Dora the Explorer 3rd Birthday

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Time becomes even more obscure when you have a child. Days go by slowly, but months and years go by super fast. At times you can’t believe how fast your child has grown-up, and other times it feels like they have been in your life for much longer than reality. 3 years have past since I first held my daughter. We have shared amazing moments together and I truly can’t imagine my life without her, as it is so much more fun and joyful with her.

Celebrating in a big way this year was a must. Eva started talking about her birthday 3 months before it came. She knew what to expect – family and friends visiting, games and a “big” cake (cupcakes weren’t an option). The theme for the party was based on Eva’s adoration of Dora the Explore since the age of 2.5 years. Most recently, she is obsessed with going on “Dora adventures”. This involves me giving her random tasks one at a time (e.g., climb the stairs, count to 20 as fast as you can), and then celebrating at the end by singing and dancing to Dora’s “We did It” song that is played at the end of every TV episode. I decided this had to be incorporated in the party in some way.

Eva’s party was held at an Ontario Early Years Centre on a Saturday. This was great because it is located very close to our home so all the neighbours could walk to the party. I felt good about renting the space as I know the money is going to supporting a free resource I used a lot while on maternity leave. The staff at these centres are also amazing and were more than willing to lead games and help organize the party!

Below are the details.

Decor. Since the party was at a play centre, we were only given 30 minutes to set-up. This meant I had to put up decor quickly and work with what was already on the walls. These 6 feet banners were awesome and made for a good backdrop. A helium balloon bouquet and these banners were the first decor you when you came into the venue.

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Food. Most of the food I bought was meant for the toddlers, or at least was toddler friendly. Popular treats were the blue corn chips, guacamole, yogurt cups and smoke salmon & cream cheese rolls. I used my daughter’s Dora toys, and the “3” bucket (purchased at Michaels for $2) to dress-up the table.

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Games. I went a little overboard in this area. I knew not all the kids would want to join in the activities but wanted to plan them anyways. First was parachute time which involved shaking it slow and fast, toss a beach ball around on it, and playing Sleeping Bunnies under it. Next was a freeze dance game with Dora wands. Each child was able to take their wand home as part of their loot bag. This was the main DIY part of the party planning process. Go here to learn how to make the tulle puff on top. It is simply hot glued to a painted wooden dowel wrapped in ribbon. The final activity was to go on a “Dora adventure”. This type of imagination play is constantly happening in our home right now.

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Other activities. The play centre had so much to offer, all the children were fully Other activities. The play centre had so much to offer, all the children were fully entertained and engaged. The sand table and Little Tykes play structure was popular. Even my niece (14) and nephew (11) managed to keep themselves busy with some Lego in between helping the me stay organized and run the games!

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Craft. The craft was to use Dora stickers to decorate a party hat. The craft was set-up on a separate table with Dora colouring sheets so the children that wanted to do it could at any time. My idea was that all the kids would wear their party hats at the table when the cake was served. At first only Eva wanted to wear her hat when we first sat down. Slowly all her friends decided to follow the trend. When the cake was served, almost all 12 toddlers were wearing their party hats! Amazing!!

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Cake. For weeks Eva kept asking for a “big” cake. Although I think cupcakes are easier at toddler parties, I wanted to give the birthday girl this one request. I had a local supermarket make a chocolate cake with a blueberry and custard inside (again, Eva’s choice), and print a image onto it. Special thanks to daddy for photoshopping the image!

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It was super memorable day for our family, and as always every minute I spent planning was so much fun! Happy birthday to my sweet and thoughtful, Eva! I love seeing you smile! You are loved!

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Kale Chips

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Need a way to get more “greens” into your child? Try out kale chips tonight. They are quick to make, and perfect for healthy snacks, or as a side dish with lunch or dinner. My 2-year old loves these as they are easy to grab and do not taste as bitter as eating raw kale or other veggies like spinach. I admit that since kale chips are crisp, they crumble more than a traditional potato chip, but the extra clean-up because of the crumbs is worth is knowing how much nutrients is in kale.

