David’s Pokémon Birthday Party!

This week marks a momentous occasion: The seventh anniversary of the culmination of the most treacherous 48 hours of my life. Also known as the day I gave birth to my first child. Also known as my son’s birthday. So, happy almost-birthday, David!

Birthdays are a big deal in our house and I always try to make sure the birthday-boy or birthday-girl feels extra-special on their special day. We have a slew of birthday traditions and it seems like every year the celebrations stretch out for longer and longer. Which is totally fine by me, because what’s more fun than…having fun?!

Part of the birthday week celebration usually involves a birthday party. This year we gave David a sensible choice of birthday party options David told us he wanted to invite his whole class over to our house for a party and we naively obliged to his demands. So it was set: we invited 22 first graders and their entire families (because I was NOT about to invite 22 first graders without parental supervision alone into my house) over for a fun-filled afternoon of birthday shenannigans.

David’s current obsession is Pokémon (and when I say “obsession”, I mean that his world literally revolves around mythical creatures that are carried in the pockets of their teenage trainers. I think he would actually keel over and never revive if Pokémon were somehow removed from the universe.), so the theme was already set. Winning already. I found this awesome website that lets you customize and print your own Pokémon cards, so I used that to create the invitations (Which we then passed out to all. 22. Kids. At. School.):

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I’ll be honest–the days and moments leading up to the party were not my finest. If you’ve ever stress-planned an event that is highly weather-dependent then you know why. I had planned (hoped) that the weather would be at least not totally-sucky the day of the party so all 50-or-so guests could spend time outside (I even had a super awesome bounce house obstacle course reserved if the weather cooperated). I even prayed for partial afternoon clearing like Jeff Renner taught me. But, alas. The weather has a mind of it’s own and it decided not to listen to me that day (Don’t worry, I’m a mom. I’m used to people not listening to me. No offense taken.).

The day of the party was the rainiest day of the year with a high-wind advisory and thunder showers predicted during the exact hours of the party. Lovely. So we scrapped the outdoor activities, cancelled the totally awesome bounce house obstacle course, and moved everything inside *confetti emoji*!

Thankfully, my dear husband had decided the week before the party to start tackling the downstairs remodel that we were forced into when our hot water tank unexpectedly exploded this summer. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the project before party day. So this is what most of our downstairs party zone looked like up until about an hour before the guests arrived:

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My husband’s a good man, though, and he knows how to quickly shove tools into a closet when his wife starts running around the house with bulging eyeballs, screaming, “The guests are coming! The guests are coming!”.

We also hung part of David’s prolific Pokémon drawing collection around the house to help cover up the patches in the walls and spots where we still need to paint:

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Our other saving grace was our friends Abe and Val who came over to help us pre-funk for the party. They came over about an hour before party time and they helped us finish setting things up, played with our kids, and helped us break into the snacks before they all disappeared into the mouths of 6-year olds:

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Speaking of snacks, I’m quite proud of the Pokéball pizzas I made (The recipe: 1 frozen cheese pizza, 1 package pepperoni, 1 can of chopped black olives (drained). Cover the top half of the pizza with pepperoni. Double layer it up if you’re feeling extra-adventurous. Use the olives to make a line down the center of the pizza, with an open-circle in the center. Bake per frozen pizza directions on the box. Take a photo and Instagram it before it gets messed up. Slice and serve.):

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Before we knew it, guests were arriving and it was officially party time!

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While everyone was arriving I had the kid-guests play a game. I had made these “Pokedex” booklets for each kid (print-your-own sources here) and I had little Pokémon printouts hidden around the house. The kids had to find each Pokémon and cross it out of their Pokedex.

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This game kept everyone occupied for the better part of an hour (Woohoo! Indoor activities for the win!):

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During this time I also had several arts-and-crafts stations and games set up downstairs (As an added bonus, since this whole level of our house was already torn up, we didn’t care at all about any messes that might occur!).

