Category Archives: DC Parenting Blogger

Pick your poison: Tips for Throwing a Kid or Adult Halloween Party

For anyone planning a Halloween Party…for adults…for kids….for your kid’s class at school….I’m reposting this interview  – I thought Amy had some really great ideas and tried a few in my daughter’s first grade class party last year and had so much fun!—————————————————————————-

Look, I might not love the over-crowded pumpkin patches in our area, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love Halloween. I actually really love Halloween.

Beautiful display from MarthaStewart.com Photo Credit: Johnny Miller

And many of you know I love a good theme, so what better time of year to throw a creative party, than now? For today’s WM expert series, I spent some time with Amy O’Brien, a local mom, co-founder of an amazing area boutique catering company, Foodie Event, and Halloween-party hostess extraordinaire. Amy and her business partner, Suzanne, actually realized the opportunity they had to start their own catering company based on the growing success and feedback from their annual Halloween parties. So for some original, creative and fun ideas to throw your own bash this year or in future years, read on.

Q: Tell us about your Halloween parties in, let’s call it, the early years because I know they have since evolved from one party to two parties.

Yes. Initially I put together a Halloween party for kids and adults and that eventually grew into a nightmare because it became too big. There were just too many kids. After some time, I broke it up into two parties, one for the kids and one for adults. This also helps the adults stay longer because when your kids are there, so many people tear out of the party so early in the night to get home to put the kids to bed.

Q: Totally agree. So tell us how you organize and plan for a kids Hallowen Party.

This does look really cute

I like to throw the kids party the Saturday before Halloween. And I firmly believe a kids party should last 90  minutes. I’ve found that a 2-hour kids party is suicide. After 90 minutes they just get tired. I organize the flow of the party well in advance, so I know each step and what game comes next. After the kids have some time for free play and admiring costumes after arriving, I move into a couple of games. One game that’s always a big hit is the donut on a string. Think of it like a clothesline of donuts, with each donut  hanging at different levels, and the kids have their hands behind their backs while they eat these little donuts. The first one done is obviously the victor and it’s a hilarious game to watch all these kids participate in with their costumes on. I also like to do it in 2 waves which makes it more fun for the kids because they then cheer their other friends on. Other games that are classic party favorites are pin the nose on the pumpkin and the beanbag toss into the cauldron. Another idea is to blow up orange balloons and black balloons, stick glitter or small prizes in the balloons before blowing them up, and then tape  them in the shape of an orange pumpkin or black spider to the wall. If you are doing the black spider version, I like to affix streamers to the balloons for the spider’s legs. Each kid then gets a pin and gets to pop the balloon. If they pop a glitter balloon, it’s a fabulous colorful explosion but they get to pop another until they get a surprise. Bottom line is, I’d plan for about 3 games for a 90 minute party.

Q: I love those ideas, especially the donut on the string one. Now how about food and decorations?

Keep it simple. I keep the food out the whole time and fill glass cylinders with pirates booty, goldfish and then have a simple cupcake theme. Then I like to end the party with a costume parade and the adults can all watch and cheer on the parade. One year we also had a “Haunted Hike” in our back yard. Different parents were dressed up in costume and would hide scattered around the backyard and then would hop out and make scary noises as the kids came by, like hissing like a snake or howling like a Werewolf. We told them spooky scary stories as we walked through the backyard. The kids loved it and it’s so fun for the adults because kids will believe anything. As for decorations, I usually make my own and supplement with things from Target or Oriental Trading. You can also find a lot at the Dollar Tree on Rockville Pike next to the Trader Joes. There’s so much you can do with just draping cheap white sheets, putting out test tubes to make a Mad Scientist Lab and throwing a crow in a tree.

Q: Love those ideas. Now let’s move on to the adult themed party. Tell us about your adult-only Halloween party from last year because I am sure you aren’t divulging your secrets for this year’s party. And let’s start with invitations – paper or electronic?

So last year the theme was Studio 54 which was really fun because there is a certain mystique to the theme.  I’ve also found that you need a theme for adults because everyone wants something to latch onto. Plus they know you are serious about dressing up when you assign a theme to the party. Parties are what I do, so I just don’t care for electronic invitations. I am always going to head to Paper Source and make my own paper invitations. And the prices are so reasonable at Paper Source, I think I got 200 invites with reply cards for $200. The iconic theme of Studio 54 was “Throw caution to the wind and glitter in the air,” so much to the chagrin of many adults, of course I added gold glitter to invitations. But really – when do we as adults ever get invites with glitter?

