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Following the victory dance moms do when our children have flown the coop, that feeling of freedom can quickly turn into a case of the blues. After years of nagging about wet towels on the bathroom floor and empty jugs of milk left in the refrigerator, we miss the nurturing—just a bit. And there’s the change in our mom network, too. One day we’re bonding with a community of parents waiting outside for our first graders to emerge, and seemingly the next we’re packing the car for boarding school or college. Why not turn those blues into a care package party? (Although many companies will send seasonal care packages to students, there’s nothing like getting a personalized box from home.) Here’s how to pull it together.

Parties can be organized around holiday themes (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc.) or high-stress times like midterms or finals. Exam times can vary widely, so look for a date that hits a critical mass of attendees, knowing some students will get their packages possibly weeks in advance of exams. No worries—everyone loves a package filled with goodies regardless of when it arrives.

Ten to fifteen guests is a manageable group to coordinate. They don’t need to be your nearest and dearest friends—ideally they are the moms of your child’s friends. It will give you an opportunity to reconnect with those parents. This is a potluck affair focusing on the packages not the food. Keep it to simple finger foods and, of course, wine.

Along with your invite, send a list asking moms to sign up for one or two items (Google docs is a great tool to avoid duplicates). Balance the list with a mix of fun and practical items: Homemade baked goods; cough drops; herbal tea; vitamin mixes like Emergen-C or Airborne; hot cocoa mix; stress balls; packaged snacks like granola bars, nuts and trail mix; novelty items like a slinky, silly putty or a deck of cards; gum; microwaveable soup; oatmeal or mac ‘n’ cheese. Ask moms to include a note with homemade treats indicating if the item contains nuts or is gluten-free, etc.

Encourage friends to wear a piece of clothing from their student’s school like a sweatshirt, hat, T-shirt or scarf—every parent most likely has one item. Gather all the moms and take a picture. The host can print the photo so each box contains a shot of the moms who helped. Have each mom sign the photos or write quick notes of encouragement on the inside of the boxes. These are most likely kids you have known much of their life, and everyone wants to see a friendly name and “hello” from home.

Prior to the party, stop by the post office and pick up Priority Boxes (make sure to account for those who have multiple students away and will be preparing more than one box). Flat-rate post office boxes are the way to go—they are one fee regardless of location and weight, can be picked up at the post office for free or shipped to your doorstep in sets of ten. Make your life even easier by setting up an online account (it takes two minutes) that will allow you to print labels and arrange for all the packages to be picked up at your doorstep—no schlepping boxes and waiting in line. Assemble the boxes before the party and stash them under the supply table. Be sure to have extra packing tape to seal boxes.

Clear off a large table, and when guests arrive have them place their items on the table so it’s set up for shopping. With a tableful of items, they can fill their box with exactly what they need. Before packing the boxes, encourage guests to decorate the inside flaps. On the invite suggest that guests bring colored tissue or something with their student’s school colors. Have an array of multicolor sharpies and construction paper available so parents can decorate the boxes with everything from a simple “Love, Mom” to more elaborate themes. (You can also provide a link to Pinterest sites with your invite to inspire those extra crafty parents.)

If you’ve set up a post office account, log on and let parents print labels right on the spot. They can pay online or print out the label and take the package to the post office. For those choosing to pay online, you can arrange for a pickup at your home.

Before your friends head out the door, ask for a volunteer to organize the next gathering. Once they see how simple it is, they’ll be happy to do it all over again.


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