Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DIY: Corner "Zoo"

Hey all! I'm back with a project we worked on this weekend.

I've been wanting to build a "zoo" for Addi's embarrassing amount of stuffed animals. I'd seen some ideas on Pinterest but could only find the square versions. They're cute but seem to take up more space than Addi's tiny room would hold. I finally saw a photo of a corner one that I decided we had to do. The only problem? No tutorials. Yikes. We were riding blind. So I drew up a not-too-impressive plan in hopes that I could still remember the math required to get it done. [Spoiler: I didn't remember. Google to the rescue.]
After talking my husband into actually getting this done Sunday morning, we headed off to Lowe's to gather the supplies. I wanted a 4-foot tall zoo with 2-foot long legs.

Here's the stuff you'll need for those measurements [if you want different sizes, you're on your own, pal. My brain is math'd out.]: 
    - [6] 8-foot boards
    - Screws[We used 1-1/4 in. (3.18cm) exterior screws]
    - [2] 9' packages of elastic [I got ours at Walmart in the craft section] - You can also substitute these with bungees but I couldn't find any that I thought would work well.
    -1 quart of paint in any color [I barely used any so you could probably even get away with the samples they will mix you at Lowe's].

    - Saw
    - Drill
    - Staple Gun [not pictured because my husband hid it from me, apparently]
    - Measuring Tape
    - Paint Brush
    - Sandpaper

First off, measure and cut the wood. You'll need [6] 2' boards, [6] 4' boards and [3] 2.83' boards.
We built our zoo in sections. We started with the corner. For the corner, we screwed one 4' board into another.
Next, we attached [3] 2' boards to each side. Be sure to measure to make sure the middle board is actually in the middle.
Because we screwed one of the 4' boards into the other, they were uneven on the sides. No big deal because it was going to be in the corner and I don't think the kids were going to be critiquing our handy work [we could've used brackets but that's just one more thing you have to buy].
So, when you're screwing the 2' boards into the back, make sure to make up for the difference on the side that's longer. This ensures that each of the 2' boards are the same length.
After that you can screw two more 4' boards to the ends. [no picture, sorry!]

Next we did the front section. Screw the [3] 2.83' boards to [2] 4' boards. Again, don't forget to measure to center the middle board!
After this, I sanded down any rough edges and painted all of the boards that would be showing. I don't have photographic evidence because by that point, Addi was up from her nap and attempting to "help" us with the project. This resulted in a sawdust party and attempts to keep her away from the paint. You get the gist.

Next, using your staple gun, staple the elastic to the boards. I did each edge with 3 staples for some extra stability. These will probably get a lot of "love" when your kids take their animals in and out, so we need to prepare for the worst.

Since we were working on this project on a Sunday, I couldn't go to Hobby Lobby to get the embellishments I wanted. I took care of that Monday. I bought wood letters and spray-painted them with shimmer metallic spray paint. I also found some cute metal butterflies that I thought would add some extra color. [All purchased at Hobby Lobby..on sale to boot!]
Once the embellishments were on [I used hot glue to put them on], we took the two sections into her room and Matt screwed the front into the sides at each corner. We didn't screw it into the walls but if you're worried about your kids tipping it over, do that first [before you attach the front section].
I used the embellishments to cover up the screw holes on the top & used paint to cover the others.

So there you have it! Our zoo! 
Addi's obsessed with it. She kept calling it her birthday present? No idea where that came from. Her birthday isn't until November. Weirdo.

I hope this was easy to understand! I tend to forget steps so if you have questions feel free to ask me in the comments!

Stay awesome, bloggers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

6 Simple Party Planning Ideas for Your Littles

Planning parties can be tedious, exhausting and all around not-fun. Because of this, my motto when planning my kids' parties thus far has been "simplicity."
After all, do you really think your Little will be disappointed with anything at all involving their birthday?
Okay, maybe [especially if you're dealing with an illogical toddler].

Which brings me to my first tip:
1. Let them pick the theme 
I picked my daughter's first two themes because she didn't really know what a birthday was, let alone what Disney character she liked best.
For her one-year party I stuck to colors:
Fun & easy to decorate on a budget!
But if they're old enough to care, let them pick the theme! My nephew turns 4 in May and has already changed his theme three times. His mom drew the line at 3 so they're going with his latest pick, Avengers! Letting them pick gives them the control and will hopefully avoid an epic meltdown later.

If your kids aren't old enough to decide and you still want to do a theme, trust me: keep it simple. I loved the colors theme because I could get generic colored tableware, table cloths and streamers and it wouldn't cost me a fortune.

