Thursday, June 20, 2013

book pick: Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy

every family has their own sense of humor. i remember the self-conscious moment when my husband and i realized that not everyone finds "$9.99" to be the funniest kids song ever and equally hummable even when the kids are not around. in books, our humor is found in anything by Mo Willems and now, apparently, anything by Jan Thomas. i sigh with disgust every time a giant Richard Scarry book is brought forward (more on that another time), but i'll happily read about Elephant and Piggie or the Dust Bunnies over and over again (probably thanks to brevity as much as hilarity).

the latest repeat-read for us from Thomas is Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. my cowboy voice for this one is eerily spot-on to the voice provided on the website, although the tune i use is more "Rock a Bye Baby" (note: the MP3 follows the book very closely but is different). a wolf makes a "surprise" appearance at the end, and for him i've settled on a nice mixture of Huell Hoswer's The Backson with a dash of Nathan Lane's pretty-much-anything-but-this-will-do-for-the-kiddos.

are your kids afraid of shadows in their darkened bedrooms? home on the range, this cowboy isn't much different. in fact, he's not very brave at all. but he is golldurned funny. let's just say a recurring line in this book, besides the lullaby, is "Eeeeeeek!"

what about you? what authors or books strike your family's funny bone?

this post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

bubble birthday party

Sweet One turns 6 this year and requested a bubble birthday this year to celebrate with her friends. awesome! so we did just that. simple idea, simple execution. it's the ultimate fun and easy party idea.

until you start looking at other blogs, of course.

do you ever have this problem? i'm having fun, coming up with goofy ideas, looking forward to giving my daughter some happy times for her special day. and then i do a Google-image or Pinterest search for what other folks have done for bubble parties, if only to feel good about the awesome ideas i've come up with and that are surely completely original... and, lo and behold, i start feeling inadequate looking at these professional photographs, slick printables, elaborate decorations, and -- gasp! -- the super-bubble recipe i've been wondering about that involves specialized ingredients and mail-ordering from veterinary and medical supply stores! oh no! i was just planning on having a lot of bubbles and recycling my kid-in-a-giant-bubble trick from last year, maybe buy a pack of donut holes and call it good. but now...

put on the bubble brakes, Momma!

good gravy. thank goodness i caught myself this time.

people, i do not have the time to make this blog my life. i barely have time to do this post. in fact, there are three things i can think of off the top of my head that i most certainly should be doing right now instead of this. mostly i'm keeping this blog alive for two reasons: (a) writing posts like this feeds the premise of the blog by reminding myself to be silly and therefore remain sane and (b) as a professional writer it is one more way to keep myself "fresh" and "in tune" with today's digital landscape, at least in a vague way. and, if i'm lucky, there's also: (c) you readers still get something out of what i and my friends post here! so when my thoughts turn to "oh, that would look awesome on the blog" -- even for half a second -- instead of "oh, Sweet One would LOVE this simple-yet-fun idea and i already have what we need" ... then the focus is way off.

bubble birthday party
she's happy = success
silly = sane.

super-blogger-momma-slickster-hipster-look-at-me = insane.

can i get a bubble booyeah?

so for this birthday party, i did what i usually do (or usually try to do). i slapped together ideas as they came to me, ditched others when they became even remotely complicated, lived by my season-of-life-mantra of "good enough," and sought out my daughter's giggles and smiles for affirmation and confirmation of success.

the result? score massive bubble points for Momma.

now, this was not lazy momma. trust me when i say that this is, for me, going all-out for my kid. when it comes to my girls' birthdays, i put on my creative hat and take things to the next level. but i'm doing it for them. i'm their Momma and i'm doing something extra-special for them -- and they know that and appreciate it. i'm not doing it for you! so on this blog, you get no printables, no fondant tips, no recommendations for a hired bubble professional (or even a link to veterinary gel). instead, here is a breakdown of where we ended up, maybe giving you some ideas to get your own creative juices flowing for a birthday party without the headaches of parental inadequacy. and for you other bloggin' mommas out there, here is the larger theme of this post: live first. blog later.

