It is the last week of August and this mama a little sad. So much is happening and I admit I have shed a couple of tears here and there.

My baby, my first born, the little baby boy that changed my life is turning 9 in a couple days! How is it possible that my little baby boy is going to be 9 years old??? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was spending countless hours designing his nursery, rubbing my growing belly and buying every blue item of baby clothes the stores sold. Last week while doing some back to school shopping with my mom I teared up as I picked out some size 10 jeans for him. Size 10 just doesn’t seem possible, life moves far to fast. So all you with babies out there, hold them extra tight (and a little extra for me!) cause before you know it they will be all grown up.

The kids are back to school in a week which means that I will be back to the quiet days in the studio allowing me for serious work and creativity. Sure I am happy about that, but this week is a big milestone for our family. The kids are starting a new school. They are heading to the amazing public school in our neighbourhood. We moved last summer for the school as I knew that they would be leaving the Montessori system one day and wanted to make sure our home was in a great school district. I am excited about the changes, and the ability to be involved in my kids school, something that I didn’t have with the private school. I am also scared, I loved their old school and if money was no object they would stay there forever. Mr K asked me yesterday “what if my teacher isn’t nice” and I quickly answered with “of course they will be nice” but deep down inside I knew that there was a possibility that he might not love his teacher… and this scares me. He has always loved school, he would jump out of bed, throw on his uniform and be downstairs in minutes. This made me shed a little tear, so fingers crossed that he loves his teacher and his teacher loves him.

With the kids going back to school, it also means that my youngest baby is officially going into grade 1. OMG when did this happen?! I look at parents of toddlers and babies and feel like that stage of our family flew by so fast. I don’t have the big transition of her from part time to full time days, as she was always in full time at the Montessori school. But I no longer have babies, or toddlers, or preschoolers. I am now the mother of kids, and according to some one is a tween! So as I drop my kids off for their first day at their new school I will fight to hold back the tears… of course until I turn around and start walking back home!!

If you see me over the next week, don’t bother asking how I am doing. Just give me a hug and hand over a tissue as I am sure that I will need it!

To celebrate the fun side of kids going back to school, I wanted to do a giveaway of two sets of our Love Notes for Lunch Totes. Tell us if you are happy or sad that the kids going back to school and you can win.

Love Notes for Lunch Totes
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Valentine's Heart Banner
My good friend Joann from Woman in Real Life posted the most adorable kid friendly craft to do with your kids for Valentine’s Day and I just had to share it with you all! Really how cute are these hearts? Think of how proud your kids would be to see their hard work and sewing in these. And for moms of little ones, trust me they can do this! As a mom of Montessori kids I know that at 3 years old your child can sew with an actual (sharp) sewing needle.

I love crafts, but sadly I spent a lot more time doing crafts before kids as I had a lot more time. I am always looking for simple and fun crafts that I can do with my kids – key point being that they are able to do it and not just watch me (always a lesson in self control as the perfectionist in me wants to take over). This one is easy. Joann had full instructions and other ideas posted on her website.

I am heading to Michaels today to stock up on supplies so the kids and I can enjoy this craft together after school. Thanks Joann for allowing me to share with my readers!

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Sleepaway CampAre your kids heading off to summer sleepaway camp this summer for the first time? We want to share some tips from ourselves and our fans to help make preparing everyone a bit easier.

Remember that you want to make this a positive experience for both so it is best to get your kids involved every step of the way. It will probably also help if they are a little aprehensive about being away from you 24hrs a day for anywhere from a week to the entire summer.

1. Check the camp’s website as most have a very thorough packing list to help make sure you don’t forget anything important.

When my son and I recently had an overnight experience at Muskoka Woods I realized that I never thought to bring any hand soap to wash our hands after using the little boys/girls room. I thought about shampoo and such but it never occurred to me that there would be no soap dispenser in the cabin washroom.

2. Involve your kids in the shopping and packing process.

Making shopping for camping supplies fun and allow them to pick what sleeping bag they want, it might help to make their time away from home more enjoyable as their space will feel more like theirs.  As a fan shared, having your kids help you pack is important so that they know what clothes or items belong to them.

