Andrea's blog

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7 Weeks of Less - STRESS

I just finished a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  Read on to see how it went!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

Ha! This should be interesting, because it's the week I'll be packing and getting myself and the kids ready for a month-long trip to Chicago to visit with family and live out of a suitcase, sleeping in campers, hotels and basements.  If planning for a 4 week trip with two children across the country with a business to run while you're gone doesn't sound stressful, I don't know what does. 

To reduce stress during this time, I want to try a variation of what Jen Hatmaker did with several set-aside times throughout the day to pray and refocus. I'm not sure I can do all "Seven Sacred Pauses", but I'm going to commit to four of them and each day I'm going to dedicate 5 minutes to each prayer - which I realize is nowhere close to an hour, but these are baby steps:

  • (7:00 am) The Awakening Hour: Remembering God's goodness and complete control over my life and trusting in Him.
  • (11:00 am) The Hour of Illumination: Honoring Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and recommitting to giving my life away in service, love, and peace.
  • (2:00 pm) The Hour of Wisdom: Praying for wisdom and perspective.
  • (6:00 pm) The Twilight Hour: Expressing gratitude and serenity during the witching hours.

I think I'll set alarms. 

The Wrap-Up:

Though this week wasn't *hard* necessarily, it was definitely effective.  Having an audible reminder on my phone made me stop and pause several times a day to be thankful for what I have, ask God for help where I was struggling, and to pray for the people around me.  I wouldn't say my prayers were anything spectacular or particularly profound, but at least 4 times every day, I acknowledged God and his participation in my life. 

As you can see, I changed my set times a little bit, and I'm sure I didn't pray a full five minutes (or sometimes even a full minute), but still, i'm happy with the strides I made!

The kids even participated with me and they'd get excited when the alarm would go off and ask "Is it time to pray?"  Then they'd help me and we'd take turns saying what we were thankful for.  Most of our prayers went something like this (with plenty of other fun things added in):

Thank you God for our family, friends, and our trip.  Thank you for keeping us safe.  Please help us to obey, make good choices, and to be kind, respectful, helpful, and loving.  Thank you for Jesus and for the sacrifices he made that let us be forgiven when we make mistakes. Amen.

And you know what...even in the midst of packing and getting ready for a very long road trip (AL to IL), a holiday (4th of July) and sleeping in new places, we managed to stay pretty stress free. 

The main exception was the day Paxton was a total disaster (the 4th) and getting into all kinds of trouble, and Ayla had a major meltdown about some green beans.  I'm pretty sure though that stress week and all that prayer helped me get through that day much better than I would have otherwise! 

Especially on those long driving stretches (while the kids were watching movies in the backseat), I found myself starting to talk to God without the reminder.  Though, I'll admit, I often got distracted and started more prayers than I finished.  Perhaps that's the true meaning of "Pray Continually?"

My biggest takeaway from the week was that I'm much more comfortable praying, and more comfortable praying verbally with the kids, which I think is so important. 

I turned off my alarms today, but I may turn them back on if I find myself slipping out of practice.  It's good for me to lean on God a little more and myself a little less.  This week (though I certainly wasn't perfect), I found myself to be calmer, more patient, and a little nicer and less cranky than I can often be.  I don't think that's a coincidence.

 

And now....7 Weeks of Less is over.  I'm sure I'll hold onto some of the principles I've practiced and learned and am glad I did it.  Thanks Jen Hatmaker for the inspiration!  It has certainly sparked a lot of interesting and thoughtful conversations for me in the past several months.

 

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7 Weeks of Less - MEDIA

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 6 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

  1. No Facebook (except SignsbyAndrea-related)
  2. No Pinterest checking and surfing. 
  3. No blog reading. 
  4. No television. 
  5. No Netflix or Hulu.
  6. No radio. 
  7. Just telephone, email and texts for communication.
  8. No magazines or books. (added later)

I'm actually looking forward to this week.  I spend entirely too much time surfing the web, reading blogs and checking pinterest and facebook again and again and again and again.

The Wrap-Up:

WOW.  I'm a click-addict.  In a big-bad-way.  I use Facebook, checking my web site stats, email, Pinterest, and blog reading as an escape from my world, an "out" of my head, and as a way to avoid thinking about important things or talking with the people around me.  And I use it a LOT. 

This week was my hardest week yet, and the biggest felt sacrifice so far.  While I gained a lot of extra time by not checking in on those things all week (in addition to not watching television or movies), I tried pretty hard not to fill that time with other types of distractions.  So, I didn't allow myself to read books, plan a bunch of all-day playdates or call everyone and their brother just to chat.  I did however work on a photo organizing project in the evenings.  I mean...I needed SOMETHING productive to do. 

But truly this week was eye-opening for me.  Maybe not life-changing (addicts take a LONG time to be completely reformed), but definitely eye-opening. 

In a lot of ways, those web sites, movies and social media outlets are my largest form of entertainment everyday.  They're fun.  I like it.  So this week, I felt like everything was all work and no fun, kind of like being grounded as an adult.  That daily entertainment often serves as my "count to ten" moment to distract myself from frustrations with the kids or my to-do list, etc. and helps me calm down.  At the same time, those very same things probably cause just as much stress as they relieve by making me feel like I have to be "in-the-know" about so many not-that-important things.

