5 reasons this was my favorite birthday party to plan yet

Give me a birthday theme, unlimited funds, hours of time and you will get one amazing “Pinterest perfect” party. I’ve celebrated with Curious George, Thomas the Train, Dinosaurs, and Pirates. For the most part, I enjoy coming up with ideas to go along with a theme…coordinated fonts, hand-delivered invites, Personalized t-shirts for each child…

There is one problem: I care TOO much. Usually I allow worrying about what the other parents will think or the goal of making everything perfect get in the way of celebrating my son’s life and his happiness…”Don’t touch the cake!” “I know they don’t look like real pirate ships, it’s the best I could do.” “Please stop messing with the decorations!”

This summer just the thought of celebrating 3 birthdays in 6 weeks exhausted me (particularly with a ‘new’ baby and overcommitted life). The last three years we’ve had a combined party for the boys. This year we are having a “drop off” party for Quade (turning 7) and Price (turning 5)…bold I know…which leaves Watts (who just turned 3) to party by himself.

Since Watts has never had his own party, I decided to do things differently this time…

1. His choice of plates

First of all, I took him to Party City. Passing every cartoon/movie character in the world, I asked him to choose his plates and napkins. He firmly decided on “Happy Feet 2”. You would think my inner perfectionist would scream, “Really? It’s a pool party at the end of July. Penguins?”. Instead his joy became my joy. And we boldly purchased penguin plates in July (side note: the party was on the hottest day so far this year…perfectly ironic).

2. Select few “evited”

Instead of hand-delivered, invites made of ice (to go with the Happy Feet theme), I sent out an evite to a couple of families. Our rule: invite as many kids as the year you are turning. This time I didn’t 100% follow that rule, but it was close.

3. Cheap, fun, appropriate party favors 

Instead of sewing my stuffed animal penguins for each child, I took the boys to the Dollar tree to pick out party favors.  Watts chose torpedo squirt guns…an excellent choice for a pool party I might add. He’s a natural party planner!

4. Hulk on a store-bought cake

Well, almost a natural. I asked him what kind of cake he wanted to order: Incredible Hulk. Not really consistent with Happy Feet 2, but who cares!! Since this is his dealio, a Hulk cake is exactly what he got, from the Kroger bakery.

5. Late night grocery store run…with my three-year-old

My favorite part of his birthday was the last minute decision to take Watts along on my 8:30 pm Friday night grocery shopping trip. I NEVER would have done this with my first son. I’m a little sad I don’t do these things more often, because our trip to the grocery store was AWESOME!

To give you some background, his sleep patterns have been amuck lately. It’s the whole, “if he naps he’s up until 10 pm” and “if he doesn’t nap he’s a wreck” stage. That Friday he’d napped, so he was fully awake and hilarious.

The moment we walked through the automatic doors I realized I haven’t taken him grocery shopping in a long time. One, because he referenced a T.V. show when he saw the carts (“on the Mr. Men show he pushes a cart…”). And two, because he kept commenting, “We have that. We have that.” As if he was amazed Kroger had the same food we have at our house. Completely unaware of our food source.

Watermelon and red grapes were the fruit of choice for the party (loved learning his likes/dislikes).  Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips (I would have picked Original). Jolly Rancher popsicles (can you say ‘food coloring’ much?).

He even chose a birthday present for himself…”Red” from the movie “Cars”. Cuz he “wuved it” and “needed it”. Of course I bought that sweet boy his little firetruck (showed it off first thing to his dad when we got home and it traveled with him everywhere during the party…can you find it in the pic below?).

As we were checking out, he held his arms out saying, “Mommy, I need to get out of the cart.” Fearful of what freedom would look like for a 3-yr-old in pajamas at 9:30 at night, I simply responded, “No, you’re fine.”

“But Mommy!” he pleaded, “someone’s going to BUY me!” Based on his observations, each item in the cart was pulled out and scanned. Most likely, he was the next item. I assured him, Tommy, the cashier, would not “scan him”.

Tommy looked up, smiled, and said, “I’ve never heard that one before.”

