Recently, my 10 year old had his birthday party at an indoor trampoline park: a dozen friends, an hour of bouncing, and a party room for 40 minutes. Frankly, I’m usually too cheap to shell out for parties like this, but we figured we’d go big to ring in those double digits. Plus, any arrangement that doesn’t involve cleaning the house or a pack of rowdy 10 year olds running through my living room is a good deal in my book.

The party was during the dinner hour, and the package included pizza and soda (and even teenagers to serve everything!). I thought about how I wanted to handle this, but I didn’t stress about it. I also didn’t want to make a big deal about it with my son and turn his much-anticipated party into a fight with mom about soda. So I made a few tweaks behind the scenes. Here’s what we did:

*Pizza: Yep.

*Drinks: The package included two kinds of soda. Instead, I (quietly) requested water and one kind of soda–and (quietly) requested that when the soda was finished, there were no refills. Nobody cared when the soda ran out. The kids were hot and sweaty and drank water.

*Fruit salad: I brought this from home and it was served with the pizza. And devoured. Some kids had multiple helpings.

*Cake: We baked homemade vanilla cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and the recipe made enough for one cupcake per kid or parent.

*Goodie bags: Didn’t do them. My son never mentioned it, only one party guest seemed to notice their absence.

I know some people may have done things differently. But this felt like a good balance for us, between my son’s desire to have a regular party with pizza and soda and my own concerns about sugar overkill. Every parent has to do what feels right for them.

But what I’ve learned from hosting (and attending) an awful lot of kids’ parties is this: The real star attraction is never the food. It’s the fun, whether it’s bouncing on trampolines, roller skating, playing games, or just running around the backyard being silly. Food is often a distant third (or tenth) to everything else they’re doing and enjoying.

How do you handle food at your child’s birthday parties?


How I'm Feeding My Kids Differently in 2014 by Real Mom Nutrition

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions (beyond a flimsy promise to “drink more water” which always fizzles out by January 3rd). But recently, I read about a concept of assigning “themes” to the year instead, and that seems much more doable. Besides, thinking in broader concepts instead of narrow action items is a nice change of pace for this serial to-do-list maker. So while I’m still mulling over my personal themes for 2014, I decided to focus a few on how I feed my kids, since there’s always room for improvement in that department.

Here are the three themes I chose:

1. Balance.

Perhaps it’s because we’re crawling out from underneath an avalanche of holiday goodies (many of which were from my own kitchen), but I’m convinced we need to scale back on sugar in our house. Ideally, I like to limit sweet treats to no more than one a day and let my kids choose when they want it. In reality, this strategy fails more frequently than it works. My love for baking combined with sugary foods seemingly everywhere in my children’s lives–from school breakfast to the dry cleaner–conspires to over-sweeten our diets. It’s time to get back on track.

2. Adventure.

We recently took the kids to a Japanese steakhouse for the first time. They were thrilled with all the fire and spatula-tossing antics, my fourth grader ate two bowls of miso soup, and I was reminded that we don’t take nearly enough culinary risks when eating out, even though we live in a city with all kinds of restaurants. In 2014, I’d like to give the kids more exposure to different cuisines, instead of relying on the familiar. They may not like every meal, but they’ll probably surprise us too.

3. Independence.

I am intent on raising Men Who Can Cook. But too often, I let my desire to fix dinner quickly (read: have 30 minutes to myself in the kitchen and not create a huge mess) nix any plans to involve my boys in meal prep. That needs to change. I’m inspired by Brianne DeRosa of Red, Round or Green, whose boys (ages 7 and 4) cook dinner for the family once a week with very little help (read all about it and see one of their meals here). I’d also like to get my kids more involved in packing their lunches and fixing their own snacks, not just to lighten my own load but also to give them tools they’ll need as they get older.

How about you: What would you like to change about how you feed your kids in the coming year?


Why You Should Cut Your Mother-in-Law a Break

November 26, 2013

When hanging out with a group of fellow moms, there’s only so long you can go before someone starts complaining about their mother-in-law. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes there are legitimate grievances (“She told me I’m a bad parent and a terrible cook!”). But more often than not, the complaints feel a little thin (“Can […]

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10 Food-Free Ways to Celebrate School Birthdays

October 28, 2013

I love cupcakes as much as the next person. I have sweet memories of the birthday cupcakes my mom made for me when I was a child (read “For the Love of Cupcakes“), and I’m sure that some years, she brought those cupcakes to school. But for better or worse, cupcakes at school are on […]

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One Of The Best Things You Can Do On A Sunday

September 3, 2013

If you read my last post, you may be thinking that by “one of the best thing you can do” I mean “go to yoga class” or “ignore the mountains of laundry and snuggle with your kids” (read “A Back-To-School Pledge To Myself“). And yes, do those. And go to religious services. Or watch football. […]

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Let Them Eat Cupcakes

July 1, 2013

I was at a party recently with other families. It was a potluck, and the food was on a buffet. Someone had brought mini cupcakes and put them on the table along with the rest of the food. So when the kids went down the line with their paper plates, guess what they wanted? Mini […]

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For the Love of Cupcakes

April 19, 2012

I still remember the cupcakes my mother made for me on my 5th birthday. She arranged them on a tray and used frosting to write one letter on each cupcake, spelling out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY SALLY” ( if you look closely at the photo, you can see the little boy on the right has the “D”). […]

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My Kid Likes Junk Food. And That’s Okay.

April 11, 2012

When Henry was two years old, we were out with another mom and her child when Henry pointed to a vending machine and squealed, “Pepsi!” I was horrified. I fell all over myself explaining that Henry had never tasted soda and we didn’t keep it in the house and he never saw commercials so I […]

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Soccer Mom on a Mission: The Music Video!

March 5, 2012

By now, most of you know that I get a little feisty about soccer snacks. And t-ball snacks. (Read “Soccer Mom Soapbox” and “That Mom: The Sequel“). I know a lot you feel the same way. (Though some of you don’t.) Last fall, I decided to start documenting the snacks I was seeing on the sidelines of […]

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Lessons Learned From The No Added Sugar Challenge (And Why It Didn’t End With Cupcakes)

March 2, 2012

When I embarked on the Two Week No (Added) Sugar Challenge, I thought it would be one of the hardest changes I’ve made. Instead, it was one of the easiest. Easier than exercising every day. Easier than not eating at my computer. So easy that when I hit the two week mark on Wednesday, I […]

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