Throwing a block party is a great way to foster feelings of fun & connectedness amongst your neighbors. It’s also a great way to break the ice and meet people you might not otherwise meet. Don’t be intimidated to be the first one to step up and coordinate- everyone loves a good block party and you’ll be surprised how great the reward is for a little work on your part. Here are some tips to help:
1. Get Input on a Date & Go With It. Picking a date can be the largest obstacle for some. It’s hard to nail one down because inevitably great people won’t be able to come, whichever date you choose. Put some feelers out there and then just move forward with what works for the majority of people you talk to.
2. Make a Flyer. This is one thing I didn’t want to delegate because I personally enjoy a little graphic design. We distributed ours through our Homeowners Association management company. See if they’ll mail everyone a hard copy versus an email version. I use google image & Picmonkey.com.
3. Create a Sign-Up/ RSVP. For one, this will give you a gauge as to how many people are coming. But also, people are more likely to come to something they’ve committed/ RSVP’d to. We used Sign Up genius which I liked because people could also sign up for which side they were bringing. It also gave me the emails for every person coming so that I could email them a few days out with last minute details.Please comment below if you have something else you prefer!
4. Budget/ Food. My theory is that people like to participate. And we didn’t have a lot of money to pull this thing off. So, we asked people to volunteer- which they did GENEROUSLY. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re willing to run with something. If they don’t want to, they can say no. You might be surprised though- a lot of people want to feel involved. We also had everyone bring their own main dish, plus a side or dessert to share. We are considering food trucks for the future, but the downside is that I think that people like the feel of a potluck dinner. We’ve also considered catering the main dish and having people chip in a few bucks. We’ve also considered a shrimp boil, which I’ve done with another group. Last year, we did a fish fry, which was a blast. But similar to the shrimp boil, it does make a for some extra work for those working the fryers.
5. A Bounce House is Key. If you have kids in your neighborhood, I can’t emphasize enough what a big hit this is. Nowadays, a lot of people own bounce houses because you can pretty much buy one for the same price as renting one (around $200). We actually had TWO this year! We were fortunate that our next door neighbors were willing to volunteer theirs for the smaller kids… and Century 21 has one you can reserve for free. One neighbor reserved it, picked it up, set it up and returned it. Amazing.
6. Greeter’s Table & Name Tags. Our first year, we had no one to officially greet people when they walked up, so some people just kind of wandered around. We saw it was hard for people to break into groups/conversations if they didn’t know anyone. This year, we had a welcome table where we could greet each person, give them a name tag, further instructions about the food and encouraged them to introduce themselves to someone new. We also had people write their address under their name so that we could have a general idea of where people lived as we mingled- especially helpful if you found someone just a few doors down! If you are more administratively bent and less of an upfront person, consider asking someone with a more outgoing disposition (even better if they’re already connected in the neighborhood) to be the official greeter at the welcome table.
7. Take Pictures. People love to have their picture taken. We tried to get a picture of everyone who came through the line (although I know we missed people) and asked if they’d feel comfortable if we posted the pics to the Neighborhood Facebook group. Hoping this creates a sense of connectedness and belonging as well. If you have your hands too full that night, assign someone else to the Greeter’s station to take pics.
8. Have a Bathroom Plan. For the first few years, rather than pay for a porta-potty, we offered our house for those who needed a bathroom, as did our next door neighbors on the culdesak. If you’re coordinating down the street from your home, make sure you ask (don’t assume!) if you can use the bathroom of the nearest house. Some may feel uncomfortable with this for a variety of reasons, including if they have babies or small children they need to put to bed before the party ends. In that case, respectfully figure out plan B. Now that it’s grown so big, we’ve decided to get a couple porta potties (the company we’re using is charge $150 for 2 and will deliver them and pick them up the next day).
9. Music. Music is a powerful tool that brings joy & sets people at ease, so don’t let this be an afterthought. If you delegate this, ask someone who will choose fun, familiar songs that are also appropriate for kids if they’re around. Consider making a long playlist on Spotify.
10. Get Others Involved. This is a big deal. People will feel way more connected to the neighborhood if they’re personally invested and have served even in a small way. These are some tangible needs you may have in addition to those listed above:
Also, utilize social media. Our neighborhood has a Facebook group, so I was able to communicate with a core of about 40-50 people. If you don’t have a Facebook group, consider starting one for an easy means of communication.
At the end of the night, I heard several people say how connected they felt and how much they already loved the neighborhood. Just by throwing a party, you can literally help people build relationships, feel safer and less isolated in their home. I hope this gives you some vision- as well as some steps- to reach out to your neighbors and make some new friends.
Good luck & let me know how it goes!
To read my thoughts on some of the why’s behind The Art of Neighboring, read my guest post on the Every Square Inch blog.
