It has been a long winter. For moms with young kids, this is a unique torture. Snow is decidedly not stroller friendly, and even ambulatory kids have a difficult time navigating the icy terrain, especially when bundled up like the Michelin Man. After exhausting every craft project in your arsenal, (for me, that’s two) watching a grueling number of kid-vids, and baking enough cookies so that even your pjs are getting tight, you need a new plan.
My solution? Have a party! There’s nothing like an infusion of fresh faces to combat cabin fever. I took this plunge last weekend for dinner and it may well have saved my children from actual bodily harm. We had an impromptu dinner party for a couple of families on our block – they all walked here, so no one had to brave the icy roads or worry about driving home after a festive evening.
I pulled some bolognese sauce out of the freezer for a simple spaghetti dinner and made a Caesar Salad. A friend brought brownies and another brought some cheese and crackers. My husband made up a cocktail, which he called a “snowflake” (fresh squeezed lime juice, cilantro, simple syrup and vodka) and gave the kids a non-spiked version. A good time was had by all, and the fiesta gave everyone a much needed break from the intense togetherness that this harsh winter has forced up on us.
Your “Escape from Cabin Fever” party may take any form that works for you – brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, happy hour or dinner; depending on your schedule, the age of your kids, their napping habits, and your culinary and hosting comfort zone. Here is a 6-pack of tips to execute a gathering that is casualty-free, non-destructive, and fun for all.
Keep the menu simple, and allow for pickiness. For example, with my Spaghetti Bolognese last week, I set some pasta aside for the ‘white food only’ eaters. If you make chili, serve plain cheese quesadillas as an accompaniment. Or let guests choose what they ingest. Set up a simple taco bar with shells, meat, cheese, salsa, lettuce and beans. This can all be easily purchased and does not require chef training. Ditto a sandwich buffet for lunch or a make-your-own-breakfast parfait with yogurt, fruit, nuts, granola, honey/maple syrup, cinnamon, and raisins.
Be mindful of the mix of kids, and try not to be majorly outnumbered.
If you have access to a sitter, enlist him/her. This makes for a much more relaxed time for the grown-ups and they may offer to split the cost. Alternatively, invite a family with some kids who are almost babysitter age. They can keep an eye on the little ones, and it won’t really matter that they are not CPR certified with a Masters in Early Childhood Education since you are all on the premises and they can shout for help if things go south.
Beware of buffets and small children. Even if you set up as a “serve yourself”, make sure the kids are seated to eat, unless you want Jackson Pollock type designs on your walls.
Keep your eye on the clock. Most kids have limited time before they crash, and nothing ruins a party like multiple meltdowns. Don’t be two hours into the soiree before a morsel is served.
Relax. It is supposed to be fun, right? People are happy to get together. They are grateful for your hospitality and won’t judge you if your sauce is from a jar, your brownies from a mix, your silver isn’t polished or your chandelier isn’t gleaming. And if they do, dump them. You know the old saying, ‘With friends like that…”
Keri White has been blogging about etiquette, parenting, food, and lots of other things since 2006. She has served as the Etiquette Correspondent for WTXF-TV in Philadelphia and has written advice and parenting columns for several newspapers and magazines. Prior to her career in writing and parenting, she was an award-winning seventh grade teacher, which provided her with significant experience correcting other people’s children and telling people what to do. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Keri lives in Philadelphia with her husband Matt, her two children, Cormick and Kelsey and their cat, Gershwin. Her book, The Mommy Code, a humorous and useful guide to parenting in the modern world, was released in January, 2014.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.