Creative Ways to Connect With Your Kids: Love Languages

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Two weeks ago I posted about a special way I had discovered to use in communicating with my oldest child. (If you missed it, you can read here about the mom/daughter journal we started.)  Today I am continuing this series about connecting with your kids by writing about another child of mine.  This boy is the funniest kid and has amazing talents in a lot of areas.  If I give him video game time undisturbed, he is the happiest boy on the planet.  When you first meet him, you might mistakenly assume from his personality that he loves to be the center of attention.  While he can definitely be louder than life, my little man often disappears to get some quiet time and is most content when he is left alone.  He is my earliest riser, getting himself some cereal and curling up on the couch underneath a quilt to eat by himself.  It has been quite the challenge to find a way to connect with this solitary boy.

One day while casually scrolling through Facebook, I stopped at one of my favorite homeschooling pages, Simple Homeschool.  There was a picture of a red heart with the title “The Five Love Languages of Homeschooling”, and underneath Jamie had captioned it: “Have you discovered your child’s love language? It might just be the homeschooling break-through you need.”  Intrigued, I clicked through to the post on Jamie’s blog and began to read.  Many years ago, I had taken Dr. Chapman’s love language test and found that mine was words of affirmation.  I had never considered the love languages to be pertinent to kids, but the more I contemplated it, the more it made sense.  There are five general love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  Jamie started off her post speaking about the love language of physical touch.  The first two sentences jumped out at me: “A child who best receives love through physical touch desperately needs hugs, kisses, and pats on the shoulder.  Not having enough can leave them feeling that they’ve done something wrong and that you are not pleased with them.”  Somehow I felt immediately that these sentences were describing my Mikey.  Physical touch?  Well, he had been a little cuddle bug when he was just a baby, always pleased to be in my lap with his head nestled near my heart.  But surely physical touch was not what he needed now.  If so, why did he always disappear and crave his alone time?  God’s voice persisted in my head.  “Yes, this is the key to your boy’s heart.”

I wasn’t so sure of this discovery.  I thought perhaps it was a wild guess, a shot in the dark in an absurd attempt to make a connection with my younger son.  So I prayed, and God said, “Do it!”  I decided to conduct it as an experiment of sorts.  Over the next several days, I would be very intentional in giving him high fives, hugs, fist bumps, back rubs, etc., and see how he received it.  I am by nature a very touchy-feely person anyway; so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me, but I hoped it wouldn’t be off-putting to Mikey or push him even further into his solitude.  The first day, I gave him extra hugs as he came stumbling into the kitchen to make his breakfast.  I offered to sit and snuggle with him on the couch while he ate.  To my surprise, he accepted.  Throughout the school day, I made sure to pat his back, touch his hand encouragingly when he was struggling with a word, and invited him to sit on my lap while we did reading.  The next day went much the same way, except this time I could feel him leaning in as if asking for more.  By the third day, he was actually seeking ME out for hugs and kisses and “love you Mama”s with his face buried in my neck.  I was astonished at the change in my kid.  The more we physically connected throughout the day, by hugs, shoulder pats, etc., the more he opened up and the less he crept away to his room for quiet.  Even his grandma noticed this change in him.

Now that I know with certainty that physical touch is my son Mikey’s love language, I need to make sure that I am “speaking” to him often in that language.  It fills up his love cup and spills over to the others in his life.  He is kinder to his siblings, more thoughtful to others, more expressive of his thoughts and desires, and more open to God’s work in his life.  He was a fantastic kid before we started this experiment; now he is a fantastic kid that feels loved and connected to in all the right ways.

I encourage you to take the time to find out your child’s love language.  If your child is old enough, they can take this online quiz at Gary Chapman’s website to help you both figure it out.  The time spent evaluating and determining their love language and then implementing it will be paid back in dividends you can’t imagine.

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(Also, as it turns out, there is a love languages book just for kids.  I think this one is going to be added to the Foster family library!)

Some Trust in Chariots

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As usual, we were running a little behind schedule.  David could not find his shoes, and Mikey did not want to wear a coat.  Finally, I herded the last of the kids out the door and to the van, where we discovered that someone had left on the interior lights.  The van would not start, despite the kids’ pleas to Goldie (the name of our van) to get going so they could go play in the gym.  I looked at my antsy kids.  Hosanna was running in circles on the front lawn, and Gabi was attempting to stand on her toes and do a pirouette in the driveway.  “Let’s get the dog and go for a walk,” I made a snap decision.