Am I going to quit Facebook & Pinterest? Not a chance.  Will I try to back it down a notch (or two)? Yes.

Day-by-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, June 24, 2012

My morning routine of checking email, reading blogs, facebook, checking pinterest. Um...yeah, that only takes about 3 minutes now, when it used to take 30.

I only accidently clicked on my Pinterest bookmark once.  Thankfully, I had Ben block both Pinterest and Facebook from working on my computer.  Then even if I mess up...I can't go any farther. Kind of like parental guidance controls.  Only I'm the parent.

This afternoon, Ben watched a movie. I took a nap and took Ayla to Toys R Us to pick out a birthday present.  No radio allowed in the car.  So she talked...a LOT.

Ben said that he noticed this afternoon I was acting kind of crazy and jittery, like I needed a click fix and didn't know what to do with myself.

Tonight we started going through photo boxes so we can put together some boxes to ship off and have our photos scanned. That was actually a lot of fun, going through old pictures. This is the perfect week for that kind of project.

Day 2- Monday, June 25, 2012

I watched Kailyn & Isaac this morning, so with the exception of about 45 minutes at my computer this morning, writing and posting a newsletter & sale for SignsByAndrea, I didn't have much computer access anyhow. We spent most of the morning driving all over B'ham with four kids.

This afternoon, I took a nap (or tried to), but then spent a good portion of the late afternoon wandering. I didn't want to work, didn't have a project...and would normally have been on Pinterest or Facebook. 

Tonight I took the kids to a Girl Scouts party and we all played outside and had real person-to-person interaction and fun. :) Good to have on no-Media week. 

After the kids went to bed, I went back to weeding through photos while Ben watched a movie in the other room.  

So..I'm definitely feeling this fast.  I miss Facebook.  Then Pinterest. Then blog reading.  Then music in the car.  In that order.  But I have LOTS more free time...

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worked all morning.  Paxton played with a babysitter.  I spent the majority of the time in the garage with earplugs in while cutting wood with my new miter saw.  So...no media necessary there. :)

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

My Fitness magazine came today.  As I was eating lunch I found myself leafing through it, getting totally engrossed in the ads (which were all Olympic themed)...  Then I realized "THIS IS MEDIA!" And it pained me to close the magazine and set it aside until next week. :(

Tonight we went to a BBQ with some people from church at an apartment complex for some men who are getting back on their feet after troubles with addiction, etc.  It was a nice social event, and a great evening for all of us.  Personal interaction (in person) is nicer than media-assisted interaction. 

Day 5 - Thursday, June 28th, 2012

So, really starting to wonder what I'm missing on Facebook & Pinterest.  Would LOVE to sit down and watch a movie tonight. I've found myself wandering around the house aimlessly.  I'm officially completely addicted to clicking links on my computer.  I spent most of the day adding thumbnail images to my blog since Ben helped make a few upgrades to allow images to show up with my latest posts, etc.  So that fed my "click" addiction.  But it was very apparent when I kept on clicking on....I like to click.  I like my computer. I have a hard time knowing what to do on it without Facebook & Pinterest...which means I probably spend an OBSCENE amount of time at those two websites.  Perhaps I need some sort of intervention...not just a week-long fast.

I find myself itching for Sunday.  I'm ready to go into Verizon and get a new smart phone and data package and can't wait till Sunday to do it.  So that then I can have Facebook & Pinterest at my fingertips all day, no matter where I am?   I definitely have a problem!

The truth is, I can tell that I use those "media" outlets as a distraction, a way out of my own head and immediate surroundings.  A way to avoid thinking about important things or dealing with something I don't want to deal with.  It appears that I generally let those media outlets dictate what I think about or how I plan my day, because without them I feel a little lost, not sure where to turn next. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 29th, 2012

Today I was cranky.  It's a Friday thing...I'm always tired and cranky on Fridays.  So are the kids.  That meant when I went to the Rec and ran, without music, I was stuck in my cranky head.  Not a fun place to be. 

We spent the early afternoon at the mall while Ben gave blood at the blood drive.  Funny how this 7 Weeks of Less made me completely un-phased by all the stores in the mall.  It's entirely possible that there is nothing n that entire mall that is "needed".  Talk about excess.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ironically, I've spent a good portion of today (my last day of no-media week) planning to buy a smart phone with a data package.  I want one before my month-long trip north next week so I can stay connected for work while I'm away from my computer more than normal.

I'm also considering staying up till midnight to watch a movie and check Facebook.

Scratch that. I decided to watch a movie at 8pm and save my next Facebook/Pinterest check for Sunday afternoon - after church.  Compromise.  Still cheating, but it's a compromise.


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The Blog about the Blog

So, since this is media week in my 7 Weeks Of Less and I've been self-banned from Facebook, Pinterest and reading any blogs, I've been working on a few upgrades on my own blog instead (with Ben's help).

First, you may notice that the home page got a face lift.  Now you can visually see the most recent posts if you're a logged in friend or family member or the most recent & most popular posts if you're a visitor:

 

Next, you'll see that that the side bar looks a little different --------->

Now there are small thumbnail images with my Latest Blog Posts and Most Popular Posts.  Cool, huh?

