How to Treat Children Like Actual Human Beings

21 Jul

Haley wrote a fantastic post last week in which she brought to light the issue of people being prejudiced against children. And, as usual, she puts it so well:

I don’t know how we’ve forgotten this. Never in human history have children been viewed as inconveniences instead of gifts, blessings for a whole community. People who spill paint, drop their sippy cups, and smear toothpaste on the bathroom wall are still people worthy of love and respect. No one has the right to an inconvenience-free life, but children do have the right to be treated with the respect due any human being–and that means you just might have to sit next to a child someday when you’re out and about. Who knows. You might realize that one quarter of humanity is cooler than you thought.

 

Read the full post here.

 

 

 

It’s really easy for us as adults to look at kids and say, “You’ve got it sooooo easy!” Sure, four year olds don’t have to worry about income taxes or other adult-y type things. But I think if we look at it through the lens of the workplace, we can see our relationships with kids differently.

 

My kids certainly don’t have to worry about paying their car insurance, but they do deal with a difficult boss. There are plenty of times, more than I’d like to admit, that I am the world’s worse boss. I’m demanding, impatient, and I make promises that I don’t keep. If my boss treated me like that, I’d quit. Unfortunately, my kids don’t have that option. 

 

So, do you see what I’m getting at? It’s hard to be a child. Hard. 

 

You have little to no control of your environment. You don’t choose your clothes, your food, your playmates, your schedule. You are forced to live within limits that you may not understand and many times, your superiors don’t have the time or can’t take the time to explain them to you. You are physically, mentally, and emotionally developing at a pace that makes it difficult for you to process things like risk and boundaries. You haven’t learned the social skills that everyone magically expects you to know and follow. You have a hard time controlling your temper, yet it seems like people get mad at you for just being…you. Also, you’re short, so you literally stare at people’s butts all day.

 

I’ve been fortunate enough to work for companies who value children. At Disney, it is a company policy to treat children like they’re actual human beings. The library I work at now states that children are patrons just like anybody else, therefore their requests are treated just like any adults. A lot of adults have a problem with this. They hate it that they have to wait in line behind a child who has asked for the latest Captain Underpants book, while they need something that’s actually “important.” 

 

Here’s the deal. Captain Underpants is that kid’s Tolstoy. Respect it. Respect them. It’s an unfortunate part of human nature that as we age, we wed ourselves to “the way things are.” If we allow ourselves to interact with children, we’ll gain some of that wonder back. We’ll see that maybe “the way things are” isn’t actually the way things have to be. We’ll look at the world with a fresh set of eyes and that’s always a good thing. Like it or not, kids are a misunderstood and undervalued portion of society. It’s high time we made some changes.

 

So. What can you do to improve your interactions with children? Try a few of these tips and be sure to add your own ideas in the comments!

 

How to Treat Children Like Actual Human Beings:

  • Listen to them: Sure. It’s no revelation to you that there’s water in that puddle. You are not excited by the fact that there’s a cat over there. But you know what? You may just learn or notice something that you didn’t know before. And if you want your kids to feel like they can talk to you when they’re teenagers, they need to know that you value what they have to say now.

 

  • Ask them questions: How often, upon meeting a new child, do adults take the time to ask that kid questions beyond “How old are you?” and “What grade are you in?” Do you remember how lame that was as a kid? I do. I hated those obligatory questions. When introduced to a new child ask them what their favorite animal is or how they feel about dinosaurs. And maybe ask some more creative questions the next time you’re introduced to a new adult. I know I will. 

 

  • Get on their level:  This is a Disney thing. When speaking to a child, always bend or kneel down so that you can have a conversation face to face, eye to eye. It’s respectful.

 

  • Give them time: If every time you brought a request to your boss or had a question to ask her, she told you, “Not right now!” “Maybe later.” “I’m busy.” etc, you’d hate her. Yes. It takes Maggie ninety-seven years to articulate what she’s trying to tell me, but I’ve got patrons at work who do the exact same thing and I don’t cut them off. It’s common courtesy.