Kissing my precious three-year-old “Wattsy”, I attempted to push ‘pause’ long enough to absorb every moment of our lovely late night in the grocery store and the BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER!!

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Water Gun Target Practice

Okay, so I know I wasn’t going to post this week…but this idea just happened. Hoping it helps you with over-tired, candy-filled, post-4th of July kiddos.

My boys LOVE their water guns, but they don’t love to get shot in the face with water. In the past, to give them a productive goal, we’ve set up recycled trash as a target to aim at instead of each other. Laughter over tears is my measure of a successful activity.

I saw on Pinterest this idea for drawing a target with chalk on your driveway. Then kids could use toss water balloons at the target. It spurred this idea…

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I drew targets with chalk on our fence. One target for each boys (this isn’t my first rodeo…no reason to start an unnecessary fight).

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My first version had points system (25 for the center, then 15 in the next ring, then 5…). But the boys didn’t seem to notice. Their goal was to “wash” off the chalk from the fence.

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I guess it depends on the age of your kiddos whether they will try to get points by shooting the middle or just enjoy making the chalk disappear. Really doesn’t matter, does it?

Once our targets were washed off I started writing their names in chalk to have them spray off. Then they started drawing their own creations to rinse away.

Hope your little ones find this activity as much fun as mine did…if not, at least you tried something new.

Evil for Evil {Sibling Summer Survival Activity}

Back to my Sibling Summer Survival Guide…

Feel like we are continuing to struggle in the “sibling sector” this summer. I wrote a couple posts regarding sibling relationships (peacemaker pledge and out of the heart the mouth speaks). One area I neglected to address, but has become apparent in our home lately, is “retaliation” or “revenge”.

Hitting because “He hit me first!” Frequently, unrest in our home is due to a desire to “get back” at a brother.

We often use the phrase: “Do not return evil with evil”.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

Lately we’ve needed a stronger reminder. Back to the table with hot chocolate (instead of tea this time) and treats…

I had the boys list all the bad choices they make/have made (I shared mine as well). We covered our chalk board with sin.

Then I asked them if they thought God was up in heaven keeping a record of all our choices? If every time a brother hits a brother it’s written down…

They giggled at the thought of God writing down: “called his brother ‘stupid'”.

I shared with them this verse:

“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

Then I handed them each a wet paper towel. Asking them to clean off the board. Reminding them how God not only doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, He doesn’t even see them because all He sees is Jesus, perfect, spotless Jesus when He sees us. A clean chalkboard.

I needed this lesson. All the guilt I feel over those “bad mommy moments” is wasted energy. God’s not keeping track. Why should I?

That guilt I hold onto and beat myself up over…it builds and convinces me I can’t change. My evil is not a blessing to myself. It becomes evil for evil. My yelling (evil) is returned with guilt & regret (evil). Instead I need to turn my evil into blessing. To accept His reconciliation. To move on in my day. To apologize and hug and love and MOVE ON!

When a brother hurts another brother, hopefully, he can make a decision to be a blessing instead of returning evil for evil. To reconcile to his brother. To not count the wrongdoings against him. To wipe the board clean. To remember in a small way he is sharing in the blessing Christ gave us when He wiped away our sin in God’s sight.

Do your kiddos struggle with “revenge”? How do you handle it in your home? What words of truth do you give them? Would LOVE to hear more ideas here!

A few ways my boys have been a blessing to me this week:

entertaining their baby brother…

sharing in the joy of baseball with daddy (this pic was NOT set-up…makes the moment even more precious)…

enjoying our luxurious backyard pool (clothing optional…)

and this…

Prodigal Son & Pigeons

Boys. Lots of boys. 18 boys between the ages of three and nine. This is the third summer we gather on Wednesday mornings. Exposing them to new adventures while training them to become mighty warriors for God.

The first summer focused on godly character. The second summer we studied and crafted spiritual armor. This summer we will explore the stories Christ told, His parables.

