Help For Managing Kids’ Birthday Party Invitations

how to prepare for kids birthday party invite*Welcome to the “Ask Tee” advice column! I’m excited about this new feature and look forward to hearing from you. Have a question about managing work, family and fun? Send it my way! Now for the first question…


Dear Tee,

Managing my kids’ schedule is difficult enough, but throw in a friend’s birthday party and I’m running around at the last minute buying a gift and hunting for the invite. I’d like to not be so frazzled every time. Any advice?

Signed, My Kids’ Social Life Is Better Than Mine


Dear My Kids’ Social Life Is Better Than Mine,

Kids’ birthday party invites don’t have to cause panic. First, add the details to your calendar as soon as you see the invite and RSVP. Dealing with this immediately will save you time and energy later. Trust me, the “touch it once and be done” advice works.

As for gifts, be prepared. I swear by my gift closet. You don’t need an extra closet; get a medium or large plastic tote and use it as your gift bin. The gift bin is where you can store potential gifts and supplies. The key is to stock your bin as you see gift ideas, BEFORE you need them. I choose things that are general – games, kiddie cosmetic sets, Crayola items, books, etc.

I find really nice gifts on clearance racks at Target and Wal-Mart, especially after holidays. If you take 15 minutes after Christmas and Valentine’s Day you can have enough for a few parties, maybe all year.

You can do the same thing for cards and gift bags. Go to the dollar store and stock up on greeting cards for the year. Many sell them 2 for $1 and cards don’t expire. It’s best to buy gender-neutral cards, but I typically mix it up. Pick up gift bags while you’re there.

Keep all of the supplies in the bin and you won’t have to run around when the next invite comes in. You can shop at home!

As a backup I keep a few gift cards, too. You can pick up the multi-packs in most grocery stores and I have never seen a kid that didn’t like the idea of picking out their own gift. This works for adults, too, :-).

Knowing that you have a gift and the information in your calendar will encourage you to relax a little and get into the party mood. Enjoy your next party!


10 Simple Tips For Flying With Kids

TipsFlyingWithKidsSimple Tips To Make Flying With Kids Easier…

Flying with kids does not have to be stressful, if you are prepared. Here are a few tips I have used when flying with my kids, and it’s been a good experience for them and us.

Give each child a backpack as their personal bag. Backpacks are easy to carry, can hold a few necessities and it leaves plenty of room for boredom busters. Be sure to add chewing gum, which is handy during takeoff and landing, and a small copy of your travel itinerary along with contact numbers… just in case something happens.

Entertainment, also known as a boredom buster, is necessary. Sure, some flights have movies, but this is not a guarantee. Pack headphones, a tablet/phone/iPod, and/or a good book. My girls also travel with a notebook/activity pad and markers/pencils. They stay busy and I like that they are not looking at a screen for the entire flight.

Prep them. If your kids are old enough, explain to them what is going to happen. You can also watch a movie with an airport scene (think Home Alone) and practice going through security at home.

Start with logistics. When looking at possible flights, try to fly at night or during naptime. Also, check in online before you get to the airport as soon as it’s available and choose your seats. At the gate, take advantage of pre-boarding!

If you’re traveling with another adult, sandwich the kids through security, while walking through the airport and in the jet bridge. One adult goes first, then kids, then other adult. It’s the best way to assist and protect them.

Check one big bag with everyone’s things. It’s tempting to have everyone use a backpack and a carry-on, but depending on the ages of your children, this can be difficult. My girls are under 10, so it’s less stressful to check a big bag and not have to worry about kids, extra bags, boarding passes and more.

Have each kid wear a jacket/coat. They can always take it off, but it’s better to have it and not need it.

Let kids play before they fly. You can find an empty gate area once you’re through security or let them play before you leave home. Also, we eat dinner at the airport. By the time we’re on the plane they are full and tired.

Keep extra snacks in your bag and back-up entertainment. Extra toys, books, and activity pads will come in handy if there are delays.

For smaller kids, carry extra supplies in your diaper bag to cover delays (extra outfit, diapers, wipes, formulas, extra pacifier, etc.) Also, check strollers at the gate, not before.

Bonus Tip For Flying With Kids:

Try to remain calm and leave plenty of time for security and getting settled. Oftentimes, kids can pick up on our mood. If we are calm, patient and organized, kids can sense everything should be fine and may respond the same. At a minimum, you’ll be in a better space to handle any unforeseen situations.

Enjoy your flight!

School Lunch Idea – System For Kids To Pack Lunch

kidslunchidea_systemtoletkidspacklunchThis year I created a system that makes it easy for my kids to help pack their school lunch.

It’s fairly healthy and saves me time when I’m preparing for the next day.

Plus, my girls love having a say in what they are eating each day.

My “Kids, Help Pack Your Lunch” System

I purchased these stacking bins and put them in arms reach, so they can easily see their choices. Then, I only have to stock them weekly.

Each bin is labeled so they know how many items from each bin is needed. Once they have chosen from the bins, an adult (Hubby or me) adds an entrée (sandwich, thermos dish, etc.). This is also when we check to make sure they didn’t grab two treats and no vegetables, :-).

On some occasions the oldest will make the sandwiches, too. However I’m not quite ready to give up that responsibility.

Here are the four bins:

Fruit/veggie and dairy bin. This one stays in the refrigerator and includes things like yogurt, string cheese, grapes, carrots, and grape tomatoes.

Snacks. They can choose two things from the snack section. This is usually chips, goldfish, snack crackers, granola bars, Z bars, raisins, craisins, and applesauce.