 

  • Don’t jump to conclusions: This one is hard for me, but when I put it in the context of the boss analogy, it makes things clearer for me. I can imagine a scenario in which my boss walks into the office and discovers that something has gone wrong. The printer is jammed, a patron was misinformed and is now angry, a program didn’t get put into the computer correctly, in short there’s a mess. He discovers the problem and immediately concludes that it is all my fault and I need to be corrected immediately and harshly.                                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that scenario. Sometimes I do screw things up at work, but it’s not usually on purpose and I’d like to think that my boss would give me some grace or at least listen to my explanation. Now, I know that as parents there are situations in which our children obviously do something and it was obviously them and they obviously know better. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t freak out a little when hair gets cut or poop gets smeared in the carpet by the four year old (not naming any names here). I am saying that maybe it’s a good idea to settle down before you lambaste them with accusations and punishments. And by “you” I mean “me.”

 

  • Give them choices. There’s not a lot a kid can control, but if you let them choose their shoes or how their hair is done or even if you walk around the left side or the right side of the vehicle to get into the car, they’ll appreciate it. 

 

  • Respect their choices. Our children are not us. If I give Maggie the option of choosing which shoes she will wear, then I have to follow through, even if that means she’s wearing mismatched shoes to the grocery store. Sure, it’s not socially accepted to wear mismatched shoes, but I’m much happier honoring her choice. . And if she’s in the car and has shoes on, that’s really the ultimate goal anyway.

 

  • Don’t set them up to fail. Part of the reason folks have a problem with children is that kids are viewed as a real nuisance in public places. Now, obviously we can’t always predict when our children are going to meltdown. However, if we pay attention and follow their cues, we can get pretty close. Here, again, is the boss analogy: If my boss piles so many expectations, deadlines, and programs on me and pushes me to my breaking point, he’s set me up to fail. As the bosses in the relationship, we need to set our “staff” up to succeed, not fail. I want a boss who will work within the realm of what I am capable of. My boss knows that I can’t work certain hours of the day. It’d be unreasonable for him to schedule me during those hours. The same goes for nap time or quiet time. And nobody works well on an empty stomach, so if my boss didn’t allow me to keep snacks in my desk, I’d be pretty cranky and likely to melt down, too.

 

  • Ask their opinion. You don’t have to agree with it, but giving them a platform on which to express themselves is invaluable. It’s the same courtesy you’d give a coworker or employee in a staff meeting.

 

 

To sum up, I think it’s also important here to say that I’m not advocating a “children should be treated exactly like adults” mentality. That’s just not doable and it really isn’t healthy. Sure we’re equal as human beings, but we are different, too. Just as I have to respect the boundaries and policies set in place by the administration at my workplace, so do my children have to respect the expectations we have for them at home. But we should recognize that children are humans. They have thoughts and dreams and opinions and souls just like adults. Let’s treat them like people, because that’s what they are.

 

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Seven Things: 23

20 Jul

Hay. I’ve missed you. I’m going to flatter myself and imagine that you’ve missed me. Heaps and heaps.

 

Here’s what we’ve been up to!

 

1.) So, Ev has two teeth and he’s pulling up and trying really hard to walk. We just keep pushing him over, hoping to deter him. That kid is ten months old in a few months. I can’t even handle it.

 

 

 

 

2.) Have you guys read the Wildwood series? I just started it, but oh my goodness it’s good. I will report my verdict as soon as I have two minutes together to read it. So, basically, this will be the last you hear about it.

 

 

 

 

.3.) Vin has been out of town for a week watching the world championship of lacrosse. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that my undying respect and admiration goes out to all single parents. This shiz is not easy with two people, but it’s next to impossible for one. Seriously. If you know any single parents, please go hug them. And then take their kids for an evening and give them a six pack of beer and a pillow so they can collapse. They’ve earned it.

 

 

 

4.) So, I saw this thing on Pinterest that was a cutesy little “Library Plan” printable. You know, so you know what books you’re looking for before your passel of little darlings starts ripping books off of the library shelves all willy-nilly. It’s a great plan, actually. 

 

Now, I’m a terrible librarian/mother and I honestly very rarely take the kids to the library. It’s too much work because they go bananas and I get tired of chasing them and I’m enough of a book snob that I’d rather just pick things myself. There. I said it. However, on the occasion that I do take them, I realize that it’d be good to have a plan like the little listy thing. Also they showed Frozen at the library I work at on Friday, so we had. to. go.