Q: I absolutely love it – and totally agree that paper invites are the way to go. So how did you decorate and what sort of food did you serve, Halloween themed or Studio 54 themed?

For decorations, we made some trips to our favorite Value Village for period furniture. So ended up with a little black sofa for one corner, a pit of pillows area with fur, end tables with fondue on them, and 2 gold square tables with finger foods. In terms of food, we stuck with the 70s theme, not the Halloween theme. We did Halloween food the year before but decided it was macabre and ugly. Obviously we aren’t into drugs, but well, we were throwing a Studio 54 party, so we served food on mirrored trays and then took it a step further. We cut pixie sticks, then dumped them in lines on a mirrored tray and passed it around for people, like it was coke. Obviously we had a huge disco ball hanging in my back yard which is still there and I made a playlist to flow with the night. The cocktail hour was chill music, think Olivia Newton John and Barry White and then as the night progressed, we slowly moved through the 70s and 80s to more current music so everyone was really dancing.  What we found is that people didn’t really eat much of the heavier foods so this year we are sticking to more of a dessert theme. And I’ll tip my hat – the theme of this year’s party is Gods and Goddesses.

 

 

 

Why wouldn’t you throw a 70s theme party – you know the Village People will show up

Q: Okay. I love it. The pixie sticks on mirrored trays is absolutely hilarious. And this year’s theme is so creative. Tell us about your business that you’ve recently started, Foodie Event.

 

 

 

Sure. It’s a custom catering and event design business that I started with my friend Suzanne. We are very hands on, we like to meet with our clients to get a vibe on what kind of party they are looking for and then we take it from  there with the food and design. It’s a lot of fun and really did emerge because we realized we were always the people in our group of friends who were throwing the parties.

Make sure you “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with the fun, tricks and treats. Awesome. Thank you to Amy for her great advice today and unfortunately, Amy’s entire computer crashed before we met and she lost her pictures, which is why I don’t have pictures from Amy’s parties included in today’s post. Surely I’m not the only one who is disappointed to miss a shot of that disco ball hanging in her yard and those mirrored trays. Happy Halloween party-throwing everyone!

Alcohol Consumption & Pregnancy?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran a provocative piece written by Emily Oster, an economist, analyzing what is safe and not safe to consume during pregnancy. At the time it ran, what particularly piqued my interest was her analysis of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Ms. Oster herself was interested in analyzing the data on what is safe or unsafe for a pregnant woman and her baby during pregnancy, and while she carefully noted she’s most interested in caffeine intake for her own personal reasons, a good bit of the article delves into alcohol consumption.

Oster breaks down consumption into categories like occasional, light and moderate drinkers and digs into their risks of fetal alcohol syndrome NOFAS_main-logoand impacting their baby’s IQ. Even though I am not pregnant now, I found the article interesting because like most anyone who has ever been pregnant, I considered my own behaviors while pregnant as I read through her findings. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a few glasses of wine during each of my pregnancies. Maybe 3 or 4 total, which I’m not even sure would qualify me as an occasional drinker by Oster’s standards, but I know many people who would absolutely have no alcohol and I know some who had a few more drinks than I did – but not many.

Today, September 9, is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day – so there is no better day than today – to take a closer look at the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. According to the DC-based National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), prenatal alcohol consumption is a leading cause of brain damage, developmental disabilities and learning and behavioral problems in children and adults, and it is completely, 100% preventable when expectant mothers abstain from alcohol. In fact, NOFAS expressed outrage at the Oster piece in the Wall Street Journal and wrote a rebuttal detailing how Oster cherry picked the studies she evaluated for her analysis and ignored other larger studies pointing to the dangers of any alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Most importantly, NOFAS notes the following: “Some media reports suggest there are mixed messages about the risk of light to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In fact, no medical or disability agency or organization in the U.S. advises the use of any amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and no published research concludes that light alcohol consumption is completely safe.”