The kids made “Pokémon power bead bracelets, did Pokémon coloring pages/mazes/word searches, created their own Pokémon out of Play Doh, and played the Pokémon Headbandz game.

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After our initial “welcoming hour” we played a few games that David had planned.

The first was a “wake the Snoralax game” where the kids got to play a song on their flute (Designed by David from a toilet paper tube) and then place a Z over the sleeping Snoralax:

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The next game was “Pin the Flame on Charizard”. You know how this one goes: Creature missing an integral body part hanging on the wall, blindfolded child holding the integral body part, stick it on the wall, and try to make a target:

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And, finally, we had a Pokeball hunt. I’d ordered about a million little Pokémon figures off Amazon and entombed them all in vending machine balls with red lids. They didn’t quite look like Pokeballs, but it was good enough for me:

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I took all of the kids downstairs to decorate party bags while Jon and some of the other parents hid the “Pokeballs” upstairs. IMG_7134

Then, in Easter egg hunt-fashion, we set the kids loose on the loot. Most kids found about 5 Pokeballs, but some filled their bags to the brim (I’d saved a few Pokeballs out of the hunt for the kids who didn’t find any…and there were a couple who I shared my stash with). Then, since they were all such good Pokémon hunters, we gave them all candy to feed their Pokémon (Although most of the kids just ate the candy themselves. Learning about osmosis from such a young age.):

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Next, it was time for CAKE!!!!

I purchased this beauty from the same place I got our wedding cake: Costco. What can I say? If the wheel ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

I just ordered a plain cake with no design and asked for our theme colors to be piped around the border. Then we topped the cake with some Pokémon toys, and voíla! Custom Pokémon cake to feed 50 people for under $20:

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And, just like that, it was over. We posed for a family photo, wished our guests well, and relished in a successful (if not chaotic) birthday party.

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We had an incredible day celebrating our incredible not-so-little boy, and I’m so glad we could have all of his friends over to join in the fu! It was wonderful getting to visit with some of the parents and see the looks of joy on the kids’ faces. And you know what? I bet none of the kids even knew or cared that it was the rainiest day of the year.

The night of the party I was tucking David into bed and he looked up at me and said, “Mom, that was the best day EVER!”.

And you know what? It kind of was.

P.S. My husband is the best ever and the day after the party he surprised me by sending me off for a massage. By myself. Alone. And you know what? It was the actual best day ever!

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How To Prepare For The First Day of School In 10 Easy Steps

FullSizeRender 5 copyTomorrow is (finally) the first day of school(!) for my kids. I think we’re about the last ones starting school this year, which is only fair since they basically didn’t get out of school last “spring” until the 4th of July. We’ve had a glorious summer and I’m not quite ready to face the reality that’s about to smack me in the face tomorrow morning when I have to actually get kids up and dressed and fed and out the door at a reasonable hour like civilized humans. Ready or not, though, here it comes: the school year beckons.

If you, like me, need a little help getting psyched for the first day of school here is a little guide to whipping your crew into shape:

Step 1: Locate your children
It’s likely you have at least one rogue child at this point in the season, but fear not. In order to locate your children, start with the most obvious places: the blanket fort in your living room, the playhouse in the back yard, in the garage where you keep the popsicle stash in your freezer. If the primary locations come up bust, widen your perimeter: the neighbor’s house, that park down the street, the woods behind your house. If you’re still coming up empty-handed, just take an important phone call or hide in your bathroom and unwrap a candy bar: this is the universal signal to children that it is time to come find Mom, and they will surely be pawing at your door within seconds.

Step 2: Hygiene
This step will meet with much resistance, but it must be done. Carry on, warrior. Yes, we have been taking “pool baths” and using the “nature potty” all summer, but now it is time to re-introduce your children to indoor plumbing. Give your children an actual bath in an actual bathtub with actual soap. Scrub off the sand and the dust and the layers of crusty sunscreen that have been accumulating for the past 90 days. Pick the seaweed and the tree branches out from their hair. For heaven’s sake, trim their talons so they at least resemble human fingernails.