 

So, I decided to forgo the adorable printable in favor of a scrap of receipt paper and a marker, because I like to upcycle. The girls were allowed to choose two books each…Mags decided to look for books on koalas and fairies and Lil opted for dinosaur and deer books because she likes alliteration, that’s why.

 

And wouldn’t you know it, miracles happened! When we walked into the library, the girls went to the nonfiction section rather than straight to the toys like a couple of classless hooligans. They chose books and actually sat and read them. Heck, they even gave full reports on earwigs to a couple of my coworkers (because, list or no list, you can’t pass up an earwig book). It was basically the best ever. So, yeah. Make a plan, write a list. Happy library day to everyone.

 

 

 

5.) Did I mention they were showing Frozen at the library? It was fantastic. I’m going to be honest with you. While all the other parents in the world are ruing the day that Frozen came out on DVD, I’m still going strong. Perhaps it helps that my girls didn’t completely obsess over it, but I think it’s fair to say that I want to watch it / sing it / perform dramatic interpretations of it waaay more than my kids do. Nothing will sway my devotion to the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem. And I’m not sorry. 

 

 

 

6.) Maggie met a sweet boy at Frozen who loved her so much, he insisted that his mother let him walk us to our car…at which point he climbed into said car and refused to leave. I have two thoughts on this: 1. Boys better watch out for her daddy because, and I quote, he has “a saw and a grind plan.” and 2. I am so glad that other people’s kids do crazy junk like that and it’s not just me. I think I’m gonna be best friends with that mama.

 

 

 

 

 

7.) Maggie says the darndest things:

“It’ll be as quick as a cake in a pie!” Sooo, slow. It’ll be slow.

“I’m Mama! Look at my mustache!” Excellent.

“I’m taking your eyebrows!”

“It’s the crystal bow of Africaaaaa!”

 

She’s a weird kid. I have no idea where she gets it.

 

 

 

 

8.) BONUS! Here are some cute pictures of our crazy kids I just can’t stop looking at…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what have YOU been up to?? Spill in the comments! I’ve missed ya!

 

Follow me on Instagram @ohblessyourheart!

Fanfare

10 Jul

If you do not, at this exact moment, own a toy capable of creating a “fanfare” noise on demand, then I must insist that you rush out to the nearest purveyor of princess castles and their clip-clop pony stable counterparts and purchase one immediately.

 

A fanfare noise brings the height of elegance to the most mundane of tasks.

 

Putting away a pellet gun? Simply arrange for the castle and/or pony stable to be artfully placed underfoot. This requires the studied eye of an expert interior designer…or a two year old. Same thing, really. Once you tread upon the fine purple plastic of the toy and set off that fanfare noise…Be still, my heart! Trumpets herald your triumphant shoves as you slam the pellet gun into the closet! Why, even your incoherent muttering sounds more festive when backed by the bright tones of mechanical coronets.

 

“Why the hell do we still have this damn gun out anyway? He shot that groundhog with it last year… grumble, grumble, grouse, grouse.”

 

Now imagine that with trumpets. And little birds carrying ribbons. And tiny mice throwing flower petals.* Classy, right?? 

 

The fanfare noise works so well that I employ it on all occasions. An extra smelly poopy diaper warrants the noise, as does pulling dried spaghetti noodles out of the dog’s fur. Classy and classier. I especially like to play the trumpet fanfare when truly grand events take place. You know, like when I take a shower. The other day I celebrated my Golden Jubilee, on which I commemorated that one time that I showered and shaved my legs. There was most certainly a fanfare for that. The baby added to the festivities with his signature party move. Now I don’t want to give away any of his trade secrets, but I can tell you that it involved Cheerio confetti. Move over, David Tutera. Move. Over.

 

 

 

 

*These features appear on the box of the princess castle and clip-clop pony stables, but unfortunately do not manifest themselves tangibly in real life. Your imagination will have to fill in the gaps here. Depriving yourself of sleep for approximately four years ought to do the trick.)

 

 

Gypsies

25 Jun

There’s this rogue octopus tambourine in our house that constantly turns up at the worst times. Like when the baby has just fallen asleep and I’m tiptoeing across his room in hopes that he’s finally out…there it is, clattering under my feet.

