A little bit of reflective rambling about the first week of school:
Admittedly, I like schedules. I like routine. I like to know what to expect. However, I also like to think I'm pretty good at being flexible and going with the flow when necessary (that's what makes trips like this work!) But, overall--I think schedules and routines are good and they generally suit me well.
So, imagine my surprise, when this first week of school came around and actually got going...I've found that I'm a little bit out-of-sorts and...bored(!). Getting up at 6am everyday and completing about 15 tasks by the end of breakfast had been WAY forgotten over this wake-up-late, get dressed when you feel like it, watch-a-lot-of-television summer.
I've noticed that I've spent a good part of each day this week making sure I'm ready for the next section of the day--which means I'm wandering a little aimlessly inbetween because my mind won't focus on what I could be doing NOW.
It's funny, because I dread the summer arrival when both kids will be home ALL DAY EVERY DAY, all the fighting, the noise, the messes, and overload of kid-themed activities. I anticipate with excitement when they'll head back to school to see their friends and go to their classes. I'm thrilled that I'll have more quiet work time by myself, and that then I can focus, create, and produce more easily.
So, how come now that I have all this quiet, my brain feels like mush and I can't focus on anything? Waking up too early? Too many days of exercise? Too much schedule to keep straight? By 3:00 when Ayla comes home and Paxton wakes up from rest time, all I want to do is stretch out on the couch and veg out till bedtime.
I'm sure this feeling will pass quickly - it always does, and then I'll be back to my get-er-done self, but for this week, I think I spent a lot of time with a blank stare on my face!
So, I'm wondering if anyone else goes through a week or two of bewilderment at the beginning of each school year?
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:
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 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.
I made a chalk sign on the driveway for a great "welcome" sign and photo backdrop.
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.
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.
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.
We tried to keep it simple, but feature "fair food" for our festival. So our menu looked like this:
- Popcorn in green chevron bags
- Corndogs (from Sams)
- Strawberries in Berry Baskets
- Strawberry Fanta with red & white paper straws
- Cupcakes with pink & white icing (Target)
I bought plain cupcakes with sprinkles and added a slice of strawberry to the top to fit the theme:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
They started cheating quickly. But it was still lots of fun.
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!
For Ayla's 5th birthday she requested (okay I might have suggested - instead of a princess or Dora theme) a Hello Kitty themed birthday party. Though she might have been slightly guided in her choice, she jumped on board and was very excited about it! She helped me with all the planning, looking for ideas, shopping for and making decorations. We started by making an idea board in Pinterest:
And though we didn't use all those ideas, they got the creative juices flowing. So here's what we DID end up with - a simple, low-key playdate birthday party for six little girls.
I fell in love with the design of these Hello Kitty Simple Sign invitations from Tiny Prints. I ended up making my own instead of buying them, primarily because I had all the materials at my desk the day I wanted to make them, but buying them wouldn't have cost much for the 6 I needed. If I had been making more than that I would have bought them. I also personalized each invitation for the girl we were sending it to. :)
We kept the decorations fairly simple and only decorated in the dining room -- streamers, balloons, a handmade banner and a blue plastic tablecloth. I did buy some Hello Kitty themed plates, but stuck with light pink colored dessert plates, hot pink napkins and hot pink cups.
I made the "Happy Birthday" banner using the same technique as I showed in this handmade birthday banner tutorial using patterned paper and cardstock. Then I added some handmade Hello Kitty paper dolls to the ends of each banner, which I cut using this Hello Kitty font and my Silhouette.
