Black and White Party

img_7456I’m finding it very hard to believe that my big brother is 40 years old. I mean that seems so old, I still think of him as this kid with scraped knees and braces, chasing me around but he’s a grown up, a real grown man. So we celebrated his birthday in style this year, it was a pretty big year for him and so a big party was the only way to go. We did a black and white theme, which is so easy for guests because who doesn’t own a piece of clothing that isn’t either black or white. Everyone looked so great and the sweet table was pretty easy to create as I only had to incorporate two colours (or shades if you want to be technical). Here are some pics from this weekend festivities. img_7464img_7452

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The Truth About Travelling with Kids

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Here are the details: we took our 4 year old son (Ollie) and our 15 month old daughter (Jaime) to Europe for two weeks. We flew from Toronto to Paris to Stockholm, stayed for a week and then flew from … Continue reading

Small and big choices

we are our choices

Bed time routine is starting and your child needs a bath, they’re oozing dirt out of their little fingernails and you can smell the summer dust all over them. You’re having a super, hard time getting them to get into the bath. You’ve tried your whole arsenal of tricks and nothing is working, so now what? We like to call this, “the small and big choices”. Getting into the bath is a small choice, choosing to sleep at grandma’s house (big choice), picking pj’s (small choice), picking skating over swimming for Fall (big choice). Each choice, big or small has a result. Learning about “choices and results” is a very important step some of us sometimes leap past. 

The other night Ollie wanted to sleep at his grandmother’s house (she had given the ok, the ball was left in our court). We passed the choice onto the O-man, and told him that’s an example of a big choice he got to make.

Essentially the little choices we make easily, without whining, complaining, crying, swearing (oh yes, the O-man has mastered the F word – we’ll save that for another post) – little choices lead us to making big choices, all by our very selves! 

A lot of toddler/preschooler temper tantrums result from them feeling like they have no control over their own lives because so many decisions are made for them. Offering your child choices, big or small, whenever possible helps them to feel like they have more control. Letting them pick their own outfits in the morning, making choices for breakfast (within reason), picking the order of morning chores, etc – lets them feel like they have control of their life. If they’re part of making both, small and big decisions they begin to understand the concept of consequences. Life is about a series of choice and results and if we could all learn that from an earlier age we may have fewer regrets in our lives.

How to Host a TMNT birthday party!

IMG_7099So my little man turned 4 (well actually not till the 19th but that’s just a small technicality). He’s currently quite confused about how old he really is, either way he wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Party this year and thus I had to get a little bit more acquainted with the four green guys. I was pretty aware of the basics but didn’t know about some of the details, which Oliver informed me about it as we went along. sweet tableThe most ironic thing is that he hasn’t even watched the show, he just knows them from observations.  The first craft we did to get the ball rolling was his turtle shell.IMG_7026.JPG

Check out our instagram post for details on how to make it. Ollie wore the shell the entire day that we made it, went “ninja-ing” around all day, and then on the actual day of his party, he had zero interested in wearing his shell, go figure.

IMG_7089 (1)Next we planned an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt (both TMNT related). For the obstacle course we hung skipping ropes from the ceiling and then tied streamers between them, the kids had to go over and under the streamers without touching them. Then they crawled through two tunnels, walked a tight rope and then jumped over some pylons. Some of the kids were really into it, others not so much. The scavenger hunt only seemed to interest a couple of kids, which reminded me that keeping things simple is sometimes the best way to go. Visit our IG page for the details about the scavenger hunt.

IMG_7111As for the decorations, well my good friend the dollar store came in super handy. I purchased everything there, including the contents of the loot bags. For the loot bags, I cut construction paper for the headbands and then glued on googly eyes and drew mouths. IMG_7082The cups were super easy, bought green ones, then tied on streamers and glued eyes onto them. I thought for sure the kids would fight over who got which colour but they didn’t even seem to care. The balloons were also another quick and easy craft, all you need is green balloons, streamers and permanent marker. IMG_7101IMG_7032 (1)Lesson learned from this party – stick to the basics, don’t go over-planning, sometimes just opening the presents and playing with your new toys with your buddies is the best way to celebrate your 4th birthday!

Own your sh*t

water gun

You make a parenting booboo, now what? You know you screwed up, but how do you fix it?

