Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Our Summer Didn't Stink

Oh, Summer '16.  You were the best.

I've been sitting here trying to decide if you WERE really the best, or if the last few summers have stunk so much, they're making you look better in comparison...

The summer of 2012 kind of stunk because we spent half of it grieving moving away from Sioux Falls, and especially our crazy Young Life crew.  Oh, how we loved the Young Life season.  We also were in the throes of house hunting in a very expensive market, and I was newly pregnant, so ALL THE HORMONES.  

The summer of 2013 was spent worrying about our new (and first) baby who was sent home from a stay in the NICU with large areas of stroke on his brain and a prognosis that included paralysis and/or cerebral palsy.  I think I spent most of that summer inside with the curtains drawn, as a mom zombie, crying my eyes out and failing at breastfeeding.  Good times.

Half of '14 was spent inside, avoiding the heat like the plague because I was nine months pregnant with kiddo #2.  At the time, Will was only 15 months himself, so the other half of the summer, I was keeping him from killing himself - you know, in eating rocks and running into the street and falling off our front stoop.

Let's see.  '15, Charlotte was just walking, so summer was a little more fun, but still mostly revolved around keeping HER from not killing HERself in eating rocks and running into the street and falling off our front stoop, and there was that one time we tried camping.  Not cool.  

Okay, so I won't complain, Summer 2015 wasn't really that bad - but let me just say, when your children are 2 and 3 (like mine are this year) things change a bit.

1) Instead of following your kids' every movement, protecting them from gruesome accident or sudden death, they can kind of run around and scoot around on their bikes and play in the yard with the neighbors - get this - WHILE YOU OBSERVE.  Like, I could sometimes drink my coffee, sitting down, and just WATCH them play.  (This realization was comparable to the feeling I imagine I'd have in winning the Showcase Showdown at the Price is Right.)

2) They don't HAVE to nap.  Granted, they need to nap 90% of the time, but if you decide you want to go have some special summery fun at the zoo, they can GO and HAVE FUN, even.

3) They are excitable and adventurous.  They jump up and down at the mention of "the pool," every meltdown is cured with a Freezie Pop, they think it's fun to color on the sidewalk and squirt each other with water, they pretend and imagine and create and come up with crazy ideas...

With all of that said, we have turned a corner, people.  2016, you were just grand.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our very brilliant and hardworking Bucket List for inspiring so many fun activities.  Thank you, BL, for holding us accountable to celebrate the little things and for getting us out a bit.

Some special summer bucket list highlights and memories include...  

Our trip to the zoo!  Charlotte sharing Jess's ice cream at Marty's wedding.  A fun day at the Children's Museum.  Doing an outdoor movie and having a Frozen dance party after.  Lots of picnics and trips to the park.  Lots and LOTS of screams down the slide.  Playing with Grammy's kitties, and four-wheeler rides down the "hallways."  A few trips to the pool.  Hundreds of Freezie Pops.  At least 73 fistfuls of dandelions and daisies.  Playing dolls and ponies and cars and airplanes with the neighbor kids.  Making our own Tropical Sno-cones!  S'mores and campfires.  Catching lightning bugs and camping in our backyard (a much better idea).  Watching fireworks on our patio with Will.  Charlotte's birthday party.  GETTING A MINI-VAN, thank the Maker...

Jesus, You have been good to us.  You were good all those other years, too, but today, I am especially aware.  Thanks for a great summer.  We needed it.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Charlotte's Jewelry Party

Charlotte turned two this week!  We had a jewelry party to celebrate.

My Noonday coach lent me a couple of her wooden busts for some pretty jewelry display.  I mixed up some grown-up jewelry with some kids' beads, just for fun.

Okay, I had a few kids ask me what these "crystal" things were.  Mark even asked!  Has no one ever had rock candy before?!  Rock candy suckers, people.  They are beautiful AND tasty.

Party favors!

I hacked some pieces of paper and my mama sewed them together as a garland.  This was virtually FREE and was so pretty!