Juice/Milk. They can decide if they want milk, juice or water.

Treat. Here they can choose from things like oatmeal pies, cookies and fruit strips.

A few other things:

  • These are a few of the lunch options I have for my girls, but you can adapt this to your child’s preferences and dietary needs. For instance, two of my girls eat GoGurt, but my other chooses soy yogurt. One kid loves oranges and another loves apples.
  • I bought the bins from a dollar store, but you can find similar options in your area discount store.
  • Sometimes I let my kids shop with me, because they may choose something I never considered.
  • I ask for feedback to see what they loved and what they didn’t.

I hope this school lunch idea helps you take one thing off your to-do list!

Surviving The First Week of School

All of my parent homework is done!

We made it through first-day-of-school jitterbugs, quests for the perfect outfit, teacher meetings, discussing expectations for the upcoming year and ways to keep fun in our schedule.

Even more impressive? I finished all of my parent homework BEFORE the due date! Yes, all of the “getting to know my kid” sheets are done. For all three girls!

Here are a few things I did to make the first week of school manageable:

  • We started bedtime a little earlier than necessary. I knew going from a summer schedule to school schedule would not be easy. So, I built in a buffer to account for them talking and playing a little before they drifted off to sleep.
  • We talked about being nervous, other times we felt nervous and how well those things turned out. Everybody had a scenario that ended well to think about whenever they started feeling jitterbugs.
  • I made sure everyone knew what to expect of the next day before bedtime. Outfits were chosen, backpacks were packed and lunches were made. They also knew what time we had to leave, so there were no time surprises.
  • Afterschool transportation was discussed and alternatives were given in case of an emergency.
  • I wrote everything down. This is a lifesaver. With three people telling me needs for the next day there is no way I could remember everything. Plus, the list helps me decide what has to happen immediately and what can be scheduled for later.
  • I rewarded myself with chocolate. Everything is best celebrated with chocolate.


Hope this helps. Happy School Year!

Preparing For Back To School Time

How To Get Ready For Back To School

BackToSchoolPlanningSummer is great downtime. The kids get to sleep a little later, learning is more about life experiences instead of worksheets and class lessons, and I don’t have to spend time at night packing lunches or ironing outfits.

There are late dinners, trips to the pool and summer games.

I think about this as I start preparing for back to school time. I could be sad, but that won’t change the fact that school starts next week, my kids are excited about it, and the best way to set them up for a successful school year is to send them prepared.

Plus, the structure of a school day is good for all of us.

I do look forward to them sharing their school day experiences and then asking about my day at work. I look forward to reasonable bedtimes. And most of all, I love that they will learn about all types of things every day and make friends that they can have throughout life.

Now, for planning. Here is a back-to-school planning newsletter I created to help with many aspects of getting ready. It includes really great resources like checklists, lunch ideas and time management information.

I hope this makes your preparations a little easier.


A Hello Kitty Valentine’s Day

This year my Valentine’s Day activities must work for a toddler, Preschooler and First grader. And what crosses all age groups better than Hello Kitty?!

We will start by making red velvet Hello Kitty Cupcakes. The girls LOVE baking so this will be a huge hit! Plus, my first grader is studying fractions in math class so I’m reinforcing her school curriculum. There are lots of great recipes for red velvet cake, but I like easy so I’m going with a box. I add a box of pudding, but this is optional. I also use two flavors of frosting, cream cheese and chocolate.

I will top the cupcakes with these Hello Kitty cupcake toppers. Simply print (preferably on cardstock paper), cut out these heart shapes and tape them to toothpicks. I put one on each side of the toothpick for extra effect, but your display can be just as cute with one per toothpick.

Next is a coloring sheet. Giving them something to do while we wait for the cupcakes to bake and cool is absolutely essential. Here are some printable options. I’m going with #3 because it has lots of little things that will please my oldest.

After coloring and decorating their cupcakes, it’ll be gift time.

HelloKitty giftsTarget has a lot of really cute Hello Kitty stuff.

I’m thinking this may lead into a mini spa night…

I’d love to know what you have planned for Valentine’s Day and if you use any of this please share!



Brown All Over

We can’t have enough books in our home, so when my girlfriend Janaka Lewis wrote the children’s book, Brown All Over, I was excited.

I couldn’t wait to share it during our weekend story time. Here’s my first time reading it to the princesses and their response.


What Disney’s Worlds of Fantasy Does Right

Last night we took the girls to see Disney On Ice Worlds Of Fantasy. The show included characters from Cars, The Little Mermaid, Tinkerbell and Toy Story 3. Of course, the girls LOVED it, and so did the grown-ups.

Here’s what made it great:

The scenes were not terribly long so there was no time for the kids to get bored. The storylines progressed at a pace that they could follow and then it was on to the next.

There was crowd participation. Anytime you have a crowd filled with kids it is extremely important to keep them entertained. This show does a great job of encouraging them to get up from their seats to clap, jump and in the case of The Little Mermaid story, burst bubbles. This was one of our favorite parts, :-).

In between stories the traditional Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie and the crew) came out and they always get standing ovations and cheers.

It’s colorful! Look at The Little Mermaid clip  or the Toy Story 3 clip  and you will see what I mean. The use of color is great and add so much to the theatrics of the show.

The intermission came at a great time. Just when my kids were beginning to ask for a snack the lights came on and there was the popcorn, cotton candy and drinks.


If you’re in Charlotte, the show is here until Sunday (it’s not too late!). And if you haven’t purchased tickets yet don’t forget to use the Disney On Ice discount coupon code.