A 5-Star Thank You Note

I am a little bit of a thank you note snob. When we give a gift at a children’s birthday party, I want to get a thank you note because I want confirmation that my gift made it to the birthday girl or boy. I am never sure what happens to our gift after I drop my child at the mega bounce house party and leave the present in the big wagon-o-gifts that is supposed to make it out to the birthday child’s car. The thank you note is the only way I know our friend has the gift in his/her possession.

After my kids receive gifts at their birthday party, I work really hard to make sure my children write thank you notes in a timely manner. When they were littler, I wrote the notes on their behalf and had them draw a picture, sign their name, or add some sort of scribble.

After the party is over, getting my children to write these thank you notes is a chore. One fab friend allowed her daughter to only open 2-3 gifts after her birthday party. The child could not open any more gifts until she completed thank you notes for the first few gifts. My friend said it worked like a charm until they got to the last few gifts. At that point, almost all of the thank you notes were complete, so it was not such a monumental task.

Since we just hosted a Star Wars birthday sleepover, my son has a few thank you notes to write. I started thinking a little about the whole thank you note process and developed a 5-star thank you note classification system. Now, depending on the situation, a 2-star thank you might be totally appropriate. Ultimately, I don’t care if I get a 1-star thank you– I just like knowing that the gift was received and acknowledged.

It would make me feel better to know that someone out there takes their thank you note writing as seriously as I do. Is it important for you to get a thank you note after giving a gift, and do you have any tips for making the thank you note writing process a little easier?

5-Star Rating

A handwritten note that is delivered via snail mail. It has personal comments and explains why the person who received the gift appreciates it. The thank you note is completed within 2-3 weeks. If you have personalized stationery, you just bumped your thank you note into a whole separate thank you note domain.

4-Star Rating

A partially handwritten note that is delivered via snail mail. It may be one of those fill in the blank kind of cards that are great for younger children who are just learning to write. It specifically names the gift that was given. The thank you note is completed within 2-3 weeks.

3-Star Rating

An e-mail or phone call to the person who gave the gift. The gift receiver names the gift and why he/she liked it. The thank you e-mail or call is completed within 2-3 weeks.

2-Star Rating

You thank the person who gave you the gift in person the next time you see them.

1-Star Rating

A generic letter or e-mail that says thank you to a whole group for the gift(s). It does not name the specific gift given or a specific person who gave the gift. I am guilty of sending one of these thank you notes to my students after receiving a very nice gift card. It was a particularly hectic holiday, and I wanted the whole class to know I received the gift.

May the Force Be With You

      

It started out as a Jedi bowling birthday party and turned into a Star Wars sleepover. For my son’s 8th birthday, we had three friends meet us at the local bowling alley. We then took the boys home and gave them their Jedi costumes. After the boys finished beating the snot out of each other Jedi training, we served hamburgers, ice cream sundaes, and topped off the evening watching the original Star Wars movies.

The Invitation: These were tricky. Star Wars logos and characters are licensed, so it is almost impossible to find a tasteful blank Star Wars themed invitation. There are some out there, but they looked cheap to me and usually had the Star Wars Lego characters. I ended up buying blank cardstock and designed the invitation on my computer. I Googled the Star Jedi font and downloaded it for free. Search Google images for things like lightsaber or Darth Vader to paste into the invite. I used wording on the invitation like, “In a Galaxy Not Too Far Away” and “Journey Begins” and “Regrets to the Jedi Master.”

The Jedi Outfit: When I visited my sewing sister this summer, she set me up on her sewing machine, and I actually made the Jedi robes myself! If you can sew a straight line, you can do these. I will say you need a lot of fabric (which can be expensive), so I was glad my son wanted just 2 or 3 friends. Our local karate school gave us the white karate belts. We made the lightsabers from pool noodles. I followed directions that I found on Pinterest, which were clear and easy. My children did most of the handle work themselves. FYI– blue and green lightsabers are the good side of the Force; red is the Dark Side.

      

The Tablescape: Sewing sister came through on this one too. She forwarded a slumber party idea to me that showed how to use twin bed sheets to make your rectangular dining table look like a made up bed. I found the Star Wars sheets at Target for about $20. These are NOT Egyptian cotton, so if you choose to use them on your regular bed after the party, you may want to wear a rash guard with your pajamas. If you watch the original Star Wars movie for food scenes (there are not too many), they tend to eat out of tupperware looking things. I saw the travel coffee mugs in the $1 aisle at Target and thought they were perfect. I downloaded the napkin/light saber rings and directions from this website.

    

The Mos Eisley Sundae Bar: You find so many good things in that $1 aisle at Target. I found the silver buckets, the grey bins, and the grey bowls during a recent trip. I wanted all of the food containers to have a sort of future/space age feel to them. We set out ice cream toppings in black (Crushed Oreos and Thin Mints), brown (chocolate sprinkles), grey (M&Ms), and green (M&Ms) colors. I sort of copied the ice cream sundae bar from my niece’s birthday party.

The Mos Eisley Breakfast Bar: I went with the future/space age thing again. In the Empire Strikes Back movie where Luke eats on Dagobah and meets Yoda, he eats something that sort of looks like a dog biscuit but is probably a freeze dried jerky kind of thing. I thought granola bars and mini cereal boxes would fit in with that type of food. I also served vanilla yogurt in mini tupperwares with some fresh fruit topping choices. The yogurt was an homage to that blue/green smoothie type drink Luke poured himself while at dinner with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru near the beginning of Star Wars. You may be wondering how I am able to recall so many details of the original Star Wars movies. I’ll just say that I am very good at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and leave it at that.

The Party Favors: The guests took their Jedi outfits home as the party favors. They also took the travel coffee mugs too.

