Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trapped by Sweet Charlotte

This one time, I had planned for some much-needed time away - just a few hours, of course.  I had a babysitter lined up and everything.  ...  And then, Charlotte had a horrible, crazy-fussy day...  So I ended up staying home to keep the peace.

And then, this other time, I had planned to meet with some friends to have a little scrapbooking retreat day.  As luck would have it, Charlotte happened to be going through an incredibly nuts-o, topsy-turvy sleep crisis that week month - complete with screaming, fighting, hours of rocking, etc.  So, I stayed home again.  Anything to get my baby to sleep...

This one other time, Mark and I had finally snuck away to catch up with some dear friends for lunch.  Unfortunately, Charlotte decided to have a little screaming fit for the poor babysitter, so I ran home prematurely to evade shorten another crisis.

Just this week, Mark and I had planned to take a mini-trip to see the musical Wicked (a three-year-in-the-making-dream), and you know what?  We sold the tickets on Craigslist.  Because...Charlotte.

And, just yesterday, we decided to cancel our entire (desperately needed) family vacation.  Why?  I'll give you one guess...


She is attached to my hip.  She may as well be duct-taped there.  She will not eat or sleep or cooperate for anyone else - not even Daddy.  
"She was fierce, she was strong, she wasn't simple.  She was crazy, and sometimes she barely slept.  She always had something to say.  She had flaws, and that was okay.  And when she was down, she got right back up.  She was a beast in her own way, but one idea described her best.  She was unstoppable, and she took anything she wanted with a smile."  -R.M. Drake
So, you see, I am trapped in my own home with a beast - my sweet Charlotte.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - she demands I stay, parent, and attend to her every whim.

And, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sure, I've cried about it.  I've felt overwhelmed.  I've drank a few extra glasses of wine, eaten a few extra pieces of dark chocolate, read some extra Psalms of Lament and thrown a few extra pity parties for myself.  (More to come, I'm sure.)

But, I still wouldn't have it any other way.

Though I'm tired and discouraged, I am very aware this season will pass all-too-quickly.

Someday, the whirlwind will be over.  The house will be empty.  No one will be around to throw up on my furniture or poop on the sheets.  No one will need extra hugs and snuggles and songs at 7, and then 9 and then 1, and then 3 in the morning.  No more diapers, no more footie pajamas, no more chubby cheeks and stubby toes.  No more board books and puzzle pieces and high-pitched jingly toys.  No more squeals and giggles.  Everything will be different.  My house will be clean.  The dishes will be caught up.  I will go on vacations with my husband, attend musicals and scrapbooking retreats, spend plenty of afternoons in coffee shops...

...and I will miss her.

I will wish to be back, trapped in my own home, with my sweet Charlotte.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tot School : Bird + Red Week


Life tends to get a little hectic around here with two tiny kiddos.  It is very easy to life in survival mode.  Dirty diapers, dirty dishes, crumb-filled floors, smelly laundry, babies ripping apart your decorations, toddlers whining about who-knows-what, cooking the next meal, another dirty diaper, babies sticking scary things into their mouths, spills in the bathroom, toddlers belly-flopping off their booster seats in a tantrum, another dirty diaper...  Before I know it, weeks have passed, and I have spent all my time evading crises and scrubbing up messes - instead of attending to the fun, adventurous, whimsical sorts of things that make for the best memories.  Our theme weeks, this far, have been an excuse to plan and do some special (yet, simple) things. 

This week, we dusted off the bird feeders that had been sitting in our garage for over a year, we filled them, and Mark & Will hung them...  And then we waited...  And then, we spent another two weeks watching and marveling at the birds who came to pay us a visit.  Simple, but special.  I cannot tell you how much excitement this added to our lives.  Will oohs, and ahhs, and exclaims, and points, ''WOOK!  Birdie, mama!  WOOK!"  This never would have happened, had we not been purposeful about it.  Such is the season of life we're living in.  I know it sounds silly, but theme weeks have been a way to hold us accountable in having more fun.

Red play-dough (the week's color!), and some cutting tools.

Plastic eggs and tongs - the idea was to use the tongs to place the eggs in the carton, but Will is so not interested in this.  I think he thinks it's totally lame to use the tongs, when it is much easier to just use his hands and put the eggs in the right place.  Duh.  Why make things difficult, mom?!

Lots of fun birdie books from the library.