Now, we live in a metropolitan area that is not exactly suited for walking with four young kids and a not-so-obedient dog.  There are several businesses on our own street, which means a steady stream of dangerous traffic.  Still, I was determined to exterminate the cabin fever and so we forged ahead.  Despite the dog almost darting out into traffic a few times and Hosanna loudly and mightily resisting her hand being held by her big sister, we managed to traverse the more perilous streets of the neighborhood before coming to the “nature trail” behind our local Wal-mart.  By “nature trail,” I mean a skinny asphalt trail with random trees planted on one side and a stunning view of the backside of Wal-mart on the other.  It didn’t matter – now I didn’t have to be on high alert for traffic and could enjoy our walk a little more.  The kids ran ahead of me, squealing with delight at each new stick find and giggling at the antics of the dog.  The trail looped around to the front entrance of Wal-mart.  The kids begged to go inside and “just look at the toys for one minute, promise.”  I was secretly relieved that we had the dog with us, thus eliminating a long stay in the Lego aisle as the kids examined the newest sets.  Reluctantly, the kids followed as I led them back to the neighborhood behind Wal-mart.

Just as we were starting to climb the ramp to the sidewalks beyond, I became aware of flashing lights and police sirens everywhere.  A police car pulled right up next to us, and the officer driving shouted something at me.  Confused and admittedly a little freaked out, I couldn’t understand what he was saying.  He pulled out a megaphone. “Ma’am, you can’t go back that way!  You ‘re going to have to turn around and go back to the store.”  What?  “But this is the only way we can walk home!” I protested.  ” Ma’am, that way is not safe.  A man shot someone and is somewhere back there with a gun.  Please go back to the store.”  I nodded and directed the kids to turn around.

The kids heard the words man shot someone and gun and panicked.  “Mom, I’m scared!  What if the guy with the gun is right here in the parking lot?  What will we do?  How are we going to get home?”  I heard the fear in their voices and almost automatically said, “It’s okay, I’m here.  Mom will take care of you and keep you safe.”  Because that’s what we moms do, right?  Whether it’s a boogie man in their closet or a very tall slide at the playground, we reassure our kids that we are there to help them and protect them in any way we can.  But if that man with the gun appeared right now in front of us, there would be nothing I could do to protect my kids.  In that moment, I realized that I didn’t want my kids looking to me for safety and protection.  I wanted them to put their trust and their safety in the arms of their Heavenly Father.

I gathered my kids in a circle and wrapped my arms tightly around them. I looked into their frightened faces and spoke the truth.  “I don’t know where the man with the gun is.  I’m not sure how we are going to get home yet.”  I chose my words carefully. “Let’s talk to God, right now.”  There, in the parking lot of the Wal-mart, I began praying for God’s protection on our little family and on the other people around us.  David hesitated and then joined in, asking God to help the police find the bad guy.  Gabi chimed in next, openly sharing that she was scared and that she didn’t want to be scared and would God please help her to stop being afraid?  A sense of calm enveloped us as we hurried back to the Wal-mart entrance.  We were told to go inside, dog and all, and of course the kids immediately headed to the toy section.  While they were occupied with the latest toys and games, I waited.  What was I waiting for – we certainly would not be able to walk home.  That was out of the question.  Maybe Christ could come get us – except the van wasn’t working.  I decided to call my mother-in-law, who within minutes of my call jumped in her van and headed out to rescue us.  When she pulled up to the store, the kids piled in, excitedly telling their grandma all about the man with the gun.  We drove past the neighborhood that we had just been walking in hours earlier and saw dozens of police cars blocking every entrance, red and blue flashing lights illuminating the area.  I thanked God that we had not been there at a different time, a time when perhaps things may not have ended so well.

That night, as I tucked the kids into bed, Gabi stared at me anxiously and asked if the police had caught the bad guy yet.  She kept looking at her bedroom window and admitted that she was afraid that he might come to our house.  I told her that I understood her fear, but that we just had to put our trust in God and in His protection.  Because that’s what it’s all about.  My kids can trust in their mom and dad.  They can trust in their grandparents.  They can trust in locked doors and in the police and in loaded guns.  But all of those things will eventually fail them.  Only God is worthy of complete trust.  When we trust in Him completely, He will direct our paths.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.  Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:1-3, 10a

Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids

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I have been doing this parenting thing now for nine years, but the complexity and differences of my children still never fail to amaze me.  There are four individuals who call me “Mom”, and although they definitely look alike, their personalities and character quirks could not be more diverse.  I have a child who is artistic and friendly, a people-pleaser and an overachiever.  Another child is class clown, the center of attention, loud and funny and yet introverted in his own way.  In discipline, what works for one child does not work for another.  In housework and other responsibilities, what motivates one child will not motivate another.  In school, what helps one child learn confuses another.  And, I have found, my relationships with each one of my children work in pretty much the same way.  The way I communicate and interact with each of my children varies based on their personality and also their age.