It seems like ALL of the trademarked party goodies should be trimmed in 14k gold for the price they want us to pay for them.
Since this is the case no matter where you buy, I suggest:

2. Buy some trademarked & stick to generic for everything else
Choose a couple of colors that match, say, the Buzz Lightyear plates and napkins you found and decorate the other stuff with those. You don't have to buy all Buzz plates, napkins, cups, streamers, party favors, table cloths, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, etc.
You'll quickly find yourself dipping into your kids' college fund and they will probably tell you later they think that was a pretty stupid idea, mom [though I would enjoy some Buzz Lightyear toilet paper, not gonna lie].

For my daughter's second birthday, I chose Dinosaurs because she was, and still is, obsessed with all things dinosaurs. I got a few dino decorations on Amazon and stuck with generic colors for the rest.

I even got the table cloths, plates & napkins from Amazon because I'm lazy and Wal-mart is the worst. I think for this party I spent less than $50 on all tableware and decorations. Not too shabby!

3. Party favors? I say "nay".
Guys, I get it. You want all the kids to have a good time and love your party. But does that really mean we have to send them home with a bag filled with $50 worth of stuff? No. My kid plays with cardboard. She ate dirt last week. Doesn't take much to entertain her.

I get a couple of things to make them feel extra special and call it a day.
For her 2nd birthday I got dinosaur masks and dino tattoos for everyone who attended.

Yes, that is my husband.
Yes he chose his forehead for the location of his tattoo.
Bonus Tip: Goodie bags for the adults? Beer. Just..lots of beer. 

4. Food & Cake
My family [both sides] is the not at all fussy when it comes to food. Everyone's usually happy with easy goodies so we don't over-do it.
Crock pot meat for sandwiches, lunch meat, chips, dips, etc. As always, sticking to my "simplicity" motto.
Crockpot dips, crockpot pulled pork sandwiches, chips - easy peasy
Taco fixings for [nephew] Max's 3-year "Planes" party
[Nephew] Maverik's 1-year "Lumberjack" party...all things manly
Maverik's "Blaze" waffle pajama party
My sister is the real party planner in our family. She even does those cute food tags with clever puns on them. For my nephew's 2nd birthday, he wanted a "Blaze waffle pajama party". I shit you not. It was amazing. Best party ever. We all wore sweatpants/pajamas, ate waffles and genuinely had a fantastic time. 
She's also clever with the food:
These cupcakes. Seriously. Where does she come up with this stuff?!
Now for the cakes...
Cakes are expensive [you guys probably think I'm poor. I'm not, I swear. I'm just cheap.] and I really don't like cake that much anyway. My sister & I are fans of going the alternative route. Ice cream cake or cupcakes. 
Addi's 2-year Dinosaur Ice cream cake - We had the dinosaurs already so I just stuck 'em on there and called it decor.
Maverik's 1-year tiny birthday cake
Addi's 1-year over-sized cupcake
Max's 2-year Buzz Lightyear cupcakes
Maverik's 2-year Blaze cake
My mom recently started a tradition of getting the kids these amazing cakes that a local gal does for her. It's fun for the kids and the cakes taste amazing [so I'm told. I'm weird about eating cake].

Any way you do it, kids tend to like sugar so I don't think you can really go wrong.

5. DIY
My sis and I complement each other well because where she likes to do fun things with decorating and the food, I love to DIY. It's just my thing. Cooking not so much.
The main reason I like to DIY decorations is because - you guessed it - it's cheaper! And I enjoy crafting like the true dork I am.
DIY Poms - These things are a pain in the ass to make, but totally cute!
Search Pinterest to find thousands of tutorials to make these.
I made the hats in this top picture out of scrapbook paper, felt, elastic, and some poms - all things I had on hand.
I get lazier as the years progress so I bought these hats off of Amazon and added the dinosaur tails with some blue scrapbook paper I had on hand. They were a hit with the kids!
My sister's centerpiece creation for Mav's "Lumberjack" party. All from the great outdoors!
I also choose to make them something special to wear rather than buying it because holy Lord have you seen how much birthday outfits cost on Etsy?? A lot. A lot of dollars.
Tutu I made out of ribbons & scrap fabric [my mom bought her the adorable "1" owl shirt]
Shirt I made with acrylic paint & white shirt from Old navy
I also make their invitations every year because I love doing it. My sister sends out e-vites via e-mail which I think are just as good. I simply enjoy making mine! 

6. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Reuse whatever you can from year to year to make it memorable [and cheap! haha]! 
You might have noticed the "Happy Birthday Adelaide!" sign in a few of the pictures. I made that for her first birthday out of more scrapbook paper I had lying around [you can tell how often I use scrapbook paper for actual scrapbooking]. I plan to use it for every birthday as long as it lasts.

