Saturday, March 28, 2015

An awesome Minecraft Birthday party!

Zoodle will be SEVEN tomorrow! He is passionately into Minecraft, and for the second year in a row, he's wanted a party with that theme.

A month or two ago, he told me, "I want four stations at my party." Then he went on to tell me the four game/activity stations he'd dreamed up. Well, who am I to say no to a six-year-old party planner? It all sounded doable, so I got to work.

Or that's how I wish it had gone! In reality, Zoodle gave me his ideas; I said, "Uh huh, that sounds good;" and then weeks later I realized his birthday was sneaking up on me, so I frantically planned a party in just over a week. Whew. Despite my procrastination, it went great!

First, I made invitations (with Zoodle's real name on them--this is an edited version!)

I had these printed on cardstock at Office Depot (and later found out I could have had them done much cheaper at the UPS Store, so take note!) They turned out really cute. (I'll give more info on making your own at the end of this post.) Zoodle wanted to invite his whole class plus other friends, so we printed plenty.

This morning I set up the four stations Zoodle had suggested. At each station I hung up a sign--see below. When kids came, they played outside, and then we put 4-5 kids at each station.

Theoretically, we were going to switch every ten minutes, but it ended up being a little bit closer to a free-for-all. It was still fun though...maybe MORE fun than if it had been super-structured! Other parents helped at most of the stations.

Station 1: Pin the Sword on Minecraft Steve

The day before the party, I looked up a picture of Steve and drew it on poster board, and Zoodle colored it. I purchased a digital Minecraft coloring book for $2.99, then printed and cut out a whole bunch of diamond swords. (I traced one of the swords on the poster board so we could judge who'd placed theirs the best!)

The kids really enjoyed it, especially since each group had a winner who got a prize (a box of candy.)

Station 2: Minecraft Crafting Table Game

I found an image online of the top of a Minecraft crafting table, and printed a bunch. We put them in a square, and had kids hop over them. If they touched a crafting table with their foot, they were out. Whoever got the furthest in each group got a prize.

Honestly, this was the least popular of the stations. I think if we'd taped down the crafting tables it would have gone better. But the kids liked the prizes (again, boxes of candy.) And I commend my kiddo for making up a new game!

Station 3: Coloring Minecraft pages

Who knew? Coloring is still a super-popular activity in our digital world. I printed the digital coloring book I'd purchased, and the kids went to town.

Station 4: Cookie Decorating

This station was a big hit! I used a sugar cookie mix to make large rectangles (basically like big cookie cakes), and then I cut them into squares once they were baked...because it's Minecraft, so cookies must be square! We gave the kids lots of topping choices...Biscoff spread (made from cookies), grape jelly, two types of frosting, and a big variety of sprinkles.

I told the kids they could decorate two--eating one, and bringing one home. We had little treat bags for them to put their cookies in, plus a Sharpie to label the bags.

The kids got more outdoor play time, and then they came in for pizza. After pizza, we had cake. I made a cake with two green layers, one darker than the other. As cake decorating goes, a Creeper cake is ridiculously easy!

Then it was present time, and Zoodle got enough Minecraft and Lego stuff to make him thoroughly spoiled, in a geeky, Minecraft-y, Lego-y sort of way!

I'm swearing off cheapo party favors, so here's what we did instead of a goodie bag full of toys that will break the next day. I found some cool Minecraft stickers on clearance at a bookstore near me. I laid those out on a bookshelf near the front door, and as kids completed coloring pages and cookies, we added those to each child's stack-o-stuff. (We also put candy there when the kids won it.) So each kid got a fun sticker, plus two things they'd made themselves.

All in all, it was an awesome party! I'm glad Zoodle had so many good ideas, and I had fun putting it all together. (Next year, I just want to start earlier!)

In case you're having a Minecraft party and would like to make invitations, signs, etc., here are some resources.

Green Minecraft background: I made this; you're welcome to use it in any way you want. Just right click, and select "Save Image."

Fonts: I downloaded two free fonts, MINECRAFT PE (available here with some other choices) and Press Start 2p (the smaller font, available here.) Minecraft PE is a transparent font; I had to fill each letter with white using a photo editing program. I also added a drop shadow to it.

If you're having your own Minecraft party, have a Minecrafterrific time! (I wanted to put that on the invite, but it got vetoed by Zoodle!)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Social issues (No, this is not a political post...)

Chickie will be NINE in four days.


That's one year short of double digits. I'm not sure how that's possible, since I certainly haven't gotten nine years older since she was born. 

(My gray hairs just called me a liar. Oops.)

Chickie went back to public school this year, after two years of homeschooling, and honestly it was hard for her to make friends at first. But everything changed (literally overnight, which was super weird and super cool) right before Thanksgiving. She started hanging out with two kids in her class, a girl and a boy. I've been at the school a couple of times lately, for lunch and for the winter party, and my mama heart has felt very happy seeing her happily hang out with these kids who clearly like her.

But kids aren't the only ones with "social issues." I've got my own insecurities. I remember feeling lonely as a kid, feeling like I didn't belong. I gradually gained confidence, and I have some great friends now. But I still sometimes feel socially insecure, and I easily project that onto my kids.

My heart has broken, watching Chickie struggle to make friends. She is learning to be more confident and to reach out to other kids, but it's a process--a process I have more trouble being patient with than she does! More than that, Chickie is not me. I've realized that she doesn't feel a need to have a friend in every situation. She may naturally be far more introverted than I am.

When Chickie told me she only wants to invite three kids to her birthday party, I was sad. If I only had three friends to invite to a birthday party, I'd feel like I'd somehow failed socially.

But that's not how Chickie sees it. She could make a longer list if she wanted to. But instead she wants to focus on the three friends she is closest to. She told me her room won't get as messy with only three friends at the house! She's okay with it--more than okay with it. Happy with it. I should be too.

One of our old pastors said that we're all like Legos...but we're all different sizes. If you're a big Lego, you have lots of pegs that need to connect with lots of other pieces--you naturally need many friends. If you're a small Lego, you only have a few pegs, and you only need and want a few friends. Chickie, at this point in her life, is a small Lego.

I don't want my own "social issues" to get in the way of who she is. I'll celebrate her birthday with her, and I'll try to make that party very special for Chickie and her three friends. I'm glad she feels good about her small group of friends. Time for me to relax and feel good about it too!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vaccines, ice cream, Legos, and s.ex

You may be wondering about that errant period in the middle of "s.ex" in my title. I'm just trying to prevent Google from picking up my blog for inappropriate reasons! Now that that's cleared up...

I just watched this PBS Nova episode on vaccines. It was great! Chickie watched with me; she likes science. Zoodle watched most of it too, while he played with Legos.

There is a segment on HPV, which led to one of the kids asking what it means for a disease to be s.exually transmitted. For us, it led to a good, natural, age-appropriate conversation about s.ex.I haven't always handled s.ex conversations with my kids perfectly (I'm remembering one particularly horrid one right now), but my ideal is for s.ex to be something we talk about whenever it is natural. I don't want the conversations to be a huge deal, because I want them to feel comfortable talking to The Engineer and me as they get older.

The results of today's conversation? Chickie wishes babies were made by eating strange-flavored ice cream, and Zoodle didn't have any questions; he just wanted to show me what he was making with his Legos. When a s.ex conversation includes ice cream and Legos, I think the kids must have been pretty comfortable with it!

You can watch Nova: Vaccines: Calling the Shots by clicking here.