Attitude of Gratitude

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I love how some people list their blessings every day in November. I am not that disciplined, but I love that some people are. I like to read about what makes them thankful.

Thanksgiving is great time to be thankful...I mean maybe not if you are Native American. I am just saying it is something we need to be cognizant of when we celebrate this holiday. It isn't all warm and fuzzy. 

But I digress, we are talking about gratitude today.

I do like the idea of reflecting on your blessings at the end of the year. A time to take inventory. I especially like to do this with children before they get a crap ton of stuff for the holidays. I want them to have some perspective.

The other day I definitely told my children how other children in the world (and in our own country...our own state, heck in our own town) live much different, much harder lives. There was even some talk about children in diamond mines. I know, I know... it wasn't my proudest moment. I don't want to shame my children into being grateful.

It is a balance of learning about perspective, privilege, and place. This lessons are best taught with love (not shame or anger). 

And if I am being honest, I don't always feel grateful or thankful. I can get hung up on the things I don't have, the moments in life that aren't great, and the sadness and crappy parts of humanity. That is human nature. 

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.
— Willie Nelson
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And let's be real, you can't talk about being grateful without talking Oprah. She DID tell us about writing in a gratitude journal all those years ago. 

I live in the space of thankfulness — and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.
— Oprah Winfrey

I want some of that...I want to focus on the small things, I want to have a space of thankfulness. And I want it for our kids as well. So here are a few things to get us in the practice of being grateful. 

Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude

Name your blessings.

One thing that we do in our family (some times...not all the time) is that we do "Highs, Lows, and Weirds." You tell the best part of your day, the worst part of your day, and the part that was cuckoo. My sons class does a variation of this called "Cherries and Pits." It is a great way to get some perspective. Sometimes you feel like "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." However, sometimes it is just how you look at the world.

Read Books

C'mon, isn't that the answer for most things? Reading a book? Reading is a great way to broaden your perspective and to challenge privilege, and to explore place. Books allow you to enter other realities that are not your own. You get to view the world just a little differently. 

Being Thankful is a simple book by Mercer Mayer about being grateful and it is good for younger children. But there are lots of books about gratitude for all ages of children. Go to your local library or bookstore. They are the experts. They are definitely some people to be thankful for. 

Get Crafty

Make a gratitude tree or start a gratitude jar. Both a gratitude tree and a gratitude jars provide ways to develop habits of being both mindful and grateful. And these are tangible physical reminders of what you are thankful for. Plus, the act of making the craft allows the opportunity to make memories about just being together creating. Kids just want to be with you. 

Being Mindful

Spend time with your kids and be mindful of your time with them. My kids straight call me out. "Mom, you are on your phone." "Mom, you just said 'mmm hmmm' so you aren't really listening." Brutal, but good reminders. Let's keep each other accountable. 

This time is fleeting...it doesn't matter if your kids are 2 or 42...this time is going fast and it won't come again. The things that matter are our relationships. Model a grateful heart and spend time with you who you are most grateful for. 

Slow down enjoy your time together, talk, go for a walk, or whatever is "you." Point out the blessings. Hold their hand. Listen to what their are thankful for. 

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For more in depth discussions about gratitude and children check here and here.

And since Advent starts soon (Sunday, December 3, 2017) here is a great resource to continue the attitude of gratitude for the rest of the year ( you don't have to observe Advent to get a lot out of this exercise). It is called the Advent of Gratitude and the concept is this..."Most Advent Calendars present us with a gift each day leading up to Christmas. The purpose of this Advent of Gratitude is to remind us of the gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for." This calendar lists things to be thankful for and then suggests donating a certain dollar amount to a local charity. The Advent of Gratitude has a community on Facebook if you'd like to learn more. 

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Look for the blessings. Embrace a more grateful heart. And I will see you soon!

 

 

 

The Sky's the Limit

Montana
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
— Saint Augustine

We did it! We went to 11 states in 10 days. We (mostly my husband) drove almost 4000 miles. We stayed in 4 hotels (only one was regrettable), 1 motel, and 1 home of our relatives. We saw 20 family members...over half of them were just a happy coincidence that we were staying in the same town at the same time. And we met up with a couple of dear friends. 

It was a crazy adventure. But so worth it. The kids were great. The country was amazing. It was so good to see this land in a different way, talking to different people, experiencing new adventures. 

