Category Archives: Moms/Entrepreneurs

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!

You need to relax more.

That was the five word response I got one day, not long ago, from Mr. Wired Momma in response to an email I sent him. I have absolutely no idea what the content of the email was that I sent him that elicited his response. And as you might imagine, my initial reaction to his email was anything but pleasant.

I was pretty much ready to tell him what he needs…….

And then I just actually thought about what he said. He was totally right.

Is this what Mr. WM had in mind when he told me to relax? Photo Credit: Gaylord Hotels

Surely he means regular trips to the day spa and solo weekend get-aways to paradise islands, I thought wistfully?

But then I rejoined reality and decided instead of being defensive, I was going to do just that. Relax more.

But HOW?

We’ll get to that later but for now – YOU need to relax more too.

What I’m seeing emerge from that tired, cranky working mom’s memo after she abruptly quit – is this overwhelming recognition that instead of ending up exhausted and feeling like we are failing at everything – oh – and not really enjoying our kids along the way – there are resources we can deploy and things we can do – to keep everything moving as scheduled and as one of my favorite commenters wrote (favorite because of her total honesty) – to “keep everyone from screaming at each other.”

Amen sister.

Amen.

Here’s where you come in. I am hoping you will share with me..and in turn my readers…what secrets you’ve deployed in your own homes to help keep the train running on time, that maybe helps your husband participate in the daily schedules or activities, and overall just keeps the peace. I’m thinking we could all learn some really great tips from each other. Ways you’ve learned to LET GO.

Photo Credit: December 6, 2010 New Yorker

I was totally inspired by one reader’s comment yesterday that she purchased a shoe organizer from Target and puts her daughter’s clothes in for the week. This way her husband can help her daughter get ready in the morning while she does something else – but she knows her daughter won’t end up going to school wearing dirty laundry.

Please – be creative – I’m soliciting all kinds of tips and tricks. Do you and your husband use an app to manage lists for the grocery store or upcoming birthdays? I recently just learned about Tracy Meyers Friend, a local mom, who developed a list making app with her sister called Don’t Forget Your List. What a great idea! I am planning to download their app this week and am thinking Mr. WM could use it too. If you’re a fan of the show Parenthood, surely you saw how they devoted part of an episode this season to using family apps to help keep everyone organized. One friend swears by Evernote.

How about meals? Do you cook on the weekends? Do you use a grocery delivery service? How do you manage those? What about making doctors appointments or purchasing birthday or holiday gifts? There is no detail we aren’t interested in if you have a scoop.

As you can see, there is no tip that might not be valuable to someone else and I’d love to hear them. Feel free to be creative – send me a pic of your system or a link to your favorite app. Or just send me an email. Whatever you prefer. But I would LOVE to put together a WM readers resource post of all the ways we’ve each developed a system at home that keeps others involved, or keeps the peace, or helps you feel more relaxed. Ways you’ve learned to let go.

And about that – us needing to relax more – maybe learning some new tips will help us do just that. So look – I’m really eager to hear what you say. Email me at wiredmomma@me.com. Please get me your emails by next Wednesday Nov 21. I’ll work on the post that weekend and post it the last week of November. And one lucky person will receive a $25 gift card to Restaurant.com for sharing with us – I’ll have one of my girls draw a name out of the hat.

A great big thank you in advance to everyone who sends in their tips – this is something to be thankful for next week! And until then, be sure to hit “Like” on the Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with the fun and encourage your friends to do the same (and to send me their tips!).

 

Today’s Topic: All About Lice

Today’s public service announcement is brought to you from…..MOI. Ain’t life grand?

Look, I can’t help but notice the search traffic to my site is increasingly driven by those looking for information about LICE. Ahh…lice…..our mortal enemy. The equal opportunity offender. I have survived this epidemic. C’est vrai. And in the spirit of school starting soon and kids returning from summer camp infested with lice…yes, it can happen to your clean child too, I thought that I can only bring to you this very informative post in the event you suspect lice in your pipsqueaks. Even if you don’t, please read below. Denial, as I’ve learned, is never a good thing when it comes to lice.

