For an Instant Birthday Party.

Last week was Benny’s fourth birthday. Seems like eons ago already as it passed in the blink of an eye. I was also in the throes of a nasty fever (chills! swollen throat! a general lump of lethargy!), so I feel like I didn’t get to really enjoy the day with him. I didn’t even have cake! Almost sacrilegious. A big giant *praise hands* that my parents were still here and they and my husband could save the day. Actually though, the entire last year passed in pretty much the blink of an eye too. I’m left asking myself questions like – didn’t I just birth Ben just yesterday? And now he’s going to be in pre-k next year? What? I feel like that a robot that moves its arms around saying “DoEs NoT cOmPuTe” over and over. I guess it just goes to show that that old saying holds true – the days are long, but the years are short. I’m actually not here today to wax poetic about my kids getting bigger (insert sob) or how it’s all going too fast (insert fist shaking at the sky) though I could go on about those things for a mile. I AM here to bring you a simple little idea to make birthdays a bit easier.

I thought of this trick when Charlie was just a tiny guy, but it just so happens that all three of our kids have middle-of-the-school-year (two in October and one in March) birthdays which can mean *STRESS* setting in a few days before. That’s right around when it hits me that I need to somehow bake a cake in the middle of the week, pick up cupcakes for their class party, make their favorite meal, buy them presents, wrap them, and generally make their day filled to the brim with magic without myself becoming a stress ball mom trying to soak up the memories all while telling everyone who will listen how very busy I am – my biggest mom pet peeve. Ha! No short order.

So hear me out. It doesn’t solve all my birthday struggles, but at least one answer to this middle-of-the-week-school-year quandary is – The Birthday Box. Our birthday box is…just a shoebox. I should think about an upgrade at some point, but honestly the shoebox has been working for us for a very long time, so why overcomplicate a good thing? Okay, other than that time when we moved and I became panicked when I couldn’t find The Birthday Box. I was convinced that my husband had thrown it away – it being a shoebox and all. But it turned up (I think in the garage?) after a few prayers to Saint Anthony. Phew! But that’s also why it now says *do not throw away* in very emphatic writing. Anyway, the night before The-Birth-Day we just pull the box out, and decorate the dining room with abandon – setting hats out at each spot, hanging garland, inserting the age in the birthday crown, and blowing up balloons. Instant party. You should see the look on the boys’ faces when they get up in the morning. Pure childhood magic. And after each birthday, I just make a little list and restock the box if needed. Just makes life a little easier.

A list to build your own Birthday Box:

Other things to make birthdays special:

Just making things a little easier in any way we can. Do you have any ideas to make birthdays a little smoother? I’d love to hear if you do!

How To Read More.

One thing I’m often asked is “How do you read so much?” It’s true that I do work full time as a teacher, have three small children, cook dinner every night, and keep the house looking fresh (most of the time). Now friends, it would be laughable to list all those things without saying that I have a hugely present and supportive spouse who is my partner in all things of life. It’s not like I’m doing “it all” alone. But in between doing “it all” with my sweet husband, it’s true that I will forever find time to read. Every day, no matter what. Now, listing all those things sounds a little braggy – Look how productive I am! Look how full my life is!” But I don’t meant it that way in a bit. I just mean, that you can do it too, even if you feel like you have a list of to do’s that never get done (we all do), even if you have a small child hanging off of you (me too!), a partner you want to give your undivided attention to at the end of the day, or a kid who desperately needs you in the next room (MAMA MAMA!). You could find time.

