Thursday, June 27, 2013

Charlie's "Science Is Awesome" 9th Birthday Party

Don't all things begin with a desperate need to buy themed vintage stamps from an etsy shop???? How could I ever resist? :)

It's taken a while to blog Charlie's ninth birthday party because I was waiting until it was featured on Hostess with the Mostess which finally posted on the same day I flew to Boston WITHOUT my laptop! They had told me it would feature at the end of the month so I was not ready or prepared at all for a mid-June feature! And of course, I had to wait an additional five days to get home from B-town to even access my images! Crazy times! :)

I started planning Charlie's party back in November. The second Henry's Monster Party wrapped, my talented party-styling girlfriend, Rachel, wanted to know what was next. We asked Charlie to give us a theme to start working on -- and he said "LEGOS!!". That didn't really work for us. There are too many lego parties already out there. It might've taken a little persuasion to get him to decide that what he reeeally wanted was a chemistry party. :)

Rachel runs RV Parties with her BFF and partner, Victoria. They design the most adorable printables for pretty much any party theme. You can buy the science printables from this party as well the monster printables from Henry's party -- or a variety of many other themes - HERE at their etsy shop! You'll also see lots of my photography there. I'm their favorite professional photographer.
I was seriously & intensely proud of the large chalkboard that we used for our backdrop at the dessert table. I knew two things: 1., there was NO WAY that I could handwrite anything on any chalkboard and have it look adorable - not to mention, I'm way to OCD to have the font on a backdrop not completely match with the party design/font, and 2., I did NOT want to buy a new, giant chalkboard and then have no idea what to do with it when the party wrapped.

But, thats why engineering prints from Staples are the greatest thing in the whole wide world. Yes. You heard me. The greatest.

If you need something printed in a very large size (this one was 36x48) but don't want to pay your child's college tuition for it - and it happens to be a black and white image - then head to Staples. I had Rachel design a large print to look like a fake chalkboard and had it printed for $6. Then I tacked it to a corkboard that I already had hanging over my desk in my office. Perfect.
We had so many amazing treats on our dessert table!

Miss Lulu's Sweet Treats sent us the cake pops atoms on a stick. They are the best cake pops I've ever had in my entire life. No joke. I *might* have lied to a couple of the children who asked if they could have one and said they were for display only so there'd be a few leftover. And the chocolate-dipped Oreo Molecules were her idea and I looove how creative and perfectly themed they are!

And the amazing Jessica of J&J Bakeshop - local here in VA - provided us with the perfect cookies decorated to look like the element of Charlie!! She is so talented, y'all. I ordered specialty cookies from her for Christmas gifts last year and I encourage you all to find a reason to need cookies just to see what she can do!

And I made the cupcakes because I'm a cupcake snob now and can only eat the cake that my BFF, Mandie, makes or the cake my BFF, Mandie, taught me how to make.
I was also really proud of my party favor idea! Last summer, I taught Charlie the Mentos + Diet Soda reaction - read about it here - (so many links in this post!!). He loved it so much that I figured it should either be an experiment at the party or the favor! Since it's pretty messy and doesn't take very long to react, I figured, favor it is! I think it's always best to send the messy stuff home to the parents. Just like it's always best to serve the guests all the sugar RIGHT before the end of the party. :)
Did you know that lab coats are RIDICULOUSLY expensive?? And that even the costume ones for kids to play doctor and dress up with on Halloween don't even dip below $10 each?? As much as I wanted real lab coats that I'd have embroidered with guest names for the party, that's just plain insane and I could not encourage the market to continue to charge those prices! Harumph!!

Instead, I bought the 5-pack of two-sizes-too-large white undershirt tees from Target and cut them up the middle! Voila! Lab coats on the cheap!

I did splurge on party color lab goggles for about $3 each. Totally worth it. So cute.

And Charlie's adorable science shirt was a custom design by Ella Mella who rocks my world with their awesome kid's fashions.
And Henry's shirt was sent to us from Periodically Inspired! I just love how she smooshed periodic table elements together to form geeky-chic words. Henry's my precious little GeNiUS!! And a bit of a camera ham, too!

Once the house was decorated and the kids dressed, it was time to paaaaartay!

An amazing woman, Calsin, runs a business of bringing science, technology, engineering and mathemathics to parties and playdates and schools, oh my! She. Is. Awesome. She told me that if she didn't have her business, she'd set up a lab in her garage and experiment anyway! I loved it. That's how I feel about my photography. If there wasn't work, there'd STILL be pictures. Her business, STEM-KIDS, is such a great concept. Learning can be a BLAST (literally!) and parties don't have to lack brain power, either! Calsin can tailor the experiments for any party. I didn't want the party to cross sciences (OCD, much?) so everything had to stay in a "chemistry" theme. Duh. And, the experiments also needed to entertain eight very active nine year olds.  Calsin knew just what to do -- MESSY, hands-on chemical reactions that would result in slime, exploding "elephant toothpaste" and a giant bowl full of smoky, bubbly dry ice!


The kids loved this. Calsin set up a table full of the necessary ingredients and as the kids started to mix everything together, it started forming ooey-gooey slime! After they finished squishing it in their fingers, we packed up their custom-colored slime in take home bags!


