The Chirping Moms

April 25, 2015

5 Secrets For Easy Festive Birthday Party Planning

It's no secret that I love party planning. I start conjuring up party themes and ideas months before my kids' birthdays. Tommy isn't even 6 months old and I've got his 1st birthday party theme all set. Over the years, I've come up with a few ways to make fun, festive birthday parties easier. Hopefully they help in your party planning too! 

1. Create a bin of reusable party supplies: Party supplies can get expensive, but there are so many things you can use year after year if you plan right. When you pick a theme for the party, try and get things that match the theme, but are neutral enough that you can use them again. With two girls, we have an entire box of pink party supplies. I end us using things in the box for almost every birthday party, Valentine's Day parties, tea parties etc. I also have a bin of primary color party supplies. For this year's "Rainbow 5th birthday" I didn't have to buy hardly anything - I just used all the primary supplies with some added paper products in the rainbow theme. We always use Birthday Express for the themed supplies - they have every theme you can imagine and their prices are great (sign up for their newsletter and you get a ton of coupons). 

If you've been to a party at my house, chances are you've seen these three items. I use them at almost every party. I got them from Smash Cake & Co (one of my favorite party sites) for Alex's 1st birthday party. 

Things like paper medallions and pennant bunting, can be used over and over again. Just remember to save what can be reused and try to fit whatever you can into next year's theme!

Even goodie bags. Chances are you are not going to use the whole pack, or if you buy a larger quantity, you'll save money. When I was making Maggie's goodie bags this year, I realized that I had an assortment of leftover paper bags from a few different parties. Instead of buying new bags, I stuck a rainbow sticker on all the bags (her party theme as rainbows) and turned all our old leftover bags into "matching" rainbow bags with our spending any money. 

For more details on the most recent party theme I planned, Maggie's Rainbow Party, click here

2. Places to Have the Party: You can have the party out, but don't necessarily have to have it somewhere that hosts birthday parties. Maggie's birthday is in the middle of the winter and we don't have the space to host a party for her friends in our house. Many of the places I looked into for parties were very expensive. Then I got to thinking of places that would be a lot of fun, but a lot less costly. We've had parties at Chick-fil-a and at local pizzeria. I bought the food there and brought everything else from home. Kids are more easily entertained than you might think. Often they just want to run around, play and eat cake. Another idea for having the party out, is to "team up" with another parent who has a child with a birthday around the same time. Two years in a row, Maggie has had her birthday party with one of her best pals - their birthdays are a few weeks apart. It saves money and also saves time. The other mom and I split up all the party planning duties. 

3. Customize store bought cupcakes: I am not a baker, but I also don't like spending a ton of money on fancy cupcakes. I discovered that our local grocery store (and most grocery stores I have asked) will customize their store bought cupcakes to whatever color frosting and sprinkles you'd like. They usually only need a day or 2 notice. At our local bakery they are about $7 a dozen, come ready to go and match the party theme. If you want to go a step farther, you can make your own cupcake toppers: print free printable toppers online, cut them out and tape to a toothpick. 

4. Giant Number Balloons: Instead of buying tons of balloons, try one big balloon for the number they are turning. They are fun for the birthday morning and make great party decor. They are really big and totally replace getting a lot of balloons! I order them on Amazon.

5. Easy, personalized thank you cards: I think thank you cards are important to send and I also think it's great if you can involve the kids in thanking their friends. This year, we made thank you cards from Minted with Maggie's picture on them. There was a fun option to add a party hat on her head! We thought having her photo on them would let the kids receiving the thank you cards quickly recognize who it was from. The front said "Thank you" and her name. Inside, instead of writing a note about what the gift was, Maggie drew pictures of the gifts. She wrote each child's name inside, but instead of me writing the note or having her attempt (even just the names were a challenge!) we opted for drawings. It was fun for her and I think more fun for the kids receiving the notes. 