Plus, I've been adding thumbnail images to the archives as far back as 2007:

Blog Archives

I've enjoyed going through LOTS of old posts and remembering all the things I've written about over the years...watching the kids grow and remembering all the projects I've worked on. 

And look! Even the Related Posts below each blog post have thumbnail images too. 

Lots more eye-candy. I like it.  Thanks Ben for your help!


PS. I miss Facebook.

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7 Weeks of Less - SHOPPING

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 5 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

7 days of no spending - on anything other than bills that are due. Plus, I want to find places to cut spending.  I guess I better be sure the car is full of gas before this week starts!

The Wrap Up:

Another failed week -- not so much because we spent money (which we certainly did), but because I'm having a really hard time associating the "fast" with the reasons for why I'm doing it.  This week it was too easy to justify spending because it seemed silly and inconvenient to put a purchase off for a few days just because of this experiment.  It only seems effective to do the fast if I decide NOT to spend the money at all, which in some cases, I could have (Ayla's birthday party photo book) and other case I couldn't (the car repairs).

But to be honest, instead of wanting to spend less, buy less, etc., this experiment has done the opposite and made me feel as though normally I do critique every purchase I make, and I should just let up a little already!  It's completely having the opposite effect on me, which I'm SURE is not the goal...

Maybe instead of choosing Jen Hatmaker's 7 areas of excess, I should have more carefully examined my own life and where our excess really is.  That's probably why food week really WAS effective for me.  We like food -- and a large variety of foods at that.

Perhaps media week, which starts in 5 1/2 hours, will be more effective for me. I vow to be more dedicated to the cause than I have the past two weeks.  Goodbye Facebook & Pinterest. I will miss you.  But perhaps I'll have time to actually MAKE something instead!

Day-by-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - I succeeded in buying nothing today.  But not because of my own willpower.  Instead it was because our friends, who were in town visiting, bought us lunch at Pizza Hut.

Day 2 - Monday , June 18, 2012 - Evidently I missed the point of this week.  But because it's just a "week" and not a lifestyle decision, it seemed silly to put off purchases until next Sunday when I had the time to take care of them today.  So...I managed to buy a couple of things:

  1. A Shutterfly 8" x 8" photo book of Ayla's birthday party.  I had a coupon for a free one that expired on June 30th and I had the morning to throw it together.  So I did.  And paid $11.72 for the extra pages (over 20) and shipping. 
  2. Reserved a hotel room for my friend's wedding in July.  I guess technically I haven't paid for that yet...
  3. I wrote a check for Paxton's first month of school in the fall.  Technically that doesn't come out until August though either.
  4. We also moved some money around in our accounts today to fill up our savings, which is just good money management.
  5. Plus we had to pay 6 months of car insurance which was due this month (which actually saves money month-to-month).

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Honda has been overheating some.  Turns out it's leaking coolant.  So that costs money.  We had to pay that.  I suppose we COULD have waited until next week to take care of it, and driven the Avalon in the meantime.  But, then we're just being legalistic and not getting something taken care of that needed to be done as soon as possible.

See what I mean about this SHOPPING fast being hard?  Putting it off for a week isn't really beneficial.  You'd have to instead do without the purchase completely, which isn't realistic (in this case). 

So, we picked up the car and paid for it. It was running on empty, so I had to stop and get gas before I headed to Target to do some grocery shopping and to pick up some medicine and toiletries we needed.  $$$.  Lots of spending.  I guess my total # of locations for shopping is up to 6 now.

Perhaps this week should be about justifying my purchases! That's what I seem to be doing...

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yay me! I successfully bought nothing today!

Day 5 - Thursday, June 21, 2012

It was decided we would go to Chuck E Cheese tonight as a reward for the kids for making strides towards staying dry at night.  We had to go before the coupon expired on the 23rd.  So we went tonight.  It definitely counts as an unnecessary expense.  I participated.

Day 6 - Friday, June 22, 2012

Our car payment cleared today.  That's a bill.  Doesn't count.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ben went to Target today and bought some food and other things we forgot when we went earlier this week. Technically, I wasn't there.  I did request Cheese Its and kettle chips though.


 

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7 Weeks of Less - WASTE

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 4 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  This week I will find ways to be green and more environmentally aware.  I like to do these things and regularly practice a lot of "greener" things, but know I can improve and make better choices such as:

  1. Drive less (ie. exercise at home instead of the rec if I don't have any other errands to run, combine errands to one outing)
  2. Use fewer napkins, paper towels, and other one-time-use conveniences like zip lock bags, plastic bags, etc.
  3. Recycle more. Find a place to recycle glass especially and be more diligent about getting papers, cardboard, plastic & aluminum to the recycling bin instead of the trash
  4. Think of second (or third or fourth) uses for items before they become trash
  5. Fix things that might otherwise be thrown away.
  6. Save energy and resources by turning off electronics, lights, the water, etc. when not in use. 
  7. Take out the trash & recycling, roll it to the street & back, etc.  Normally this is something I leave for Ben to do..I'll take responsibility for it this week as a physical and visual reminder of the waste we produce.

The Wrap-Up:

Okay, so this week was mostly a giant failure.  Yes, I tried to recycle more things, and be aware of the trash I threw away.  And I was in charge of bringing the trash and recycling to the street and taking it out to the trash bins. 

