Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Plan a Block Party - An Easy Tutorial

This past Sunday was our neighborhood's 1st Annual (if I haven't anything to say about it) Halloween Block Party. I organized a summer block party for our neighborhood this past August and it was such a success that I thought "let's do it again for Halloween!". So we did! If you're curious here's my post of our summer block party here:


To be honest, I was a little worried the day of. Nobody thought that the SF Giants would 1. be in the World Series and 2. This ended up being the winning game!  We live in the SF Bay Area and this is SF Giants country (well, unless your an Oakland A's fan).  So I had images of the party being pretty much deserted by about 5:30. But I didn't have anything to worry about. There were tons of people and it was an absolute blast. Everyone kept asking me "How did you do it?" and "Can we have one for Christmas?" (Answer: probably not...I'm worried about weather and everyone is so busy around the holidays. But I'm thinking of one in the spring!) but I thought I would write down the process of how to plan a block party. It is really easy! It's not rocket science, just takes some commitment and time to plan. Note: These are instructions on how to plan a block party in the San Jose, CA area. Your area might be different but most likely the general suggestions will be the same or similar.

1. Determine if your street would permit a block party. If you live on a busy intersection, the police might not let you close it. If that is the case, maybe you can work with a neighbor who lives on a more quiet street. In this example I'm assuming you are trying to have a block party on your own street.

2. Print out the permit forms from your police department. In San Jose the forms are here:


3. Next, where you want to have the block party, you MUST get the signature from someone who lives in a house that would be affected by the block party.

4. Once you have gotten everyone's signature and necessary information, bring your signatures to the police department to drop off at their permits unit. In San Jose you must give the permits department at least 15 days to process your paperwork. If you need to pay, bring a check. In San Jose the permit costs $180 (as of 10/30/2012), but if you have another block party at least one time a year, then there's no cost for any additional block parties! And you can have as many block parties as you want, without additional cost for the permit (but you do need to get the signatures for each date you want).

5. Make up flyers and print them out. I found easy to use templates on Microsoft Word that my husband oh-so-nicely helped me format. Others might make them by hand, just make sure they have all the information you need, addresses where the block party will be, date, time, if it's a potluck, anything special (like a bounce house or slip n slide) or anything else that should be on the flyer.

6. I went around door to door and passed out flyers. If someone was home I got to talk to them for a minute or two; if not I stuck the flyer in their door so they would see it when they got home. If you have older kids, like 8 and up it would be a great way for them to get to know the neighborhood by giving them the job of passing out the flyers (at least for part of the time)

7. This isn't necessary, but I made up a yahoogroup that people could join if they wanted more up to date information about the party. I put the information about the yahoo group at the bottom of the flyer and many people have joined. It's been a great way to get out information and also to find volunteers for various jobs needed. For example, I put out a message from the yahoo group and people signed up to drop off the petition, post flyers on mailboxes (we have communal mailboxes), make up big posters that say "No Parking, Block Party" that included the date and time of the block party. The first time around I pretty much did everything myself but with the Halloween Party I found lots of people to volunteer so I didn't have to do everything myself. Also we have a database that people can fill out what they plan on bringing so there's not 15 people bringing chips n dip.

8. Order a bounce house (if there are going to be a lot of kids). I think having a bounce house (or two) is a great idea. The kids love them and there was never a time when they weren't been used! For the summer block party I ordered a bounce house slip n slide (it was less expensive than an inflatable water slide)and for our Halloween party I ordered a regular bounce house and a 3 in (bounce house, climbing area and slide).

9. Starting to wonder how much you have to pay for all of this? I can tell for our block parties, I wrap an empty tissue box, write on it how much all the party cost and if you could contribute a few dollars, that would be very appreciated! Most people are happy to chip in a few dollars and I've always recouped my costs. If money is tight you could try organizing with a few families so you can all spread the initial cost.

