Monthly Archives: February 2014

Party Girl

KathyDoodlebug’s birthday is coming up, which means I’m going into party-planning mode. This is one of my favorite parenting jobs, and it’s something she gets excited about, too. I love a good theme – none of her parties have been Pinterest-worthy extravaganzas, but we’ve had fun with a fairy party, a Star Wars party, a ballerina fairy party (which is totally different from a plain fairy party), and an art party.

These celebrations have all been at our house, which for me falls into the exhausting-but-worth-it zone on my personal introvert scale. I like coming up with activities, searching out cute, useful favors, and making silly party food. Yoda Soda, you guys. Need I say more?

We do a fair amount of non-birthday entertaining as well – a few times each winter we host Soup Night, which is basically what it sounds like, and for the past couple years we’ve been doing a summertime pizza and popsicles fest. Sometimes these end up being us and a few friends. Other times, we’ve had thirty people.

Maybe that doesn’t sound very introvert-y. I know it’s pretty close to iDad’s limit. But I love hosting parties because I know all the guests. There’s little danger of getting sucked into small talk when you’re hanging out with people you’ve known since college, people you see often, or a bunch of eight-year-olds. Things do tend to get chaotic and loud (I think we’re known to kids as “The house with all the instruments!”) but I try to keep the following day low-key so there’s plenty of recovery time.

None of this is to say I don’t like going to other people’s parties. I do, of course, especially if there are treats involved. Still, I tend to gravitate toward quieter/meaningful gatherings. Frat parties were not my thing. Neither were iDad’s office holiday parties – one of my favorite things about him working at home is that those are off my calendar! But a board game night or a book launch? I’m there.

This year for her birthday Doodlebug wants an art party again, and we’re thinking of having it at a paint-your-own pottery studio. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make and bring cupcakes, but I’m feeling slightly sad that I won’t get to do much beyond that. Still, I keep reminding myself that we won’t have to clean the house beforehand. I think I can deal with that!

— Kathy

To Co-op or Not to Co-op: That is the Question

’Tis the season… for preschool decisions!

KathyWhen Doodlebug turned two, iDad and I started looking at preschools. Since she’s an only child, we wanted her to have some time with other kids. And, okay fine, having two mornings a week to myself sounded pretty good, too. We went to several open houses, and while Doodlebug tested out playgrounds and did crafts, iDad and I chatted with teachers and listened to presentations about the schools’ philosophies and the role of the parents.

And, because were looking at cooperative preschools, the level of parental involvement was pretty high. Maybe co-ops appealed to my control freak tendencies – being involved in the classroom! Really getting to know the teachers and the other kids! And it certainly helped that the price tag was lower than traditional preschools. As a trade-off, each family at the school we ultimately chose was expected to serve on a committee (fundraising, social, library, etc.) and to spend 6 hours each year on maintenance tasks. Also, about once a month you were required to co-op, which meant joining the two teachers in your child’s classroom for the day.

It was a great school – the staff was warm and positive, the kids were encouraged to choose activities that interested them, there was a whole room devoted to pretend play. And there was a huge emphasis on being outside, even in unpleasant weather, which meant Doodlebug got plenty of mud-puddle time that I didn’t have to directly supervise. But the co-oping. Oh, the co-oping!

Spending three hours in a room with a dozen preschoolers is one of the most draining things I’ve ever done. It’s not that it wasn’t fun – I got to be there for Doodlebug’s birthday celebrations, help make cranberry relish for the Thanksgiving feast, and visit with pet rabbits. But I would come home with a pounding headache and the desire to hide in a dark room for the rest of the day. So if you are considering a co-op preschool for your child, here are some of my survival strategies.

  • If you love a certain school but co-oping sounds like a total nightmare, see if there’s a buyout option. Some schools let parents pay extra tuition in exchange for skipping the co-oping duties. Our school also offered a half buyout, which meant you helped less frequently. (Buyout families still have committee duties and maintenance hours, so it doesn’t mean you’re blowing off your commitment to the school.)
  • Split up the co-oping duties with your spouse if possible. iDad and I did this, and it was so much easier to go into my scheduled day knowing that I had eight weeks to rest up before the next one.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and make sure to hydrate. Not too much, though, because you may not get a bathroom break!
  • Choose your co-op day carefully. Doodlebug’s school offered a few afternoon activities, like lunch bunch and dance. I scheduled my days so that she would be occupied (without me!) for an hour or so afterward. This made my cleanup duties easier and gave me a tiny smidgen of downtime before I needed to pick her up.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT plan anything major for the remainder of a co-op day. This is not the time to go berry-picking or to drag the whole family to the mall for haircuts. If your kid still naps, hallelujah! You have built-in recharging time once you stagger home. If not, maybe you can start a tradition of movie afternoons on co-op days. It’s also an excellent night for ordering pizza. If all else fails, three words: Nutella hot chocolate.

— Kathy