Step 3: Clothing
Your children must wear clothing. No more tiny nudists, we’re going public here. Go to Target or Costco or whatever real clothing store you shop at and buy something that is not a swimsuit and flip flops that your children can wear on their bodies when they re-enter proper society this week. Make sure the clothing you choose is new and exciting so they’ll want to wear it more than that horrendous excuse-for-a-t-shirt that they tie-dyed with you this summer. Also remember that your children are now accustomed to very little–if any–effort in dealing with their wardrobe: limit tedious tidbits such as zippers, buttons, and snaps.

Step 4: Nutrition
Oh my gosh, you guys, we have to quit feeding our kids hot dogs and Cheetos for every meal! I mean, I’m going to keep doing it when they’re at home and everything, but when they’re at school you’ll get nasty notes compelling you to pack “healthy, balanced meals for the benefit of your developing child’s mind and body” if you try to pass that stuff off as lunch. Cut veggies into festive shapes, decorate sandwich bags with little faces and googly eyes, cut napkins into confetti—just do what you’ve got to do to make it look like you’re putting in the effort here.

Step 5: Preventative Care
Schools are basically just giant cesspools of germs. There has never been a time in the history of ever when all children come home healthy from the first week of school. Nope, not gonna happen. What we can do, however, is take a few steps now to prevent the onslaught of disease that is about to return with our kids after their first days back with other living, breathing children. Serve Emergen-C or Airborne in place of their regular juice at breakfast. Bathe them in hand sanitizer. Preemptively shave their heads so the lice don’t want to mess with that. Insist on their wearing of face masks and surgical gloves during all periods of contact with other children. Tell them that a you’ve cast a magic spell on them and now their boogers will taste like brussels sprouts. Line up emergency babysitters for next week when you yourself will inevitably be so sick that you can’t get out of bed.

Step 6: Wake Up
This will be a challenge. Not so much for the kids, of course–they’ve been waking up by 6 AM every day since, well, they were born. No, no, no–the challenge is for YOU. No more laying in bed while the kids watch “just a little TV” in the morning so you can catch up on your beauty rest. No more. Set your alarms and your coffee pots, Mamas: School is coming.

Step 7: Hone Your Homework Skills
Watch a few YouTube videos on new Common Core Math strategies (what on earth is this hocus pocus they teach now, anyway?) and hop on Pinterest for science fair project ideas. It’s always better to stay ahead of the curve so you actually look like you know what you’re talking about when your kid comes to you for homework help. If that doesn’t work, just practice repeating this phrase: “Go ask your Dad.”

Step 8: First Day Photo Prep
What good is a first day of school if you don’t document it with photographic evidence? Print off your customized first day of school chalkboard-inspired sign for your child to hold in the photos. Have your child practice poses and smiles in front of a mirror so they look cheerful yet natural, as opposed to the freakish half-smile/half-snarl they usually don for non-candid photos. CHARGER YOUR CAMERA AND MAKE SURE THERE IS MEMORY SPACE AVAILABLE. Lots and LOTS of memory space.

Step 9: Review Your Script
What will you say to your children on the momentous occasion when you leave them at the bus stop or their classroom door on the first day of school? I have a dream of what this moment will look like, but somehow my last words always end up being something like “Quit making those tooting sounds NOW!” or “Pencils are not for stabbing”. Review your script beforehand so you can inspire the other parents in the drop-off line.

Step 10: Celebrate!
You did it! You not only kept your children alive all summer, but you have delivered them safely to their teachers on the first day of school. Have a party. Drink some coffee. Drink something sparkling. Cry. Take a nap. Sit in your car in the school parking lot. Go to the grocery store BY YOURSELF. Pat yourself on the back. You did it. Hooray!

And to all of us starting a new school year: may it be a year full of joy and learning!