Free coloring pages.

We read "'The Singer'' story in our Jesus Storybook Bible, adapted from the Sermon on the Mount.  If God takes care of the little birdies and flowers, surely He will take care of us!

The bird seed sensory bin was a HIT this week.  Best ever.  Unlike the tongs, Will did get a kick out of using the scooper to fill jars with bird seed.  Accidentally, he learned the difference between a blue jay and cardinal, since both were guests in his bin for the week.

We threaded "'worms'' (pipe cleaners) through the holes in a colander.

Painted bird houses for Grandma Betty and Auntie Marliss!

We used up some of mama's paper scraps to make bird nests...  I made lines of glue across a page, and Will had to match up a rectangular scrap of paper to stick in the glue.  It ended up being a nest, of sorts. 

Puzzle piecing!  Will scored a new puzzle for his birthday that he loves.  It is super handy because it covers all the basic shapes and colors.  He's a pro!

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ten Ways to Plan a Cheap Party

As you know, I love party planning.  It's in my blood.  The only downside to this, is that party planning can be ridiculously expensive.  But, never fear.  Today, I'm sharing ten tips for planning a cost-effective, budget-friendly (and relatively no-fuss!) party.  

...This is mostly courtesy of my mother, who taught me every party planning thing I know.  

Hearts and flowers and baby unicorns, Mama...

ONE - Plan Ahead!
The further out you can plan your party, the more opportunities you will have to save money.  You will be able to take advantage of sales and slower shipping times.  You will have time to DIY instead of buy.  You will have space to brainstorm cheaper and better ways to accomplish your plans.  In contrast, when you're in a time crunch, you will impulse buy and end up paying more for unnecessary conveniences.  Believe me.  I've been there a million times.  

TWO - Make a List
When you have a game plan in place, whether that is a theme or just overarching ideas of your hopes for the party, list-making will set healthy parameters for your budget.  Ideally, I like to draw up a specific plan for decorations, a schedule of activities (simple as they may be), and a list of invitees.  From there, I can make a list of the exact and specific things I need to beg, borrow or buy.  When I was shopping for Will's party (Woody's Roundup/Cowboy theme), it would have been so easy to buy EVERYTHING remotely cowboy-ish.  Since I had made a list before the shopping, however, I knew exactly what to buy, and was able to resist the temptation to overdo it.  I knew exact quantities and colors and styles as well, which cut down on stress in the store and amped up my efficiency.

THREE - Shop Your House (And your friends' houses)
Tweak your game plan and list to take full advantage of what you already have at home.  Look for anything in your home that matches your color scheme or overall theme, and then find a way to use or repurpose it.  For Will's party, I was initially going to use a royal blue color in the decor.  When I dug through my closet and found a bunch of leftover paper plates and cups that were teal, I ditched the blue idea and went with teal.  I was also going to buy some materials to make a little weighted arrangement for some balloons, but when I found a coffee cup that matched my color scheme, I decided to tie the balloons to the cup instead.  If you can't find anything in your house, borrow from friends!  A sweet friend of ours lent us some Toy Story t-shirts for Will to wear, and my sister gave us a cute wooden cactus to spice up my table decor.

FOUR - Take advantage of FREE
I am a little embarrassed to admit how cheap I am and how much free stuff I've skimped by with.  I would like to blame my mother for this.  In our years of party planning, we have taken advantage of free brown napkins from Culver's for a rustic dinner, french fry bags from McDonald's for a playland party, Mary Kay samples for a girls' makeup party, brown paper wine bags from HyVee for Christmas packaging...  Believe me, there's a lot more where that came from.  This time around, I found free cupcake topper designs online, and free clipart for the party invitations.  Score. 

FIVE - Thrift & Garage Sales
I've never had luck thrifting for a specific party, but when I am thrifting in general, I always am on the lookout for general party and hosting decor.  The key is to buy neutral.  White cake stands, white serving dishes, brown coffee mugs, etc. - items that can be used in a lot of different color schemes and themes.  99.9% of my hosting/party dishes are all from garage sales or thrift stores, and this continually saves my budget.

SIX - Double Duty Decor
Decorate with things that are useful.  Eliminate decor that is only for decoration.  Half of Will's table decor consisted of cupcakes (pretty and edible).  The other half was filled with party favors (cute and purposeful).  The other tiny spaces were covered with cute paper napkins and plates (bright and useful.)  Let things like food, gifts, game materials, paper plates, napkins and favors brighten up your spreads.  This will cut costs on more frivolous things!

