Tuesday, February 25

Happy Frozen Birthday Princess Ella!

My sweet, round faced four year old went and turned five on me this month. 


And yay!  

If you're a mom you know how I feel. A birthday as significant as five should be celebrated big time , but it's so hard to believe it's happened so quickly and comes with a certain amount of disbelief. 

All that said, we had a party for her two and a half weeks ago now...(also hard to believe!) and while I meant to post this much sooner than now...well, here it is... and that's about how things go in my world these days (:

Our house is about all things Frozen these days and thus our theme for the party emerged quite quickly and without hesitation! 

If you have little girls between the ages of 3-10 in your life, chances are you have been as indoctrinated into all things "Frozen" as we have. While I can't say for sure (I don't know the stats) it seems, that for some reason, this movie has taken off with the little princess crowd to a degree much greater than many of the other recent Disney movies.

I mean we liked Tangled, but we LOVE...we ADORE...we SING until we're blue in the face,  all things Frozen.  We have hand motions to "Let it Go"  and skits inspired by "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

And, I must confess, sometimes reindeer ARE better than people...but I digress (that's an inside joke for those of you haven't seen the movie).

We've seen the movie in the theatre twice, have watched every preview and clip that You Tube has to offer on multiple occasions and play the soundtrack daily (and from the Facebook posts I've been reading it seems that we might not be alone!).

If you are the parent of a princess who has been bit by the Frozen bug and whose birthday happens to fall in the current winter months chances are you too may have spent time tracking down sold out plates and napkins and party favors at party city and scouring online sites for all things necessary for a Frozen themed Birthday party.

You may have even paid $6, plus shipping for 75 "smile maker" Frozen stickers (you know the ones they give away at the doctors office to bring back a smile after a stressful visit!) for goody bags, even though you  knew it was a very irrational and impractical thing to do because all such stickers and favors were deemed "sold out" at every store and website you visited.

Or maybe that was just me (:

My husband likes to tease me, when I'm griping about how little time I have, that if I put as much time into my writing or organizing our infamous basement as I do into planning my girl's birthday parties that I'd probably have things more figured out.


 I'm not even sure what to say to that. Except that the girls only turn 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 once. And quite frankly, I know that here will come a time when they will cringe at the thought of Disney themed birthday plates and homemade glitter crowns...the days are long, but the years are very, very short and so I'm making the most of these birthdays (as insane as I swear they are going to make me sometimes!) and we try to celebrate in style.

Or at least as much style as this anxious momma can handle...

Ah yes, big-ish birthday parties, with almost a dozen wee ones who would rather play in our playroom then participate in the complicated craft that the overzealous mom planned, are one of those things I would have said I would NEVER do before becoming a mom...

Ahhh....I was so naive about who I would be as a mom.

That list is becoming quite long and most recently includes picking my daughter up from preschool, on a regular basis, at noon, in the same clothes that I wore to bed the night before with no makeup and a hat to covered my tattered mess of hair...because...I kid you not, between nursing the baby and cleaning up breakfast there is no time left over for getting dressed.

But I digress...again.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. The very funny story of entertianing nine sweet little girls for 2 1/2 hours and living to tell about it (:

Our cupcake and favor table...can you see the purple snowflakes that Scott and I were hanging from the ceiling at, I kid you not, 12:30 a.m. the night before?  

the cupcake and goody bag toppers were created from a file I purchased from an artist on Etsy. You'd be surprised at how many party suppliers you can find on there and what they can create. We also purchased the file for Ella's invitations (which were really cute) and her thank you notes. We had everything printed out on card stock at Office Depot and then I purchased a large, round scalloped paper punch to punch out the cupcake toppers. The best part about it was that they were personalized with her name...so cute!

Here is a link to the Esty Shoppe I used...Digi Party Shoppe

Goodie Bag Loot

Good bags

The peppermint white chocolate covered snowflake pretzels I found at Wal-Mart turned out to be a party favorite...Who would have guessed?!

A couple of the girls with the crowns and wands we made...note to self...I should have just made them myself before the girls showed up and let them run around the house hitting balloons at each other with their pre made gear all ready to go!

Scott's very fair question to me..."Um, Honey, was this craft for 4 year olds or 10 year olds?"

There is, after all, a big difference.

I knew there was a reason I majored in elementary education for just one semester in college before switching to secondary education. 

The girls watching You Tube videos of Olaf and Elsa streamed through Apple TV.  

Haha. The lovely fruits and veggies I cut up. Another note to self...Four year old girls really like fruit and don't really like vegetables. At least not at birthday parties! 

The paper goods!

Our lunch crew. 

Pin the carrot nose on Olaf (I can't find my after picture!)...a game that was MUCH more competitive than I would have guessed! 

Happy Birthday Ella Bear! Or "Elsa Bear" as Nanner so creatively coined and you now prefer to be called (:

One quick picture of the day after the Frozen party, which was Ella's actual birthday. It has become a right of passage in our house (that Scott cringes at) to get an American Girl doll for your fifth birthday. I won't go on and on about how stinkin' expensive the dolls are... I will say, despite their steep price tag they are very well made and Ella LOVES her new doll. And the girls have played dolls almost every day since...which is very sweet.

So, there you have it...a successful princess birthday party for my sweet five year old. 

I told Ava and Ella they are both having their next birthday party OUT of the house. I love them to pieces, but I do, after all, need a little more time to clean my basement and write blog posts...

It's all a precarious balance that I'm afraid I will never figure out, but in the meantime Disney songs and glitter crowns are kind of fun, if I do say so myself! 

P.S. Two more suggestions for Frozen party ideas...

1. My friend Chaunie recently wrote an article for the Disney baby website about hosting a Frozen party and offers links to a few more fun ideas. You can read her article here...

(she happened to borrow a photo of Ella's cupcakes, which was kind of fun! You may recognize the photo!)

2. I found a ton of stuff on Pinterest (go figure!) including the template for the crowns we made and  printable pictures which ended up being a favorite and a great activity for the girls at the end of the party while we were winding down and waiting for parents (:  

Saturday, February 22

Five Minute Friday: Small

Photo taken by Alison Fancher

      When I am feeling particularly punchy, and silly and surprised by all of the moments and details in my life that revolve around children you will find me proclaiming to anyone listening (usually said children or my husband) that I live in the land of the little people.

     There are a lot of small details in the land of the little people. And small moments. Created by those sweet small people. They happen all. day. long (and there is nothing small about that!).

     Funny thing is that when we named Aubrey we simply liked her name and hadn't agreed on anything else until her name popped into my head during the very early hours of labor.  So we went with it on a whim, in the hospital, in the hours after she was born.

     We had no idea what it meant and were ok with that.

     By the time we signed the birth certificate and looked it up online I almost laughed out loud.

     origin: French, meaning: ruler of the elves or little people

     Haha. We still loved the name, but you must confess it seems oddly ironic!

    Adding to the humor is that our last name happens to be "Littlewood".

     We've gotten all sorts of renditions on this from well meaning and well joking individuals...Little-field, Little-tree, Small-wood, Wood-chip (Scott's nickname for a while).

    Though I must say, my favorite may have been the four year old who, several weekends ago at my daughter's birthday party, blurted out, "Mrs. Hollywood! I need help with this NOW!"

    She was spunky, that little one.

    But, I must say, I like Mrs. Hollywood. My life feels so very un-Hollywood that I can almost think of nothing funnier and more appropriate to take on as a alter ego at this stage of life.

     And so we are the Littlewoods, who live on Trentwood trail, in the land of the little people, currently ruled by Aubrey who determines the majority of our schedule at every waking and sleeping hour.

     It's a crazy life that revolves around small pieces of toast, and little socks, and small hands that just figured out how to lift the toilet lid and splash around in the water. Those little hands are also attempting to scale stairs, open drawers and cabinets and yank on strands of her older sisters' hair when she can get a handful.

    There are two other littles in the house who are getting surprisingly big. Their legs are getting longer right before my very eyes and their hands are so much bigger now. It makes my mommy heart lurch just to think about it. They can swing on swings by themselves and even stir pancake batter.

     Just this morning, as they were all cuddled in our bed at 7:02, an hour much earlier than we would have liked, but surprisingly acceptable in the land of little people, I looked at Ella (my middle child) and said..."Ella! Stop growing! When did you and your sister go from this (I point to Aubrey) to this (I put my hand on the top of her head and tousle her hair and then look over to wink at Ava).

    She smiles big and her round eyes glisten as she shrugs and says, "I dunno."

     I don't know either. It all happens so fast!

     And while it can all sometimes feel like a LOT of small details that can honestly sometimes feel a wee bit overwhelming, I have big hope.

    I am hoping that the way Scott and I are choosing to handle the details, as small and many, and as relentless as they can be, will result in a big impact on their little hearts.

    I am hoping that someday all of this growing and training in their lives right now will have a big impact in their small corners of the world wherever that may be.

    We'll probably realize then that so much of our lives now was not so small after all.


This post is part of 5 Minute Fridays hosted by Lisa Jo Baker. To read more posts like this or to learn more about 5 Minute Fridays click 

Tuesday, February 11

Ignore the Mess and Invite Them Anyway!

We recently had some very new friends over for dinner, on a whim, and as it turns out we all had a great time!

Go figure (:

The kids played well together and the conversation flowed freely.  The pizza was overdone, but it didn't really matter because when you're trying to feed five kids at the same time and then scarf down some food before the next request by one of the little people, you hardly notice such details.

All in all, I'd say it was a success.

You should know two things about me before I go on...

1.) I don't invite people over super duper often, mostly because my house always feels like a super duper big mess.

I feel like this is one of the big conundrums of this season of life with small children-- we would like to connect more frequently with friends, old and new, but it requires the effort of cleaning while the kids are continually messing and sometimes it all feels completely impossible, if not just a wee bit overwhelming.

We pretty much live by this motto...

(borrowed from Google Images)

2.) In addition to #1 I've concluded that the gift of hospitality is not in my top 5 naturally instinctive gifts. I always enjoy it after the fact, but it can tend to cause me a great deal of stress beforehand. What do people drink? What do they eat? What will they think of our chipped, 10 year old plates that we received as a shower gift? Where will they sit? Our house isn't designed for entertaining! 

I know. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

I agree. I'm working on getting over my silly self.

Which is why, on impulse, I extended an invitation to a family from church who is relatively new to the area, who have kids of similar ages to our own and live in a town just a few miles away from us. This momma and I met at a church event on a Monday night and next thing you know I was inviting her over for dinner, via Facebook, by Wednesday.

Who says social media is a bad thing?!

Here is a snippet of our conversation beforehand...

Sounds great! So crazy that you're inviting perfect strangers over to your house for dinner, but we're grateful, glad it worked our and looking forward to it! Lol!
January 23rd, 11:31am

Haha! You can always figure church people are pretty safe! (: See you then!

Even though she has two boys and we have three girls, the kids were virtually best friends by the time the evening was over. Their older son and our two older girls bonded instantaneously over their love for all things related to the movie Frozen. Scott and her husband share a strong love of music and so besides talking about it themselves, they had four of the kids down in our basement (You are a friend forever if you've seen my basement and STILL like us) singing along with the Frozen soundtrack via You Tube videos.

She and I chatted about typical mommy things. You know, namely, the challenge to find time to...well, do anything.

In our specific cases we both have a desire to write in some capacity and so it was fun to chat about how we try to recover the intellectual side of our brains in hour and half segments when we finally get out of the house to do some writing.

Or, how, when I finally get out of the house to work on a piece of writing I stare blankly at my computer screen for long periods of time and fear that the intellectual side of my brain is shutting down forever.

Sigh. We'll save that story for another day!

All that said, if the evening was going to be crazy with kid stuff one way or the other (and dinner almost always feels a little bit like a circus at our house!) why not let it be crazy with friends, right?

I have friends who seem so much better at all of this than I am...Friends who are either cool with inviting people into their messy house no matter what, or don't get anxious about the whole thing, or somehow seem to have a handle on the housecleaning and seem to have a perpetually "almost ready" house for entertaining...

But I'm learning...

Not everything went "as planned" that evening...

I had intended to make homemade pizzas, but opted to order them a couple hours beforehand when I realized Scott was going to be home precariously close to the time our guests would arrive. I was having heart palpitations over visions of myself breastfeeding a baby on the couch with flour all over my hands and face and a half kneaded pizza dough on the counter when everyone arrived.

I also had no intentions of anyone venturing down into our basement...to see the cluttered abyss of baby stuff and Christmas stuff and Scott's work stuff and music stuff and the laundry all in one swirling, twirling, haphazard display.

Oh, but alas...that is where the men and the children somehow ended up.

It's kind of funny...and ironic actually.

So, all that to say, if you've intended to invite someone over for dinner, but have hesitated because you too feel ill-inclined for such things, it's time to extend the invitation. I can promise you a couple of things...

1. It's going to be o.k.
2. You will make a deeper connections which will make it all worth while
3. They may see the messiest part of your house, but they will like you anyways. (And, if they don't, they're not worth keeping around as friends. It's kind of like a litmus test!)

Sunday, February 2

Finding Joy...A Post That Ended up Ironically Being About Groundhog's Day

As I rolled out of bed one morning late last week I did two things:

1) I vowed to have a good attitude
2) I said a prayer to help me with #1

I was tired and feeling a little bit like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day-- you know where he re-lives the same day over and over and over and OVER again. If you are a mom you may have had that feeling once or twice yourself.

