DIY Mama: Sea Turtle "Honu" Birthday Party & Children's Party Planning Tips!

When my son turned 2 we threw him a sea turtle themed birthday party. Of course since our family lived on Kauai for a few years we can't call sea turtles anything but Honu. When our lil guy was taking swimming lessons we'd say, "Swim Baby Honu, Swim!" (We still say that actually, haha.) So when I saw the most adorable Sea Turtle party decorations at a party store I knew I had to get them!  It's a good thing he was still technically a year old when I was shopping for party stuff and he didn't have a set opinion on them. That all changes at 3. 

Here are some of our simple ideas for the party:

This pattern also had alternative napkins and some decorations that said "Baby's 1st Birthday!"  I usually buy one pack of plates in each size of the birthday pattern and then plain colored plates in the party color theme at a party or discount store. I make sure all of the children have a party theme plate. They are the one who notice those kinds of things. All of the dads, grandpa's and your own husband/sig other would be happy just eating off of their hands or putting food directly on the table. They could care less what the plate looks like. So don't feel the need to pay extra for every single plate to be in the birthday pattern. I got plain cups and added some Honu stickers on each cup (which for some reason none of the stickers are showing in this pic!  LOL!) We also had a sharpie marker and wrote each child's name on the cups.
Photo wall for the birthday boy and guests. 
I made the "banner" myself out of construction paper. I traced the letters of his name with a stencil and added some Honu stickers that I bought with the decorations. I love buying the stickers that come in the pattern of the decorations. You can use them for so many things!  The "banner" isn't even strung together. I just taped them close together. I bought the Honu picture and the palm tree at the Dollar Store (they are seasonal items.)  I made the tissue pom poms myself. The woody is a one-of-a-kind item though. My mother-in-law is a talented artist and she painted that for his bedroom. We have a surfer/beach/honu theme in his room as well.

You can move the girl off the island...

Anyway, so my MIL found a woody and took a picture of it and painted it on that thick foam poster board and then used a razor to cut around it. She was like, "it was no big deal. Just an easy little art project."  Right!  I'll leave it up to the experts. But it was a big hit for our guest picture wall and now it hangs in his room. We think it's awesome!

We booked the party room at an indoor play place and they had a king's chair for the birthday kid. It was HUGE! You can't really see the sign I made but it has my son's name and the #2 as well as some more Honu stickers. We got some star balloons in the green and blue party theme and then big sister choose the other two. She was so excited that she got to choose two of his balloons. We get them at the dollar store for $1.00 each. It's a cheap way to get a bunch of balloons!  Cheap works for me! 
Absolutely adorable craft idea I found online by talented author and artist Tammy Yee
Living on Kauai we saw her beautiful children's books all the time and read many of them when our daughter was a baby.  Here is the direct link to the Honu craft. She also makes a beautiful paper bag owl craft which we made for my daughter's 5th birthday party. It was a nature party with a nature hike and these two paper bag puppets were a great addition to our other nature themed crafts. Our guests raved about them at both parties. I followed along with her simple instructions on the link to the craft. 

We wrote this on the back of each paper bag so they were sure to go home with the right mommy or daddy who adopted them. 
Even the parents wanted to color!

Because we were at an indoor play place with a million things to do the little ones were way too busy to color during the party, so they finished them at home.
Plus most of them were just barely 2 years old so they didn't sit for too long!  That is why I only had this one simple craft and no games or piñata. The venue provided enough entertainment.  

Grammy baked and decorated all of the super yummy, homemade vanilla and chocolate cupcakes and the "Big Boy Cake" too, as our lil guy was calling it. For other parties I have made my own cupcake toppers but I couldn't resist buying these lil guys. They were just TOO cute!  