Here are some startling facts provided to me from NOFAS:

  • Nearly 100,000 newborns in the United States every year are exposed to heavy or binge drinking—the highest risk for FASD—during their prenatal development.
  • It is conservatively estimated that 40,000 newborns each year in the U. S. alone are affected by FASD, more new cases annually than Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome, combined.
  • FASD prevention and education saves taxpayers money and eases the burden on the health care system. Prevention is at least ten-times more cost effective than the average $1.4 million lifetime cost to treat one person with FASD.
  • The recognition of mental and behavioral health issues associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in the recently published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) demonstrates the growing recognition of FASD and will increase diagnosis and treatment options for individuals living with FASD. Over 80% of adults with FASD live with mental health issues, and over half experience one or more of the most common secondary disabilities, such as trouble with the law, disrupted school experience, and the inability to live independently.

If you are pregnant, I’d consider you to read up a little more on the issue of alcohol and pregnancy, especially if you fall into the “light drinker” category, NOFAS has some great resources on their site. Honestly, most of the above facts were news to me and I found the figures to be alarming. Very few mothers want to expose their children to risk or a lifetime of disease and challenges and I think it’s easy to chalk up fetal alcohol syndrome to something only women with substance abuse problems are facing. Now that I’ve connected with NOFAS, it seems clear to me that this is an organization that should be on our radar screens when we are looking to donate money and raise awareness around an important issue. In fact, NOFAS and its 40 affiliates collectively support 5,000 children and adults with FASD each year, respond to over 25,000 specific requests for information and referrals and conduct over 500 conferences, training sessions, and workshops for medical and allied health students and practitioners, educators, criminal justice personnel and other audiences. That’s a tall order.

SMHB_invite_cover_3In honor of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day, NOFAS is participating in a series of events all week long, culminating in an international “Smart Moms, Healthy Babies” gala and fundraiser on Thursday night at the Italian Embassy. Yours truly will be in attendance, I’m hardly one to pass up a swanky affair at a great location – with a fashion show to boot! I would encourage you to consider joining me, ticket prices are definitely steep but the money is going towards such an important cause and if you are pregnant, your ticket is considerably cheaper.

We love to talk about the importance of carving out some moi-time here on WM – so why not throw on a fabulous dress, a pair of heels and join me at the Italian Embassy starting at 6:30PM on Thursday? Get your ticket here!

Disclosure: NOFAS invited me to be a guest at the gala on Thursday night. My opinions here are all my own.

 

 

 

From Cliches…to Kindergarten….to Cribless…

For everyone with a rising Kindergartener, this post, now two years old, is for you. But wait – everyone else – it’s also for you.  Turns out, for me at least, shedding a few tears behind my sunglasses when they board that bus the first day didn’t end after Kindergarten, here we go again as she heads off to 2nd grade.

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“They grow up so fast!” – does it not seem that everyone preaches this to you when you are a bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, hormonal, chubby, cranky new mom?

What does that mean, I used to wonder. I would stare at my baby wrapped like a burrito and swear with each passing minute that I would never again sleep uninterrupted. I wouldn’t shower with ease. I wouldn’t know what an impromptu night out on the town would mean. I would be trapped by this small cute blob that basically always needed something but didn’t give much back.

“Oh, she’s so adorable. Enjoy it now! It doesn’t last…”

I know, I know, I would snark in my head thinking of cruel things to bark back at this well-intentioned stranger….I  know….they grow up so fast. They all do except  mine, who won’t sleep and really fusses at inconvenient times.

I hated that cliché. I hated it as much as I hated “Sleep when the baby sleeps”

You know why I hated that one? Because I TRIED but she didn’t sleep LONG ENOUGH….where could I get the kid who slept when mommy slept? Why didn’t someone put that one on the menu? Aren’t they supposed to obey and respect their mother’s wishes?

But then came Monday. When my sweet smiling baby went from this:

Will she really ever grow up?

to this:

I never agreed to this happening so fast

In the blink of an eye.

I swear it was like someone pressed the fast-forward button times 5 and there went my sweet girl, proudly wearing the fall 2011 kindergarten accessory, the pinned on name tag identifying her name, her teacher and the color of her bus. With barely a glance back, she boarded that school bus and was off.

I totally cried behind my sunglasses, cursing that stupid cliché for being as right as it is annoying.  And then what did I do? It was like I was out to torture myself on Monday. I should have just gotten out a knife and taken up cutting.

On Saturday, pre-over-hyped (though we did lose our power) Irene, we went out and purchased a full size bed for our 2.5 year-old. I noticed her in the crib last week and realized how ridiculous it was that she was still being imprisoned. So big girl bed delivery was scheduled for Tuesday.  So what made more sense than to head to Babies’R’Us on Monday and purchase a side rail for the big girl bed.

