How A Few Magnets Are Saving My Sanity This Holiday Season

Such a great idea! I'm so doing this over this holiday season.

Guys. It’s only the beginning of December and I’ve already lost it a few times.

Not my purse. Or my keys…

But my sanity.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it was gone waaaay before Thanksgiving. And then Thanksgiving gave it a good shove down the garbage shoot.

The holidays are a completely different experience as parents, am I right? Riddled with stress, insanely high expectations, hyper children and breakable decorations…it’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. Five years in, and I’m just now learning that.

And man-oh-man, the responsibility we feel as Moms. I tell my husband, “it’s our Super Bowl.”

We’re the magic makers. We’re the ones who make it all happen. From Elf on a Shelf, to Christmas morning, to school assemblies and Christmas parties. From presents, to decorating, to cookie-making and budget-planning.

It’s all us.

And we love our families so stinking much that everything has to be just perfect. PERFECT, I TELL YOU!!!

Then we crack.

I’ve cracked so many times over the last five Christmases. (Ask my husband about the time he misplaced our kids’ biggest present on Christmas Eve. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest hour.)

And this year, I stumbled upon the secret. Just by happenstance.

I’d like to claim it was my own genius idea, but sadly, much like everything else in my life…it was a product of my type A, perfectonistic, and slightly OCD personality (you know, we’ve all got our stuff).

A few years ago, we were gifted a Nativity magnet set from a dear family friend.

No clue where they found it but the moment we opened it, I knew my kids would love it.

I just had no idea how much it would mean to me

My boys have so much fun with it, every single year. They love arranging it in the classic ways, in silly ways, adding animal magnets to the scene. You name it.

But in the end, it always winds up looking like this: 

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 Much like how I feel. Jumbled. Unfocused. A little messy and out of sorts.

I usually do my “clean up rounds” every night after the boys go to bed. I take about fifteen minutes to go around the house, picking up any leftover toys and putting them out of sight. Call it what you want, but I’m a stay-at-home Mom, so my house is my office. And if I have any chance on God’s green earth of relaxing, there has to be some sense of order…mainly, no reminders of my children. 

A few nights ago, when I was clearing out the kitchen and cleaning magnets up off of the floor…it happened. Something told me to sit down, right where I was. So I did.

I took a deep breath, and I slowed down. I carefully cleared away the clutter, leaving only a blank slate.

Just staring at the empty white space on the fridge made my heart feel lighter. (Told you. Type A.)

I put away all of the random magnets, then I started to put the Nativity scene together. Slowly. One piece at a time.

As a made the manger I thanked God for our home.

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When I added the gifts and the animals I thanked God for the many gifts in our life. Amidst all the crazy. Amidst all the chaos…

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Then I added the angel, and the stars. And I thanked God for the angels in my own life. Those people who have often rushed to my rescue, and the loved ones who are always there for me.

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And lastly of course, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. As I slowly put them in place, I sighed so deeply. Letting out all of the frustration, all of the chaos, all of the negative energy and remembering the simplicity. The basics. The reason we do all of it. Reminding myself that nothing else really matters.

And I thanked God for his very presence. For his Grace. For his refuge.

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All of a sudden, I felt peaceful. Clear-headed. Focused. And much less likely to explode.

My heart felt light. And full.

Funny how that works.

Ever since, I’ve made it a nightly thing. Heck, on the bad days it’s a “several times a day” thing. It’s my Advent meditation of sorts.

And as often as I need it, it’s there. Waiting for me.

Much like God is.

Do yourself a favor, and try it. Or find something similar that brings you peace. Just a few minutes every day; to re-focus and re-energize, remembering the very reason we celebrate this crazy Season.

And to keep you calm when your child opens all the presents you just wrapped and put under the tree…

 

 

 (Note: I couldn’t find our exact size set, but I’ve linked to a similar one here.)

 

Sammy’s Vintage Car Party

My boy loves cars. Any all kinds of cars. Fire trucks, trash trucks, race cars, speedsters…

Let’s just say he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to anything with wheels.

So what else could I do, but throw my baby his very own car party???

I just loved how it all came together (which, quite frankly, was a miracle this time around).

My favorite parts might have been the vintage car photo wall (a collection I scored on Ebay) and the “Vroom Vroom” cake. I love simple cakes with unique toppers, if you haven’t already noticed. ;)

And oh, how I loved the cookies. I knew just what I wanted and asked Frances at Banana Bakery if she could make them. Boy, did she exceed my expectations! If you live in the DFW area, you must look her up. Simply amazing.

I love throwing parties, especially for my babies. I’m starting to think it’s my love language.

It was such a fun day celebrating my sweet Samuel (who I STILL can’t believe is two). He was on cloud nine the entire day. Which–of course–meant Mommy was, too.

I’ve included a couple of snaps from the day (thanks to Alica Skinner Photography for capturing most of them!) If you are curious about sources, just shoot me an email. Happy to answer what I can!

And now, it’s time to start planning Isaiah’s fifth birthday party. (Seriously, I can’t even talk about it.)

