Monday, February 22, 2016

Aven's party details {& party planning for the non-hostess}

I am not a "hostess" type. The more people who RSVP with a "yes" the more I want to go hide in a corner until it's over, no matter what type of event I'm planning. 

When Aven turned two earlier this month, we decided to have her Minnie Mouse Pajama Party at our home. Although party planning is not something that comes naturally to me, I was pleased with the way it turned out.

My philosophy was "it doesn't have to be fancy!" Y'all - this is a two year old's party. She will relive it through photos one day, but she will not remember it. I tend to let myself get overwhelmed with these kind of events rather than focusing on the ultimate purpose, and I was determined not to let that happen. At the end of the day, I just wanted Aven to have a good time with all the people she loves. 

{ Hey look! This was my own Minnie party, back in the day! Check out my mom's cake decorating skills. Impressive! She definitely IS the hostess type. }

I started drafting this post the day after the party when we were still in recovery mode, because I know there are lots of people like me who feel that party planning is out of their comfort zone. But even for us non-hostess types, you can pull off a great party and have fun while planning it. 

I promise! 

Here are some shots of the party and a list of things I found to be super helpful during the planning process. 

(her ears are actually pigtail clips from this Etsy shop)

party planning for non-hostess types: keep it simple. here's how:

1. stick with a narrow theme and color scheme. 
Because it's her absolute favorite, we originally chose a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme, which would include a whole cast of characters. I soon realized that a ton of party planning is incorporating the colors of your chosen theme, and I wasn't loving the use of so many bright, bold primary colors for a little girl's birthday party. I changed it up to a simpler theme of Minnie Mouse only, and stuck with the colors black+white, gold, and pale pink. SO glad I made this change. It really made it so much easier. If possible, stick to neutrals and one or two pops of color. (Also - buy paper products and utensils in neutral colors so you can reuse the excess later).

2. choose just a couple of "statement pieces".
You could easily run around spending lots of money and time buying 200 different party decorations and supplies. OR you could choose just a couple of large-scale, key items that will be the focus of the party.

So, instead of a bunch of balloons, I used only FOUR. Yes - FOUR. I had one giant 30" pink balloon, one huge number "2" Mylar balloon, and then two regular pink balloons for our mailbox. (balloons and paper straws purchased from this Etsy shop)

I also happened to find (really, it was fate) a black and white polka dot blanket with Minnie's silhouette on it in the kid's bedding section at Target. It couldn't have been more perfect for the party and it became the primary inspiration for the rest of the decor. We used it as a focal point and backdrop on the day of the party. Bonus....we get to use it after the party! 

3. party basics: banners + signs.
There's a reason why party banners show up at every party: they're cute AND easy! I strung a three tiered one on the fireplace mantle. It was black so I just wrote "happy birthday Aven" with chalk and strung it with black and white baker's twine. I traced out the word "TWO" on glitter scrapbook paper and then strung that on the Minnie blanket backdrop. DONE. (I meant to move the "TWO" banner to the front of the high chair as decoration when we did her cupcake and candles, but I forgot. Anytime decor can pull double duty - go for it!)

I also purchased a chalkboard easel (something I wanted anyway and will for sure use again) and placed it outside by the front door as a welcome sign. It took very little time and effort and but I think it was the right touch for people to see upon arrival. 

4. favors that function as a party element.
I bought a set of 12 Mickey and Minnie ears and placed them by the front door with a sign that said "We've got Ears, say Cheers!" They doubled as both decor and party favors for the kiddos. Another idea I love is to use food as favors - some extra special little snack you've put together and pre-packaged.

5. food: pick a theme.
We decided to do a morning (10am) pajama party, so the food was a no-brainer. My awesome husband made Minnie-shaped pancakes (!), and we did other breakfast foods as well. Fruit, pigs in a blanket, hashbrown casserole, monkey bread - those types of things.

Also - let your food decorate for you. You can put your cupcakes in a pretty stand and make it the centerpiece on the table.