Our party was from 10am to 1pm, so we served lunch. Ayla's menu request - pizza & pears. I added in pineapple and popcorn for a very simple lunch (all starting with P's). I had planned to do a semi-homemade cake by buying a round white cake from the store and drawing a Hello Kitty on top of it, but my VERY talented friend offered to make me the dream cake I'd been eyeing (see it up there in my Pinterest board?). She did an AMAZING job:
This is where I'm weak in the party-planning department. It's just like when I was little and my siblings wanted me to play Barbie with them. I liked to set up the house, get all the dolls dressed up, and then just look at it. I forget that everyone else wants to PLAY. But I did diligently look for activities (with Ayla) that we could do with 6 little girls at her party. We considered making necklaces, or paper dolls, or doing a bingo game, but keeping time, resources & money in mind, here's what we settled on:
Pin the Bow on Hello Kitty - I drew a Hello Kitty head on Ayla's easel and cut paper bows out of patterned paper. Then we used a scarf as a blindfold and ended up with a pretty silly looking kitty.
Draw Hello Kitty - I gave each girl a 6" x 6" piece of white cardstock and asked them to draw their own version of Hello Kitty and decorate it with stickers. We put each girl's page into a small scrapbook that we'll add photos to for Ayla to remember her birthday party.
Hello Kitty Tattoos - I bought a 24-pack of Hello Kitty Tattoos at the party store, so each girl got 2 tattoos. They all enjoyed that and they got to practice counting to 30 each time we applied a tattoo. Look at all those tan little feet. These girls have been swimming this summer!
Play - These girls are 4 & 5. They played together most of the time in Ayla's room. :)
Movie - After lunch and presents, while we waited for their parents to arrive, the girls sat on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and watched a 30 minute Hello Kitty episode on Netflix.
No party is complete without favors. We raided the Target $1 bins and came up with pencils & erasers and notebooks for each girl. Plus of course, the felt Hello Kitty hairbows that I made and which were a big hit.
And...finally, I couldn't resist buying Ayla this SUPER adorable Hello Kitty t-shirt from Target to wear to her party:
There you have it. A super-pink, super-easy, super-cute Hello Kitty birthday party.
For Ayla's 5th birthday party next week, we decided to invite a small group of girls and have a Hello Kitty theme. Since we invited only 5 girls, I thought it would be fun to give each girl their very own "Hello Kitty bow" as one of the party favors. So I made them...of course.
I looked around for some bow-tie style tutorials, and found a great one, but it required some machine sewing and precision - which I *can* do, but it's not always very pretty (or precise). So, when I realized I had plenty of red felt and hair clips on-hand already, I altered the tutorial to make it a little easier, a little cheaper, and without quite as much sewing.
Cut felt strips, about 2" x 9". I made 8 bows, but you only need one of these strips per bow. Plus, then I also cut a strip of felt about 3/4" wide and a couple feet long to use as the wrap around the center of each bow.
Next I hand-stitched the 2" x 9" strips to make a loop.
Before cutting the string, I did a loose stitch up the center of the bow (through both sides of the loop) and pulled it taught to create a gather in the center. Then I wrapped the string around it a few times and secured it with a few stitches.
Next, I wrapped the narrow strip around the bow to make the center have a clean look, and stitched it together on the back side (securing it to the bow as well) and then trimming off the excess felt.
Finally, I secured the bow to a hair clip with hot glue and called it done!
Day 5 - Friday. Busy all day long. Working, laundry, packing the kids (for a trip with Daddy - yay!), errands, more work and then freedom (from kids), but not from work. :) That's okay, I think work is fun.
- 160 photos saved to my hard drive. 30 shown here. Many of those were product pictures though...so they don't really count.
- Ben thinks Fridays are haunted around here. The kids and I always seem to be worn out from the week, on each other's nerves, and have no patience with each other, which results in lots of crying, whining and yelling (by all of us). So I usually try to take them someplace fun instead of keeping them cooped up inside.
- Notable differences about today compared to every other normal day - Ben took the kids to Auburn for the weekend, and I got to stay home by myself! I think the last time that happened was early last summer. I was due.
- Another notable fact about today - We received our information packet about our sponsored child in Ecuador via Compassion International!
Ahh...Thursday. Day 4 of this project.
