I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Mario Party

My baby boy turned 6 last week, and he asked for a Mario party.  I cringed a little, honestly.
In general, I'm not a big fan of cartoon themed parties. I like something more subtle, more classic, so when he said "Mario," I immediately shrunk inside.  How could I possibly do that and it look good?  My sister and I spent hours and hours figuring everything out, and I was really happy with how it turned out. More importantly, my little boy was ecstatic!  I wanted to share some of the ideas I used to create a perfectly classic Mario party.

I knew I wanted to do it at lunch, so to provide something the kids would eat, we went Italian.  Because, you know, Mario and Luigi are Italian New Yorkers.
(I can't believe I know that.) Pizza, pasta, and bread sticks were easy enough.  We went to Papa Murphy's the day before and brought home some take and bake pizzas, and I cooked them and pasta that morning.  We opted for fruit salad instead of a garden salad since it was for kids.  I added a brick paper background I got from a teacher supply store, and I made a "Luigi's Pizzeria" sign (which I don't have a picture of...oops!).  Super simple, and the kids ate it up!

For decor, I made everything except the Mario toys that were sprinkled about the room.  Those were borrowed from Aunt Kara.

For the question mark blocks, I covered tissue boxes with yellow construction paper.
 I carefully drew up the question mark and traced and cut it out of white paper.  I glued it on and finished it with black dots I used a hole punch to make.  My son was super impressed with these, and in all, they only cost me a little over $1 each!

For another focal wall, my mom blew up a ton of balloons.
 Since the original Mario game was 8-bit, everything was very pixelated.  That actually made my life much easier.  I used the balloons to make a sky background like in the game.  In all, there were 66 balloons: 16 white and 50 light blue.  This actually was no where near as difficult as I expected it to be!

I covered the table in a light yellow table cloth and used some inexpensive red and white polka dot cloth from the fabric store for a runner.

I carried the pixel idea over into some fun artwork to adorn the walls.  I used a paper cutter (You could use scissors, but God bless your hand if you do.)
to cut construction paper into squares.  I didn't count how many I did, but I do know that in just the heads of Mario and Luigi, there are 58 pieces of paper each.  I pieced them together to look like the 8 bit characters.

I will admit that this project took me some time...like to the tune of hours.

I'm always a big fan of special drinks, and I totally copied these bottles off of a friend of mine.
These are apple juice bottles, and I picked them up at Walmart in the juice aisle.  Once the juice is gone, wash the bottles and reuse them for parties!  They are wonderful!  I just cut out some mustaches to hot glue on and added red and green paper straws.

I made a pennant banner for the tables from simple craft paper and red and white baker's twine. I just made sure to use colors found in the game.

These guys were a blast to make.  That wasn't sarcastic.  They were awesome to see come together.  My husband spray painted some PVC pipe green to match the game, and he cut dowel rods of different lengths that I painted green.  I painted some Styrofoam balls red and added white paper polka dots and a "mouth."  I simply used tissue paper and grocery bags to get them to stand up, and Voila! Mario piranha plants!

The stars, mushrooms, and question mark blocks here are little tins with candy inside from Toys R Us, and the Mario and Luigi visors are from the craft store.

For the cupcakes, I knew I wanted something really subtle.  There was so much going on that a big extravagant cake wasn't going to go well.  I opted for some store bought cupcakes.  I asked if they could use a rounded tip to ice green and red icing.  I then just used candy melts for polka dots.  Isaiah was such a fan of these mushroom cupcakes!  (As an added bonus, the candy melts were birthday cake flavor, and they were amazingly delicious!)

We played lots of games (including an awesome "boss fight" where my husband was Bowser, shooting the kids with silly string, and they had to fight him with red and blue water balloons for ice and fire power!  So much fun!) but my favorite activity took the creative gene my husband has.  He drew up a grid to create sort of a color-by-number of Mario and Luigi that the kids used M&Ms to fill in.

Added bonus, the jars of M&Ms were a perfect party favor!  Just give yourself plenty of time to seperate these colors and count them out so you have the perfect amount in each jar.

If you'd like to download this paper to print and do at home, click here!

We added in a few gifts and his best friends and family, and my little boy loved it all!  Everyone was certainly all smiles at this classic Mario party!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Six Year Old's Inhibitions

There are not many moments in life when I let my guard down enough to lack all inhibitions.  This is the story of one of those moments.

