Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Star Wars/Lego/Superhero Party

At the end of March our older son turned 5.  FIVE.  That seems so much older than 4.  And a year ago I'm pretty sure I said 4 seemed so much older than 3.  Kids just insist on growing, it's gone so fast and yet it's hard to remember life before him, and all those other cliche but TOTALLY TRUE things parents say.

(Also, it still makes me a little giddy every time I have to distinguish between which of the boys I am talking about, or just saying boyS or's so exciting.)

We had long planned on throwing him a party for turning five.  Every year we've done a small-ish party for his grand and godparents but at five we were going to invite kids (as if the 4-6 kids who have come with his godmother aren't enough).  We've literally been planning this almost as long as he's been alive.  I first bought things for the goodie bags about 4 years ago  and we've been seriously talking about it for a good six months.  These plans included multiple things we were going to make ourselves, because, of course.  We like over-exerting ourselves to complicate things.

Then about a month before the party we got a baby.  And when you have a newborn is an EXCELLENT time to invite 10+ kids to your house and spend hours prepping for a party.  We talked about simplifying things.  And then, somehow, didn't.  Why not stress about this?

BUT, things all worked out, our son had a great time, and it was really good to celebrate him after most of a month dedicated to celebrating and surviving a new baby.

Here's what we did for our largely Star Wars but also Lego and superhero themed party.  Why those?  Because those are all among his favorite things.


Decorate Super Hero Mask

I had plans to sew more elaborate super hero masks (from here) but then, baby, and we went simple.  I used the template from here, cut them out of felt (used 5 pieces, bought for about a quarter each at Jo-Anns), and sewed on the elastic.  We had kids decorate these with glitter glue (this set) as they arrived.  It was nice to give them an easy activity since, obviously, they didn't all show up at our door at the same time.  The only problem was 4-6 year olds are pretty heavy handed with the glitter glue and none of them were dry when it was time to go home 2 hours later...

Pin the Light Saber on the Jedi

Luke came up with about a dozen different versions of this, all Star Wars related. "Pin the shooter on the Han Solo", "Pin the button on the droid", etc. but this is the one that stuck.  My artsy husband drew and painted the Luke Skywalker (OR COURSE the Jedi was going to be Luke) and I made light sabers from scrapbook paper and packing tape.  We let the kids each pick a color, wrote their names on it, blindfolded them with scrap fabric from my stash, and pinned.  Super easy and classic game, it just should have taken longer.

Make a Light Saber
We bought pool noodles from the dollar store and my husband cut them all down and curved the tip.  Then we had a bunch of different tapes - duct, electrical, sparkle, and had the kids decorate the handle end.  This one was good to have some extra adults on hand to held tear tape and give wrapping help as needed.  I think we got 2 light sabers from each pool noodle.  And then they used these for...

Taun Taun pinata
We do not want to admit how much time and stress this darn thing took.  My husband got it in his head that the pinata should be a Taun Taun  (which is a Star Wars thing).  When we got the baby we discussed just buying one...but somehow he still ended up making it.  A lot of planning drawings, a lot of balloons, a lot of newspapers, and a lot of paper mache-ing.  I would HIGHLY recommend not ever making one of these, at least Taun Taun shaped.  Matt's already said that Sam will be getting a BB-8 or Death Star pinata for his 5th birthday party (because, obviously, it's going to be Star Wars).  BUT it was pretty hilarious to see the finished result.

Since it was about 30° and snow flurries on the party day (in early April) we had to do the pinata inside (instead out outside like we had hoped).  So we had the kids hit it with their pool noodle light sabers which took awhile but was definitely the safer option in the house, near the tv and tons of breakables.  We had 9 little boys yelling "Kill it!!" which was funny and a little horrifying to hear.  Then there was a lot of candy and everyone was happy.

Beat Each Other With Light Sabers
None of the activities took as long as we had planned and so by 45 minutes into the two hour party we had burned through most of them.  So then we had the kids have a light saber battle in the house.  It's hard to really hurt anyone with a dry pool noodle and they were all plenty happy to beat on each other.

Let Them Eat Cake

I made box mix cupcakes and then homemade frosting (this, this, and this).  Sang happy birthday, fed them a ton of sugar, and then, since it was sunny and 40°ish, we sent them outside for more light sabering.  Which saved my house a little bit.