An Ode To Summer

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Well, hello there! It’s been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

I didn’t plan on taking a mostly season-long hiatus from writing, but this thing happened. This thing called summer. Well, not just Summer, but Summer With Children…which is a whole different thing. Summer is sitting at the beach with a good book and working on your tan like it’s a full-time job (or, at the very least, a paid internship). Summer With Children is spending three hours packing for the beach, 1 hour wrangling your children into too-tight swim suits and chemical attack spray (sunscreen), 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at the family-friendly beach that is big enough to host your minivan/SUV/church bus, 1 hour waiting in line at the potty, and 20 minutes being paranoid that one of your children will drown before packing it all up and heading home for nap time.

Day in and day out. For approximately 70 straight days.

There is another reason that I haven’t written in so long, and it’s mostly my own fault. It’s also partly Google’s fault.

This may surprise you, but I’m a big fan of lists, notes, and words in general. I’m also a big fan of keeping my words forever. It was quite a shock, then, when I logged in to my Google account a few weeks ago and noticed a red bar at the top of the screen proclaiming that my Google-Stuff was at 99.9999999% capacity and that I could not write another single word without deleting something.

Now, this was a problem because ALL of my computery stuff is Google-Stuff: Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing, Google notes for my notes, etc. Besides oggling my friends’ cute photos of babies on Facebook and pinning recipes that I’ll never cook on Pinterest, I basically do everything on the Google platform.

And since I am an everything-or-nothing girl, I deleted everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Old documents from my teaching days: Gone. Grocery lists from pre-babies: Gone. Email folders: Gone. I literally had every email I’d ever sent or received since 2004 (it was quite enlightening, by the way, to re-read classic gems like “RE: How To Reset Your AIM Login” and “Engagement Photo Proofs”). I didn’t actually mean to delete EVERYTHING, but somehow it was just easier than weeding through 80,000+ files to determine what would make the cut. So, somewhat inadvertently, nobody made the cut and we’re starting a new team from scratch.

Unfortunately, among the players getting “cut” was my Google note for blog posts I wanted to write. I actually didn’t mean to delete it, but somehow it was tied to those 80,000+ emails that I didn’t want to weed through. I had kept a running tally of writing ideas ever since I started this blog 5 years ago…but I  managed to delete it during my manic delete-a-thon. Whoops. And, so, now I have to come up with new ideas which is not such a bad thing, but it does require, you know, thinking. Something of which I couldn’t be burdened much with this summer.

You see, I’ve been busy summer-ing lately. I could have written more, but I simply chose not to. Before I even deleted all of my clever ideas from Google Notes, I had made a conscious decision to just step back for a few weeks and let life happen. Cancel the plans and the commitments (and the internal blog deadlines) and just be.

I didn’t make any real plans for this summer: we didn’t go on any big trips, we didn’t sign up for any camps (except for that week-long camp that I signed up my kids up for, and only went to one day of because I’m just that lazy of a summer-mom). In a rather anti-me fashion, we just did each day and each week as it came. As a result we had the space to be spontaneous or lazy or, in most cases, a little bit of both.

Some days we spent time with friends. Some days we didn’t leave the house: we just stayed in our pajamas and played outside and ate Popsicles and Cheetos for lunch. Some days we did chores and errands until my kids and myself held a mutually irate opinion toward one other. Some days we counted a dip in the pool as “bath time”. Some days were cooperative siblings and empty roads and sunshine. Some days were squabbles and traffic jams…and STILL sunshine (Oh my goodness, this Seattle summer was ALL sunshine ThankYouJesus!).

It was exactly the summer I needed. Because after a year of total upheaval and Big Change and unsettling I just needed some time to…be. To experience this new place and who I am here. I needed to open my (new) doors to (new and old) friends. I needed to be neither on nor off a schedule, but be ascheduled–completely without a schedule. I needed to reconnect with my kids before one goes off to first grade (Somebody please explain to me how that happened?) and the other goes off to his last year of preschool (SOB!). I needed some time to see where God would lead me, who He would have me connect with, and do the God-ordained work of keeping three children and one mother alive and mostly sane, 24/7 under one roof.