SEVEN - Dollar Store & Wal-Mart
Personalized, custom cakes and party stores will crash your budget in no time.  Wal-Mart sells cupcakes for $0.50 a piece (in any quantity), and they will customize frosting, sprinkles and cake flavor for no extra charge.  The Dollar Store is a treasure trove of party resources, if you're willing to spend a few extra minutes piecing together theme items.

EIGHT - Fabric & Balloons
Fabric can be very inexpensive and it covers a lot of space (think tablecloths, etc. - big bang for your buck).  It is also reusable - save it for another party or make some throw pillows!  I have found great remnants at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby even sells fabric by the yard online, if you're looking for something very specific.  When you can't find fabric, a roll of kraft wrapping paper and some paint can cover a lot of ground, too!  Balloons can also make a big statement for a little amount of cash - especially if you can use regular balloons and cut down on Mylar ones.  Will's balloons were around $6, filled a huge amount of space, and added so much color.  He even had some after-party fun with Grammy, batting the balloons around for an hour straight.

NINE - Cheap Invitations
These days, you don't have to send hard copy invitations at all.  There are so many ways to send cute (FREE!) e-invites straight to your guests' inboxes.  However, if you are like me (a paper fanatic), you can cut costs by designing invites yourself (Pinterest easy DIY ideas!) or printing them in black and white.  B&W printing runs at least half, if not a third, less than traditional color printing.  I printed Will's invites B&W, coloring book style, and filled in some color with markers.  Pennies saved and I had fun doing it!

TEN - Invite Fewer People
I know.  This is horrible.  But seriously.  You don't have to be best friends with everyone.  I am dreading the day Will wants to invite his whole class to a party.  The more intimate and cozy the party, the more cash you can spend blessing each person.  The smaller the guest list, the more elaborate the favors can be.  The less you invite, the more you can spend on food.  It just makes sense.  Or cents.  Whichever you prefer.

Happy party planning, friends!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I am Planning a Theme Party

Last year, when Will turned one, we celebrated simply.  I loved our cheap, generic, last-minute, Wal-Mart party, and Will loved his French fries.  It felt right.  It was right.

This year I wanted to plan a more extravagant theme party for Will, but then I felt guilty that I might be spoiling him.  Or that other moms might think I am too frivolous.  Or some people might think I am showing off.

So I almost didn't plan a theme party...

And then, I thought to myself, "Who are you kidding?!  You come from a long line of theme party planners.  You grew up on theme parties.  You have theme parties in your DNA.  You were made to plan theme parties."

And, it's true.

I love me a good theme party.

I love celebrating.

If it were up to me, everyone would get their whole birthday month to celebrate and eat good food and do fun things and enjoy being alive for another year.

Let's be honest.  I am the one who keeps her Christmas tree up for at least five months.

As I was processing all of this, the Lord said to me, "You know, Liza...  I like to celebrate, too.  Did you know my first miracle involved wine, of all things, at a party (of all places)?!  And, did you know, I set up several different festivals and weeks and weeks of celebrations for my chosen people to enjoy and remember together?  Did you know I am a celebrating kind of God?  A happy kind of dad?  Did you know I am excitedly planning one heck of a party and feast that is coming sooner than you think?  One that will be more extravagant than all other parties combined?  And you will be my special guest there?

You reflect Me when you celebrate extravagantly out of a pure and joyous heart.  I love that you love to celebrate."

And you know what?  The Lord loves it when you do whatever you do extravagantly out of a pure and joyous heart.  Do you run marathons?  Do you keep a tidy and organized house?  Do you paint?  Do you cook?  Do you write?  Do you have a successful career?

Whatever you love to do, and whatever reflects God's character, and whatever is done out of a pure heart is worth rocking, I think.

Me?  I'm going to go rock this Woody's Round Up party.  Will LOVES Woody and I LOVE theme parties.

My sweet boy will be TWO.  My miracle baby does not have cerebral palsy and is not paralyzed and he has not had any more seizures.  He is a smarty-pants, fun-loving, blue-eyed delight, and I sure as heck am not going to let worrying about what other people think ruin my extravagant celebration of something so wonderful.