Here’s a perfect example of this: 5 weeks after my daughter was born, I ventured out to run some errands with both kids in tow and ended up in the dollar store. My son who was almost 3 at the time wanted every plastic, colourful thing he could get his hands on and after a million no’s he asked me for a police set, I was half asleep and didn’t even look at the package and what it contained. The next thing is, we’re walking down the street and my son is holding a black gun shooting it at strangers. Ok, so I screwed up. Now what?

I had said he could get the package. If that wasn’t bad enough, we then also bought him some water guns. We weren’t letting him watch violent television shows so, why not let him be a little kid, let him play cowboys and indians, cops and robbers or whatever other good guy versus bad guy game he wants. BIG MISTAKE. In the end we had to take the guns away (obviously).

I think what made this transition easier for him is that we owned our error. We told him we had made a mistake, we had done something wrong and it was our fault. We repeated several times that “mommy and daddy made a mistake”. The lesson for him, or so we hope he learned: mistakes can happen, people make them, take responsibility for your actions, be honest about your behaviour.

Seriously we never get anywhere in relationships until we’re able to take responsibility for our behaviours, own your sh*t – remember you’re human and that means you’re going to make mistakes, be forgiving of others and especially yourself.

The Ins and Outs of Family Finances

family ins and outs

By Julia Davidson

Julia is a CPA, CA with a background in corporate finance, accounting and financial restructuring. She is also the co-founder of Murray & Bee, a parent to parent marketplace for used baby and kid gear, which was created because she and her partner wanted to buy high quality baby product at lower prices and encourage sustainable lifestyles. As guest blogger, Julia has agreed to answer your budget related questions. Please email her at julia@murrayandbee.com

The Ins and Outs of Family Finances

When my son hit the three month mark and the adrenaline I was operating under wore off, we started to have some resemblance of a routine and I had a small amount of time to myself again. This was the first time I had a chance to reflect on life as a mom and the changes that had occurred. As much as I loved it, I started to look back somewhat longingly towards my time as a DINK. It was something I never appreciated at the time but as a Double Income No Kid family, my husband and I traveled, ate out whenever we wanted and didn’t think twice about buying each other birthday and Christmas gifts. We truly were DINKs in every sense of the word. Having a baby changed that, not only because it reduced our ability to be spontaneous, but because babies are expensive and for us when I stopped working to be with our son, our household income was cut in half.

During those first three months of maternity leave, I still was buying $5 fancy teas and my diapers at full drug store prices, but as I reflected at this moment, it became clear to me that while my spontaneous travel days may be over, if I ever wanted to travel again or be able to afford certain experiences for my children, we were going to have to make adjustments. Getting our family finances in order helped ease some of the new baby anxiety and allowed us to sit back and enjoy the ride of being new parents.

Below, I share my approach to a simple family budget and some suggestions to help you feel like you are living on a larger budget than you are.

All you need to do to make your budget is take the INs less the OUTs.

The INs – What do you bring in monthly?

  • Salary: If you are back at work, determine what your monthly income is. If you also receive a discretionary bonus, my suggestion would be to not include the bonus in your budget as it is hard to predict and shouldn’t be relied to live upon.
  • Top-Up & Benefits: If you haven’t yet left work, do your research to know the specifics of what your employer offers for parental leave top-up payments and benefits. Consider the frequency and timing of any top-ups or benefits so you can plan accordingly for your leave.
  • Employment Insurance: If you haven’t yet left work, determine if you qualify for EI under maternity/paternity leave and how much you expect to receive and at what frequency. Keep in mind there are specific rules for when and how you apply, so look at the rules in advance. EI Eligibility Criteria
  • Tax Credits: Effective July 1, 2016, the federal government replaced the universal child care benefit with the Canada child benefit. If you already receive the UCCB, there is no need to apply for the CCB but if you do not receive it, you need to apply. The following link will let you apply, read more about how this will affect your family and has a calculator to let you estimate what you might receive based on your household income.  Canada Child Benefit
  • Other INs: if your household brings in any other cash on a regular basis, list it here (ie: the salary of a non-benefit taking spouse, family financial support, income from a rental property, a side business etc…)

Add this all up (after tax of course) and you have the INs.