We had planned to make punch, and feed them more "healthy" food, BUT these were all 4-6 year olds...we didn't think any of them would choose "healthy" food along side their cupcakes so that got scrapped.  I guess we also gave them cheese balls.  SUPER healthy.

Goodie Bags
The goodie bags came from the dollar store (two packs) and I added circles (with the circle punch from this project) to make them look like Legos.  Then we gave each kid a small Lego set and Star Wars notebooks, largely purchased 4 years ago on clearance (contrary to how this sounds, we did spend more than $20 on this party).  Then they also went home with their decorated super hero mask, light saber, and pinata candy.

Guest List
The guest list was pretty easy, since Luke has EIGHT cousins within about a year of him older/younger.  Then we invited three other friends for a total of 12 kids.  Two couldn't come due to being sick/having sick family members so 10 kids in attendance which worked well.  Twelve would have been fine too but I don't think I would go higher than that, especially since we were largely indoors.
Felt LetterBoard
We then followed this party with his grand/god parent party that evening and then his birthday brunch with 50ish of my in-laws the next morning (thankfully, not at our house). (Three parties is why I made 72 cupcakes.)  Luke was SO delighted to have a whole weekend celebrating him with tons of cousins and presents.  It was great to give our big kid something special after so much attention on the baby and it was really fun to have all his same aged cousins together.

We learned a few things for Sam's (like, never make a Taun Taun pinata ever again) but overall the day(s) went really well.  It was a relief to have it over but also know that our boy had a great time.  Then a week later we threw a baptism party for 80ish people.  Then vowed to never throw another party ever again.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Quick Lit - April

I feel like I've had little time in my life lately to do the things I want to do (because THIS).  Then I made my list of books finished in the past month-ish.  14.  So apparently I have still have time to read.  It's helpful that it's something I can do one handed, often while holding a sleeping baby.  Also, 3am feedings are a good time for listening to audio books, much easier than turning on the tv and more productive than scrolling social media.

I'm on Goodreads here, there a lot!  Between reading and feedings! Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit!

Here's the (maybe) quick reviews of what I've been reading.


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This was a very charming YA novel about a 12 year-old girl whose parents are suddenly killed in a horrible accident (this all happens in the first few pages, not a spoiler).  She has no other family who can take her and ends up finding her own family of sorts.  It was a really enjoyable read about finding your people and accepting who you are.  4 Stars

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
This was a memoir of the author's growing up in America after moving here from Iran as a pre-teen (or younger, I forget).  She has a lot of funny stories about the culture differences and how her family adjusted to the big change but it's also told with a lot of love for her family and both her countries.  I plan to read the follow-up.  3.75 Stars

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch
This is one I did on audio, often while feeding a baby at 3am.  It's heart is in the right place but also a little preachy at times.  I don't know anyone who keeps their kids away from tv until the age of 10 (I thought we did pretty well with no tv until 2...).  But there is still a lot of good to take away from this, even if not quite that extreme.  We do have a major technology addiction in this country (and probably others) that should be closely examined.   3.5 Stars

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
I had read and enjoyed her two previous books but was realllly intrigued by this one with MANY viewing of the animated classic over the last two decades.  The structure was a little hard to follow (going forward and backwards in time to the same event) and it was pretty gritty at times.  A bit of a slog in parts but overall, I'm glad I read it.  Although there wasn't nearly as much singing as the movie...  Also, follow her advice for savings the author's note until you've finished the full book.  3 Stars

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
I read quite a few parenting, decluttering, benefits of living with less books this month and all of it, plus being slightly overwhelmed with life right now, have me on a massive "let's get rid of all the things!" streak.  This is one of my favorite parenting books and so great to reread as we embark on parenting #2.  Less stuff, more unstructured time.  Exactly the kind of childhood we want to give our kids.  Another one I need to reread every few years.  (First mentioned back here) 4.75 Stars

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown 
Really sweet middle-grade based on what really happened to the authors' daughter.  She was in sixth grade (pretty sure) when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and then her friends and community rallied around her.  Apparently middle-school hasn't changed much since I was there, besides adding phones, and all of that stuff felt so true to life.  4 Stars