And the good news, friends, is that it worked! I can say with confidence that this summer has been everything that a summer should be: unburdened, carefree, and invigorating. I am renewed, refreshed, and relishing these last few weeks of the season. I feel settled in who I am and where I am, and I’m ready to roll with the punches that are sure to come when Fall steals the show. I’m ready to embrace the year ahead and resume life as normal, schedules and all. I am going to make it my mission, though, to retain a bit of summer all year long. To hold on to the spontaneity and the ability to step back from my schedule, and just be. To live each day as if it is a long, carefree day of sunshine (I may need to invest in one of those sunshine lights, by the way).

Summer, you beautiful thing, you’ve been good to me…but as with all good things, even you must come to an end. Change is coming once again, but I’m ready. So here’s to new beginnings, and to holding on to the light of summer all year long.

Until next time, Summer!

 

Mommy’s Summer Bucket List

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After nearly 11 months since the first day of school, today marks the LAST day of school before summer vacation officially begins! We started this school year in early August in California, then moved to Washington this spring where they have an extended year due to excessive snow days this past winter…it’s been a long haul, and we’re all ready for a break. To celebrate the occasion I sat down with the boys this week and formulated a “summer bucket list”–a compilation of all of the wonderful things they’d like to accomplish over the next 10 weeks. It includes childhood gems such as making their own ice cream and sleeping outside under the stars.

As we were writing the boys’ summer bucket list the thought occurred to me that my own bucket list would probably look a bit different. Of course I want to eat ice cream and have adventures as much as (if not more than) the kids. Now that I’m on Team Mommy, however, my priorities have…shifted. As such, here is my Mommy Summer Bucket List:

  • Do NOT lose my cool when the kids whine that they’re hungry for the 3,000th time today. Especially if it’s only 10:00 AM.
  • Finally teach my kids how to tie their own shoes so I don’t have to tie them a million times a day for them. SELF EMPOWERMENT, people.
  • Wear my swimsuit like a boss. I’m gonna rock that thing like I’m Honey Boo Boo.
  • Remember to put on the dang sunscreen.
  • Read. Pinterest recipes, Lego instruction manuals, and books authored by anyone named “Seuss” don’t count.
  • Drink more wine. Our new hometown is the “Napa of the North” and boasts over 140 wine bars and tasting rooms. I’m going to have to drink a lot of wine if I want to make even a dent in the local offerings. This is basically just me supporting local businesses, which is basically community service, which basically means this is a social justice issue.
  • Resist the urge to hand my kids over to electronic babysitters every afternoon at 2:00 when we’ve all had enough of each other’s physical company for the day.
  • “Sleep in” past 7:00 at least once (this will probably require the assistance of the electronic babysitters before 7:00 AM, but this is a totally different purpose so it’s totally allowed).
  • Have 24 hours go by without saying any of the Phrases I Never Thought I Would Say (PINTIWS). Examples of PINTIWS include but are not limited to: “Don’t pee on your brother!”, “Pencils are not for stabbing!”, “Raccoons are not pets!”, and “Dude, where are your pants?!”.
  • Take a nap in the hammock. While “hiding” during a round of hide-and-seek.
  • Make friends with all of the other moms who have cool houses and pools in their back yards in hopes that they’ll invite us over to play.
  • Do not kill all of the plants in my yard.
  • Find a reliable method to minimize the number of public tantrums/fits/fighting matches between siblings we exhibit on our daily outings.
  • Eat healthy. And by “healthy” I mean that I will attempt to serve carrot sticks along with our hot dogs and marshmallows.
  • Drink water. Water mixed with coffee, cream and sugar is permissible.
  • Exercise. And by “exercise” I mean go to the gym multiple times a week to take advantage of the 2-hours per day of free childcare.
  • Do up-cycled craft projects with my children. All that beach sand I just vacuumed out of the car? Sand art! Red Dye 40-stained popsicle sticks? Popsicle stick log cabin craft!
  • Enjoy it. Because let’s face it, I only get 12 more of these summers with my oldest child…and only about 4 of those will be summers that he actually wants to spend any time with me. So no matter how long the days are (and they are LOOOOOOOOONG in the summer!) or how bored my kids get, just relish this season because it will be over I know it.