 

Or when I’m groggily stumbling out of bed, staggering toward the sound of somebody calling for a drink at 3 am…there it is, planted just so in the doorway where I trip on it and crash into the door frame and break my face.

 

Or like the times when I’m carrying the sleeping four year old upstairs, balancing carefully and praying with each step that this is not actually the time when I really do fall with a kid in my arms…there’s that damn octopus tambourine, all cheerful and googly eyed, with a look on his face that says, “C’mon, lady. Just try to get past these jingly tentacles. Just. Try.

 

I honestly can’t say that I see anybody playing with that tambourine. It’s just there. Waiting.

 

And it’s not just the octopus tambourine. I don’t know how it happens, but there’s this mysterious phenomenon around here which causes all of the noisiest, most abrasive toys to be in the way at the worst times. It’s as though a secret troupe of tiny gypsies sneaks into our house at sundown and throws tambourines, and maracas, and harmonicas, and clam castinets around all willy nilly. Obviously the harmonica doesn’t make noise on it’s own. The gypsies know this. They just include it because it hurts your feet in that very special way that only a harmonica can. Ooh, and they love that game, “Catch Phrase.” It’s that one that beeps like a bomb counting down, slow at first and then faster and faster until you’re dying from  anxiety. It has buttons that are so easy to inadvertently press with your toes in the dark and it’s real hard to turn off when you’re frazzled. The gypsies looooove that one.

 

I imagine the gypsies to all look like young Cher, a few years after she was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show. Because, duh.

 

And it’s not just at night that they come around. No, the gypsies are up to trouble at all hours. Like yesterday, when Lily somehow found the maraca that I swear I put away. I know I put it away, but the gypsies found it and they gave it to my child who then snuck up behind me and used it to poke me in the butt as I was getting dressed after my shower. The gypsies did that.

 

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I really think there has to be a way for me to profit from this torture. Can’t I hire the gypsies out as a new home alarm system? I think unwanted intruders would think twice before breaking into a home armed with octopus tambourines and “Catch Phrase.” You’d definitely hear them coming, and you’d have plenty of time to call the police because I’d add complimentary harmonicas with every home alarm service purchased, so your intruders’ toes would be nice and mangled. I really think this could work. I may just turn this thing around and make something good out of our little gypsy problem.

 

Peace of mind has a new sound, y’all, and it’s maracas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just so you’ll have it in your head, too…

Recognition

17 Jun

I read this beautiful blog post today and something in me clicked.

 

“Every day I have this desire to accomplish something. But every day it feels I accomplish nothing. I try to clean something, but I don’t finish…. I try to write, but this little person cries for all of my attention when I sit at the computer. I clip coupons and price match, and still go way over on our budget. Agh. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for the last 9 hours of exhausting effort. Of doing what?”

 

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

 

“You kept me safe today Momma, you kept me alive. You kept me fed, and rested. You played with me, and made me laugh. Does that count Momma? Am I one of your goals Momma? Just to be together? Even if no one sees it? Or knows it?”

 

Click.

 

Even if no one sees it. Or knows it.

 

I realize now that I’m much too preoccupied with recognition. I’m ashamed of my home, of my days, of myself because it doesn’t look like I’ve been doing anything. In my mind and my heart, I live in a world in which the quality of the house reflects the quality of the person. My messy house screams, “Neglected! Lazy! Worthless!” I look around and chastise myself for not being capable of accomplishing the simplest of tasks, sweeping the floor, for instance. It’s always covered in…something. Yet I neglect to remind myself that that damned floor doesn’t reflect me. It isn’t me.

 

I’m so worried about my environment reflecting me and my daily activity that I fail to remember that this house is incapable of mirroring us and the depth of what we do.  My filthy floor is covered in baby food puffs because I’m exhausted from rocking that baby through his nightmarish bout of teething. My floor is covered with books because we read None of our clothes are folded because we had to play dress up and somebody bonked her head and the kitchen is a mess because everybody got to crack eggs today. The table is sticky because I didn’t manage to wipe up all the spilled milk because after the third time the cup got knocked over I honestly stopped caring.

 

If you walked into my home you’d see an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen. But my days are full of love and effort and sacrifice and tears and just hanging on by a thread because three babies under age four is hard. You might not recognize all of that through the piles of laundry and that dining room chair that’s still in the living room from the fort two we built weeks ago. And I need to be okay with that.