Secrets of an Organized Mom: How to Declutter and Streamline Your Home for a Happier Family by Barbara Reich
A reread that just reignited my desire for less STUFF.  Something I should reread every other year or so for that reminder. (First talked about here) 4.25 Stars

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away my Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders
Did this one on audio, listening to most of it during 3am feedings.  It was inspiting, hearing how she worked through some of her problems, learned to live with less, and felt like her life greatly improved.  It was less "these are the things you should get rid of" (a genre I mostly enjoy) but more "here is why I stopped shopping and how it improved my life and led to all sorts of changes" which isn't quite the book I was looking for but still inspiring.  3.5 Stars

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King
Ohhhhh...this was a good read and one I'd like downloaded to my brain please.  Anyone who deals regularly with that age group knows that they aren't always the easiest.   This had so many helpful tips and strategies for, basically, getting kids to do what you need them to do: put on shoes, go to the bathroom, get out the door, eat their meals, etc.  But also, trying to understand where they are coming from.  So helpful and one I need to reread every few years until we are out of this age range!  4.5 Stars

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
A reread that I didn't LOVE as much as my first time through but still really really enjoyed it.  Full review back here4.25 Stars


Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter
I've both enjoyed and not really cared for her previous books so I went into this one a little leery.  A pretty standard Christian Fiction romance.  Felt a little Nicholas Sparks-y at time, so do with that what you will.  I've stopped reading his books but I will very likely pick up the next in this series.  2.75 Stars

A Family Shaped by Grace: How to Get Along With the People Who Matter Most by Gary Morland
Based on the subtitle, I thought this book would be more "dealing with difficult people in your family" and less...what it was.  Which I don't entirely remember right now.  I liked it but didn't love it.  And barely remember anything less than a month later so...take with that what you will.  3 Stars

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Ohhh, this book.  It was a slog at times, most of it.  Based on the story in the Bible of Jacob's sole daughter.  But it takes a lot of liberties.  A LOT.  And probably largely based on the culture at the time but I just...didn't care for it.  2.25 Stars

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink 
I've been really interested in time management the last few years and this book played right into that.  It was about figuring out YOUR best times to do certain activities, when do to things that take more thinking, when to do things that take less mental space, etc.  Which is great knowledge to have but maybe not SUPER applicable to me, since so much of what I do right now is dependent on other's needs (i.e. baby doesn't care if I need to be doing high thinking activities right now, he just wants fed).  But certainly good knowledge to have.  3.75 Stars

What have YOU been reading??

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Looking Back at March

Oh man, last month.  Suffice it to say, it didn't quite go as we had planned!  Hahaha.  I make these list at the start of each month and am pretty good at sticking to them.  I HATE leaving things undone.  But last month...about half the things never happened.  Didn't take Luke to storytime.  Didn't take Luke to a playground.  Didn't finish painting inside the kitchen cabinets.  Didn't frame some canvases.  Did run outside (or at all).  BUT we did adopt a baby and that wasn't on the original list SOOO...balances out I think (although all the undone items still bother me a little!).

I still talk about March 2012, when it was 70° most of the month and I spent it recovering from my first foot surgery, working on adoption paperwork, and planning our trip to Europe.  I still have very fond memories of that month, post-surgery nausea and pain aside. 

In fact, it was March 4th, 2012, a Sunday, that we told most of our family that we were starting the adoption process.

And it was March 4th, 2018, a Sunday, that we got to call them all and tell them we, SURPRISE, got matched with a baby. 

(This March was rather memorable too, although I might not remember as much in my semi-sleep deprived state.)

While we were still in the hospital with Sam, Matt was contacted by a different hospital and told about a new job opportunity.  He ended up interviewing and being offered a job while still on paternity leave.  It will be great in the long run but certainly added a little bit of stress to an already stressful time.

Days before we got Sam I had my regular check-up with my rheumatologist and had my meds switched up again.  Which meant a whole lot of phone calls to figure out benefits to cover my new injection (at $1,400 every other week...we weren't paying that out of pocket) and learning how to inject myself (still have yet to actually do it...the nurse did it the first time.)  That has been a little stressful.

Along with our older son's FIFTH birthday and planing the parties that go with that (which we haven't had yet). 