Thursdays are usually pretty good days around here. Lots of work to do, Ayla's at school, and usually Paxton goes to his friend's house for the morning. This week, he was home, but he "helped" me work and read stories, so it worked out just fine. My Week-in-the-Life exercise went a little better today (helped that it wasn't raining and I wasn't sleep-deprived from storms). I have found though that I manage to do about 10 noteworthy "tasks" before I even make it downstairs in the mornings to get my camera. Today, that included getting two kids dressed, changing Ayla's sheets, letting the cat outside, and starting a load of laundry. None of which I enjoy doing before I've eaten my bowl of cereal and checked my email...but what can you do?
- 75 photos saved to my hard drive. 30 shown here.
- Paxton *actually* performed on the potty tonight...after three consecutive trips DURING dinner. He also appeared to be scared to death of the entire experience once he realized what was going on. We made a big deal of how great it was, and he was rewarded with chocolate chips.
- Notable differences about today compared to every other normal day - Paxton didn't go to Shelby's house this morning and was home instead, which means Ben & I didn't have our regular Thursday lunch-date. But otherwise, today was a pretty normal day!
Day 3. Wednesday.
Rainy. Cranky. Tired. Working. Seems like we had more fun the last time we did this project....hmmm...
- 102 photos saved to my hard drive. 30 shown here.
- Paxton LOVES the self-timer. Thinks it's hilarious.
- Notable differences about today compared to every other normal day - pretty much nothing. Today was pretty basic and normal.
Day two..we made it through. Lots of work and things to do. :) Just click the image to see a larger version of our Tuesday:
- 96 photos saved to my hard drive (30 shown here).
- Don't be fooled. Paxton is NOT potty trained. He just likes to "try".
- Notable differences about today compared to every other normal day - I went to lunch at Ayla's school because she was "Star of the Week" and Paxton joined Ben at Disciples Fellowship for "Lunch on Lorna."
Day one of my Spring 2011 "Week in the Life" is complete--at least as far as getting to the kids' bedtime. I may have to retire my camera at that point each night this week...I'm beat. A day full of activities (some normal, some extra) plus photographing them, and writing 'em all down will wear a person out. Now I'm off to watch some TV and veg...okay, maybe I'll get one shot of that. :)
Here's what today looked like at our house (you can click the photo to view the images larger):
- 128 photos saved to my hard drive (35 shown here).
- The first three lines of photos in this collage all occured before 8:30am.
- Notable differences about today compared to every other normal day - We went bowling & Ben gave blood.
If you joined me...how'd you do? If you didn't, why not? Give it a try. Do a "Day in the Life" instead of a week and give it a shot. :)
My mom brought the kids some flat, colored stones from Florida a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure what we could do with them that would allow the kids to enjoy the stones, without them becoming a tool of mass destruction in our home or another "something" to pick up. (Who am I kidding? everything becomes "something" to pick up)....
Side note: I LOVE grandparents and the gifts they give to our kiddos. And the kids LOVE the gifts. However, said grandparents may need a lesson or two in age-appropriate gifts. :) Breakables = no nos. Kids don't understand the difference between "decorative" and "toy". Sadly, we've lost several sweet and sentimental gifts to because-they-loved-them-so-much-they-broke-them "accidents".
Anywhoo...truly there's nothing wrong or breakable about these stones, and Ayla especially was very excited about them, so I wanted to come up with a good way for the kids to use them. Together, we came up with pendant necklaces.
Originally I was going to drill a hole in them, but my drilling skills are limited, the stones are SOLID, and my efforts did NOT produce anything more than a slight scratch. Plan B. Washers & E6000 glue. Yeah, that'll do it. Then I added some cute rub-ons (hearts for Ayla & a dinosaur for Paxton) and a ribbon, long enough to go over their big ol' heads!
The kiddos were pleased. I wouldn't call this the most quality jewelry designing, but for a 4- and 1-year-old...it was just right:
Nope, that's not a basketball, that's his belly... :)