I also use like to use streamers to create a cute photo backdrop. I plan on doing that for as many as birthdays they let me! :)
I made this balloon wreath for my sister's "She's about to pop!" baby shower back in 2012 [yikes, times flies]. The center part was removable so she can replace it with any little message she wants. I made one for Addi's first birthday as well and plan on using it for each of the kid's parties! 

I hope some of these ideas help with planning your littles' next birthday party! If you are working on something a little bigger, check out this event management system by Eventbrite. I've been chatting with a gal over there and she seems super cool!

As always, stay awesome bloggers. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My time is valuable, too.

Today I had a revelation. It stems not from ego or vanity, but from a place of true realization. 

Today I discovered that my time is valuable. 

I can't put a dollar amount on it. I'm not the President of the United States. I'm not even the type of person who sees someone she knows at the grocery store when I go shopping. 
I'm not claiming to be a big deal.

But I am a mom. I keep two kids alive on a daily basis. I'm a business owner. I'm the person who keeps our household running. I'm an office manager. I do a lot of shit that may not be important to some people, but it is important to others. And that means something to me. 

Let's rewind to the event that led to this stunning epiphany: 
an eye appointment. 
Yep, you read that right.

As I sat waiting in the lobby 30 minutes after my [according to the receptionist] five minute appointment was scheduled, my ears started releasing steam. 

Five minutes. This appointment will take five minutes. And I've been sitting here for 30.

It was only after sitting in the exam room for an additional 20 minutes that I came to the aforementioned conclusion: 
My time is way too valuable for this shit. 

I sat there, seething, making a list of things I could be doing instead of waiting in that wood-paneled room:
   I could be catching up on office work I didn't get done yesterday.
   I could be folding the laundry that I ran before I left because both of my kids peed through their diapers last night.
   I could be in my pajamas, nursing the cold that I just came down with.
   I could be reading a book to my daughter.
   I could be editing photographs on my computer.
   I could be updating Quickbooks.
   I could be paying bills.
   I could be doing literally anything other than sitting in this effing exam room waiting for a doctor to decide I was important enough to be next in line.

Don't get me wrong, I know doctors have a lot of things going on. Hell, I know anyone who works has a lot of things going on. But so do I. And that office made me realize just how vital time is.

Because life is short. 
Because I want to spend time with my kids while they don't hate me.
Because I like getting things done. 
Because sitting in a dingy Optometrist's office isn't something I enjoy doing.
Because my time is important, too. 

This isn't really about the doctor's office making me wait. I'm used to that after being pregnant twice. I spent a majority of 9 months at the Doctor. I get it. 

This is about me realizing that what I do, though it's not rocket science and I'm not necessarily changing the world, is important to some people. Just because I'm not out solving world hunger doesn't mean what I do doesn't matter. 

And I wanted to say it to anyone reading this because I'm guessing you don't realize how much you matter, too. Moms or Dads who stay at home with their kids, Grandparents, college students struggling to figure out their life, working moms and dads, single folk, hormonal teenagers who hate everything - you all matter to someone. It's a powerful thing to realize, and it's important that you do.

There are a lot of days when I feel like all I get done is changing shitty diapers and cleaning up messes my toddler made. Those days suck. 
But they still matter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Packing with kids

We recently traveled to Florida to see my in-laws while they're hibernating there for the Kansas winter. While I was excited to leave, it also required me to pack my newly 4-person family for a 5-day stay and a plane ride.
The last time I flew with my daughter, she was 9 months old. I had researched relentlessly and eventually just realized that shit was going to hit the fan regardless of how prepared I thought I was, so it was best to just let go, drink a beer and call it a day.
Now with two kids I was even more terrified. A toddler and an infant on a plane? Somebody get me a Xanax.
So I thought I would write a post about packing for a toddler and an infant in case you wanted advice. Or are entertained by other people's disastrous vacation experiences.

1. First Step: Put the kids to sleep

I cannot stress this enough: packing and kids do not mix. Toddlers love unpacking the shit you just packed MUCH MORE than you hate unpacking the shit when you get home from vacation. 
Go ahead and try the whole, "why don't you help mommy pack?!" approach with the hopes that it will be a fun bonding activity. I dare you. It does not work. 
Save yourself the aggravation and gather it all in one area, lock the door, and throw away the key until they're in bed. 

2. Don't even bother with the house
If you think to yourself, "I'd love to leave the house shiny and clean so I don't have to dick with it when I get back!" think again, my friend.
Because while you're busy trying to get the laundry done and finding the bottom of the sink filled with last night's dishes, your toddler is in the other room playing out her very own special version of Armageddon with the toy box.

