The Birthday Party That Almost Killed Me

Ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.  But every year I swear I am not going to have a big party for my girls.  I’m not going to knock myself out and spend a ridiculous amount time planning and executing a custom party.  And then with four days to go I find myself schlepping down to Economy Candy on the Lower East Side to find the perfect candy toppers for the 60 cupcakes I’m baking for their school parties.  And suddenly I’m hauling the couch across the living room, clearing out furniture and strewing crepe paper from corner to corner while standing tip toe on the edge of a chair.  No matter how hard I try I just have to give in to my inner Martha and create the party of my daughters’ dreams.

This year we did an (Almost) Sleepover complete with a spa set up in their bedroom with wind-chime music, a manicure station, scrapbooking with the super cool sticker pictures we printed on a Poloroid PoGo printer and a relaxation station stocked with back issues of Highlights and American Girl Magazines.  Once the girls were beautified and relaxed we herded them into the kitchen for an ice cream sundae bar with a candy bonanza of toppings.  These are the liberties you can take when they girls are not staying the night!  Then they headed into the living room/disco where the music was thumping (thanks Pandora!) the disco light was swirling and the limbo contest sent the girls into a frenzy.  Some Wii Karaoke with Disney Sing It!  And then, just when it seemed we couldn’t pile on yet another activity we brought out the awesome cakes that were topped with incredibly special and unique toppers courtesy of You Cake.  (full disclosure: the fab moms at You Cake gave me the toppers for free and I attended a super fun You Cake event at Moon Soup the following weekend – but I wouldn’t write about them if they truly hadn’t turned out a superior product!  I’m just not that easy.)

It was a smashing success, but the next day – Mother’s Day – I felt like hell.  Congested, coughing and exhausted for the next 4 days I pretty much swore I’d never do it again.  But I guess it’s like labor.  Give it enough time and you forget the true horror and only remember the well worth it result.  My daughters are already throwing out ideas for next year.  I just stare at them with a glazed expression and nod my head.

Here are pics of the really amazing You Cake toppers.  You can see how creative and artistic they are.  Much different than the typical “photo” cake because they customize them to your theme or interest.  Also, you can take the topper right on over to your bakery and have them lay them on top and finish the border with icing, or you can do it yourself on a homemade or store bought cake.  Honestly, these were a huge hit.  My daughters adored them.

Mom in Toyland – Part 1 Playmobile and Madame Alexander

One of the best things about being a mom is your chance to reread your favorite childhood books and play with toys both old and new. But, one of the best things about being a mom blogger is getting to go the Toy Fair! Last week the Toy Fair hit New York at the Javits Center and I dropped off my daughters at The Westminster Dog Show with their grandmother (knew those pet allergies would come in handy) and headed to the fair to decide my own Best in Show.  First stops, Playmobile and Madame Alexander.

Certain companies evoke the kid in me like no other and Playmobile is one of them.  I had the big fort/camping set when I was little.  I am endlessly fascinated by incredible attention to detail that Playmobile executes in all their toys, the quality of the pieces that can be handed down over and over again, and way in which their toys facilitate imaginative play.  What caught my eye at the fair was their new school.  First of all it has such a pleasing, colorful, happy feel.  This is the school your kids wish they attended.  The details abound – a skeleton figure and microscope in the science lab, a working abacus on top of the real chalkboard for doing math, a little child bathroom and a Principal’s desk with a coffee pot.  Details, always about the details.  I immediately wanted to pick up the pieces and start playing.  It’s also fully fashioned all the way around like all Playmobile toys so that you could really get a bunch of kids playing with this at once – something I’m always looking at as a mom of twins.

One of my other favorite things about Playmobile is how their attention to the little things makes them great teaching tools too.

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Big Girls Do Cry

Pe02762_ When my daughters, Sophia and Isabel, turned six this past May my husband and I started getting a little tougher on them about random acts of crying.  Luckily, they didn’t really go through the terrible twos or the tantrum threes but lately, when things didn’t go their way, they were apt to pull out the dramatic school age tears complete with quivering lower lips and woefully large doses of self pity.  So, before camp started we pulled out every bad motivational-speaker-coach cliche we could muster in order to buck them up and encourage PERSEVERANCE!   DETERMINATION!  THICK SKIN!  Tears we told them were for when you were actually, physically hurt not just sad because someone else took your seat at the arts and crafts table.

Off they went to their day camp on the big blue bus, trying their best to be “big” girls. And it went okay.  There were tears when at first Isabel was mistakenly placed into a lower swim group than her friends and sister.  And another meltdown by Sophia when she realized that she missed mommy in the middle of the day.   Normal adjusting to camp kind of stuff.  As the week went on the tears disappeared.  Sophia even came home one day and told me that though she had banged her elbow and saw BLOOD! she didn’t cry, just whined.  And her counselor called her a rock star for her bravery.  All good.

So when the weekend rolled around my now fearless daughters and I decided to go the movies and see Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Now, going to the movies is not a small thing in our house.  Sophia is terrified of movies.  Its not that she’s afraid of the dark – she’s not, she is scared of the previews.  She hates the surprising unexpectedness of them, the loudness and fast paced editing of them and most of all she is certain that one of them will scare the life out of her because last year the preview for the Transformers movie did just that.  So, it was a big deal that Sophia agreed to go to see Kit. (Although it helped that she brought her own American Girl doll along for the show.)

We got through the previews just fine.  Sometimes Sophia covered her eyes or ears but all in all the previews were appropriate and in the case of Space Chimps downright funny.  Then the lights went down and Kit started with period music and a lightness that instantly put Sophia at ease.  Every five minutes I looked over at her.  She was engrossed, delighted and seemed less and less anxious with every passing frame.  As the film wound down to its heartwarming close I sighed with relief that we had made it through the film with a completely positive experience.  Then, suddenly, Sophia grabbed my arm and whimpered, “Help me mommy.  I’m crying.  Why am I crying?  Mommy wipe the tears from my eyes I don’t want to be crying..”  I looked over and saw the glistening tears pooling under her glasses and realized that this lovely emotional happy ending was making my daughter cry and she couldn’t figure out why.  She had never experienced this kind of empathy for a movie or television character, never been to a movie that was meant to tug on your heart strings in this way.  And it freaked her out.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little and actually feel proud of her. I reassured her that it was good crying.  That she felt what the characters felt because she cared about them.  And, that sometimes tears weren’t signs of sadness but happiness. She didn’t quite buy it. I could see that we had unwittingly created a small world for our daughters where tears were bad or babyish and not an expression of a wide range of feelings.  So, I turned it around in that moment of American Girl goodness and warmth and told Sophia that she should be proud of her tears.  They showed that she was a girl who felt deeply and had empathy.  She had given herself over to a movie in a way that she never had before and I wanted her to go with it, not be afraid by the depth of her response.  So I explained that to feel what others feel is one of the most mature and strong things a girl could do. After all, big girls have big hearts and sometimes big tears too.

Original Post to NYC Moms Blog.