Gabi is my oldest.  She recently turned nine and is moving toward those preteen years faster than I would like to admit.  We named her well, as she loves to talk my ear off about cute kittens and puppies and Minecraft and her friends and books and cool science facts and, well, you get the idea.  Several months ago, as I was half-listening to her tell me about her latest issue of Kids National Geographic, I thought “When was the last time Gabi and I talked about something deeper than books or video games?”  The realization that it had been a long time motivated me to try harder.  I would purposefully bring up spiritual topics or body topics in an attempt to dig a little deeper and build my relationship even more with my oldest.  And while this did work, in a way, it felt forced, manipulated, and completely artificial.  There was nothing wrong with me bringing up these conversations, but it didn’t seem genuine and never led to more conversations on the same subject.  In other words, she was not coming to me to talk about these things.  I started praying for a better way to connect with my daughter.  I thought about the activities she liked the most – writing, drawing, creating, making things – and how I could incorporate those things into a more beneficial way to communicate with her.

That’s when I came up with the shared journal idea.  When I was Gabi’s age, I would keep old notebooks with doodles scrawled on the covers and in the margins.  I wrote things like “Today was a happy day” and “Rachel is my best friend always and forever” with lots of illustrations and stickers.  What if Gabi and I had a journal we would write together?  I could write her a note or a question, pass the book on to her, and she could write her answer and anything she wanted to ask me before passing it back to me.  From my own childhood experience I know that sometimes it’s easier to write about hard topics than it is to actually say them aloud.  I searched the local bookstores for the perfect journal and fancy pens to accompany it.

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As it turns out, someone else already had this idea.  At a small stationery store in the area, I found a journal written by a mother and daughter team called Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. (by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs)  The concept of this journal is similar to what I had in mind, only better.  The journal is filled with writing prompts like “What I was like when I was a daughter your age/What I’d be like if I were a mom” and “How you and I are the same.”  There are lots of pages that have free space to write whatever you want.  With this journal and a new set of sparkly gel pens in hand, I sat my daughter down and explained to her how sharing a journal would work.  She was tremendously excited and couldn’t wait to get started.

At first, the things we shared in the journal were superficial and light, things like “Mom, you should make pancakes tomorrow for breakfast” and “My favorite color is still green, in case you wanted to know.”  She would write these things, dotting her i’s with hearts and surrounding her precious handwriting with smiley faces before leaving it on my nightstand so that I could write her back. I would try to write her back as soon as I could and leave my ribbon in the place I had written so she could find it.  Gradually, the topics in the journal got deeper and more personal.  One time in particular, we resolved an argument and misunderstanding by writing down our feelings in the journal.  I won’t share an exact situation since the journal is “just between us,” but it has become quite evident that both of us can express ourselves better in writing sometimes.

I bought this journal many months ago, and we are still using it faithfully.  Of course, it is not our only means of connecting with each other.  There are still long conversations in the car, Starbucks coffee dates, chat over folding laundry, etc. But we have this method for when it’s too hard to say it aloud or when it just really needs to be accentuated with lots of exclamation points and glittery hearts. Someday, my little girl will be all grown up, but I will always have this journal to remember our “conversations” when she was young.

Hiding His Word in Your Heart: The Whys and Hows of Scripture Memorization

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David sighed when he looked at the math paper I had given him.  “Do I have to do the whole thing?” he complained.  “It looks too hard.  I can’t do it all!”

“Not ‘I can’t,’ David,” I reminded him.

“I know, I know.  ‘I CAN do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,’ ”  he rattled off quickly.  He was still disgruntled with the amount of work he had to do, but he bent his head purposefully over his paper and began his work.  In that moment, a scripture had come to mind that was encouraging and full of promise.  He had memorized that verse long ago during our family devotion time, and now it had come to his aid when he needed it.