But overall, I was preoccupied with plans for Ayla's birthday party (and enjoying several days sans kids since they went to Auburn for a few days with grandparents). 

So, I often forgot to bring by reuseable bags into stores (though I did shop at Sam's this week, which meant I had to use my own bags) and drove several extra hours because we were dropping off and picking up the kids from their trip. 

Plus, Ayla's birthday party was on Saturday which produced all KINDS of trash (and recycleable cardboard), and it was pretty painful to watch perfectly good food and drinks be tossed in the trash by a bunch of 6 year olds.

And I won't lie...this 7 Weeks of Less experiment is getting old and kind of boring to me.  How on EARTH did Jen Hatmaker (and her family) survive 7 full months of this?

Day-by-Day:

So, since I was such a slacker this week...I didn't journal. At all.  Instead I'd like to offer a few "green" solutions and ways to save energy and be more efficient.  Some of which I do, some I don't (but probably should).

  1. Recycle aluminum cans, paper, plastic & cardboard (picked up weekly at the curb...doesn't get any easier than that).
  2. When you make a trip out in the car, look for efficient ways to take care of several errands in one trip, rather than making several trips out a day. 
  3. Use reuseable divided containers for packing lunches instead of zip lock bags, paper bags, and plastic utensils.
  4. Use refillable water bottles instead of buying juice boxes or bottled water.
  5. Keep a bunch of reusable bags in the car to use when you go shopping (at ANY kind of store!) 
  6. Shop at Aldi or Sams where they don't offer plastic or paper bags at all! (or charge for them).
  7. Instead of buying individually packaged containers of snacks, buy big bags and refill a reuseable container.
  8. Say things once.  Don't waste your words.
  9. Instead of using paper towels (or napkins for that matter), keep a drawer full of bar rags (we buy ours at Sams) for wiping off counters, drying your hands, cleaning the house, etc. Then just wash them with bleach.
  10. Recycle glass and plastic bags at the Target recycling center.
  11. Reuse plastic bags as trash liners.
  12. Buy used.  Used cars, used clothes, used furniture, used toys.  No need to buy new when the gently used is just as good, cheaper and less wasteful.
  13. Start an herb garden. 
  14. Save misprinted papers, fliers and old worksheets for scratch paper.
  15. Turn off the lights and open the blinds during the day for natural light.
  16. Use fans instead of blasting the air conditioning (but keep the AC on to some level...let's be reasonable...we live in Alabama).
  17. Save energy by keeping a "goes up" or "goes down" bucket next to the stairs.  Then take the stuff up on your next trip up.  Why can't my kids get on board with this???
  18. Any "green" tips you want to add?

Next week is Shopping week.  I don't even think I can do it.  I can't even fathom how...God help me figure out some way to benefit during that week and make it applicable.

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Planted

There's nothing like a deadline to get a long-term home improvement project finished up.  Ben has been chipping away at a landscaping project in the front and back-yard since about March.  But with Ayla's birthday party on the horizon, he wanted to get it finished up -- and he did!

It began with this vole-infested shed at the back of our yard that needed to be hauled away:

While the kids and I were our of town for Spring Break, Ben and his brother Josh took a sledgehammer to the shed and hauled it off into this lovely dumpster that sat in our driveway for about two weeks.  The day it arrived was a very exciting day for Paxton!

When we got home from our trip, the shed was gone (as was the rotting deck in the backyard, a grill and a couch that had past it's prime.  When a dumpster is available, you better make good use of it!)

In addition to tearing down the shed & deck, Ben spent HOURS and HOURS working on grading the dirt in the flower bed, adding a french drain and gravel, and putting in edging to set the groundwork for a large flowerbed.  It's a shame I can write all that work into just one sentence.  It was a massive undertaking!

Next, we had a huge pile of dirt delivered to put some good soil down for our flowerbed.  The kids had a blast in that dirt pile...who wouldn't?

Once all the dirt was down and graded for good water drainage, we covered it with weed-blocking paper and left it for about a month or so while we were busy with everyday life.

Then one week, we noticed we were about to have gorgeous, unseasonably cool weather and knew we had to get on the ball to get these flower beds finished.  This was our chance. It was time to get digging. 

So we headed to Home Depot and bought up a ton of perennial flowers and bushes and spent a very long Saturday digging about 100 holes in our yard!  Needless to say...we were exhausted at the end of that weekend.  But...after adding some mulch over the top, we finally had our finished flower beds:

The backyard isn't the only area that got a little facelift.  Ben followed the same process on the front flowerbeds too:

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Now comes the hard part....keeping them alive!

Hopefully our work (mostly Ben's) won't be in vain, and these few intense days and weeks of work willl pay off over the years and we'll see all of these flowers and bushes growing back year after year.

Next yard project (who knows when???) will be making some level ground in the back yard for kids to play...might have to hire professionals for that big job!

15

Strawberry Shortcake Festival Birthday Party

Saturday morning, we hosted Ayla's 6th birthday party in our front lawn. 