We got to see things like this. 

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore was really amazing and I didn't think I would be so impressed by it. People from all over the world were there and the park rangers were seriously the nicest. It was a perfect stop. 

Mt Rushmore

But really one of the highlights of the trip was the landscape (not altered by humans). And one of the biggest surprises was the sky. The clouds across this country were amazing. I was mesmerized. As I sat in the passenger seat zooming by on the highway I would just take picture after picture through the bug smeared window. I just wanted to remember how stunning they were. 

I am going to be real, I believe that we are in a trying place as a country right now. There are a lot of scary things happening and there is a lot of "us" and "them" talk. But exploring where we live and who we live with was reassuring. There are a lot more nice people out there than bad.

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.
— Anais Nin

People are genuinely trying their best and their best may not make a lot of sense to us, but it is where they are. We will not change the state of the world or of our country by building barriers between us, by separating us, or by pitting us against each other. What will make our country stronger is coming together and finding common ground. 

This country is incredible. It is. Look at it! It is so gorgeous and it is filled with so many good, good things. Yes, there is work to do and some of it may be really hard work and we won't see eye to eye, but maybe we can have open minds and open hearts for each other. 

Wyoming

Today look up in the clouds, talk to a stranger, and explore a place you have never been. It is good to shake things up.

See you Thursday and I will give you a run down on what worked well for traveling with kids and what did not.

Have a great day!

 

Cool it Now

Holy hell it is hot lately and this summer's forecast is set to be filled with record breaking highs. It certainly doesn't help that my internal thermometer is out of whack...that is a story for another day. Regardless it is hot.

It's how hot?

It's how hot?

I have been in Oregon a long time and it use be that it didn't really matter if you had air conditioning or not. It only got hot a few times a year. That is no longer the case.

We don't have air conditioning in our home. We usually put a window unit in our room and we have a downstairs that stays cool, but it is definitely something that is on the "to do" list.  

In the meantime we will take direction from New Edition and "Cool it Now." (I loved this song so much when I was my son's age.)

What are some ways you chill when the weather gets hot?

Here are some ways we cool down...other than black out curtains, ceiling fans, etc. 

  • Eat cool food-Put away that beef stroganoff, mom. Seriously my mom likes to make hot food on hot days...it has become a running joke in the family. But have a salad, cool spring rolls, lettuce tacos, smoothie, etc. Or have a snow cone or ice cream if that is more your style. 
  • Make a splash-Get in that water! Go to the pool, the river, or break out the kiddie pool. Or Super Soakers anyone?  Or you can do what my Mema did, which works so well it is disturbing, she always had a cool, damp washcloth on her neck. That is right, I am turning into my grandma!
  • The entertainer-You may or may not have air conditioning, but other places definitely do and you can go enjoy them...bowling alleys, movie theaters, the mall, restaurants, etc.
  • A change of scenery-Go to the river, the beach, the mountain, go wherever you can in your area. Any caves to explore? Is there a forest to look around? Move around to find a cooler place. 

Okay, trying to cool it now. I also accidentally fell down a rabbit's hole diving deep in on New Edition research...onto Bobby Brown next. 

See you Thursday!

 

 

For 2 or More Players

Chess Board

Holy hell, this has been a hard week.

Tuesday I participated in a memorial for a dear friend who lost her mom way too soon.

In Portland, we are still reeling from the recent repugnant hate crimes. We have learned that someone on the lightrail stole from one of the heroes who died. And the stabbing survivor has been a model of strength and compassion. Still holding those girls in prayer.

And if you look at the news...world news or local news...it doesn't matter...you just want to cry...hatred, violence, racism, environmental disasters, and pure ignorance at every turn.

It can get more than a little overwhelming.

I don't know about you, but when these things happen I tend to shut down, I want to retreat, but in all honesty these are the times you have to show up and you have to make connections with one another.

Look, I don't want to either, but how are we to raise future generations to love, to have hope, to make this world better, and to fix our damn messes? We have to up the ante and live in radical love to change the course. We cannot just look around at the sad state of affairs and be okay with that. We just can't.  

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

We aren't going to change the world overnight, but we can start today on building bridges. Want to know a fun way to make connections and to get to know others? Play some games. It seems crazy, but it is true.

