September 25, 2014

Birthday Party on a Budget

Our daughter recently had her very first "friends" birthday party for her 4th birthday. I wanted her to have lots of fun yet I had to stay within a pretty tight budget. I was able to throw a fun birthday party for my daughter and her 9 guests and guess how much I spent................................................................?????
                                            UNDER $15 DOLLARS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You are all probably well aware of the "pinterest" birthday parties that everyone thinks they have to replicate. Yes, I see the gorgeous birthday party table displays and start drooling over them myself. They are so fun to look at. Did you catch that? They are so fun to look at! I can't imagine trying to duplicate something like this:
Or this:

PRINCESS Birthday Party - COMPLETE - Disney Princess Party- Girls Birthday- Bridal Shower- Pink Princess Party- Princess Birthday-Printables
The amount of time and energy spent on something like this for a 1, 2, 3, or 4 year old just baffles me. Now, I'm not trying to shoot down anyone who has actually thrown a party like this. Some people are GREAT at throwing parties like this for their kids, they love spending the time doing it. And I applaud you! I wish I could do something like this! It looks so fun and special.
But you know what? I am not the best at paper-crafting 30 cupcake toppers, or coordinating matching glass gumball displays, or tying tulle to 50 yards of twine to hang as a banner. That stuff drives me nuts.
When I was growing up, my birthday parties were simple. They were inexpensive. I don't ever remember having any decorations up for birthday parties. I don't ever remember a table set up with all sorts of treats and candy. And we NEVER gave out birthday favors to our guests. I even have home videos to prove it.
What I DO remember is all the FUN I had! I remember having friends there who shared my special day with me. I remember my mom and dad were actually participating in my birthday party, helping us play simple games like musical chairs, etc. My mom was never in the kitchen busy whipping up those last dozen cake pops. She was PRESENT!
I have always remembered that and have wanted to make sure that I am PRESENT for my kids' birthday parties. Yes, you do have to put some effort into planning a child's birthday party. But it doesn't have to be torture! And you don't have to spend a lot of MONEY or TIME doing it!
So, let's see my suggestions for:
My two favorite places for buying party supplies, favors, etc. are Dollar Tree and Target. By far I get the most from Dollar Tree (or any Dollar store). 

My daughter wanted a princess-themed party. We bought a pack of $1 party invitations and I hand-wrote everything in plus included a little insert about what to wear (we wanted all the girls to wear princess dresses). Then we hand-delivered them to save on stamp costs.

(*Note: I made it clear that we had extra princess dresses for girls that may not have one, I didn't want anyone to have to buy one for the party. Don't require things of your guests that require them to spend money just to attend the party!)

The party was 1.5 hours long so I needed some crafts/games to entertain several girls ranging in age from 2-7 years old. The Dollar store sells packages of beads for $1 and we decorated foam crowns with glitter, stickers, and plastic jewels. All the supplies were $1 each and I only had to buy one pack of each type of supply.

See those glitter containers above? Those were only $1 from Walmart! They worked out so well!

Each girl got a princess wand as well ($1 for a pack of 12 at the dollar store).

We kept the decorations simple using $1 crepe paper (also from the dollar store, they even had a princess themed roll). While this was pretty simple to do using tape, it made a big impact, making our living room seem like a Princess Ball room. I didn't buy any balloons.

I hung up some banners I already had on hand from Target that I bought a couple years ago. I LOVE their banners in their party section. They are less than $5 and come in a variety of cute colors, prints, patterns, etc. Way easier and cheaper than making one myself too.

We wanted our Princess Guests to put on some princess jewelry when they arrived (and they could keep the jewelry and take it home). I bought a pack of bracelets, rings, and necklaces, all for $1 at the Dollar Store. Each pack included several pieces of jewelry.

I bought princess crowns for $1 and birthday sticker boxes as party favors for $1 at the Dollar Store. I originally wasn't going to do party favors since I don't think they are necessary but decided to let the kids take home some princess jewelry. Plus, what kid doesn't like stickers?

Not the most adorable display, but hey, I used what I had on hand. A hanger held the necklaces just fine so each child could choose their own color.

This felt birthday banner has become a favorite at our house. I always hang it up for birthdays. It cost $5 at Target a couple years ago, but I see it there every time I go to their party isle, in fact, it was there just last week. Get one!

To save on food costs, I decided to make home made cupcakes with home made frosting. It was simple and easy. I served apple juice with them. I only offered one kind of treat at the party so kids wouldn't over eat or waste food. It was easy and simple. Kids don't need an entire plate-full of treats and candy.