She had requested a "Strawberry Shortcake Festival" birthday party.  Can't say no to that!  We turned it into a summer fun festival, and planned a morning of water sports and "fair food".  Here's how the party went down:

Invitations:

Strawberry Shortcake Party Invitation

I ordered these "Strawberry Sweet Berry Birthday Party" invitations from Zazzle and just change the wording to fit our party. 

Tip: I always like to include a drop off and pick up time and mention whether a meal will be served at the party on the invitation.  Helps answer a few questions parents are likely to have in this strange inbetween age where parents are often expected to stay at parties with their kids.  I got several comments from moms that were SO glad to see that information on the invitation!

Decorations:

Decorations were pretty simple for this party. We borrowed some pop up tents from our neighbors for a festival-like atmosphere, set up a few tables for food & gifts, and put out lots of water toys spread across the lawn.

Water Games Birthday Party

Summer Fun Festival Birthday Party

I made a chalk sign on the driveway for a great "welcome" sign and photo backdrop.

Outdoor Birthday Party Ideas

Birthday Party Group Photo Idea

For one of the tents, I made a quick "Happy Birthday Ayla" banner (tutorial here) with some colored cardstock, ribbon and my Silhouette to cut the letters.  The kids layed their towels under this tent to eat lunch and open presents.

Birthday Banner Tutorial

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Under the other tent, I added some red and turquoise fringe that I ordered from ShopSweetLulu.com.  We had two tables set up in an L-shape with an adorable strawberry tablecloth (from Target) and a plain pink plastic table cloth on the other.  One table was for food, the other held gifts and party favors. 

Strawberry Shortcake Party Decorations

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party Decorations

Speaking of party favors...

Each kid went home with a bubble wand. I snagged all the pink and green ones from our local Dollar Tree.  We added a strawberry candy with a tulle baggie and a cute (and free!) chevron printable "thank you" card.  Then Ayla added a Strawberry Shortcake sticker to each wand.

Strawberry Shortcake Party Favors

Food:

We tried to keep it simple, but feature "fair food" for our festival.  So our menu looked like this:

Strawberry Shortcake Party Berry Baskets

Summer Festival Birthday Party Menu

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Fanta with Paper Straws

I bought plain cupcakes with sprinkles and added a slice of strawberry to the top to fit the theme:

Strawberry Shortcake Party Cupcakes

Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Activities & Games:

As everyone arrived they played in the yard with all the water toys.  We set up three baby pools full of water with sponge balls, water shooters, a sprinkler and a slip-n-slide for the kids to run wild -- which they did!

Outdoor Water Games

Outdoor Water Games

The night before, Ben and I filled about 200 water balloons.  I bought pink & green ones from Dollar Tree to match the Strawberry Shortcake colors.

Water Balloon Games

The water balloon toss was a little chaotic, and I had to do lots of shouting to try and get them to (hear) and follow the instructions. 

Water Balloon Games

Next we played a relay race game where the kids ran to a kid-sized camping chair and sat on a water balloon to pop it and then ran back.  They liked that game a lot - and got plenty wet in the process.

After a few rounds of that, we just let them loose on the big bucket of balloons.  Pure FUN!

Outdoor Water Games

The only other formal game we played was with some really cool sponge balls that my neighbor had made and let us borrow.  Each team had to carry a wet sponge ball down to the bucket and try to squeeze out the water with their neck into the bucket.  

Outdoor Water Games - Birthday Party

They started cheating quickly.  But it was still lots of fun.

DIY Sponge Balls

And that was pretty much it!  Two hours of glorious weather (thank goodness!), lunch and lots of running around the yard.  I think it was successful and fun for all the kids.  Hard to say...I was running around like crazy the whole time! :) I'm not sure I'm meant for party hostessing....but the planning sure is fun!

 

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Lazy Linkies Review

Lazy Linkies Linky Party ServiceI've got to share an awesome blogging tool that I've started using recently called Lazy Linkies.

I love sharing my blog content at linky parties.  They're a fantastic way to share my projects and tutorials with new audiences - and they work! My blog traffic has largely increased since I started participating in linky parties.

The problem is...there are LOTS of them, hosted on all different blogs, with different guidelines, on different days, and at different times of the day.  They are all great parties to participate in, but I was having a hard time keeping up with which blogs posted their parties on which day of the week, checking to see if the weekly post had gone live yet throughout that day, and trying to remember to check them all.  It was taking up entirely too much of my time, but the payoff and traffic I got from each of them was really great, so I didn't want to stop.

Enter: Lazy LinkiesSeriously. Simplified it all, and made it so easy!

Lazy Linkies monitors all of those blogs for me and notifies me when each blog's weekly linky party goes live.  Now, instead of manually checking each of those blogs multiple times a day, when a linky party is posted, I'm notified immediately, I go to the post, fill out the form with my newest blog content, and am often one of the first links in the list.  So easy.  So fast.  So wonderful.

If you regularly participate in linky parties, do yourself a favor and try using Lazy Linkies!  You'll be SO glad you did!

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7 Weeks of Less - CLOTHES

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm three weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

I will choose 7 items of clothing to wear this week.  That's it.  Wash and wear.  All week long.  Underwear & socks don't count.  The only jewelry allowed are my wedding rings.  No makeup (ouch).  Hair gel is allowed.