I usually have other things on these shelves, but I stole all of Charlotte's art in her bedroom and brought it out, because ALL THE PINK AND GOLD THINGS....

This was when Mark was offering a beautiful prayer up to the Lord, thanking Him for Charlotte's life, and being so worshipful and wonderful.  ...and I was busy taking pictures because LOOK at her little hands folded up!  Sorry, Jesus.

Charlotte caught me not praying.


This was a little craft display.  We made fruit loop and licorice necklaces and those who finished early got to color Barbie with special markers AND give her sparkly stick on jewelry.

I would now like to take this opportunity to brag about how many coloring contests I won as a child.  I was really a coloring prodigy.  Someday, I will share my coloring contest winning secrets with you all.  They involve glitter, jewels, and shading.  Bam.

Charlotte was more interested in EATING than crafting.  She is her father's child, evidently.

And Will was more interested in playing airplanes.  WHO THE HECK WANTS TO CRAFT WITH ME?  Thank you, neighborhood girls, for participating and making beautiful things to take home.

Here, you will see Lewis, eating all of Micah's hard Fruit Loop Stringing work.  We mothers are so sacrificial.

For dessert, we made Italian sodas (ice, club soda, heavy cream and Torani syrup)!

...and had cupcakes and mini cheesecake shooters.

My mom had beautiful gold spoons sitting in her basement.  Sometimes, I'm glad she is a hoarder.

Charlotte sang Happy Birthday to herself.  She had been practicing for this special moment.  It is really one of her greatest hits.  

This is SO Charlotte.  Messy face, fists tight, physically SHAKING with excitement - it's present time!  She is a very excitable, joyful kid.  Again, totally her father's child.  

The Princess shoe fits!

Diamond cookie party favors.  The backdrop/table cloth is wrapping paper from Target!

Each party favor had a little bead kit attached with some extra string for bracelet-making!

Auntie Naomi and matching tutus.

Auntie Micah and her crazy kimono.

And the smushy-face kiss.  This is a birthday tradition I hope to carry on well into my children's adulthood. 

Happy birthday, Charlotte!  We love you!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

What I Just Did (I Couldn't Help It)

I couldn't help it.  I tried to stay strong and level-headed.  I tried to talk myself out of it.  Seriously.  For MONTHS I tried.

Because, after all, I do not have time for another thing in my life.  It is crazy, CRAZY busy enough.  

And, let's be honest, direct sales companies tend to be annoying.  Like, super annoying.  AND, if I was invited to another "buy my stuff" party, I just might have flipped out.  

But then I got bit by the Noonday bug.  

I saw my friends wearing the accessories and jewelry.  I started to swoon, but I was so used to buying necklaces at H&M for, like, two dollars, I wrote it off.

But then I KEPT seeing my friends wearing Noonday bling, started hearing bits and pieces about the company/ministry, and started to open back up.  What WAS this stuff about, anyway?

Later, a Noonday Ambassador asked me to host a trunk show.  But I heard the word "party."  A party?  I love parties!  I will decorate!  I will invite my friends!  I will spend all hours of the night cutting out paper doilies and assembling Pinterest-perfect appetizers with joy and thanksgiving in my heart!!!  What's this party about?  Doesn't matter!  It's a PARTY, I mean trunk show.  Back to Pinterest...

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase and say my Ambassador was sweet, the accessories she brought were STUNNING, incredibly well-made, and so worth the investment.  And, the STORIES!  They were the best part.  The stories she shared about empowerment and fair trade and sustainability and providing dignified jobs were so moving.

Yes, I will buy ALL THE THINGS and support women and children across the globe!  
So though I'm not crazy about direct sales companies, I am crazy about women having flexible (read: kid-friendly) opportunities to provide for their families.  Though I'm not crazy about peddling jewelry to people, I am crazy about sharing stories of life transformation and empowerment.  Though I am not crazy about asking people to "buy my stuff," I am crazy about asking others to support incredible causes.  I am crazy about kingdom work and ministry in the world.  And though I'm not crazy about hosting parties...oh wait...I AM crazy about hosting parties.  

