College Move-In- What You Need To Know

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The decision has been made! Wahooooooooo!                So now what?!

I can’t believe it’s been six months since my oldest decided where she was going to go to school. It both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago, which speaks to how busy the last few months have been. Here you’ll find some tips on what to do as soon as the big decision has been made, the best way to tackle move-in for out-of-state parents and some great dorm extras.

First things first, do these 3 things RIGHT AWAY!

  • Pay deposit for school AND housing ASAP if you haven’t done so already (I suggest paying the housing deposit on your child’s top two as soon as they get in)
  • Book hotel and flights (if necessary) for move-in and Parents’ Weekend. Hotels in college towns book quickly and prices go through the roof!
  • Join the university’s parent groups on Facebook. They are a tremendous resource.

The Prep

For us, shopping before hand wasn’t an option since we were flying to Tallahassee from Connecticut. This caused me great deal of stress in the months leading up to move-in because I couldn’t wrap my head around how this would work, logistically speaking. After countless hours planning and organizing, here is what worked for us.

First, we did something called a “pack and hold” at our local Bed, Bath and Beyond and chose the pick up location to be a store close to her school. We waited until their college event because they offer you a 20% off your entire order coupon which can be used again and again until October 1st (as you can imagine, that was a God send!). The great thing is you can add anything and everything to your list and then, when you go to pick up, you can decide what you still wanted and what you no longer needed (you pay when you pick up).

When we flew down, my daughter packed in three large duffles. She brought a lot of clothes and shoes and a handful of personal items. We also had a few things that we had picked up for the dorm because either they didn’t have at Bed, Bath and Beyond or she just really liked it (I also hid away her “Open when…” cards and gifts in a small storage ottoman). She did not bring any toiletries because we planned on buying everything there. We also placed a large order to DormCo for their desk hutch, a mini-refrigerator shelf and some other random things. I set this up to be delivered to the UPS store on campus and then paid a small fee to have them deliver it directly to the dorm.

 

We arrived in Tallahassee the day before move-in. After checking into our hotel, we picked up everything at BBB and then did a major Target run for everything that was still on our list. The car was packed and we were exhausted after a day of travel and lots and lots of shopping. We washed all her bed sheets and blankets in the hotel so they would be ready to put on the bed the next day.

The Day is Finally Here 🙂 😦

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Unfortunately, my daughter got stuck in the oldest and smallest dorm on campus. In order to make the best of the situation, I watched many “dorm tours” of her particular dorm on youtube to see how kids had it set up (just go to youtube and type in the name of the college and the particular dorm and it most likely will pop right up). This was a life saver!

When we entered the room, we knew exactly what to expect and how we planned on arranging the beds. I had ordered a carpet from the school so it was waiting in the room for us. My husband started to arrange the beds and put together stuff and I put on my gloves and started cleaning the bathroom.

There were a few things we didn’t expect and that we forgot so an additional Target run and BBB run were necessary- plan on that.

With a lot of time spent online (if you’re not familiar with Pinterest, now is a good time to check it out) and some hard work and $$, we managed to turn a very small, blahhh room into something cozy, comfortable, and perfect for our girl.

 

 

Dorm Extras

You can easily find a million lists of the necessities to pack for college so I’m only going to mention the “extras” that I thought were really helpful or just very nice 🙂

 

Tapestries (Urban Outfitters has a ton to chose from) and lights are also a must these days. Since her closet did not have doors (WTH?), we used a pole and a shower curtain and it worked great.

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Finally, this “snack hack” using an over-the-door shoe organizer was a big hit from the moment it was filled 🙂 (this is the pic she sent me today- I’m loving that they keep it filled!)

I won’t even begin to get into the emotional aspect of move-in day- that’s another post for another day!

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Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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A fun new Cuban restaurant in Garden City with live entertainment – food was good, drinks were better, entertainment was best!

The most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had.

SERIOUSLY.  If you’re near Barclays, you must check it out!