  1. pink ribbed tank top
  2. black & pink running shorts
  3. black sundress
  4. blue sundress
  5. turquoise ribbed tank top (changed to white camisole tank)
  6. tennis shoes (changed to turquoise dress)
  7. flip flops (add tennis shoes.  Jen Hatmaker counted two pairs of shoes as one item...so will I!)

I will also take inventory of my clothes and try to get rid of as much as possible. I've done this recently, so I'm curious how much more I can prune. 

I feel like this week won't be too hard (though kind of boring).  Since it's summertime, I won't need things like jackets, hats, jeans, sweaters, etc.  Having only one set of workout clothes is going to be the hardest.  That will require daily laundering.  And I'm going to miss wearing earrings. 

Dang. And I just realized I'm scheduled to drive to Nashville this weekend for a bachelorette party.  No makeup & no jewelry? Jazz.

The Wrap-Up:

Aside from my wardrobe this week, which was simple, easy and predictable, it was the most insanely busy week that we've had in a long long time.  So I barely had time to think about what I was wearing, let alone worry about it!  And truthfully it ended up being a less-than-typical week where normally I would have worked out 3-4 times and changed clothes more often.  But it was a plenty social week, so I had to parade my simple self all over Birmingham (and Nashville), visiting with people who see me everyday as well as many who only see me on occasion. 

Here's what I came away with this week:

  • I completely failed to go through my clothes and get rid of anything.  Not a single item.  I'll get to it. One of these days.
  • I only cheated once, in the name of nostalgia.  I put on my brother in law's Carbondale Terriers baseball jacket for about a minute as I was unpacking their coat closet in their new house. :) 
  • I was so thankful that underwear and socks weren't included in this week's rules.  I totally changed underwear just for fun...several times.
  • I was much more aware of how my hair looked all week, and did the best I could to keep my eyebrows tweezed.  Makeup and jewelry can do a great job of distracting from blemishes and insecurities.
  • I really missed earrings.

Did this week make me closer to God and more thankful for my physical blessings of clothes and accessories? If I'm being honest, not really.  I felt more like I was on a trip and forgot to pack half my stuff, so I was making do.  Which was fine, but I was too preoccupied with life to use that situation to ponder the inequalities of clothing availabilities for the world.  I was however very thankful for and aware of our washer and dryer.  I would not have liked wearing dirty clothes. 

Day-By-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, June 3, 2012

Here it is. My wardrobe for the next 7 days:

clothesweek.jpg

  1. Blue Dress
  2. Pink Tank
  3. Black Running Shorts
  4. White Camisole Tank
  5. Turquoise Dress
  6. Black Dress
  7. Tennis Shoes & Flip Flops

Ben calls this "Hobo Week."  I don't really think that's funny.

Harder than wearing and washing only these items of clothing, I'm also not wearing any makeup or accessories.  No jewelry, no cute flower pins, no scarves, and only functionality switches allowed in the handbag department.  For me, this week is less about having an excess of clothing and more about realizing how much time and effort is spent into "vanity" and "variety". 

Sometimes I stand in my closet for 15 minutes or more trying on different combinations of clothes, trying to find the "right" thing to wear.  I change earrings or necklaces or shoes several times before deciding.  Makeup only takes about 5 minutes, but it's a nice mask for blemishes, mascara and eyeliner makes me feel stronger (I don't know why!) and I always feel like I need a little bit of blush. 

Heading to church today with just my turquoise dress & flip flops, I felt a little naked. And I have to confess, to  try and compensate for no makeup and jewelry at church this morning, I went to the tanning bed yesterday for a little bit of extra color and straightened my hair this morning.  I have a problem.  Or just a dependency.  This could turn out to be a more interesting week than I anticipated!  Especially because it's a very social week where I'll see lots of people I don't see every day, and would normally try to make a good visual impression for... Why? I don't know.  They don't care what I look like.  But I'm a girl. I guess that's what we do.

day1.jpg

Day 2 - Monday, June 4, 2012

Most of today I was entirely too busy to even consider what I looked like.  My blue dress, flip flops and pony tail with no makeup or jewelry matched the no-nonsense mood I needed to get it all done!   By the evening though, when it was time to take the kids to VBS at Riverchase, I had a clothing "fast" moment.  The church was going to be COLD. I knew it. And I couldn't change into jeans or bring a sweater.   So I shivered instead.

I took inventory today of my clothing.  Here's what my closet & drawers contain:

  • 36 sleeveless shirts
  • 35 short sleeved shirts
  • 27 dresses
  • 27 pairs of shoes
  • 19 long sleeved shirts
  • 9 pairs of shorts
  • 9 pairs of yoga pants
  • 8 scarves
  • 6 pairs of jeans
  • 6 pairs of pants
  • 6 skirts
  • 5 sweaters
  • 5 "fashionable" jackets
  • 3 hooded sweatshirts
  • 3 pairs of leggings

Grand Total = 204 items

That doesn't include underwear, socks, pajamas, swimsuits, or coats.

In addition to taking inventory of my own clothes, I went through the kids' closets and pruned out clothes that are too small, too stained, or too crazy looking to wear. :)  We've been blessed to have several friends and family members give both kids LOTS of hand-me-down clothes.  We love it.  The kids love it.  It's wonderful. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yesterday, as I was going through Ayla's clothes I found three pairs of her jeans, all with a hole in the right knee.  They still fit in the waist, but the knees were well beyond repair.  So we turned them into shorts. Perfect way to have another few months of use out of them before she grows 3 or 4 more inches and they'd be too short.