Next time I set up a photo op wall I'll be sure to stage the kids in front of it first so I can make space for all of the decorations. However, if you have ever booked a party room at a children's location you know your time is very limited and all of my elves were working fast to set things up and get the party rolling behind the scenes so the kids didn't feel too rushed. We ended up booking an extra 2 hours which sounds very expensive but it actually wasn't. We technically only had the party room for 2 hours (we eeked it out a bit though, it wasn't very busy that day) and we booked the total play time for 4 hours. It ended up only costing us an extra $2.00/$3.00 per child for the extra 2 hours of play time!  Crazy, right? I'm glad I asked about it and we were so glad we made that decision. This gave people a cushion if they were running late for the party (which parents with toddlers ALWAYS are - we are anyway) and we didn't want to feel rushed during the actually party time which is only 2 hours. How are you expected to play at the place and then have a birthday party with food and cake, games, etc. in only 2 hours? And we wonder why so many people have ADD!)
This way no one felt rushed and the kids had plenty of time to play before and after the actual party portion of the event and most of our guests stayed for about 3 1/2 hours or so and we were ready to go. It worked out well if you can fit it into the party budget. I put a few refueling snacks like raisins, juice and crackers in the goodie bag so there weren't too many tantrums in the car ride on the way home. 
Someone had been playing dress up and was refusing to let me see her face for the picture!   ;-)

Thank you for coming to our party!

Our simple lil Honu birthday party for our Baby Honu turned out super cute and a lot of fun for the kids!  

Kids Party Tips:
I'm a firm believer in keeping parties small and only inviting the kids your child sees often and enjoys playing with. This takes a lot of restraint on the parents part. Mainly mama. When the babies are a year old you can get away with inviting everyone on your list (all of the family members, friends and adults who don't have kids as well as all of your friends with kids all various ages.) When your child gets older 2 and 3 and above you should really try to stick to close relatives (grandparents and close cousins) and children your child already knows as well as kids in a similar age bracket (unless they are the sibling of your child's friend.)  For very little children I recommend sticking to a 2 year age bracket if possible. This usually means for a 2 year old it's ok to go up to 4 years old. An 8 year old will be totally bored at a party for a 3 year old regardless if it's your very best friend or not. And trust me, they will want and expect to be entertained!  Not kiddie games either. The difference of only 1 year even can make a HUGE difference with a group of very young kids playing together. This is good to keep in mind when you are planning to have age appropriate games (geared for the birthday child) and a piñata, etc.  A 5 year old will dominate everything at a 2 year olds party (and probably knock kids down as well) and it won't be fair for either child. Don't put children in this situation and then expect them to be perfect angels. It will end in tears.

Unfortunately, we went to a party once where my child no longer 'knew' the birthday child because it had been so long since they had seen each other (even though they played a lot as babies) and without going into detail, it didn't really go well because we were the only ones the birthday child didn't know really well. So it was crazy awkward for everyone. It wasn't their fault, they were just a child, but I should've listened to my gut when I was having doubts about going. 

The hard thing about that is that (thanks to Facebook) every single person who is a friend of yours with a child will expect to be invited to your child's party. This doesn't mean you should invite them. Less is better - for you and especially for the birthday child.  Birthday parties for children are overwhelming because there is a lot going on, it's usually a sugar free-for-all and it's total party overload so try to think of ways to make it easier for them. 

Hectic isn't fun. 

And having to stop playing with kids you do know to come over and give hello/goodbye hugs to kids you don't even know or don't remember isn't fun either (even though you've known the parents for a million years and you have pictures of the tow of them hugging and playing. They don't remember it. Invite them to YOUR party!) 

However, there is always going to be the, "I feel obligated to invite (fill in the blank)" maybe even a few - and that doesn't have to be as negative as it sounds. But ask yourself this: Would you invite this person and their child over for a one-on-one playdate with just you and your child?  

If the answer is no then you have your answer for your guest list. 

If you don't quite know how to let your friends know and you plan to share your child's party pics on facebook, etc., then you can blame it on the family budget why you are keeping it small. EVERYONE should be able to relate to that one. If not then I'd like to know your secrets. 

You can then say, "due to our tight family budget we have decided to keep the party very small so we are only inviting the kids we see all the time in his weekly playgroup/swim class, or her best buddies from school, etc."