 

“Do you remember when I said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me?” (Matt. 25:40) “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward?” (Matt. 10:42) Do you not see it here Child? 

All these days you live at home to serve this fragile girl, what you really are doing is serving Me. For whatever you do unto her, you do unto Me. So let me ask you:

Am I enough?

What is My worth to you? In the secret places, where no one sees? Look deeper Dear One.”

 

 

No one sees. No one recognizes. I’m not getting credit. I’m not being graded. I’m doing Christ’s work, being the hands and feet for these little ones.

 

But I’m failing and I’m trying and I’m realizing that I’m addicted to recognition. I crave the credit and I’m ashamed when I’m not producing a readily tangible finished product at the end of my day. But the thing about children is, they’re not a floor to be scrubbed or a sink to be rinsed. They’re souls to be cherished and nurtured and respected.

 

Henri JM Nouwen said,

“We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth: I am the Beloved Child of the Creator.”

 

It’s time to let go of that desire to be recognized, that deep seated longing for approval. It’s time to come home, even if that home has messy floors and unwashed hair and is wearing the sweatpants from yesterday and the day before. Because if I can claim the truth of being the Beloved, I can love these three little souls wildly, which is what I was called to in the first place, clean floor or not.

The Important Things

26 Apr

Sometimes I have those moments as a mom when I step outside of myself. I look past the floor littered with naked dolls and shoes with no mates. I move beyond the demanding screams for “craaaaackerrrrrrs,” and then past the immediate angry dismissal of said cracker and to a place where I see it all from the big picture perspective of life. These nasty little beasts are actual people, people I’ve been tasked with training, shaping, molding into compassionate, creative, contributing members of society.

 

That’s a lot of pressure when you think of all they have to learn, especially since two thirds of them still poop their pants.

 

Not only am I tasked with teaching them how to cross streets, use public restrooms, and ride bikes (thank goodness they’ve got an athletic father, ’cause they’d be on foot for life if it was left up to me), but I have to make sure they hold the door for the person behind them, and cover their mouths, and say please.

 

On top of all that I’ve got to hit the really important things like the love of Christ, which in and of itself is tough. Because if you give a mouse a Resurrection, he’s going to want an explanation of the Holy Trinity.  Plus there are so many virtues and values to learn: friendship, and the value of servant leadership, for example. We’ve got to cover life and death, respect, integrity, responsibility…

 

And then there’s science! And nature! And they have to be introduced to really important people like Shakespeare and John Muir and the Brontes and the Beatles!

 

And then there’s all the fashion stuff like how it’s never really acceptable to wear socks and sandals. There’s that whole thing about not dressing like a slob or a hooker or a slobby hooker. And they have to know that you shouldn’t ever wear pajama pants out in public…unless you’re pregnant, or have a newborn, or are the mother of people who still sleep in Pull-Ups, in which case, it’s totally cool. Recommended, even.

 

And the movies they have to see! The art! The music!

 

Plus there’s all the weird stuff we want to teach them. We’ve said from the very beginning that if these kids escape childhood without being nicely warped, we’ll never forgive ourselves.

 

And we’re supposed to cram this stuff into like 18 years before they go off to wherever it is kids go off to these days and people judge them for not knowing about the garbage TV we won’t let them watch.

 

It’s all rather overwhelming, really.

 

So on days like today, when I’m feeling the weight of the lessons left to teach, I just try to focus on the pressing issues. Today we’re going to the Botanical Gardens. We’re gonna kindle the fires of a love of God’s creation and hopefully drive home the message that it’s not okay to shriek at your sister and stop hitting, dammit!

 

But before we do all that, I’m introducing them to ABBA. ‘Cause if they get to college and can’t sing “Mama Mia” and “Take a Chance on Me,” I’ll know I have failed them.

 

And, since there’s no time like the present to expose them to great culture, we’re gonna watch this video…for the second time this week:

 

 

Are you feeling the pressure, too? What are the top things you’re striving to teach your kids? Or have you already walked this road? What are the most important things we new mamas can’t skip? Help a sister out…and have a great weekend!