6. use decor you already own.
I raided Aven's nursery, my kitchen, and my box of party supplies for accent pieces that matched the party. I also borrowed several things from generous family members, like kid tables (which we covered in polka dot craft paper), platters, and trays. 

7.  Pinterest is your party-planning friend. 
Chances are, your party theme has been done, documented, and Pinterest-ed, so you can borrow other people's creative ideas when you come up short on your own. I even printed coloring sheets off a link I found on Pinterest, so the kids would have a little activity to occupy themselves with. 

8. some things just don't matter - don't waste time or brain power on them.
I am not the girl who's going to bake a birthday cake. That's just not a skill of mine. Instead, I ordered Publix cupcakes and we stuck Oreo Thins in them as Minnie ears. Done. Always work within your wheelhouse, or have friends and family help you. You don't have to do it all. 

So, which side are you on? Does it make you giddy or give you an anxiety attack? I'd love to hear any other tips you guys have!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

easy babies: real or mythical creatures?

You've heard them/seen their Instagram posts:
"Oh, Aden is just such a chill little guy; always has been!"
"Jackson doesn't really cry. Maybe when he's hungry? Even then it's more of a whimper."
"Addie: happy baby alert!!! #Blessed."

Okay. I'm going to go ahead and admit how obnoxious those phrases can be, only because for a long time I wished I could say the same. 

But maybe you have one and can vouch for their existence? Or maybe you're more like me with no real concept of what "easy baby" even means. My brain just doesn't compute those two words being in agreement with one another, so when I hear that description, I'm quite honestly perplexed and intrigued, daydreaming about what that looks like. 

Here is how I would describe my child in five words or less:
Opinionated. Vocal. Emotional. Social. Spirited.* 
*That last one with emphasis because she is just so, so spirited, y'all.

As a newborn and even over her first year, "spirited" was often spelled out F-U-S-S-Y
Or,  D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T

I read several parenting books as a new mom, one of them being Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. The author breaks down the top personality types of babies to help you understand your child's natural tendencies, and therefore learn to parent them better. She categorizes babies into five primary personality types: Angel, Touchy, Textbook, Grumpy, or Spirited. As I read, I quickly discovered that Aven had some Touchy baby characteristics, but she almost always lined up with the descriptions given for Spirited babies.

No, she wasn't colic or dealing with reflux. She nursed well. She slept fairly well. She definitely had happy, pleasant days. She for sure wasn't the hardest baby to care for...but she wasn't the easiest either. 

Thinking back, maybe her birth was the foreshadowing? She was nine days late and as many pounds, not to mention she had to be straight up evicted from her residence in my womb.

Like I said, challenging. Right from the start.

As an infant, Aven required (okay, demanded) almost constant attention and was only content for very short periods of time. I needed to be in her line of sight AT ALL TIMES. Which, for a newborn, is practically the end of their nose. She was fussy and whiny. She did not appreciate change. Or car rides. Or loud noises - her daddy mowing the grass would literally send her into frightened tremors. Actually, there was a whole long list of things she didn't like. And perhaps it seemed more exaggerated to me through the foggy lens of postpartum hormones and the shaky legs of new mom anxieties, but I do know that she was not what anyone would call an easy, relaxed, or chill baby. 

I always had to be a couple steps ahead to keep her from getting upset. People wonder why we rely on routine so much, but I think the mamas of challenging babies will back me up. Some structure keeps us ALL sane

The hardest part was that sometimes her disposition made me question myself as a mom and wonder what I was doing wrong. Surely there was some technique I wasn't doing, or something I did that I shouldn't have done. But that wasn't true. It's just who she is, and I absolutely do not want to change that. Now I can see how all of those little nuances ultimately came down to her deep need for contact, communication, and interaction. I had to take the time to really understand her personality and learn how to help bring out the best in her - just like any other parent. 

