A Spooky Halloween Night

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Happy Halloween! This is it, folks–the night of childhood dreams. Grab your brooms, light your candles, stock your candy. I love Halloween–but that’s obvious because holidays are my jam. To be honest, I think we all have a little something extra when it comes to chromosomal makeup, and we figure out what it is along the way. Mine definitely includes some kind of over-the-top enthusiasm for Halloween, but enough about me. IT’S HALLOWEEN!

This is the first year we did a Halloween party, and because I could not come up with anything more original, I called it SPOOKY PARTY but always said it dramatically and with a British accent and followed by a dracula laugh  (moo-ha-ha-ha-ha).

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I turned Lainey into a witch in this picture using Pic Monkey, and Brett’s dad printed it for me for some festive fireplace party decor.

When I went to Utah a few weeks ago, one of the moms was telling me all about the Halloween party she does every year, and I was so inspired, I stayed up in my hotel room googling Halloween-inspired food and ordered a fog machine. That’s how these things start. Whatever the case, we had so much fun. It even felt–dare I say–a little bit like a night at Hogwarts. Dash had his own sleepover with his grandma that night, so it ended up being a girls’ party. And the morning of, Lainey woke up early, came and found me and said, “Mom, I’m so excited I can’t sleep.”

Cue Harry Potter theme song, cue fog…

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We served a full dinner of Halloween-inspired food including a witch wart potion that smoked and bubbled all night (I’ll never do Halloween without dry ice again!).

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Turns out spaghetti is super easy to die black. Just cook pasta as usual, and then soak for about 3 minutes in a big Ziplock with a little bit of water and several drops of black food coloring.

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The bat bile was a mint mousse that turned out delicious–just heavy whipping cream, melted white chocolate, powdered sugar, and a little green food coloring and peppermint extract.

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As for decor, the  Target dollar spot was ON POINT this year–flasks and beakers and test tubes, graveyard stones and almost everything else we needed. Throw some inexpensive spiders and snakes in the mix, drape some spider web, blast a fog machine, and everything turns spookatacular.

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Radioactive bat poop favors (Nerds).

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The brain cupcakes were super simple to make, and I swear I don’t mean that in a Martha Stewart “it’s so easy, all you need is 10 professional pastry bag tips, a blow torch and 6 free hours” kind of way. It’s just two shades of pink frosting. You frost the dark layer on first, gently slice a knife to make two hemispheres, and then pipe the light pink frosting on with a big Ziplock bag. (also, not my idea–found these on Pinterest).

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Madame Zelda came to the party too and set up a fortune telling boot.

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And giggling little girls all in witch hats, eating around the table in a mist of fog and illuminated by candlelight? BE STILL MY HEART. Magic.

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The fortune telling ended up being a huge hit. They all lined up and took turns as Madame Zelda read a fortune fish for each girl (have you tried them? So much fun!), and then looked into the crystal ball to see their future. I made up fun tales for all of them and included some that Lainey had written for them earlier–like “Tonight you are going to do the Dab Dance with a skeleton.” It is pretty easy to make fourth grade girls giggle. I’m not sure we can pull that off in another couple of years, but it’s fun while it lasts.

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We got this $20 plasma ball to use for our crystal ball, and the kids loved it. It’s definitely something fun we’ll tuck away and pull out for parties again.

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Little Ivy was all big eyes and 100% belief for her reading. It was precious.

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A few of our Instagram stories from the night:

The girls also made witch balm for their lips, and everyone got to take home their own tin. It’s a great party activity, is pretty easy to make, and kids have so much fun creating their own flavor concoctions. We made the balm from this post–four simple ingredients, and it’s my favorite lip balm. I keep a tub of it in my kitchen cupboard, and it lasts me forever.

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And what’s a sleepover party without s’mores? Halloween style, using black widow egg sacs instead of marshmallows, of course ;o) We love our indoor s’mores maker.  It’s so much fun to have for sleepovers and cozy movie nights–or breakfast, har har. Speaking of sleepover, does anyone have any tips for how to get a bunch of girls to STOP TALKING AND GO TO SLEEP?! Brett kept coming out and asking me, “Aren’t you going to tell them to go to sleep?” And I was all, “I did. Five times.” YONO. (you’re only nine once)

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A few easy ways to transform a party into a witchy good time?

