Monday, January 27, 2014

Teddy Bear Picnic Birthday Party

Since my baby boy was a wee squiggle, swimming in my tummy he has had two nicknames- Gummy Bear (given to him by his Auntie Alyssa, because she said that he looked like one in the ultrasound photo), and Teddy Bear (his middle name is Theodore, after my husband's grandfather). So it was only natural that his first birthday go along with these nicknames. In searching for Teddy Bear themed party ideas, I quickly realized that everything was for baby showers, and NOT birthday parties. Well, I wouldn't let that detour me! I had done a home-made birthday party before-my oldest son's 2nd birthday was Toy Story themed, and I made everything from: activities, decorations, signs, cupcakes, snacks, games, art projects, etc. I could do it I did.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, then I was on the prowl for anything and everything that just might work. I don't know if I'm extremely lucky, or if planning ahead, looking in several places, and being open to changes is the answer, but it all fell into place perfectly. I love the Teddy Bear Picnic song, and we have a plethora of the stuffed scoundrels lying about our home, so once again.....I went with it.

Here is how it turned out, where I purchased the supplies, how I made the projects, and other miscellaneous things you might want to know, when planning a similar birthday extravaganza:

 Don't Forget Your Disguise!
A line in the song refers to all the Teddy Bears wearing a disguise to their big party, so our guests got to wear them too. Bear-ear hats were waiting right inside the door, with a sign reminding them to take one. They were easy to make, only required a sharpie and brown paper, and the kiddos LOVED them. They wore them all day, and many took extras home.

Teddy Bear Picnic Table
This is the "picnic" table where the goodie bags, and yummy treats were housed. Gummy Bears, sandwiches, Teddy Grahams, Trail Mix, cupcakes, and adorable bear cups to store the tasty treats, were laid out for snacking.

Teddy Bear Picnic Framed Lyrics
Also, a Dollar Store picture frame displayed a verse of the Teddy Bear picnic song. These were placed throughout the house for people to read. I tried to match the verse with the activity that would take place in that area. Now, these verses are hanging in my Teddy Bear's bedroom. What a great keepsake!

Picnic Party Favor
Each child that attended the party went home with a Teddy Bear plate, set of silverware, and a Teddy Bear storage container filled with gummy bears or teddy grahams (depending on their age). I was told by several parents that they loved this idea, because their kids were getting something they would actually use. The kids were begging to eat dinner with their new plates/silverware, so I'm guessing that they liked the idea too.

Cookie Decorating Station
This was one of the best ideas! The kids absolutely loved decorating their own teddy bear cookie. It was nice for me, because that was one less thing I had to prepare before the party, and it was nice for the parents/kids because the kids were entertained. It was extremely easy to set up, required little time, and was very inexpensive.

1st Birthday Picture Collage
I made one of these for my older son's second birthday, and it is still hanging in his bedroom almost two years later. It was a mommy-favorite, and more than anything, I wanted to do it again for my little Teddy Bear. Cut out the number needed from a cardboard box, glue/tape pictures to cover the cardboard, then hang! It's so fun to see the changes in your baby when sorting through the pictures, and it's fun to reminisce with party guests when they take a peek.
 Easy Teddy Bear Cupcakes
This is the easiest decoration idea yet! Bake cupcakes, frost, stick a teddy graham on top. Done. Quick, easy, inexpensive, and everyone loves a cupcake with a little something on top.

Teddy Bear Ice Cream
No picture of this sweet treat. Sorry! But it is also a wonderful way to make good use of that cookie cutter. We thawed, then refroze ice cream into a foil pan. Then when it was time for ice cream, we pulled out our trusty cookie cutter, and used it to "scoop" the ice cream. There was a little trial and error (1.take the ice cream out and let it sit for a bit before trying to cookie-cutter it. 2. Warming the cookie cutter under hot water first really helps), but it was so so cute, and the kiddos were so excited to get a teddy bear-shaped ice cream.