  • Choose a book over scrolling. I am definitely a creator online, but I am not much of a consumer. I have maybe 4-5 people I like to look at on instagram, and I give myself 15 minutes every night to scroll Pinterest, but other than that – I don’t watch reels, I don’t scroll feeds. I don’t watch stories like a tv show. Put the phone down, and pick up a book instead.
  • Get multiple versions of the same book – get the print copy, the audio, and the e-book. I mostly do a combination of listening to books (while shelving, driving, or running) and reading the print copy (at night, in bed, on the couch, or while monitoring my kids). And for goodness sake – don’t pay for any of it! Get them all from the library. It seems greedy to use all of the versions, but if no one has it checked out then you should. Libraries buy books so that people will use them. Just return as soon as you are done and you don’t have to feel guilty.
  • Bring your book with you wherever you go. Get a purse or backpack large enough to carry the print copy. Or learn to enjoy reading the e-book version.
  • Place holds at the library. I just shared a long list of holds that I have at the library. Having a stack of books that you’re excited to read always helps.
  • Only read good books. Now…by this I mean – Put a book down if you’re not interested. No one is giving awards for finishing books in adulthood. If you’re not into it, move on.
  • Read whenever you have a moment. Waiting for the pasta water to boil? Pick up your book. Waiting in the school pick up line? Pick up your book. Kids have soccer practice? Pick up your book.
  • Try not to reserve your reading time only to when you know you won’t be interrupted. After school, I generally get dinner going and then I take the boys out to play and bring my book with me. I know that they’re going to need help, and that I may only get two pages read, but it’s still reading time. Who knows – maybe you’ll get through a whole chapter!
  • Read instead of watch tv. This is similar to scrolling. You could choose to read a book instead of watch tv at night. My husband and I will watch a show together while folding laundry after the boys go to bed, but then I usually get my book out and he’ll switch to sports. I personally am not bothered by the tv being on when I’m reading, but I know that’s hard for some people. You could try to get your husband to read with you instead of watching tv! Or just go lay in bed!
  • If you work – read at lunch. Read at breakfast too! I have always brought my book to school with me and read while eating. It’s the half hour of my work day that centers, grounds and calms me. I look forward to it.
  • Get up early to read for a few minutes. Occasionally I am lucky enough to wake before the children and I will enjoy my first few sips of coffee with a quiet house, a simple breakfast and my book.

There you have it! My tips! I hope you find a pocket of your day for reading. Fit it in whenever and wherever you can. Reading and books are one of life’s greatest gifts in my very humble opinion.

Parenting Tip #1: Check and Double Check the Crib Sheets.

I wanted to start things off right here with letting you in on the most embarrassing parenting story that’s happened to me lately… I’m not sure why this is jumping out to me as what should begin my writing career with, but here we are. My heart is set and it won’t be changed.

Let me set the scene for you. It was a Monday night (much like tonight) in the not too distant past. We had just gotten the boys down to bed, and were beginning the arduous task of cleaning the house from top to bottom. My husband is always on kitchen duty, and I am on laundry and general tidying duty. So I was sitting on the couch surrounded by my boys’ tiny folded things, listening to my audiobook when my husband called to me laughing from the other room. “Uh, honey.” “Mmhmm?” I replied, not knowing that soon my life would be irrevocably changed.

But when he came in he was holding something very small, very lacy and very…leopard print. A thong. It was my thong. Now…I am known to wear the occasional thong every now and then if my chosen outfit requires it. I am a strong proponent of the anti-VPL community. But I’m not normally a lacy leopard thong kind of gal. More sensible comfort thong with a little lace because I like pretty things. But I won’t deny it. This leopard print thong was mine. Well, I thought, nay! I hoped! to myself that maybe I dropped it from the laundry when I was carrying the basket to the couch. But those hopes were dashed when he said these next awful words, “Look what I found in Lukey’s lunchbox.” And that’s when it all became clear, friends… On Mondays I send in freshly washed crib sheets and blankets for each of the boys. My thong was found inside one of the pesky corners of Luke (our youngest)’s crib sheet and one of his kind teachers then returned it to us in Luke’s lunchbox.

It’s been a few weeks, so the memory burns a little less, but I also wonder if I am now known at the boys’ daycare as The Thong Mom. Maybe it would have been kinder for the teacher to just throw it away and I would be none the wiser? What do you think? In the end – let my mistake be a lesson to you – always check and double check the crib sheets before sending them in to daycare. Hope you guys had a great Monday! No thongs found in any lunchboxes tonight, so I’m doing just fine.

(The boys’ matching monogrammed school bags are from LL Bean. They’re the medium boat and tote and they work wonderfully for daycare trips, and when the boys turn into school age boys, they’re perfect for library book bags.)