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    How to Have a Harry Potter Party





    My daughter just turned 8. When she suggested Harry Potter as an idea for part of her party, we weren't surprised. She's been reading the series for the last year and a half, and though we hadn't seen the movies yet (at least not until right before the party), Harry Potter reigns supreme in this household. But, what started as an idea evolved into a theme - and into a way of life for us - at least for the few weeks leading up to the party!

    For starters, we invited about 7 children, and planned for up to 15 to arrive at Hogwarts (our house) - which included siblings. We created the invitations on the computer, the concept was an owl carrying the "acceptance letter" to each child - inviting them to Hogwarts (our house). Each was printed on "aged" looking paper, then hand addressed by my daughter, and sealed with "potions" stickers (it was a real benefit that her birthday falls at the end of September, which allowed us to take full advantage of the early Halloween merchandising in the shops!) Here's the invite: 


    (if you'd like a downloadable copy of this, let me know & I can make it available!)

    Over the next few weeks, we picked out costumes, convinced my mother-in-law and good friend to be teachers, my husband brushed up on his magic skills - in order to lead the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, of course, and my daughter and son set to work on decorating - rather, transforming - our house into Hogwarts!


    (our house, transformed)


    (our front door - the entrance to Hogwarts, via Platform 9 & 3/4s of course!)

    The kids were welcomed to Hogwarts by Professor Sprout and... let's say, Harry Potter's grandfather. :) 

    Some kids arrived in costume, but some did not, so we had hats at the ready! As the children were waiting for everyone to arrive, we had the first Harry Potter movie playing - as a way to keep everyone in one place, and a way for any parents or kids unfamiliar with the story (huh?) to have an idea of what was to come! 


    (Chilaxing to Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone)

    Once everyone arrived, they were each given a Hogwarts Class Schedule:


    (Hogwart's Daily Class Schedule)

    Then, we encouraged each child to go to Gringott's Bank to retrieve their galleons, knuts, and sickles: 


    (Gringott's Wizarding Bank)

    Everyone needed their magic money so they could buy their supplies in Diagon Alley. First the kids "bought" their broomsticks (again, birthday party around Halloween was a blessing here!), then a magical creature from Eeylops Owl Emporium:


    (many magical creatures - supplied by our own shop, SeriousPlush.com)

    And, finally, on to Ollivander's Wand Shop for the first organized activity of the party: wand decorating! My husband had purchased dowels of various widths & cut them to a variety of lengths, then sanded the ends smooth. Decorations included markers, stickers, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners:


    (Choosing their own wands - or - did the wands choose them?)

    Once everyone had their wands, I (as Minerva McGonagall, of course) officially "welcomed" everyone to Hogwarts and split the kids into 4 groups (we chose NOT to use a sorting hat or houses for this process, because we didn't want anyone to feel left out or that they were placed in the wrong house - say, Gryffindor instead of Slytherin, just for one wild example) of about 3 children each. We had four "classes", each led by a teacher.


    (Snape's sister unfortunately didn't make it into this photo... I think she was breastfeeding Mandrake at that point)

    1) I taught Transfiguration (each child received a cauldron of magical growth potion [warm water] into which they dropped dragon eggs [mini sponge animals - available at the dollar store!] and used their wands to transfigure them into magical creatures. 

    2) My mother-in-law (Pomona Sprout) taught Herbology - where she had each child put on a pair of earmuffs, transplant a baby mandrake (mums) into a pot, then apply dragon dung (potting soil), and unicorn blood (water).

    3) My husband (Albus Dumbledore) taught Defense Against the Dark Arts - in which he put on a small magic show then taught each child their own magic trick.

    (okay, the baby didn't really learn any magic tricks, but this photo was too cute not to include)

    4) My dear friend (Severus Snape's sister, "Seraphina Snape") taught Potions - where each child had their own cauldron (mini mason jar) and first mixed baking soda & vinegar, and then, mashed mistletoe berries (blueberry juice) & Lethe river water (soda water). Yummmmm.