*Switch out light bulbs with green ones–found in the regular light bulb section and a cheap transformation.
*Buy dry ice! We got a huge chunk of it at Publix for $12, and popped pieces throughout the night into our witch potion punch which kept it bubbling and fogging all night. You can also drop a small chunk into individual glasses–better with bigger kids as you don’t want little ones touching the actual ice.
*Fog machine. You’ll use it every Halloween. Makes everything look spooky.
*A candleabra. It added the perfect Halloween touch to our table and made for a great centerpiece. Very Hogwarts. The more candles, the better.
*A spooky playlist. You can find a ton of Halloween playlists on Spotify, from Monster Mash to Thriller.

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And the best part? We get a whole ‘nother round of Halloween fun tonight. Grab your brooms, witches!

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And a favorite Halloween post from the archives: Our Storybook Halloween.

Have fun tonight!

Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts: A Pool Party Celebrating 9 Years

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I introduced a friend to Parenthood for the first time last night–which feels a bit like leading someone to a secret island where there is buried treasure you know will change their life. As if the show isn’t already emotional in that ‘Parenthood will GUT you’ sense, we watched it together–me, on the night after celebrating my first born’s 9th birthday; her, stretched across my couch, her hands resting on a small hill of a belly where her first baby grows. For three hours (yeah baby, three episodes in a row), I felt turned-inside-out, more than usual, from the very thing that tied it all together in that moment–Parenthood, literally and figuratively. I was inclined to be the obnoxious person who keeps interrupting a good show with condescending explanations and commentary–“It’s really like that, just wait and see”; “Uuggh, this part makes me cry–I’ve so been there.”; “She loves her kid so much–can’t you just feel it?”–but I didn’t because no doubt my friend already feels it, and also I try hard not to be that girl. So I stayed quiet, instead calculating the fact that I have been a mother for a mere quarter of my life now, but cannot even remember what it’s like not to breathe love every moment of every day for someone that belongs to me–at least for a little while. Mother time weighs more than real time, so let’s just say I’ve loved this child for half my life.

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Over the past nine years, I’ve saved a few trinkets that define her current year, stashing them in a big bag in my closet with the hopes of one day, years from now, stumbling upon it–maybe with her as we pack her bags for college or gather up her things for her first home or search for treasures for grandbabies–and suddenly remembering, “Oh my God! Zhu-zhu pets! You loved these! Squinkies! You had 100 of them. Shopkins–Lainey they were your world!” She grows and graduates from small windows of her life–quicker than ever now–while I pause to reflect on how much joy that little phase brought us. From the butterfly rattle to the Elmo doll, through My Little Ponies and Fur Real Pets, to Rainbow Loom bracelets and Shopkins. These little loves are reflections of the big loves that will one day embrace her and carry her into the world–the studies, the places, the people, the passions. But for now there’s charm necklaces and sticker books, and swimming and crafts. She wanted the latter two to team up for her birthday party theme, so it was “Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts” this year. A little from our 9 year celebration this past weekend…

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We set up three craft tables that didn’t require any mom help:

Design Your Own Water Bottle

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bulk neon sport water bottles, Sharpie oil-based paint pens

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Decorate a “Pool Tote”

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…and Make a “Pool Tile” Necklace

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I love using these “jello shot” containers for parties. They work great for making individualized kits for each kid. These had an assortment of glass beads, a pre-cut necklace cording and a clasp to tie once finished. Kids rotated stations on their own, and it was smooth sailing and mess free–just the way we like it.

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The big hits were the pool floats (pretzel pool float, pizza float)

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…and the money dive game. My dad brought a big bag of change and scattered it all over one end of the pool. We set the kids free to collect it all, and the top two amount winners won beach towels, and everyone got to keep their change. Winner strategy was definitely to go straight for the quarters.

Super easy and inexpensive party favors–dollar section packs of lipgloss; tuck one and a few pieces of candy in a little paper bag (Michael’s), seal with blue glitter washi tape and paint on some glitter waves.

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It’s our last single digit year…to many more charms on her necklace. xo

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Dash, Three Years: A Dinosaur Party

Our boy turned three yesterday and in keeping with Things Sentimental Moms Do on Birthdays, I went into the baby folders and stared at pictures of him tiny–literally just sat there staring, trying to connect picture to memory, tiny lips to the way they felt when I kissed them, long wrinkled fingers to the way they fit in my hand, perfect little head to the weight of it resting on my chest–I remember, I remember, I remember like it was yesterday. And here we are, those tiny feet graduating shoe sizes every few months and those long wrinkled fingers stamped with ink from the stamp pad he found in my office this morning. It feels like he tore through these three years, growing faster than any of my kids ever did, talking quicker, investigating further, chasing after anything that hints of adventure. We love his fierceness and celebrated it jurassic style this weekend with a Dinosaur Party.

