Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: From The Mind Of Blaze (page 1 of 16)

What I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Children’s Parties

I used to laugh at my mother for getting misty-eyed over the milestones of my brothers and I. To us, the changes we were going through were no big deal, but to her they were special. After the birth of my daughter, I understood. Watching your child grow up comes with a mixed bag of emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Yesterday, my daughter turned five. For weeks leading up to her birthday, I struggled to wrap my head around it. In fact, I still haven’t quite comes to terms with it. What happened to that adorable squishy baby I brought home from the hospital? Who replaced her with this big girl?

 

turning 5 years old, then and now, baby vs. big kid, kids birthday parties, lessons

 

It’s a strange feeling, mourning the loss of the precious baby and toddler stages while welcoming the new challenges that lie ahead.

With so many things to look forward to, I can safely say that planning more birthday parties is not one of them. They’re expensive. They’re time consuming. And they come with way too many people.

However, it’s a necessary evil that I will endure year after year to ensure my daughter has happy memories. While  her birthday party isn’t until this weekend, I have learned a few things about kids’ birthday parties over the years.

1.  For the first few years, the theme is really for us. 

Seriously, when they are little they really don’t care about the decorations. They don’t notice the honey pots you made for their Winnie The Pooh birthday, or the color coordination of the table cloth and napkins. The perfect icing on the cake is ignored in favor of the promise of a tasty treat, and honestly, it’s going to be cut soon anyway.

I’m not saying to avoid doing a theme altogether or anything like that. However, I think it’s important to keep these things in mind so that we don’t stress ourselves out over nothing. Of course we all want to do our best and make the day special, just remember an anxious mother fretting over streamer placement doesn’t exactly add to the magic.

2.  Facebook is the best thing ever.

People rarely call to RSVP, but they will usually check off the little box on Facebook, which makes it easy to get a fairly accurate headcount. It’s so easy to set up your event and make sure that everyone is on the same page, I don’t know why paper invites are even a thing anymore!

3. Someone needs to be in charge.

Admittedly, this is usually my mother. I am terrible at directing droves of small people, and I’m not a fan of speaking in front of people in general. I usually make my mom be the one to keep things moving and make announcements, such as when it’s time for games, cake, and presents. If only she could be the one reading the cards and saying thank you to everyone as each gift is open!

4.  Managing the influx of gifts is much easier if you start with a clean bedroom.

The first few years, I simply had the party, carted the gifts back home, and began stressing over where to put everything. As the amount of toys and clothes in my daughter’s room grew, I found myself stressing more and more over how to keep it all organized. By the time she turned three, I realized why my mother had us go through our toys before birthdays and Christmas.

Now, I make sure I thoroughly clean and declutter her room before the party to make room for all her new things. It’s so much easier than letting it pile up! Once the party is over and everything has been cleaned up, all the new toys can be added to the menagerie with little hassle.

Speaking of gifts…

5. Kids don’t need as much stuff as we think they do!

Seriously, they just wrack up the clutter as time goes on. With multiple people buying gifts, one or two gifts from mom and dad is perfect. Most of the stuff won’t be played with in a matter of days anyway.

What I’ve found, is that asking for a few things she needs as well as things she wants is a great way of keeping the clutter in check. Since my daughter’s birthday is in the fall, one of her gifts is usually her winter coat and boots, plus some clothes. I also make a point to ask for books and art supplies, since we can always use those! Of course, I still want her to get fun stuff, but it’s nice to find a good balance between things that will get used and things that will wind up in the bottom of the toy box.

 

black hole of doom, bottom of the toy box, kids birthday party

Or, as I refer to it, the black hole of doom.

 

In the end, we must find ways to make the festivities manageable and keep ourselves from getting stressed out. Keep the focus on the kids and your sanity and it will turn out great! Remember, we are celebrating another trip around the sun for our little ones, it should be about fun and love.

I hope you find these tips helpful! If you have any tips of your own, please, leave them in the comments below!

 

Can You Really Have It All?

As you all know by now, every now and then I get the urge to sort through posts from my first blog. Usually, I’m looking for something I can update or expand upon when I’ve run out of ideas, but sometimes I run across a post that I love as is.  What’s amazing to me is how often the posts I find reflect something I’m currently going through. It seems that sometimes I just need to take a look at the past to get a clear sense of my present.
Lately, I’ve been questioning the notion of “having it all”. Sometimes it seems like an impossible order to fill when we all have so many hats we must wear on a daily basis. Life can easily become overwhelming when you try to take on everything, and it’s easy to wonder why we are working so hard.
As I read over the following post, I was reminded that “having it all” is relative. It is absolutely possible, so long as you have a clear and realistic vision of what “it all” means. The key is to watch your thoughts and know that it will all work out…which is something that is much easier said than done.
Below you will find a little story about how easy it can be, exactly as it appeared on “Life, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Happiness” on November 18, 2015.
***This post contains an affiliate link. Although I do make a small profit on anything purchased through this link (at no cost to you), I was not compensated for the product described and all thoughts are purely my own.***

 

A fulfilling career. Financial stability. A happy homelife. Great health. Strong bonds with family and friends. Time for hobbies. Personal growth. All these things and more are sure to find themselves on your personal wish list. However, finding the time to devote to all of these things can be excruciatingly overwhelming and prompt you to wonder whether or not “having it all” is even remotely possible.