So there you have it...  

I went and became a Noonday Ambassador.  

All the pretty jewelry and accessories aside, (did I mention it's all REALLY pretty?!) the best part is that together we can build a flourishing world where children are cherished, women are empowered, people have jobs and we are connected.  

Bam.  Fist pumps and high fives.  Let's do this!  Anybody want to book a trunk show?!?!  Have your people call my people.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Will's Tools Birthday Party

Well, it's four months late, but I'm finally getting around to posting Will's Tools Party...  Months earlier, I had asked him what kind of party he wanted.  I listed Cars, Mater, Planes, Superman and a million other themes, but he picked tools - and stuck with tools the entire time.  He was darn sure he wanted a TOOLS party, mom.

I should also say this was the most fun we've had leading up to the party.  He was turning three and finally understood what was coming - we got to be excited together and talk about the upcoming special festivities for weeks.  It was the best.

I am finding each party is a little easier and budget-friendly to pull off.  The more practice I get in cutting some corners and getting by with things we already have, the better I get at it.  It's also helpful to continue to purchase party bowls and tins and other things in neutral colors that can be used at any party.  More and more, these things keep reappearing!  

I needed something to add a little height to the table and something to display the dessert - my usual white, frilly cake stands didn't really do the trick this time.  Enter IKEA step stool - usually used in our bathroom, but what the heck!  The yellowish tool box was already in our toys closet, too.

All the stand-up tools were just graphics I found online and printed on thick card stock, black and white.  From there, I colored them with our "theme" colors, cut them out, and put them on some self-sticking popsicle sticks from Wal-Mart.  I had extras of the big ice cream cups, but I think they were originally from Shop Sweet Lulu (Don't go there, because you will dump your life savings on balloons and striped straws).

Will has a peanut allergy, which means virtually all store-bought birthday cakes and cupcakes are off-limits.  And, baking is NOT my strong suit, we made some Oreo pudding fluff and put them in these ice cream cups.  Not the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but it was tasty AND Will could actually eat it, so it's a win in my book.

Guys, these little tool aprons were 50 cents.  Or maybe 70.  I can't remember, but they were cheap.  Yay, party favors!  For Will's "kid" friends, we put colored pencils, little clipboards and coloring sheets inside.  Also, some candy and super cheap-o foam tools from Oriental Trading.

The grown-up party attenders received real tools.  This is probably the first and last time the MEN were more excited to get the party favors than the ladies.  I was ecstatic to realize the Wal-Mart tool department had their own mini dollar section complete with mini levels, extension cords, and small screwdrivers.  We added a roll of DUCT TAPE because, hello...  And candy.  Don't forget the candy.  Everything was wrapped up in the same Home Depot aprons.  

Balloons make one of the most dramatic statements for the least amount of money.  They are big, they are tall, and they come in every color of the rainbow.  BUY BALLOONS, guys.

Will loves his burgers.

Will was supposed to wear the mini-tool apron, but no cigar.  Leave it to Charlotte to play dress up.

Will's dear Auntie Mikey sent a huge box full of little presents and LOTS of confetti.  My living room was a disaster and I am still finding little confetti pieces, but it was WORTH IT.  Just look at those crazy faces.

We went to the park after.  Can you tell?

And, for your viewing pleasure, here is Will in his yellow hardhat, having a post party poop.  With my sunglasses and a fly swatter.  Because, you just never know what will happen when you poop.

I am always left with a post-party, non-alcoholic hangover.  Party planning and hosting is work, but it is work I am crazy about.  I just love pulling out all the stops and celebrating.  With the rough health history we have had with our kiddos, it seems even more fitting to celebrate healthy, crazy, growing, perfect children.  (Insert all the warm fuzzies here.)

And now, my friends, on to Charlotte's party, which is only in a few days.  YAY, PARTIES.

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