There was a lot going on in March.  Hopefully April will be a little calmer.

Looking back:
1 year ago: Book Love: The Sea of Tranquility (I just reread this book!)
2 years ago: Easiest pillow covers in 30 minutes (give or take) (I've made SO MANY of these)
3 years ago: An appreciation of the seasons (and in defense of winter) (need this reminder as it seems to be snowing daily still).
4 years ago: IKEA (because I had 3 people in 2 days ask me if there is anything I needed from there...)
5 years ago: Making room for baby & some other stuff!
6 years ago: Paperwork is in!

1) Spring is coming!  Maybe.
2) $4 grocery store flowers with free grocery store flowers and a vase from my Grandma.  They lasted 2 weeks!
3) Backyard sunset
4) Backyard snow
5) I have really enjoyed buying myself flowers on our every other week big grocery stop!
6) Even the QUEEN wears the same plaid we wore as our high school uniform!

Books finished: 13 for the month, 49 for the year!
Things added to the garage sale pile: Only a few BUT I've already been on a big "We have too many things!" in April!
Miles ran: 0.00.  I blame the snow.  And the new baby.
Currently watching: I'm still working on season 2 of The Crown.  And we're still working on season 5 of Lost.  Somehow a new baby doesn't leave a lot of tv time...
Most read post this month: Sam's Adoption Story!
Luke's current favorite song: Always VeggieTales.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Books Luke Likes (5!)

In the midst of our crazy month with adding a baby to our family, we also have a big kid turning 5!  FIVE!  That seems so much older than 4, probably because of the looming kindergarten entrance.  In the most parent cliche, it's crazy that he's already that old while also crazy that he's only been around for 5 years. 

We are getting SO close to finishing 1,000 (different) books by kindergarten and here are a few of his and my recent favorites!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a product link, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Thanks for helping support this blog! 

Nothing Can Frighten a Bear by Elizabeth Dale

Luke absolutely loved this book, I'm not entirely sure why.  It was the rare random library grab that wasn't painful to read (and wasn't Star Wars or superheroes) so we went in with low expectations.  I thought the pictures were charming the story, of a bear family after a mysterious noise in the night, was well done.  Might be helpful for curing some of those late night fears kids seem to come up with!

Just Me and My Little Brother by Mercer Mayer
A friend sent this to Luke after Sam joined the family and Luke loved the story of Little Critter dreaming of all the things he would do with his new little brother, once he learned to walk!  Perfect for this time in our lives as Luke constantly tells us of the things he wants to do with his new little brother ("Will he be walking by my birthday?"  "In two days?  No."). 

Old MacDonald Had a Dragon by Ken Baker
My sister recommended this one to us after her son really enjoyed it and Luke found it rather amusing too.  Old MacDonald not only had a farm, but also a dragon, who was kinda getting in the way of successful animal raising.  He thought it was hilarious.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
When we went to an open house at Luke's future school, one of his possible teachers mentioned that they cover this book in kindergarten.  And since I'm always looking for more picture books (as if we really need more suggestions...see 900+ read) I put it on hold.  Chester Racoon is heading out into the world without his mother and needs a little reassurance.  It was cute and Luke has taken to giving me kisses on his hand often, which is just the sweetest.  

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler
A book that ties together heavy machinery (which appeals to my son) and caring for the environment (which appeals to me).  A win-win!  The pictures are well-done minimalist and the story charming without being too heavy.  It was cute.

Have YOU read any great (or even just good) picture books lately?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Things That Make Me Feel Like Me

When we got Luke our whole lives changed.  We went from dual income no kids, to single income and a kid.  I went from working to staying home.  We went from few responsibilities to a whole new life to care for.  It was a big change and it took me a few months to really find my footing.  Be a Mom but also a wife and just a person with interests and hobbies.

This time around, the jolt of adding a baby was quicker but also much different.  I've been staying home almost 5 years.  Luke and I had a pretty good routine during the week, good habits, we ran errands, did schoolwork, I kept the house clean, and had time for my hobbies, besides just parenting.  We're pretty used to living on one income and giving up a lot of our freedoms, being tied down with a kid and too cheap to pay for a sitter super often.