3. Label every single item that they bring with them.

Just like having them help pack, the labels are extra important. You could have 10 kids in one cabin and it will become very easy for items to get mixed up between kids. We highly recommend Mabel’s Labels Camp Combo which includes everything you need so everything that leaves with your child comes home with your child. Don’t wait too long as it is a limited edition and only available until the end of June.

4. Don’t forget stationery to allow your child to document their adventure and keep in touch with you.

There are many items that you could pack like our personalized camp note cards to hopefully encourage them to write home. Stamp and address the envelopes to make it super easy for them. But we can’t promise that they won’t use them to ask you to come get them! Also include a special journal that they write about their adventures. It will be fun for them to look back through once they are back home.

One mom shared how parents can send a letter the week before their child leaves so that it is there waiting for them. Her mom did that when she went to camp for the first time, it made her feel so special as she was the only one who had mail on the first day and helped her feel more comfortable being away having that immediate contact. We think this is a great idea!

5. Pack a digital camera for your child and include a large memory card.

If you your child doesn’t already have their own camera we recommend buying one so that they can document all of their memories and new friends in photos. You can buy a disposable camera or a good digital camera for around $50.

6. Be sure to include your child’s “special thing”.

If your child has a favourite blanket or stuffed toy be sure to include that too. Don’t worry that they might be the only one, on our adventure 3 of the 4 boys in our cabin had their stuffed toy with them. This will help your child feel connected with home should they start getting homesick.

 

Do you have any tips to add? Did you go to sleepaway camp?

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Are your kids off to camp this summer?

Introducing our brand new personalized camp note cards for kids.

S'mores Camp NotesFill-in Notes from CampCamp Stationery for GirlsModern Camp Stationery

Here is a way for them keep in touch with personalized camp themed note cards. They will be wanting to send letters home to family and friends with our fun summer camp stationery. Suddenly sending updates from camp has never been more exciting. Pair these camp notes with our matching summer camp return address labels and your kids will be corresponding in “campy style”!

Visit the website to view the entire line.

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Children and birthday parties. It’s as natural a pairing as icewine and foie gras or cookies and milk or peanut butter and jam. Or headaches and ibuprofen (and NOT because of the icewine).

Yes, from the time our sweet babies turn one, we obsess over these milestone celebrations. Why? Because we want every detail to be ‘just so’. Planning a birthday party these days is akin to planning a wedding. (Party Mommas, anyone?) It is an exercise in frustration over balancing budget with guest list, finding the right venue, food and decorations. Whoa! News Flash: Your child just wants to play with her friends, blow out some candles and tear open some gifts! Really!

Okay, so as not to sound hypocritical, I love to throw a party with a theme. It’s fun to tie in colors and decorative touches. From the invitations to the games to the cake I go all out. But, I am also on a pretty tight budget and big on the DIY concept. So how DO you throw a fabulously fun theme party for your child without maxing out the budget and stress levels?

Here are 10 Tips for a Great Party on a Budget:

Here’s how I pulled off my son’s 6th birthday Pirate Parrrty without having to walk the plank for over-spending (you can adapt these tips to any theme):