 Teddy Bear Sandwiches
These were awesome! Everyone loved them, and they were so easy to make. Since bears like fish, we made tuna sandwiches, then used the same cookie cutter (we were getting as much use of the thing as we could) to cut out adorable little teddy bears. I'm still in love with this idea, and I think I will try to do it again for future parties of various themes.
Teddy Bear Smash Cake
Everyone one year old needs his or her own cake on their birthday. We enlisted the help of the boys' Meema in making a teddy bear cake, just his size. It was perfect for our little guy, and it was oh so sweet!

In the end, I'm so glad that I couldn't find any generic red and blue checkered plates with teddy bears on them. I enjoyed making this party unique and special, and I enjoyed seeing how much everyone who attended enjoyed the little touches. More than anything, I love that I can show my little Teddy Bear pictures of this wonderful day, and tell him that his mommy did this all for him!

Nolan's 1st Birthday Party: One Year and Ten Days in the Making

Big Brother!
Every mommy dreams about, and dreads their child's first birthday. Party planning tends to be one way to bury the sadness that your baby is growing up. Nolan's first birthday came with an extra side of sorrow, when I realized that it fell on a conference day (meaning I would be working through the evening hours). Knowing that this is probably our last, first birthday party and that his actual birthday would be one I would spend away from him, I went full force into making his party a special day for both my boys, as well as Joe and I.

Cookie Decorating Table
I spent over a month planning for Nolan's big day. We came up with the perfect theme, and created several crafty projects to make the day fantastic. We were all looking forward to it......then life happened. Three days before Nolan's party, Liam got a fever. We had planned to go out on a family field trip the Friday before the party, since we wouldn't be able to celebrate on the big day. Because of Liam's fever, we stayed home. We kept hoping he would get better in time, but when Saturday rolled around and he was still feeling crummy, we decided to cancel. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make so far.

Every one of Liam's birthdays have been awesome. Joe and I have taken the day off every year to do something fun, and his parties have always gone off without a hitch. Now, poor Nolan. Mommy works 10 hours on your birthday (the first one!), then we cancel our family outing, now the actual party! It made me feel horrible!

Joe was fantastic in helping me see that we could salvage the situation. We quickly came up with a plan to reschedule for the next weekend (in between two other birthday parties). We were so lucky that everyone was able to come, even with the very short notice. Then life hit again. One week, to the day, of Liam's fever beginning, Nolan started acting uncomfortable. We were going to have this party, even if it meant that I would give flu shots, antibiotics, and vitamin C as party favors, so we rushed him to the pediatrician to try to get him healthy ASAP.
Nolan's cake
We were relieved (as relieved as you can be to hear that your child is sick), to find out that he had an ear infection and would be given antibiotics to help kick it in the rear. At least he wasn't contagious and we could treat it! By the time his party rolled around, his ear infection was better, but the antibiotics were making him quite sleepy/spacey. We had his party and it was awesome, even if he looked like a zombie the whole time.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating our Teddy Bear's first birthday! It meant a lot to us that you changed your plans, just for him. We have such amazing people in our lives!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Red-Eyed Return

Back before Liam was born, there were two years when a mysterious and persistent rash occurred around my eyes. Both years, the redness began right around the holidays: the first, the week before Thanksgiving; the second, on Christmas Eve. The rash began the same way, a pin-prick sensation all over my eyelids-top and bottom. The intensity of the pin-pricks quickly went from an annoyance, to a burning sensation. It felt as though the skin around eyes was sunburned and chapped. They were dry, peely, and sometimes swollen.

My dermatologist, primary doctor, several specialists, an ophthalmologist, and my Thyroid doctor, all tried to figure out what could be causing this occurrence, as well as a treatment which would cure, or at least, help treat it. I went through countless topical ointments, natural lotions/creams, allergy tests, and even a biopsy, with no sign of relief or answers. After 6 months (the first time), the rash went away on it's own. We may have done something that helped, but no one knew what. The only thing that seemed to help, was to be on prednisone, a strong steroid, with many side-effects. Even several rounds of this only eventually worked(?).