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April 23, 2015

Teaching Kids to Save During National Kids Savings Month

Recently we were at the store and Maggie wanted to buy a toy. I said "no" and she kept asking. I said "well maybe we can add it to your Christmas list". She's smart enough to know that there's a long way to go until Christmas, and wasn't letting up on really wanting the toy. Next I said "well do you have any money to buy the toy? That costs a lot of money". She looked at me, pulled an old hotel key card from her coat pocket and said "I'll just pay with this, like you always do". Yikes, I decided it was time to teach her about money and savings. April is National Kids Savings Month, so it was perfect timing.

I realized she had never been inside a bank. With 3 kids in tow, I only visit the drive up ATM and the bank's drive through window. I started to explain to her what a bank is and she replied "I've been to a bank. We went to one to get money for London. They have money in there you can use for New Jersey too?" This "savings explanation" was going to be trickier than I thought. I decided we'd head to the professionals. 

Maggie and I made a trip, just us, on a Saturday morning to Boiling Springs Bank. They have a great kids' savings program called the Bucks Program. The program is geared towards teaching children under 18 the value of savings. The bank visit was wonderful. Everyone at Boiling Springs was eager to greet Maggie and teach her about the bank. The highlight for her was the coin counting machine. She now wants to save up coins just so she can dump them into the "big money counter". The bank was not only good at explaining the Bucks Program Maggie, but they also made a point to show her the bank and how it works. 

Here's some of the details we learned about the Boiling Springs Bucks Program:
- $10 bonus is deposited into account if account is opened with $10 or more
- Account available to youths under the age of 18.
- Interest earned monthly on all account balances.
- Boiling Springs Savings Bank is Member FDIC

Here's a cute video for kids about savings:

They also have cute activity books for teaching kids about savings: 


Maggie was thrilled when she was handed her big green "$10 certificate" from the bank. She is really excited about saving and wants to first buy a Paw Patrol toy and then a trip to Paris. You can visit the Boiling Springs website to find a bank near you. #TeachKidsToSave


This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions are our own. 
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April 22, 2015

Where to Wednesday: Give Wishes Wings

Make-A-Wish holds a dear place in my heart. It is an organization I truly believe in, and i'm inspired by the work they do every day. I have seen first hand how incredible their wishes can be for a sick child. Seeing children and families smile, during some of their toughest times, must be what keeps the hard working people at Make-A-Wish make more and more of theses wishes come true every year. If you're not familiar with Make-A-Wish, it's an organization that grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, on average, every 38 minutes. They believe that a wish experience can be a game-changer. That belief guides them and inspires them to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids they serve.

Recently, Make-A-Wish launched the Make-A-Wish Give Wishes Wings campaign. They are encouraging the donation of airline miles to help wish kids travel for their wishes. This is such a simple way to help make a huge difference in the life of a child. 

The process to donate miles is SO simple. Just visit givewisheswings.org and choose from a number of airlines – including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines®, JetBlue, and United – and enter a few pieces of information. The number of miles an individual can donate ranges from a few hundred miles to millions. Donated miles never expire and are never used for anything other than wish travel for wish kids and their families.

A few facts about Make-A-Wish and why donating your miles is so helpful:
 
· Travel is their number one cost

·Nearly 75% of the wishes granted involve travel

· 14,257 wishes were granted last year of which more than 10,000 involved travel

· Wish travel requires 50,000 round trip tickets each year

 Please consider donating some of your airline miles and to Make-A-Wish and the amazing children they help every day. For more information and to donate miles, you can visit givewisheswings.org.