Whats better than seeing foamy goo grow and grow and grow, so much so that it spills up and out of a bottle and into a tray for you to play with it!? NOTHING!
Birthday boy was the first one to pour in the special ingredient to make the chemical reaction activate! He was SO excited!! And, um, he's also incredibly cute.


I'm a creative. I photograph things. I can write fairly well. And I daydream great things. I enjoy and am awed by science but, I am no scientist. So, I have to admit that when Calsin said we'd do a "sublimation demonstration", I just blindly nodded my head like I had a clue what she was talking about.

Google and Wikipedia say that sublimation is "the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase without passing through an intermediate liquid phase." So, why the dry ice turned into a smoky gas without any water sneaking in between those phases, all makes sense now. (Can you tell I was concentrating on proper exposure and focus while she was explaining all of this to the kiddos???) Oy.
Adding in some dish washing liquid will create a giant bubble that will enclose the smoke inside of it and when it pops, the smoke explodes out! It's really fun and the kids obviously LOVED getting the chance to be the one to pop the bubble!
And then it was time to blow out the candles and for me to cry the weepy mama-cry because my baaaaaaby is NINE!!!

See the party with all our vendor info plus more of my wit and charm in describing the details (and more pictures!!) on the fabulous and well-followed Hostess with the Mostess blog HERE.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Last Day of School

Holy crap. I have a fourth grader. This is a BIG deal. I remember fourth grade. That was the year when I just couldn't stand reading Johnny Tremaine (boooooooring) so I skimmed it instead, then busted out a book report for the first time without actually having done the work (such.a.rebel). That was the year a new, cute boy came to our school and sat across from me and all I could think was that he was sooo annoying (two years later, I was head-over-heels in love with him). That was the year I first found out about the Titanic and made my mom drive me to the library so I could research all about it. (This was SEVEN years before the movie. I was totally ahead of my time). That was the year that my first friend got her first period and that was HUGE. That was the year that Mrs. Banks hid Reeses peanut butter cups in her drawer and she'd give you one if you had the hiccups. So, naturally, I faked hiccups all.the.time. That was the last year the teacher still read stories out loud to us after recess and I can remember Number the Stars by Lois Lowry almost perfectly.

Fourth grade. FOURTH GRADE! What is that!? How have I raised someone to the point that they are going to REMEMBER FOURTH GRADE!? I'm only 30, how do I have a fourth grader? Oh, crap. No, that's not even true, I'm 31. Damn it!

Look, I am not one of "those" moms. I don't helicopter. I don't want my children to like me so much that I can't control them. I don't fill their schedules so they won't ever be bored. I don't cater to them - much. But I am head over heels for them. And the last day of school is one of those times that gets to me every year where I become a weepy, reflective mess of a mommy. What is it about your first child that it's almost impossible to think about them growing up without seeing that teeny tiny little bundle you held in your arms, freshly new to life, as your heart just about exploded out of your chest? I just can't believe that it's been nine years since I stared down at those big brown eyes for the first time and realized that my life would be completely different - and 5000 times more amazing - with him in it.

I just can't believe that he's as tall as my shoulder, has big front teeth and wants gel in his hair because it looks cool. I just can't believe that he will choose to watch baseball by himself and talk about all that baseball stuff with his dad like it's their own foreign language. I can't believe that he will empty the dishwasher, take out the recycling, make his own lunch and occasionally, tell me "no!" even though he knows the consequences. I can't believe he thinks his own brilliant thoughts and has his own brilliant opinions.

I can't believe that in three short months, he's going to fourth grade.

I just can't believe it.

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My God, he's handsome.


On the last day of school, the other room mom and I brought pizza for their class lunch while they watched a movie and signed yearbooks. The teacher had allowed them to sit next to whomever they chose and all the boys were in a row, sandwiched between two rows of girls. I watched Charlie as he giggled to his friend, Cal, begged for extra pizza, and accepted attention confidently as the class called out to him as the tiger in Swiss Family Robinson came on screen, since it was his assigned animal from their big research and presentation project.

I watched and I could see... he's happy. He's a really good, really happy kid. My heart is still as full as it was when I first met him. I love him so much. I love every single thing about him. And I am so proud.

And when I watch him, I still see him with those same brand-new-mama eyes. I marvel at him. I am amazed by him. Tears flood to my eyes if I think about it too much. It's an overhwleming, all-consuming love. I still don't really understand how or why he came to me back in those days when I was so young and had no clue about a thing, but my God! I am so grateful. I am so grateful that he is in my life. And I am in his.
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And, as has become our new tradition, the last day of school means there will be a water fight! Not only is it a wonderful treat for the kids to walk home to tons of loaded squirt guns and water balloons, but it also, momentarily, takes away all the sadness of that last day. I wrote about this last year and had many, many more pictures then. It was rainy this year so I had to pack away the DSLR and turn to instagram.

Henry was, as usual, adorable. Last year, the water fight made him cry, but this year he LOVED it. He just about attacked me to help fill the water balloons! So much so that every time I'd turn my head, he'd snatch one out of the bucket and smash it onto the driveway. I was baking a cake while filling balloons and when I walked inside for TWO SECONDS to turn the pans around, I came back out to find the neighbor had stopped his jeep to tattle on Henry for ransacking my bucket and throwing about 15 of our ammo into the street. Monster.
I'd love to be able to stop time. But since it's impossible to avoid last days, I'm just so lucky to be living these moments with these amazing boys.