Monthly Archives: April 2013

Happy Birthday to Choo, Choo, Choo!



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.


We set the mood with an outside railroad crossing sign:


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.


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:


and tracks on the floor:


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!


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)


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.


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:


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.


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.


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


Semi-annual Clothing Change



It’s time again to pack away outgrown clothes and get out the next size. Does anyone else have kids who insist on outgrowing their clothes with maybe a month left in the season? Perhaps it only seems like this at my house because the entire second half of the season I won’t put them in the next size up unless absolutely necessary, but when ankles are sticking out of pant legs and pajamas can no longer be zipped I am forced to break out the next size.

The semi-annual unpacking of hand-me-downs has become quite the production. The timing is dictated more by the fact that we no longer have any space to set aside for out-grown clothes rather than the actually change of seasons. I start by making sure every article of children’s clothing I can find is washed, at the same time, and sorting out anything that is too small. I do this at least twice within one week in an attempt not to leave anything out. This of course is futile as I will find stray outgrown clothes regularly over the next six months. I had more than two boxes of clothes that missed being packed up last time on this go-round. In fact some of them have missed probably two seasonal changes as I ended up putting them back in the drawer for the next child this spring.

After I have sorted out “all” the out-grown clothes I sort them by size and season. Now here is where the work gets tricky. I now bring down every box of clothing from the attic. I’ve just started doing this of this spring. We have probably 20 boxes of clothing up there. Most of them are diaper and paper boxes, but there are a few other sizes, just to make things really interesting. They all come down because over the last six months we have been up there picking through them as we find a need for various items, mostly dress clothes and pajamas. Although when I started packing away clothes for Ted it was very easy, everything for one size & season in one box, another size & season in another, it was now become more complicated. I not only have the wardrobe that my boys have worn but have also inherited the clothes from my cousin who is the same age as Ted and my nephew who is the same age as Kaelen. Larger sizes take up more space in boxes than baby clothes. Clothes stretch and shrink.

Now I need a box just for size 5 tee-shirts. But is that a 5T or a 5/6?

These rompers say 24 months but they don’t stay snapped in the crotch much after the boy out grows 12 months.

After filling these boxes nearly to bursting with 6 summer clothes and 7 summer clothes last fall I still had half a box of each, they had to go in a box together. But now I have ¾ of a box of size 7 summer clothes to mix in.

So everything comes down. I now re-sort all these boxes, putting things the most alike together, trying to pack away things that will be worn at the same time in the same box. I then cover the old labels with new ones and take everything back up to the attic, stacking everything in order of size—2t fall/winter, 2t pajamas, 2t spring/summer, 3t fall/winter and so on. The whole process takes at least a week of working on it daily.

Unfortunately it seems that this task can never wait until the season truly changes. For example, right now it is spring, but still snowing occasionally, and summer is just around the corner. The boys are not ready to have all their cold weather clothes packed away. Typically at least one of them needs pants and long sleeves in the next size up. But I also want to be prepared with some short sleeves and maybe even some shorts. It is Ohio, just because it is snowing today does not mean it will not be 70 for 4 days next week, and probably 35 the week after that. To add to the confusion we really need a additional dresser—not that we have any place to put it—as the older boys share a small children’s dresser. We hardly have space to keep out a wardrobe for the children that is large enough to last a week. I cannot get out too many “out-of-season” clothes. The space crunch results in unpacking partial boxes and setting aside other stuff away at different intervals throughout the year for different children. So in a month on so I will be going up stairs again to get out some summer clothes and pack away some winter clothes—and do you think I will be able to find what I am looking for?