I wore my black dress today, with the white tank underneath it.  Today was a work day, so I was cutting wood and working at my computer all day. Then this afternoon I took the kids to see a Roger Day concert and then VBS was tonight.  The only time I was uncomfortable in my dress w/no makeup and no jewelry - VBS.  Cold again!

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I helped my brother in law move across town all day today, so my workout clothes were just right for all the lifting, hauling and stair climbing.  Then tonight I switched to my turquoise dress for  VBS.

I'm still missing makeup and jewelry the most.   And since today was the first day I repeated clothes, I do admit to being a little bored with my options.  But thankfully I still like all my options.  I just might not wear them for a few weeks after this. :)

I did break my clothing rule once today. As I was unpacking the wardrobe box full of coats, I TOTALLY had to put on my brother-in-law's Carbondale Terriers baseball jacket and parade through the house - just for a minute!  We all went to the same high school, so it was nostalgic to pull that out!

Some things I've noticed this week - my face feel so much cleaner and my skin so much softer all the time without all that makeup on!  And I definitely don't miss having raccoon eyes at the end of the day.  Plus, my contacts haven't bothered me near as much as normal. 

Day 5 - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Got a blob of black paint on my blue dress today (I painted signs all day today).  Thankfully, it was small and mostly came out.  I think perhaps 7 days isn't long enough for this clothing fast. I'm only having to re-wear each dress once.  And since it turned out to be an abnormal week, I didn't end up working out as much as normal, so even my workout clothes haven't gotten worn as much as I thought they would. 

I suppose the true test is tomorrow, when I head to Nashville to see old friends and attend a bachelorette party.  I do wish I could wear makeup/jewelry/different shoes for that event.  But I won't.  I'm okay with the natural me in semi-sparkly flip flops. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 8, 2012

Today I left for Nashville to meet an old friend for lunch and then meet up with about 12 women for a bachelorette party.  I wore my black dress and straightened my hair, but was bummed not to be able to wear makeup, jewelry or fun shoes.

I was definitely overly aware of everyone else's makeup & jewelry and cute clothes & shoes all night.  But still, I felt okay and comfortable in what I was wearing.  And one of the girls mentioned in passing that I looked so pretty and carefree like I was ready to go to the beach.  She didn't know about 7 Weeks of Less, so that made me feel pretty good. :)

Day 7 - Saturday, June 9, 2012

Last day! I slept in my workout clothes last night (since PJs weren't on my list of clothing options and I was sharing a living room floor with 4 other girls).  It made me wake up and want to immediately go run! Ha! I didn't. I forgot to pack my running shoes and we were on top of a mountain!

I wore my turquoise dress and flip flops all day. We went out to lunch at Chuys and then walking around the mall for a while.  After about 15 minutes of "shopping" I realized it is absolutely NO fun at all to walk around a mall when you aren't buying shoes, jewelry, clothes or makeup.  No fun.  At all.  So I headed home to B'ham a little early while the other girls continued shopping. 


Next week is Waste.  I'll be a recycling fool...

6

7 Weeks of Less - STUFF

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm two  weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

We have 10 rooms in our house, plus a garage - all full of stuff.  A week is not even close to enough time to prune out everything we could, so I'm going to focus on getting rid of at least 7 things (hopefully WAY more) in these 7 spaces:

  1. Bathrooms
  2. Kids Rooms
  3. Playroom
  4. Kitchen
  5. Garage
  6. My Office
  7. Closets (particularly the front hall closet & Paxton's closet, which is used for storage)

In addition to getting rid of all this stuff, I will NOT let anything new (for me) to come INTO the house.

The Wrap-up:

So, I have to make a couple of confessions about this week:

  1. I allowed two things to come into the house: a shower curtain given to me by my sister in law (and I immediately gave away our old shower curtain to compensate) and a booster car seat (also given to me by my sister-in-law), so that we'd have an extra for carting Ayla's friends around in our car.  Since I didn't pay for either, and the carseat isn't even for me....I believe it's okay. No rules broken, right?
  2. I love to get rid of things, so I almost feel like this week wasn't fair fasting.  It was too much fun. 

This week I was encouraged by the fact that most of the things we got rid of were things that were given to us or purchased for very cheap at thrift stores or yard sales, or were items that had been used and abused, but that we had simply outgrown.  I guess that makes us cheap.  Or thrifty. Or just resourceful.  But certainly not flippant and casual with spending our money on THINGS (food & travel might be a different story). 

Or maybe it just means that the things we spent real money on are things I wouldn't give away.  In which case, I guess I've missed the point of this whole experiment for the week...*sigh* I guess only God can judge that...

At the end of this week, I'm exhausted from the process, but my house is in better order and I feel good about clearing out some of the excess.  And I do believe that by giving all that stuff away, that many people will be blessed by things we had no reason to hold onto "just in case" or "to have an extra". 

Day-by-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, May 27, 2012

I started yesterday. I was too excited about this week to wait until Sunday. 

