3.22.2017

time waits for no one and other unbelievable truths

I have always been a self-proclaimed tortured soul, dating back for as long as I can remember. As a preteen, I discovered black eyeliner and the picturesque way it drips eerily down your face when you cry while writing poetry and, well, I was home. I would always call my grandmother to rant and rave about my woes and troubles, as she was somehow always the only person who didn't attempt to solve my problems or trivialize the ache I was feeling. For hours, she would listen to me read poetry about heartbreak and loneliness tied up in neat little analogies that showcased death and cyanide quite often. She never tried to give me advice, although I wouldn't be surprised if she was rolling her eyes on the other line as we spoke. The one thing she did always slip into every conversation was: "just try to enjoy your life. It goes so fast." As a teenager, it didn't go very fast. As a college student, well, it didn't go very fast, either. It wasn't until I became a mother that I realized just how loose my grip on time truly is.

I became a mother before most of my friends and, as a mother, I struggled to meet people who I was comfortable letting into my truest self. Due to all that and also our decision to redshirt Ethan, he is a good year older than most of his friends and a couple years older than some of the friends he's made in his extracurricular activities. As a gentle giant, this doesn't phase him. He seems to not notice that he towers over the children in his gym class, which would probably happen anyway because he's tall for his age, too. But around me, my friends are all filled with relief they have another year of preschool before Kindergarten. And around Ethan, his friends are all gearing up for the final round of preschool come the fall.

...And then there is me, with Kindergarten taunting me on the horizon and me crying myself to sleep 4/7 nights per week in utter disbelief that this is here already. I mean, I can still feel the sensation of my water breaking as Ethan made his surprise entrance into the world. I can still remember the burning exhaustion and newness of those first days as a clueless new mother. I can still feel those meandering afternoons spent at the park, wasting the hours until dinnertime because each moment felt too precious to waste sitting at home. They felt like they would last forever, those long days. It felt like there was always time. Other people would post their children's first day of school pictures and I felt like I had dodged a bullet because we had forever to go.

---

If two years ago you had asked me to imagine what my life would be like now, two years later, I never would have pictured this. I wouldn't have pictured prepping one almost-six year old for Kindergarten and mommy and me classes with my one year old. I wouldn't have pictured like rolling so smoothly -- too smoothly -- into the next phase as if it was the most normal thing in the world. But then I guess it is the most normal thing in the world, children growing up and life going by in the blink of an eye. "I'm independent now," Ethan told me this morning as he slipped his legs into his favorite pair of whale leggings. "We're still a team, though. I can be your baby when I'm 100. I'm just independent right now because I like to put my own pants on."

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3.13.2017

discover the dinosaurs unleashed

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of attending Discover The Dinosaurs: Unleashed as it made it's way through West Palm Beach. Discover The Dinosaurs is a traveling exhibit that makes it's way across the United States, bringing wonder and amazement -- and dinosaurs! -- to children in every state. In West Palm Beach, the exhibit was being held at the South Florida Fairgrounds which speaks volumes as to how expansive it was.

When you walk into the building, the entire ambiance fits the exhibit perfectly. The lights are dimmed, and all you can see are these magnificent animatronic dinosaurs. The dinosaurs themselves are lifelike, even moving and showing children the types of sounds they may have made. Children are able to learn as they walk through the incredible exhibit which features information about the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. As they begin entering the exhibit, friendly exhibit employees give each child a scavenger hunt booklet to complete as they walk through the exhibit. At the end, they're told they receive a prize -- so naturally, Ethan was into it! It was also a great way to make sure the children are absorbing the facts and educational opportunities in front of them in addition to being amazed by the moving, roaring dinosaurs.

There are booths scattered throughout the exhibit that offer activities (dinosaur etchings and crayon rubbings, temporary tattoos, and so on) as the children walk through and admire the dinosaurs. There are also plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal to dinosaurs!

The exhibit also features some cool artifacts for the children to see up close -- as well as perhaps Ethan's favorite part of the whole day: the chance to ride a real dinosaur! Children use a ladder to climb on top of the dinosaurs (Ethan rode a T-Rex), which move!

In addition to the dinosaur exhibit, there is also an exhibit for crafting, golfing, car racing and filled to the brim with cool inflatables!

Discover the Dinosaurs Unleashed is an amazing traveling exhibit that you just have to catch when it arrives in your town! Follow Discover the Dinosaurs on Facebook and check out their website for where they'll be stopping at next!

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3.07.2017

carmen's enchanted forest: a woodland fairy first birthday party

I love parties. Love them. Sure, in the weeks leading up to the big day I become frazzled and a total stress case, but I love them. From meticulously planning the little details to watching it all unfold, nothing makes me happier than planning a party. Carmen's first birthday party was a labor of love, for sure. We held the party at my parents home and initially decided we should have woodland animals. This is not such an easy feat in South Florida, so we opted for farm animals (true story: children do not care what kind of animals there are when it comes down to having animals to snuggle with). Then it spawned into unicorn rides. And then it morphed into "she loves the carousel at the zoo, maybe we can rent a carousel." (Hey, your last baby turning one is a milestone for both mother and child.)