  1. Theme:  Pick one fairly far in advance to ease the planning process. Not everybody likes a theme. I do. This year was Pirates.  Aye!
  2. Timing:  Establish the date and time—beginning and end—(two hours is plenty long). Be considerate of nap times or other scheduling conflicts that may result in meltdowns later. Also, this year I followed up with an email reminder the day before the party (in full-on pirate jargon). The moms thought that was a great idea.
  3. Location:  Plan to host the party at your home instead of renting out a facility. No minimums to respect. No worries. This has always been my preference.
  4. Guests:  Keep the number manageable; for instance, forgo inviting the entire classroom and instead ask your child to invite a handful of his best pals. (Perhaps feel out the parents for workable dates to ensure everyone can make it.)
  5. Invitations:  Channel your inner Martha. So you don’t fancy yourself crafty? What? You don’t have a color printer? Start Google-ing or Pinterest-ing for simple ideas. I printed off the party details on one sixth of a pirate treasure map for each child and rolled them up scroll-like with a sticker ‘seal’, all made from home. If your budget allows, order custom invitations on-line and have them delivered to your door. Grace Announcements does just that! Or if you want an eco-friendly and inexpensive alternative, send out e-vites.
  6. Decorations:  Plan ahead, shop early, get crafty, beg, borrow and sift through your junk.
    • Depending on the theme, there is a chance some decorations might be seasonal so you may want to shop early for some items. I totally lucked out and found Halloween pirate bandanas & eye patches in January.
    • You also never know what you’ll find in your own backyard! Until my friend mentioned bringing one, I hadn’t even thought of using an old brass candelabra I had sitting in the garage!
    • In lieu of a big gift, my girlfriend volunteered to make the party decorations, lent me some pirate gear and helped get the house ready the night before, which was a HUGE help! Do you have talented friends and family? Barter for their expertise!
    • Make it a family affair. Enlist the creative genius of older kids for making, coloring and putting up decorations.
    • Troll the ‘dollar’ stores for paper streamers, plates, napkins and tablecloths in bright, complementary colors.
    • I also tend to splurge on a fun balloon bouquet so if this is up your alley, make sure to order ahead and book a pick-up time the day before the party to avoid last-minute running around.
  7. Loot bags:  Not sure where the idea of giving loot at the end of a party originated. Regardless, there are few things that annoy me more than cheap-o loot bags. You know: the ones you toss in the trash the minute you get home. It’s not hard to find inexpensive quality items or one main loot item. I estimate each pirate loot bag (painting and baking aside) cost between $7-$8.
    • ‘Dollar’ stores carry great licensed products (pencils, erasers, notepads, books, stickers) if your little Bobby or Suzie are into superheroes or princesses.
    • You can also find great craft items there. My girlfriend scoped out fantastic little treasure boxes for the treasure hunt that she then painted so we could fill them with chocolate coins, candy necklaces (both bought in bulk), Ring Pops and pirate tattoos.
    • Though originally the pirate booty at our party was to be the treasure chest & candy plus a cake pop, a last-minute trip to the ‘dollar’ store yielded Pirate activity books and Peter-Pan and Tinkerbell books that I couldn’t resist.
    • Make an edible treat! I made pirate and jeweled crown cream cheese sugar cookies in addition to the pirate cake pops I make as my alter ego EG Cakes. The cookies were originally intended to nibble on during the party but since the kids didn’t touch them, I sent them home with their other treasures.
    • With enough advance notice you can also order the fabulous Loot Bag Combo from Mabel’s Labels in fabulously fun colors and designs.
  8. Games and activities:  Structured activities should be kept to a minimum and a free-play area should be designated. You may also wish to have a craft or activity for younger or older siblings to keep them occupied. Six-year-olds are able to handle a couple of party games. When our swashbucklers arrived they each received a bandana and eye patch before setting out on a Treasure Hunt. Rhyming pirate clues were left at each location to spur them on their adventure! Afterwards they had fun with a home-made pirate “I Spy”-like game. Then they tore up the basement till it was time to eat.
  9. Menu:  Keep it simple and make your own food. In my experience kids generally don’t eat much at birthday parties. Something about all the excitement, I guess. Prepare your own veggie and fruit trays, put out pretzels or Goldfish crackers. Make-ahead sandwiches free up kitchen duty and easy cheesy pizzas are a breeze on ready-made, individual pita crusts. Juice boxes or bottled water are easy drink fixes avoiding the easy spillage action of paper cups. Consider coffee for parents who may be sticking around.
  10. Cake:  If you are buying it, make sure you have ordered it and are able to pick it up or have it delivered before the party. If you are making it, you will need to consider the timing so you are not rushing to finish it the day of the party. This is my strength, fortunately, because I would not be able to afford to buy the ‘fancy’ cakes I undertake for my kiddos. The commitment is one of time rather than money. If you have a friend that’s particularly savvy in this area, consider bartering or asking them to ‘gift’ the cake in lieu of a gift.

Above all, have FUN, me hearties!

Bonus tip:  Avast! Don’t forget thank-you notes to your guests! I prefer the old-fashioned hand-written note, but consider some other ideas: Order custom thank-yous at the same time you order your invites. An email to the parents is more acceptable these days, perhaps with a photo or two of the party attached. Or, time- and technology-permitting you could burn a CD or DVD of the birthday festivities with a video thank-you at the end.

Have you got any budget-friendly party-planning tips you would like to share? We would love to hear from you!

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