloon sticks with the intention of creating a bouquet for the table.  I even made extra smaller crossing signs to include in the bouquet. Well I couldn’t figure out how to arrange the bouquet so the vase wouldn’t tip over anytime someone looked at it, so I just stuck them in the goodie bags.  The kids loved it, so I think I will plan on balloons in the goodie bags from now on.

One thing Kae insisted on was a piñata, so we made a super simple paper bag piñata.

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These are so simple to make I will probably never do it any other way.  You take a paper bag and decorate it with streamers and a party themed image printed on cardstock.  This time we used a bag with handles, but you can also use a plain bag folded over a hanger.

I found these instructions at Infarrantly Creative last summer.  She adds ruffles, which I felt were too much extra work and too feminine, but do look very pretty.  Also she uses a hot glue gun, which I do not have, so I used double sided tape.  I think I might even just use plain tape next time.

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A few tips for breaking a piñata. Bring an extra rope and set it up as a barrier for waiting children to stand behind.  In the past we have told the kids constantly to back up, but adding the visual cue has worked best for us.  Because we have a wide array of ages at our party, we put everyone in order the birthday boy then youngest to oldest, to help make sure everyone gets a turn. Each child gets to hit the piñata 3 time per turn.  We have always gotten through the order at least twice before the piñata was broken, at which point we usually ask if one of the “big kids” (the uncles) wants a turn.  This year to make sure everyone got some candy I also divided it up evenly into little plastic bags before stuffing the piñata. Each child just sort of naturally knew to get one bag.  I will definitely to doing this again in the future.

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Over all everyone had a really good time, which is all that matter.