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I had so much fun planning this party, knowing how much Dash and his friends would love it. And decorating was easy as most of our decorations and “nature table cloth” came from foraging our yard–plants and palm leaves. There are lots of pictures here if you’d like a little splash of celebration on a Monday. If you’re looking for more specific party inspiration, I saved the details and links of products for the very end of the post.

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My father-in-law has a very large printer as he prints a lot of his own photography in large scale. He surprised us with this poster size print of Dash, and it made the perfect backdrop for the outside dinosaur festivities.

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The food was so much fun to make for this, and Pinterest had loads of ideas for cute ways to incorporate dinosaurs. And a late afternoon party gives you a little more flexibility with what you serve–snacks and sweets as opposed to a full lunch. The Bugles were gone in five minutes and the adults kept asking, “Where’s the Bugles?” because everyone forgot they existed all these years.

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(these nests were super easy to make–a large package of marshmallows, a box of Shredded Wheat–the big squares, torn up–and a stick of butter with some chocolate eggs inside).

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My dad came early to help me, and when he asked “What can I do?” I pointed to the watermelon and half-joking suggested, “Think you could carve that into a T-Rex?” And then he did, without even batting an eyelash.

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Why yes, I served the kids jello shots. Sans alcohol, of course–and they loved eating them with tiny spoons.

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(The cups were super easy to make–just draw some nostrils with Sharpie and hot glue two googly eyes on the front and a strip of card stock cut into scales onto the side.)

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Making Dino Snot (directions and printable label here)…

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He smiled so big when he first saw his cake. And now I want to cram chocolate rocks on the sides of all my cakes because it hides all the flaws.

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My dad also made these adorable “dinoculars” for all the kids, from PVC pipes.

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We took the kids for a dino hunt into the woods where 5 inflatable dinosaurs were hidden on the path, including the grand finale, this giant T-Rex balloon that’s weighted just enough to make it glide.

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Dash loved it, but it took Nella a while to get used to it.

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We were roaring (har har–get it, roaring?) from all the fiasco with this thing. First, it’s huge which automatically makes it funny. But it MOVES which makes it funnier. And then when the wind would pick up and depending on how it was blowing, it would take it to the sky for a minute (lots of screaming and laughing and imagining how one would react if it landed on someone’s windshield while they were driving) or make it RUN. Like fast. It was trucking down the street so fast at one point, I was chasing it and laughing the whole time thinking how hilarious this must have looked to passersby.

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Also hilarious? Gary took Nella inside to read books for a little while, and we weren’t paying attention to the fact that the dinosaur floated on its own over to the window where they were reading. Gary came out frantically yelling and laughing, “You guys! The T-REX! THE T-REX! Are you serious?!” By the end of the party, she was dragging it around and laughing though so all is well.

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The kids’ favorite? Digging for bones. My dad built this sand table where we buried a bunch of dinosaur skeletons, skulls and several geodes. The kids were given paintbrushes and shown how to gently sweep and carefully search for bones like real paleontologists.

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And Dash thought it was hilarious to make Grandma feed T-Rex.

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We celebrate and love our kids all year long, but what fun it was to remember three years ago by going back 100 million years to celebrate. Happy Birthday, Dino Dash.

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Party Deets:

Food
Dinosaur Fossil Cookie Cutters
Chocolate Rocks for cake

Dino Decor 
Jumbo Dinosaur Set by Learning Resources (We bought this as a gift for Dash and used them in decorating. These dinosaurs are really great quality, a fun size, and Nella and Dash love playing with them.)
Mini Dinosaurs–72 dinosaurs for $8. Fun for favor bags, decorations, etc.
Bamboo Fence backdrop (you can get one for around $10 at Home Depot in the garden section)
Kids Safari Hats
Dinosaur Balloons, Triceratops Mylar Balloon

Dinosaur Bone Dig
12-piece Dinosaur Fossil Skeleton Set
Dinosaur Skulls
Geodes

Dinosaur Hunt in the Woods
Inflatable Dinosaurs: Triceratops, Stegosaurus, T-Rex
Paint brushes–Home Depot

And it just so happens dinosaur prints are trending everywhere this spring.
Dash’s Dinosaur Shirt–Mini Boden
Nella’s Big Bang Theory Dinosaur Shirt–Happy Family
Lainey’s Dinosaur Skirt–H&M
My Dinosaur Bones Neclace

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And dinosaur roaring and growling are trending in our home right now…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thankful for three wild years with our adventurous one.

Happy Monday.