After I enjoyed the ice cream above, I decided to kick spring off with a week of clean eating. I used to do this every month but fell out of that practice a few years ago. It’s a great way to to get back on track. Here is a great reference on meal prepping which helps A LOT.

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I also made this healthy dinner (which I make only when my husband is traveling because he would disagree that it is actually, in fact, a dinner).

Kick off Spring by trying some of these 5 rituals

Preparing for the College Application Process- A Timeline

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It’s crazy to say but I’m almost done with the getting-into-college process. My daughter will be making her decision in the next few weeks. She has already been accepted to two of her top choices so we are all breathing a little easier. I wanted to take some time while everything is fresh in my head to write down everything I’ve learned over the last few years during this often confusing process. This is a general timeline that I wish I would have had a few years ago. I hope it’s helpful!

Middle School

In middle school, your child’s grades (for the most part) won’t show up on their high school transcripts but this is the time when study habits are formed and  academic tracks are set. By now you should know what type of student your child is. Spend these years closing any gaps in their education, developing independent study skills and making sure they are on the right track, whatever track that may be. In the district where I live, all students begin a language in 6th grade so in 8th grade it’s considered an advanced level high school course, all students take Algebra in 8th grade and all are given the opportunity to take Earth Science, typically a 9th grade course (we have optional self-selection). Potentially three classes in middle school will appear on students’ high school transcripts. There is no doubt that taking Earth Science in 8th grade will put them on an advanced track for high school but many students are not ready and that’s perfectly OK. The door is not shut- they can still take honors/AP science classes down the road. A note on districts that allow self-selection for advanced classes- I highly recommend choosing classes based on teacher recommendations. If you are surprised or disagree with the teacher’s recommendation, speak to the teacher to understand why they feel the way they do. They may offer an insight that you don’t have. 

High School

9th and 10th grade-

  • Encourage your child to join many clubs and participate in many sports to see which ones they like. Basically, they should try out everything, especially if they don’t have a “thing”.
  • Familiarize yourself with which core classes are offered for each year and come up with a plan, knowing that your child may deviate from these courses.
  • Encourage your child to start building their relationship with their guidance counselor. You should as well.
  • Monitor grades very closely at the beginning of the year, especially in advanced classes. Be aware of the drop dates and level change dates.
  • Consider tutoring or test prep for regent exams because these grades will be on high school transcripts.
  • Plan your child’s summers for the next three years. As it was explained to me at a college workshop, your child has three summers to use to showcase their interests and passions.
  • At the end of 10th grade, your child should apply for leadership positions in the clubs and activities they like. Anyone can join a club but not everyone will hold a position.
  • Attend all college nights your school offers. Its valuable information that you can bank away.
  • Find out how many community service hours your child needs to graduate. Encourage them to get started.

Summer before 11th grade

  • Decide which standardized test your child will be taking. Gone are the days everyone took the SATs. The ACT is just as prevalent and one test might be a better fit for your child than the other. Make sure your child takes a practice test on both, compare scores and discuss with your child which one they preferred. Note- if the school doesn’t offer a practice ACT test, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to take one at a local testing center.
  • Begin test prep. Will your child have private tutoring sessions? Join a group class? Take an online course? Decide now and begin.
  • Find out the SAT and ACT dates for the coming year. Write them down!

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11th grade-

  • The beginning of 11th grade (usually October) your child should take their first test. Register right away for the second test. Each test is scored differently so your child should plan on taking it at least twice. When registering for the tests, you have an option to send scores directly to schools. DO NOT DO THIS. Yes, it’s free and you can save a few bucks but you don’t want scores to be sent to any schools without you seeing them first.
  • Aim for finishing all standardized tests this year. 
  • With your child, begin compiling a list of potential schools. Some things to consider are in-state/out-of-state, public/private, distance from home, large/small school, city/rural, greek life, specialty programs, and graduate programs offered. After her Junior Conference (a conference with the student, parents, and guidance counselor- if your school doesn’t offer this, then I highly suggest you request one yourself) we added and subtracted a few schools from our original list. I then created a spreadsheet to organize the potential schools’ information. I made columns for average GPAs and test scores, rankings, tuition/room costs, and application deadlines. One thing that I wish I would have known is that many private schools with hefty tuition costs offer lots of merit aid. We then narrowed it down to two “safe” schools, two schools that were right at her level and two “reach” schools (we made these determinations by looking at average GPAs and test scores for admitted students). Then at the last minute, three more schools were added for various reasons, which I’m guessing is fairly common for most families.
  • Plan college visits. This is a great way to spend Spring Break trip during Junior year. Some schools do factor in demonstrated student interest in their decision so make sure to find out whether the schools your child are interested in looks favorably on visits and plan accordingly.