the cake

i'll have to share in another post some day all about birthday cakes. i am not a cake maker. i have a few friends who are professional-grade cake makers. they are incredible. i don't even like cake, to be honest. but for my girls, i become my own good-enough version of an Ace of Cakes. a harbor with a shark. a moat-encircled castle. a huge ball gown. a muddy construction site. this time i went for something resembling bubbles to keep with the theme. i bought a Betty Crocker rainbow cake mix (the first time, actually, i haven't done it from scratch -- you now officially have my permission to cut corners), borrowed a friend's cake-pop maker, and made batch after batch of little round cakes. actually, since i used a cake mix, most of them did not turn out very circular and of course they were more brown than rainbow-looking after being baked. so i tore off the outer shell of the worst duds, revealing the spherical, rainbow insides and put those "bubbles" on top. i was going to use a big bowl, but then saw my husband's old travel humidor and had one of those a-ha moments. cleaned it. lined it with plastic wrap (which, incidentally, looks like bubble solution too), filled it with cake bubbles and bubble wands, then made a bubble label from scrap paper, Post-It notes and highlighter pens to complete the look. (seriously people. i didn't even bother going upstairs to get the construction paper, fancy markers and circle cutter -- although i own all of those things.) one of those slap-it-together ideas that actually turned out pretty darn good. or at least -- say it with me now -- good enough!

bubble cake

bubble birthday party favorsthe favors

we aimed for bubble-focused treats with bubble solution (shaped like ice cream cones, which is perfect for a birthday party), bubble gum, squares of bubble wrap, and a straw. everything except the gum came from the dollar store, and the gum was bought in bulk for less than 50 cents at the grocery store, making for a very affordable yet fun treat for her little friends.

the decorations

we also planned a toy swap in lieu of traditional gifts,
a special addition to what her friends were able to take home
with them while making it easier on the parents, too
i hadn't planned any decorations. i knew i wouldn't have time to get balloons, and honestly didn't want the hassle with stores being out of helium more than half the time anyway. i considered cutting out a bunch of circles and suspending them on strings -- an idea i saw during that infamous Google-image search -- but between work and baking all those little cakes, i would have been staying up to 2 a.m. doing that. uh, no. so here was another part of the party that came together on a whim an hour before the party. we had leftover bubble wrap, so i gave Sweet One the squares and some tape and let her decorate with those, which she loved. she also started drawing a bubble path on the patio with blue chalk for a game she thought of, giving me another "oh yeah! duh" moment. so i put the chalk to work myself and just drew a bunch of fun bubbles everywhere. botta bing botta bubble.

kid in a giant bubble

the fun

bubble recipe in bulk
a bucket full of our two-ingredient bubbles
plus some sugar for strengthening such a large batch
makes for easy and big bubbles!
just a ton of bubbles. i splurged on a bubble machine and regretted the purchase -- i don't recommend the kind we bought, which fans them out the top. we had to constantly wipe the top so the bubbles would still come out, and then it decided to completely stop working even with fresh batteries and it was brand new! we had much more success with a battery-powered fan you hold in your hand -- and boy did that thing pump out the bubbles. otherwise we just put out a bunch of wands and let the kids go nuts. i put out a bucket filled with our homemade bubble solution, adding sugar since it was a big batch. we also did our kid-in-a-bubble trick, which turned out to be a big hit. and we tried some giant bubbles with a string-and-pole style wand that Sweet One received for a previous birthday. i'll put links to some of the things we enjoy at the bottom of this post for reference.

what about you? what fun and easy birthday parties have you come up with? what did your kids best enjoy?

the following are sponsored links, as if you couldn't tell, of some of the bubble-fun items we bought or others bought for us that worked and are consistently used by our family. in most cases these are not the exact items we have but very, very close: