Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mr. Boy's Minecraft Party

Mr. Boy is going to kill me with these themes he keeps throwing at me.  Last year he wanted an Angry Birds party, but after I used my mad negotiating skills I convinced him to do an Army Party.   It was awesome, if I do say so myself.

For the last five months Mr. Boy  has had one thing on his mind, which is Minecraft.  He was adamant he wanted a Minecraft party.  We sat down and he described the perfect party.   "We recreate the game in the backyard and my friends can dig and mine for diamonds and iron ore. Then we have four game trucks show up and we play Minecraft.   Next we have Cake Boss deliver a Minecraft themed cake,  will he deliver one to California?"

Oh, Mr. Boy, that sounds lovely, but it's a little out of my budget.  So I turned to my very favorite friend Pinterest and she delivered a wealth of party ideas. Some of these folks are crazy, and they must mortgage the farm to fund these parties, but I found a ton of good ideas.

 I barely knew what Minecraft was when I started, other than it's a video game with terrible graphics.  The only redeeming quality is that Mr. Boy will do anything to be able to play Minecraft and I have used it as a bribe many times to get things done.  

I always love to take a photo of the birthday boy with each guests to send with the thank you note.   We used an old frame with some felt squares in the background  to give it a Minecraft feel and I had props for the kids to use.  I made that "Creeper Party Hat" by gluing some felt and a pom pom onto it.  Mr. Boy hated it and thought he looked like a dork, but I thought it was awesome!  Plus it showed off my clever crafting skills, which I mean.... really... isn't that what throwing a party is all about? *insert tongue in cheek*
I'm not going to lie, this party had some hit and misses.  Ten year old boys are a tough crowd.

Miss: When the kids arrived they decorated "drink koozies" by drawing something "Minecrafty."  It was kind of lame, I wouldn't do it again.    
 Hit: The next activity was decorating "Minecraft Notebooks" with stickers that I made.  It was a pain in the rear, printing all the stuff on sticker paper and cutting it out.  I swear I spent a couple nights hanging out with the TV and my paper cutter, cutting until my arm went numb.   I had stumbled on this lady's website that had all these awesome files to download for the stickers.   . 

Miss:   We played "Pin the Pickaxe on Steve". Mr. Boy drew this awesome Steve and even though the kids were blindfolded they all pretty much were able to figure out where the pickaxe should go.   I think they officially have aged out of this game. 
Hit: Swimming after the games and activities, always a hit.  Even better, having Aunt Cinnamon come and lifeguard!  She provides that extra peace of mind, especially when there is a gaggle of ten year old boys all jumping around in the pool. 
Other Hits:  When Mr. Boy realized I would be in charge of the cake, he was leary, and he has every right to be.  We opted for Minecraft inspired Rice Krispy Squares.   A layer of "grass" (really just a layer of green Rice Krispies) and then the dirt, iron ore, or whatever it is under grass in that crazy Minecraft game. No one seemed to miss the cake and ice cream. 
The kids loved the Creeper Juice, it was simply Gatorade with a little duct tape and a creeper face. 

The Party Favors were little boxes of TNT, which was filled with licorice.  The boxes are the 3x3x3 inch size from Papermart.
We had a tough time trying to come up with the favor bags, well, really, it was all me being indecisive,  Mr. Boy had no opinion.  I originally wanted to do these, but after cutting out 1,000,000 stickers, I was out of steam.
 So, in the end, I went with simple and no one seemed to care, which is what I realized is the best thing about 10 year old boys.   
They are pretty stoked with just getting to hang out, eat junk food, and goof around with their friends.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Le fran├žais moyen - Back to School Shopping my way

I love shopping and I love my kids, but they don't always mix.  I remember being  little and going back to school shopping with mom and brothers to Sears and Miller's Outpost.  It took an entire day, at least, and the only bright spot was we got to go out to lunch.   I hated it even though I loved getting new clothes.
One of the best things I've discovered in the last few years is doing our back to school shopping at Nordstroms for the kids.  When I was working at the fancy firm, I used Nordstrom's Personal Shopping Service. (It's free, did you know that?)   The gal I used was awesome, and totally understood working within a budget.  She mentioned the very best deals are during the Anniversary Sale that takes place in Late July.   Ever since then we make an annual trip to Nordstroms for back to school shopping.
I tried using the Personal Shopping Service for the kids clothes, but I found the personal shoppers are used to working with mostly adults.  I've had the best luck just calling  in the morning, and talking to someone in the children's department to see if they can pull some clothes for my kids and letting them know what time we want to come in.  My kids love walking into the dressing rooms with outfits all laid out for them to try on.   They try on the clothes and decide which ones they love.  This year AK loved the accessories the most and the shopper showed her different ways to wear her outfits.  Most of Mr. Boys shirts were on sale and about the equivalent price of a Target shirt ($12 bucks) , but better quality.  AK's wardrobe was a mix of sale pieces and non sale pieces, but I swear I want to steal some of the clothes she got.  We finished in about an hour and no one felt tortured.
My very favorite part was when AK walked out in an outfit that was a little mature for her.  She LOVED it, Mr. Boy did not.   Mr. Boy turned to our shopper, and said, "I think this is a little too teenager-ish, perhaps you could find something with kittens on it?"  
 Would you believe that our shopper came back and said, "Mr. Boy, I couldn't find any dresses with kittens, would you settle for ponies?"  If only, we could keep AK wearing dresses with ponies and kittens forever.

FYI - The Anniversary Sale is going on NOW!  Also, if you get a Nordstroms Credit Card, you can shop the presale days and earn double points! 

**Disclaimer** All opinions are my own, I was not compensated by Nordstroms, nor am I affiliated with Nordstroms.  However, I am totally open to being compensated in the form of shoes, si vous plait.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mr. Boy, On your tenth birthday

Dear Mr. Boy, 
On the occasion of your tenth birthday, I sit to write you a note.  I cannot believe you are ten, it seemed like yesterday you were toddler wearing overalls dragging your blanket around.   Where does the time go?  This is something people would say as I was growing up and I would just nod and say, "Yes, time sure does fly by."  I never believed it, but now... I get it.  It is a strange phenomenon of seeing you grow up in a blink of an eye.
This year was has been a great year for you.   You had a school teacher who loved you and motivated you.  She was the answer to many prayers and it is amazing how much a teacher can impact your life.   I sent you off to school each day envious of your teacher, who got to spend so much time with you.   I missed you and the school year seemed to drag on.  It's not a secret, I love summers, and I love hanging out with you and your sister all day long.  We swim, we watch shows together about crab fishing, and read books.   There isn't the strict school schedule and we can see where the day takes us.  I feel like a nag all school year.   "Get your soccer gear on, it's time for practice."  "Finish your homework." "Put away your Laundry"  "Do your chores."  I know you think I love "barking orders", but really I am not a fan.
You have this personality, that naturally makes people of all ages want to be with you.   You always have had a magnetic personality, but this year, I notice you becoming more self conscientious in new situations.   You embarrass easier and you hang back instead of jumping right in.  It kills me to see this change, but I know it happens as your approach the teenage years.  I want you to remember that you are amazing, and that having confidence will take you very far in life.    A firm handshake and eye contact are an important life skill and never ever be afraid to jump right in.   Sure, some people may think you are a fool, but those are not the people you want to be friends with anyway.  I can not tell you enough, that confidence is a key to success.

I am so torn with how to handle your persistence.  You do not take "No" easily as an answer, and I want to teach you to be persistent, but also to know when to accept the answer that is given.   We butt heads a lot and you tell me all the time that I "yell", but it is not so much of a yell other than my firm voice, to let you know it's not negotiable.   Your persistence and drive will have payoffs in your career, but I don't know how to balance the household without squashing your persistent nature.   There is no instruction book in parenting and that is probably the most challenging thing about having a family.   Each kid is unique and there isn't a manual that tells you how to do things.   I am sometimes just guessing at what the right thing is to do.  You are my first born and I'm bound to make mistakes, I just pray that they aren't mistakes that break your spirit. 
You and your sister got along so well this year and then the week before summer, Boom!  You became mortal enemies.  I have been reminded that my brothers and I fought all the time, and now we are the dearest of friends.  Even though my brothers were my enemies growing up, they were also my fiercest protectors.  They always had my back, and when I needed them, they were there for me. Even now, they are there for me.  When you read these letters 100 years from now, I want you to remember to be your sister's best friend.  She is going to need you, and you will need her.  There is something about having a friend who has known you most of your life who can give the advice you need to hear.  You won't always like their advice but they know you best of all.
I am reminded that all the bickering you are doing with AK will make her stronger.  I have always felt confident that I could hold my own, because "I'm not scared of anything, I grew up with older brothers."  One time, there was a man following me out to my car late at night, I don't think he had the best of intentions.  I turned around and yelled at him, "You are messing with the wrong chick, I grew up with only brothers, and I'll kick you so hard, you'll squeal like a pig."  The man turned down an alley, and walked away really fast.

This past year you have been angry at your Grandfather for moving across the country with his new wife.  It has been hard and I know you have felt cheated.   Nana and Grandpa came to visit almost every week of your life, and after Nana died, Grandpa came even more often than that.  It has been hard for you to know how to process your feelings and you refused to talk to him for most of the year.   It has been your first time really learning how to forgive and move forward.  It's been a tough lesson to learn, but trust me, it's better to learn to forgive and move forward than to hold a grudge and constantly be stuck.
You still love Legos and books, and I would be content to stop the clock right here and freeze this age forever.   You often will sit and chat with me while you fiddle with Legos and I cherish this time.   You are reading many of the books that I read at your age and I love chatting with you about them.  You love to learn about new things and right now you are obsessed with the Revolutionary War and Greek Mythology.   I hope you never stop wanting to learn about history and you never stop reading.  This has been our Harry Potter year, and we finished reading the entire series and watched the movies together.  It was fun to discuss the book vs. movie differences and you felt cheated that the movies left some parts out.   You just watched the Lord of the Rings movies, and said, "I'm going to read the book now to see all the parts I missed."  If only we could direct this passion into school.   You are so smart and you don't even have to try and you get good grades.   We are trying to teach you to put in the little bit of extra effort so you can get excellent grades. Don't just coast through life, my son.  Put forth the effort to really get the  most out of life, it's worth it, I promise.
 As I crawl into bed each night, I thank God for giving me you and your sister.  Then I turn to your dad and tell him, "We are so lucky, Mr. Man."   You are my son, stubborn like me, with a zest for life that is contagious.   You and I laugh all the time and we have fun together, and I hope that you have that same relationship with your own children.   I love you to the moon and back and then an infinity more.