Summer Before Senior Year-

  • Encourage your child to complete their college application essay. Essay topics usually get released very early in the year. Check the Common App site for 2017/2018 prompts. In many schools, students work on an essay in their English class in 11th grade so your child may have an idea of what they’d like to write about. You can hire a specialty tutor to help your child with this but make sure they are guiding your child and not writing the essay for them. Admission officers say time and time again that they can tell when a student writes the essay versus an adult. High school English teachers often tutor students in this area so that may be a good place to start if you feel your child needs help.

12th Grade

  • As soon as possible, your child should apply to any schools with “rolling admissions”.
  • Aim to apply to all schools by November 1st if possible. My daughter managed to get four out of 8 done by 11/1. She is still waiting to hear back from the other four that were submitted after November 1st. Otherwise, she would have been able to make her decision by January! It’s tough waiting when many of your friends know where they will be going.
  • Your child should express interest in the college(s) they really hope to attend. They should reach out to the admission reps for their area and introduce themselves. If they have specific questions regarding programs, encourage them to email the department heads. If they can’t visit, an email requesting information shows that they are interested.
  • Celebrate the acceptances! There’s not one school your child MUST get into. There are hundreds of colleges and rest assured, your child will get in where they belong.

Thinking about college is both stressful and exciting for us parents. Knowing what lies ahead and having a solid plan in place will help you deal with the anxiety. Now I can shift my stress to her actually leaving…

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Have Baby, Will Travel- traveling with an infant under 6 months