10. Ask people to bring folding tables!!! My #1 problem is we don't have enough tables to put all the food on! This is a good problem to have :) And for people to bring camping chairs so they can sit and relax while the kids are going nuts :)

11. Make sure to rent some kind of barriers to keep cars out. I rented 4 A-frame barriers, with flashing lights for when it was dark. I bought caution tape from Home Depot and voila, a traffic barrier. The barriers are like $1-$2 dollars/day to rent so they aren't expensive and many cities require some kind of barrier to show where the road closure is.

12. Put up the posters that say "No Parking due to Block Party" and include the date and times of the party. We had the posters put up the day before and I also stuck flyers on people's windshields and wrote on them "Please move your car for the block party, thank you!!" and we've never had a problem.

13. I offered through the yahoo group if people wanted to drop off their folding tables beforehand so I could set it up, so if you have any folding tables set them up a little bit before the party. Our block parties started at 4 but I closed off the roads at 2, to give us time to set up and also the bounce houses have arrived.

14. Have fun!! And find people to help you clean up and dispose of the trash. I asked people to also bring a trash bag or two that we would duct tape to the end of the tables. That was a great way to contain the mess and we didn't have a lot of litter.

I can't wait to do it again!  

3 pirates and a princess at the block party.  Arrrrgh me mateys!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Babysitting Swap with Ashley

One of the best things we've done is start a baby sitting swap with Ashley Katz, one of my best mommy friends that I've made with Las Madres. I asked her if she wanted to swap babysitting every other month on a Sat night. So in other words, one month I babysit for her and the next month she babysits for me, and so on. It's great! Usually one of us comes over around six, plays with the kids for awhile and then gets them ready for bed. And then we have some nice quiet time to play on the computer, read, watch some tv or whatever! It's been great. I really like having a date night with Jerry. Sometimes we have had group dates and sometimes it's just been the two of us. But it's nice to have some alone time AND not to have to pay someone $60+ just to watch our kids, especially when they are asleep half the time! Usually we do evenings but the last time both of us wanted to go out during the day, Jerry and I went to Raging Waters and Ashley and Justin went to Great America. So when Ashley and Justin went on their daytime date we brought the kids over to their house so they could all play together. After we gave the kids a bath and put them in their pajamas Jerry took the girls home and I put Vander and Oliven to bed. Fun for all!

Kids eating dinner that Ashley made.   
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 13, 2012

Raging Waters

This summer we decided to get a season pass for Raging Waters. The water park is 15 minutes from our house door to door and we had seen on their website that they had a lot of great areas for kids. And they were right! Our season passes to Raging Waters has basically been our pool membership. The place has been great. There are a bunch of great areas for kids but we basically hang out at Crystal Creek, the lazy river and the Little Dipper. Both the girls have a blast. Also we have a bunch of friends who also got season passes so that makes it even more fun. We love meeting and letting the kids just play.

Whenever the weather is hot enough (mid 80's+, which means feels like in the 90's in the sun) I make sure to put Maddie down for an earlier nap and then after she wakes up we head on over. Usually we start at the creek. Sometimes that's the only place we go to! Seriously the last weekend we were at the creek for 2 1/2 hours. After an hour or so the girls are in need of a snack and like to play around on the grass by the creek. Afterwards we go to the lazy river or the little dipper. Sabrina talks a good game about going on the slides with Daddy but she gets to the park and is like "no". But at least we don't have to wait in line for anything! Maddie likes the water too but she would be just as happy running around laying on people's towels :)

Hanging out at Crystal Creek
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 6, 2012

Azevedo Pkwy's 1st Annual Block Party

We've lived in our house since 2007 and I thought it was downright sad how few neighbors we know. So I told Jerry I was going to plan a block party. And I did! It was a lot of work but soooo worth it. A ton of people came and had a great time. The first thing we had to do is go around our block and get signatures from all the houses that would be blocked off. Everyone (except for this one guy - but we won't talk about that right now :D ) was really excited about the idea. Once I got everyone's signature I was able to stop by the police department with the form, pay the fee (it's one time, as long as you have a block party once/year then you don't have to pay for the permit again.

