Five Ways To Simplify Birthdays

My little Punkin turned one last month and I have a confession: I almost had a nervous breakdown over the entire party thing. There I was: standing in Party City trying to determine whether I should go with the Elmo or the Toy Story theme. Then again, we have a lot of stuffed ‘jungle’ animals so maybe a safari or jungle theme with a lot of monkeys would be better. Seriously. I almost cried in Party City. I was so stressed out and upset over having to choose that I left without purchasing anything that day for fear I’d go with the wrong theme and my little guy’s party would suck.

Thankfully I was scheduled to have lunch with a friend and she reminded me of a few major points to get me back in the groove. She said:

  • He doesn’t know who Elmo, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and any other Disney/Pixtar character is so why does it matter? A monkey, a tiger and a lion are the same to him at this point of his life.
  • You are a 40+ mom, so there won’t be any kids there…only old people who want to see the kid with cake all over his face.
  • You say you are a minimalist. (“Well, sorta”, I admitted). Why are you buying into the lie that this has to be a smaller version of the traveling circus to be a successful party? Keep it simple. Keep it about the kid, not the party.

And she was absolutely right. I realized I was trying to impress the adults at the party with my super-mom skills and those people don’t need me to impress them. They already know I do my best as his mom. No fancy cake needed to prove that. So, as always, I asked myself “How did I get here? I thrive on simplicity. What happened between my house and Party City that day?”

Turns out, this was easy to answer. Pinterest happened. A nightly search of “1 year old birthday ideas” on Pinterest. Not. A. Good. Idea. Don’t misunderstand, I love Pinterest. It is my favorite time-suck activity, but, admittedly Pinterest really does feed my desire to buy things I don’t need and compare myself to those who have (want???) more than I. In truth, when giving things up in my “Year Without”, Pinterest should be top of the list.

My friend, and fellow blogger, Kelly wrote a great blog about how to keep birthdays simple. I’m ‘stealing’ a few of her points, but also adding my own. Hence the title of this week’s post. Here are my five tips for making birthday’s simple.

1. Stay out of the Party Stores. Seriously, a lot can be accomplished with a few white dishes or even white paper plates. I made some decorations from construction paper and a 99 cent bag of blow-up balloons. I think I spent a total of $8 at the Dollar Store. This post has some great ways to decorate from recycled (aka: already on hand) things. It’s a Cheerio-themed party. No home with a one year old is without Cheerios, right? (Kelly’s first point in her blog says “Stay off Pinterest”. Ha. Silly, silly Kelly.)

2. Keep the cake simple. Kelly suggests picking up a cake from the grocery store bakery or baking some cupcakes at home. I totally agree. I did make my Punkin’s cake(s) this year but that’s because I have a neighbor who owned a bakery so she loaned me her cake decorating stuff. My mom used to be a cake decorator so I have a slight level of skill in the decorating field. And finally, I just wanted to for the sake of doing something fun and creative. I made two, actually. One for him and one for the guests. Admittedly, my pal Betty Crocker made it a bit easier. So, case in point: Cake from a box is okay.

3. Only invite people who really matter. Our small little house was brimming with people. Important people. People we love. Only three of our guests were under the age of 9 because most of my friends are drawing social security or (and??) have kids in college.

Don’t celebrate with a ‘party’ every year. I made this a big deal because it was his first birthday and he shares the day with his 71-year old Grandpa who was also at the party. I wanted it to be memorable for several reasons. Next year, I’m thinking Hy-Vee cupcakes, pizza and Phelps Grove Park. End of story.

5. Skip the party favors. Ugh. I hate spending money on silly stuff that people will just throw away. If you must do party favors, follow this rule: If you can’t eat it or wear it, you don’t need it. I’m of the ‘eat it’ mindset so I sent people home with extra cake. As Kelly stated, “Nobody needs a bag full of trinkets and candy sent home with their kid and you can save yourself a little bit of time, money, and stress. The fun time with friends is reward enough for attending.”

20130908_15213220130908_152207Smash Cake!

5 Ways To Have the Life You Want

So, second week in a row I’ve posted about 5 ways to (fill in the blank). If you are not adept at spying trends, this is yet another new direction for my blog. The Friday Five Series. I’m seeking out guest bloggers, too, so I’m excited to share with you some of the things they’ve conjured up in the weeks to come. Also, if you haven’t checked out the other series (Wordless Wednesdays) take a little peek.