I am an introvert and a little (or a lot...shut it) lazy...so I don't like to put myself out there. Be there for you during a life crisis? Sure, I am good for that. But just regular interaction...just a little more awkward. I don't want to be embarrassed or not know how to do something. And I get anxious in crowds. I am secretly a hot mess. So believe me when I tell you how powerful playing games can be for building relationships and how important they are for your kiddos (like learning how to take turns, learning new skills, and finding out how to win and lose). 

Think about at work or even school...what do they do to help people bond? Team building exercises (ie games). When we are focused on a task together you get to know others in unique ways.

Today we will cover a few games that you can play with two or more people. Find some people to play games with...ask your friends and family, ask a neighbor, or ask a stranger.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
— Anais Nin

The way we make the world a better place is getting to know "the other." Have you ever heard kids play? In the beginning they have zero idea that they are different races, different religions, different anything...they just make friends with everyone they meet...there is no "other." Until they get older and we point out the differences instead of pointing out the similarities. Well, time to get back to basics and play some games.

Here are some of my favorites that are good for playing with smaller crowds  and that are pretty portable. (Most of the games on the list are affiliate links and are available through Amazon-look at the side bar for some information about affiliated links).

GAME LIST

Playing Cards Playing cards are the best...they are super portable and you can always have some with you since they are small. You can play a ton of different games with just one deck of cards.  This particular deck of cards is waterproof...I mean, I do live in the Pacific Northwest. But you can totally grab a deck of cards at any ol' place for like a $1. 

Playing Card Game Book If you don't know what games to play, grab this book and learn some new games to share with others.

Trackball This is such a fun game. Our boy got this game from a friend...he loved playing it at his friend's house, so they gave him one too. My boy was showing the game to his dad and my husband didn't really listen to what our kid was trying to say so my husband straight up threw the hard plastic ball right into our son's nose. That was like a year ago and it still makes us crack up. Trackball is basically like a version of catch. 

Frisbee We found out at our recent camping trip that we have clearly never taught our children how to play Frisbee. I mean, parenting is hard...it is impossible to make sure you are teaching them all the right skills...you are going to miss some stuff along the way. We are getting these because they are supposed to be easier to catch and throw and hurt less when the kids inevitable get hit in the face. Frisbees are a great active way to hang out with someone else.

Scrabble  I LOVE SCRABBLE. However, my husband won't play it with me. He is crazy talented at everything in the world except spelling.  So I will have to have my children play with me...in a few years. This particular version is called "Winning Moves Tile Lock Scrabble." It has plastic letters that "lock" onto the board. The description says "you can play Scrabble in a car, train, plane or boat with no worries." Sounds like awesome summer fun to me!

Handmade Wood Chessboard 

Handmade Wood Chessboard 

Chess or Checkers Want to go old school and use your noggin? Grab a chessboard and play a game with someone. 

Chess helps you to concentrate, improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment.
— Garry Kasparov

 (Also, look up the guy who said that quote, Garry Kasparov. Probably top 5 longest Wikipedia entries I have ever read about a person.)

Okay, back to the chessboard. Chessboards are a big thing in our family. My son and my husband play...our daughter does not...at least not yet. I don't know how to play chess, so if you are like me, you can play checkers. (I can hear my husband rolling his eyes at that last sentence.) 

My husband makes chessboards. The chessboard pics are all him. He does beautiful work. You too can have your own amazing handmade board for $150. Check out The KU Shop on Instagram or email him at marko@kudesigngroup.com?

He also makes picnic tables, bakes amazing pies, does out of control pizzas, refinishes antique tools, restores boats, trains dogs, is the best handyman, and an awesome daddy and husband...but that is all for another day.

One of his most endearing traits is that he accepts all people and he cares about everyone no matter who they are or where they are from or what they believe. I can always count on him to do the right thing. I mean, I am not saying he is perfect, but he is pretty darn great.

Grab a seat. 

Grab a seat. 

When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence.
— Unknown

Looks like my husband is building the longer table and I will get the games ready. What are you going to do?  Grassroot, radical, unconditional love is the only way. Let's get started.

