A Nerf Battle Party

Wow, has another year gone by already? Okay, I’m going straight to winter again instead of talking about what we did in spring, summer, or fall. Because, well, our son had a really neat 9th birthday party because we were able to hold it outdoors in November!

20160928_165753.jpg

He’s been wanting a Nerf battle party since we took him to a Nerf arena, except the business closed and the nearest one is in Idaho. Once the guest list exceeded 24 boys I certainly didn’t want it in our backyard either, so rain or shine we advised our guests and their parents, it will be held in a park. We couldn’t believe our luck when we had beautiful clear, blue skies that day!

So what do you need to have a Nerf battle themed birthday party besides a good weather and outdoor venue? Lots of Nerf guns of course! We got some good ones from thrift stores, as you can see from the price. But for most part, everyone but two of our guests brought their own, and not just one but two or more to share.

20160925_191915.jpg

The next component, which is important, are the ammo. I have Amazon Prime to thank for that. I ordered 500 darts, and gave each guest 10 as part of their party favor bag. We also told them that every dart they find and pick they can keep. Why would I want darts in my own home? Through Amazon we also got safety lenses, mesh drawstring bags, and bandannas. The bandannas were in blue and green, because there was supposed to be a real battle but none of the grownups had the energy to officiate it.

20161104_212540.jpg

That’s okay, everyone still had fun shooting at each other and the targets that our wonderful neighbors made out of buckets. To complete the theme my husband decorated the venue with blue and orange balloons, some of which were attached to trees for kids to shoot at. Afterwards we brought the remaining guns, ammo (and there were still a lot lef), targets and balloons back home so the kids can continue to play although the weather has not been ideal for outdoor games since.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Creating Christmas Memories Week 4

940986_10156298389205058_7393421347426532541_n

Snow, snow, and more snow

How fitting that on the last day of school we started to get snow and more snow that weekend. The kids on our cul de sac had a blast building snowmen and pelting each other with snowballs. One family tied their German Shepherd to a sled and let him loose on the unplowed street with their 7-year old on it.

We took our son and his playmates to a conservation area in North Spokane, just two miles from our place, with hills that were perfect for sledding for beginners and those with intermediate skills alike.

Cookie Party

11233333_10156296221480058_8556267399623629471_n

And no Christmas is perfect without cookies. Once again we invited our neighbor over for a “cookie party.” It was a good opportunity to use the set of 40 Christmas cookie cutters that I bought at the thrift store. We baked sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, and my favorite: edible playdo cookies. The kids helped prepare and decorate the first batches, but once it started to snow again they abandoned us for another snowball fight in the backyard. Us moms had to finish the job, and that’s how I discovered how talented our neighbor is with the fabulous cookies she made.

Edible Playdoh Cookie Recipe

Letter from Santa

It’s cool that our son got a letter from one of Santa’s elves (thru his school) explaining that Santa was very busy, but it’s way even better to actually have a letter from Santa himself delivered to our mailbox three days before Christmas! Here is the ready-to-print letter where you can add your child’s name and city/place.

On Christmas eve we followed Santa’s instructions and left not only sugar cookies and milk for him, but also carrots for his reindeer. It tied up perfectly with the book we were reading, “The Night Before Christmas” so our son could count the number of reindeer and their names.

On Christmas Day he woke up everyone in the household yelling, “Santa ate all the cookies, drank the milk, and took the carrots for his reindeer!”

Christmas with Family

For children, the best Christmas are always the ones celebrated with family, especially when their grandparents, aunts and uncles shower them with presents, and when they have cousins to play with.

As grownups did their last minute shopping and preparations it is often a challenge to keep the kids away from the TV and gadgets. Thankfully I scored a lot of Christmas craft kits from Michael’s (50-70 percent off) to keep them busy. We also made snocones from real snow, which the boys loved. Grandpa’s backyard is also good for sledding, but the best place turned out to be the Chelan Golf Course.