For those of you who went to a Block Party growing up, what’s a fun memory you have?
I’m a huge 4th of July person. And part of that is because my birthday is the 5th.
A couple of years ago, when I had more time, I made a bunch of 4th of July party decorations- chair covers, fireplace banner, star “wreath” for our front door, etc. It was fun pulling everything out again this year and since I know some of you out there are always looking for holiday decoration ideas, I thought I’d share. Happy Summer!
What’s a cute idea for something simple I could do to add next 4th of July?
When we got married, I was so excited to register. We went to Pottery Barn & Bed Bath & Beyond and got our little gun and went nuts. Everything was pretty straight forward- plates, pillows, platters and silverware. But when we got pregnant for the first time with Ginger, I remember getting online, going to babiesRus and thinking, “What the heck IS all this stuff?!” Thankfully, a friend forwarded me an email that 7 or 8 different moms had replied to, in which they all chimed in about what they did and did not need with their two cents on the best baby stuff out there. This is my version of that email to you.
SnugRider Stroller- Let’s start with the most important: the stroller. I have two strollers that I have used a TON. The first a base that my Graco SnugRider Carseat snaps into. It is extremely lightweight and easy to use. Baby Trend has a similar one called Snap N Go- not the one I have, but same idea. You don’t even have to take your baby out of their carseat- just (literally) snap and go. I recommend looking on Craigslist before you buy it new for $80 (I got mine for $15) but either way, trust me- you will like this.
Phil & Ted’s Stroller- I am extremely passionate about the Phil & Ted’s double stroller. This is for when your baby outgrows the infant car seat. I HIGHLY recommend getting it from the start. The doubles kit is detachable, so you can use it for just one child. It is narrow and streamlined and pretty lightweight. The major downfall is that it’s expensive, like very expensive. I got mine used off the Denver Craigslist one summer for $200.
Car Seat- I got the Graco Snugride because I liked the stroller concept (see above). But it truly has been a great car seat, 3 (soon to be 4) kids later.
The Woombie- I swear by the Woombie (ie: Baby Straight Jacket) and prefer it hands down to any swaddle. There is no extra fabric that can cover their face to cause suffocation because it zips. I’ve worried with every child that they would have a hard time sleeping without it and so far, no problems. The Swaddle Pod also works.
Glider- I didn’t skimp on my glider. In fact, it was the group gift from two different showers. Five years later, I still LOVE it. So many sweet memories. I couldn’t find the exact one, but this a similar style in a different color. Funny how a simple chair can hold such special memories, especially late night ones.
Bidet- Yes, I said bidet on a baby gear post. But if you had one, you would put it on here too, I promise you. Long story short, my parents have one & gave us a high end one for our wedding (HA!) complete with a remote control. It rinses you with warm water (my parents have a seat warmer and built in dryer as well). For mamas who are adopting, some of this may not apply, but listen to me- you still need this. And you never knew it was a need until now. For the rest of us moms, this is your at home “sitz bath“. At the hospital, they will give you a little squirt bottle and a portable bidet to keep your bottom sanitary after all the trauma you’ve endured. Coming home to this convenience after having a baby is… wonderful. It is also great for just keeping you clean down there on a regular basis and well, honestly after sex. So there you have it. You do need an outlet in your bathroom near the toilet and though I can’t personally vouch for this one, I know they sell them for cheap ($26) on amazon and it has 1000 reviews, so apparently I’m not alone. Just think about it.
The Right Coffee Table- And by the right coffee table I mean the right toy box. Having a giant chest for a table allows our family room to double as a playroom by day, but turn back to a quiet living space at night. This was probably the best $200 we’ve spent yet.
Pack N Play- Don’t be an idiot like me and buy the heaviest one you can find just because the pattern looks like gucci. I want to kill myself every time we take a trip, which is constantly. Consider these lightweight options: Phil & Ted’s Traveller (still $100 cheaper than the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib) or the more affordable option, but works better for kids around 3 yrs- The Pea Pod.
Swing/ Bouncy Seat- My first swing was huge and took up a ton of space. When Pearl was born, I got a Fisher Price swing/vibrating bouncy seat combo. I really like it. It doesn’t go side to side, but other than that, I love.
Breast Pump- Some friends of ours got us the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (double electric). It’s nice. If you have a friend who has one, you can also consider buying new tubing and using theirs. This is also convenient for long car trips if you have a car outlet adapter.
High Chair- Again, I like small & streamlined, so I’ve liked the Fisher Price Space Saver because it reclines. But June is 8 months and I’ve switched her to the Fisher Price Booster Seat. These are also obviously great for traveling. If you don’t want to do a space saver, but still like small, try Ikea’s cool looking Antilop chair.