The OUTs – What are your expenses?

List all your monthly expenses – then categorize them as follows:

  • Household: List out all fixed household costs including: mortgage or rent, property tax, average annual maintenance and car payments
  • Savings: putting money into savings in the first few years of having children can be challenging because typically your household income goes down and your expenses go up. Try to do this. Even small dollars allocated to savings every month will compound overtime and help you in the future.   Savings includes contributions to your RRSP, TFSA and RESP for your child, as well as a regular savings account at your bank. If you don’t have any of the above set up, speak to your bank about doing so.
  • Other fixed costs: List any other recurring expenses you have, such as: child care, gym/sports, team memberships, cleaning or other maintenance services, bank fees, credit card fees, insurance 
  • Semi variable Costs: Some costs are not the exact same every month so put an estimate for these into your budget. These types of expenses include cell phone, cable, Netflix, music service, internet, utilities, car gas, medical/healthcare, groceries and public transport. If you don’t know how to start with an estimate, look at your historical bills and calculate an average.
  • Highly variable Costs: These are typically the expenses that provide the most fun in life, but they are also the ones you will need to cut back on first if you need to reduce expenses and you need to watch to make sure they don’t get out of hand. These expenses include: entertainment, gifts, clothing, dining out and the most dangerous of all – daily cash spending.
  • Exceptional Expenses Initially this should also be allocated towards savings, but these savings are for specific things that you will need/want in the medium term such as, furnishing a nursery or buying a new dishwasher.

 Add this all up after tax and you have the OUTs.

The Net:

On a monthly basis, subtract the OUTs from the INs and you now know what you have left over for a budget. If you do this and you get a negative number…. start cutting back the expenses where you can. For example, plan to eat out at restaurants less….don’t worry you won’t have time to dine out much with a new baby.

 Having a budget will give you comfort that you can live within your means, which means you can focus on your baby and family.  You can still indulge in baby gear while living within your means. It just takes a little effort and some planning ahead. Here are some tips and resources to living fancy within your budget. 

  • Tip #1 – Buy stuff used: many baby items used in the first year are only useful for a short period of time. Buying used can be a great alternative to retail and you can get high quality, well taken care of gear for a fraction of the retail price. Resource: Check out Murray & Bee for a great selection of used baby and kid gear. It’s the smart way to spoil your kids!
  • Tip #2 – Borrow from friends: If you have a circle of friends who have babies around the same time as you – you can share the items, lending them to each other as the need arises.
  • Tip #3 – Be careful buying in bulk: we know deals can be had if you buy this way but kids change diaper sizes, clothing sizes and interests very quickly so you better off to buy what you need for short periods of time. This will save you storage space too.
  • Tip #4 – Prioritize what you buy: Life isn’t a Pinterest Board – you don’t necessarily have to have the perfectly decorated baby nursery and every new developmental toy. The “baby” industry is like every other one, and companies would have you believe that you will be a better parent if you purchase their products. Don’t get sucked in! You can be a fantastic parent on any budget.
  • Tip #5 – Find inexpensive activities for your babies and kids: there are many options in T.O., including the following:

Don’t forget, your kids will be happy with a cardboard box, some old measuring spoons and the freedom to roam and explore in any child proofed area – so plan your baby finances ahead so you know the ins and outs of where to spend your dough.    

Sleepover Party!

Recently we hosted a very cute “sleepover party” – which was just the theme – the kids certainly did not sleep over! We had an ice cream bar, popcorn bar, pizza making station and pillow case decorating! We also got to watch a movie on our projector, while enjoying our popcorn. The kids loved it and it’s definitely an easy party to recreate in your own home. IMG_6514The popcorn bar was super simple to make. I purchased the red and white bags from the dollar store. The white container with the popcorn and smaller candy bins were purchased from Ikea. The little shakers and the chalkboard labels another great find from the dollar store. Finally, the popcorn sign was a purchase from Michaels, it was on sale and then I used chalkboard paint and voila! IMG_6518No party is complete without a pink lemonade stand. I purchased the glass container from William Sonoma but I’ve also seen them in a smaller version available at Kitchen Stuff PlusIMG_6541The pizza bar took a little bit of prepping as I had to make the dough during the day so that it was ready in time for the party. I used the recipe from allrecipes.com – it’s pretty easy as far as homemade pizza crusts go. IMG_6545The pillowcase decorating was a huge hit, the kids could have spent much more time on this but we had so much to do! I bought plain white pillowcases from Ikea and they used fabric paints and markers. IMG_6523I found an ice cream party template from Pottery Barn and sort of recreated the look they had. I wrapped the boxes in wrapping paper and added gold fringe to them. I made the ice cream cones out of sparkly scrapbook paper and then used tissue paper for the scoops of ice cream. IMG_6533