First post in awhile! Life’s been pretty busy with five kids, go figure 😉
I’ve actually written a few travel posts previously because I love traveling and we frequently travel with our kids but, let me tell you, I was quite stressed about traveling with a five month old! We had a trip to Florida planned when Jules was about five months and then a trip to Puerto Rico planned a few weeks after that, just shy of her turning six months. What did I really need? How would I keep her on any type of schedule? Would it be enjoyable for any of us?
Well, after the two previously mentioned trips, I’m here with exactly what you need and what worked for us.
The Gear, Specifically For Babies 6 Months and Under~
Infant car seat and base
Snap and go (or similar)
Large bag to gate check car seat and base
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Travel Sound Machine- a lifesaver!
Packing for the Baby
I packed each “day” outfit, complete with socks and a headband (of course), as well as pajamas, separately, each in large ziplock bags. At this point I didn’t see a need for “night” outfits for her.
I also packed in 4 separate ziplocks—
1. Three extra complete outfits
2. Swimsuits, swim diapers (two for each day), her sunscreen, and her bug spray
3. Bibs (two bibs for each day)
4. Medicine (thermometer, teething tablets, gas drops, cough syrup, vapor rub, saline spray)
Ziplock full of medication- none of which we needed, thankfully!
In our checked bag, I packed an entire, unopened can of powered formula, her daily food (not much at this point), extra spoons, an entire unopened pack of diapers and wipes, the mat that she loves to lay on, and quite a few toys. I picked up this mat for our PR trip and I can’t say enough about it! It was perfect for her at six months because she was rolling all over the place and it’s huge. I can see us using it later at the park and beach as well.
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Jules on her favorite mat in Florida, before she was rolling over
Traveling
First, check everything you can. We checked our own bags, including a suitcase packed exclusively with the baby’s stuff mentioned above and her travel crib (I highly recommend the Lotus crib- super light weight and very easy to put up and take down). We carried on a very well-stocked diaper bag, plus a backpack with extra bottles, formula and the ziplocks with the medicines (all under 3.5 ounces) and the extra clothes just in case we were delayed or our bags were lost.
We elected not to buy her her own seat. I figured at this point she’d be in my arms regardless. I was lucky enough to have a friend who had a spare infant car seat and snap and go so I borrowed that instead of bringing our own. Most people will need to bring their regular car seat and base and snap and go, which would still work beautifully. We used this throughout the airport and gate checked it right before we boarded the plane. We put the car seat and base in the travel bag to keep it clean and prevent damage.
On the plane, she was pretty good. We timed the flights to coincide with her nap time so I fed her during take off and she fell asleep shortly after. Normally she sleeps for two hours but she slept for about 45 min both times (one sleep cycle) and then was up. I don’t normally use pacifier clips but they are so necessary when traveling so the damn pacifier doesn’t keep falling on the floor. I definitely had to walk her back and forth a bit when the crankiness began but overall all she did great.
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I’m in love with this travel crib!
Schedules
I am the first to admit I can be a bit neurotic when it comes to schedules (this is what works for us; no judgement whatsoever to all the non-scheduled babies and mamas!). Jules is a great napper and sleeper and I attribute that to her consistent daily schedule so I wanted to keep to it as much as possible without sacrificing our vacation. Here’s what worked for us~
  • 7:30am- Wake up at normal time. Because there was an hour difference in PR, that meant an hour later- score!
  • 7:30-9am- After her morning bottle, I’d get her dressed and take her down for a walk around the hotel while I grabbed coffee and breakfast. We’d check out the beach and pool area and it was nice and quiet. This was actually one of my favorite times of each day.
  • 9am- Time for her morning nap. I’d put her down, then quietly sneak out for my alone time by the pool/beach (leaving my hubby sleeping- must be nice!)
  • 10:30- she’d typically wake around 11 so I would come back up at this time. By now, my husband was up and ready to go down to the pool. He’d leave, I’d get her up and fed and then bring her down to hang with the family at the pool/beach. We’d all have lunch and by the time she was ready for her afternoon nap around 1, I was ready for a break from the sun too. I’d put her down and read my book or take a nap, depending upon how many cocktails I enjoyed by the pool 😉
  • 3pm- She’d wake up, have her bottle, and then we’d do our afternoon activity (we checked out the rainforest and Old San Juan in PR and visited family in FL)
  • 7pm- Dinner for all of us. I’d already have her in PJs and feed her her bottle at dinner. She’d typically fall asleep during our dinner but transitioning her to her crib wasn’t an issue.

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Bottles
This was the part I had the most difficulty wrapping my head around before the trip for some reason but it really wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be. I picked up this great travel bottle washing kit and drying rack and these microwaveable sterilizing bags and packed enough bottles for a full day, plus one, which meant we had to wash/sterilize bottles every day. I designated my husband in charge of this and he did great. He set up a nice area on the counter (bathroom in FL/small kitchen in PR), using lysol wipes to wipe everything down, and made space for clean/dirty bottles. Then, every night, he’d wash the bottles in the sink and then sterilize them in the microwave using the bags. It worked perfectly. We stocked up on bottled water upon arrival and filled the bottles with water so they were ready to go for each feeding. She is ok with taking bottles at room temperature so we didn’t have to worry about heating them.
Fun?
My final concern was would these trips even be enjoyable. Admittedly, traveling with a young baby is definitely more work and not as relaxing. However, what can compare with your baby’s first time going into a pool or watching their expression as waves touch their feet for the first time? Nothing! The older kids had a blast and we created some very special family memories, which to us is the point of family trips. It was fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
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First time on the beach
I hope these tips help if you are planning a trip with a young baby.
xo,
Tanya

What’s your MISSION?

A Mission Statement

 In most businesses and schools, a mission statement is developed to help ensure that everyone is focused on a uniform goal. It’s always been my belief that if we don’t know what we’re working towards, we’re standing still. I’m a mover and shaker so standing still isn’t my thing.