Happy birthday, sweet Samuel. As always, I hope you loved your party as much as I loved throwing it for you. Just seeing you grin from ear to ear, that’s all I need in this life. I love you, baby. And your happiness is my happiness. Here’s to being two.

Love, Mommy

Vintage Car Party

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Because Life

I haven’t blogged in forever, well, because life. Even as I’m writing this, my toddler is destroying the pantry behind me. True story.

So much is happening around here these days. So much to catch you all up on. And that same “stuff” is what keeps me from sitting down at the computer for days at a time.

WHO THE HECK MADE LIFE SO BUSY? I want to talk to them. Stat. Or at least, write a strongly worded letter.

Anyway, I thought I’d catch you up to speed in one all-or-nothing, random post. Here goes.

Easter came and went, and I didn’t write about it once. Which was hard on me.

I love holidays. And I love blogging about them. You’ve probably gathered that by now.

But sometimes, I just want to be IN the picture instead on the one taking it. Sometimes I want to do the craft WITH my kids instead of art directing it. And sometimes I want to dye Easter eggs like a four-year-old, instead of making the most creative egg possible.

Bottom line: Sometimes I just want to be a part of the moment. Sometimes I want to just DO LIFE instead of document it.

And that’s what I’ve been doing.

I made a conscious decision not to post any of our Easter crafts or activities this year. Will I regret it, for posterity sake? Jury’s still out. But for now, it was definitely the best decision for me.

This blogging world, it can be hard. You love. You do. You share. And pretty soon, you feel obligated to love, do, and share. And that’s not what I want for this little space of mine.

Along the way, I’ve vowed to post what feels right, when it feels right. And that’s the best this Momma can do right now. How does that saying go?

I will hold myself to a standard of grace, NOT PERFECTION.

So in that very spirit, here’s our last MONTH’S (no shame) recap.

We got a lot of snow.

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 And more snow.

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And this Momma had a meltdown of epic proportions. So I took a weekend away. Which is a whole ‘nother post in itself.

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St. Patrick’s Day came and went. So we celebrated.

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And hunted for gold.

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I worked on blogging for other sites. (Did you know that about me? Surprise!)

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We enjoyed a little Spring weather. Finally.

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We had Easter egg dinners. And Flashlight Easter Egg Hunts.

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The Easter Bunny came. Then baskets were destroyed.

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We dyed eggs. And some of us were grumpy about it. (Bad lighting, bad hair, don’t judge.)

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And then Easter morning.  (A shower does wonders, doesn’t it?)

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We celebrated at Grandma and Grandpa B’s. It was our last holiday in the house since they are moving this year. Yep, leaving my childhood home. I can’t deal. It’s a whole thing.

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And now we’re recovering from the weekend, with a candy-hangover and a house full of head colds. Thanks, church nursery, for all that you do. But most specifically…for strengthening our immune systems!

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend, wherever you are. Heck, I hope you had a wonderful month! I’ll try to do much better about posting. And in the meantime, if you want to keep up with our shenanigans on a daily basis…follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

Much love to you all!

Happy Valentine’s Day: DIY Tablecloth

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

Valentines Day: DIY Tablecloth

I successfully surprised the boys this morning with a Valentine’s breakfast. (Fist Bump)

Michael and I are going out this evening, so I thought a morning fiesta would be the perfect way to celebrate this day as a family.

I love making holidays special. It’s kinda my thing. There’s been years I’ve tried to “skip” the magic, when we’ve had a lot going on. And I’ve always regretted it.

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This year, I knew exactly how I wanted to decorate. And when I started looking for the tablecloth, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

So I set out to make my own.

This DIY tablecloth could NOT have turned out any better. It was everything I imagined, and more. And SO STINKIN’ easy.

I just bought a white cotton fabric (enough to cover our round family table) along with a medium point black fabric marker.

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Then late last night, I started to write. I honestly didn’t even measure the spaces. I just did my best to write in a horizontal line, and made my way up the fabric. The whole project took about 45 minutes, but it was a mindless 45 minutes. In fact, I did it while watching a movie with my love.

I just love the pattern so much. And I still can’t figure out why this fabric doesn’t exist already?!?!

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We had such a wonderful morning. My favorite part was the donuts and milk.

As for the boys? I think the balloons won out, by far.

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I hope you are having a lovely Valentine’s Day, wherever you are. I’ve got a new dress I can’t wait to debut. I’ll be posting pics on Instagram*, because getting all dolled up deserves a picture, right?!? Especially when you’re day job means living in sweatpants.

 

*Do you follow us on Instagram? Oh, please do. It’s my favorite place to connect with you all. I’m losing interest in Facebook so quickly. Just search for @alliaars and meet me there! XOXO

Isaiah’s Baseball Party

I’m having a hard time getting back to all things “normal.” Please tell me I’m not the only one?

Our Christmas tree is still up, and I have no plans to take it down. It’s my last desperate attempt to hold on to the holidays.

I’m avoiding real life, at all costs.

But I did want to share a few pictures from Isaiah’s birthday party before, you know, a year passed.

Man oh man, having a Christmas birthday is tough. I don’t think Isaiah knows any different, yet. But Geez-Louise, it’s hard on this Momma!

Let’s just say that December 25th is my Superbowl. We did a small birthday celebration on Christmas, and held his party a week later.

Sweet Isaiah wanted a baseball theme this year, so that’s just what he got.

We kept it small, just the main family and Godparents. We are so blessed to have all of our family members in town, so it gets pretty darn packed with “just us”.

We had peanuts, crackerjacks, hot dogs, baseball Oreos, cupcakes, and of course…a baseball cake.

The party may have been small, but I didn’t want to spare a detail for my boy. He’s worth every minute spent.

I snapped a few shots, but wish I had snapped more! The older he gets, the harder it is to capture the details before he digs in. ;)

Happy birthday party, Isaiah. I had such a fun time celebrating with you. Here’s to many, many more…

Love always,

Mommy

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(Happy to share sources upon request!)

FOUR: Isaiah

Isaiah is FOUR

I’m not gonna lie, little man. This one was hard on me.

I think I wanted to hold on to your toddler-hood for as long as humanly possible. And four?

Four is big kid. There’s just no denying it.

No more chubby legs or rubber band wrists. No more baby talk or wobbly steps. Just my big boy, wanting to do everything all by himself.

I know that my goal as a Mom should be to become completely uneccessary–to grow a child who becomes self-sufficient, independent, and confident.

But I’ve gotta confess: I want you to need me. I need you to need me. Because I’m your Mommy, and well…I need YOU.

In fact, just the other day I explained to your Daddy that you are actually a part of my heart–and it wouldn’t quite beat the same without you.

Isaiah, since the day you were born, you had a light about you. And I used to worry that it would dwindle with the years.

But you’ve proven quite the opposite.

Your light is brighter than ever, and boy do you let it shine.

There are so many things I want to remember about you…

The quirky little way your eyes expand when your mind is working.

The “bad guy” face you make when Daddy plays Thunderstruck in the car.

The way you call “Sammy baby” from down the hall.

And the creative excuses you come up with to explain yourself.

You’re holding onto a few words that melt my heart. Mostly because they remind me that my baby is still in there…somewhere.

Let’s see…

There’s the “famote control” that changes the channels on TV.

We still get the Christmas decorations down from the “ackit.”

And my favorite, your gentle acknowledgment that you understand what I tell you…

“Wight, Mommy. Wight.”

Isaiah, three was a tough year. On all of us. But particularly for you. You weathered some storms, not all of which were your own. And I want you to know, for whatever it’s worth, that you sailed through them beautifully.

I couldn’t be more proud of you.

Your Daddy and I had a conversation about you this morning–about how you’re a gift straight from God.

I know, I know…all babies are. But somehow, you have a direct line to him. You tell us things that come straight from above, every single day.

And most importantly. You listen to him.

Keep that quality, baby boy. Keep it close. It will serve you well, I promise.

Here’s to FOUR, sweet Isaiah. Let’s make it our best year yet. Deal?

Deal.

 

Love Always,

Mommy

 

P.S. I love you. More than all the stars. And don’t you ever forget it.

Learning To Walk

Learning to Walk

Samuel’s been learning to walk these days.

I know, I know. He’s a bit late to the party at fifteen months. But Isaiah was a late walker and…can I be honest for a minute?

I love it.

There’s something about walking that takes the baby out of your baby. More than any milestone, walking means the “toddler transition” has officially begun. And call me crazy, but I want my baby for as long as he’ll let me have him.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes…

Samuel LOVES to practice his walking.

His favorite pass time is waddling towards me from across the room–arms reaching out, grinning ear to ear, eyes wide with delight. And the second he gets to me, he falls gleefully into my arms.

In that moment my heart bursts with pride.

I mean, literally. It feels like my heart might burst right out of my chest. It hurts, even. But a good hurt.

Then he gently pushes me backward so he can do it all over again.

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And the very best part is how he lingers in my arms–hugging my neck, and holding onto me with everything he has. It fills my heart with joy.

We play this game thousands of times a day. Walk, fall, hug, repeat.

And the thing that gets me every time, is his trust.

Think about it. It’s scary to take your first steps. It’s scary to lose your balance. It’s even scarier to fall. But he never doubts that I’ll be there. He never doubts I’ll catch him.

Sometimes I think we’re all “learning to walk” at times in our lives. Taking new jobs, starting relationships, having babies, facing new challenges…hard challenges. Starting over after divorce, battling addiction, or facing life after losing a loved one.

We are constantly stepping out on wobbly legs. And more often than not (tell me I’m not the only one?) we’re too scared to even begin. Too afraid to take a step. Because falling is scary for grown-ups, too.

But what if we could have the faith of a child? What if we could remember that someone’s there. Someone’s got us…

No matter what.

Think how much easier it would be. Think of the steps (no LEAPS) we could take, and the mountains we could climb.

I like to imagine God’s heart bursting with pride when we trust him, just like mine does with Samuel. I like to imagine his face beaming when we take our first steps, and courageously fall into his arms.

And oh, the joy he must feel we linger–hanging onto him with everything we have. Never to let go…