Family Theme Dinners

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A good friend of mine who is very creative, and organized, and thoughtful, was talking to me about her summer plans with the kids. She casually mentioned needing to do some family theme nights with the kids “again”. This was mentioned in passing as if everyone did them and she was behind the game.

I immediately stopped her seeking clarification and much more information because this sounded interesting to me. And of course I had no idea what this was, I can barely get food on the table let alone make it fun for people.

Or can I?

As I probed for more ideas out of her I became more and more excited about this idea of making dinner time fun. Maybe this would curb the need to fight and complain at the table. Maybe the distraction would be just what we need to eat instead of walk around the room. Maybe? Could it be?
Probably not, but it might entertain the adults. That’s reason enough for me.

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My friend was more than willing to share her ideas with me. I love sharing mommy tips. People have the best ideas and solutions. I’m sure I have never solved any of my own homemaker problems. My friends solve them for me. They always give me the solutions I need. I love friends.

Back to what I was saying. I know my limitations. I can’t do much outside of the normal business routine of making three meals a day and cleaning up after them. I just don’t have it in me to spent a day coming up with great crafts and decorations, theming out my already hectic dinners with frill and glory. My friend doesn’t do this either, by the way.

But I thought If I could make them simple, no prep or minimal prep necessary I might actually be able to pull one off. I challenged myself to research (in my head and on the web) for easy themes for a spontaneous dinner time. After minutes of research I have come up with a nice little list. But before I share that list please keep in mind these are low prep. No fuss, easy, use-what-you-have, little-thought-needed kind of ideas. These aren’t Pinterest worthy, they aren’t even Instagram worthy. Just you and your family having a little fun kind of ideas.

The only way I can imagine this coming off well, and not lame-o, is to hand it to the kids and let them run with it. They get to decorate, they find their outfits etc.

So, if you do one I would love it to pieces if you would share your idea. That would be so fun. I promise to share mine and because I have no shame I might even dare put some on Instagram. Seriously no one follows me anyway!

OK here it goes:

Oh, I forgot to say, there is no meal coordination here, you eat what you were already planning to eat. Like I said no prep, people, I have to keep the bar really low for myself so I feel accomplished.

Ok here we go now:

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Hawaiian night. I can only do this because I happen to have a garbage bag full of grass skirts and stuff from a party we had once. We also have some old leis in the dress up bin and I’m sure I can scare up some Hawaiian music on the iPod. Plus the girls would love to braid their hair. That’s Hawaiian isn’t it? If not, it is now.

Blueberry Pancakes

Breakfast for dinner including Jammie’s. Ok I lied, you could combine the food with the theme on this one! This is the night you don’t have dinner planned and so you scare up some eggs or pancakes to eat. Tell the kiddos to go put their jam jams on while your fixing it! Hey, even bring the stuffed animals and blankets if you don’t mind the extra load of laundry you will have after they wipe their sticky hands on them.

Backwards. See, easy. Announce it is backwards night and everyone can turn their clothes around, eat desert first, walk backwards to the table. The kids can come up with all sorts of spins on this for sure.

Indoor picnic. Grab a blanket, some trash bags to put under if if you are like me and have white rugs in your home, and sit down on the floor of your living room to dine. You may want to use water bottles with tops for this one.

Dinner under the table. Instead of eating on the table eat under it. In my house this will have to happen on a night dad is out of town, he would not like this one.

Color. Pick a color and have everyone wear it to dinner. Or everyone wears their favorite color.

Costume. Everyone comes in some sort of costume and then you go around the table and explain who or what you are.

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Toothpick night
(I just came up with that one now). Eat your entire dinner with toothpicks. Or spoons, or chopsticks, or your HANDS! Oh, that could be fun.

Hollywood Night. This one is for number 4 who got mad at me yesterday for calling her fancy pants. Not sure why that offended her so much, she is fancy and proud of it usually. So this one is for you fancy britches. Dress up and then dress others up. And then re-dress yourself up. It’s going to be so fun and fancy.

That’s all I got. Do you have any you can share? Leave a comment with your ideas.

Have fun with this and remember set the bar low for yourself, the rest of your life its set too high, don’t make this stressful too.

Princess Tea Party

I’m sharing another fun birthday party we threw for one of the girls. If you want my philosophy on birthday parties click here. I probably don’t have to, but I feel like I always need to add a disclosure on our parties.

Theme: Princess Tea Party for a 7-year-old.

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Invitations: These are not actually ours, but they look very similar. We used shinny white paper and rolled them up with a pink bow. The inside was much more simple in our version, but the copy was similar, very formal and royal sounding.

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Decorations: We had so much fun with this one! Doorway curtains were made from pink plastic tablecloths. I hung them above the doorways and tied them back with bows creating a curtain affect. We created pink poms to hang from the ceiling out of tissue paper. These are easy to make, although tedious, and make a big statement. We hung tulle and put flowers on each chair. The place settings were personalized with name cards too.