Keeping with the woodland fairy theme, I wanted to incorporate natural and wood-textured elements into my set up. I made the donut stands using a $0.50 dowel sawed in half and hot glued onto a wood round from the craft store and found the birch napkins and wood plates from Webstaurant Store. The disposable wood silverware came from Amazon, as did the birch-textured paper straws.

My mom and I do this thing where we panic there won't be enough food. Without fail, there's enough food leftover to last seven families two weeks. We had sandwich and wrap platters catered from the local grocery store, four different quiches, spinach dip, vegetable and fruit platters, macaroni and cheese, popcorn chicken tenders, salads and an assortment of snacks (chips and hummus, etc.). There was plenty of food (for days). I definitely dropped the ball on getting photographs of the finished table, but these pictures from the setting up stages give you some idea. The moss table runners and circle mats are all from Michael's.

Our golden unicorn smash cake topper is from Topper and Twine and our custom Carmen's Enchanted Forest golden glitter cake topper is from Topper That. I worked for weeks hand making the cake stands, the tassels and the backdrops and wall hangings. The high chair birthday skirt was one I purchased from Stuff So Simple.

Inside the house, I had three stations set up: a fairy garden making table (using tiny 2.5 inch ceramic pots), wand decorating and also a rainbow fairy face painting table manned by the incredible daughter of Ethan's art studio owner (thank you, Art Paper Scissors in Parkland!).

Outside, we had the "enchanted woodland" (farm) animals, unicorn rides and a carousel. The carousel was the absolute hit of the party, perhaps even overshadowing the unicorns.

Also outdoors, I set up a photo backdrop with some assorted props from Party Ears and The Gipsy and the Yarn along with some fairy wings from the dollar store. The kids all loved the "photobooth" and everyone got so many cute pictures! Ethan's gym teacher assistant also came to help with the party by dressing as a fairy and taking pictures with all of the kids. Everyone loved the "magical fairy" who came to play with them!

For favors, I made enchanted forest themed word searches and mazes and put them into treat bags with wooden color pencils from World Market online. These pencils were so cool and such a perfect (and affordable) fit for our theme!

It was the perfect day to celebrate my little woodland fairy as she turned one -- cue the emotions, because I'm not sure how this past year has flown by so very quickly.



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2.16.2017

emo kids having emo kids

"Nobody likes me. No one wants to play with me." When he begins those words with a gradually increasing quiver in his voice, my entire being shatters. Eventually, he moves on to other things and that loud, overpowering laughter and zest for life takes over. For him. I find myself up at all hours of the night, feeling his pain and sorrow over every ounce of my body and wishing I could will it away.

In so many ways, he is so much like me. (I'm wincing as I type that.) Throughout my entire pregnancy, I wished he may wind up a little bit more like his father in terms of resiliency and confidence and the ability to not be ripped to shreds over someone else's bad day. Instead, as it would turn out, he is just like me. ("I don't want to go to a regular college where they do math, like the one daddy went to," he told me the other day. "I want to go to an art college and write stories and poems and paint.")

Today I dropped him off at school and he clutched my hand for the first time in weeks. "Come with me on the playground," he said. "You'll be the only one who likes me and wants to play with me." I resisted the urge to shatter into a million shards of devastation and instead followed him to the playground -- where four children ran up and engulfed him in hugs. "There's my hug monster," one shouted with a giggle in her voice. "Oh boy," he said. "I'm just so much fun to hug," he explained to me with a glimmer in his eyes. "Want to play with me?" asked another girl from another class, grabbing his hand before he could even happily accept. "You can go, mommy," he yelled as he and his new friend ran across the playground. I tried to convince myself to leave without stopping his teacher and pleading with her to assure me that he is as well liked as this morning proved. I have no willpower, but she assured me that he is well loved.

--

If I try hard enough, I can still remember being a kid and hoping with all my might that no one would speak to me for the duration of the school day. Ethan longs to be included but lacks the confidence to ask for inclusion -- and, boy, so I understand his apprehension. (And irrationality, and falling to pieces, and so on.) As we approach this phase in parenthood -- this new, shiny end to infancy and at-all-times protection -- I'm trying to find in myself the confidence that I lacked through every phase of my own life until now. Now it is up to me to find it, confidence, and wear it like an armor to shield my own child from the same struggles and troubles that plagued me when I was in his shoes. And while I may not be able to protect him entirely from those struggles and troubles or prevent them from happening, I can simply remain conscious to not dismiss them and give him the best tools to push on through the fog. We are stronger together, the two of us, and may that bond be one he carries forever as close to his heart as I do.



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