The cake stands I used to display the cupcakes I already had. The mint one was from H&M home online for under $10. The white one was an old cake stand I found at a thrift store, then came home and spray painted it. I love them!

Here's the Princess Birthday Girl!! She was so adorable in her princess costume.

We made a "throne" using a kitchen chair, our Christmas tree skirt, and an old silver bridesmaids skirt I had. It was easy to do but made a big impact. We played some fun games using this throne.

As the girls arrived at the party, we had them make crowns at the table. They loved it!

Look how cute these princesses are! None of these girls asked why I didn't have a lavish table set up, or 10 different kinds of birthday treats. They just enjoyed each other and the games we played.

The first game we played was musical chairs. I used to play this at my birthday parties all the time. Instead of taking a chair out each round though and making girls feel like they got "out", we kept all the chairs in place for each round, but if you got to sit on the "throne" when the music stopped playing, you earned a princess wand. That way each girl got to stay in the game each round, and have fun trying to sit on the throne. We had to play 2 separate times since there were twice as many girls as we had chairs. 

They like their princess wands!

Then we played "Hot Slipper" just like Hot Potato. I used one of my daughters dress up princess shoes and we started handing the slipper around the circle as music played. When the music stopped, whomever was holding the glass slipper had to sit out and watch. The last remaining person won a $1 magic princess towel from the Dollar Store.  We played 2 rounds of this game as well.

Then we opened up presents. I think it's important for kids to understand that everything's not always about them. In this case, it was my daughter's birthday so she was the one opening up presents, but if she goes to other parties or it's someone else's birthday, she needs to sit there and watch them open up presents without becoming too sad that she doesn't get anything.

We even dressed our 1 year old up in a princess dress. Here she is playing "peek-a-boo" with the other girls.

After opening presents, the princesses got to eat cupcakes and drink apple juice. I had bought $1 princess paper plates and $1 princess paper cups. The Dollar Store has party isles that are themed for your convenience. So there was a princess section among many other types of birthday themed supplies.

Our 1 year old even got in on the cupcakes!

If you follow me on Instagram you saw that I wore my old choir dress from high school (I knew I should hold on to it!). I thought it would be fun to dress up too. I tied a ribbon around my waist, and used a stretchy black head band for my choker (I had to safety pin it in the back to keep it tight). One of the girls even asked if I was Cinderella!

Once the party was over clean up was a breeze. We simply pulled the crepe paper down and pulled the plastic table cloth off the table and threw them away. Easy!
Here's a recap of what I spent money on for the party:
$1 invitations
$1 paper plates
$1 paper cups
$1 princess crepe paper (I already had the other colors)
$1 necklaces
$1 bracelets
$1 rings
$1 princess crowns
$1 sticker favor boxes
$1 princess wands
$1 foam crowns
$1 beads
$1 foam heart stickers
$1 plastic jewels
$1 glitter
= $15 total
Now if you cut out the party favors, jewelry, and craft items it would be $5 so it's totally up to you how much you spend depending on what games or crafts you plan on doing.
Be creative and see if you can use items you already have, sometimes I have even kept the cheap plastic table cloths and reused them. The throne we made was simple and easy using items we already owned, and it made a big impact.
Throwing a fun party for your child is doable and doesn't need to cost you a lot of money or take you a lot of time preparing for it. I was able to enjoy the party myself and be there "in the action" to witness my daughter having a fun time.
See more party planning ideas on a dime HERE.


September 18, 2014

"You Never Know"

After a difficult morning where all I wanted to do was lock myself in the bathroom and be by myself for a few hours, I stumbled across this Mormon Channel video. It CHANGED. MY. DAY.

I've been feeling like a failure in some areas of my life, feeling down and stressed about how my house is always so messy and cluttered, how sometimes I become impatient with my kids when I shouldn't, how I don't get to take a shower some days until 10:00 pm, how I wish I spent more time teaching my preschooler important things like letters and numbers when instead she watches cartoons, how I wish I had more time to develop my own talents and interests, then feeling guilty about wanting to spend more time on me instead of my family, the list goes on and on and on.

By about minute 6 in the video, I guarantee you will be sobbing like I was if you are anything like I am. It helped me realize that while some days I don't feel like I accomplished anything, most days I do, at least in the eyes of those around me, especially my children. I always wake up with good intentions to clean an area of the house, to get an important errand done, to do an act of service for someone in need, to call a friend I haven't spoken with in months, but those plans seem to always get pushed further and further down my "to-do" list.