The next year, when it happened again, we were ready with the steroids, but still had no answers. The second time around, it only lasted for three months. Only three months!?! Only three months of looking and feeling horrible. Only three months of even more stares than just being bald warrants. Three months of sick days, missed family functions, and hiding out in our apartment. I'm used to looking "different", I'm used to the stares, but the pain of the cold, the wind, the light, were so horrible that all I wanted to do was hide out.

The next year, I was pregnant during the holiday season, and like my other auto-immune "issues", pregnancy seemed to hold off the red mask. I flinched at every tingle or dry patch the next year, but nothing came. Same for the next. Then another pregnancy. I was just starting to feel comfortable. Big mistake! I was just starting to think that something might actually have gone away on it's own. That maybe, just maybe, alopecia, eczema, allergies, and a wonky thyroid might be enough for one person to handle.

I was wrong. Over the weekend, I felt the familiar tingle. I tried to head it off with benadryl, lots of eye-approved, all-natural lotion, and extra care to not touch my eyes. It didn't work, and every day since, it has gotten worse and worse. Yesterday, was horrendous! My first day back with my students, and my eyes were sore, red, dry, heavy, and swollen. Just walking to the door of the school was a painful errand, with the cold and the wind stinging with every step.

Since Nolan is still nursing, even the ointments and steroids that helped in the past, are not an option. So, I continued to be proactive. I have put lotion on my eyes every hour or so. I take benadryl at night before I go to bed (since that's when my eyes tend to swell), and again when I wake up (to correct the swelling that has still occurred), and I am washing my hands constantly. Today, I am much better. Still red, a little sore, and the tiniest bit swollen, but I feel as though I have just a tad of control over the situation.

Although I am quite aware that I have no real control, and body will do what it does, I at least feel as though I am making progress. Hopefully, being persistent will have it's payoffs.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Selling our house was the best choice for our family, both financially and for our future comfort. Renting hasn't been as difficult as we thought. We really like our rental home, the neighborhood is awesome, and the space has been wonderful. The difficulty with the situation lies with this feeling of being in Limbo.

Before deciding to selling our home, our family had spent almost a year being 100% focused on reducing debt, budgeting, living on less, and preparing for our future. We did a very good job at it too. When we sold our home, things got busy, jumbled, lost in the shuffle. We have done a very good job sticking to our monthly budget, even through all the craziness. However, all of our extra money is no longer going towards debt, it's sitting in our bank account waiting to be our down payment.

I never, ever, thought I would say this, but I miss putting every extra penny towards our debt. It felt so amazing to know that with every month, we were one step closer to our financial goals. It was also wonderful to see the changes in our family while working toward these goals. My husband and I became closer, we are now a true partnership, and since money/things were no longer the focus, our kids benefited from more time/effort/attention. It was awesome!

We have still carried these priorities with us into the rental, but since our focus is different, it feels different. We are ready to get back on track, but to do that we need to find our home. This is a bit of a chore in that, we don't want to rush our decision, the buyers market is quite slim, and we are still very unsure of the area we want to live in.

Wish we could focus on both
We have considered staying in our rental for a year or two, to help pay down debt, really take our time finding our forever home, and figure out what we really want, but we have quite a few big issues with this option as well. The commute is horrible for Joe, our rental costs as much as our previous mortgage (especially with the added commute for both of us), and most of all, we want to be settled for our boys. Liam starts kindergarten in a year and a half, and we want to be where we are going to be by then. Also, moving has been hard on Liam. He still says that he misses our old house, he asks to paint/decorate is current bedroom, and he misses Sherwood.

We don't know where we will end up, or where we want to end up, but one thing is for's not Limbo!