Listen Up

I am going to tell you the secret to parenting. That is right...just barely 9 years in and I have it all figured out. Are you ready? Listen to your kids. Shut your mouth and just listen. I know it is revolutionary. I have read parenting articles about listening before, and honestly I  thought I was doing just that. Heck, I have even taught college classes about listening and some specifically about listening to young children, and still this is a revelation for me. 

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.
— Margaret J. Wheatley
What's Up?

What's Up?

Our son had a speech delay. We always joked that he was the strong silent type. He walked a little before 9 months old, he rode a bike at 18 months, but he didn't really talk that much. Clearly he was busy doing other things. He has been in Speech Therapy for years, he talks just fine now and honestly he talks quite a bit. When he was younger, I felt like I listened to him so intently and was so in tune to what he was thinking or feeling because he didn't use a lot of verbal communication at a young age. But in retrospect, I think that I wasn't always practicing active listening...I was listening for errors that I would correct, or listening for action items or things he or I needed to do, or filling in the gaps for him. (Active listening means focusing fully on the speaker and actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening.)

One of my son's besties has always been a very verbal kid and has been able to read and write from an early age...things that didn't come easy for our boy. His friend just devours all details and is happy to share with any one that will listen. They aren't in the same class at school this year and I seriously was so bummed, because our boy tells us no information and his friend would tell me EVERYTHING that would happen that day. I love it. It also cracks me up that they found each other at such a young age...they have been friends since they were 3 years old...they definitely compliment each other.

Like I said, nowadays our son talks all the time and I have just realized if I am perfectly quiet and just be physically there he will start sharing with me. If I ask him about school or crushes or anything I get nothing, but deep dimples and his smiling face looking at me or the random stare into the abyss, but certainly no answers. But if I just sit there, or drive him somewhere, or hang out near him the real conversation starts to happen. It usually happens in a trickle, but boy is it lovely.

Our daughter is in Speech Therapy as well. She talks a lot, she has an amazing vocabulary, but people have had a hard time understanding her so she goes for articulation. It is so interesting to me because I didn't have early childhood or elementary intervention, but our children have and some day here we will talk about IEPs, Speech Therapy, and the like. It can be a hard and confusing road, but it can also be a total blessing too. 

Big Talker

Big Talker

Little Miss NEVER stops talking. She has ALWAYS been jibber jabbering.  And honestly it is hard to actively listen to it as well. When she was a little bit younger and would be talking nonstop I found myself just giving random active listening cues..."oh really," "I know," "yes," "mmmhmmm." You get the idea. I know it is horrible, but she has always had a LOT to say. But now she wants real feed back and that girl doesn't quit and she will talk over everyone to get her point across. The other day I was putting her to bed and she was talking and talking and talking. I told her it was time to be quiet, she in all seriousness said "Mommy, I NEED to talk." I believe it. I hear her, I honor her, but some times we have to be quiet. 

Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
— Catherine M. Wallace

You know research shows that we remember only between about 25% to 50% of what we hear. Listening is hard work. It is. But it is sooooooo important. And I would venture to say it is probably even more important at this particular time in our country/history. It is easy to see the things we don't share in common...politics, opinions, beliefs and if we are busy talking about our perspective instead of listening to someone else we don't grow and we can't build empathy or understanding. So listening is not a skill we need just for our kiddos...it is a life skill. Life Skill 101...Listening.

Active Listener

Active Listener

So how do we become better listeners? Well, here are a few tips.

  • Be prepared to listen. This is so easy to overlook, but to be a good listener you have to be prepared to listen and honestly sometimes you aren't in a space to listen...whether that is a physical space or a mental space. In fact, I apparently tell my children "I can't listen right now" enough that my 4 year old asked me if she could talk to me when we got home about a baby doll she wants. Smart kid. 
  • Look the speaker in the eye. If you are listening to your children, then get at their level. You can't have a conversation with someone if you are looking up (or looking down) at them. You need to look in each other's eyes. Show the speaker that you’re listening to them. 
  • Turn on the nonverbal communication. So besides looking them in the eye, turn towards them, nod, SHOW them you are interested in what they are saying and that you are listening to them. Also, put down your phone. This is the quickest way to show someone you aren't engaged...even if you are really listening...it doesn't look like it or feel like it. 
  • Give some verbal feedback. You are listening for understanding so you aren't to "fix" anything or to share your story/opinion/two cents. Take the speakers lead on how to respond. For the most part just ask clarifying questions and summarize what you heard. 
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

It doesn't sound super hard, but a lot of us stink at being good listeners. And I don't know about you, but I would like my children to be good listeners so I better practice really hard so I can be a good model on Life Skill 101: Listening. Also, I REALLY want to know the 3rd grade crushes so I will be sitting here keeping quiet hoping someone will start talking. 

