All Your Obnoxious JoJo Party Tips

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I shared a few photos in July of my daughters’ JoJo birthday party and ever since I’ve had tons of questions (finally getting around to doing this). They are huge siwanators and there was no talking them out of this one. I’ve been forced into themed birthday parties for awhile now and I always stress out about how to make them cute. Anyone who knows me, know that when I say I’m just going to throw a “small get together” I will never be able to stick to it. I found a couple of ideas on Pinterest, but for the most part we had to make and find everything ourselves. Here’s a few tips.

    1. Balloon Arch Kit on Amazon

You can totally just buy balloons and do this yourself, but it’s about the same price and the strip that comes in the kit makes it SO much easier. I got a balloon pumper at 5 below for around $2 and started pumping up balloons a day or two before. Without helium, they will stay blown up for awhile so you’d be okay blowing them up before. There are multiple colors available and the kit was around $15 when I purchased it.

Make sure to alternate sizes. You don’t want all the balloons to be the same size. This will also save you a lot of time since the balloons do not have to be fully inflated.

2. Balloon Clouds and Rainbow Streamers

I purchased most of my streamers at the dollar store. I didn’t spend too much time making sure that each streamer was cut the same length. I just cut strips of each color and taped them over a picture in my kitchen. I would suggest not taping directly to the wall. You could hang a pasteboard on the wall if you don’t already have something in place.

I also purchased white balloons at the dollar store and alternated sizes. Just keep placing balloons until the shape forms like a cloud.

3. Gift Table

I stress myself out a lot thinking that I have to decorate every inch of my house for a party. You don’t. But it’s nice to have a little something when someone first enters the room. I moved the bench from my kitchen table into the living room and propped up floats from five below. If you have a summer birthday party, five below should have floats that go with your theme. For this party, we did a donut and pineapple since they were both featured in a music video. We used them to slide down the water slide too for added fun.

4. Party Favors

I went a little overboard on party favors. I ordered “unicorn poop” which are actually pretty tasty and super cute marshmallows. My cousin found little dogs in purses at Tuesday Morning and she made a sign to place in front of them for “bow bow”.

 

We got twizlers and mini marshmallows to make “rainbow on the go”. CUT THE TWIZLERS IN HALF and do not use every color or they won’t bend properly. This was super frustrating until I figured that out, but after that they didn’t take long to make.

5. Slime

We had a water slide, but I was super nervous about rain. I like to have a back up plan and a back up plan to my back up plan. We got plastic bowls and containers for the guests to make slime and all the colors and sparkles that they might need to add.

You can find many different recipes for slime, and it’s an inexpensive way to keep kids super entertained.

We did this inside because it was sprinkling, but I would suggest doing this outside or putting a tarp down.

6. Food 

We served nachos (one of Jojo’s favs) and they were a huge hit. We just got huge containers of cheese and put it in the crockpot along with nacho trays and tortilla chips.

I am a sucker for homemade ice cream and I have to serve it at every party. Your guests will love it and it’s super easy to make.

I got unicorn cupcakes from Sam’s and arranged them on different cake stands and party platters to make them stand out a little more.

 

Hope this helps! Comment with any questions or anything else I should add! Thanks guys!

 

What You Stole From Me

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My eight year old believed in unicorns, rainbows, The Tooth Fairy, Santa, and ice cream in any kind of weather. She believed that all people were good and she believed that mommy could fix anything. Alyssa has the best heart of anyone I’ve ever met. The only evil she had ever experienced was someone not wanting to play with her, and that could be resolved by playing with someone else. Alyssa is a nurturer. She naturally takes care of everyone, and she knows what people need most of the time. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Because you were watching her.

I knew there would come a time where a boy would break her heart or she would get in an argument with a friend. I knew that I would one day have to explain to her that life isn’t a fairytale. But I never, ever, imagined that something I purchased to add security to our home would be the way someone got to my child, uninvited. I never imagined that my happy, funny, crazy, little girl would spend Christmas break hiding under the covers and questioning life.

Mom Guilt. It’s crippling sometimes. Earlier this year I accepted a promotion that I was super excited about. It was a big step for me. I’m a working mom with four kids and that’s rough sometimes. I work nights at a local hospital and I stay up with my children during the day. It’s such a blessing and most of the time I am so grateful for the opportunity to be home with them that I can make it through the week with very little sleep. It’s a sacrifice I made to make sure that my kids are safe.