That, fellow Christians, is why we memorize scripture.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Clearly, God’s Word is a powerful spiritual tool that we as Christians can use daily, and we would be foolish to put that weapon aside to rely on our own strength and wisdom.

Every morning, the kids and I work on taking some of God’s Word and putting it in our hearts.  The psalmist talks about “hiding” God’s Word in our hearts in Psalm 119:11.  The ESV translates it as “I have stored up your word in my heart.”  Scripture cannot be treasured in our hearts unless it is memorized.  Here are the reasons I want my kids (and me!) to memorize God’s Word.

1)  It is commanded by God.  In Deuteronomy 6, Moses instructs God’s people to take God’s words and put them in their hearts.  He reminds them to teach God’s words to their children and put those words everywhere they look – on their homes, on their doorposts, and even on their own bodies.  He said they were to talk about God’s words constantly in all their daily activity.

2)  It is encouraging in difficult situations.  King David often found comfort in God’ Word: he states “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”  (Psalm 119:50)  When I am afraid, I can call upon my memorization of this verse: “The LORD is on my side, I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)  When my husband is trying to make the right decision for our family, I can encourage him with “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Proverbs 3:5)  Whatever struggles you may be facing, there is a Bible verse that you can draw upon for reassurance and comfort.

3)  It is useful in fighting off sin and temptation.  It has already been mentioned that God’s Word is a sharp and powerful sword.  Ephesians 6:17 lists the word of God as the sword of the spirit in its description of the armor of God.  Jesus made use of this powerful weapon when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  Each time the devil offered up a new temptation, Jesus fired back with a scripture verse.

4)  It is crucial to making good decisions.  Undoubtedly, you have heard the verse “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Many times when I have found myself wondering what to do next in life, God brings to mind a specific scripture that completely answers my internal questions.  “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

5)  It is practical for sharing the gospel.  Peter directs us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”  When I meet someone that does not know Christ as Savior, I do not have to stumble around in my own weak words and explanations.  I can use the influential words of God Himself.  I can quote “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  The Word of God is a mighty tool, remember?  Let the Word of God speak for itself as you witness to others.

6)  It is beneficial in praying more effectively.  Sometimes, there is just no better way to pray than to pray the scriptures.  Jesus promises “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)  Don’t forget – Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6 and even gave us words to say when our own words fail us.

7)  It is critical for spiritual growth.  David starts off his book of Psalms by describing to us a man who delights in God’s word and meditates in it day and night.  This man is like a tree, growing, flourishing, and firmly rooted in the storms of life.  When you memorize scripture, God’s words are always with you.  Think of it as portable wisdom that will guide you throughout your day and help you mature as a Christian.

It is not difficult to see the importance of memorizing God’s Word, but how do I do it?  There are many methods to accomplish the memorization of Scripture.  I want to share a system that I found  while researching the Charlotte Mason method of schooling.  Here is the link that explains the Scripture Box system very thoroughly, but I will give you a quick overview here.

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I purchased a 3×5 notecard box at Walmart along with two sets of plastic dividers to go inside it.  The dividers were labeled with a permanent black marker in this order: Daily, Odd, Even, Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sun., and the numbers 1 – 31.  I then wrote out on several note cards the scriptures I wanted to start memorizing (I got some inspiration from this verses list) and placed them in the front of the box.

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Then we started using the box.  The first card (Ephesians 2:8-10) went into the slot behind Daily.  Every day, I would simply read the verses on that card out loud to the kids two times with them repeating the reference after me.  After a few days, they started saying some of the words along with me, and by the second week, they could say the verses without any help from me.  When I was satisfied that they knew it, I moved that scripture to the Odd slot and placed Philippians 4:13 in the Daily slot.  Now we practiced the new verse every day as well as the previous verse on odd-numbered days.  When they mastered Philippians 4:13, the Ephesians scripture moved to Even, the Philippians scripture moved to Odd, and Mark 12:30-31 took the Daily slot.  Now I read Mark 12:30-31 every day, and together we recited Ephesians 2:8-10 on even-numbered days and Philippians 4:13 on odd-numbered days.  And the system continued on, with verses in the days of the week slots only being practiced on that specific day and the verses in the numbered slots being practiced on that specific date of the month.  In this way, scripture is learned quite rapidly without much time or stress, and then it is practiced regularly to be sure it is not forgotten.  It is working astonishingly well for us.