    (Seraphina Snape & her assistant, Mandrake)

    As each class was finished, the group would rotate to the next, until every student had a chance to attend each class. Then came lunch & desert!


    (Vegan cupcakes with lightning bolts!)

    And finally, once everyone had a chance to attend all the classes they wanted, we all went outside to play QUIDDITCH! Truth be told, this was the highlight of the party - the kids ran around the back field, creating their own game & rules - batting around foam balls with their broomsticks and having a grand time. The adults maybe had even more fun than the kids - watching their imaginations come alive was really awesome! 

    Once the snitch had been lost (honestly! It was lost in a neighbor's backyard & we couldn't retrieve it!), everyone came back inside for treats:


    (treats from Honeydukes - including Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans - YUCK!)

    When all was said and done, the kids were tired and happy, and the adults were exhausted! I had a blast planning and acting and "teaching". And... our efforts were well rewarded by my daughter's assertion that it was the BEST day. (yay!!!! forever memories, created!)

    PS: Writing this post had me reliving our first kids' "theme" party and I'm just so glad I got to share this with you. If you ever have (or had) the opportunity to host a Harry Potter party, let me know. I'd love to see!!

    PPS:  We've been watching the movies in order now - we're finished with the second so far; I'm a bigger Harry Potter fan now than ever before. I'm still reading book four. My 8 year old has graciously agreed to stop reading after book 6 to... let me catch up. ;) 

    PPS: Spell check had a field day with this post. Why in the world is quidditch not in the dictionary yet? ;)

    Posted: Oct 10 2012, 22:43 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    The Things You Learn Along the Way





    In the last nearly eight years, I’d like to think I’ve learned a bit about parenting – and about myself in the process. I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve discovered along the way…

    All that STUFF you thought you needed (or, that everyone ELSE thought you needed) for your baby? You didn’t need it. All babies really need is milk and love. The rest is just gravy (Um, vegetarian gravy, of course. Duh.).  That said, all that stuff DOES make for a darned good yard sale down the line. 

    Patience is a virtue. It’s also incredibly hard to come by at times. You need to keep practicing it – ALL. THE. TIME. And you need to have ways to access it 24/7 - because neither kids’ feet nor their mouths stop moving until they are asleep (and even then, it’s not a guarantee), and they expect – and DESERVE – peaceful, creative responses and guidance to their (endless) questions and boundary pushing. On the upside, I’ve found my greatly developed sense of patience has extended into my relationships OUTSIDE of parenting. Win – win.

    Parenting doesn’t “get easier” as time goes by, like everyone tries to tell you when you have a new baby. Yes, baby eventually stops waking you at night (easier), but then starts getting up by himself, and learns how to unlock the gate to downstairs – silently (not easier). Toddler stop wearing diapers (easier), and then wants to use Every. Single. Public. Toilet. Everywhere. (not easier)  Preschooler, who used to be okay with “simple explanations” for where babies come from – like, “Mommies have eggs & Daddies fertilize the eggs, and Mommies’ eggs grow into babies in their wombs” (easier) – now, as a 2nd grader, would like to know: “okay, but HOW EXACTLY do Daddies fertilize the eggs???” (Um… NOT. EASIER.) It gets more complex, and more challenging as it goes along. And, continuing with potty training for a moment...

    Potty learning isn’t an instantaneous process, no matter what the books tell you. The diapers don’t suddenly get put away, and middle-of-the-night sheet changes become a distant memory; even if you used elimination communication or your kid “got it” right away. No matter what the process, it’s a long process, and you WILL hear “Mom! Can you wipe me!?!” echoing through your rooms for quite some time after the last diaper is gone. Just… don’t put the wipes away just yet.