And so….my post with the lice expert (yes, she exists) from this exact time last year.

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Ahh….it’s that time of year…that time that many of us think will never come….Back-to-School! And with the return of the cherubs to school comes that never-ending, itchy scratchy problem that if you’ve never had, you pray you never will, and if you’ve never had, you probably think you only get when you’re a dirty, lazy parent…..LICE. Lice. The great equalizer. Lice. The equal opportunity offender. Lice. It happens to the best of us.

Don't fake it, we all look like this when we realize our kid has lice

And so, for today’s expert series, I turned to none other than the lice expert in Montgomery County. The woman who saved me in a dark phase of my life exactly one year ago when I realized that my child wasn’t scratching her head because she was hot and needed to pull it back (denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice), my child was scratching her head because it was infested with lice. And despite what I might have thought before, lice does happen to people who are clean and anal and attentive. I introduce you to Karen Franco of Advice on Lice in Kensington, MD. Without a doubt, my money spent at Advice on Lice was some of the best money I ever spent. Is your head itchy yet? Cause it will be by the time you are mid-way through our very helpful interview but well, an ounce of prevention does us all a world of good as we gear up to send the kiddo’s back to school in less than two weeks. Karen and her husband now run a full-time business checking heads for lice, educating parents on what to do, and generally being life-savers in your time of need when lice hits the house. Karen got started in the lice business 15 years ago when her daughter was young, she used to volunteer to do head checks, and was appalled with the stigma attached with lice and how unwilling people were to acknowledge it and do something about it. Her experience evolved into an in-demand local small business. Karen and her husband not only check families for lice, they educate you on what to do and give you the steps you need to take to make sure you eradicate it completely from your house. I won’t lie, it’s definitely work intensive but I survived…so read on for some great advice.

Karen, is there a peak time of year for lice?

Yes. Back-to-school is definitely a peak time of year for lice. Because of summer camps and people traveling, there are cross-over populations and people are sharing lice. All summer long, we are distracted – which is partly where some of the denial comes in that you mentioned – we think it must be allergies or dandruff which is absurd but people don’t want their summer disrupted.

How do we know it’s not dandruff?

Dandruff will blow off easily. It flakes. There is a mis-conception about lice – people think they are greyish white but that is misleading – they are transparent, a milky color and the nit is glued onto the hair, you have to scrape it off, whereas dandruff flakes off.

Let’s talk more about the role of denial and lice. I am very guilty of this. This time last year, my eldest walked around scratching her head like crazy for easily 2 weeks. I didn’t want to accept that it could be lice, and because we’d never had it before, while I did check her head, I didn’t really know what I was looking for and her hair is very thick. It wasn’t until there were bugs actually hopping that I had to accept this child had lice. I feel like sleep away camp is a big problem with lice and going back-to -school. Do you find this about sleep-away camp?

Yes. Kids go to sleep-away camp and often get lice. And many of the camps actually screen them when they arrive and if they find lice, send them home, which leaves upset children. Some parents bring them to see us for a head check as soon as they pick the kids up from sleep away camp. The bottom line is there is no magic potion to make lice go away – there is no smell that repels them.

So what can we do to prevent lice?

Get a fine tooth comb and comb their hair on a regular basis. Make it part of your weekly routine and that is your best prevention.  Prevention is getting the lice out before it takes root and sets up a family. I recommend the Lice Meister comb and brushing through the child’s hair twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. You can order the comb online. I have one client who has made combing through her child’s hair part of their family routine by starting and ending the week with the comb throughs. Every Monday and every Friday, she sits down her child, uses some conditioner, and combs through from the scalp to the end of the hair. The public schools here believe that lice is a nuisance and because it is not life threatening, you don’t have to keep your child home from school, but that doesn’t help anyone. The bottom line is, it’s prudent to designate a day to look through everyone’s hair every week. It is never appropriate to say your child can’t miss school and you will just let it go.