Party Invitation Giveaway Winner

As suspected, the competition was fierce for the construction birthday party invitations. After carefully reviewing all of the two entries, I could not make a decision. Both entries offered some very creative ideas for activities, treats, and party favors that included setting up a construction site in a sand box and designing a play roadway with cones and yellow tape. See the original post and comments to learn more.

To pick the winner, I set up a double blind drawing with the help of my daughter (who picked the winning name out of the bowl). I know the anticipation is killing you, so congratulations to… Aunt B. It is your lucky day! I will be contacting you shortly with all of the details, and we will want pictures after you host your party. A special thank you to Phyllis (the dark horse) Ford for participating.

To everyone else, please keep reading. My daughter’s kindergarten orientation is on August 17, and if I time my arrival correctly, I should be able to make it to the parent volunteer sheet before anyone else and snag the title of Kindergarten Room Parent. Wish me luck and stay tuned for more tips and tricks to help you navigate the school year.

Tonka Birthday Party

I think it is mandatory for all little boys to want a construction or tool party at some point. My son was no exception. He had a real tool thing going when he was little. For his second birthday, we threw a construction and tool party that was a great toddler party. But– stay tuned– because I am also including a variation to this party for older kids (and by “older” I mean up to adult aged kids) at the end of the post. This is another PB (pre-blog) party, so my photo choices are limited.

The Invitations: I had two options for the invitations. We ended up using an invitation that showed a boy and his tool belt, but I also had some dump truck invitations that I included in the picture above. In fact, I still have them (in their original box). There are ten in the box plus a sample; I will MAIL THEM to the follower who posts a comment with the best idea for an activity, party favor, decoration, or even why you are thinking about throwing a tool/construction party. I will post the winner on Sunday, August 5 with information about how to receive this ONE OF A KIND PRIZE. I am quite certain the competition will be fierce. Psst, Aunt B, this is your chance.

The Activity: For weeks, I saved paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, cereal boxes and other recyclable materials. I purchased Elmer’s glue, craft sticks, wooden dowels, foam stickers, wood blocks, foam blocks, and any other materials I thought could be used in building. I set up two low tables in our basement and covered them with butcher paper. I set all the materials on the tables, so the guests could walk up and create.

The Party Favor: The Dollar Store had plastic tool kits. I put the tools in a Lowe’s canvas tool belt and wrote guest names in Sharpie pen across the front. We tied these on the guests as they arrived, so they could use the tools while building with the recyclable materials.

The tool belt pictured was a birthday gift, but the Lowe’s belt party favor looked similar.

The Cake: I used a bakery in New Orleans for this one. They created a rocky terrain with icing then set construction vehicles onto the cake.

The Food: We served nuts and bolts (Chex Mix), Fritos, and small sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The food choices were not anything super exciting, but I borrowed all of my son’s dump trucks, lined the truck beds with coordinating paper napkins, and used those as the serving dishes. That was a good little detail!

The Gift: My parents gave my son a play workbench, which is one of the best I have ever seen. For a little bit bigger child, a great gift is the Real Construction sets.

The Older Party: This past year, my parents won a “Tonka Party” at a charity auction. A construction company had donated a trip to the site where they keep all of their equipment. My mom booked the party over Christmas when all of the grandkids, kids, and grandparents would be together. She invited some other family friends too. The party included rides on the big equipment like the back hoes, pulling the air horn on the dump truck (believe me, the adults lined up faster than the kids), and climbing around on the front loaders and other big trucks. I am not sure if you have a local construction site willing to do this, but it sure was something different. My mom made sack lunches for all of the guests and served Bloody Mary’s for the big kids and hot chocolate for the little kids.

Ice Cream Sundae Birthday

Part of our recent road trip was a visit to my sewing sister’s house. This is my sister who made the drawstring bags for our Hello Kitty birthday party. Our trip overlapped with my niece’s 8th birthday, and we were able to celebrate with her. My niece invited two friends to come swimming on the afternoon of her birthday. On the day of the party, my sister whipped up some activities that made the party look like she had been planning for weeks (not only does this sister sew, she is also very good at parties). She kept it simple, but it was so cute and colorful.  I think it would be an easy party to host for a wide variety of ages. What are other good ideas for impromptu birthday parties that look coordinated and well-planned?

The Face Painting: My sister did an Internet search for kids’ tattoos– not face painting designs– and copied a collection of simple ideas on master pages that were easy for the kids to reproduce. She set up the face paints and design choices on the table by the pool.  It was a “self-serve” operation. The kids took breaks from swimming and decorated their faces, hands, legs, backs…

The Cake: My whole family loves a grocery store birthday cake! My sister ordered an undecorated cake– she did plan this ahead of time– and provided materials for the guests to decorate it. Think of the finished product as an edible pinata. TIP: We decided that an activity like this probably needs a small group. Maybe eight children, max. If you are having a larger party, provide individual cakes or two or three larger cakes. The Betty Crocker Cake Mate squeezable frosting cans were perfect for this project. They came in bright colors and offered different frosting tips for fun decorating options.

Before

During

After

The Ice Cream Sundaes: My sister had colorful spoons and bowls from a previous party and purchased a variety of ice cream toppings at the grocery store. After we scooped ice cream, the guests added as many toppings as they wanted!

The Supplies: Most of the food items were in white or blue ramekin dishes. Everything my sister used was in bright “ice cream” colors, which created a themed look to the party even though it was a very casual get together. She had pink bowls, ice cream sundae spoons, brightly colored M&Ms, sprinkles, chocolate and caramel toppings, ice cream cones, brightly colored frosting, and Tervis Tumblers with colorful lids filled with M&Ms for party favors.