The fear of almost every God-fearing parent is having a prodigal child. No mom wants to pour truth into her child only to have him walk away from family and faith. The story of the prodigal son is not only about the leaving. It’s a picture of God’s grace towards us in our return. The love of a Father who welcomes home the wandering son with open arms.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

On Wednesday, after reading the story of the prodigal son to the God’s Mighty Warriors in training (get Arch book here), we learned about John James Audobon...the boy who drew birds. The man who greatly impacted the study of birds (ornithology) and our knowledge of bird’s migration patterns (who interestingly was a prodigal himself).

To connect the story of how God will always welcome us “home”, we studied how pigeons always return home. Using innate compasses & maps, pigeons travel hundreds of miles to return home. Interestingly, they will follow modern highways making 90 degree turns, taking the most efficient routes home.

We hiked on a path among tall grasses to the other side of a lake. Lining up mothers with sons, each mother held her bird. On the count of three, hands opened and the birds flew. We watched birds grow smaller and turn toward home.

As mothers the countdown begins at birth…kindergarten, junior high, high school graduation…hands which once held tiny fingers will open to allow the grown boy to “fly”. The official letting go is not the first.  There are small steps, test flights, before the final release. With each test of freedom we watch to see which way they would fly. Hold our breath hoping they return “home”.

When boys turn to men, we trust and hope our time holding hands and hearts was not wasted. We beg our heavenly Father to hold them close as we let them go.

Thank you Heavenly Father for giving me the freedom to fly. Thank you for welcoming me “home” into Your loving and grace-filled arms with each prodigal moment.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25

“Out of the heart the mouth speaks” {An Activity}

Mom, brother said he doesn’t like that boy we saw at swim lessons.”

Me: “You mean the boy whose eyes are different?”

“Yeah, I told him it doesn’t matter how someone looks on the outside, it’s the heart that counts.”

Me: “You are so right. That boy could be the kindest, most loyal friend. You would never know if you decided you didn’t like him because of how he looked.”

“I also told him God made everything and everyone. God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Me: (Heart swelling, smiling big) “Yes, sweetie, God doesn’t make mistakes.”

My little truth teller absorbs his theological knowledge from either our conversations, church lessons, or his kindergarten teacher. In this particular case, I’m crediting his kindergarten teacher.  The first day of summer I sorted through the large stack of papers he brought home from his teacher. In the treasure trove of wisdom I discovered this great teaching idea for the boys…

Supplies:

  • 2 jars with lids
  • construction paper (tape)
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • 2 small plates

I grabbed two Bonne Maman jelly jars from my stash (remember how much I love these?). Then I cut some construction paper to wrap around the jar, using tape to secure the paper.

In one jar I poured some honey and in the other jar I poured vinegar. Before taking the jars to the table I screwed on the tops…so the boys couldn’t see what’s inside.

Activity:

1) Ask your children if the jars look the same or different? Point out similarities (blue paper, red & white lid, made at the same factory, etc.)

2) Say: “Although the jars look the same, they are actually different.” (watch their faces as they process this thought).

3) Read 1 Samuel 16:7:

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

4) Have the children take turns opening the jars and pouring the contents onto the plates. They may try to guess what’s inside. At first my boys thought the honey was syrup and the vinegar was water. Upon further investigation (taste & smell) they guessed correctly…and made some pretty hysterical faces.

5) Say: “When a jar is upset (or turned over), whatever is in it comes out.  Until the jars were upset, they looked alike. The difference was inside, and could not be seen. When they were upset, their contents were revealed.

The same is true with us. Until we are upset we look good.  But when someone upsets us/frustrates us/bothers us, we reveal our innermost thoughts and attitudes.

6) Read Luke 6:45: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

(If you want to listen to a song to go along with this verse, check out “Seeds of Praise”, song #6 “The Mouth: Matthew 12:34”)

7) Lastly ask the application questions: What if your brother/sister upsets you? What would flow out? Would you “reveal the ‘honey’ of grace and patience, or the ‘vinegar’ of anger and sarcasm”?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Within minutes after doing this “activity” we had the opportunity to revisit the topic. Angry words yelled at his brother. Fortunately instead of my usual sigh and frustration, I simply reminded him of our lesson with the words: “honey or vinegar”.