    You are always “on”, AND it isn’t all about you. This may be the biggest change that came with parenting: realizing that life isn’t just about me anymore, or even about me and my partner (who can take care of himself). When you’re a parent, another person suddenly arrives, completely, entirely, dependent on you – for sustenance, shelter, clothing, guidance, education, discipline, entertainment, love. And when they need you, they NEED you – like NOW. When you’re sick, you’re on. When you’re tired, you’re on. When you’ve worked a whole day at the office and would love to just come home and put your feet up, you’re on. And every decision from here on out NO LONGER just involves what you (or your partner) would like to do or need – there is always another person to consider.  Which, by the way is NOTHING like owning a pet (those people who tell you having a pet is good preparation for a baby? I can’t remember the last time I had to sleep sitting up with a sick cat in my lap who has thrown up every half hour through the night and gone through every single piece of clean linen – towels, sheets, dishcloths – in the house, only to finally fall asleep and wake up with the next cat sick with the same thing, followed by being sick yourself… yeah. Pets aren’t kids.). You’re on and never off, never ever, not for the next 20 years or so (at which point, I’m told, you’re still not off – you’re just in pause mode – waiting for the phone to ring).

    People will judge you. And you will judge yourself. In the store, on the internet, in books, in magazines, your friends, your family, doctors, strangers – everyone. Everyone will have a say, an opinion, and often, a criticism. So you have to learn to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, but mostly, TRUST YOURSELF - because YOU are your child’s best advocate; you know your own child – and your own family – BEST.

    Parenting gets more fun as it goes on. Yes, this may seem to contradict what I just said about not getting easier; but it’s not. It’s just… the prize that comes with a greater challenge. As the conversations with older kids become more challenging, they also become more interesting! You don’t have to read The Hungry Caterpillar forty times anymore, you can actually read Harry Potter together – and you ALL enjoy it! You get to share and relive the movies of your childhood – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, The Dark Crystal, E.T., with your kids. You don’t have to haul the stroller around anymore – they can WALK… AND they LIKE it! In fact, you can start back up doing the things you may have put to the side when they were born – hiking, painting, gardening – and they participate WITH you. It’s amazing fun to share your passions with your kids when they can really get into it!  And, my personal favorite fun-boost that has come with age? TRAVEL! It is SO. MUCH. FUN. Travelling and exploring with kids who are old enough to appreciate and understand where they’re going, what they’re looking at, and who don’t need to nap any longer (and who can carry their own backpacks – WIN!), is like the pinnacle of parenting. I LOVE travelling with our kids & know it will only get better and better with age!

    (Travelling with our kids - now, doesn't that look FUN!)

    Love is endless. You have boundless love for your children. It comes from somewhere so deep and bottomless, that it keeps flowing, multiplying, and surrounding all of your children – no matter how many you have. No matter how many crumbs you clean out of your keyboard, no matter how much pee on the bed or juice on the carpet you have to clean. You will love and love. It’s one of the most amazing things to me – when I feel like I’m at the bottom of my barrel – my patience low, I’m underslept, out of energy, uncreative, children bickering on and off all day, and I haven’t had a moment to myself… somewhere, the warmth of love comes over me when I look at the curl across my son’s forehead or hear my daughter reading a book to us. I can forgive myself and them – love keeps us going, builds us up, brings us closer together. Above everything, the ability to love deeply and without condition is probably the best and most lasting thing I’ve learned as a parent. All you need is love, and with kids – they take it and give it willingly. It’s amazing.

     

    So… what have YOU learned as a parent?

    Posted: May 10 2012, 12:00 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting | Travel

    LOST: The Questions of the Universe... Unanswered. Bummer.





     

    Over the last few months, I decided to catch up on the last two seasons of the television show LOST. Adam & I had stopped watching after the close of season 4; feeling a bit, well… lost. Ahem. The story was starting to feel contrived; the characters predictable, and it was unlikely that a real resolution was on the horizon. The key resolution, of course, being a reveal of what the island ACTUALLY was, and WHY everyone was on it.

