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: 

Nativity1

 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.

Nativity3

 

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…

Nativity4

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.

Nativity5

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.

Nativity2

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.)

 

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.

BecauseLife5

 And more snow.

BecauseLife10

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

BecauseLife11

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

BecauseLife15

And hunted for gold.

BecauseLife16

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

BecauseLife4DIY Lego Art

BecauseLife1No-Sew Sandwich Holder

We enjoyed a little Spring weather. Finally.

BecauseLife12

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

BecauseLife14

The Easter Bunny came. Then baskets were destroyed.

BecauseLife13

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

BecauseLife9

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

BecauseLife2

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.

BecauseLife6

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.

Tablecloth2

Tablecloth4

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.

Valentines Day: DIY Tablecloth

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?!?!

Tablecloth5

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.

Tablecloth6

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

Popsicle Valentines

Popsicle Valentines

Every now and then, you have an idea that you just HAVE to bring to life. Even if you don’t have much use for it.

We already made Isaiah’s classroom valentines when this idea popped into my head the other day. But I just had to make them anyway.

I’ve been loving the watercolor trend lately. It’s made me want to return to my roots in painting…if only I had the time.

But after daydreaming about these popsicle valentines, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to pull out my paintbrush.

Popsicle Valentine

First of all, these are so easy to make. Even if you’ve never painted before, don’t be afraid. If you can draw a straight line, you can paint lines in watercolor.

To make you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolor paints
  • paintbrush
  • popsicle sticks
  • hot glue gun
  • stamp letters (or a pen to hand write)

To start, just take your watercolor paper and begin to choose your colors. I wanted to keep mine in the warm family, because they remind me of Spring (and oh, how I’m longing for Spring.) You can keep your colors in the same family, or even make a rainbow. It’s your choice. Just have fun with it.

Popsicle Valentines(Can you tell Isaiah’s been here? Definitely had to give them a good cleaning.)

When you’re ready to paint, just wet your brush and create long strokes horizontally on the page. Use the water to lighten the colors where you wish, and slowly fade them into other colors. Do this across the entire page (or several pages if you are making more than a few of these valentines). Then set aside to dry.

Popsicle Valentines

Once your painting is dry, it may need some flattening. If so, just place it under some sturdy books for a few hours, then come back later to cut.

Make yourself a popsicle pattern out of regular paper (I just free-handed, doesn’t have to be perfect) and use it to cut out your popsicles.

I chose to cut my bite marks after cutting the shapes, so each bite would be a bit different.

Then you’re ready to stamp. I have a letter stamping set by Martha Stewart that I adore. I’ve used it for so many things. But if you don’t have stamps, you can just as easily hand write.

Popsicle Valentines

Popsicle Valentines

After you stamp/write, just glue the popsicle sticks onto the back and you’re done.

I wound up using mine for Valentine’s Day teacher gifts. We just attached ice cream gift certificates to make them extra special.

Popsicle Valentines

As for the rest of the batch? I think I might hang them in my office just so I can stare at them. I love them THAT MUCH.

Ooooh, or make a pretty garland! Someone has to stop my brain. I don’t have time for all these ideas…

I hope you’re having as much fun this Valentine’s week as I am. :)

LOVE to you all!

Valentine Mug

Bon Jovi Valentine Mug

Y’all. I haven’t posted consistently in weeks.

But there’s just something about holidays! It’s like my mind awakens. I keep thinking of ideas, dangit.* And then I just have to make them happen–or else they sit in my head and make me crazy (and that’s the part where I sound insane).

My husband loves Bon Jovi, always has. So when I had this idea in the shower the other day, I knew it was a winner.

We’ve all heard of Sharpie mugs. I did this sweet little one for Modern Parents Messy Kids a while back, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I decided to try a different method this time, though. Just for kicks.

The last one held up pretty well, but it did start to fade after several washes.

So this time, I tried using glass paint markers. You can get them at any craft store and they come in all colors. (Which is already a step up from a Sharpie mug, since the Sharpie colors fade when you bake them.)

BonJoviMug

Just a note: the markers say “translucent” but they aren’t if you are using them on white ceramic. I actually can’t wait to test them out on some glass projects as well.

As for the process? Just like any other mug project, simply sketch out your design before-hand, then you’re ready to start.

And don’t fret. You can erase as you go if you aren’t happy with the result. Just use a wet paper towel to clean your mistakes and try again.

I didn’t focus too hard on the writing, because I wanted it to look more casual. Same goes for the arrows, and especially the red coloring. I wanted it to look hand-drawn, so imperfection was key.

Bon Jovi Valentine Mug

Then when you’re done, just bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and let cool.

I gave it to Michael a few days early, well, because I couldn’t resist.