I started to become worried when I became even more involved at work that I wouldn’t wake up right away when my youngest woke. I installed a camera in the upstairs and downstairs bedrooms. I had many reasons for doing so. I list these not to defend myself but to say that you just never know someone’s reasoning. My four year old has a history of seizures. My eight year old wanted a way to speak to me while I was at work and I felt like the camera allowed me to be in two places at once.

That last statement is a scary one considering what was to come because I genuinely did feel like I was in the room with them when I would speak and say “Love you, Goodnight” before walking into work. It’s important to note that my daughters were well aware of the camera’s presence and they actually enjoyed having it. They would wave at me, go upstairs and do silly dances hoping I would see. I actually really enjoyed having the camera. But you already know all of that, don’t you? Because you were watching us.

Four days after installation, you hacked into the camera and began taunting my daughter. You claimed to be Santa Claus and asked my daughter if she wanted to be your best friend. My daughter screamed for me and I wasn’t home. We were going on a cruise the next day and I wanted to get a spray tan. I hardly ever leave the house to do anything for myself, and I wanted to look nice on our much anticipated cruise. But you knew what time I wouldn’t be around, didn’t you? Because you were watching us.

Let me pause right here and just say that we’ve had a shit year. Excuse my language, but there’s no other word for it. We needed this cruise.

My husband’s mom is a complete nut job and wouldn’t give us a copy of his birth certificate. So, here we are, the night before the cruise that I’d had booked since June and we are having to leave ridiculously early to go to vital records and hope that we can get a copy of his birth certificate to go on the cruise. I leave to get a spray tan while he’s looking for his birth certificate and I get a text message asking if I’m messing with the kids.

….I’m like uh, no…what are you talking about?

He tells me that someone is playing “the tiptoe song” (Tiptoe Through the Tulips) through the camera and interacting with my daughter. I was gone for literally five minutes and this happens. But you know that too, right? Because you were watching us.

Side Note: And people wonder why we have mom guilt?

I pull in the driveway and watch the video and I literally can’t believe what I’m watching.  My immediate thought is that someone was trying to gain her trust to either ask her to harm herself or lure her out of the house. Luckily my daughter responded the way that she did, but it wasn’t over at that point. Our story received international attention and we received backlash from the company, and on social media. The only thing that made me feel somewhat in control of my life was being able to speak out on the issue of security and human trafficking.

We found out that the hacks that were happening all across the country were linked to a podcast that was taken down by Discord due to, among other reasons, being related to human trafficking. I felt a duty to protect my daughter, but also make sure that this couldn’t keep happening to other people.

I learned a lot about security and privacy and I’ll discuss that in another post but for now I just want to address the fact that we should trust our maternal instincts. And I shouldn’t have had to explain evil to my daughter because of a sick man who gets a thrill out of terrorizing a little girl. I lay awake hoping that there aren’t videos of my children naked circulating on the internet. I have to calm my daughter down because at 8 years old she’s having nightmares of someone breaking into our house with a gun. Those unicorns she believed in? Now she dreams of evil unicorns. I mean…even her nightmares are the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. She’s so innocent. How dare you?!

I hope you’re reading this. I hope you know that because of you we can’t enjoy our first Christmas in our new home that we worked so hard to achieve. I hope that you know because of you I had to explain racism to my eight year old daughter who didn’t see gender or color. I hope that you know you’ve turned my entire life upside down and I’m forced to answer questions that no one knows the answers to. Because of you I know that my children aren’t safe anywhere and I feel guilty every time I leave them. Because of you, I’ve received comments about why I had a camera instead of why you are just a sick, twisted individual.

I’m so angry. I don’t even know where to place my blame so I have no choice but to pray for you. And I do. I pray that you get help. I pray that you don’t do this to anyone else’s child. I pray for closure. And I pray you find Jesus.

I have four girls and you stole the moment that I got to ease their fears and tell them that everything would be okay. I’m not perfect and I don’t get everything right but I had faith in the fact that I was a good mom. I knew my kids and I made informed decisions. But now they don’t fully trust my decisions. Because you thought it would be funny. Or maybe you didn’t think at all. I don’t even know who you are and you’ve taken so much from me.

