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Ahoy! The Pirates invaded our house!

Matt turns 5 in less than a week.  To celebrate we let him invite all the boys in his class and a few extra pals for a pirate party.  We tried to have the party at a location outside of our home this year.  The superhero party last year for his whole class was awesome but a lot of work.  He would have none of it.  This year he was determined to have his party at home again…  And he discovered pinterest – so he took a significant interest in the activities and design of the day…

Here’s what we did:

1. The kids came in and they got an eye patch, a pirate hat or bandana, and an adventure guide. We tried to entice parents to stay with coffee (and baileys) and some adult treats.  Some amazing moms and dads stayed – and were a huge help corralling kids, setting up lunch and cleaning up after.

entrance entrance2Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 11.45.25 PM

2. the first activity for the pirate guests was making their own spy glasses.  We asked our two wonderful nannies help us for the party and they helped the kids take treasures I found from urban source  (old yarn spools and plastic caps from something?) and some black and gold paper, stickers, gems, cool tape – and make their own pirate spy glass.  It was an awesome first activity because it meant that all the kids were in one place, engaged in a calm and creative fun while we waited for everyone to get here.

spy glasses spy glasses1spy glass making

3. Next we played ‘stick the eye patch on the pirate’.  I drew out a rough pirate and grabbed some cheap eye patches from amazon – Cam used a pirate bandana and did the traditional spin and blind fold with each willing participant- it was a pretty fun and fast first activity – the kids thought it was hilarious when the eye patches were stuck to the windows and walls instead of the pirate

pirate eye patch

4. We divided the kids (about 15 at this point) in two groups.  Group one headed upstairs to “Cannon Ball Cove” and group two stayed downstairs in “Shark Bait Lagoon”.

Group one discovered the pirate ships we’d made (big enough to each hold 3-4 kids) and they played a game “lobbing” soft ‘cannon’ balls into each other’s ships.  It was chaos but sheer joy for the pirates involved. After that they played Captain Hook’s ring toss (thanks to pinterest for this one!).  The object being to toss rings onto one of the three hooks.

cannon ball cove ship ring tossshe got a hook!

Group two had to balance carefully as they walked the plank through a sea of blue balloons (pictured below before we had all the balloons blown up) with a hungry blow up alligator waiting below in case they slipped.  Then they each had a chance to toss fishes into the shark’s mouth.

walk the plank shark bait

All of that went waaaaaaay too fast – and what I had assumed would take 45 minutes (you’d think? right?) was done in 35 minutes.  So there was about 10 minutes of chaotic crazy kid playtime.  I got a little nervous a couple of times – but brilliant and resourceful Cam just took our huge bin of lego and tossed it over in the middle of the play room then challenged the kids to make lego pirate boats!  Then hurrah! Pizza arrived.

cupcakescupcake

After pizza and some delicious cupcakes and cookies came the final activity of the day… an outdoor treasure hunt.  It was pretty cool because it was the first snow of the season – so there was a very excited extra chill to the air.  The kids each got a pirate bag, and a treasure map (if you like you can download all the signs here MATTY’S 5TH) and they put on their boots and coats and ventured out.  Along their hunt they found tattoos, a pirate ship pinata filled with booty, and finally a treasure chest filled with pirate swords.  I didn’t let them back in the house after that … they already had coats and boots on so they ventured home from there… this was my way of avoiding sword fighting and tears at our house, if I’m honest.  Kinda felt like a meanie, but it all went so smoothly that we didn’t want to push it too far.

pirate hunt bagtreasure hunt treasure hunt1goody

All of that and the party was done! 15 minutes early.  I have decided that 2 hours is caraaaazy long for a five-year old party with that many kids.  1.5 hours would have been perfect.

I’ll post later about how we made the pirate ships – that was our big project for this party. It was awesome.  And thanks once again to Cam, his mom, and some late nights in the garage painting and cutting.  We made a lot of things with the kids for this party as well.  Matty made his own crayons in the shapes of skulls and cross bones (I’ll post about that later too).  We baked cookies, muffins, squares and other treats, we made fishes, anchors, and some welcome drawings.  We also had lots of fruit and fishy crackers, shark teeth (cheese) and pirate booty (popcorn twists) for snacks throughout.

pirate booty shark teethwater fruit

Super fun. Totally tiring to plan and execute. But completely worth it to see this little face so thrilled.

Love you, Matty.

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A little DIY to our mantle

We love our place – but a year and a bit in we’ve noticed the things we thought we were going to change in the first few months.  They are lingering.  Smiling at us as only crazy patterned wall paper can do.