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April 20, 2015

A Fun Outdoor Toy & This Week's Giveaway


The days of letting the kids run wild outdoors are finally back! Last week was our first full week of nice weather and we spent every minute we could in the backyard. The past few months have been freezing cold. That paired with an infant in the house, meant long days inside. We couldn't wait to get back out to play. In addition to having plenty of room to run around, we have more room for "big toys" outside. I've been on the hunt for some new things to add to the yard this year. We got a new water table and this fun new tunnel. I'd love to hear some of your suggestions for other great outdoor toys, so please leave some ideas in the comments section below. 
The play tunnel we got is from Pacific Play Tents. It's called the “Peek A Boo I See U” Tunnel and is designed for ages 18 months and up. It's 6' long and  collapses flat for easy storage. It's very sturdy and well made. Pacific Play Tents has been making award-winning tunnels, tents and toys for over 25 years. Kids need plenty of time to play, pretend and climb about, and Pacific Play Tents' products are perfect for this. 
 
 
Pacific Play Tents products can be ordered on their website, www.PacificPlayTents.com and are also sold on Amazon, at Walmart, Target and other online retailers. For this week's giveaway, one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Pacific Play Tents. Please enter using the Rafflecopter below. Good luck everyone! 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 17, 2015

20 Simple Hacks to Make Parenting Easier

Compensation was provided by Motts via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Motts.”


Parenting.  It's really no easy thing.  Raising three kids, I have learned a few tips & strategies to how to make parenting just a little easier.   And let me tell you, I will try anything to make this parenting thing just a little smoother of a ride.  Below, we are sharing some of our favorite parenting "shortcuts" that make life a little simpler & help us keep our sanity.

Parenting Hacks || The Chirping Moms

1.  Plan to do a load of laundry every day.  It will make you keep up.  And on those mornings when there isn't a full load to do, sit back & relax.  It's awesome!

2.  Take pictures of kid's artwork.  When your child brings home artwork, display the art for a short period of time.  Then, take a picture & toss it.  Once the school year is over, make a "kid art" memory book.

3.  Keep kitchen scissors on hand at all times.  I use ours daily to help cut my children's food.  It makes it super easy to cut meat, waffle strips, toast, and more.  It's so much easier than pulling out a cutting board & knife.

4.  Hang checklists by the door for morning & afternoon.  Children can easily read and follow the checklists instead of you having to repeat every step.  

5.  Keep spare clothes & shoes in the car.  I don't know how many times my kids have got in the car without shoes on.  (Yes, I know I should notice but it's crazy some days getting out of the house!)  Keeping extra shoes & clothes means I will never have to make an emergency stop for clothing.

6.  Keep diapers & wipes on every floor level in your house.  No having to run up the stairs to change the baby!

7.  Place outdoor necessities right by the door.  Store sunscreen, hand sanitizer, & bug spray where you can easily apply and use before leaving or entering the house.

8.  Have a bag of snacks in your purse & in your car.  Kids are always hungry & I have learned just to keep my snacks well-stocked.  Some of our favorite on the go snacks are:  granola bars, snack-sized crackers, & Mott's® Snack & Go applesauce.

9.  Keep activity bags set & ready to go.  My boys are in swim lessons right now so we have a bag hanging that holds their swimsuit, beach towel, & goggles so when it is time to go swimming, we can just grab the bag and go!

10.  Fill water bottles at the beginning of the day & place in refrigerator.  When your child says they are thirsty, they can just grab their drink on their own and it's already cold!

11.  Keep simple meals on hand for those long nights.  Our pantries are always stocked with kid favorites: mac & cheese, breakfast for dinner, & chicken nuggets for those nights when I just don't feel like cooking.

12.  Have a durable vinyl tablecloth on hand to call your "craft cloth".  I place this on our kitchen table every time we do crafts.  The kids can make a big mess doing their crafts.  When done, I just roll it back up for next time.  

13.  Order groceries online.  It's life-saving.  Trust us, we both do it!

14.  Keep birthday gifts on hand.  Buy several gifts at one time (try to catch a sale) & save for those never-ending birthday parties.  No last minute scrambling to get a gift, just grab one and go.

15.  Label toy baskets & clothing drawers.  Foster independence so they learn to put things away & get dressed on their own.  The more they learn to do, the less you need to do!