We are in the process of getting ready for another birthday party around here and we are keeping it even smaller this time. Thanks to Pinterest children's birthday parties have gotten really out of hand lately. It inspired me to write this: - When we were kids you had birthday cake, punch and a few games with friends. Now it feels more like a destination wedding than a kid's birthday party.

Remember, less is more. Children will entertain themselves with a few good buddies and an open space to run, some chalk and some bubbles and toys you usually bring out when friends come over. You don't need to provide them with fabulous entertainment every minute of the party.  There is a saying to keep the guest count the same number as the age of the child. When they are ages 2-4 this can be kind of hard because you might have some really good friends you see weekly at a playgroup or something, but still try to keep it small if possible.  I hate to be harsh, but the total spaz kid who is a tyrant at playgroup becomes 10 times worse when there is sugar, excitement, overstimulation and another child's brand new toys involved. (Which brings me to an important point: Open all gifts after everyone goes home. Parents will understand.)

Remember this motto: Would you invite this person and their child over for a one-on-one playdate with just you and your child?  If the answer is 'no' then you have your answer for your guest list. 

Have fun and party on!  Oh yea, I'm on Pinterest now. I have been pinning ideas for our next birthday party. Can you guess what our theme is going to be?  Check out my Pinterest party board called,

And always you can follow me at twitter too.

Thanks for stopping by.

Coco Cana


Making A Natural Lavender Bouquet - It's Easier Than You Think!

My lil "Purple Girl" isn't feeling well today so this post is in honor of her. She loves lavender and her favorite color is purple.

Drying Lavender

There are many different types of lavender. It depends on how you want to use it, but I like English Lavender (pictured below) and think it's the best for drying and giving as gifts. I dry the leaves as well as the buds because the leaves smell just as good!  Here is a simple way to make a dried bouquet demonstrated by my 4 year old

This is for making a more casual, natural, country style dried bouquet as opposed to a tight, very uniform bouquet. Both are beautiful so it just depends on how you'd like to use it.
"Hello little honey bee. May we pick your lavender?"
Step 1: Cutting The Lavender

Cutting The Lavender

Cut the stems long enough to give yourself some room at the bottom to gather and tie. You can always cut off the excess once it's tied together if you feel it's too long. It gets bulky towards the top where the flower buds are (depending on how big you want it) so the longer you can get the stem the better. I also remove all of the leaves before I hang it because I think it looks prettier that way. Whatever you prefer. 

Removing The Leaves:

An easy way to remove the leaves quickly is to pinch the stem at the base of the flower buds with one hand and with the other gloved hand, run your fingers firmly down the stem to remove leaves being careful not to break the stem. Spread the leaves onto a jelly roll pan for drying. (Someday I'll have pictures of that, but I'm sure you get the idea.) You can cover it loosely with cheese cloth or parchment paper, etc. to keep the dust out and stick it under your bed to dry for a while. Your room will have subtle hints of lavender while it's drying.
Step 2: Gathering your bunch for drying.

Gathering Your Bunch

Once you've decided how big you'd like your bunch match up all of the ends evenly. It works best if the stems are of slightly different lengths so your bunch will "fall" out. Remove any stems that do not look right and make sure all of the buds are fresh. Pick off any flowers that might be dead and brown.
Step 3: Tie your bunch.

Tying Your Bunch Together

You can use almost anything to tie it; string, ribbon, rubber band, twist ties, etc. I like to use flower wire that you can find in the floral arrangement section of your favorite department store or dollar store. Use wire cutters and be careful if you are having the kids help you because it can be sharp on the ends. I like using wire to tie it because makes it tighter (great for large bunches like the one pictured here) and you can also twist the ends of the excess wire together to make a hanging loop. (Like I said, someday I'll have a pic of that too.) After you secure it with the flower wire you can then cover it up with a decorative ribbon or whatever you want to use. 