After talking to my friend Ashley, who has organized several block parties herself, I decided to invite the entire development. I had Jerry print me out a bunch of flyers and I went door to door inviting everyone to our block party. If I didn't get them at home, I left a flyer. I also put together a yahoo group for people to join so we could get out information and also put together a database of what people planned to bring.

So basically, the party was AMAZING!! We had a fantastic turnout and people were so complimentary and wanted to do another one before the year ends, like in October for Halloween. People brought out the most delicious food and the giant inflatable slip n slide was a BIG hit. Can't wait to do it again!

Everyone brought the most delicious food and drink
I rented a giant inflatable slip n slide.  Big hit with the kids!
Sabrina enjoyed doing a variety of things, from the slip n slide to playing catch to walking this cute doggie
Maddie was the hit of the party.  And the boss! 
Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 16, 2012

Twin Lakes Beach with the Sarasohn's

I love going to the beach. Last year we didn't go too often because it was too hard with Maddie having to be in the Ergo and I had to make sure Sabrina didn't just go off into the ocean by herself. But so far this year it's been great. Both girls stay in the general vicinity and Sabrina can go a little bit into the ocean by herself but seems to have a healthy fear of the power of the ocean. Also according to her there are sharks to watch out for so you don't want to go too far :)

So when my good friend Shay invited us to hang with her and her family at the beach house that they are renting in Santa Cruz I said "heck yeah!" We had a super busy day right from the start. In the morning the girls had swim class, and then we hopped on over to Pump It Up in Morgan Hill. Our South Valley 2008 group was sponsoring a trip and so we couldn't say no! The girls had a great time, although I think Maddie's favorite part was drinking from the water fountain. From there it was straight to Santa Cruz. My "plan" was to feed the girls lunch, then put Maddie down for a nap, get Sabrina some quiet time and then hit the beach after we've rested.

Well you know what they say about planning... ...I forgot Maddie's paci!! If you think she will sleep without it, guess again. She screamed and cried for well over an hour in that pack n play. I was so so bitter and couldn't be mad at anyone other than myself. So after over an hour of this I gave up, took her out and took the girls down to the beach. At first I was really sure this was going to be a disaster, Maddie hadn't slept, the weather wasn't too warm, but it ended up being fabulous. Just as we got to the beach the sun started shining, we found Jake (Shay's husband) and his friends and family hanging out at the beach and we got right into having a fun time. The girls made sand castles, ran around and had fun fun fun. When Mal and the twins woke up the girls had even more fun. It was really cute to watch Sabrina and Mal make "sand castles" (really mounds of sand) that would get swept over by the water and the kids would go "ahhh, no!!! Make another one!!!" They did this forever. We were at the beach for close to 3 hours! Dinner was coming up so we headed back to the house, hosed the kids down, got them in the bath, in jammies and to the table for dinner. It was delicious, Jake's sister made a lentil stew with rice and salad. It was so good I had to go for seconds. Finally we had to make our way home and the girls fell asleep after about 5 minutes in the car. A great day all around!
A romantic date on the beach?
Eventually I got around to putting on Maddie's swimsuit
All worn out!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stuff Maddie Says

Future student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry

Maddie has gotten so big, where has all the time gone?  She really thinks she's as old as her sister.  I thought now that she is 19 months this would be a good time to write down all the words she can say right now (in no particular order):

1.  Mommy
2.  Daddy
3.  Sabrina (pronounced "Mina"
4.  Sister
5.  Cookie
6.  Cracker
7.  Hot Dogs
8.  Cereal (Jerry and I are the only ones who understand that one)
9.  Shoes
10.  Hat
11.  Doggie
12.  Quack (for duck)
13.  Fluffy (her lovey)
14.  Paci
15.  Banana (pronounced "nana")
16.  Milk
17.  Bottle
18.  Baby
19.  Diaper
20.  NO (her favorite word)
21.  Ball
22.  Me
23.  Water
24 .  Bubbles
25.  CJ (Sabrina's friend)
26.  Safta

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camping at big basin

Our girls hanging out at the campsite
Getting ready to start our hike to the waterfall
We had a great time camping are we are tired!!