16.  Popsicles or ice cream pops for dessert?  Let your child enjoy them in the bath.  It can drip as much as they want & no mess to clean up!

17.  Hand on the car.  When my kids get out of the car, they have to keep one hand on the car while I am still unloading the other kids out of the car.  I don't have to worry about anyone running out in the parking lot after teaching them this lesson.

18.  Use a sound machine.  All three of my kids still sleep with sound machines.  Baby sister wakes up crying, nobody else wakes up.  Big brother has a bad dream, nobody else wakes up.  We take them when we travel & these kids sleep through anything.  Awesome.

19.  Use your dish soap for hard-to-remove stains.  

20.  Are you looking for new bath or water toys?  Just use old or mismatched Tupperware.  

Earlier this week, I have been talking with several friends about the pressures on parents & the high expectations that moms put on themselves.  It is crazy what mothers expect from themselves, all the way down to the lunches that they make for their kids.  I love this video from Mott's that reminds us to that kids aren't impressed by all the things that we can do, but instead they are just want to have fun & be happy.   "Happy is the new impressive".  


I recommend from one parent to another.  Let go a little & try some simple parenting hacks.   Keep it simple and do what keeps you and your kids happy.

Mott’s® Snack & Go is the nutritious applesauce kids love in a squeezable pouch thy can take with them wherever they go. Mott's is also the only applesauce brand with Box Tops for Education®, helping to support kids' schools. Visit us on motts.com to learn more.



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“Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Motts via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Motts.”

Parenting Hacks || The Chirping Moms

April 16, 2015

Boppy Diapers Bags: Fashion + Function

Lately, in my group of friends, it seems like there's a baby shower or new baby born every week. I like finding fun new products to bring along with a registry gift to a shower and for when new babies arrive. Recently I tried out the Boppy™ Diaper Bags and I was really impressed. It's very functional and  I love all of the cute coordinating products it comes with. 
 One product I've used with all 3 babies, and always buy if I see it on someone else's registry, is a Boppy®  Pillow. My 3 have enjoyed it for feeding, lounging and even when they started to learn to sit up. They have all preferred it for feeding, so despite the size, I've found myself traveling with it quite a bit over the past 5 years. The Boppy™ Diaper Bag makes it a lot easier to travel with your Boppy Pillow. It's also a fun, fashionable bag that comes in many colors and patterns. My favorite part is that there are tons of accessories and pockets that make organizing a lot easier. Whether you're using the bag for daily use or for a trip, this bag has you and baby covered. 
Over Spring Break, we'll be away over night, and I can fit everything Tommy needs in this bag. I'll be able to fit everything plus keep everything organized. The accessories include: a coordinating pacifier pod, a good sized multi-function bag, a folding changing pad and a hard, refillable wipes case. On the outside, there is the Boppy Plus™ clip system that allows you to easily attach your Boppy®  - this is a huge help for travel. 
This bag is useful, well made and makes a great baby shower or new baby gift. I'm always looking for new ways to stay organized with a new baby, and this bag is really going to come in handy. 
If you're looking for a smaller, more compact way to stay organized on the go (or looking for a smaller baby shower/ new baby gift), check out Boppy’s line of coordinating extras. The line includes a variety of changing pad clutches. They're made with extra padding for baby, but fold up into a cute clutch. They have lots of pockets for wipes, diapers and more! Another coordinating extra option are Boppy’s insulated bottle bags. These bags are a great way to keep bottles, snacks and food cold. They are perfect for the warm months ahead. The insulated bags have a strap that easily attaches to strollers. This would be a great "extra" to attach to a baby shower gift. 
You can find the whole line of Boppy™ Diaper Bags and coordinating extras at BabiesRUS, BuyBuyBaby , on Boppy.com and Amazon.  Find a great bag an accessories that fit your style and grab one for a friend too. You'll be ready to hit the town or travel in style.  
Be sure to follow along with Boppy™ on social media: Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest 

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Boppy via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

April 15, 2015

Spring Family Travel Idea: Visiting Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC

We had a blast this weekend taking our three little kids into Washington, DC to see the cherry blossoms!  It is one of my most favorite times of year to visit DC & highly recommend to anyone to find a time in your life to get to DC during this time of year.  Here are some simple tips & tricks to visiting the Cherry Blossoms with young children.  

Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms


TIPS TO VISIT THE DC CHERRY BLOSSOMS WITH KIDS

1.  The average peak bloom date, when 70% of the flowers of the cherry blossom trees are open,is April 4.  It varies year to year & with the cold winter we had, the peak date for 2015 was predicted for April 11-14.  Plan your visit around the peak date as the entire blooming period only lasts for up to a little over a week.  This site has a great bloom watch update.

Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

2.  The best time to visit is during the week due to the large crowds.  But with three little kids & busy schedules, we had no choice but to visit on the weekend.  And we managed, so it's possible to go at any time!  Also think about visiting the cherry blossoms at sunrise & sunset, I hear the views are gorgeous and the crowds aren't quite as large.

Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

3.  I recommend taking the Metro in.  Unless you are staying right in downtown DC, the Metro is a super easy option.  My husband always likes to drive in, but I voted for the Metro & it was a great idea.  The kids had a blast taking the train in & there was o dealing with the crazy DC traffic, especially during the busy tourist season.  Although, I would not recommend taking a group of kids on the Metro during rush hour.  I haven't done it & really don't plan on it!  There is parking if you do decide to drive, but plan accordingly on where to park as the traffic is busy downtown & can be hard to navigate if you don't know the roads well.


Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

4.  Plan your route before you go.  For us, we hopped off an earlier Metro station to accommodate for food & not deal with the crowded Metro station.  The Smithsonian metro stop is probably the closest Metro stop to the cherry blossoms, but we actually hopped off on Farragut West.  This made for a little shorter train ride & then we grabbed lunch where there are a lot more quick food options before heading down to see the Cherry Blossoms.  Full tummies made for happier kids during the busy crowds!  After visiting the Cherry Blossoms, we realized that it was just a 15 minute fun walk to the Foggy Bottom station where we grabbed a quick afternoon stock before taking the Metro to get home. Plan your route & make sure to plan food stops before you get down there, as there isn't a lot of food options where the Cherry Blossoms are located!

Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

5.  Make sure to have a spot for everyone to ride or old enough to walk.  We used two strollers & everyone had a spot to be.  A wide double stroller would be hard to manage with the large crowds.  My oldest definitely would get tired of walking so a riding kick board on one of our strollers was a great option.  For really little ones, I would definitely pop them in the carrier if they are happy in one!  While we were down there, we also took a stroll by some of our favorite DC stops:  the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, & more.  It definitely helps to have those strollers as we did a lot of walking!

Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

6.  There are other ways to see the cherry blossoms if you can't make it downtown.  You could take a river cruise on the Potomac or paddle boat on the Tidal Basin.  Check out deal sites & websites before you plan on that option.  Other favorite spots that have been recommended are:  Kenwood in Maryland and Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna.  


Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms

Last but certainly not least, have fun & take pictures.  You definitely want to bring your camera as it so beautiful & a place to capture some great photos!  It truly is one of my favorite times of year & a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring.  I would love to hear more cherry blossom viewing tips so please leave a comment below if you have something to share.  I am definitely no expert on the cherry blossom viewing, but wanted to share some simple tips to make it easier based on my own experiences, friend recommendations, & research that I have done myself.  Below I have included a few more "cherry blossom" websites & activities to check out!

Games, activities, & presentations about cherry blossoms geared for children
More Cherry Blossom Crafts : Housing a Forest

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Cherry Blossoms with Kids || The Chirping Moms


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