Hang it upside down until you feel it's totally dry. If it's damp outside I'd bring it in the house so it doesn't mold over time. It can then be placed in a vase as a dried bouquet or keep it hanging upside down like this for a more country farm look. The buds will stay purple and the stems will stay green and it will smell very nice for a long time.
A Natural Lavender Bouquet by Coco Cana

Gift Giving

These little fresh lavender bouquets make beautiful gifts for teachers and staff at your child's school or daycare. We chose to give these as fresh bouquets, so since they were pretty small I tied them together with twist ties then wrapped a wet paper towel around the stems to keep them moist. I covered that with a small piece of tin foil to keep it wet and to keep the drips inside. To keep it all together I used ribbon to tie it. I explained to the teachers and office ladies that they can put them in water to keep it fresh and then if they want they can remove everything down to the twist tie to hang it upside down as a dried bouquet. (There are about 5-6 here so they look bigger than they really are.)
Small bouquets make great gifts for teachers and staff at your child's school! 

P.S. Our beautiful, vibrant lavender bushes were cut down by the guys we hired to put in sprinklers for us this spring. I was horrified when I came home and saw all 5 of my HUGE bushes completely hacked down to tiny, bare nubs sticking out of the dirt with little bony fingers reaching up to me as if it were begging to be saved. Our gardener told us they would grow back no problem...but they never grew back. Not even a single tiny little leaf. I mean where is the Lorax when you need him? Finally after several months of looking at dead lavender bush bones my husband convinced me to let him pull them out and start from scratch. The original bushes had been there FOREVER. I was pretty sad but not as sad as my lil "Purple Girl." So our new crop of English Lavender is well on it's way joined by the French. We'll see which kind we like the best when they start to bloom. 

Lesson learned: Never cut your lavender bushes back all the way!  
They are NOT rose bushes and they will not grow back.  

"Excuse me, did you cut down that tree?"  -The Lorax

RIP my poor, sad bushes.  ;-(


Back To School Tips From One Organized Mama: The Family Command Center

There is a saying that goes for writers, "write what you know." In this case I'm writing about what I'd like to know and what I've been learning from doing research on this segment called, Calling All Organized Moms! Please Share Your Secrets!  I'm not going to lie to you, I've never been accused of being organized. Sure there have been times in my life and certain instances where I have been organized, even really organized - but as a mom in general there is a lot I still need to learn. However, I'm totally willing to learn. That is the first step!

I've received many emails and messages about the various methods moms' use to organize their household and for my first featured post on Organized Mamas, I'm super proud and excited to share with you one of the most organized mom's I know - our cousin, Jenn who is One Organized Mama! She is the wife of my husband's cousin, James and I've seen her mad organizing skillz first hand, so it was no question that I wanted to ask her to please, please, PLEASE fill us in on her secrets. Luckily for us, she was happy to!

Jenn has some really great tips for getting your house ready for the onslaught of papers, books, toys, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, playdates and school activities that come from every day life with kids, but especially when your kids are going back to school.

Meet Jenn -

Clean up after yourself. 
House elves don't work here.

Hi, my name is Jenn and I am a list making, calender keeping, post-it note sticking, red pen checker kinda gal! I am a total nut when it comes to having a calendar and list in every room and I have to make them every week and review them every morning - especially during the school year. With both girls in school, one in girl scouts, cheer and language club, plus playdates, grocery shopping, errands and various appointments, I needed to get it all together.

Home Is Where The Heart Is.

I am a stay-at-home mom to two awesome little girls - very busy little girls! Lillian is six years old and Madelyn is three and a half. My Hubby works in the Country Club/Restaurant Industry and just when I think I understand his schedule, club season changes, weddings are booked, events are planned and it becomes crazy at his place of business - so long story short he typically gets one day off a week. I try not to complain because during the summer he is usually home a lot more and well, he loves what he does and it allows me to stay home and focus on what is important... our girls. 

Jenn has a few signs in her house to remind her and her family about the important things in life. 