Sibling Summer Survival Guide

The summer is great for so many reasons…{your list here!}. For us it means a lot more time at home (too hot in Texas to be outside, unless you are in a pool) AND a lot more time together.

Given all this “time together” brothers can start to get agitated with one another. Buttons get pushed more frequently. Anger rises quickly. I find myself yelling, “STOP IT!” more often than I’d like.

The past few summers, unintentionally, we’ve been targeting some aspects of getting along and working together as a family. After talking with a friend about some of our “relationship lessons”, I thought I would share them with y’all.

1. Peacemaker Pledge

During our vacation I was reading through an Andrew Murray book and I was struck by one passage:

“To quarrel is a sin that comes too easily to children.  Let us train ours to respect the rights of others, to bear & to forgive when our own are affected.”-Andrew Murray

He also used the words: “Seek peace, and pursue it.” AND the verse:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

His words have given me words to express to my boys what I desire for my home. Yes, boys will be wild. However, we can pursue peaceful relationships and still be energetic and fun.

This week we had another “tea party” (snacks of choice…pop tarts cut into small pieces and banana slices). I grabbed a piece of paper and we brainstormed what it takes to be a “peacemaker”. Here is our list:

Since making the list I think we would add: “no name calling” or the positive version–> “encourage with words”. Some of the items on this list are self-explanatory (“no hitting)…others I thought I would go into more specifically below:

2. Harsh Word, Gentle Word

Controlling my tongue is a struggle. One summer I noticed that we all were speaking in a harsh tone. Again, I referenced “The Well-Versed Family”…my boys and I learned the verse:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

The hand motions we used while learning the verse are:

  • “gentle answer”= bring together thumb with pointer/middle finger & then open…keeping opening/closing, back & forth (like a little bird’s beak)
  • “turns away wrath”=sweeping gesture of right hand from the front to around your back.
  • “harsh word”=bring two hands/arms together and apart (like a crocodile mouth opening)
  • “stirs up anger”=stirring a pot

Then when any of us started to use a harsh voice, we could be reminded by the hand sign for “gentle answer” or by a verbal reminder, saying “gentle answer” or “don’t stir up anger”.

3. Treat your brother special (honor)

The concept of “honor” came from the work of Dr. Scott Turansky & Joann Miller. They have several wonderful parenting books. One area they focus on is honoring your parents, honoring your siblings. They define honor as: “Treating others special. And doing more than is expected”.

I know its hard sometimes to just get my boys to obey and do what is expected. Then to have them “honor” and do more than is expected…tricky. However, I have noticed when I encourage and positively affirm the times they have “honored” a brother their desire to “honor” increases.

For instance, I’ve asked the boys to get their shoes. A few times one brother has not only put on his shoes but has gotten his brother’s shoes for him. Immediately I use the words, “Wow! Thank you for honoring your brother by doing more than is expected! Not only getting your shoes on but helping get his as well.”

If I notice a brother being unkind or hurtful, I use the gentle reminder: “Treat your brother special.” They are still trying to grasp the concept of “special”. I ask them how they would treat someone they think is really important…the President, famous basketball player, Elmo. =) Then I say, if that person was here, you wouldn’t hit them in the face or take away their toy. You would offer them some food, speak kindly, and share your things with them.

4. Talk to him first 

My mother-in-law wisely advised me: when your children argue try not to get involved. She reasoned when you do get involved it forces them to take sides and “present” their case to you; trying to win you over to their side of the argument.

When one boy offends the other and they come running to tell me (aka “tattle telling”), I immediately ask them, “Have you talked to your brother? Have you told him how you feel?”. Most often they haven’t. For my two-year-old I give him words to say, “Tell your brother: I don’t like when you hit me. It hurts” or “When you are done with that toy can I play with it?”.

Siblings are the first deep, peer relationships our children will have in which they learn to work through challenging disagreements, communicate frustrations, seek forgiveness, and reconciliation. According to the Bible,

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15).

This verse was directed towards dealing with sin in the church. I feel teaching our children to go to the offender first instills a good habit for the rest of his/her life.