Have a great weekend and be sure to listen up!

 

 

Your Dish to Pass

If  you ever been to a church dinner,  a neighborhood gathering, or any other potluck you may have been asked to bring a dish to pass. This is something that you make more of and you share with others at the party. Everyone brings a dish to pass and therefore you are fed with all sorts of flavors in little amounts that add up to a meal.  Some of us have things that are our jam for potlucks...you have it dialed...you know what you want to bring, you make it all the time, you are an expert on that dish. Some of us are hit and miss with what dish to bring...the cooking isn't consistent...and you hope for the best. And then some of us freak out when giving the responsibility of providing part of the meal...you stress over what to bring...and you second guess your decision...and perhaps you just pick something up at the store on the way. We all have different potluck strategies and abilities.

Homemade Sourdough

Homemade Sourdough

Just like we all have talents...things that we are good at...things that set us apart from everyone else. Your "thing" is your "dish to pass" in this party called Life. 

Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.
— Prince

We all have something to give, something to contribute, even when we may not think we do. Think about the unique things that make you...you. You have special skills or aptitudes. Whether you are into sports or into arts; or a skilled communicator or a fabulous writer; or are a musician or a chef...you have skills.

Baseball Boy

Baseball Boy

When our son was a little younger he would need reassurance from time to time and he would like to know all the things he was good at or what his strong qualities are. At the time my heart would ache because I was afraid that he didn't think highly of himself and I know that kid and he is the freaking greatest. But in hindsight, we all need those reassurances, those check ins to remind us who we are and what makes us so great. And I would much rather him hear those things from his people, the people that know and love him instead of him making up things about himself because it can be hard to some times see yourself or even worse from people that may not have his best interest at heart. Part of being a parent is raising your kids with a good mix of self awareness, healthy self esteem, and a dash or two of humility. You want your kids to excel at lots of things, but the big ones for us are kindness, generosity of spirit, critical thinking, and a sense of humor...everything else is just gravy. 

Sharp Dresser

Sharp Dresser

Here are some tips to uncover or highlight your potential and to find your own dish to pass...

  • Take inventory. What do you love to do? What are you good at? Make a list...yes, a real one. Talk to the people you love to see what they say. Determine if your job and your values line up with the things you find important or at least are good at. Finding out what your gifts are helps you focus on the positive, it shows you about your own worth, and it is great information to have for yourself or for witty dinner party banter.
  • Do the unexpected. Don't fall into mind traps. Sometimes we can do some damaging mind talk. Don't fall into that trap. See, I pretty much hate karaoke. It embarrasses me and makes me super uncomfortable, but if people ask me to go...I go. This last weekend I had the opportunity to sing a rousing rendition of "Picture" by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow AND it was in front of some people I love and some I don't know. I had to do the unexpected and I had to just say "yes." How many times am I going to have that situation happen? Probably not a ton and I would rather reminisce about something that happened that made me stretch my comfort levels then have no story to tell. Will I be an expert karaoke singer...probably not, but it is good to do the unexpected. You never know when you might find your "thing" or at least have some good stories. 
  • Set some goals. Now you know what is your "dish" what are you going to do about it? My husband is great at building things and specializes in beautiful woodworking. But what does that matter? At first he did woodworking just for the love of it, the challenge or it, and the beauty of it. But because he does this one particular hobby so well, now he takes requests from people wanting to buy his products. What do you want to do with your talent? How can you share it? How can you grow it? What do you want to do next?
  • Believe in yourself. C'mon people  you have to believe in yourself. You don't think you are the right person for the job? Prove yourself wrong. You aren't all knowing, but you are awesome...focus on that. Below is a picture of a pie I made...the crust doesn't look amazing, but it is soooooo yummy. It was my husband's recipe...he makes the best pie crust. However, I was tired of waiting for him to make pie crust, so I learned how to make it myself. What do you want to do that fear is holding you back? Do some positive talk and believe in yourself dammit. 
Berry Pie

Berry Pie

Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!
— Julia Child

Start cooking...metaphorically speaking of course (or not). Invite some people at your table and share some time, share a meal, and make some memories. 