    It was frustrating. But, because I've never liked leaving a story undone (I've been known to trudge through a book that I dislike just because I started it and, well, you never know… it COULD have an amazing ending!), AND because running indoors in cold weather can be BORING, I decided I could set up my laptop on my treadmill, and slog through the last 35 episodes - multitasking for the win!

     

    <Now, here's where you want to stop reading if you haven't watched the whole series, and you're planning on it someday.>

     

    Now, once I got back into the story, it really wasn't slogging, as I'd feared it might be. Almost right away, I that familiar enticement of science fiction and the unknown that drew me into the series in the first place; and the emphasis on mythology and religion in the last two seasons proved particularly intriguing. Taken together those elements made for more thinking, less watch-checking in the last two seasons then the previous couple. And to top it off, the introduction of flash-sideways(es) which were some of the best moments of LOST. That said, the (unnecessary) repetition of "trust me" and "follow me" themes got a bit tiresome. I couldn't help but picture Jack Bauer of 24. Over. and Over again. Of course, when taken in the context of the finale, that particular broken record makes sense:  Light, dark. Good, evil. Which path are you going to choose; who/what are going to follow or believe - in life, death, or the hereafter… trust, choice, follow, believe - or not. But still; it wore on me at times.

     

    My assumption for several seasons was that the inhabitants of the island were dead, and perhaps in a sort of purgatory - earning their redemption or being offered a chance at another go-around in life (think, "Defending Your Life", Al Brooks/Meryl Streep --- LOVED that movie), though, with the arrival of the flash-sideways scenes, I wondered excitedly if LOST were veering back towards sci-fi (alas, this was not to be). I admit that even with the cool new plot lines, I continued through the last two seasons to be concerned that after all was said and done, all the characters, all the mysteries presented in six seasons, there'd be no WAY they'd be able to tie everything up in a nice, neat package. Nevertheless, I was anxiously awaiting the finale. Midway through the final season, I just wanted to KNOW already. Was it heaven, hell, purgatory, a dream, a futuristic planet, the next life, an ACTUAL island?

     

    So, I reached the ending a couple weeks ago. Watched it with eyes wide open. I actually wasn't even running for the last half of the last episode. Hmmm. So.


    Well… I didn't hate it. I wasn't completely disappointed; but I was… mostly disappointed. See, I realized at some point while watching, that those flash-sideways I loved so much, well, I loved them because I really WANTED them to represent redemption, a new shot at life, like a here & now reincarnation: lives they(we) ACTUALLY lived, or COULD live, if they(we) chose to. I wanted the sci-fi time-travel part to be true; I wanted to embrace the paradox of multiple timelines running at the same time (think, Back to the Future). AND, I wanted to believe that even if it WASN'T that, if it WAS, instead, as was heavily suggested in the last season, some kind of life-after-death experience, then the greater message here was: be good, be righteous, be kind, helpful, follow your heart, and you'll get it right – you’re crafting your destiny. It's not God or your religious doctrine choosing your path, nor that your path is already chosen for you, and you’re just moving along it, but that YOU choose your path, you're always choosing your path… and that you'll always have a chance to get it right, even when things don't go right.

     

    But in the end, that isn't what happened; not exactly.  All the loose ends left un-wrapped-up aside (they really DID do a shoddy job with closing up the many sci-fi aspects of the show, much to my disappointment - though I kinda knew it would be that way), my problem with the last episode was that it was a cop out. They all meet in a church and then the world ends with a bright light and lots of hugging, and none of the “bad people” are anywhere to be seen! What?

     

    I felt betrayed, in a way, that all the suggesting they did about time travel, reincarnation, life choices, following the “good” or “evil” path… they just didn’t follow through. The good guys go to heaven, the end. Sigh, how boring. How predictable. How safe.