Ingredients:

– one head of organic kale (I usually buy my kale at Loblaws or a local natural food store)

– 2 tablespoons of olive oil

– large bowl

– baking sheet

– sea salt (optional)

– salad spinner (optional)

Steps:

1. Wash the kale thoroughly. Dry with a salad spinner (optional)

2. Tear bit size pieces (about the size of a walnut) off the main stem of the kale leave. Do no eat the main stem. The pieces will shrink after they are heated so if they end up on the large size, that is ok.

3. Pour olive oil into a large bowl and then put the kale into the bowl. Toss the kale in the oil until all pieces are lightly covered.

4. Spread the kale on a baking sheet and put in the over at 300 degrees for 12 minutes. The kale chips should be crisp, but still dark green (not black), when you remove them.

5. Add sea salt to the chips and serve.

For more information about how great kale is for your health, jump over to one of my favourite Canadian food blogs, www.sweetpotatochronicles.com/wordpress/2011/09/whats-so-great-about-kale/

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Pumpkin Carving with a Toddler?

Recently, I have had Halloween decor conversations with coworkers and friends who have youngsters at home. Most agreed that decorating your home with cotton baton webs and plastic spiders is an easy and enjoyable for toddlers, but carving pumpkins is a different story. Although carving a pumpkin can be nostalgic for the parent, for most of us are super busy, so if your children are too young to actually participate the in design and carving of the pumpkin, you question whether to do the activity at all.

This year Eva selected two small pumpkins from a family owned farm outside of Toronto (Herrles Country Farm Market). She loved the experience, but once I bought them home,  I wasn’t sure if they’d actually get around to carving them. One evening, I remembered a friend who painted her pumpkins last Halloween with acrylic paint. Blamo! That’s what I’d do this year! I went through my craft supply bin and found light pink (Eva’s favourite), and white paint – although not part of the traditional colour scheme for the holiday, I knew she’d be interested in the activity. Preparing to paint took less than 10 minutes. You only need a few paint brushes, a thin sponge (to cut shapes out of), a paint tray, and newspaper to cover the table surface. The paint dried within 20 minutes, and now the pumpkins happily sit on our door stoop. They aren’t the most creative or beautiful looking pumpkins, but the project was perfect for a toddler and her busy mom. (Did I mention it is now report card season for teachers?)IMG_1120

Have you ever tried this? Have you ever painted a pattern onto a pumpkin?

One more sleep until Halloween! Happy trick-or-treating!IMG_1121

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“Pierre”

When Eva was 1.5 months we visited my sister-in-law and her family in the United States. This was Eva’s first road trip. During our stay we acquired clothing and toys that belonged to my niece and nephew, who are nearing the end of elementary school. Among the toys was a soft clown rattle that we immediately gave to Eva because it was perfect for her to hold in her tiny hand. Every time we showed her the clown her face lit up; it didn’t take long for Eva to become attached leading to this becoming the one item that we permitted in her crib at night. As the weeks went on, my husband and I began referring to the clown as “Pierre” because of his French-sailor look-a-like clothing. “Pierre” came with us each time we spent an overnight away from home.

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Then things changed. Just before her first birthday, Eva announced one evening, as I put her in her crib with Pierre, that he didn’t want him. “No!” I accepted her request and decided to wait another few nights to see if this request became a pattern. It did, and so Pierre “retired” to a small bin of toys in Eva’s room, eventually getting lost because he sank to the bottom.

This week Eva went through her toy bin pulling out all the items one by one. Then she gazed upon Pierre. It has been a year since she last hugged him, but she seemed to remember him as being special. Her face once again lit up and she insisted on dancing around the room with him for a good 15 minutes before we were able to carry on with her bedtime routine. Oh, sweet memories!

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Does your child have a favourite toy or comfort object?