 

2015-12-23 23.53.05

Creating Christmas Memories Week 3

Journey to the North Pole Cruise

We crossed the state line to take our 8-year old on a cruise to the North Pole at Lake Couer D’Alene, Idaho. I’m glad we got 50 percent off (Groupon) because it was a trip I never thought we’d do again. Last year he kept insisting, “that’s not Santa, that’s a man in a costume” wherever we took him. But he watched the Polar Express many times and would not stop asking, “when are we going to the North Pole?”

Compared to last year we were certainly luckier this time because it wasn’t raining and the boat was a lot less crowded, maybe because we booked a later cruise on school night. My husband certainly appreciated that all the stores were already closed at that hour. Besides Frosty and some elves our son also got to meet Jack Frost, his favorite character from Rise of the Guardians. He was also pretty excited to see the Grinch lurking on the docks.

Hearing Santa read the names of kids on the Nice list remains my favorite part. Our son got very quiet and tense, especially when his friends’ names were called out. Just like last year his name was among the last 5 or 10 that Santa read. It was so cute to see the look of relief on his face as he fist-pumped the air.

Advance Present from Santa

Last year I got one of the elves to have the mall Santa give our son a Christmas book as “advance present.” This year I simply distracted our son so his dad could slip in the present. Because he was so fascinated by the Polar Express movie and wanted a silver bell I not only got him a silver bell (at Michael’s, of course) but also wrapped it in similar foil candy cane wrapper (from Costco) just like in the movie. And I added a musical Santa toy (from a thrift store) that sings “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Oh, I got such a big kick when he opened the car and found the present on his booster seat, and a bigger kick when he saw what was in the box, “I’ve always wanted this!,” he exclaimed. He now goes to sleep every night  with that Santa toy.

DIY Christmas Ornament Project

Over the weekend my son and I worked on our Christmas presents for his grandparents, aunts, teachers and friends. I chose the melted snowman ornament after seeing a former student bring one to our school secretary last year. It’s really pretty cool yet easy to put together once you have all the materials from Michael’s and the grocery store: the glass ornaments, salt, peppercorns, silk ribbons, and orange polymer clay to make the carrot noses. For the arms I simply snapped off some twigs from our bushes.

Instructions: Melted Snowman Ornament

Everyone in the family chipped in, that is, our son put everything in after I poured the salt, and the hubby helped tape the ribbon around the ornament. That was our son’s own idea, by the way, which made our ornament different.

2015-12-23 23.53.05

To the ornament we also added a cute poem with our son’s picture:

I made a little snowman

I made him round and fat

Then the sun came out and melted him

Now my snowman’s flat

Lastly, we put the ornament in this cute cookie box with handles. We kept one for ourselves. Because the ornament is made of somewhat heavy large glass ball  we did not hang it up our tree, but set it safely on a jar lid on our bookshelf.

Creating Christmas Memories Week 2

The first weekend of December had us driving all over town with our son’s best friend, Z. When you live in Spokane there are many events and activities to choose from.

Home Depot Kids Workshop

blog1

Home Depot holds a free kids workshop every first Saturday of the month. J has been to four previous ones, but this was the first one for Z. It’s cool that the kids get to build toys using a few pieces of wood, hammer, glue, and nails. My only gripe is they don’t provide paint in Spokane, unlike the Home Depot that my cousin in Michigan goes to — and she’s always posting photos of her daughters’ colorful projects. In fact, I learned about the kids workshop thru her Facebook. My sister-in-law took her son to the Home Depot in Wenatchee, WA and they also got paint, but she told me it was too messy that I’m better off without it. Oh well, our boys didn’t care. J did use up a lot of markers trying to color the base black.

Writing A Letter to Santa

Okay, this is one activity that we never thought would be so complicated.

We like this Letter to Santa template because it’s not just a list of what kids want from Santa. First of all, they have to write why they deserve to be on Santa’s Nice List. Second, it makes them think about their friends and what they should get from Santa as well.