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The kids’ minds are like sponges; so they memorize things quickly and easily.  For me (and my crazy brain that is always going in a million directions!), I need a little extra practice.  Consequently, I used an app (PicsArt) on my smart phone to put whatever scripture I am working on at the time on a photo and use it as my lock screen.  I probably look at that screen dozens of times each day; so it definitely helps with memorization practice.

Accordingly, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Art-Themed Dinner Party

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Our family rule of only having a party on the odd-numbered birthdays have served us well in that I only have to plan and execute two birthday parties in a calendar year.  However, Hosanna’s birthday happens to fall at the end of the year while her sister Gabi’s comes right in the first month of the next year.  This means that I had to plan two birthday parties in two consecutive months, not to mention Christmas parties and New Year’s festivities.  Also, take a good look at that gorgeous girl in the photo.  She’s not really turning nine tomorrow, is she?  It’s getting a little ridiculous, this whole getting older thing.  If I could freeze time for just a little while, I’d do it now while she’s at this dreamy age of becoming a young woman and still being a little girl all at once.

Anyway, Gabi has had her birthday party theme picked since last year.  Given her proclivity for crafting and drawing and sewing and doodling, it was no surprise that she wanted an art party.  She and I sat down a few months ago to make a Pinterest board and fill it with ideas for the party, as I do for every party.  We quickly found an overwhelming number of ideas on decorations for the party.  Of course, Gabi had her own ideas, too.  She wanted a dinner party so she could have her favorite food at the party – spaghetti.

So here’s how we threw our own art-themed dinner party, in case you ever want to do the same.  We began by sending out invitations via evite – this is the one we used.  Then we got started on making the decorations.  I definitely enlisted Gabi’s help on these, and she was happy to oblige.

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We made this welcome wreath for the door using a foam wreath form from the dollar store, coffee filters, paint, and a little construction paper.  The idea for this wreath came from Ramblings from the Sunshine State.

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I was at our local learning store a few weeks ago when I saw these colorful circle cut-outs in the clearance bin.  I immediately knew we could find a way to incorporate them into the party decorations.  I ended up writing “Happy Birthday, Gabi!” on some of them.  I overlapped the circles and glued them with hot glue and then hung them up as banners.  Since the “Gabi!” one was hanging in the doorway, I decorated the back of it with party images so it wouldn’t be a blank white blob. 🙂  I took the rest of the circles and glued them back-to-back, with a ribbon stuck in between.  I wrote art inspiration words such as create and design on each side of the circles and hung them in the other doorway leading to the living room.

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The paper chains in the dining room were all Gabi’s idea.  I bought two packs of construction paper and settled down on Friday night to cut out inch-wide strips and staple them all together.  This was a VERY time-consuming project – let’s just say that I was glad that I had started a couple of nights early and that I had a few seasons of Big Bang Theory to watch.  Also, they turned out well, and the impact on the room was amazing.

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We used the leftover paper strips to wrap around water bottles for our guests, which turned out to be fifteen girls in all.  The girls all arrived, giggling and quite excited, at four’o’clock.  After they ditched their coats and shoes in Gabi’s room, they came out to “sign the guestbook.”  I made a Friendship Tree on thick card stock, and the girls signed it with their thumbprints.

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It turned out so cute and will be a nice keepsake from the party.  The party guests next went to the dining room to do the art project we had planned.

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I had two tables set up for the project – they were covered in two plastic tablecloths and were geared with washable markers, watercolor paper, paint brushes, and plastic ice cube trays filled with water.  Then I showed the girls the sample project I had made earlier and explained how to make their own tie-dye watercolor painting.  I had a small table full of various die-cuts that the girls could choose from to use as stencils in their project.  They traced the die-cuts with washable markers and then colored around the objects in various patterns with the markers.  Then they painted over the marker with water to get the watercolor effect. (like the method I used in the watercolor snowflake art).

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When they finished, I hung up their art on my art display wall to dry while the girls ran giggling into the living room to play some board games.  I peeled off the top table cloth from each table and got them ready for dinner.  I was privileged to have my best friend come to help with the dinner prep at the party.  She and another mom (thanks girls!) prepared three kinds of pasta, marinara sauce, melted butter, cooked ground beef, and cheese so that each party guest could design her own pasta dish.  This was Gabi’s dream come true, and it worked particularly well since we had quite a few party guests that could not have gluten.  We simply had a gluten-free pasta option and made sure the sauce was gluten-free as well so everyone could have something.  DSC_0092

For dessert, Gabi picked something simple – vanilla cupcakes.  I found some tall sparkler candles at a local party store to stick in the cupcakes along with tiny paper flags.  The party guests were delighted that each one of them had a sparkling candle to blow out after we all sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl.