Last weekend we went to Big Basin with 10 other families and their kids to go camping.  17 kids in all!!  It was a super fun experience but exhausting.  Going with a 19 month old is hard work!  We packed my car to the gills and headed out Friday afternoon.  Once we got there, we started to pitch our tent and let the kids play.  The campsite was great.  It was one big open space, so the older kids had good boundaries and could run around in wild (but dirty) abandon.  Maddie however hasn't figured out boundaries yet so we had to keep a pretty close eye on her.  Dinner the first night was tri tip, corn on the cob and garlic bread.  Delicious!!  I love camping out food.  Dessert was roasted marshmallows and we made smores.  Sabrina's favorite thing to do was "roast" marshmallows.  I say "roast" because she would hold her stick by the fire for approx 1/10th of a second, declare all done and eat her marshmallow.  :)  The kids went to sleep super late Friday night, I don't think Sabrina was asleep until almost 11pm!  Which led us to...

...Saturday.  Our full day at camp.  Sabrina woke up at 5:30am to go to the bathroom and was up, so Maddie was up, so we were up.  Sabrina's friend Mal was up with his daddy Jake so they played together while we waited for other families to wake up so we could get breakfast started.  Breakfast Sat morning was breakfast burritos.  Tortillas, eggs, salsa, cheese, bacon (for those that ate it) plus OJ, coffee, hot cocoa, and fruit.  The kids loved playing at our campsite area.  I really enjoyed having that many kids there because there was always someone for some kid to play with.  Jodi made up these "nature journals" that the kids got to decorate and once everyone was ready we took the kids on a nature hike up to a waterfall.  The hike was 1/2 mile in and back so it was perfect for the kids.  Sabrina walked the whole way and I strapped Maddie in the Ergo.  After we got back from the hike it was time for lunch.  I made the kids and myself PB&J sandwiches with watermelon and carrots on the side.  After lunch was Maddie's naptime.  Naptime was hard for her, it wasn't dark (obviously) like it usually is and it was pretty warm inside the tent.  Anyways we tried but I think she got about 45 minutes total.  After Maddie's nap Michelle Pirooz made up these cool buckets and wrote the kids name on each one.  The kids got to go search for their bucket and it had fake tattoos a necklace and cheezits.  We still had time to kill so the kids got to go on a scavenger hunt.  Remember, Sabrina has had no quiet time and I am pretty sure this and very little sleep contributed to...

...meltdown city!!  Sabrina was losing it and obviously needed to rest.  I made her stay in her tent (the shade was over our tents by now so it was nice and cool again) and told her she couldn't come out until she was calm.  She passed out within 5 minutes.  Right when she fell asleep there was a cool circle time at the ranger station but since Sabrina was asleep and Maddie could care less, we stayed back and helped to clean up the site and prepare dinner.  Apparently half the kids missed the circle time from sheer exhaustion.  We had to drive to the ranger station and a bunch of kids fell asleep on the five minute ride there.  

Dinner Sat night was chili I had made beforehand.  We also chopped up the leftover tri tip and put it in the chili.  Waste not want not!  We also steamed broccoli and cut up watermelon.  For the kids we brought a ton of hotdogs.  We had the brilliant idea of taking the roasting sticks we used for the marshmallows and roasted the hot dogs on the fire!  We woke up Sabrina and she proceeded to cry and tell me she wanted to go back to bed.  I made her eat dinner and then put on her jammies and put her back to bed.  By now Sabrina had decided she didn't want to go back to bed.  Well too bad so sad.  She made a decision and I made her keep to it.  For that she cried "I don't want to go to bed!" for about an hour.  Well finally she was asleep, Maddie was asleep and Jerry and I had some free time, yea!!  The adults hung around the campfire, ate cookies and roasted marshmallows and played a fun game.  We were all pretty exhausted so Jerry and I went back to the tent and passed out.  

The next morning we packed up, had breakfast (bagels and cream cheese, for those that are wondering) and went home. Exhausting but fun!  Can't wait to do it again next year :)