I want you to know that I forgive you, and Alyssa forgives you. There’s power in forgiveness. I want you to know that this isn’t funny or okay. You saw a little girl at an impressionable age and you KNEW that she was innocent. It’s like that made it better for you. And I’m angry at myself for even saying this, but I feel bad for you. I don’t even know who you are and I still want you to find peace.

I’m getting my daughter back and I’m telling you now that you don’t have power over me anymore.

Signing out.

 

5 Things You Should Know Before You Speak Out

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Recently I went through something that no one had much advice on. Everyone asked for my story and was in tune with the information that I could offer them. With what started as a warning, quickly came the stress of being in the spotlight for something I wished never happened. To be honest, I don’t think that my life will ever go back to “normal” because how do you find “normal” again when you are put through something that makes you face the true evil of this world. Attempting to explain to your eight year old daughter that some people just enjoy tormenting other people is a conversation that wasn’t included in my parenting handbook (if anyone has it in their manual, please feel free to send a copy my way). DSC_0604We are all so very different, yet very much the same in so many ways. I connected with so many people who reassured me that I was doing the right thing, and others who couldn’t see past a minor untrue detail to even read my story. I realized something about myself during this time that has kept me holding on to the faith that one day I will find a new normal. I’m a talker. I don’t see black and white at all. Everything is a bright, sparkly, spinning rainbow. When I believe that something is wrong, I can’t just “let it go”. I don’t have a filter, and I don’t sugar coat things. I’ve been held back for a long time because of my choice to let other people’s opinions silence mine. At the end of the day, I am who I am. Take it or leave it, I’m exactly who God designed me to be and I won’t feel sorry for that.

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 1. Not everyone will agree with you. Let’s be real. Most people won’t even take the time to know all the facts before they judge you. But that’s okay. It takes all kinds of kinds. Remain open minded and take the hateful comments as reassurance that there needs to be more awareness. To elaborate on this just a little, you may be surprised to find out that people who you thought were in your corner never really were. It’s sad, but it’s also liberating. When you stop caring about the opinion of those who never really cared about your well being, you can literally change the world.

2. People don’t always know how to respond. Finding your voice can be empowering, but it can also be terrifying. I’ve found that it’s alot easier to respond to someone’s weaknesses than their strengths. We naturally respond best to people we relate to. Sometimes taking a different path inspires others, but before you can inspire anyone you have to realize that being different isn’t always a bad thing. Someone’s negative response doesn’t change the facts, and it shouldn’t change your mind or your heart either. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tune in to those that are listening to you and make sure that you are wording your message correctly. But don’t let a response stop you from doing something important. Throw glitter all over that negativity, and keep on sparkling.

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3. You can’t only be passionate when you’re winning. If you’re going to express who you are, do just that. If you believe in something, believe in it wholeheartedly. No one said that it would be easy all the time. If something is important to you, any time you hit a road block can be disheartening, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Quite the opposite actually. *Insert cheesy quote about how everything in life is worth fighting for here*

4. Sometimes what you don’t say says a lot. Know when to engage and when to ride it out. The moment I realized that not everything deserved commentary, I became a whole lot stronger. I like to talk. A lot. But there’s a time and a place for that and you can learn so much by listening.

5. It’s worth it. Finding my voice was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done, and that says a lot considering I’ve given birth to four girls (ha!). Sometimes I still want to just throw in the towel, go off the grid, and not comment anymore. But at the end of the day I have to remember why I spoke out in the first place and you should too.

The 8 Most Annoying People on Social Media

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IMG_1258In no specific order…