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Of course, right after the cupcake eating, we had to have present time.  I have never seen such an excited group of girls eager to give their gifts and show off the cards they had made for Gabi.  She got all sorts of craft kits and books and fun things to do.  We are up to our ears in washi tape and pillow making and little craft pieces and I love it!  By the time we got through all the presents, it was almost time for kid pick-up.  I pulled out a bunch of art supplies and sent the girls back to the tables to be creative while they waited for their parents.

It was fantastically fun although I would say that having sixteen pre-teen girls in your house is not for the faint of heart!  Gabi was thrilled with it and really that is all that matters.

And hey, we have some colorful paper chains to cheer up the house for a while and get us through these dreary winter months!

 

 

 

Holey Socks!

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Today we left the land of no school, late bedtimes, way too much video game time, and too many sugary sweets to step back into normal routine and real life.  It was a challenge to get the kids back on schedule and motivated with their schoolwork.  Chores and projects needed to be started, and of course I threw in a trip to the library because nothing says “let’s really make it a Monday” like trying to drag four cranky, depressed-that-Christmas-was-over kids anywhere.  As homeschoolers, we love the library, but little Hosanna just had to put on a grand (and very loud) puppet show in there today.  Another child who shall remain nameless announced to the whole library that he had to poop.  All of them chanted and begged for donuts from the shop inside the library (I know!).  We got back from the library, ready to take another half-hearted swing at the housework, when I realized that it was karate day.  Once again I wanted to high five(in the face) the mom who had the brilliant idea to sign up her kids for karate at 5:00 pm on a Monday!  Genius – that’s me.

So began the hustle and bustle of hunting down the boys, giving them their gis to put on, reminding them seventeen times to please put socks and shoes on, and trying to get them out of the house at a reasonable time.  Getting my boys to stay on my time schedule is hard enough; getting my autistic kid to do anything without being told ten times is pretty much impossible.  I was so grateful to leave the house on time that I didn’t bother to check David’s socks and shoes.  I hoped he was wearing them but didn’t care at this point.  We got to the dojo with a few minutes to spare, and the boys scurried about taking off their shoes and talking to their buddies.   I sat down with the other parents and turned my phone off.  When I take Gabi to ballet, I can sit there and check Facebook on my phone or read a book.  At karate, parents are expected to sit quietly, watch the class, and sometimes even participate.  Class started, and I looked at David to make sure he was paying attention.  It was then that I noted the two different socks he was wearing.  One was actually his dad’s – a nice black dress sock with a gold toe.  The other was a white athletic sock that looked as if it had seen better days.  Nice, I thought to myself.  I hope the other moms don’t notice.  Of course, Sensei called David up to the front to lead the class in an exercise.  He chose to do a series of leg stretches that showed off each sock alternately as he switched from leg to leg.  Black sock, white sock, black sock, white sock. .wait, is that a giant hole in the bottom of the white sock??  I was completely embarrassed that I had brought my kid dressed like that to karate.  What must the other moms think?

Then a mom leaned over and asked me if David was my son.  Yes, I answered, slightly chagrined.  “Oh good,” she said, laughing a little.  ” It is so good to see that I am not the only one.  You would not believe how many times stuff like that happens to me.”  Relieved, I laughed with her and looked again at my son, who was proudly showing off his skills and was blissfully unaware that mismatched socks was a social taboo.  That moment reminded me that I was not alone in having these crazy days.  Someday, it will make a cute story to tell (hey, I just put it on the internet!).  Besides, that whole perfect mom thing is a myth anyway.  I’m only perfect 99% of the time. 😉

(Full confession here: I was a mean mom and made him throw out the holey sock when we got home.  He didn’t want to because he “got good air” when he was doing his kicks and stretches.  I reminded him that he could be doing karate barefoot, which would be the best air of all.)

(Also, I have worn mismatching socks from time to time when I was absolutely positive my pants legs would cover them.  I guess he comes by it honestly.)