I'm still figuring this out. Daily

To you moms who can relate to me, with Touchy, Grumpy, or Spirited babies: Motherhood has a wonderful way of showing us God's grace upon grace. It never runs out, this grace. No matter how things are now, they won't be like this forever. (That applies in the seasons of good, AND the seasons of not-so-good.) Maybe your child will mellow out with time. Or maybe he won't, and instead you'll continue to learn how to parent him better and meet his needs in a way that provides some peace. On the hard days remind yourself of this truth: 

ALL children have their challenging years and stages and phases. (Yes, even those Angel babies!)
We don't get a say in when that will be. 
We only get a say in how we will let it affect us, and how we will parent them through it.

Aven just turned two, so I'm somewhat removed from those difficult infant days I discussed earlier. 

Right now, we are in a good place. I realize that since I typed that out tomorrow could be hellacious, but as of today? She's so much more manageable. She's fun. Her sweet personality is shining and blossoming. She can communicate! Game. Changer. (Notice I still didn't claim that she was so "easy" or "chill," because those are just not components of her personality -- and that is OKAY.) We still have tantrums and melt-downs and the whole thing because...well, she's two. 

When I'm at work, I often find myself chatting about my daughter with my patients, and there are so many times when a mom will respond to say she too, had a fiery daughter like mine, and do you know how she describes that child now? Fun. Outgoing. A huge heart. Extroverted. Engaging. A charming and magnetic personality. 

See? They are still being shaped and finding their way through their own personalities, and how blessed are we to help them uncover their story? 

Turns out, it is true: easy babies do exist. And so do cranky ones. And goofy ones. And spunky ones. And serious ones. Remember? It takes all kinds. 

And perhaps one day when they're all grown up and we talk about our "spirited" babies, it will be spelled out L-E-A-D-E-R or
W-O-R-L-D  C-H-A-N-G-E-R or some other wonderful, EXUBERANT thing. I can't wait to see how this all turns out. 

I can't wait to see how she turns out. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


A two-year-old calls me mom. I know! What in the world.

I'll admit I somehow became one of those people saying I had a "19 month old" or a "22 month old" so I have hereby vowed to no more counting by months since we've crossed the two year threshold. I apologize to those who find this utterly annoying. In an ironic twist, I too, find this annoying. Time to LET IT GO.

As a side note, those Minnie PJ's are size 3T. She just turned two! I feel like this is a little unfair and toddler clothes should run big so we can pretend our kids are smaller than they actually are. (Also, please note the twinning Minnie face she's making? Can't. Handle.)


I remember her birth and her first birthday so so vividly that it doesn't seem like it could be time to add another candle to the cupcake (or as she calls it, the "happy cake").  But, here we are. 

This second year went by even quicker than the first. Year one of motherhood was much more challenging with so many transitions and changes and adjustments and lack of sleep. But in these last twelve months, we sort of hit a groove and started to find our footing as parents. And her growth is just insane to watch. Every single day she learns something new, and it's just the best watching her bloom into her own little person. 

So here is a snapshot of Aven Harper (which she pronounces "Awen Hah-pah") at two years old.

// Day in the life //
She wakes every morning asking "Awen watch Mickey Mouse Cwubhouse, mommy." I oblige and set her up in the high chair with blueberry muffins and raspberries while she watches tv. Afterwards, it's playtime, and this is usually her most well-behaved time of the day because she's so well rested. 

She still takes a nap after lunch, and when I'm at home with her I totally indulge and lay down with her for the first little bit until she drifts off. I just can't resist this sweet time with her. I know it'll be gone soon so I'm soaking it up.

Evening bath time is always fun and it's her silliest time of the day. After bath, she goes to the potty (yay!) and we get her PJ's on, sing songs, and say a bedtime prayer. She will lay down by 8-8:15pm without fussing, mainly because by this time she is exhausted. She sleeps until 7-7:30am. 

What Aven is loving: 
being a helper: she'll throw away trash, turn off lights, go with me to get the mail, feed Hudson, and even sweep the floors! // riding her Power Wheels 4 Wheeler, with Minnie as her passenger // books // coloring // bubbles // watching videos of herself on my phone ("Mommy, Awen watch bideos") // the waving cat statue at the Japanese restaurant (she also imitates it with a dramatic two-arm wave) // animals // hiding in the kitchen cabinets // driving the car cart at Publix // music and dancing // being outside // having her back tickled // trains, especially real ones // Mickey and Minnie (duh). 