This week’s post has five great ideas to live a more simple life, but each centers on one solid theme: Permission.

If you, like me, grew up in the public school system then you are well-trained at asking for permission. Want to go to the bathroom? Gotta ask for permission. They require us to read “A Brave New World” to help us to understand how easily we can fall prey to worldly influences, but remind us daily by making us raise our hands to speak or gather hall passes to leave the room that they don’t want us to be brave at all. And, the world is just fine, thanks. No new world needed.

The business culture isn’t much better. Employers say they want free-thinkers and want people to act like grown-ups, but God forbid you do something based on your gut reaction sans permission. No, no. That just will not do! You didn’t get permission in the form of a NCR carbon-copy document signed by four people with pay grades higher than yours. (And that still has to be run through legal and HR to make sure no one gets sued) And all because you wanted to change from Times New Roman to Arial. (End rant here.)

After much thought this week, I’ve determined that if I want to enjoy the life I’ve always wanted…to enjoy the life I was created to live…then I need to simply relax. The easiest way to do that is to give myself permission. How about you? Can you give yourself permission to do these five things?

Fail. So many people never go out for the volleyball team, move to Hawaii for a new job, start a new business, or simply learn a new skill because they are so afraid of failing. If you ‘fail’ at something it is a sure indicator that you at least tried.  Failing versus not even trying? That’s a no brainer. Do you know how much I suck at knitting? I’m BAD. I don’t care. Stop stressing about how poorly you’ll do and how miserably you’ll fail. Just get off your patootie and go for it.

Quit. I’ve started and stopped a 12-Week Couch to 5K program many times. The upside is, I’ve gotten about 30 weeks of running in during my lifetime because I usually quit about mid-way into Week 5. Quitting doesn’t mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean you haven’t been successful. I’ve successfully run for 5 weeks in a row…six times. That’s big! Some people never know when to quit and they end up in dead-end jobs until they retire or living with spouses who treat the family dog better. Children do this (quitting) instinctively…until we teach them that ‘quitting is for quitters’. Each time I’ve given myself permission to quit…I’ve made room for something better to come into my life and been happier for it.

Be different. I’ve never been a trend-setter or someone who likes to do something because everyone else does it. I kinda dig doing things (or being) a tad bit ‘different’. Last week I cancelled my personal cell phone…and got a landline phone again. Who does that? (Apparently no one considering the hell of a deal I got on my landline). I thought it might be cool to actually engage in activities with my child at the park instead of sitting on a bench, eyes glued to my iPhone, while my son learns to walk without my knowledge.

Be honest. “How are you?” “Fine.” Right. When people hurt you, tell them in a mature, honest manner – one that fosters building stronger relationships. Sweeping your feelings under the rug is a little like lying. You are betraying yourself if you don’t give yourself permission to be honest and you are discounting your true emotions. This leads to drinking alone, loss of sleep, and if you are like me…blog posts you have to delete.

Eat bad stuff. All this crap on Pinterest about Paleo, No Carb, Raw Food, No Sugar makes me want a sundae. A big sundae. Not everyday…but I will eat that huge Pumpkin Pie sundae tomorrow for sure. Am I suggesting you eat like this every time you sit down to a meal? No. (Unless you want to. Then do that.) In others words, being naughty is nice – in moderation.

Some other things I give myself (a mother of a small child, past president of Future Homemakers of America…born again Christian, etc. etc.) permission to do include:

  • Ordering take out when company arrives
  • Eating off paper plates during the week
  • Letting my son cry a little once I put him to bed
  • Hiring a babysitter so I can just go sit at the nature center on a bench alone
  • Getting my tarot cards read and my astrology chart done

I do these things because I’m secure in who I am and can appreciate the irony in it. Besides, when I find myself getting wiggy I can usually trace the origin of my craziness back to a time when I forgot to give myself permission to just be myself.

If you have some time this week, check out Ben Holt’s podcast/interview on giving yourself permission. I really enjoyed it and gave myself permission to listen to it as I was reformatting documents from Times New Roman fonts into Arial and eating a DQ S’Mores Blizzard for lunch.

How about you? How will you give yourself permission this week?