Baby Carrier- I liked the Moby for the closeness, but it did get hot in the summer. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the Ergo, that they love the back support. And I really like the way that looks. It is pricey, so we opted for the Moby.
Diaper Bag- The key to a good diaper bag is this: POCKETS. Especially side pockets, but just lots of pockets in general. I got mine 4 1/2 years ago so it’s no longer available, but I’ll post a pic so you get the general idea. It’s the Fossil Key Per Coated Canvas Utility Tote. I like that it stands up and I can put my coffee mug on one side and a bottle on the other. I keep 2 different sized diapers in the pockets in the front. It has a ton of room and 4 large pockets on the inside as well. I tried a couple other ones before this that just didn’t work and haven’t seen anything like it since. If you’ve found one you love, post in the comments.
Cloth Diapers- They’re not as weird as you think- they go on & velcro just like real diapers. But you do have to be willing to get your hands a little dirty. We did bumGenius diapers with our first two. We registered for 25, which was plenty and just used disposable wipes. I loved doing cloth diapers and highly recommend them. I just chose to stop doing them for a while because they are a big time commitment and I couldn’t keep up with so many little ones at once. But if you are able to get them as gifts and even use them for your first couple children, it’s a major money saver (especially if you have an HE washing machine) not to mention it’s awesome not throwing all those diapers away. Speaking of diapers, no one ever told me about cloth SWIM DIAPERS! I just discovered them a year ago. I will never buy swim diapers again!
Diaper Cream- You’re not supposed to use diaper cream with cloth because it can strip the absorbency of the inserts, however… when I needed to, I used Beudreauxs Butt Paste.
Crib Sheets- You’ll need 2, maybe 3. Make sure they fit the mattress. I have a couple that are annoyingly small and I get int a fight with them every time I have to put them on.
Small Thermal Cooler Bag– For bottles & breast milk. The hospital gave us one for free & it was nice to have.
Other- 3 Changing pad covers, Bathtub & support insert, Bobby Pillow, 1-2 padded pack n play sheets, car seat head support, playmat, exersaucer, bumbo, burp bloths (at least 7 or 8 if not more), binkys(?), Bassinet & sheets (something easy to borrow), Dr Brown’s Slow Flow bottles (glass or plastic), bibs, baby spoons, sippys….
What I didn’t need:
Diaper genie- No. I recommend a small trash can for pee diapers and keeping plastic bags in a drawer ready for poopy diapers that you can put in the garage.
Changing table- You really don’t need one. Just a dresser that you can put a changing pad on and you’re good.
Sheet savers, lap pad & waterproof pads- I’m not even sure what these are & you don’t need them.
Crib soother- our kids used sound machines instead.
Car mirror- I always wanted this to work, but it never really did for me.
Jumperoo- I know some people swear by these, but I just used our exersaucer.
Wipe warmer- Seemed a little high maintenance but what do I know.
JJ Bundle Me- EVERYONE told me I needed this. And again, I wanted to use it a lot more than I did. But they’re kind of a pain to get on and off and a blanket works just as well.
Video Baby Monitor- I know people who couldn’t live without these, but I got freaked out by a segment I saw on Good Morning America about hackers who could see into your baby’s room and sometimes even talk to your baby. Needless to say, I didn’t get one.
On a not-so-side note, this stuff adds up. In Columbia, we have a Facebook group called Como Moms Exchange were 2,000 moms buy & sell used stuff. It’s like an ongoing garage sale, except I can see if we have mutual friends. And because of it, my girls have a Barbie Jeep, two bikes, scooters, and lots of other fun things. Check & see if your town has one & if not, consider starting a group yourself.
What Baby gear do you have that you have loved? Do you have a diaper bag you love?
I know birthday parties can sometimes be overwhelming for Mom. But for me, I look at it as an opportunity to have a creative outlet, which I don’t always make time for. When Pearl turned one, we did a “Girls in Pearls, Guys in Ties” theme and it was so much fun, I started thinking in themes. Ginger & Pearl’s birthdays are only a few weeks apart, so I decided to save on food & make things easy on myself by combining both their parties into one. And since these little years won’t last forever, I thought it’d be fun to do something with nursery rhymes. The food was fun to do because it was so easy to find corresponding nursery rhymes to “match.” I used google image to make some labels on my computer & printed them off for everything including water(!) Here are some pics:
We ordered our Mother Goose cake from Kathleen Gardner, who runs a local place called Tartelette. It far exceeded any expectations I had! And our amazing friend Maria made the cupcakes, which were phenomenal!
I also made (& froze) some cookies ahead of time. I’d never made royal icing before, so for an amateur, I was super pleased with how they turned out. For the tutorial I used, click here.
Most of the decorations were made from old plywood we had. My husband put his jigsaw to use and helped me with the shape and then I used the kids’ paint to create a Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Clock tower and Cow Jumping over the Moon.