Charlotte’s Web Party: Or How I Learned to Stop Freaking Out and Enjoy My Kid’s Birthday

4 Apr

Confession: I am a party planning addict. I’ve always loved a good theme and I can seriously get down with Pinterest…so much so that I get a teensy bit carried away. It’s an problem, y’all. I love decorations and favor bags and details like embossed spoons, and I want to cover the world with birthday glitter and confetti!! So, while Pinterest is a great resource, it’s kiiiinda like birthday party crack for a recovering addict.

 

Shoot, before Pinterest was even a thing, I got carried away with parties. I had a friend growing up whose mother always made elaborate birthday cakes…she created a coral reef out of cake once, and an archaeological dig cake another year. I’m not kidding when I say it was phenomenal. So, naturally, when Maggie was born I declared that I would make every single one of her birthday cakes and they would be spectacular and we would have elaborate parties with excellent themes and mothers everywhere would sing my praises and my name would go down in birthday party hiiiiistory!!

 

The cake thing lasted, oh I don’t know…a year? I made an owl for her first birthday and almost died from the stress. Combined with decorating, organizing invitations and freaking out over gifts and food and flow, it was just too much. Because, there’s the thing: I’m really not a detail person. I have a hard time hammering everything out without having a meltdown because I simply plan too much in too little time, with too little attention to the teensy details of how long things are going to take.

 

And after a few years of melt-downs in which I didn’t enjoy my child’s birthday at all, (’cause I like doing something that didn’t work over and over and over…don’t talk to me about the definition of insanity.) I decided that something’s gotta give. It’s not fair to my children or myself to have me freaking out over ten gazillion tiny details.  While I love the intricacies of themed flatware and have an undying love for swagged table linens, I’m just not a detail person. I’m not. I love ‘em, but I have a real hard time pulling it all off.

 

So, segue to this year…(smooth, eh?)

 

As a truly selfish Christmas gift, I gave Maggie a copy of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I wanted to read her first chapter book out loud to her and thought it would be pretty approachable since she loves animals and Garth Williams did such captivating illustrations. Also, I like a good cry.

 

Oh, man was it a hit! Maggie was SO into the book and actually slept with it for a while, which filled my little librarian heart with joy! I was even more excited when she asked to have a Charlotte’s Web birthday party…I may have planted the idea in her head. Okay, I did. But it was awesome and she loved it and I’m not sorry at all.

 

So, I wanted this birthday to be special for Maggie since it’s the first one she’s really had a part in planning. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get carried away, and I feel like I hit my stride this year! I was able to have a really great party and enjoy myself!

 

 

 

Here’s what we did:

 

 

 

 

 

Outsource – If somebody can do it better than you, let ‘em! It’s all well and good to make things by hand if you can. Shoot, you might even save money. But will it turn you into a raving lunatic? Mayhaps. I have neither the time, patience, nor skills to create every single party detail myself…like I kept telling myself in years past. But! I have friends who do have the time, patience and skills! So, my first words of advice are utilize the connections you have.

 

I started with invitations. I don’t necessarily mind generic invitations, but I really prefer custom invites. Call me a stationary snob, but I like fancy invitations. Now, due to some Pinterest/Facebook stalking I realized that my college friend, Jennifer, runs an Etsy shop called the Prettiest Print Shop. Please go there and oogle all of the prettiness. Go. Now.

 

Now that you’ve oogled and now want to throw a carousel party, did you see that, for an incredibly reasonable price, Jennifer will custom design invitations/stationary/amazing things for you. Did you see that I said they’re custom made? As in, she makes them from scratch, sends you a file and you print to your little heart’s content.

 

Also, I should add that turn-around on these custom invites was super-fast! Jennifer was apologetic that it “took so long” but she was able to whip these out in four days…while she was also throwing a magnificent birthday party for her own daughter. I really can’t say enough great things about using Jennifer’s shop. Best decision ever.

 

Here’s how ours turned out:

 

This hastily taken photo doesn’t do these invitations justice. They’re seriously the best!!

 

 

And I bought a cake. Not sorry. Best cake ever.

Vin picked this little beauty up at the Market District in Solon, OH. He showed the decorator the invites and she took it from there. Brilliant, I say! Also, that buttercream changed my life. Amen and amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pace yourself and pick one thing. Now, I’m about to get a little crazy here, but one way to pull off an adorable party without acting like a crazy person is to live on the wild side and plan ahead. I know, I know…I thought it would never work, too, but trust me on this one.