Take a Picture It'll Last Longer

I hope your Mother's Day was awesome. I had an absolutely amazing Mother's Day. We had a brunch for several mamas and others in our life. My husband made Eggs Benedict for the mamas and a Benedict scramble for the rest of the crew. I am so bummed I didn't take any pictures, but I was too busy enjoying how freaking delicious the whole spread was. Here is the recipe for the Hollandaise sauce he tried for this particular meal. It was freaking delicious. 

However, the BEST part was how my husband utilized the kiddos in the morning. He had our son working as a sous-chef and the girls (Little Miss and a couple of friends) as a waitresses. They all had on aprons on. The waitresses took orders and delivered drinks and the sous-chef made fruit salads and provided refills. Afterwards the girls put on a performance and our boy was the producer. It was the best for sure. My husband is so great at including kids in activities and giving them jobs to help them feel needed and relevant. I am less great at that because I lose my patience. 

After the great brunch, I had a lllllooooonnnngggg nap, Mother's Day ended at a local nature reserve and it was magical. 

I take a ton of pictures. I always have...even when cameras had real film. Remember real film? Well now iPhones (and I assume other phones) take such amazing photos. We are doing a tiny photo Make it Monday.

Make it Monday.

  • Take pictures...all sorts of pictures...pictures of people, places, things. You can use them for cards, decorating, motivational quotes, etc.
  • Don't get hung up on getting the "right" shot...take several...you may be surprised on what treasures you may have captured. 
  • Here are some ideas of what to do with your own photos. Here are some more ideas for crafts and the such.

Have a great day and document your life! Life is beautiful!

Party Planning 101

Tomorrow we are having a birthday party for our son and as of this very moment we have 55 RSVPs...that is just counting one per invite...there may be more. I am a little stressed. Not so much because of the number, but because of the forecast. It is supposed to rain during the party. Now I am worrying about the number. ALL of those kids shooting Nerf inside? I am less excited about that. Oh well, we will be making memories...and getting hit by Nerf.

So many Darts

So many Darts

Today I am giving you my TOP TEN LIST for Party Planning 101. Sure there are more than these, but this will get you started off great. 

Pick Your Theme-Remember on Monday we talked about the importance of a theme? Choose something so you can have some framework on what to do, how to decorate, etc.

For this birthday party my son picked Nerf. That is the theme that I based everything upon. 

Make Your List-I am the Queen of Lists (it is a formal title...duh), now I am also the Queen of Not Following Lists (a lesser known royalty). Most of my lists go into my phone so I always have them, but when I get serious I break out the cardstock and the Sharpie and start writing my punch list. I make lists for the guests, the menu, the decorations, the things we have to do around the house, etc. 

I am starting the serious list today.

Pick the Time- This is important. Unless you want to have a big meal with everyone, then pick a time in between meals...that will help save money too. And the duration of the party is also important. Most people do two hours for kids parties...not me, not anymore...I do an hour and a half. It is perfection...you wouldn't think those 30 minutes would make a difference, but yet they do. Of course it depends on the age of the kids, but sometimes it is hard to entertain kids for two hours straight.

So the Nerf party is from 3:30 pm-5:00 pm...in between meals and less than two hours.

Send the Invite-The invite depends on the demographics and the size. Typically I use Paperless Post it is an online invitation and card service. You can choose free or low cost invites. But if you are having a small party do some paper invites...you can do all sorts of sweet and unique ones. Or if you are having people that aren't technology savvy then do paper invites. I send the invite at least a month in advance.

We did Paperless Post for the Nerf party. 

Plan Your Meal-If you didn't listen to me then let's plan a big meal. If you DID listen to me (then you are my favorite)  I will share what snacks to have. This is just a list of the easiest and/or cheapest party foods.

Big Meals: Pasta, Bruschetta Bar, Hot Dogs, Pizza, Burgers, Funeral Sandwiches, Baked Potato Bar, Tacos, Sandwiches, BBQ, Homemade Salad Bar, or Appetizers (a ton to make a meal). 