     
    I know the answers to the questions of the universe: why we're here, where we're going, what happens next; won't be answered by a television show. But I had hope in LOST.  I had hope that maybe what would come from the millions of viewers tuning in each week was a promise, even just an inkling of a promise, that we have CONTROL over our destiny - that if we DO the right things in the NOW, if we make choices to help, be kind, to LOVE, that regardless of all the dogma, it’s truly the here and now that counts.  I think a lot of people may have left LOST still feeling lost, which is a shame. On the upside, it gave me a few moments of really engaging television, some ideas for my book, and a lot of motivation to keep running. So, there's that.

     

    Did you watch LOST? What did you think?

    Posted: Apr 28 2012, 11:53 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    A Vision Board for Family Harmony





    We’ve been dealing with a lot of BIG feelings around here recently – at ages 7 and almost 5 (along with ages 34 and 36!). Some days I find the bickering, along with the nudging to: “be gentle”, “stop fighting”, “treat each other with kindness”, paired with constant redirection, repeating, and reminders of why we SHOULDN’T hit, and what we SHOULD do instead when we feel angry… all to be a bit too much for me. At times, I’ve felt out of control as a parent – meaning, I feel like my children are just tumbling forward ahead of me in a snarling cat and dog tangle, and I’m running behind, holding a broken leash, discouraged (will they ever understand that peace feels better than conflict?) and confused (what am I doing wrong?).  I KNOW my children’s actions and feelings aren’t mine to control. Yet, I also know it is my job (and desire!) to encourage and teach them to express their feelings in creative and helpful ways – instead of destructive and hurtful ways. But I’m not so good at being that proverbial rubber ball. The things our children say and do all have an effect on me! So, it’s a delicate balance of letting them work through their OWN feelings, keeping myself from being hurt by words they may throw without fully meaning them, telling them when they do say things that aren’t acceptable, and giving them gentle (yet firm at times), direction and examples.

    Parenting is hard, that’s just a fact. Doesn’t matter whatever else you have going on in your life, parenting is still a difficult job – a ton of responsibility – not just to physical everyday tasks (the washing, care, and feeding of kids), but the emotional guidance and teaching of a new and small human to whom everything is NEW – feelings, reactions, objects, experiences, everything.

     

    In a moment of calmness today, I sat down at my computer, feeling still frustrated, yet hopeful about finally finding that key to helping settle the next cat-and-dog quarrel, when suddenly an email I’d written a year ago, popped out to me from last year. The title was VISION BOARD. Vision board, what’s a vision board? I opened the email, (which was just a link to an image…) and was met with a collage of inspirational words: Possibilities. Power. Happiness Lingers. Energy. Prosperity. Love. Be Transformed.  Along with beautiful images: flowers, a women jumping, an island in the middle of a calm sea.


    (source: http://powerful-living.biz/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/lc-2008-map.jpg)

    My hope increased. This, I thought, is EXACTLY what I’m going to do. Make a vision board!

    So, what IS a vision board? 

     

    It’s a visual reminder of what you’d like to be, where you see yourself in the future, what you believe you can achieve, or what you would like to have more of in your life. It’s a way to envision where you’re going and what you’re reaching for – and to take that vision out of your mind, and into a place where you can see it every day.  The intention of making a vision board is to put your desires out in front of you (and into the universe), in order to help you focus on what you want more of (Peace! Harmony!), instead of what you don’t want (Bickering. Quarrelling.); all in the hopes that you’ll discover what you want finds you more often, and in greater quantity.

     

    I liken in to the experience of waking up after a less-than-stellar night’s sleep (what? No sleep? Huh?) – and having your thoughts turn to, “ugh, I’m SO tired, HOW am I going to make it through this day?” – and then continuing through that day, which, often turns out to be pretty rough. Versus a day when, in spite of bone-tiredness, you get up, smile in the mirror, and find something wonderful about the day – maybe it’s even the thought of that first yummy cup of coffee – I’ve found THAT day is remarkably more wonderful than I’d expected, given the lack of sleep.