There are so many things we’d love to do in our home – gut the bathrooms, pull a wall down in the kitchen, get new appliances, new couches, new counters.  But a few weekends ago we decided to start small.

We taped off and sanded the mantle.  Then we blew off the dust and revealed that our sanding efforts made nary a scratch in the deep dark brown paint job.  So we started painting.  4 coats later – we love the new mantle.  It was not hard or tricky.  It was not expensive (we used our existing baseboard paint).  And it feels like we’re still putting one foot in front of the other on the home improvement front – albeit tiny little steps

fireplace before  fireplace after

juggle juggle drop…

I can hear the tune in my head … juggle juggle drop, juggle drop, juggle drop – do you get the beat?

My confidence woven tightly in the form and function of the soaring balls in the air.  Bolstered each time something that I was sure was going to be a disaster works out.  Chipped away by the balls rolling past my feet – and by the faces holding all the balls waiting to be tossed into the circus that is our world.  There is no time for personal needs, or selfish desires.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s not unusual.  It’s not even that stressful most of the time… it’s just life.

Once in a while the wrong ball drops and someone ends up in tears at home or disappointed at work or school – and those days suck.  No.  those moments suck.  Because there is so much that goes on each day that we can’t possibly allow one stray angry/sad face to wreck the day.

I listen to friends talk about how they (don’t) do it all.  After a few glasses of wine we all start joking about how much we ‘fake’ it.  That’s the point in the evening that always makes me smile.  It’s comforting.  It drives me crazy when people pretend that they have it all figured out.  I want to yell – you aren’t doing any of us any favours lady! 😉 but I don’t (don’t worry).

A fabulous woman said recently that she wondered if feminism had pushed the spectrum too far.  Now instead of applauding women for their choices, whether it is being a full time working mom with a nanny, or a stay at home mom, or a mom who tries to balance part time work and family life, or a woman who chooses not to have children – we look for the chinks.  We minimize the value of the part-time contributor when we should be refreshed by her perspective and likely her mad-organization skills.  We have pity for the kids who go from school to after-school care, and equally we have disdain for the mom who is aware of every student in the class and who is always there because she’s chosen to be at home.  We wonder why that woman has no children to ‘fulfil’ her. That statement about the swing stuck with me – because if I’m honest I know I’m also guilty of it. 

I’m personally trying to do too much. I know it has to stop. But it’s like a bad tv show – I can’t turn away. To highlight – I currently am a part of three book clubs – but I’ve yet to read a single actual book assigned… mostly because I rarely make the time to read unless it  1)benefits my career needs or 2)contains at most two-syllable words and revolve around Disney characters. That might be why I like cookbooks so much.  Just getting through one page is enough.

We laugh about how much changes when you have kids (the ‘s’ adds a whole new layer of complexity) and how priorities change.  More and more I hear women note with frustration that we can’t have it all.  It’s either family first or work first. not both.  It’s either time for the kids or time for your highlights, not both.  It’s true, not having mastered the whole bending of time/space continuum thing does force us to choose.  And we are reminded of those little choices in each moment of the day.  The meeting we didn’t prep for, the newsletter for school we forgot to read, the gym date that is still marked in calendar – glaring at me for not making it for 3 weeks running.    It’s funny – I think the quest for ‘balance’ is what actually wears us down.   Yes, me-time is incredibly important in order to be a more peaceful happy employee/partner/friend/parent – but me-time in reality also just collapses the time-frame you have for everything else so that you now need to get in everything else into a more condensed box. 

Juggle. Drop. 

The more I try to fit in, the more tired and run down I get. Makes sense when you write it down.  Seems almost too logical.  Pare back. simplify.  ha.  In practice it’s like a constant mini battle to find the time to achieve success (or at least ‘presence’) in all aspects of life.  And yet I fight the conclusion that we can’t have it all.  Because I think we can. It’s just the definition of “all” that needs to change.

I think life is just a constant journey of give and take, frustration and triumph on the way to figuring out what “having it all” really means to us.  And once someone has figured that out – I’d like to be the first to stand up and cheer them on… and then take them for a drink to ask 4 million questions.  In the mean time I’ll just keep up with the juggling act.  With highlights and a hair cut once a year and the gym 6 times a year.  With faking it through book-club just to get a night out with the ladies.  And with reading nerdy measurement models at midnight while Jimmy Fallon is on in the background and my husband and I are folding laundry and planning out next week’s calendar of trade-offs.  Because these are pretty wonderful problems to have.