  1. The Googler. This person knows everything about everything. While charming and educational at first, this person will soon drive you nuts with their  need to make a comment about any and everything. While this person has no educational background, he or she still knows more than any doctor, rocket scientist, or philosopher.
  2. The “my baby is a genius” Mom. This person may or may not even have children, but their child can still talk in 10 different languages, do Olympic worthy gymnastic routines, and has already won the Nobel Prize at the age of two weeks.
  3. The Food Obsessor. This person’s phone camera only captures food, nothing else. There are a variety of meals that will leave you wondering how this person finds the time to take a picture of every single thing he or she eats, post a picture of it, and do life. Please teach me your ways because I hardly have time to throw some stuff in a crockpot and move on with my life.
  4. The Over Sharer. If we know when you had your last bowel movement, we know too much. If I know your life in greater detail better than I know my child, you have shared way too much on social media (and I’ve obviously spent too much time on Facebook in an effort to stay awake, but this post isn’t about that.)
  5. The Checker Inner. This is similar to the over sharer, but this person has a different motive. I haven’t quite figured out why it’s necessary to check into 5 restaurants in one week or why some people would rather take photos of their food, while others have to check in to let us know they are too rich to eat at home. Just eat, dang it.
  6. The Selfie Taker. This person loves to take photos of his or her self and post song lyrics that have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he or she is obsessed with his or her self. This becomes even more annoying when said person has to add a filter to every single photo. We all enjoy a good selfie every now and then, but Goodness! How do you even have time to live life between selfies and checking in to random places on Facebook?!
  7. The Gym Queen. We get it. You go to the gym. I’m happy with the hips my three kids gave me and that makes me less of a human. But posting a photo of your sweat doesn’t make you drop pounds any faster 🙈.
  8. The Self Proclaimed Minimalist. Maybe I’m wrong but isn’t the whole point of being a minimalist to cut out all the JUNK in your life so you can focus on what’s more important? I didn’t know that meant making more time to judge me for buying my kid $1 bling bag on clearance to celebrate her A+, but hey, to each their own.

Latch Issues/How to notice them and what to do about them.

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I had my first baby at 19. I knew very little about breastfeeding and honestly had no interest in it. I didn’t have a support system, and I think that’s super important. Breastfeeding isn’t always natural in every sense. It isn’t always easy.

When I had my second daughter, I wanted to stick with it. I spoke with a LC at the hospital, I joined multiple breastfeeding groups, and spoke with our pediatrician. I was nervous about everything, but I read that cluster feeding was normal in the early stages so I assumed that my bleeding nipples were because of this.

Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt. It took my pumping 2 ounces of bloody tinged milk to realize there was a problem. I was ready to give up. I dreaded feeding my baby because I knew it was going to hurt.

In my case, her latch was an easy fix and I just had to open her mouth a little more. Fixing your baby’s latch is so important. An improper latch not only hurts, but can lead to clogged ducts (which also hurt 🤢). My number one advice is to make sure that your baby’s mouth covers the majority of your areola and that the latch is not too shallow. If the latch is still painful, check for lip/tongue ties.

The first three months of your breastfeeding journey, your production is still a bit wishy washy and changing. Fixing latch issues from the beginning will create a much easier time. Don’t give up. It does get easier once you work out the kinks.

Dont get discouraged if you don’t realize that you have a latch issue right away. I’ve been told “you will know if it isn’t right”, but if you are new to breastfeeding, you don’t always know.

One thing that really helped me was holding my baby in a football position. Different positions may work better for you but this worked best for me in the beginning.

If you have any questions, email me or drop a comment below. I’m happy to help!

Less Stuff, More Vacations

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IMG_4380I’m going to be real for a second. The only thing that gets me through the work week is planning my next vacation. Yeah, I enjoy helping people and all that good stuff, but at the end of the day, I just want to be exploring new adventures with my three little girls. I feel important at work, I think it’s pretty cool that I get to call myself a “scientist” and I worked hard to get there. Even still, nothing will ever be as important as being “mommy”.

For the longest time, being busy defined me. I was a full time student, full time photographer, and made it through school with two babies. I often think about what I missed out on, but I know that many of the memories that we have now wouldn’t mean near as much without that struggle. I often thought of the time when I would be able to “buy them anything they asked for in the store”. Man, that was a silly thought. I’m thankful for it because it kept me motivated, but flash forward to now, my kids won’t care that I couldn’t buy them an impractical gift when they were two years old. They will care that I existed in their lives.

I hope that when my children look back at their childhood, they don’t remember me handing them a toy in an effort to distract them. I hope they don’t associate me with presents or “stuff”. I hope they look past all the clutter and remember the time we spent together because that’s really all that matters.