Now if you see us at a pool this summer & my boys are arguing with one another, please do not judge or hold me to an unreasonable standard. I’m just hoping by training my boys in how to get along peaceable with others, as adults they will have healthy & happy relationships. The way they relate to one another will not bring them glory but glorify God, the author of relationships.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

*If you want to read more about peacemaking, check out the website: Peacemaker Ministries

Few Favorites Friday: Fractured Foot Edition

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

A friend shared this verse with me when I was extremely discouraged. My response was: “Does it count if instead of “walking uprightly” I walk leaning slightly forward? Using crutches I’m more like 20 degrees off upright.” =)

I’m trying. This has been a challenging week…not in the way I thought it would be. Before I got my “diagnosis”, I was dreading another week home with the boys without my husband. Ready to be exhausted by responsibilities, whining, solo-discipline, etc. Instead it’s been a different kind of hard. I can’t do what I normally do. I’ve had to adjust my entire way of doing things. I can’t even be home alone with the boys. Another adult must be here to help me.

There were few things that I selfishly enjoyed that I can no longer: Dance class (where the injury occurred), working out in general, quiet time in my big leather chair downstairs. My dear friend encouraged me that I can still enjoy those things just in a new way.

My #hellomornings time has been happening in my bed…not ideal but it’s still happening. My exercise is now swinging my huge body on crutches. I’ve been able to sit and enjoy my boys. Filling their love language of quality time instead of service. And the biggest favorite of the week:

1. My Mother-in-law

Thank the Lord for my mother-in-law. She has done the jobs of both myself and my husband this week (laundry, trash, meal prep & clean-up, helping with sick kids, putting boys to bed). Without a single complaint she has served our family. She also brought joy & laughter into our home.  I’m so very thankful for her this week.

2. Breakfast in Bed

Remember in my post from Monday when I was upset because my husband didn’t make me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day? Well, because of my injury my MIL served me breakfast in bed every day this week (be careful what you wish for!).

3. Highland Park ER 

The stand-alone emergency room we visited on Mother’s Day is definitely on my favorites list. If you are in the downtown Dallas area you should consider using the Highland Park ER for your next emergency. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. We were the only people in there, so I was seen immediately. They had a keurig machine, people! The staff were helpful and friendly. Now I may change my opinion when we get the bill… 

4.  Giant Bubbles 

One afternoon we mixed up this fun bubble solution…find the recipe here: Giant Bubbles.

We just made a 1/4 of the solution…we didn’t need 12 cups floating around.

Boys loved adding the ingredients…like a science experiment. They were blowing HUGE bubbles. Super fun. Highlight of the week.

5. Homemade Journal & 1000gifts…

I gave this gift combo to teachers last year. I’ve given it to my mom & MIL for Mother’s Day last year. I’ve given it to all my friends at Christmas. So I was a little nervous giving it as a gift this year. The book has been around for awhile & on the New York Times best seller list for over half a year. Thankfully NONE of the 5 teachers I gave “One Thousand Gifts” to, had read it!

This year when making the journal I got creative.

I wanted to buy new scrapbook paper & ribbon. However my injury prevented that from happening. To the 99cent composition book I glued a cute piece of scrapbook paper to the front. Glued a ribbon along the paper & binding. Then for the back, I glued a piece of plain scrapbook paper on which the boys painted their handprints. Turned out great!

6. Summer Celebration

Heard at a MOPs session that on the last day of school we should celebrate the start of summer. Telling our children how much we look forward to spending time with them, learning new skills, taking trips. So, with my walking boot & crutches I headed over to Dollar Tree. Spending less than $10 I got each of the boys:

  • Sunglasses
  • Water shooters (those tube shooters)
  • Spiderman helium-filled mylar balloon

7. No-slip, No-crease Hair ties–Amber
My super sweet, super fashion-forward friend Amber sent me her favorite thing. It’s elastic silk hair ties!
“They are absolutely wonderful. They don’t leave a crease in your hair when you take it down! You can find them at little boutique shops, but they can get pricey.  I found them on Etsy for cheaper!  Love, Love, Love!”
Here is the link to the Etsy shop: TuToo Cute TuTu’s

What were your favorites this week?