Now it’s your turn, friends: What’s on YOUR summer bucket list?

The Wedding Vows I Should Have Written

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Today marks 12 years since Jon and I said “I do”.  It’s actually kind of unbelievable to me that a dozen years have already passed since our wedding day…and by the same token it feels like our lives have been joined together for a lifetime already.

Jon and I got married the day after we graduated from college. Two days before our wedding I had celebrated my 22nd birthday. We were full of hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future, and we were babies. We didn’t think we were babies, but WE WERE BABIES (Oh my goodness, Mom and Dad, how did you let me do that?!).

While I wouldn’t change a single thing about the (early) timing of our wedding or the road we’ve been on together since then, I have had some time to reflect on that fateful day and all that it means. Since June 12, 2005 I have had the privilege of living another twelve years. And with time comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. If I were to go back 12 years and talk to that 22 year-old girl wearing the homemade wedding gown, I would share some wisdom with her.

I wouldn’t necessarily tell her to change anything, but I would share some of the lessons I’ve already learned. I’d tell her some of the secrets that took me a decade to discover, some of the tips that actually make life more harmonious. And if I were talking to that giddy bride, I’d tell her to rewrite her wedding vows and make them more realistic. They’d go something like this:

I, Allison, take you, Jon, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward.

I promise to love you equally on the days when everything is going perfectly and the days when nothing is going right. 

I promise to admit when I am wrong, to apologize, and to forgive freely. Even if I am mostly always right.

I promise to tell you the truth–not just when it’s easy or convenient or you ask me to, but also when it’s messy or hurtful or makes me look bad. It’s worth looking bad for a moment if it means that you can trust me for a lifetime.

I promise to make you the first priority in our family. Our kids will be freaking amazing, but you will come first. I will save time and energy and love for you. Even if I’m beyond-tired from late-night feedings or trying to manage laundry piles with gaggles of children hanging from my ankles, I will still make time for you. Because today we choose each other, and each other is a relationship worth keeping strong no matter what sacrifices might need to be made.

I promise to always put the toilet paper roll so that the paper feeds from the top of the roll.

I promise not to blame you for things that are beyond your control, or things that should actually be in my control, but to handle situations as they are: situations that can always be resolved.

I promise to love you when we are so broke that we think we’ll have to foreclose on our house, and when we have enough money to travel the world. Together we will learn to see the lean times as a way to trust in God, and the times of provision will teach us to be grateful and generous.

I promise to support you in your decisions and your pursuits, even if they aren’t quite the same as my own.

I promise to respect you through my words, actions and attitudes.

I promise to advocate for you and always choose your side of the argument: we are (forever) on the same team.

I promise to buy you the “correct” brand of cheese, toilet paper, yogurt, underwear, cereal…well, everything. Even if it takes me 50 years, I will learn all of the “correct” of everything and I won’t let any of that other garbage into our house.

I promise to learn to love the things that you love, and to participate in your passions with you. 

I promise to laugh with you often. 

I promise to chew with my mouth closed and not talk while I’m eating.

I promise to love you as an imperfect sinner (just like myself), and not hold you to the impossible standards of perfection that may seep into my mind.

I promise to walk with Jesus, to change my ways if that walk needs some work, and encourage you in your own walk.

I promise to learn with you.

I promise to follow your dreams with you, wherever they may lead us.

I promise to love and to cherish you, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.

Happy anniversary, Jon! Thank you for putting up with me and loving me so well–I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you.