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Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 2nd Birthday

“Mickey Mouse!” “Minnie Mouse!” These are two of the most popular words I hear out of Eva’s mouth these days. From out of nowhere, she suddenly became obsessed with these beloved Disney stars. At first, we didn’t own any Mickey books or toys and so I figured she must have learned about Mickey and Minnie at daycare. After speaking to her teacher, she admitted that the daycare also didn’t have any Mickey Mouse merchandise. This lead to further confusion on my end. After a few minutes of chatting about Eva’s new idol, her teacher then remembered that one of the children in the class has a Minnie plushie that she sleeps with at nap time. Ah, ha! Eva must have been eyeing this toy carefully!

A few days later, we decided to show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Eva online. This led to us acquiring stuffed animals, books, clothing, kitchenware, and other items. For her second birthday I had planned an Elmo theme knowing that Eva also adores him. When I shared this plan with her closer to her birthday Eva confidently told me, “No Elmo. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”. This meant more creative brainstorming for me (I can’t complain about doing this as I will admit party planning excites me), and some shopping to fulfill her wishes.

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A children’s colouring table featuring personalized Mickey Mouse birthday colouring sheets, and “A Canadian Adventure with Mickey Mouse and Friends” colouring book from Dollarama. This was a big hit!

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While my initial plan was to keep to a red and “black” food theme, in the end I provided healthier food options for all. Since all the children attending the party were between 20 months and 4 years, I opted to make apple cinnamon muffins instead of cupcakes with icing. Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies (mice would eat these cheesy snack, right?) and the raisins were ever so popular with the toddlers! The best idea for portion control was to put out mini Tupperware containers so that children could carry around their snacks.

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My husband and I both love sparkling water with lemon or lime. This fit in perfectly with Mickey’s tag line from the Clubhouse show, “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy”. Find the free printables from Mimisdollhouse here.

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For party favours, I wanted to give my friends something useful. When I found out that Mickey Mouse bandaids exist, I went hunting for them (I found them on sale at Loblaws for $2.50/box)! I decided to place them inside a small sand bucket and stuck a permanent letter sticker on the side of the bucket to identify the child’s first initial. The bucket was then filled with some temporary Minnie tattoos, stickers and a personalized thank you note written on a Mickey Mouse shaped head that I cut out of thick white paper.

IMG_0543During the actual party, in addition to eating sweets, we had a circle time that involved singing my daughter’s favourite songs “Rolley Polley” and “Sleeping Bunnies”. I made Mickey Mouse bandanas out of black construction paper, and I was surprised that Eva wore hers the entire time! We then put temporary Minnie tattoos on most of the children. The birthday girl wanted two – one on each arm!

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Happy 2nd birthday to my sweet girl!!

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Happy Easter!

Despite spending part of the long weekend in bed with the flu, I did manage to have some special moments with my family this weekend and I hope you did too! The highlight was Eva’s first easter egg hunt and hearing her squeal when she opened a pastel-coloured plastic egg that contained a small animal-shaped cookie inside.

Thanks be to God for my little bunny!Image

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The Best of Both Worlds?

Today was an important one. I’m an elementary teacher and March 1 was the deadline to apply to work part-time for the upcoming academic year. Before I go further, I must say that I am very thankful that I have a secure job, with amazing benefits and relatively flexible work hours! I know it is a huge perk to even have this option in the first place. Second, I LOVE my job and have passionately wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but since becoming a mommy my dreams have changed slightly. Part of my heart always hurts when I have to drop off my daughter at pre-school, knowing how odd it is that I pay someone to teach her during the day while I go off to teach other children.

After having a heart-to-heart with my boss, I submitted my application to work part-time for one year and now wait patiently to see if it will be approved. Will this lead to feeling like I have the best of both worlds – keeping my career moving ahead while balancing parenthood and household management? I am grateful knowing that I even have the opportunity to spend more time at home with my daughter and return to full-time work later. Regardless of your position, I think the best part of being a parent is being able to watch your child learn! Make the most of the time you have with your children, especially when they are young and view you as the centre of their world!

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