What makes her giggle endlessly: the word "booty." For real.

What keeps her occupied: Unloading and reloading her little grocery cart. And then repeat. She could (and does) do this all day.

What she's learning: Can count to 20 // Can say most of the alphabet song by herself // Knows her colors // Can identify some shapes. A lot of this, I will admit, is thanks to Mickey Mouse. I'm happy that her favorite show is at least somewhat educational. :)

What she hates: to have her feet touched // wearing coats and hats (and always always pulls one sock off...why??) // eating meat // long car rides

What she eats: She's pretty picky these days. She loves guacamole and any food that can be dipped, fruit, crackers, yogurt, muffins, and then everything else is hit or miss. 

Weight: 30 lbs (80th percentile) 
Height: 3 ft tall (95th percentile)

// Personality, Quirks, & Funny Stuff //
Dances either like a grandma (with her "snaps") or a character from Jersey Shore (repetitive fist pumps). Both are equally hysterical. 

Finally lets me put bows in her hair again. Praise Jesus! Her eyes are also happy about this development, I'm sure, because now they can see again. 

She's a talker. Lots and lots of words pouring from that little mouth all the time. Here are some of our favorites:
{ When she gets excited she says "oh boy!" like Mickey Mouse. And if something falls or breaks she'll ask "oh no, what's happened?" She says "hold you mommy" and "carry you" and I look down to see my heart in a puddle on the floor. Same melty heart when she gives me a big hug accompanied by an "aw wee!" and instead of "snuggle" she says "wiggle, wiggle" while she squeezes me tight. (insert every single heart eyes emoji here). When we pray she bows her head and glances up through squinted eyelids to see what's going on and then proclaims a loud "AMEN!" at the end. She still can't say her L's but instead replaces them with a "y" sound. Yemon (lemon), yime (lime), and yight (light) are some of the funny ones. She gives thumbs up and says "awesome!" }

A sneeze always, always requires a tissue, so she can scream "aaaachoo!" into the tissue. A little backwards, but we don't correct it because it's flipping adorable. (a video of this is on my Instagram from a little while back.)

She must have about 6 of her current favorite stuffed animals in the crib with her at night. Mickey and Minnie are the obvious ones, but she also loves her elephant, doggie, monkey, and mama fox and baby fox.

If we pass a section of fresh flowers at the store, she insists on getting close enough to sniff them. I secretly love this and hope it never ever stops. 

We do family dinner most Monday nights with my parents and siblings. Every Monday when I tell her where we're going, she starts naming off everyone she'll get to see and gets more and more excited with every name. She's still so social and loves people. 

Whenever she gets hurt, she always wants ice. Not for the boo-boo. Just to munch on.

Speaking of boo-boos, the second she gets one, she sticks that body part out at me "kiss boo boo mommy." I kiss it. "Aw bettah," she says. I know her hurts won't always be this small and healed with a simple mama kiss.

She's still such a girly girl with her love of nail polish, sunglasses, my make-up brushes, combing her hair, and carrying a purse around.

// Milestones //
Mouth completely full of teeth, which she loves to brush.

We've reached a level of independence now where she will play by herself in a separate room from me. I know that sounds simple and silly but it's something we've been working on for a while. 

She has begun to potty train herself, always asking to go after her bath every night. We do a little dance and sit her Minnie doll next to her on an empty tea pitcher so Minnie can potty too. Sometimes she'll ask to go other times during the day, but I never push it and am just letting her take the lead for now.

She's tall enough to sit in the booth at restaurants instead of the high chair. Which is actually really sad - she's only two! 

{ God, thank you for this little life! 
Thank you for choosing Brandon and I to parent her, it's honestly such a privilege. We are so amazed by her and so proud. Please guide her steps and draw her to yourself. 
We pray that she will never know a time when she didn't love Jesus. Thank you for every single person who pours into her life and helps raise her. Help us to parent her well. 
Thank you for this extraordinary love we get to experience through her, and how we get a glimpse into your Father-heart through parenthood. }