In fact, that’s a question I have agonized over many times myself. Over the span of my adult life, I have read more books on the subject than I can count. Everyone is striving to achieve some sort of balance and most of us feel as though we are failing in one area or another.

 

Lately, things have been pretty wonderfully for me, and I attribute it to two things:
  1. Changing my outlook from a lens of lack to a lens of abundance and gratefulness, and
  2. Changing my idea of what “it all” really means.
I’m not going to say it has been a perfectly smooth ride and that I don’t find myself slipping back into old habits and ways of thinking. I am only human. However, I have found that the process has been amazing and that I am finding myself ever closer to the life I want.
It’s amazing how much we take for granted in our lives and how much energy we spend wishing we had this or that. We put an extraordinary value on things that we believe will bring us happiness, instead of finding reasons to be happy right now, and never really question why. It’s a hard habit to break.

 

The thing is, when we focus on what we don’t have and ignore the things we do,  we’re inviting that situation to continue. We shut ourselves off from seeing new opportunities for happiness and growth that may be right in front of us. You get what you put out, if all you see is lack, lack is what you’ll get. Keep your thoughts on all the good things you do have, and you attract more good things.

 

The tricky part is knowing where to put your focus. You must do some serious soul-searching and figure out what it is that you really want. What is it that would truly make you happy? What kind of life do you want to live? A successful career doesn’t have to mean putting in 60 hours–although it may for some. A happy family life doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a career or hobbies. The key to finding balance is defining your parameters and trimming away anything that doesn’t serve you. Once you know what you want, you have to go after it with passion, an open mind, and an open heart. Do what you can do in the real world and believe that you can achieve that thing (whatever it may be). Look for new opportunities and creative solutions and then express gratitude when things fall in place.
Now, I’m far from a self-help guru, but these are the things that I have found to be true. I’m sure a lot of you have heard a similar message at some point in your life. Maybe you’ve even tried to apply these principles at one point or another, or maybe you’ve dismissed them as “new age nonsense”. However, in my experience, it works if you stay the course.
Back in August, I read a book called “Anything Can Be” by Jessica Dimas, which is all about applying the Law of Attraction (think “The Secret”). I love the way she approached this topic. I’ve read a lot of similar books, but she writes in easy to understand plain English and really breaks it down. I also love her personal accounts of how these principles have worked their magic in her life. You can purchase it via the image below, and I also recommend you check out her blog, Pig and Dac.
As far as how it has worked for me personally, I can only say that it has made a huge difference in my quality of life thus far. When I started putting it into action, I made a list of the things I wanted immediately that would change my life for the better. I wanted more money coming into our home, more time to spend with my family, the means to make our home more visually appealing, and to start making some sort of profit off of this blog.
Within weeks, things started changing. I got approached to do a review for Mighty Mug and received a free cup from them. I landed a job by chance, even though I hadn’t really been looking. The hours are perfect and allow me to still spend time on this blog. They changed Almost-Husband’s hours at work, moving him to days instead of nights, so we are now able to spend more time together. Our bills are paid up for once and we’ve been able to start working on some home-improvement projects. Things really started coming together, and I foresee many new positive changes in our future.
I could write so much more about how this has worked for me, but it could easily turn into a book all it’s own. Instead, I will continue to keep you updated on the amazing things happening here as they come and wish you all happiness and success as you continue your own journeys. Happiness is possible. But first we must look inside.

 

When You Overestimate Your Abilities

As this blog has unfolded, I’ve talked a lot about times when I haven’t felt very confident. It’s a struggle we’ve all experienced at one time or another. We’ve all had moments when we’ve doubted our abilities or compared ourselves unfavorably to someone else, and I’ve always been very forthcoming about these experiences because it’s part of the human experience.

What we haven’t talked about it when the opposite happens and you have way more confidence that you should have. It’s not talked about as often, but it happens all the time. We set our sights on some lofty goal, and may even begin to go at it with intensity, only to find out that we’ve bitten off a bit more than we can chew. It’s at these points that we either give up entirely or we find a way to make it work, either by adjusting our expectations or doing what we can to sharpen our skills.

I know that I, personally, have a tendency to greatly overestimate what I can reasonably accomplish within a given time frame. This can range from simply thinking I can do more cleaning in a day than can be reasonably accomplished, to taking on a massive project for which I am greatly unprepared.

Case in point: recently, my husband went on a two-week trip to Oregon, leaving me and our child at home.