We had fun discussing their thoughts and ideas to fill in the blanks. Getting them to copy everything by hand was tedious work, though. That’s why this activity took us over two hours.

blog2

Once we got the letter and envelope done we drove to the mall downtown where Santa was holding court. The boys personally presented their letters and had their pictures taken with Santa. By the way, this is J’s third Christmas in Spokane and third portrait with Santa. It is interesting to put all three pictures in a collage for our Christmas card and see how he’s grown while Santa looks pretty much the same.

blog3

Spokane Winter Glow Spectacular

We walked to the city park to check out the Christmas light display. It’s wonderful and free! J loved the North Pole and Animal Light Zoo best. If we had more time it would have been nice to get on the Polar Express  and the horse carriage rides, but since the display is on until New Year’s eve we can schedule another visit downtown.

Journey to Bethlehem

Imagine traveling back in time to Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. The Journey to Bethlehem living Nativity is a must-see for those who wish to observe a more Christ-centered Christmas. A hundred actors – men, women, children – from seven denominations take part in this pageant. There are also live animals including a camel. We had no idea this was a big event, so when we saw the long long long line (2,500 visitors that night) after a long day we called it off. We came back the next day, making sure to arrive 30 minutes early and had no trouble finding a parking spot and walking right in the church. No doubt we’ll be making this a part of our annual family Christmas tradition from now on.

Creating Christmas Memories Week 1

We work hard to keep the Christmas spirit strong in our home. These are the activities we did the weekend right after Thanksgiving.

Christmas Tree(s)

The first thing we did as soon as Thanksgiving was over (besides ordering some presents on Black Friday) was take out all the Christmas decorations and had our 8-year old decorate the tree. Before and after the Seahawks game Dad rearranged the furniture so the Christmas tree would be right by the living room window. He also put lights on the two fir trees by the driveway.

Many of our Christmas tree ornaments and decorations come with their own stories like my husband’s Santa collection from his childhood that his mother turned over to us after we were married. These represent his various interests such as skiing Santas and musician Santa. Others were handmade souvenirs collected from countries we lived in and mostly non-breakable because those were the years when we had four cats and a baby.

Christmas Books

Our collection of Christmas books is meager, less than 12 in fact, but I found enough books in thrift stores and our public library so we could start reading at least one Christmas book each day. I made a list on Pinterest. You will note that many have Christ-centered themes, but other elements and characters associated with Christmas like Santa and Rudolph are also present. We have some of these, and have read about half.

2015-12-20 09.44.24

Advent Calendar

Back when we still lived overseas and always traveled during winter break I found a felt advent calendar that was easy to carry around. We still use it until now, but I was inspired by the 25 Days of Christ kit to come up with our own handmade advent ornaments. I found a tub of Christmas cookie cutters at the thrift store and used these to cut shapes from felt which I hand-sewed with polyfill fiber stuffing. They look cute with the number pins from Michael’s. But it wasn’t such a good idea after all, because I got very busy with other tasks and work as substitute teacher. It’s now Dec. 20 and I still only have eight. The idea was to match the ornament with the book we’re reading, so we have a Christmas tree, snowman, reindeer, sleigh, and even a dinosaur for the book “Dinosaur Christmas.” But even though I have 20 cookie designs, it also started to get difficult to match these to the books I have. Of course I will try to finish this project seeing that classes are over now.

Lego Birthday Party on A Budget

Handmade invitations: for once I surprised my husband by not using PhotoShop. But our son is old enough to write his guests’ and his own name on each card. The circles are made of foam bought from the dollar store, and I used the tin cap from olive oil bottle to make the shapes.

12208352_10156167398405058_4443244189619212572_n

The decorations: Lego party favor bags, the punch out pinatas (more on that later)  and presents disguised as decorations. We also got yellow balloons, but forgot to draw faces on those.