Always Remember To:
  • Count Your Blessings
  • Live Simply
  • Dream Big
  • Be Grateful
  • Give Love
  • Give Lots
  • Laugh Lots

How can you get away from all of the daily tasks needed to run a busy family household and still Live Simply? 

Hold tight because Jenn has some great tips for you:

The Family Command Center

I felt so overwhelmed with all of my various lists and calendars in different rooms so I knew I needed to consolidate everything to one location in order to be efficient in my organization. Thanks to Pinterest I got some great ideas on a Family Command Center!

Picture taken by Jenn H. -  Family Command Center - My Tales From The Crib - 2013  

... so this is my FCC which is my new favorite area of our house! Not only is it a monthly and weekly organizer, the girls have their shoes, toys, library and school backpacks all in one place. My Hubby has given me an official title ...other than Mom of course, I am now the "House Manager" (heeheehee!!)

Picture taken by Jenn H. -  Family Command Center - My Tales From The Crib - 2013  

Not only can the Hubby see whats going on at a glance, he can add things to the calendar too like date nights, nights he might be home early and even days he has off. The girls love it too! 

Picture taken by Jenn H. -  Family Command Center - My Tales From The Crib - 2013  

I was so tired of collecting shoes after everyone went to bed I decided to put in a shoe rack and let me tell you I have not seen a missing shoe for the past few months! Even the Hubby and I put our shoes there when we come in from the garage. 

Which saves us time getting out the door in the morning.

Picture taken by Jenn H. -  Family Command Center - My Tales From The Crib - 2013 

My favorite part of the Family Command Center is probably the labeled baskets. One for each girl! After they go to bed I spend barely 10 minutes collecting all of the toys off the floor and I throw everything in their own basket. When they do their chores the next day it is their responsibility to clean out their own basket and put everything back where it belongs. 

Remembering What Is Important

The Family Rules:
  • Keep your promises
  • Share
  • Think of others before yourself
  • Say, "I love you"
  • Listen to your parents
  • Do your best
  • Say, "please" and "thank you"
  • Always tell the truth
  • Laugh at yourself
  • Hug often
  • Use kind words
  • Love each other

Anyone can learn to be more organized and make a Family Command Center that fits your family's needs and personal style. You can see from the picture below that you don't even need that much space to accomplish your own FCC.

Picture taken by Jenn H. -  Family Command Center - My Tales From The Crib - 2013 
Way to make your small spaces count, Jenn!  

Getting Organized Doesn't Have To Go Over The Monthly Budget Either!

Before you hit your favorite department store, look around your house to find things you already own to use in your Family Command Center like bins, hooks, dry erase boards, etc. I used an old shoe rack we already owned and I found cheap frames and scrapbooking paper in the clearance isle. Check your dollar stores, discounted stores and clearance isles for cute items that are very useful and very inexpensive. I bought the Family Rules plaque at Marshall's for only $4.00! The baskets were the most expensive purchase at $6.00 a piece at World Market and I found the little chalkboards for just over $1.00 there too. I hope to replace my dry erase calendar with a trendy chalk board or framed dry erase board someday but for now what I have works great!

Good luck with organizing!!

We appreciate all of your great organizing tips, Jenn! I've started using your tips and tricks in my own house and we've already seen an improvement! Are you an Organized Mom and would like to share your tips?  Click here to see how your ideas can be featured on our blog or if you have a just few tried and true tips that help you get through the day/week we'll take those too!

Can't think of anything specific?  We're looking for organizing tips on:

  • Creating a weekly/monthly menu
  • Tips on cheap, easy, cute and yummy school lunches
  • Homeschooling: Getting/staying on task!
  • Creating a monthly family budget
  • Tricks on tackling laundry/dishes/bills/toys, etc.
  • Tricks on tackling a stubborn area in your house: closets/garage/toy room/family room, etc. 
  • Simple ways to go green and help save the Earth.
  • What do you need tips on??  Please share.

Thanks for sharing!  Was this helpful?  Let us know below!  

Click here to read more Back To School posts! 

This post was shared on the following blogs:

My Random Musings
Domesticated Momster

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