 

I started collecting ideas about a month out so I had a bit of a plan once we got closer to the actual partay. I clearly gathered more ideas than I could possibly pull off, so that’s when I preceded to do not all the things, but only a few of the things. (Mind blowing, right??)

 

I like hand lettering things. It’s cathartic for me so I knew making some cute banners would be an enjoyable task. I made two. I used fine point Sharpies, card stock and some blank invitations I bought last year when I was delusional enough to think I could make fabulous invitations by myself. Seriously, y’all.

 

This is the one made from the unused invitations. I just copied a spiderweb font I found online and went to it. Easy peasy.

 

Here’s some details from the “Radiant” banner. The triangles and letters weren’t anywhere close to being uniform because I just eyeballed everything. But, get this…Nobody noticed!

 

 

 

 

 

I also made the favor bags, but thanks to the dollar aisle at Target, they were a breeze. I lucked out and found tiny burlap bags and little gift tags that I put each child’s name on. Thinking that everybody would be sufficiently sugared up by the end of the party, I just filled them up with cheap bubbles and hopping frog toys. I also gathered up all of our broken crayons and melted them into mini cupcake liners to make “soda cap” crayons (Wilbur goes to the fair after all) and, because it’s cheap and easy, Mags and I made orange play dough and shaped it into carrots. Sounds kind of time consuming, but it was seriously SO easy.

 

 

Yay for the Target dollar aisle!!

 

 

I was so happy with the way these turned out!

 

 

 

Picking one thing also means delegating and letting others help. I let my husband be in charge of the food. He’s much more prepared to cook for a crowd than I am, he’s a better cook anyway, plus he had just purchased a new smoker and wanted to try it out. To which I said, be my guest, good sir! Sure, we served smoked ribs and pulled pork at a Charlotte’s Web party, but we love irony, so it worked. It was also delicious.

 

Aside from food, I knew I wanted to have some kind of a “pigs in mud” themed activity and tossed around a zillion ideas from painting things to playing with pudding to doing actual mud (not every idea I have is good, not even close). Anyway, I couldn’t ever decide and was starting to get stressed when my mother-in-law stepped in and offered to make pig shaped cookies that the kids could dip in warmed up chocolate frosting. I let her and here’s why: she makes the best butter cookies in the history of mankind, I like eating cookies, I like not being crazy, she likes helping and she’s very good at it. Win, win, and win.

 

She made cookies, threw some canned frosting in a mini crock-pot to warm up, I made another sign and we, were done!

 

The kids naturally wanted to drink the “mud” and we let them ’cause we’re cool like that.

 

 

Lil was a fan.

 

 

Another part of picking just one thing is not over-planning. We didn’t do any other activities or games because these kids present were all four and under. If I’ve learned anything from doing library programming it’s this: events take longer than you expect. It takes time to move people through food lines and the execution of activities is always more time consuming than you think it’ll be. I’ve also learned that people don’t need or expect a three ring circus. One activity is more than enough…just being together with friends and family is special so there’s no need to add extra stuff to it.

 

 

 

 

 

I think the thing that made this party the most enjoyable for me of all I’ve done is that I let go of my preconceived notions of what parties are “supposed to be” and let my child take the lead. When Maggie’s best friend, Ella, showed up and they were both super-excited about opening the gift Ella chose, I let her open it right then and there. Sure, you’re “supposed to” open all the gifts at once. But that’s no fun and birthdays are supposed to be fun. When Maggie told me she was feeling overwhelmed and that she didn’t want to play with all the other kids, I let her play with her new cash register from Ella. Forcing her into stressful social interactions is not fun and birthdays are supposed to be fun. When Mags told me a few days before that she didn’t want everybody to sing to her, I was fully prepared to announce to everybody that we would not be singing Happy Birthday. Sure, that’s what you’re “supposed to do” but sometimes being sung to by a room full of people is scary. It kind of freaks me out, to be honest. She did decide to go ahead with the singing, though.

 

A bit nervous, perhaps?

 

 

This is my favorite picture from the whole day, I think.

 

 

Overall, this was the most fun I’ve had at one of my kids’ birthday parties ever! What are your tips and tricks for throwing a pain-free party?

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