Blind Bags. I never thought that I would work all week to spend $3 on a toy I know my daughter will never look at again once she opens it. But, life is kinda like that, huh? You live for surprises, adventures, and what’s behind the next door. Maybe the reason kids enjoy watching other kids open these silly little bags is because they enjoy seeing the excitement of someone else. I’ll gladly work to spend $3 for that.

At some point that $3 toy becomes a $30 toy, and by the time it becomes a $300 toy, our excitement seems to fade. I never want to see that look in my child’s eye, when life isn’t near as exciting as it once was.

Thats why instead of more stuff, I want more vacations. I want more time together. There will never be enough time together. I’ll never wake up and feel like we spent too much time together. I’ll never stop wishing that I could keep them the age they are now, and watch them grow up at the same time. It doesn’t even make any sense how much I love them, but little in life does.

My oldest is 6, and we talk about her day, her friends, her teachers, and she often reminds me (in great detail) of every trip we have ever been on. She brings up the little things, like going to pick apples or a trip to the zoo. She rarely reminds me of the time in the store when I let her get a toy. Because that isn’t what’s important. Last Christmas she received a princess carriage, a swing set, and tons of other toys. She doesn’t remind me of all the little gifts she got. Neither one of us remember at this point, but she asks when we will ride in a princess carriage and look at Christmas lights again. She’s asked when we will pick out a tree and if she can help me decorate it. But the “stuff”, it doesn’t matter. It’s just clutter in her mind of memories.

Give your kids something that matters. Love them. Spend time with them. Don’t hand them “stuff” and expect them to find their true potential on their own. They are only little once. Soak up those baby snuggles, and big kid hugs. Listen when they tell you about their day. They will remember the time you spent together far longer than a distraction. Less Stuff, More Vacations.

 

Why Does my Baby Hate Target?

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It never fails. Every single time we go to Target, my happy toddler turns into a monster. I really don’t beat my children, but you’d never believe me if you saw us in Target. I must be the worst mom in the world to think that any child would enjoy strolling around with a slushie and popcorn. It used to embarrass me, but now it’s just a way of life.

I see people post on Facebook about how they would never let their child act “that way”. I must have missed that portion of the parent handbook where I can flip her psycho switch off, because I am no longer the boss when we walk through the doors of Target. I use Clicklist religiously, I take snacks everywhere we go, and I wait until my kids are asleep to leave for any trip. But can you just give me 30 minutes to stroll through Target aimlessly without sounding like a dying cat?!

No, I don’t really NEED anything at Target, but I gave birth to you. I’ve sacrificed a lot for your happiness, but Target will not be one of them. Nope.

I’ve had many bright ideas of how to make Target a “fun trip” but if you’re mad that I’m buying you a swimming pool, I don’t know how to help you, my friend.

Our last trip to Target resulting in you throwing one of your shoes out of the basket and mommy failing to find it. You laughed while I panicked,  but jokes on you. They sell shoes at Target.

5 Reasons Why Oversupply is Nothing to be Jealous of

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I have been through struggling to make enough milk with my second daughter (first that I breastfed for an extended period of time) and struggling to STOP making so much with my third baby. I have been that mom that WISHED for an oversupply, thinking that it would be so much better than making too much. Let me tell you, you do not want an oversupply.

When I got pregnant with my second baby, I wasn’t supposed to be able to have any more children. I was in school full time, working full time, and stressed beyond belief when I found out that I was pregnant. I scheduled an induction date during a time where I was out of school, and returned to school 6 days after giving birth. I wanted any chance I could to bond with her, so among that and other reasons I decided that I HAD to stick with breastfeeding. There were times I chose to pump instead of eat because I only had time to do one. So, I get it. It’s stressful spending all your free time milking yourself like a cow.

Flash forward to my third baby, I expected the same issues. I thought nothing of pumping to relieve engorgement when my milk came in because no matter how many people told me differently, I thought oversupply would be like this magical milk fountain and could never cause any issues. WRONG.