Does that make sense to you? If it does, then you probably haven’t been in that store in a few years, like I hadn’t.

Immediately after crossing the threshold, I was drowned and suffocated by sweet baby smell, small cute baby onesies, little tiny size N diapers, cute little Halloween costumes….and there I was to purchase something to render my  home cribless…..a mere 24 hours after my oldest started Kindergarten…..the extra small baby things were mocking me. They were cooing and giggling and smelling good….

Could I get pregnant just standing there, I wondered? How could I not realize that going from Kindergarten to Cribless in the same week is just too much for a gal to take? What will the nursery look like without the beaver-chewed up sides of the wooden crib anchoring the room?

How did this happen?

(Friends…don’t forget to “Like” Wired Momma on FB to keep up with my rants and raves…I usually am not so emotional!)

Summer Bucket List 2013: A Mid-Summer’s Update

Anyone else cringing at the sight of  “Back to School” commercials on TV? One wonders, is it necessary? Couldn’t they at least wait until August 1? Or do they start in July because we’ll start seeing Halloween decor coming out on August 1?

#EnoughAlready

I refuse to acknowledge any of it because we are still in the throes of summer in Wired Momma-Land and I thought it time to update you all on the status of my summer bucket list, to give you a bit of a distraction from the Great #RoyalBaby watch of 2013. I’ll address what I’ve knocked off my bucket list and the unexpected things I’ve added, taking the lead is dinner without pants. And with that:

The fearsome Captain Hook (James Konicek) in PETER PAN AND WENDY at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit:  Margot Schulman

The fearsome Captain Hook (James Konicek) in PETER PAN AND WENDY at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit: Margot Schulman

 Children’s Theater

Earlier this summer, recall I vowed to head to Wolf Trap – both regular Wolf Trap for the evening shows under the stars – and the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods  . That’s what I said. Here’s what I’ve done – I purchased three tickets to see a show at the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods and guess what? It poured rain all morning. Therefore, this item remains on my bucket list.

As for puppet shows, unfortunately we missed  “Bathtub Pirates” at The Puppet Co., but my plan is to see the “Dinosaur Babies” puppet show, maybe even this week. (For anyone keeping score, I’m currently 0 for 2).

Ready to hit the carousel at Glen Echo Park after the "Cat in the Hat"

Ready to hit the carousel at Glen Echo Park after the “Cat in the Hat”

But wait….we did see “Cat in the Hat” at Adventure Theatre and LOVED IT. Here’s a link to my review and it’s still not too late for you to head there for some indoor summer fun!

We also saw  “Peter Pan and Wendy” at Imagination Stage and loved that one too – here’s a link to my review! You still have a few more weeks to check that out as well.

But wait, there’s more on the outdoor entertainment front. Strathmore Backyard Theater has an ongoing outdoor entertainment series for kids that I haven’t yet been too – look for me there this summer…that’s what I said at the onset of summer. We haven’t yet been there either BUT my plan is to go on Thursday- fingers crossed for good weather.

Outdoor Fun

Earlier this summer, I said that Mr. WM wants to hit every water park he can find. So far, we’ve hit our fav water park on Fenwick Island in Delaware twice and I have a strong feeling we’ll be there again this coming weekend. So – check.

Paddle-boating ready at Cunningham Falls State Park

Paddle-boating ready at Cunningham Falls State Park

I noted that Mr. WM also wanted to hit Cunningham State Falls park. It’s absurd that we’ve never been and NOW I can say that we have been and enjoyed a lovely day of a short (again, emphasize short) hike and then frolicking in the lake, a picnic on the beach and then we took a paddleboat out for about an hour. I’d highly recommend this as a fun outing, however, I’d urge you to arrive early. When we left around 3pm, there was a long lineup of cars waiting to enter the state park.

Earlier this summer, I vowed to hit outdoor music. Thus far, I missed all the outdoor

Loving the butterflies at Brookside Gardens

Loving the butterflies at Brookside Gardens

concerts at  Brookside Gardens  in June BUT we did hit Brookside Gardens for a day-time outing and loved strolling around the grounds and visiting the butterfly exhibit. So much so that we are probably going back, possibly tomorrow.