A Tea Party!

IMG_6421My little girl turned one last Wednesday and this past Sunday we celebrated her birthday with a little Tea Party. Every detail of the party was a great DIY project. That meant lots of time management on my end to get it done, practice definitely makes perfect with these types of events. IMG_6452 12.59.40 PMThe background for the sweet table (minus the fabrics and scrapbook paper) was all made out of dollar store supplies. The burlap banner is a new item I came across recently at the dollar store and have used it for several different craft projects. The dollies come in a pack of 100 and well, you can never have too many of those! The flowers on the bottom bunting another fabulous dollar store find! The boxes that the tiered stands are on and the easel with the canvas board, also purchases from the amazing dollar store.  IMG_6426A great way to add some style to a cake is to add flowers, note though, lots of flowers are not edible and not even safe to put beside food. Baby breath flowers are ok – I checked online and asked in the flower shop before purchasing. I added a little bit of icing around the bottom of the cake to give it that finished look.

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Mermaid Birthday Party!

IMG_6368IMG_6434IMG_6380This past weekend we hosted a mermaid themed birthday party for a little girl and thought we would share some of our ideas with you, in case you want to host your very own mermaid party! We did a craft and some baking. The baking part was really easy, first the kids made cupcakes. IMG_6388

They coloured icing blue and then made mermaid tails out of fondant (they also coloured the fondant either purple or green for their tails). The craft was easy but had just a few more steps, see below for detailed instructions. The craft materials were all purchased from the good ol’ dollar store, except the acetate for the window (which was purchased from a craft store).

IMG_6460Materials:

2 blue paper plates

Markers

Star sequins

yarn

Under the Sea Foam Shapes

Wooden Clothespin

Sand

Fake green plant

Aluminum Foil

Clear Acetate (or cellophane)

Hot Glue

Directions:

  1. Cut out a hole in one plate and then paint the outside of the plate silver. Do this step first as the paint will dry while you’re finishing the other steps.
  2. Scrunch up little pieces of aluminum foil to make the balls for the porthole. Glue them to the plate using hot glue (once your silver paint has dried).
  3. To make the mermaid, use markers to draw her face and dress. Then cut out a tail from the sparkly foam and stick it between the clothespin. Glue some yarn on for her hair.
  4. Decorate the other blue plate with sand and foam stickers, glue in your seaweed using the hot glue.
  5. Glue the mermaid to the blue plate using the hot glue.
  6. Once the silver plate is dried, flip it over and glue in the piece of acetate.IMG_6373

Rosette Cakes

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I have been seeing a ton of these Rosette Cakes online lately and wanted to give it a go. I was delighted with how easy they are to make, it’s all about having the right icing tip, it really is. I’ve come to learn that as long as you have the right tools baking is quite simple. I used a Wilton tip #2D or you can use #1M, either one works. I baked a 3 layer cake and used a buttercream icing to mask the cake first. For the pink rosette cake, I did the top first and then worked my way down the sides, some people may suggest starting the other way, I think whatever you’re comfortable with. IMG_6382IMG_6389For the purple rosette cake I actually only used one icing bag and one bowl for mixing. It seemed like a daunting cake to make at first with 3 different colours of icing, but using one bag and one bowl made it super easy. I started by adding a very small amount of icing gel to the buttercream icing to get a pale purple. I filled the icing bag with it and did the first layer. Then I added a couple more drop of purple icing gel to the remaining icing. I squeezed out the leftover icing from the bag and refilled it. The first couple flowers had both purples in it but it gave it more of that gradient look. I repeated the same process for the deepest purple and voila!IMG_6390