But, still.  When you go from living your normal, one kid, to adding a baby in a matter of hours, things change.  All of a sudden most of our routines went out the window.   It had been awhile since we had been up with a baby (once, twice) in the middle of the night.  One that needed bottles made, diaper changed, and soothed back to sleep.  That feeling of dread before going to bed, not knowing how the night was going to go.  Are we going to be up for hours in the middle of the night??  Who knows!

The first few days were crazy. Survival was key.  I managed to shower every day, eat 3 meals, and sleep ~7-8 hours a day, even if that came with a few naps during the day.  But we had survived this baby transition before and I was aching for routine, schedule, some sense of normalcy.  With Matt off work the first week we had Sam at home, I was able to get some of that back within days.  And it was amazing how much better I felt, how much more like ME.

These are the things (beyond the necessary eating, sleeping, showering, and drinking enough water) that made me feel like ME again.  Much quicker than I figured it out with baby #1!

1) Reading
I read a lot.  I plan my reading, track my reading, and manage my reading life pretty closely.  Between the day we found out about Sam and the day we brought him home, I read a total of 6 minutes.  In two days.  Normally over a Sunday-Monday I read around 5 hours.  An average of 3 minutes a day might be an all time low in my recent years.  I'm still not back to where I was (I seem to spend more of my quiet time/post bedtime hours cleaning up the house, washing bottles, feeding a baby, and sleeping now...) but I am getting close.  It's my favorite unwind time, how I relax and build back up energy (besides sleeping).  Still getting in some reading time has made a big difference in my mood.

2) Working Out
As of this writing, I have yet to run since bringing Sam home (also not helping: the fact that it's snowed almost every day since and I don't run in cold weather) but within a few days I was back to my morning basement workouts.  I don't drink coffee and working out first thing is how I wake up.  I rarely want to, but I know I'll feel much better for it when I do.  This has meant, usually, getting up before all my boys or getting Matt to do the first morning (post-sunrise) feeding but I feel so much better for it.

3) Reading Books with Luke
I always have a pile of picture books from the library.  I always have a list of more books to put on hold for him (he has his own library card just so I have more holds available, since mine are always maxed out with my books).  Right now, I aim for at least 2 books a day, which isn't always happening but we make it more days than we don't.  He's not always super willing to sit and listen, unless they are Star Wars related, but once he does he enjoys them.  (And I've found letting him hold baby while I read realllllly makes him more likely to sit through more books.) And I enjoy the time with my big kid, even if baby brother is in tow (which he usually is).

4) A Place for Everything
Just weeks after I wrote a whole series about making your house look clean, we broke almost all the rules.  When you come home with a fresh baby who you got with no warning...things just get dumped.  Survival was important, not a clean house.  But then as we adjusted and things got put away.  I feel a small bit of relief every time I put something away or give some new baby item a home.  Everything needed a place (why setting up the pack n play the first night was SO important).  Whether it was making room in Luke's dresser for Sam's clothes, or room in the kitchen cupboard for bottles, or some place to put all the diaper and wipes we've been gifted, once things have a place and are (generally) out of sight, I feel infinitely better.

5) Keeping the House (Somewhat) Clean
If you visited our house within 24 hours of getting home from the hospital you'd have seen it was a disaster.  We had been sorting Legos when Sam was born and had planned to finish on Sunday.  Then we had 45 minutes to pack (and freak out) and picking up the Legos was NOT a priority.  And there they sat, all over the floor, even after we got home with a baby.  Not to mention all the baby stuff we came home with, and all my normal house cleaning I typically do on Mondays (which we spent at the hospital).  But once things settled down (and you better believe cleaning up the Legos was on my massive, immediate to-do list) I went back to my house cleaning schedule and feel so much better for it.  I know I process things better in a clean space.  I get overwhelmed by STUFF so easily and I was overwhelmed enough in those early days, thank you.  I might not be scrubbing the tub quite as well lately but things are getting done, laundry run, dishwasher going, etc.  I take a little bit of joy in a nightly clean-up, resetting the house back to "normal".  It makes being up at 4am a little more bearable (also making that a little better: a super cute baby).

Life can change, and quickly, but this is a life disruption we had been waiting for which makes all the crazy moments much more bearable.  And getting back to some semblance of "normal" has really helped!

What things make YOU feel like YOU?