He’s been singing Bon Jovi every morning since. Coincidence?

I think not.

 

*Believe it or not, but I have two more Valentines projects coming up this week. TWO!!! I’m a crafting fool, I tell you!

 

 

Cracker Jack Valentines (With Printable!)

Cracker Jack Valentines

Isaiah had quite a few Cracker Jacks left over from his baseball party a few weeks back. So I just had to make good use of them, somehow. :)

And as much as this kid loves baseball, I knew he’d be thrilled with Cracker Jack Valentines.

I also loved the idea of handing out a snack, instead of candy. Plus, a prize in every pack??? Two-fer!

I’d been brainstorming about what to do for the actual “valentine” when I came across this vintage one.

free-vintage-valentine-card-popcorn-and-red-heart

I collect vintage valentines. Did you know that? I try to add a few to my collection every year.

So when I found this one, it was LOVE at first sight. I mean c’mon, isn’t it adorable? They just don’t make valentines like they used to.

And it also didn’t hurt that is was free to download here.

If you want to print multiple at a time, just use my handy-dandy PDF: free-vintage-valentine-card-popcorn-and-red-heart-print-template-aars

free-vintage-valentine-card-popcorn-and-red-heart-print-template-aars1

I just attached them with red and white bakers twine, then added aluminum key rings for name tags (available at any hardware store).

Tip: I always keep these key rings on hand. They are super cheap, and make the cutest gift tags any time of year.

Cracker Jack Valentines

Isaiah about died when he saw the finished product. “I’ll have the coolest Valentines in class.” he said.

And that right there, is the best Valentines gift I could ask for.

Love my boy. Love his happy heart.

Happy Valentine’s week!

Cracker Jack Valentines

 

2015: New Years Resolutions

Do more of what makes you happy

I know, I know. I’m a little late to the party.

But, to be fair, I’m just following through with my resolutions.

And let me start off by saying, I used to hate resolutions.

I just couldn’t stand the idea of setting a hard and fast rule for myself that would surely be broken by week two. Because who wants to start their year feeling like a failure?

But a few years back I started lowering the stakes.  And then things finally started to make sense.

I started to change my resolutions into dreams, goals, and “things to work on.”

I think we all want to be better in life–better wives, better moms, better sisters, daughters, or friends.

Better people.

And I see resolutions as a road map to help us get there.

So every year, I set two or three of them.

And the key is this: There is no end goal. No failing. No measurement to say whether I “succeeded” or not…

Just me. Day in and day out. Trying to be better at this thing we call life.

And becoming a better person by trying.

So here goes, my resolutions for 2015:

 

1. Do more of what makes you happy

And let me emphasize the YOU.

Moms tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own–sometimes without even realizing it. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve forgotten to eat a meal because I was too busy feeding my kids. But to be a good parent, we have to put ourselves first. Totally opposite of what our Mommy DNA tells us to do.  This past year, I lost my “happy” for the sake of my families’.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t work out so well.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks studying myself. Watching. Thinking. Noticing.

What are the things, outside of my family, that make me happy? It was hard at first. Because I’ve wrapped up so much of my happiness into my kids. But the harder I looked the more I found. I got to know myself again.

Musicals. Hot baths. Magazines. Vintage Trailers. And peanut butter-chocolate shakes. It’s a quirky list, but it’s mine. ALL MINE.

I’m slowly learning what makes ME happy. And by golly, those are the things I’ll do more of this year.

 

2. Be present

Sometimes I curse the very existence of smart phones. But I can’t just blame technology…

I spent this past year somewhere else entirely. I was either dwelling in the past, or worrying about the future. And in that very process, I missed the “todays.”

This year, I’ve committed to stop time traveling. I’ve committed to be present, with my thoughts and my actions. To see every moment before me, and stay there.

Two weeks in, and it’s already paying dividends.

 

3. Do your best

Notice I didn’t say “do your perfect.” 

Hi. My name is Allison. And I’m a perfection-a-holic. (That’s one step further than a perfectionist)

It’s funny. I’m well aware that life isn’t perfect, and that I can’t be either. But when it comes to the things I do? My responsibilities and tasks at hand? Good just isn’t good enough.

Except for the fact that IT IS. And thinking that “it’s not” has taken it’s toll–making me miss precious moments while trying to attain the impossible.

So this year I’m letting myself off the hook.

If the blog post isn’t perfect? I’m posting it.

If the party isn’t done? I’m having it.

And if things don’t work out just how I planned? I’m enjoying it anyways.

Because that’s life, folks.

And I refuse to miss it because I’m busy trying to make it something else.

 

Happy New Year, friends. I hope your 2015 is off to a fantastic start. Here’s to a year full of love, light, and dreams come true.