Games: We played “Pin the Tale on the Black Sheep” with cotton balls and had a Humpty Dumpty Piñata. Ginger & Pearl actually helped make this- it was fairly simple to do and they LOVED being involved.
Lastly, the favors I kept super simple. To keep costs low, I used construction paper & a stapler and leftover candy from the piñata to make little Humpty Dumpty treats.
Finally, I also made a wooden Dish Ran Away with the Spoon Photo Prop (could’ve also been used for a bean bag toss).
Overall, it was a blast… and such a sweet & memorable theme these two.
What was a memorable birthday theme you had growing up?
Let me begin by saying that I went to preschool when I was two. I think it’s a great thing. We just aren’t doing it. And it’s not that we plan on homeschooling- we don’t. In fact, at this point, feel pretty called & compelled by the vision to be involved in public schools. For us, it’s a couple things. For one, there’s the cost of sending 4 kids to preschool in a 6 year time span- it can be expensive. And more importantly, for me- I figure, they have the rest of their lives to be in school, but I have a short window where I have all day to invest in their little hearts & minds. And I’m up for it. Obviously though, I also want Ginger to be prepared for kindergarten in a year. So, for anyone out there who may be in a similar boat as us, or for the mom who is just looking for a few ideas for how to be intentional with young ones, here are a few tips & thoughts:
There have been so many things that have surprised me about myself since becoming a mom. One of those things is how much I’ve enjoyed making the kids’ baby food. I’m no health nut by any means, but it’s nice to know exactly what’s going in their little bodies. Not to mention, it saves a lot of money in pre packaged baby food- and it’s super easy.
I highly recommend a website called www.wholesomebabyfood.com. I have used this site a TON over the last five years and it continues to be an amazing resource. There’s info on how to prepare food, allergies, age appropriate food charts by month (when to introduce what)… and honestly any question I’ve ever had about food for my littles has pretty much been answered on this website. I like to do a ton at once as you can see. This morning, I did pears, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, acorn squash & peas. (The broccoli & peas were frozen- another way to save a bit). All in all, it only took a couple hours & I have tons of food now in my freezer!
If you have older kids & can’t think of how you’d have time to do something like this, let them help!! Above, Pearl is helping me take the seeds out of these acorn squashes. Then we poured a little olive oil & salt on them and roasted them for a mid morning snack. At times it’s overwhelming having so many littles at home, but they LOVE being involved and helping in the kitchen any chance they get!!
If you’re thinking about trying your hand at making your own baby food, don’t be intimidated- if I can do it, you can do it! good luck & enjoy!
What motivates or intimates you about making your own baby food?
When I was in college, my mentor Jane gave me some feedback: “You’re good at a lot of things, but service is not your forte.” Ouch. Ever heard the phrase, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy”? Yep, it’s true. I have had to learn the hard way what Tim Keller describes as the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It’s that certain upside-downness to the Kingdom of God: “He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
I used to sit across the table from Jane in a Starbucks with my Bible learning these things. Nowadays, my discipleship comes in the form of three little ones demanding my time & attention, stripping away any last shred of patience and the will to act like I have it together. When my kids are throwing temper tantrums in public or I’m covered (literally covered) in poop, it seems impossible that I could have any pride left. And yet, there it is again. So I am mindful that my children and current circumstances have become my teachers and disciplers. And while the lessons have become more humbling and exposing, I see it as a good thing. Instead of allowing myself to be crushed under the standards of trying to be that perfect mom, I drink deeply and daily of the grace of God. Believe me, I need it.
As my kids grow and become more aware of my flaws, I don’t feel the pressure to try to hide or defend my shortcomings. I say to them, “There’s only one Jesus and I’m not Him. I need Him just as much as you do and all the rest of us.” Rejecting the urge to self-defend or self-deny, I put myself in a vulnerable place. A place where I must refuse the Momguilt and at the risk of repeating myself- embrace the grace.
[Side-note: I define Momguilt as shame felt over failure to be all things to all people at all times. When you’re working, you feel like you should be playing/spending time with your kids. When you’re focusing on your kids, you feel guilty that you should be cooking or cleaning your house. And so on & so on. I remind myself that I am finite and have limitations, therefore I cannot be all things to my kids or anyone else.]
Speaking of embracing the grace, I will be doing lots of more of that in the coming months. Current snapshot: It’s a Saturday morning. My 8 month old Juney, is sleeping and Ginger (4) & Pearl (2) are fighting while they watch Dora. And we found out a week ago that we are cooking a fourth. Ummm, what are we thinking??!?!? People tell me I’m crazy and honestly I agree- HA! What better time to start a blog, right? 😉
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from caring for a little one?