Today my first born and only son, Isaiah, turned 6.  This was a bittersweet birthday for me.  It's great how big he's getting, growing in independence and confidence.  It's rough to think that he's now older than one hand.

I had a lovely day planned.
A donut breakfast with strawberries while he watched his favorite cartoons. Check.
Lunch at Grandma's.  Check.
Surprised him with having his bosom buddy join us to go swimming and play all afternoon.  Check.
Brinner for dinner with the grandparents.  Check.
A trip to the Melting Pot for a special birthday dessert.  Check.

All of these things were wonderful, and he kept telling me how much fun it was.  Throughout the day, however, all I could think each time he thanked me was "Just wait until you're a parent.  You'll hate birthdays, too."

The truth is, birthdays are great fun.  I am always happy after they are over that I did them up so much, and the kids always love it.  As I'm walking through those days, though, I hate them.  It's so much work, I'm always tired, and I stress far too much.  They just really aren't my favorite part of being a parent.

After we had our special melted chocolate dessert, we piled back into our truck, bellies full, knowing we had to take a trip to Walmart to pick up a few things I still needed for his party on Saturday.  None of us really wanted to do this, but it was a must on my list.  As we drove, however, we saw in the distance a splash park.  Now, for anyone unfamiliar with these wonders, think of playing in a sprinkler in your back yard.  Now imagine that with huge sprinklers all over the place, giant sprayers, and none of the water bill.  Oh yeah.  We love those.  The hubs and I looked at each other with a common thought.

"We don't have any dry clothes for them," I said.

"And?" he smiled as he replied.

"Good point," I added.

We decided I would run into the grocery store down the street and he would stay with the kids and let them play, dress and new clothes and all.  I dropped them off, ran down the road, and picked up my items.  I had already decided I was going to pull up, get the kids in the truck as quickly as possible, and get home.  I had work to do for the party, and I was stressed and tired.

As I pulled up to the splash park, I saw my daughter, running in her $40 Gap dress (a splurge for us), and my son, shoe-less and shirtless in his new shorts.  Their laughter rang through the air and it brought my dear friend Lesley's words to mind.  "One of these days," she told me a few weeks earlier as we watched out kids play at a splash park, "I'm just going to jump in with them...one of these days!"

This was the night.

I jumped from the truck full of excitement, leaving the keys in the ignition, and ran toward the water.

As I held the hands of my children, I squealed when the icy water dropped from a bucket onto my head.  I grinned from ear to ear as I ran through the misting rainbow, and I belly laughed as I laid on the concrete and let my kids spray me with the toys.  That's when it hit me.  This was fun.  I was having fun.  All of my inhibitions melted away as the water sprayed my face and my newly six year old screamed with delight.  All of a sudden, my hair and makeup didn't matter.  The fact that my clothes were drenched didn't matter.  The work left to do on a birthday party just days away didn't matter.  All that mattered was that moment and the joy on the faces of my birthday boy and his sister.

After we pulled Daddy into the water to play, too, it was time to make the drive home.  As I rode next to my sweetheart, windows down to dry our hair, my sweet boy's words filled my ears.  "I know I say this every year, but this year was my best birthday ever!"

I think he was right.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Art Of Dating A Teenage Boy

Sometimes when I look at teenage boys, I quickly forget how I used to be in in love with them- those smelly, scrawny, annoyingly energetic teenage boys.  No more teenage boys for me. Thank you, God.

I look at my husband- 32 and no longer smelly- and I am so thankful to have him to genuinely love.

Then I remember how I have two daughters and my heart sinks when I think of them being in love with teenage boys.  I have a not-so-silent prayer that those girls will find someone exactly like their daddy, but the truth is, their daddy hasn't always been 32.  One time, he was even 16.  (Gross.) And he thought like a 16 year old boy.  (Grosser.)  Even as a teenage boy, however, there were things about Bird that were pretty good indications that he’d be a great husband.  Though perhaps these qualities weren't quite as developed as they are now (and he has certainly grown in wisdom and grace through the years), he held some basic makings that I want for the husbands of my daughters to have.  I asked around, and these qualities seem to be pretty general in the teenage versions of the best husbands and fathers I know.  Because of that, I thought I’d make a list, and hopefully give my girls a good idea of what they need to look for in a young beau:

1.       He loves Christ.  All other greatness as a man hinges on this fact.
2.       He is a great leader.  If he can’t lead outside of your marriage, odds are, he won’t lead in it either.  Keep in mind that great leaders tend to not be harsh and lead with love. 
3.       He is a humble beast.  As long as I've known Bird, he has recognized his imperfections and sees them as areas of his life that God could perfect.  He has never stopped trying to be better.  That makes him constantly better.
4.       Modest is hottest.  If he’s checking you out because of what you are wearing, he will probably check out other girls for the same reason, ring or not.
5.       He wants to put a ring on it.  Knowing marriage is important is important.
6.       He is kind.  Nearly every woman I talked to mentioned something about how the kindness of their husbands drew them in.  If he isn't kind to waiters or waitresses when you’re out to dinner, don’t count on his continued kindness to you.
7.       He’s respectful to elders. No joke, this is so important. This, by the way, means respecting his own parents as well as me and the hubs.  More than that, though, does he find beauty in the aged or does he treat them as though they aren't wonderful sources of wisdom? Another dear friend noted that how he treats his mom and your’s is a good indication of how he will treat you when all the “gushy butterflies are gone.”  True dat.
8.       He cares about his own spiritual life. A dear friend of mine mentioned that her husband sought knowledge beyond what he got Sunday morning.  This is so important.  He must recognize that intently listening to Sunday’s sermon is great, but an hour a week does not a spiritual leader make. 
9.       He cares about your spiritual life.  Does he pray for you? Talk to you about his own studies?  Caring for your own spiritual state is a definite sign he is going to be a good Godly leader.  This one really is a must.
10.   Does he spur you on toward love and good deeds? Does he gossip?  Does he laugh and join in if you make fun of someone?  Does he pressure you sexually or stop your advances?  Recognizing that he can cause you to stumble is an amazing quality- and one that can truly protect your purity.
11.   He cherishes your Godly relationships outside of your relationship with him. One of the most wonderful things about my husband is and was the fact that he has always recognized what my family and friends mean to me, and he pushes me toward them.  He understands that love and encouragement I get from those people is helpful for me, and he really wants that for me…even if that means dinner with my sister instead of a night out at the movies.
12.   He is kind to your family.  Bird has never been disrespectful to my parents.  Never. Even when they've disagreed about something, he has always very respectfully walked through the situation.  If he’s not kind to your family when you’re dating, he won’t be kind after you’re married. Do you want a husband who doesn't get along with your mom?  No, daughters of mine.  No you don’t.
13.   He wants a relationship with your family. I can only think of three reasons a guy my girls are courting wouldn't want a relationship with their family.  1, they don’t want to face their parents because they’re doing things they shouldn't.  2, they don’t intend to stick around long in the relationship, or 3, they don’t intend to be around (or let them be around) much after the wedding.  Pick any one of those three and run far, far away. 
14.   What’s his deal with kids?  If you want kids, it’s a good idea to look at guys who don’t detest them but rather, see them as a blessing. 
15.   He is encouraging.  If he puts you down, ditch him.  Now.
16.   He is who he is with or without you.  This was actually something a friend brought up (something I never would have considered on my own) but the more I think about it, the more I realize this was a huge thing about Bird that I did (and do) love.  He will be at church even if I am not.  He will work hard even if I’m not there to push him toward a goal.  Does he do things just to impress you or is who he is impressive enough? 
17.       He’s not afraid to work.  Of all the things about bird that I really really love, this is possibly one of my favorites.  It’s also a grand theme throughout the men I truly respect.  Working hard serving others means he will work hard to serve his family.  

There are things about Bird (as I’m sure there are about all the great thirty something year old guys that I know) that I adore that he didn't do when we first started dating.  He’s much wiser with money, he’s more compassionate toward me, and he is much more patient with my craziness.  He’s also grown a lot spiritually.  Of course he’s better now, but he had many of the ingredients already growing inside of him to make him great.  That is why I really fell in love with him.  Everything else that comes along now is just bonus.

I also think it’s important to note that if a guy with these qualities can’t be found, I want my girls to know that it’s okay to be single.  In fact, if a guy with these qualities can’t be found, a single life is preferred by scripture.

One day, if my girls come to me saddened because they can’t find anyone to court like their daddy, I will happily let them know that they didn't know him at 22 like I did, and I will hand them this list and hopefully give them a little bit of confidence that good guys can become great men.  After all, what girl doesn't want their husband to be the greatest?