Snacks: Veggie Tray or at the very least a bunch of carrots, Ranch Dip (If you can get Uncle Dan's get that and just mix it with sour cream...the yummiest), fresh fruit (don't get grapes...they taste great but you can't trust kids with them...you don't need to do the Heimlich), Pirate's Booty, Crackers and Cheese, Pepperoni, Meatballs, Popcorn.

Also, you can always have "theme food." Shape the food like your theme or have food to go along with the theme..a veggie Yoda for a Star Wars party and cornbread for a cowboy birthday. 

Tomorrow we are having just snacks for the party: carrots and ranch dip, fresh fruit, chips (I mean, it is a party), lemonade, water, and cake...lots of cake. We are also having a sleepover...that is when we are having dinner...appetizers (so many appetizers), veggies, and fruit. 

Paper Goods or the Real Deal-If I have a large party I do paper goods. If I have a smaller gathering then I use the real deal...plates, cups, napkins, and silverware. You can also mix and match the real and the disposables. I get my paper goods at Target, IKEA, Walmart, and the Dollar Tree.**** You also should invest in some platters and some serving utensils and everyone needs a cake stand (or four). If you have right gear it makes throwing a party soooo much easier. The best places for those are HomeGoods, IKEA, Ross, Target, and Crate and Barrel. 

For the Nerf party we are doing the paper route. I purchased the papergoods in the colors of Nerf...blue, orange, and yellow. 

****Okay, I get it the horrible things that Walmart does. I grew up in Arkansas the birthplace of Walmart, so I do go there sometimes. It is in my DNA. They do have hella deals. And the same thing for the Dollar Tree I love/hate the Dollar Tree...they have so much amazing stuff for a $1! But what are the environmental and social implications of those deals? I know, I feel bad. I do. Seriously I always think about what if a horrible disaster happened when I was in a Walmart or Dollar Tree and how much shame I would feel if that is where my loved ones would find my dead body. So I try to do good in the world, I try to shop local, we grow our own food...I do what I can for the world to balance out my retail sins. I am trying people.****

Decor-Make your own decor like paper chains or tissue paper tassel banners. I typically don't crazy about decor all over...I just focus on a few statement pieces. I love pendants and banners. Make them or buy them. Cheap and easy is my style. ;) Oh, and I don't typically do balloons indoors unless there is enough for each kid. It is too sad to see kids fighting over the decorations. I do put balloons on the mailbox to help guide people to our home. Once again this is how you get to use your theme. For our daughter's Zoboomafoo party we had an artificial Christmas tree up and decorated it with these knitted snakes I made for the party, they also doubled as a party favor. 

For the Nerf party, we will have a giant balloon and streamers, we are also having a ton of pendants throughout the front room, and maybe a few targets here and there. There are no party favors at this particular party. 

Activities-So first and foremost make sure you plan a game/activity based on your theme. Check this link for some ideas and then adjust them to go with your theme. 

The activity for this party will be shooting people with Nerf darts. Novel, huh? We have a million (that may be an exaggeration) safety glasses. 

Wardrobe-It is so nerdy, but I also get everyone in my family an outfit to highlight the theme for each of the kid's birthday parties. Maybe it is a costume or coordinating outfits, or tee shirts highlighting the theme. A LOT of our parties have included full on costumes.

This party we are wearing black or camo so we can shoot people. Oh, and our son got this great shirt that talks about him being an awesome 9 year old. 

Implement-The days before and the day of the party I am a nut job. I am mainly freaking nuts because so much of the house looks like we were victims of a home invasion...we weren't.  The best thing to do for this day is to take a deep breath and don't stress (as best you can). This is also a great time to make a detailed list of the countdown of the day...this will help keep you on track!

I am cleaning all day, shipping kids off to clean some more, and whatever else I need to do!

Hope this helps get you off and running for Party Planning! Please say a prayer as we embark on the crazy birthday party zone!

Sprung

Spring might be my favorite season. I love the flowers, the newness, the way we all adventure out of our homes after the winter...it is so beautiful and it affirms my faith every year. But you know each season has their own "bests" and "worsts"...and I love them all. But spring, spring gives you that boost, that oomph that you need to come alive. 