  1. It’s Expensive. I go through a crazy amount of storage bags a week. I don’t do the exact math for fear of losing my sanity but I definitely store at least 50 bags of milk a week. We recently bought a deep freezer that is almost full because even after donating to four other local moms, I still could fill my swimming pool with milk. But what can I do with over 1000 ounces of breast milk? I have to buy bags to clean/sterilize my pump parts. I have spent money going to the doctor to try and decrease the amount of times I’ve had mastitis. I’ve ruined my favorite shirts by leaking through them. The list goes on and on, but you get it. I spend money on storing milk that my baby will likeley never drink.
  2. It’s Stressful. I was super happy to donate milk to other moms, and I still am. But the same stress that goes along with making enough milk for your own baby somehow turned into making enough for 5 babies. I still felt like I wasn’t enough if I made less during a pumping session even though I was making way more than enough. I work night shift and stay up with my kids during the day. I don’t get very much sleep as it is, but on my nights off, I have to wake up to pump or I will get mastitis. So now we’re at I’m stressed, exhausted, and sick all while my baby is sleeping through the night.
  3. My life revolves around nursing and pumping. This one kind of speaks for itself but I can’t just give my baby a bottle even though I have plenty of milk to spare because I will get mastitis. I can’t skip a pumping session without becoming extremely engorged. I’ve literally had to pull over on the side of the road and squeeze my boob until enough milk squirted out of my human water gun that I could function again. And you can’t complain about it because people make comments like “that’s like complaining about having too much money”. No, it’s nothing like that. I get that breast is best but too much breast milk won’t put my kids through college or pay for the Bahamas.
  4. Mastitis. I would rather deliver 15 babies in a row than ever have mastitis again. And that’s all I have to say about that.
  5. People don’t understand. They don’t understand why you’re constantly milking yourself, or why you need to take a break when you have plenty of milk already. They don’t understand that pumping is NOT a break. And they most certainly don’t understand that for the next year, you have to plan your life in 2 hour intervals. Oversupply comes with all the same problems as pumping in general plus worrying about engorgement and mastitis ALL the TIME. Why can’t you just give her a bottle? You have plenty of milk. Yeah, you’ve never had mastitis before. It feels like death.

As much as I love my baby, I’m ready for the milk factory to shut down. I feel less than human sometimes. Moooooooooooo.

 

5 Reasons you Should Never Agree to be Room Mom

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Last year my daughter was in kindergarten at a small private school. I cried dropping her off on the first day, and most days after that. When I was asked to be room mom, I didn’t hesitate to say YES YES YES!! I’ll have relationships with other moms, I’ll get to be involved, I can trick people into thinking I’m a stay at home super mom, steal some of the Capri suns I brought for class parties…It will be great, or so I thought.

Here are five reasons why you should never be Room Mom:

  1. Other moms are perfectly fine with you doing everything yourself. I didn’t understand the reality of dropping your kid off and going to the gym, but apparently it’s the most important thing in the world. So while other moms were at the gym losing their baby weight, I was stuffing my face with cosmic brownies at the class party
  2. Other moms don’t want to be friends with the Room Mom. If you think you will build long lasting friendships, that will result in play dates for your precious angel, think again. No one cares that you spent 3 hours making Oreo Balls and Reindeer Food with a cute little tag after working all night at the hospital the night before. No one. You get placed into a “those moms” category.
  3. Women can be judgemental as hell. They don’t actually want to be the ones making the Oreo balls, but I can garuantee you they will judge yours. I once had a mom loudly proclaim that she would gladly donate money to the next party because “she works” (after we just finished having a conversation about how we both worked night shift). Well, good for you honey, that didn’t sound hateful at all.
  4. Being room mom will help your party planning skills, thus giving you the false impression that you should now have parties for everything. If you already have a problem with the Target clearance section, being Room Mom is not for you. I’m pretty sure I have an entire closet in my house dedicated to storing items I thought I would use for parties. When someone needs to borrow ANYTHING, I have it. I plan on having a birthday party for both my dogs, and half birthdays for all three kids in the near future, because, why not? I can whip up a party in 15 minutes flat at this point.
  5. Last but certainly not least, You will spend an unreasonable amount of time on the phone with parents who have THE BEST excuses for why they can’t attend a single school event. I get it, you work. I, myself, have a job and I’m here. Oh, you have another child? Hmmm. Me too, I have two under two actually. Still here. Maybe I just don’t get it, but I thought when you chose to reproduce, you also decided that your child MATTERS. I understand not being present all the time but these tiny humans are still humans. They notice when you aren’t there. So, if you feel like nothing is more important that your sweet little shit head, being Room Mom is not for you.