After becoming a stay-at-home mom three years ago, I struggled a lot with my purpose. Now by purpose, I certainly do not mean the day-to-day to-do lists that fill all of our lives. Go grocery shopping. Drop off dry cleaning. Get a car wash. Ughhhhh. Yes, these things have to get done but they definitely do not provide anyone with a sense of true accomplishment. I was looking for more. I felt I was blessed to have this time with my children but wanted to have a clear understanding of my goals related to myself and my family. Hence, the idea of drafting my personal mission statement.

Now, what goes into your personal mission state is, you guessed it, personal but I’ll share mine with you.

Mission Statement

To nurture myself, my husband, my children, and my pets with wholesome food, kind words and positive energy. To contribute to my children’s schools and my community with my own unique gifts. To be the woman I want my daughters to be~ active, educated, and cultured. To continue to read, learn, grow and be reflective and to surround myself with positive people who share the same goals.

I took this mission, typed it up and printed it and put it in a pretty frame. It now sits on my desk where I look at it often.

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It’s always a good idea to have a clear focus on what you’re working toward, especially within in your home. Have a lovely day!

xo,

Tanya

Dinnertime Organization

When I first got divorced, I vowed to continue to have sit down family dinners every night. This was a staple in my home growing up and I wanted my girls to have the same great memories of sitting around the table and discussing their days, while enjoying a good, home-cooked meal. This was no easy task given I was a single mom to two young children while working full-time and tutoring most afternoons until 5pm. I would then rush to pick my little one up from pre-school and get home around 6, just in time to face the ever-stressful dinnertime dilemma. Necessity is always the mother of invention so I developed a process of meal planning that helped me considerably. Even though I now have more time on my hands, I still use this system because hey, it works!

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On a Saturday or Sunday morning, I sit with my cup of coffee, my folder full of recipes I’ve torn out from magazines, my personal cookbook (more on that in a minute), and my computer so I can pull up recipes I’ve pinned on pinterest (follow me here!) and plan my meals for the week. I make a quick list- M, T, W, T, F and plan full meals (usually adding one or two desserts for the week) for each of the five days. For each meal, I list all of the ingredients I’ll need on my running grocery list which I keep on my phone.

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Recently, I’ve taken this one step further by listing all the meals on this great chalkboard I found at Home Goods. I also add a quote of the week that we spend some time discussing (it works great for discussing literal meanings versus the deeper meaning most quotes have). We also do something called “high/low” where each of  us talks about the high of our day and the low of our day (the lows are always interesting…I have found that here you’ll hear things that wouldn’t normally get brought up).

Now about that personal cookbook- it’s really important in my house! This blank cookbook was given to me by my grandmother when I first moved to college. She told me to fill it with the best recipes I could find and I take that task very seriously. Since I enjoy cooking and like to try new recipes, I scour recipes online, on pinterest and in magazines and try them out on my family. If the comments are “it’s ok” or “it’s good but it’s not great” we toss it. If everyone loves it, it goes into the book. The book is now filled with my family’s favorite recipes and both girls have asked numerous times about getting the book when they move out. I figure I’ll convert it into a hardcover book when the time comes and I already know how much they’ll cherish it. Find something similar here.

I usually make two to three recipes from the book that are tried and true and two to three new recipes each week. This way the girls always have a few dishes to look forward to and new dishes and foods to try.

So that’s how I do it and I have to say, dinner is one thing I don’t stress about. 15 minutes on a weekend morning and a few minutes here and there looking for recipes is all it takes to have 5 well-planned dinners throughout the week.

xo,

Tanya

Planning Children’s Birthday Parties

Spring is here which, for me, means Easter, April Fool’s (I just love pulling pranks on my two girls, especially because they never see it coming), and my older daughter’s birthday. She’s turning 14 this year and, although the parties have changed a lot through the years, it’s still important for me to find a way to celebrate her in an age-appropriate,

fabulous way.