So, you find out your child has lice – so then what? What do you do?

First let me say that the homeopathic treatments are not based on science, they are not effective. You need chemicals to kill the lice. I recommend Rid and I recommend that my clients leave it on their heads for longer than 10 minutes, which is what it says on the box. I advise clients to leave it on for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill all the live bugs. The method that we lay out on our web site has been validated time and time again. The problem is that the live bugs are the contagious ones, they crawl, they know they want to be in the human head. There are so many mis-informed theories out there about how to kill lice. One really common one is putting olive oil on your head and sleeping all night with it – that does not kill the lice. The lice breathe through pores and they can close their pores for up to 18 hours, so sleeping with olive oil doesn’t kill the lice. And then – you have to comb through the hair. The comb that comes with the RID is a joke. They do not work. You have to use a fine tooth comb, like the Lice Meister. Parents of boys often shave their son’s head and that will get rid of the lice.

What about if you are pregnant or have very young children – what product should you use that will still kill the lice but doesn’t have chemicals?

There is a new prescription medication that has no pesticides called Ulesfia. It’s not meant for anyone under 6 months. Because the product is new, we recommend using less product than prescribed the first time and then using it again 10 days later. Many pharmacies don’t carry it but the pharmacy in our building does carry it.

Are we all itchy yet?? But seriously, having lived through this, I was cursing all the stuffed animals we owned as I put them in the dryer and bagged them for a few weeks. How long do they live when they are not on a head? And what about car seats?

A healthy adult female or male can live for about 1.5 days, depending on where it is. The nits will die within an hour or so. If your child has been in the car seat and it’s summer time, the bug will be dead in the hot car within 2-3 hours. The bottom line is the head is where they live, they are not infecting your car, carpets, your home. They can’t do their important activities anywhere beyond the head, so what I urge people to do is spend their time focusing on combing the hair with a proper fine-tooth comb.

So Karen, as we embark on the school year, can you tell us how much your services cost and give us some parting words of wisdom?

Yes, we charge $85/hour or $20 for a screening. All the products we recommend are available in our store. We can go to people’s homes but children are usually much better behaved when not at home and in our offices and we are just better equipped with the seating and lighting in our office.  Also, I think it is important to teach children about lice in terms of “life sciences” to help eliminate the stigma attached with lice and really teach prevention and education. As for parting words of wisdom, I like to say “When in doubt, comb it out.”

Those are excellent final words from Karen. So moms, when in doubt, comb it out……and call Karen. And remember, denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice.  Finally, if you liked today’s WM Expert Series, please “Like” Wired Momma on Facebook or look to the right and subscribe…it’s an easy way to keep up with future fabulous local mom expert interviews and well, other random things we discuss here.

Re-Branding “Stay-At-Home Moms”

Sorry I didn’t have a chance to post yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend a press conference hosted by Highlights Magazine where they announced their annual State of the Kid survey (more on that next week because the results are fascinating and somewhat upsetting). So today, let’s get back onto our discussion of work-life choices and talk about stay-at-home moms. Earlier this week I threw out there that I really believe this label of “Stay-At-Home Mom” is extinct. Who is this person? I don’t know this person, do you know her?

I’m making the case that I think all of us are digital moms, whether we go to an office full-time or we don’t, we are bound to technology. It bleeds into our day, we work in spaces that seem unorthodox and counter-productive to work – like our cars waiting to pick kids up from school. Women who have quit their full-time job to “stay home” are doing so much work, some paid, some unpaid. Yet the label “SAHM” implies she is a dud, she doesn’t “do anything” and she probably wears mommy jeans.

Do they look like any moms you know? I didn't think so.