My prayer went like this:

Dear God,

It's me...again...

 I'm sorry I'm crabby (let's just be honest here!). I don't want to be, but my sleep is a little shoddy and the kids are very busy and I'm a little tired-- it's kind of a bad combination. I'm feeling a little bit like a marathon runner in a race that is entirely up hill on a really windy day. Please help me to be patient today. And grateful. Help me to spread sunshine and love my children well. Thank you for ALL that we have. Truly. I am a blessed woman. We are a blessed family. Thank you.   Amen.

After making my vow and saying my prayer I got out of bed to head downstairs and pour a cup of coffee...the final element in the mommy survival triune; attitude (a good one preferably), prayer, and coffee!

(I must confess, I  then held a brief moment of empathy for my own mother whose morning coffee habit  I used to greatly misunderstand) "What? You can't hold a reasonable conversation or hand me a box of cereal before you have your coffee?"

Oh how little I knew.

Oh how quickly I have become that mom.

With coffee in hand I began considering the day before me. I was finding it a challenge to frame it as positively as I knew I should .

I was struggling to look forward, with enthusiastic perspective, towards my day. A day which was likely to include a great deal of nagging, and some whining. Lots and lots of food preparation, and lots and lots of clean up afterwards.  It would probably also include refereeing many petty arguments, a massive number of toys that would need to be picked up, and then re picked up, and then picked up again. There would be a LOT of repetitive tasks and little to no time to take a deep breath.

Ugh. I'm sorry if I sound like I'm whining...Goodness, I've turned into one of the kids!

"Lis, it's all about how we look at it," Scott says.  "It's about our attitude towards it all. All of this craziness and work isn't going away anytime soon."

I knew he was right. We seem to talk again and again about how shocked we are at the amount of energy required to run a household and raise three children. We seem to be continually surprised at how encompassing it can all be.

Our attitude, on a lot of those days, is literally the ONLY thing we have any control over.

But how do we do that? How do we stay positive when the nitty gritty grind of daily life can sometimes feel so non-stop?

I think I know the answer...even though I'm not often a good role model for carrying it out. It is all about attitude. About focusing on the good. About finding joy in the daily details.

It's about focusing on the hugs, and the smiles and sunshine which are sure to be mixed into the more frustrating moments. It's about allowing your thankfulness and appreciation of those moments, overshadow your irritation towards the others. Its about taking this parenting journey one day at a time and concentrating on the blessings.

If yesterday was a bad day, we must put it behind us.

If five minutes ago was a bad moment, we must put that behind us too.

There is a lot of chaos, but there is a lot of grace too.

Somehow, for some reason, my girls like to come up to me in the middle of the kitchen, put their arms around my waist and shout, "Best mom ever."

Seriously? I want to say. That's only because you don't know any other moms! I'm crabby mom lately. The one who needs her coffee before she can speak. The one who rants and raves about the wet boots that need to be placed on the shoe mat and not in the middle of the floor! The one who is making lame grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner again. 

But I also know, that in some predetermined twist of fate, that I actually was intended as the best mom for them. God knew what He was doing when he stuck us all together in this crazy little family full of girls and hormones and a very outnumbered (but lucky!) husband.

There is a verse in Matthew where Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has offended or wronged him. Jesus replies, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven".

I think the same may apply to my attitude.

"God, how many times do I have to try to think positively before it actually works?!"

Not just seven times, but seventy times seven.

I did some quick math. At first I thought it said 77 times, which in and of itself would be a lot.

Really? I need to try this 77 times before I get it right?

But then I realized it was 70 times 7 for a grand whopping total of 490 times!!

That means...ALL. DAY. LONG. Jesus was insinuating that sometimes to get the tough things right, things that don't come natural to our human nature, things like forgiveness (in the case of the actual scripture) or my attitude (in the case of my life!) we have work on it a lot. Repetitively.

Over and over  and over again.

 So I look forward to tomorrow...A new day to try again. A new day to get it right. A new day to try...maybe hundreds of times to focus on the beauty (which is always there) instead of on the messy.

In the movie Groundhog's Day, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) does eventually get it right. It takes many days of repetition, but slowly he learns to love better and to try new things. He gains deepened perspective on people and life...When his attitude changes, so, eventually does the date on the calendar...From February 2nd to February 3rd. He's now moving forward.

Ironically, when I began this post I had no intentions of coordinating it with Groundhog's day.  When I looked down at the date on my computer screen I realized that as I finished this post it was, indeed, February 2nd.

Haha. God has a sense of humor.

Here's to  waking up tomorrow and seeing things in a completely new way!