Twelve down, 50-ish to go!

xoxoxoxox,

Wifey

DIY Rice-Dyed Easter Eggs

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I’m always on the lookout for creative takes on old favorites. So, when my friend over at Silicon Valley Toddler posted this idea for coloring Easter eggs with rice, I was intrigued! We decided to try it out and–WOW!–what a fun activity with absolutely gorgeous results. This method is a relatively mess-free way for toddlers and preschoolers to get in on the Easter egg-dying action (no spilled cups of egg dye #ftw). Read on for the how-to.

What you need:

– Hard boiled eggs (Easy-peasy directions: arrange eggs in the bottom of a large pot so they have a little room to dance around–old eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for a week or two are best. Finding old things in my fridge is never a problem, so this works quite well for me. Cover the eggs with about an inch of cold water and spalsh some vinegar in the pot for a bit of Voodoo magic (actually, it will just help keep the yolks sunshiney-yellow instead of that nasty gray center you get sometimes). Put the pot on the stove and bring just to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover the pot, and keep the pot on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Transfer the cooled eggs back to their egg carton and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Done and done.)
– Dry rice–a few cups of cheap rice will do
– Liquid food coloring (we went through one whole box of food coloring when we dyed 1-dozen eggs)
– Plastic containers with lids (My mama taught me to never throw away a used margarine or lunch meat container. If your mama taught you the same, use a few of these instead of your fancy Tupperware.)

What you do:

Place a handful of rice in each container (make sure the container is deep enough for the egg to move around with the lid on).  Add a hard boiled egg to the container and several drops of food coloring.

 

Put the lid on your container and shake it to your little heart’s content!

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If you want a mulit-colored marble-ized effect, go for it. This is your egg, no judging here. Just move the egg to a second rice container with another color of food coloring.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, remove the egg, brush off the rice, and leave ’em to dry completely.

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What gorgeous little speckled creations!

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A few notes:
*This project is best done outside. Or inside, over a drop cloth with an extra dose of patience.
*If the color starts to wear out, just add a few more drops of food coloring to the rice.
* Your fingers will get a little (and by a little, I mean a LOT) messy when you touch the wet eggs. If you don’t like rainbow hands, just wear disposable gloves. Keep wet wipes or a hose nearby for your kids, because we all know they’ll be little balls of tie-dye magic by the end of this project despite your best efforts for cleanliness.
* Have some extra plastic Easter eggs lying around your house? Make your own noise makers (as if your children don’t already fit the bill): Fill a few plastic eggs with a bit of the dry rice and tape or hot-glue the egg shut. Shake, shake, shake–you have your own little maracas!
* Save the rice! After you’re done dyeing eggs, spread out the colored rice on cookie sheets to air dry. Store the dyed and dried rice in an airtight container (that’s fancy language for a Ziploc baggie) for future art projects. We’re going to make these cactus next week in preparation for our upcoming vacation to the desert.
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The Big Truth I Learned In 2015

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At this time of year I typically spend some time reflecting on the past 12 months. Some years are full of happy memories and hope and promise. Other years are full of shattered dreams and disappointment and the twinge of loss. And other years–like my 2015–are a chaotic mix of the two. 2015 has been one of the most challenging, heart-breaking, life-changing years of my life…and, yet, it’s also been filled with more hope and joy and grace than ever before.

My take away this year? The one big truth that I learned? God is faithful. Time and time again this year I have seen God keep his promises and remain unchanging in His love and care for me. Through both the hope and the disappointment, through the promise and the shattered dreams, through the joy and the hurt: God is faithful.

2015 began on unsteady feet and my whole world flipped upside down when we discovered in late-January that we would inevitably miscarry what would have been our third child. We’d only learned about the baby a few weeks before, on Christmas Eve, and the hope and joy we’d entered the year with was quickly replaced with fear and heartache.

The pain I felt during those first few months of 2015 was so real and so deep that I didn’t think it would ever go away. Truth be told, it probably won’t ever go away–not completely. Yet things have gotten better and, through it all, a resounding truth has sustained me: God is faithful.