First, let’s talk about why women stop working full-time. I can speak for myself here. I wasn’t given any flexibility, I spent much of my time wondering why I was leaving my  kids all day for that  job, I wasn’t saving the world or curing infectious diseases, and I couldn’t reconcile how it was worth it. I was willing to risk “stepping out” and the financial security net that came with my  job, to try something else. Prior to making this decision, however, I fell into a camp that said I couldn’t afford it. Ultimately what I realized was that was an excuse, not necessarily the entire truth. For several years, I wasn’t willing to give up a lifestyle, I was afraid of how I would fill my time, I was worried about  my identity if I didn’t have the job. And until I was ready, I wasn’t sure I WANTED to be home. But it’s much easier to hide behind a financial reason than to tick off the list of what worries you. I wish more people would state the real reasons instead of using “I can’t really afford it” because many of us can afford it if we’re willing to make those tough decisions and I find it’s more helpful and constructive when I’m exploring my options when I’m honest with myself and my friends about my reasons.

So, now that the decision to stay home has been made, I’ve come to realize that the reasons why women stop working are never quite as simple as she wants to be home with her kids. I suspect the same is true for dads who stay home. The reasons are oversimplified in the media and in our quick labeling. But really, I think it’s a complicated and fascinating and important mix of factors: expense of childcare especially when you have more than one kid, career ennui (sweet scrabble word, right?), workplace that isn’t accommodating to the time demands that come with raising young children or seeking a different path in life. I think it would benefit all of us if we spent more time exploring the reasons WHY instead of just the sweeping generalization that career-focused and educated women are “opting out.” The WHY is the story and understanding the WHY might actually help impact some change in the workplace.

Which brings me to point number two – the digital mom – a woman who is likely seeking a different path in life. I was not surprised at all when I stumbled upon this Parenting article on today’s “SAHM”  digital mom. Turns out many of these women are a growing mass in our country, a small army of 10.1 million women-owned businesses. Our preschool parking lot is crowded with these entrepreneurs. They are starting their own catering companies, their own party planning businesses, their own PR freelancing shops, their own at-home daycares, their own blogs that generate some income. These women are working and many of them are doing it without hiring babysitters and nannies. These woman are also volunteering for school boards and working in classrooms helping teachers and planning school functions. All of this might be a far cry from steady paychecks, healthcare benefits and 401k contributions, but these women inspire me. They are starting new careers, they are forging new paths and the message they are sending their children is not one of opting out and forgoing their education and experience to make brownies. They are teaching their children that there are many ways to earn money, to gain experience and to work. Just like the leap of faith we take in getting married or having kids, opting out of a secure career and paycheck, is nothing if not a leap of faith.

And I believe it’s technology, smart phones, the internet, social media and the blogosphere that is helping these women forge new paths in life.

Forging the new path isn’t necessarily easy or obvious when you stop working, however. Personally I have slowly stumbled upon my new path. I certainly didn’t leave my job with a plan. Earlier this week Samantha Ettus from Forbes sent me a link to her recent post on this subject and I think she hit on one fundamental challenge facing many women: keeping in touch with your contacts when you do quit work. The reality is when you have very young children, it’s difficult to find time to do anything but care for them. But suddenly the  months blend together into years and the baby is off to preschool and kindergarten and we have more…TIME.  The very thing that was so  scarce for so many years is suddenly accessible. So keeping our relationships going through those foggy baby years really is critical to the “NOW WHAT” dilemma so many women face when the kids are suddenly in school and there’s time to be part of that 10.1 million women who are small-business owners and entrepreneurs. For me, it’s been as simple as keeping up with people on Facebook, occasional emails, holiday cards, coffee or happy hour mixed in – the trick has been just not going dark.

In the end, I think no matter what decision we make – whether it’s to remain working full-time, to cut back on our hours, or to walk away and figure out the “now what” later – I will at least keep telling myself that nothing is final, my  needs and my kids needs continue to change with time, and if you believe in your decision and the consequences of your decision, then you will enjoy parenthood and your days so much more. The grass is really only ever greener when you’re not confident in what you’re doing.