 The t-shirts. I found the Lego man stencil from this site. The dollar store has colored t-shirts, although these were mostly L and M youth sizes, and I had to get the 2T and 3T sizes in white for higher prices elsewhere. Three methods for shirt printing were used with varying degrees of success. The original plan was to use heat transfers, and Wal-Mart sells these cheaper than Avery online, about $1+ per sheet; Michael’s was selling another brand for about $10 with only 3 sheets.

Because the celebrant was celebrating his 8th birthday I made two shirts with different designs. One involving the use of freezer paper as stencil and Tulip fabric paint. I got the instructions from here, although I used an 8-Lego man design. Cutting out 8 smaller Lego figures with an exacto knife proved to be tedious and messy. His second shirt turned out better, using the fabric paint to draw the Lego figure and adding a red balloon. To think I only came up with this to cover some mistakes with the heat transfer. But the ones who got this version were pleased that their Lego man had a face. One young guest refused his shirt and later declared it was “stupid” because it didn’t have any eyes or nose, ha-ha-ha.

The “birthday cake”. We have a tradition of not using traditional cakes, and so in previous birthday parties we used cupcakes to form a dinosaur, and brownies and sugar foam for the Angry Birds theme. This year my in-laws made rice krispies to resemble Lego bricks. Because one of our guests is gluten-intolerant we used rice chex. It looks messy but tastes good with semi-sweet baking M&Ms, even if the Betty Crocker cookie icing made it too sweet. Lego candles from Amazon and characters holding the candles completed the colorful effect.

12227216_10156163427195058_7278543086050664681_n

Rectangle pepperoni pizzas from Caesar’s also looked like Legos.

12185037_10156164557200058_4480533073820465437_o

The activities. Having a family with seven kids with tons of Legos living next door made our first activity possible. We declared a Lego building contest and our son picked the winner. Or rather, he declared everyone a winner, because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We also had the toddlers category.

Our punch-out pinatas drew the most praises. When our guests’ ages ranged from 2 to 8 having them take turns to punch a hole to claim their party favors made a lot of sense. It was also easy to make, therefore, cheaper than buying a pinata; and we made three.

Lastly, the party favors that were supposed to go in the punch-out pinatas, are of course little Lego figures. Amazon sells them in packs, and I thought I got a good deal that cost $5 for an entire pack of 20 characters … except they arrived the day after the party, so be sure to order these 3-6 weeks ahead. At least most of our guests live on our street and go to the same school.

11221395_10156169498965058_5895576165496109868_n

I really went overboard with this party family and friends said, but there were actually other ideas that I didn’t have the time and energy to do anymore.

In the end, everyone had a great time. We didn’t have a single meltdown (although I came close that morning). And the kids look so adorable in their shirts.

12122887_10156164552820058_1503503293758711442_n

There are more great ideas for a fun Lego party here:

12186763_10156140900475058_6380867487448971800_o

The Teal Pumpkin Project

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a campaign to make non-food or non-candy treats available as alternatives for a low-sugar, food allergy-safe Halloween. I first learned about it when it was launched last year, at about the same time that we were offering glow-rings and glow-necklaces. Even when our son went on his first trick-or-treating activity back in Nigeria, we’ve always appreciated it that people offered stickers, erasers, balls, etc., because he doesn’t like chocolates and most candies. Until now he still only likes strawberry-flavored sweets. He’s also concerned that he has friends and classmates who are gluten-intolerant and have food allergies.

The problem is this is a new campaign and most people have never heard of it. I had to make my own teal pumpkins because none of the major stores were selling these. I could not even find paint in teal, but managed to pick spray paint and acrylic paint. I was also able to buy fake pumpkins at 40-75 percent off on the 30th.

Of course, we also had the usual sweets. What is surprising is half of the trick or treaters chose the toys, especially the toddlers and tweens. The most popular items were the slime, Vampire fangs, and bouncing rubber eyeballs.