I end up cleaning up cookie crumb messes all over the floor and googling "how to clean permanent marker from wood table top" while trying to remain calm. My mountain of unfolded laundry (with more waiting for me in the dryer) has been sitting for days in the same spot. My bed is un-made and clothes are thrown all over my floor with miscellaneous toys, ripped up pieces of Kleenex, hair clips, and a number of other random things brought in my girls, mixed in.

So after watching this video, I thought about what things I've "accomplished" so far in my seemingly difficult day. I've comforted my 2 girls in at least half a dozen crying instances so far, bent over and cleaned up at least 2 bins of toys (which are now scattered all over again), made breakfast for my children, sang a song with them, and helped my daughter put on a princess dress so she could play in it.

I helped my daughter ride the new (to us) bike she received yesterday for her birthday. Her very first bike with training wheels. She eagerly put on her helmet and semi-patiently waited for me to get dressed (something I told her was required before I could step outside as my neighbors don't want to see me in my bath robe). Then with baby in-tow on my hip, I helped her push the pedals forward and steer the bike. She got frustrated. I got frustrated. My baby got frustrated. But we did it. By the end my daughter was riding pretty well on her own. She felt proud of herself.

That was a moment worth "checking off" my list. It wasn't on my to-do list for today, but has so far become one of the highlights. Teaching my daughter how to ride a bike. Wow. What else could possibly be more important than that? Putting away clean dishes? Folding towels? Scrubbing permanent marker off my table top? Those things can wait. Being with my girls can't.

As I was writing this, I poked my head in to see what my girls were up to. I snapped this picture. They were quietly coloring and getting along (for approximately 4.5 minutes). There was peace and harmony in our house. It didn't last long, but it was there for a moment.

As women, moms, grandpas, parents, aunts, grandmas, sisters, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, we need to stop putting so many unnecessary things at the top of our priority list. We need to stop thinking that our homes have to look spotless in order to feel like we have worth. We need to stop thinking that we need to have such-and-such to feel included. Let's STOP making so many to-do lists and START making memories. Let's stop being planners and start being doers.

September 17, 2014

Little Cottonwood Creek Trail

Where: Little Cottonwood Creek Trail up Little Cottonwood Canyon
Distance: 3.5 miles total, but may walk any distance and turn around at any time
Hiking Time: Varies
Little Cottonwood Trail starts at the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon and follows Little Cottonwood Creek east. Primary activities on the trail include hiking, trail running, and mountain biking but dogs are not allowed. Parking is free.
We started in the middle of the trail and walked west along the creek trail for about 45 minutes then turned around. Below is a description of the section we "hiked".
Directions: From the large parking area at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, follow the Little Cottonwood Canyon Road up the canyon for 2.7 miles. Before the road enters a bend to the right, turn into the small turnout parking area on your right. Across the road to the north is the trailhead for Lisa Falls. After you park, walk down the hill to where you join the east-to-west Little Cottonwood Trail. You can head east or west, it's your choice.
If you decide to start at the bottom of the trail, park in the parking lot  at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon where the paved road veers to the right (at the stop sign). This is the same parking lot as the Temple Quarry Trail.
The trail is mostly wide and smooth. There are also smaller trails off the main trail that lead down to the creek. It was fun to explore the creek and see the flowing water and throw some rocks into the creek. Towards the end of our walk we stopped at a bridge that spanned the creek. Great picture spot and area to view the red berries and changing leaves on the trees. After we turned around, it was a bit tricky finding the spot where we leave the trail and head back up the hill to our cars. At least 6 adults walked right past the turnoff without noticing. I would recommend leaving something bright at this point so you know when to turn back to your cars. There was a small cairn set up that we didn't notice at first. If you head to the east end of the trail, there is a historic mill you can view.
 More information: here and here

I don't know what it is babies in backpack carriers, but it's adorable! Love seeing her little face riding behind me.

We took a short side trail down to the creek to feel the water. It was fun to see the creek up close.

At the part where we turned around there was a bridge that spanned the creek. We walked across it and saw these beautiful red berries growing on the trees.

These little friends holding hands while hiking just about killed me it was so cute.


I loved the parts of the trail that opened up wide and you could see the large granite canyon walls.

A great little hike on a rainy cloudy day! Luckily we only felt a few sprinkles.
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