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Activities: Upon arrival we had nail painting, dressing up and they got to pick a ring and tierra to wear during the party. As a craft we decorated foam crowns with stick on jewels. We played a few “princess” games like learning to walk with a book on your head and “throw the marshmallows in a teacup”. 

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The main event was the tea party. Each attendee was introduced into the royal tea room by our party butler, “Uncle Kevin”.  The curtain was pulled as he announced, “please welcome the lovely, princess #4…” and the little princess walked, ran or sashayed to their seat. Some with more vigor than others! Once seated they where  met by one of our servers to get their drink order. The food was then served on trays for each to choose their own preferences.

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Food: Tea sandwiches, cheese on toothpicks, crackers, mini muffins, and veggies.

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Cake: The cake was so special. I could never have made this, by the way. I don’t believe it comes in a box. But our good friends made this cake for us. It came complete with dry ice to make it “steam”. AMAZING!

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Goodie Bag: We created a candy bar for the girls to pick from including chocolate covered marshmallows, chocolate covered pretzels and all the pink colored candy we could find at the store. Each girl was given a white bag and could go through the candy bar choosing what they would like to take home. We sent enough home for the whole family, no doubt!

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So sweet! And just like all of our parties, none of this would have been possible without the help of our dear friends. We appreciate and love them so much for their love and support of ALL of us. THANK YOU ALL!

 

 

 

The Purging of the Closets

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You may, or may not remember how my small kids were destroying their closet – daily – for months. Hopefully you don’t. I had to barricade their closet so they couldn’t get in.

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This was obviously a temporary fix. I just can’t live with chairs out of place and bad traffic flow patterns in rooms. It’s just not OK with me. I like rooms pretty and functional and right.

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Over the past few weeks I have spent time cleaning out closets. This wasn’t your typical closet clean out where you go through everything, fold or hang it nicely, throw out a handful of items, and walk away feeling “successful”.

This was an all out purge. The purgiest purge you ever saw.

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First, I put all of the winter clothes in bins. Away they went to be stored until Fall. Every long sleeved shirt, long pair of pants, tights, sweaters and jackets. I only left a pullover or sweatshirt for chilly summer evenings.

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Second, I went through their clothes and donated any item I didn’t like seeing on them. Shorts I think are too short, shirts that are ugly, dresses that don’t make me smile. Anything I deemed inappropriate because it had shrunk in areas we wish it hadn’t. All of those items my kids always want to wear that I just don’t care for. You know the outfit, you’ve seen it so many times you want to burn it. Gone.

Don’t worry, they won’t miss them. They haven’t even noticed. They still have more than enough.

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So now our closets have about 1/3 of the clothes they used to have in them. This was a real clean out. The mess they make is only 1/3 of the mess they made before. Thank you. I never have to tell the smalls to go put on something more appropriate for the weather because it isn’t in there to put on in the first place. And I never have to worry about them coming down in an outfit I wish my friends didn’t have to experience on them.

This was time well spent. Really well spent.

Kids Devotional Books We Like

I’m always looking for a good devotional book to read with the kids. I’ve bought a ton of them and left most on the shelf after a few lame reads. But I have found a few that we really like. I thought I would share the ones we have read over and over with you in case it’s helpful.

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The Big Picture Story Bible is fantastic. It isn’t just big pictures; it tells the big picture story of the Bible. Through it’s pictures and stories it shows how Jesus is woven throughout the new and old testament. It’s an overview of the Bible: telling the story of Jesus, why he had to come, how he came and what it did for us. It is really well done. The book comes with a CD where the author reads the book and children can follow along including bells to tell you when to turn the page.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is another book that comes (in one version) with a CD so you can follow along. This book tells lots of bible stories and is very well written. It doesn’t just cover the well known stories it also develops some of the disciples lives through stories. This is one we have read over and over and over.

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Jesus Calling Bible Storybook is new to our collection. It tells a short Bible story and then gives a Jesus Calling type devotional based on the story. As with all of the Jesus Calling books it brings a beautiful personal application piece at the end pertinent to children’s life issues. We are reading through this in the evenings right now and the amount of time it takes to read one is just right for the smalls’ short attention span before bed.

This may also be a good opportunity to mention that there is a Jesus Calling for Kids available. It follows the same format as the adult version but the life applications are much more in line with things kids deal with. I also have the Jesus Calling for Kids app on my iPhone. Sometimes I read this to the kids in the morning during breakfast before sending them out for the wolves to devour.

Every Day a Blessing: A Year of God’s Love. This is a really interesting book. There is a devotional for every day of the year and each one presents a different blessing from God. They each start with a key verse then a short story from the passage and a quick question or statement of the blessing we can derive from the passage. My kids and I can always use a reminder of the ways God blesses us. This is another one I like to read at breakfast. It sends you off with something to think about and look for that day. It is also a quick read making it easy to squeeze it into even the busiest of mornings.

