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A Homespun Labor Day Carnival

It’s 7:00a.m., Labor Day morning, and the kids come running downstairs excited for the holiday. Now, what I would find exciting is being able to sleep in on such a holiday. But from what I hear, that doesn’t come until the kids are much older. The questions abound, “What even is Labor Day, mommy?” “How are we going to celebrate it, Mommy?” Mustering up all of my energy having just been woken up I respond, “Labor Day celebrates people who work and it gives them the day off.” “Oh, like Daddy,” responds my youngest. And here we go again. “Well, Mommy works, too, honey,” I say with a forced smile on my face. “You do?” they all chime in with disbelief. “Doing laundry, and making meals, and cleaning up after the three of you, isn’t exactly playtime, now is it, little ones,” I say in a voice that sounds unusually like Johnny Dep’s psychologically depraved depiction of Willy Wonka. Now realization shows on their face. They’ve heard this before and it’s a road they are smart enough to know they don’t want to travel down again, so they quickly move onto their second question. “So, what are we going to do?” “Well, if we had a house in the Hamptons, I guess we would be celebrating it with a barbeque on the beach and watching the fireworks, but since this is not the case, I guess I’ll come up with something else.” As the kids get older, every holiday is a crapshoot. You never know what’s in vogue now until it comes upon you. Who knew this year would bring about such a keen interest in celebrating Labor Day. God knows what next year’s Groundhog Day may bring.

But, not wanting to disappoint my children, I climb out of bed and quickly get to work. And as always, I’m a theme thinker. Come up with a theme and everything else will fall into place. What can I pull together in a few hours that will be deemed big enough to celebrate the fact that daddy has off from work. I don’t remember Labor Day being any big deal when I schlepped into the city, working long days only to come home to crying babies – but I digress…

Let’s get back to the first step:  THEME. O.K. Labor Day makes you think of hometowns and parades, which makes you think of community get-togethers and American symbols like Apple Pie. When I think about Apple Pie and childhood fun, I think of pie-eating contests. Where can you find a pie-eating contest? At a carnival. Bingo. I have my theme. Now everything falls into place.

The next step is ACTIVITIES. I start to make a list of all the activities I can imagine at a carnival while I’m thinking of the items we have around the house that we can utilize for these activities.So, I know we have miniature golf, I know we have horse-shoes and lawn darts, I know we have ladder-ball. Then I hunt around in the basement, garage and playroom for items that can generate ideas for additional activities. I find Toss Across.  I find a magnetic fishing game.  A life-size, card-board, character cut-out for photo ops. I add those to the list of activities. Then I come across water balloons. What could we do with that. I guess in celebration of the fact that daddy “works” and mommy doesn’t, we could blindfold daddy and let the kids throw water balloons at him. That makes me smile. This is getting fun.

Now, I move onto AMBIANCE. What else could make this feel like a real carnival. Face painting. Tattoos.  A kissing booth. Tickets. Prizes.  I make a list of things to quickly run out and buy at the party store down the street. And I always like to have theme music for my parties. So, I download Carnival music onto my iPod. You also can’t forget thematic food. Ice Cream. Popcorn. Hot Dogs.

Once I have the party plan worked out, now it’s time to get the kids involved. I go over the plan with them and they all choose activities they want to help with. My daughter wants to do the face painting, as she is the artist in the family. My youngest son wants to be in charge of handing out the ice cream – which I didn’t realize, and good thing he pointed it out to me, would require us to add a mustache to the list of items to purchase, as ice cream vendors at carnivals always have mustaches, apparently. And my eldest son would run the kissing booth, but he would be allowed to determine if he wanted to give out a kiss or a high-five depending on who the ticket holder was, his mommy or his brother for example.  He was also very keen on helping with the water balloons to throw at daddy. But he smartly thought it best for us to keep that activity a surprise until it was time for it to happen. I love surprises.

We did our shopping, collected all of our items and then set up the activities around the back yard. With mustaches on, tickets in hand, and the sound of the carnival organ playing loudly on the sound system, our Homespun Labor Day Carnival was about to begin. The kids had a great time. They said it felt just like a real carnival. And the water balloon surprise activity was a big hit. The kids and I could have done that one all day. Luckily, daddy was a good sport about it.

You can turn any holiday into a last minute party. All you need is a theme, some imagination, and kids who just want to have fun.

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Sure, Deck the Halls, But Why Stop There?

It’s the end of January, so hopefully you’ve all put your holiday decorations back in the attic. Now that’s done, I like to reflect back on how I thought the whole holiday vibe went. And I firmly believe much of the holiday spirit comes from the atmosphere you are immersed in. So, I use the holidays as another time when I can put my latent marketing and packaging skills to good use. It all started out one year with “Glitter Santa”. When I found him standing center-aisle, prominently displayed at Pier One, I knew he would be my muse for many Christmases to come.  From there I moved onto little glitter trees and this year, you can imagine my excitement to add “Glitter Reindeer” to the decor.

Every year, when upon reflection I don’t think that Christmas felt quite Christmasy enough, I think to myself, if only the decor had been a tad more festive, that would have done the trick. Decorating for Christmas has gone from a single tree with a few special ornaments picked up throughout the year, to three decorated trees all with their own color theme. During the holidays, you can’t walk through the main floor of our house without encountering a room decorated to the hilt. I almost feel like if we had little Pier One shopping baskets at the front door, guests would feel like they had just walked into a store franchise.

First we have the three trees: Family Room, Dining Room, and Living Room.

 Then we have the rest of the wonderland.

Why decorate every room? My feeling is, you never know when you might “need a little Christmas, right this very minute”.  By the way, I also had the player piano filling the air with constant Christmas Carols, had my youngest son prance around in reindeer antlers and a flashing red nose during a chorus of Rudolph, made up my own Christmas Charades game, and created my own signature holiday drink.

There may have been no snow this year. But when my family was over on Christmas Day, you better believe they weren’t allowed to leave until they would admit that the joy of the season had fully consumed them. So, did I finally achieve the ultimate height of holiday spirit? I would have to say I was pretty close this year, even Santa would have to be impressed, but I’m not going to rule out possibly adding to the Christmas madness…you never know what Pier One might add to their “glitter” inventory next year.

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