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
— Harriet Ann Jacobs

I started a fitness program this week...I am a couple months post-op and I need to move my body. Turns out when you think you may be very ill you make all sorts of bargains with God (or the universe...whatever floats your boat). One of mine was to honor this body. Truth is I was trying really hard to honor it before, but I was unable to because my body wasn't working right. Now I am back on track. My whole thing is that I want to keep up with my kids and now at 4 and almost 9...they clearly have me beat. This won't do. They are constantly on the move with sports and with playing. And when the sun shines in Oregon...you want to go outside!

Oregon is beautiful...I mean it is stinking stunning, but to get those good looks there is a lot of rain involved. This year we have had a lot of precipitation...snow and rain.  It is going to be awesome for our summer, for our trees, and for our rivers. It sucks hard as a person trying to live your life without snapping and murdering someone because you miss the damn sun. I pop Vitamin D pills like they are candy just to keep me functioning. It can be in the low 50s and if the sun is out...the guns our out here in the PNW. Our daughter had a tank top and booty shorts on this past weekend because we had some sunshine. No joke, both of my kids when they were babies had been either confused by or scared by the sun...BECAUSE IT WAS SO RARE TO SEE IT. That just isn't right. 

But like I said, the weather makes us who were are (um badass, duh) and makes our area so purdy. The flowers below are from my yard. We were lucky enough to move into a house with an established garden so things are in constant bloom from the beginning of spring and go far into summer. We love it. We go on what we call "Garden Walks" where we walk the property and look at what is in bloom, what is growing, and what is at the end of its cycle. 

A dear friend was talking about how she felt overwhelmed or sad that she couldn't do all she wanted to do for each of her children. She had school age children that would have loved for her to volunteer in the classroom, but she also had a younger child that needed care so she couldn't help the way she wanted. A friend of hers told her that it wasn't her season to volunteer. We all have seasons and we and our families have different needs at different times...as the seasons of our family change...we change. I loved this so much and promptly stole the idea and have used it ever since. I love to use it to help myself (and others) feel better about the places we are at in our lives. As our kids are getting older we are having different seasons that bring their own beauty and their own hardships. 

We no longer have babies and truly it breaks our heart for a million different reasons. But the truth is even if we did have another baby (which we won't) they don't stay babies...they grow and change. That is what you want... you want to create amazing adults. We have our "babies" and as they are maturing we are finding the joy in each stage. I think that we are very mindful that this time is fleeting. The saying goes "The days are long, but the years are short." We feel it. And I remind myself that when I have heard Moana or Trolls for the millionth time, or that I have to pull Barbies and Hot Wheels out of the tub to take a bath, or as I looking for lost shoes/backpacks/sports equipment.

So this is our season. We are a family of four trying to make the most out of this wonderous life. We want to be together and explore and play and enjoy each other. We know this may change or look different before we know it. Pretty much both of them would drop either of us like a hot potato for a play date. We get it. But for the most part, our season is building memories, creating experiences, and trying to be open and supportive to them growing up into who they want to be. Good gravy, that is easier said than done. 

Spring is the time of plans and projects.
— Leo Tolstoy

Such is life, right? I can say whatever the hell I want, but our actions show the real story. Spring is a great time to set our intentions, to plan, and to build.

So do that for your life...

  • What do you need to set some energy towards to set your intention for your own world? What makes you happy? What would you like to let go of? What makes you thankful? What do you need to focus on?
  • What do you need to plan in your life? Something you are putting off? Something you love? Something you want to change? Your health? Your career?  
  • And what do you want to build? Your family? Your fitness? Your work? Your home?

And if that is more than you want to deal with today, that is okay...I get it. Here are a few ideas (with links) to help get you in the mood for the season.

  • Grow a something! Grow in your yard, on your patio, in your window sill...it doesn't matter how big or how small. Grow something. Start with a small herb garden if you are scared. Check out here for some ideas about growing plants with kids. 
  • Get moving! Go to this article to discover a variety of ways to exercise with your kids. Help build healthy habits with your kids...one of the best things you can do for them. 
  • Start building! It is so rewarding to make something and making something with your kids is the best (I mean besides the times it is the worst, because c'mon...but mainly the best).  Look at the things you can build!

Well, I am sadly going to dream about spring...and remember the sunny days we had. Look at this mess for the next few days. I am hoping you are reading this from a sunshiny place. If not, I feel you. 

I see no sun

I see no sun