Well, really, I started a few weeks ago (after reading 7) by completely overhauling my office.  I made some local scrapbooking friends very happy that week and managed to reduce the "stuff" by so much that I was able to take my entire bookshelf out of my office and give Paxton a toy shelf in his bedroom. 

And because in my previous Scrapjazz.com life, I was given TONS of scrapbooking supplies, tools and perks for free or for review, I felt great about paying it forward and giving away even the few bigger ticket items that I DID lay down some money for (like my XXL Crop In Style, QuicKutz Die Cutter, and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens). I know they're in happy new hands and will have a great new life.

officepile.jpg

Then yesterday, Ayla, Paxton and I went through all the toys and books in their bedrooms and together made giveaway piles and keep piles. I was so proud of their generosity.  I had to hold them back several times (especially Paxton, who might not completely "get" that these things were going away for good) from giving away some favorite special toys. 

This practice of getting rid of stuff comes naturally to me.  Especially when it's the kids' stuff.  Out with the old--not necessarily to make room for the new, but the old tends to grow at an exponential rate.  So it always feels good to me to let some of it go pretty regularly.  I donate regularly to the Salvation Army.

Since I had a good start yesterday, I decided today it was pretty important that I get rid of some of MY things (not just the kids' things).  Today I went through purses, bags, jewelry, toiletries, gift wrap, and the kitchen cabinets.  Strange categories, but it was working for me! I pretty much just opened any drawer or box in the room I was in and started going through it and pruning.  I collected enough stuff to cover an entire 6ft table covered (top & underneath) in the garage.

We're so having a garage sale this weekend--and I'll donate the  proceeds - somewhere. 

Day 2 - Monday, May 28, 2012

I spent an entire hour cleaning the main bathroom and going through the cabinets and closet, getting rid of a ton of things that have been taking up space for about 5 years.  Then I cleaned the rest of the house, getting rid of coats, hats & gloves in the hall closet and a few things in the master closet, including towels, sheets and shoes. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I managed to find a few minutes today to get rid of at least 7 items in the garage.  Since I didn't have time for a full-out organize and clean-out session, I decided that was okay. 

And that garage sale idea I had?  Not such a great idea really.  When I weighed the benefits of giving away a measly amount of garage sale money vs. giving away the actual items...well, the actual items won out.  So I'm going to find places to donate all of it, hopefully to where they can be given to people for free (not sold to them).  I feel good about that.

Day 4 - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today we tackled the playroom.  I'm so proud of Ayla and Paxton for helping give away several puzzles, half of their play-food toys, and several balls.  I also picked out a few more things from my decor and craft shelves in the garage to move to the giveaway pile (which is taking over half the garage). 

It feels GOOD to have a little bit of breathing room inside drawers and cabinets.  But truthfully, from the outside, nothing looks much different--which is kind of unbelievable.

Overall, as I move things over to the giveaway pile, I've noticed that I don't really spend that much money on stuff.  I DO accumulate a lot of things though - as gifts, hand-me-downs, thrift store purchases, etc. 

I'm kind of dreading the influx of clutter  that we don't need that's about to appear when Ayla has her birthday party in a couple of weeks.  :(  Last year we requested "something to do" instead of "something to have" from family and friends who were buying her gifts.  That was the best idea EVER.  Everyone was happy with that!

Day 5 - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today I pruned through picture frames and on-deck decor.  Yes.  I have lots of on-deck decor in buckets in the garage.  Some of those candle holders, picture frames, and fake flowers have been moving around with us since 2000.  Some probably came from my mom's house before that.  So lots of it HAD. TO. GO.  

Plus, I decided my office was a little to craft-tastic, so I took down all of my wall art and will be replacing it sometime with something a little classier and less crafty.  I dunno what yet.  Maybe just photography.  Not important.  For now, the walls are bare, and I'm enjoying the negative space. (see the before pics here)

Speaking of negative space...I can now stand in front of the shelves in the garage where most of that stuff lived.  And there's extra room on the shelves too.  Major victory. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 1, 2012

Today, I cleaned out Paxton's closet, which houses all our "keepsake" stuff.  I was able to get rid of some old baby clothes and blankets, a paper trimmer, and an entire bucket full of notes from my junior high friends.  We all discussed it...those aren't worth saving.

And that, my friends, was the last spot on my list of things to go through.  That doesn't mean it's all I could do, but  it's all I could do this week!

I called this morning to schedule a King's Home pickup for Monday.  King's Home will use what they can for the immediate needs of the at-risk teens in their care, and then use the rest to stock their thrift stores, where the proceeds are almost completely directed back to their program.    So I feel good about that.  Better than trying to sell them in my own driveway.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today while I was taking "breaks" from our all-day gardening project, I bagged up all of the giveaway items and got them ready to be able to put by the garage door for pickup on Monday.  The bags and boxes and stacks of stuff cover the top, bottom and extend beyond a six-foot table.  That's a lot of "excess" that we were able to get rid of in just one week that hopefully will be able to bless someone else.  Especially since, overall, we aren't hoarders or compulsive shoppers and we get rid of stuff and donate it VERY regularly.


Next week....I'm fasting clothing. I'm only allowed to wear 7 specific items.  All week.  No makeup & no jewelry.  I feel like I should get fancy tonight...

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