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman Party

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In December, it was sweet Hosanna’s turn to have a birthday party.  In our family, we do birthday parties on odd-numbered years so that I can focus my attention on just two parties a year instead of four.  She was pretty adamant about having a Frozen themed party.  Since we had already been to several Frozen birthday parties in the past year, I decided to focus on one specific element of Frozen – Olaf.  Who doesn’t like Olaf?!? With our house already decorated for Christmas, the snowman and snowflake themed decorations would fit right in.  It didn’t take much to persuade the birthday girl, and as I do with all my birthday parties, I immediately began adding any ideas I could find to my Do You Wanna Build a Snowman? Pinterest board.

I started by making a Olaf poster for the front door to greet our party guests.  I just googled Olaf images, and after finding one I liked, I freehanded him on a piece of poster board and colored him with crayons.  He is actually still on the door, as no one wants to take down his friendly face.  Grandma bought Hosanna her sparkly Frozen party dress.  Don’t worry, she wore socks and shoes for her party. 🙂

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For decorations, I wanted the dining room to look very wintry and well, frozen.  The wall behind the cake table was covered in a light blue tablecloth from the dollar store and then decorated with paper snowflakes and cotton balls strung on fishing line as well as glittery silver garland.  I used many of the patterns on Origami Way to make each snowflake intricate and unique.  The cake table itself was covered with another light blue tablecloth and some glittery white felt “snow” from the dollar store.  I hung silver plastic icicles and iridescent plastic snowflakes (also from the dollar store) from the dining room ceiling.  With the rest of the house decorated for Christmas, the twinkle lights and sparkly ornaments everywhere completed the frozen theme.

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I like to make food fit the theme of the party if I can.  We had gotten a kit to make Elsa’s ice castle out of cookies and frosting a while ago, and the finished product made a good “cake” or centerpiece anyway.  (note: that thing took FOREVER to make!)  I made cupcakes to match the castle out of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free vanilla cake mix (my favorite – I use it for every party) and topped them with sparkly sugar snowflakes, made using this tutorial.   We served crackers with softened cream cheese; at this time of year, Ritz crackers come in snowflake shapes, which worked perfectly with the theme.

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The favorite by far was the build-a-snowman food bar.  Guest could choose raisins, pretzel sticks, homemade marshmallows (recipe here), mini chocolate chips, and carrot sticks to create their own edible snowman or just eat them as is.  I saw lots of variations of this idea on Pinterest, and for good reason – it’s easy and it’s tasty.  I had plans for other food too – these string cheese snowmen, these adorable popcorn cups, and this cute snowman cheeseball.  I quickly realized that the string cheese snowmen and the popcorn cups would be too much work that no one would really appreciate anyway, and the snowman cheeseball became a nice bowl of softened cream cheese instead.

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The birthday girl was turning three; so instead of inviting a bunch of little friends and trying to get them to play some organized games, we opted to invite several families and have “general activities” instead.  We had Frozen memory match and Frozen junior monopoly set up at the table for guests to play as they arrived.  Most of the boys and older kids ended up in the playroom taking turns with the video games.  An activity that doubled as a favor to take home was this Make-a-Snowman ornament station.  I purchased some small glass ornaments (like these)  at Michaels as well as some of that fake cellophane snow and markers that write on glass.  I then cut up some black and orange paper into tiny carrot noses and coal buttons while the kids searched for little sticks outside.  Party guests carefully put some snow in the bottom of their ornament, added the stick arms, carrot nose, coal buttons, and google eyes, and then wrote whatever they liked on the outside with the glass marker.  My example ornament said “Some people are worth melting for.”  It was an easy and relaxing activity – even the youngest kids were able to do most of it themselves.

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Besides the ornaments, we had “Olaf’s Icy Slime” for guests to take home.  The cute little containers came from the dollar store (ten of them for a dollar!).  I made the slime following these instructions, only I chose to use a mixture of purple glitter glue and white glue in mine.  I also didn’t chill my ingredients ahead of time, as I had no need for it to be cold.  These were very popular with the older kids.

It was a very laid-back party, with guests participating in various activities, talking, and eating all at the same time.  Baby girl got to open a lot of wonderful gifts and got to be the center of attention as we all sang a very Happy Birthday to her.  She looks like she enjoyed it, don’t you think?

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Oh, and looking at this picture reminds me of the drinks we served – cold water bottles served up in a laundry basket labeled “Melted Snowmen.”  Haha!  The party was fun and (mostly) stress-free, and we all are enjoying watching our youngest munchkin grow. (but not too fast, baby girl!)  Happy birthday to Hosanna Joy!