April 24th, you can't come fast enough.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Charlie's Smiles


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Any Occasion, No Fuss Table Runner

I look for excuses to decorate.  Ask my husband.  He will roll his eyes and smile, and he will tell you about my ridiculousness.  Everything turns into an art project (AKA: mess) around here.  

I pride myself in decor and art projects and DIYing that is super cheap and no-brainer.  I don't do fussy, particular sorts of things.  

This little ditty I'm sharing with you today is super, super cheap and crazy no-brainer.  You could be half asleep and totally caffeine-deprived and have one hand tied behind your back and still be successful at this.  Promise. will set your budget behind about $2.50.  $2.50!!!  Be still, my heart.

You will need...
  • Kraft packing/wrapping paper - I bought mine at the dollar store for, you guessed it, one dollar.
  • White craft paint - $0.50 at Wal-Mart
  • Circle paint brush/dauber thingies - I want to say these were about $0.95 at Wal-Mart, too??
  • A few pieces of tape - raid your junk drawer for this.
Instructions (I hesitate to even write instructions, this is so easy.  Use common sense, people.)
  1. Roll out some kraft paper, cut to fit your table, and tape the ends to the underside of the table.
  2. Dump some white paint on a paper plate or container.
  3. Dip your circle dauber thing in the paint and stamp away!
My paint dried really fast, so I was able to add the rest of my table decorations about 10 minutes later. 

The best part of this table runner is that it is neutral for any occasion.  Pair the kraft and white pattern with just about any color napkin or plate or theme, and it will look fantastic.  

OR, think outside the box!  This would look really fun with BLACK dots for Halloween.  Or maybe forgo the dots for stripes?  Fun.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

tot school : dinosaur + green week

I knew going into this week, Will loved dinosaurs.  It was so much fun to see him excited about the theme.  It is turning out to be super convenient to have several activities on hand when he got bored.  Also, I found a great recipe for play dough and had a hay-day one night making a few batches.  So fun!  (I may have stained my counter tops reddish-pink with food coloring...  Oops.  Good thing we are renovating?!)

The color green!  Will knows most of his colors already, but review is great, right?  I dug through drawers and closets and found lots of green things to have fun with!  Green cupcake liners, green blocks, green balls, green tissue paper, green straws - whatever.  You'd be surprised the games and play that happen using random junk!

Shape Sorting.  This was not thematic - just because.  

Dinosaurs.  I thought about teaching Will a few different types of dinosaurs, but then we never really got around to it.  We just had fun with the dinosaur theme in general.  Not a lot of important learning...just FUN, people.

The letter D!  Again, sort of...  When I ask him what "D" says, "He thinks it's funny to jump up and down and say, "Duh, duh, duh!"  But that's about it.  Baby steps, people.

We were supposed to learn more about Jesus' ascension in our Jesus Storybook Bible, but every time we started the story, Will whined to go to another story.  Hmm.  We ended up reading through the Sermon on the Mount and Lord's Prayer stories.  Perhaps that was more on the Lord's agenda for us this week, maybe?

Will played with a green sensory tub I threw together using things from around the house.

I updated our bulletin board (of sorts) with green stuff.  It's basically just a frame that I pin random crap to.  Pictures, fun sayings, Project Life quotes, magazine clippings, patterned napkins, fabric, and everything else that is amusing.  Because, why not?!

We listened to the Jurassic Park soundtrack every day at snack time.  Best idea, ever, Liza.

We played with our dinosaur-themed play dough.  I will admit, I coaxed Will into playing this several times, mostly because I wanted to...  Am I living vicariously through my children?  Yes, yes, I am.

We colored free dino coloring pages from the net.

We were going to clean fossils (rocks), but the weather never cooperated.

Will played with his dinosaur toys in the sandbox with his neighborhood gal pals.

We had a bingo-dot dinosaur worksheet, but because I don't have bingo-dot markers, we stuck little green-circle-garage-sale stickers on instead.  Will is totally digging the sticker thing lately.

Dinosaur books from the library.  I heart you, library.

I was going to make these dino parfaits, but life happened instead.

WE SAW A REAL DINOSAUR, ya'll. the gas station in Orange City.  We were well aware there were a few cool dinosaur exhibits at fancy children's museums near our home, but since we are cheapo and a little redneck, and because Will isn't even two, and because he could care less...  We went to a gas station, sat on the dinosaur, and took a picture, all touristy-like.  
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