This is their golden hour. They've spent the last two years preparing for this moment. Nothing can stop them now.

Put the dishes in the dishwasher to prevent weird smells when you return, finish the laundry so you don't have to walk around nude on the beach, and hope that the cats will get hungry enough to eat all of their own hair off the floor.

3. Speaking of cats...
If you're a cat-owner, you know this struggle.
The exact second that you bring a new piece of...well, anything out from a room they're not allowed in, they will immediately sit on it.
I don't care if it's a couch made of daggers. Those assholes will make themselves comfortable.
Don't leave anything on the floor unless you don't care that it's covered in cat hair.

4. Charge yo goods
For the love of God, do not get on the airplane only to find that you haven't charged the iPad. Or laptop. Or whatever you use. Nothing induces panic more than that moment you are trying to figure out what the Hell you're going to do to entertain a toddler for 3 hours in two cubic feet of space without technology.
Don't be that guy.

Alright, now on to the actual packing.

5. Pack all of the things.
-Car Seats: My in-laws drove down so they brought Addi's car seat [God bless them], pack and play and even bought a crib. All we had to bring was Will's seat. My sister let us use her car seat bag and we checked it with our big suitcases. I cannot recommend this enough. His seat handle [the Keyfit 30] did get a little banged up, but all of the Styrofoam was in tact [I took the covers off to check] and not cracked so I call it a success. There were a lot of people who checked their seats without bags and they came out looking gross. Of course they could've been gross before the trip across country but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Also, be prepared to sit and wait in terror at the luggage carousel until the very last bag comes up because they send all of the seats last [in Orlando they actually had it at a different carousel].

-Carry on's: We had about 90 4 carry-on's, which didn't include the umbrella stroller we gate checked.
Matt carried my computer bag with the laptop [I had work to do remotely while I was there], my camera [I don't check it because they don't exactly know the meaning of "fragile"], the iPad, spare diapers/wipes, a few snacks and coloring supplies.
I carried the diaper bag that was equipped with as much shit as you can imagine. I'm talking hoarder levels. Many people, including my mom, were entertained by the amount of crap I had out trying to entertain our 2 year old.
Among the thousands of items: 

  • 4 diapers for each kid
  • wipes
  • hand sanitizer [airports..gross]
  • books [new ones Addi got for Christmas and had never read]
  • changing pad
  • snacks..lots of snacks
  • more wipes
  • a few more "new" toys [I went downstairs and gathered up a bunch of them she never plays with anymore]
  • spare bottle/formula
  • spare paci
  • take & toss cups
  • Will's reflux meds [in case luggage got lost], infant tylenol & kid's ibuprofen

Addi got an awesome bag from her Aunt for Christmas which I packed full of toys that she had either forgotten about or were her favorites. I also bought her this adorable pair of headphones for the iPad on the plane that she used for approximately seven seconds. Money well spent, folks. [Side note: she also refused to carry her bag. We are slaves to a toddler.] Don't forget their favorite blanket & stuffed animal!

-Checked Bags:
I packed one large suitcase for the kids and one for Matt & I. As always, I over-packed, but I'd rather have too much than too little. My in-laws' house down there has a super nice washer and dryer, which I utilized a lot, and I only came home with a few pieces of dirty laundry!
A mother's dream...doing laundry on vacation.

Anyway, in the kid's bag I packed everything...diapers, sheets, blankets, clothes, bottles, formula, sippy cups, and all of Addi's extra crap that she brings to bed [which includes, her baby, bunny deer, two more lovies and about 33 other items]. I packed one extra pair of shoes for Addi and an extra pair of pj's for both, just in case. I knew we would have a washer/dryer in the event of a poop-tastrophe so I didn't go overboard on their clothes.

For Matt and I, I packed the usual plus anything that didn't fit into Addi & Will's suitcase. Our flight left at 7:10 am which meant leaving at the asscrack of dawn, so we stayed at a hotel the night before. This meant two extra overnight bags to prevent digging through our suitcases in the morning. We also had to bring two pack and plays for the hotel, but it beat bringing them through the airport too so I didn't mind a bit.

Overall the experience wasn't terrible, despite the low bar I had set for it [packing, not the trip. The trip was awesome.]. And I did manage to leave the house somewhat picked up, so I considered that a win-win. We also left before I had planned, which was a mind-blowing experience that will probably never happen again.

The airport and plane ride were a whole other experience that requires at least one other blog post so I might get to that in the next year or so [I jest].

If you're traveling with kids soon, God Speed. I'll drink a beer for you [or two].