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Here are a few of my time-tested party tips.

  • Choose a theme– In my opinion, this is the most important part because it touches on all other aspects of the party. Sometimes your child will now exactly what they want and other times it may be easier to start with a color scheme and work from there. We’ve done a Spa Day, a Movie Première Night, a cooking party, costume parties, probably every Princess imaginable, BBQs, a New York Yankees party, a Luau, and this year will be a “Pjs and Pancakes” party.

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Everyone dressed up, even the teachers, for my daughter’s Fancy Nancy party!

  • Invitations– If you are at all crafty, here is your time to shine. Using a computer, pictures and simple graphics, you can create a one-of-a-kind invitation for your one-of-a-kind child. If that seems too daunting, choose some paper from a local invitation store (or on-line) that already has the graphics and just add the wording. Make sure the invitation reflects the theme, includes all pertinent info, and your cell number, just in case parents need to reach you on the day of the party when you’ll inevitably be running around like a crazy person.
  •  Venue– Often times, the theme and the venue go hand in hand. If you are hosting a small party, I love doing it at the house and keeping it as simple as possible. Other location ideas are~

Parks, beach, pool
Roller skating/ice skating
Movies
Kid-friendly restaurants (pizza places and ice cream parlors are great)
Birthday party places
Laser Tag
Skate parks

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For our Spa Party, the girls were treated like VIP’s with limo service from school to the party.

*Remember to consider the time of the year. If your child has a summer birthday and you are planning an outside party, make sure it is a water party or that the children will have an opportunity to go indoors at some point.

  •  Keep it small– when it comes to kids parties, the smaller, the better. Experts recommend one friend for each year of age so a seven year old’s party should be limited to seven friends. Now, we now this is not always possible, especially when kids are younger and there is pressure to invite the whole class. I’ve done both and I have to say, the birthday child really does enjoy the smaller parties more. They are surrounded by their intimate friends and really enjoy the interactions. Especially with girls, the child may feel pulled in different directions concerning who to play with and sit with and etc. The age guideline is just a suggestion but it’s a good place to start. If your child really has more close friends, by all means, include everyone, but try not to feel obligated to invite everyone.
  •  The devil is in the details– The tablescape is important so start planning early. The table should reflect the theme as much as possible. Make sure you have tablecloths (I always go with solid colors and chose fun plates and other table decorations). Here is where Pinterest is a Godsend. No need to reinvent the wheel when there are so many creative ideas ripe for the taking!
  •  Goody bags– Again, keep with the theme, if possible. Stay away from little plastic toys that parents will throw away as soon as their child is not looking. I’m doing slippers for the favor for my daughter’s party because it is a sleepover. Funky shoelaces, hair accessories, and nail polishes all make great favors (Sorry that this is all geared towards girls- it’s all I know!).
  • The Cake…or not? Think outside the box~ ice cream cakes are always a hit, as are cupcakes, and I’m going to try a donut cake (idea found on Pinterest) this year. Don’t forget fun candles or even sparklers.

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My daughter’s cake from last year

  • Memories– Charge the camera and video camera (if you use two separate devices). If possible, put someone else in charge of taking pictures, as you’ll be busy managing the party and being the “hostess with the most-ess”. (A good girl friend comes in handy here, as this is not a favorite task of husbands. Maybe agree to be each other photographers for your children’s birthdays!)
  • Music– No matter where the party is, good music always creates a fun atmosphere. When my younger daughter had a gymnastics party, I created a cd of her favorite songs that the gym could play instead of whatever music they had on hand. It’s an easy way to personalize a party experience and sure to keep the kids singing along to the songs they love!

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 I hope these tips help make your next birthday party planning a bit easier. Are there any tips you have learned along the way? I’d love to hear them!

xo,

TFab

If you only do one thing this week…organize your photos and home movies

We all have something that never leaves our to-do lists. Something that we just work around because, for one reason or another, it is a daunting task that we just can’t bear to get started on. For me, it’s organizing … Continue reading