 

 

The Confiscation Technique

I have been thinking about what habits I need to change in order to live with less. There will be changes in buying habits for sure. But this week I was struck by the amount of stuff the little people bring in, and spread around, that we didn’t buy. I mean, it comes from everywhere. Everyone wants to give kids a little “prize” these days. Again a reminder of how our culture has fed this epidemic of too much is not enough. This notion that you need a prize for every little thing you do is ridiculous. Can’t we just go to a restaurant and eat? Isn’t that treat enough? We don’t need a promotional prize for that. How about the dentist, shouldn’t we go because its good for us? A “thanks for coming” should be good enough. Healthy teeth is your prize.

So the past week or so I have taken note of the times when I noticed a lot of garbage about to enter my home. And then I stopped it before it entered!

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Eating Out
We went to a fast food joint to eat the other day for a quick lunch while we were out. They each got a “toy” with their meal. I say “toy” because, come on, it can hardly be classified as a toy. Advertisement, ploy, junk is more appropriate. On the way home in the car, about two “toy’s” hit the floor and I knew those were not leaving the car unless I picked them up. All of the packaging for the toys was on the floor too. Why do we need so much plastic? There was plastic inside of plastic and a bag to hold the plastic.

As we pulled into our driveway I thought to myself “if I let this stuff enter my home I will be picking it up everywhere for the next week”. So I decided to confiscate it before it went in.

I put the car in park and locked the doors. I asked everyone to pick up the trash on the floor and put it in a grocery bag I had laying around. Once it was picked up the door opened and the kids were off – except for the one that was being the pushiest and they got to go throw the bag away.

I thought of some other strategies here that I could use in the future.

1. The person in the car who does not put their seatbelt on when asked can be the one to clean up for the rest of us after we get home.

2. The instigator in the back seat who is pushing everyone’s buttons could be the picker-upper.

But the most important thing is to make myself comfortable while they get their clean up done. So I put on some tunes that I liked, tilted my seat back and relaxed. I could also, pick up a book and read, get out and check my garden, return a text I received while driving. I’m sure we can all think of something.

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The Dentist Visit
I’m so thankful the dentist is sweet and generous with my children but you would not believe how much stuff we came home with the other day after 4 of them had a visit. Four bags to hold our crap, 4 toothbrushes complete with packaging, 4 flossing sticks with sacks to hold them, 4 toys that broke on the way home, 4 toothpastes with boxes, 4 cards with something on them that I didn’t even read – probably an ad. You see where I am going with this. You have more than one kid and this starts to pile up FAST.

Getting better at this game, I confiscated the bags in the dental office before we left by offering to help them carry their stuff. That was easy and it sounded so nice. Once we got home I threw everything out immediately keeping only the toothbrushes, toothpaste and flossing sticks (sans packaging).

It was a ridiculous pile of trash for just a dentist visit. And it would have been all over my upstairs if I had not used the confiscation technique.

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The Last Day of School
Not that this happens often, but man does this day provide a lot of trash. Oh, there is plenty of good stuff to save and ooh and aah over, but there’s a lot of junk too. My plan was to confine and deal with it immediately before it began to spread. So we left it all in the mud room and I asked them to sort it out: trash, keep in their personal tub or keep on their bulletin board. The plan seemed to work! They all did it except for one who decided to throw a fit, so I did it for them. Perfect!

So I learned this week that I need to be vigilant about not letting the stuff come into my home in the first place. Vigilance – that’s the hard part.

Inspiration Gallery Wall

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I have been seeing these gallery walls EVERYWHERE! I love them. But, I didn’t have the time to do one.

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Then one day at a MOPS meeting they gave us these beautiful slate boards. And I knew I had to put it up someplace special.

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I have this one wall in my mud room. It’s the first thing you see when you come in and the last thing you see when you go out. And it is ugly. So, I set out to create a very small gallery wall there featuring my new slate board.

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My gallery wall isn’t much, but its something, and it is a whole lot better than it was!

Weekend Inspiration – Guest Room

I purchased a burlap headboard for my guest room this week. I have no idea what I am going to do with that room, but this headboard was a good deal – and I liked it. So, I guess I am going to design a room around a burlap headboard.

After thinking about it, for like a day, and getting some ideas online I think I am going to challenge myself to design a nice comfy room with flea market finds. I know people do this all the time, and are very talented at it, but this is going to be a stretch for me. It’s not a stretch because I don’t like to save money, it’s a stretch because I don’t always have the time to hunt through thrift stores and the like. But, I’m going to try. Beware, this may take me a really long time.

Here are some of my inspiration photos:

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I love the old windows.

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I love these ruffled pillows. And framing your password for guests is kind of a cool idea. Plus that frame is beautiful!