I knew God’s faithfulness each time I was spoken to with love and truth from His Word, friends, family…even strangers who came alongside me in support. I knew His faithfulness each time I looked at my boys and relished in the vivacity of their lives. I knew His faithfulness when I observed new flowers blooming in the spring, bounding forth as new creations after the dark, cold days of winter. I knew His faithfulness when, in early summer, we discovered that we would be blessed again with a baby. Through some of the darkest, coldest days of my life His light never dimmed. God is faithful.

I witnessed God’s faithfulness again in August when we were forced to move out of our comfortable and still-new-to-us home at seemingly a moment’s notice. Granted, the circumstances were highly unusual–our landlord had been murdered (What the what?!?!) and his family had to sell the house–but I took the whole transaction very personally.

We had literally moved halfway around the world and had just begun to settle in to a new life in our community. Finding out that our home was being taken away from us after less than a year was frustrating and incredibly stressful (if you’ve ever tried to find a home–or two–in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the nation–while dragging two young children along with you to every open house within a 20-mile radius–then you totally get it). I began to question our very existence in this land of over-priced, unavailable housing. But then I was reminded: God is faithful.

As a last-ditch effort I put out a plea for housing to my local mommy running group’s Facebook page. Within a few hours I had gotten several responses from people vowing to help us find a house before our move-out deadline. By the end of the week we’d not only signed a lease on one of those houses, but we got it for below the budget we had set out to find. Add to that the fact that our neighbors are truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met and our new community has embraced us with open arms. I feel like we hit the housing jackpot. My fears of homelessness and being uprooted from our home were replaced with amazement the moment we arrived at the place He had planned for us: home. God is faithful.

In September I experienced God’s faithfulness again when we finally settled on an education plan for the boys during this school year.  After months of considering our options and feeling unsettled about decisions that had already been made, we decided to scrap it all and try something completely different: homeschool. I had never wanted or planned to homeschool our children, but as soon as we made our decision I felt at peace.

Over these last few months as I’ve spent time teaching, learning, praying, and playing with my boys at our little “school” I have seen God work in amazing ways. The boys have shown a great interest and joy in learning, which basically fulfills my wildest teacher fantasies. Their relationships with each other, with us, and with God have grown deeper. The flexibility we have with our time and our schedule have positively impacted our family in so many ways. In the end, this decision that I had dreaded and attempted to escape has actually turned out wonderfully. God is faithful.

And there have been countless other times this year when God has proven his faithfulness in the ordinary moments of life.

Like that time when I was walking through a parking lot with both boys and a car backed out of their parking spot to within about an inch of my big toe before slamming on their brakes.

Or the time when I was having a particularly rough day and an unexpected care package arrived on my doorstep.

Or the time when our house in Washington just would NOT sell and we were paying overlapping rents in California and  I was sure our checkbook would never find it’s balance again–and we received a long-forgotten Irish tax refund in the mail.

Or that season when a beloved family member passed away and we were able to rekindle family traditions in her honor and pass them on to our children.

Or the hundreds of times when, out of the blue, one of my boys randomly professed his undying love for me or snuck in for a kiss or called me beautiful…and I knew I must be doing something right. Time and time again, God has shown His deep love for me through His faithfulness.

So, there you have it. My big lesson of 2015 is that God is, always and forever, faithful. Life will have its ups and downs and there will be times when nothing seems to be going my way, but that’s…life. Even during–maybe especially during–these hard times, I need to remember that I am not alone. God’s plans are always bigger and better than my own, and His big picture holds many more details than my sliver-of-the-picture that I can see.

As this year concludes and the next one begins, I hope that I can keep this truth close to my heart. For all of the challenges that this year has brought me, I am grateful. Grateful because the challenges have changed me, grateful because it has made me appreciate the not-so-obvious blessings in my life. I am grateful, because God is faithful.

And on that bombshell, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!