     

    Why is that? Simply, I believe that what you think, what you BELIEVE, is what you become.

     

    I think a vision board is this same idea – crafted so you can SEE and be reminded of what you would like MORE of in your life! For me, seeing things – like writing myself lists or calendar reminders – helps me stay on track better than keeping lists in my mind.

     

    With the hope of increased peace, we started out with creating our own vision board for our house! We talked about what we’d like more of – peace, fun, cooperation, happiness – and began cutting out pictures and words from magazines (& print-outs from websites) that made us feel good, then arranged & glued them down on construction paper, and decorated with stickers & sparkles. Simple! The kids had fun, and I think it turned out sparkly, happy, and inspiring. My daughter looked at it first thing this morning after breakfast, which warmed my heart.

     

    Will it guide us towards more fun, deeper breaths, and peaceful conflict resolutions? I hope so. I can envision us passing by our vision board, smiling, and being reminded of the way we’d like to feel (and for me, the mom I’m striving to be) – calm, peaceful, happy, and fun. If nothing else, I know we enjoyed creative family time together – and that in itself is worth it!

     


    (our vision board, completed - and DD apparently already got the message!) 

     

    Peace to you.

     

    Ps: if you make, or have made a vision board yourself, please leave me a comment & let me know! I’d love to see your creations!

    Posted: Feb 21 2012, 10:58 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Are You Free to Take Some Tea?





    May I inquire discreetly: When are you free to take some tea with me?

    ~The Beatles 

     

    I’ve always loved a good cup of tea. That’s why, when my friend, Amber, at Strocel.com suggested that we all “show her our stash” of tea, I positively jumped at the chance!

    Show me Your Tea Stash at Strocel.com

     

    I am an avid tea drinker. Okay, truthfully, I don’t really discriminate; at least not in genre, I drink coffee, tea, cocoa… it’s all good. Additionally, as my hands are always cold; a hot cuppa fits the bill quite well. I do, however, have my favorites; and some which I just can’t stand (so they linger, like, forever, in my cabinet). I’d say I’m a 8-cup-a-day drinker; though, it’s not always caffeinated (lest you have a picture in your head of me zooming around like a moth on a porchlight with a cup of something gripped firmly in my jittering hands).  Not always. Ahem. 

     

    For quite some years, my penchant(s) for tea drinking – and collecting – have collided in a most haphazard way in my kitchen cabinets (always just right out of reach; honestly, I don’t know WHY I’ve never, ever, moved my tea to a more convenient location!), 'til 'round about 10 years ago, when drinking and collecting merged in a more seamless way, and Adam and I opened an online tea shop – selling one of our favorite hot beverages: chai (though, truth be told, much of my tea at home & at work is bought from the tea shop at our grocery store, and I don’t drink as much chai as I once did; preferring the simplicity of a nice, plain, green as I've gotten older. Ahem, again.). [ps: Amber has assured me that owning a tea shop does not disqualify me from participating in the Big Tea Show-Off. But, in all fairness, I felt I did need to disclose that little fact.].   

     

    And now... on to stats. And PICTURES!  

     

    In my office stash, you can find:
    10 boxes of tea
    1 can of tea
    Many random tea bags & tea k-cups

     

     

    In my stash at home, you can find:
    19 boxes of tea
    2 cans of tea
    A nonsensical number of random individual tea bags

    This pic can perhaps best be described with: O_o
     

     

     

    In our warehouse stash… maybe just a pic will suffice:
     

     

    So... I love tea. And I love people who love tea. I could drink it all day & night; and often do. My kids love tea, too. And, I’m convinced tea keeps you young. And keeps you happy. Or, at least, it keeps you warm. And that counts for something.  

     

    Here’s to a Happy New Year, and happy tea drinking!

    Posted: Jan 14 2012, 15:56 by kelly | Comments (10) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Healthy Eating