The National Zoo is always on our bucket list – year round – and I loved the great red panda escape pulled off by Rusty earlier this summer. We haven’t yet hit the Zoo but we’ll get there, we always do, before school starts.

Earlier this summer, here was my vow: Given our proximity to the water and the youngest WM’ette’s love for all things pirates, hopefully we’ll hit up the Pirate cruise in Annapolis, Baltimore or the new one that just launched in Georgetown.  Here’s my review of the Annapolis experience if you haven’t yet been. Update: haven’t done any pirate cruises yet BUT have done pirate mini-golf in downtown Bethany Beach a few times, does this count?

Requisite summer activites: fireworks, sparklers, corn on the cob and mini golf

Requisite summer activities: fireworks, sparklers, corn on the cob and mini golf

Outdoor Bucket List Promise from Early in the Summer: For a weekend day trip idea, I recently learned of the boat cruises from Annapolis to St. Michaels. We once had a weekend get-away without children to St. Michaels and it was lovely but that was almost seven years ago and we haven’t been since. Based on the reviews, it sounds like the kids would love the cruise from Annapolis to St. Michaels. Or better yet, maybe I need to ditch the kids and husband and instead hit the yoga cruise out of Annapolis with the ladies. Thoughts??

Update: Haven’t done any of the above yet but there is still time. I hereby declare summer extends through September. Seriously.

Outdoor Bucket List Promise: Beyond taking the girls to see a Nationals game, I think it’s time we hit a game at the Bowie Baysox, every year I regret not getting there because I hear the whole experience is really kid friendly and cheap. Update: We have tickets to go at the end of August to see the Bowie Baysox with friends!

Look at that smile....oh my

Look at that smile….oh my

Movies

Earlier in the summer promise: We’re also really looking forward to “Monsters University” opening later this month and the Despicable Me Sequel!  Update: My girls went to see Monsters U with their summer camp and loved it. They also went to see “Turbo” and loved it. I need to get them to Despicable Me 2 bc I also can’t wait to see it. But how could I possibly mention summer movies without a shout-out to my evening with Channing Tatum?? Who would have expected that to emerge from this summer, eh?

Books

Earlier this summer, I noted how much I love to read, especially through the summer. I did download “Room”    and devoured it. It is a disturbing book but what kept me going was not just the perspective of a very innocent 5-year-old but the fact that it really is as much a book about motherhood and resolve as it is about kidnapping and abuse. I have  “The Interestings” downloaded but am currently reading the hilarious “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” which is a great change of pace after Room. Next up I’m going to read “The Tragedy Paper” which was recommended by the same friend who recommends most book titles to me and my sister is also reading it and is totally absorbed in it. Earlier in the summer I finished “The Kingmaker’s Daughter” and basically couldn’t put it down.

Date Night

Here was my pre-summer vow: I want to go on more dates this summer. One of my fav summer dates was the year we did the sunset kayaking and then ended up at Founding Farmers for dinner. Time to repeat that one or find another one that’s equally as fun and unique to summer time.

Update: We suck in this category. And frankly, I didn’t even realize it until just now. I’ve had a fabulous evening out to Le Diplomate with my BFFs. I had a great dinner out with Mr. WM and my sister and brother-in-law to celebrate a birthday but we haven’t had just a date night for us. Time to get that one sorted out, I’d say.

#Fail

#WhereDoesTimeGo?

#DoesMyDateWithChanningTatumCount?

Summer 2013 Bucket List Additions

Dirty Girl Mud Run

Unfortunately, prior plans are going to prevent me from participating in this one but I hope others will participate in the Dirty Girl Mud Run on Saturday August 10. It’s right up my alley and I hate that I am missing it – a mud-filled obstacle course – for women only – seriously – doesn’t that sound super fun??? It’s for women ages 14 and up and proceeds are donated to breast cancer charities. This one is a no brainer people. I hope you’ll sign up!

Dinner without Pants

And last but not least, Dinner Without Pants. I’d highly recommend this one. Otherwise known as spontaneous dinner out with friends and kids straight from the pool so you go in your swimsuit cover-up and it’s okay because it’s summer. There is nothing more fun, more summer-y and more relaxing than this, seriously. Do it.

Happy Summer Everyone. Feel free to add your summer favs in the comments, or on the WM Facebook page because that’s where all the fun happens, and join moi in WM-Land & keep ignoring those invasive “Back to School” commercials.

#IHatePackingLunches

#HappySummer