Of course, I made several to-do lists. I was going to deep clean and declutter every room in the house, finish at least 5 sewing projects with the machine I borrowed from his mother, and repaint and redecorate the bathroom. I also wanted to have 25,000 more words done on the draft for book 4, have 5 blog posts pre-written and scheduled, and have plans drawn up for the furthering of my career.

That’s….a lot, isn’t it?

 

overestimating abilities, learning confidence, learning to do less

Pretty much my ongoing stack of to-do lists.

 

Now, I did manage to make headway on a lot of things. I sorted every item in the house and took a huge load to Goodwill and created a large pile of things for my husband to sort through. I added roughly  21,500 words to the draft, thought up some ideas for book promotion, and outlined some blog posts. However…the bathroom and sewing?

I bit off more than I could chew with those projects.

The bathroom project definitely needed two people, and I had recruited my sister in law to help out. However, the hubs announced he was coming home early, so I rushed to do it on my own…and soon realized I just wasn’t tall enough to finish the job, even with a ladder. In this instance, I realized where my limits were and instead of being hard on myself, I put it behind me with the thought that I’d finish it once I had the proper resources. Moving on from that project was somewhat easy, after all, I knew it would be finished sooner or later.

Now the sewing projects…that’s where my overconfidence shined.

My first mistake was thinking that putting together a few pillows and doll clothes as a kid with my grandma meant I had any real experience. Now, I had done a handful of projects by hand with varying degrees of success and have always been the kind of person to look at something and try to visualize how it’s been constructed, so in my mind this was going to be easy. I’d gone ahead and cut out fabric for god-knows-how-many projects and had this idea that I’d just whip them up in an afternoon. I had a ton of tutorials saved and patterns at the ready (both purchased and hand designed) and was ready to rock and roll.

When my old Tiny Tailor bit the dust, my mother in law was kind enough to loan me her old machine. I was so excited when I picked it up, marveling at it’s case and all the fancy functions outlined in the manual. I couldn’t wait to get to work!

I soon found out that I know absolutely nothing about sewing. I spent days upon days troubleshooting as I figured out things like adjusting the tension and figuring out how to thread the damn thing correctly. I don’t know how many times I walked away in frustration and swore I was giving up entirely. This obviously wasn’t for me. If it was, I’d just pick it up naturally, right?

Clearly, the answer wasn’t taking smaller steps. *Insert sarcastic eye roll here.*

After one particularly irritating session, I got to thinking about how often I find myself in this situation. There are so many skills I wish were more finely honed because of this terrible habit. I get excited about something, but once it gets hard, I step back. Sometimes I find myself going back to it, but more often than not I let it go or accept that I won’t get any better at whatever it is.

 

overestimated abilities

Sometimes this is easier to remember than others.

 

The more I thought about this, the more I became disappointed in myself. Over the course of my life, there are very few things I’ve stuck it out with, and it’s never done anything but make me feel bad. Something had to change.

As I thought about the greater implications of this silly project, I became more and more determined. I needed to teach myself a lesson in discipline and adjust my expectations. No one is good at anything when they start out. Why have I been putting so much pressure on myself?

It’s silly, really.

From all of this, I think the two major lessons are rather clear, even if they seem to be a bit conflicting. On the one hand, setting your sights on a goal and striving to achieve it in a realistic time frame is important. On the other, putting too much pressure on oneself can seriously hinder your determination. The trick is to find that sweet spot, where you challenge yourself enough to keep growing, yet not so much that it becomes overwhelming.

Clearly, this is a lesson I’ve been needing to learn for some time and something I’ve contemplated off and on for most of my life. However, this time the revelation feels different. It feels vital.

This time, I have a tiny set of eyes on me, studying my every move and picking up the habits I exhibit. In a matter of months, there will be a second set of tiny eyes. If I allow myself to give up on a task, no matter how small, I’m teaching my children to give up when things get hard. If I continually take on more than I can realistically accomplish, I’m teaching them to live in a constant state of stress. I have to find that middle ground and show them how to face challenges in a healthy manner.

In light of this, I must press on at a reasonable pace. I must be gentle with myself and not expect everything to be perfect immediately. I must realign my priorities and put in the work with a smile instead of a scowl. It’s never too late to do better.

 

For Those About To Rock

It should come as no surprise by now that music makes up a huge part of my life. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned it enough that it’s just a given by now. Hell, I’ve even released three books with music as a central theme!

The other night, I was sitting around listening to music with my daughter and we had some pretty great discussions about the different songs that played, like we always do. At four years old she is already full of little rock and roll factoids and it makes my heart smile.

As I was contemplating writing a post about it, I remembered that I had written about how important her musical education is to me. Today, I will be sharing that post exactly as it first appeared on my old blog on January 10, 2014.

***

 

Last night, Almost-Mother-In-Law and I were sitting at the dining room table discussing my concerns that my daughter has inherited insomnia. It runs high in both my family and Almost-Husband’s and we have been fighting numerous sleep issues with her since she came out of the womb. As the conversation progressed, she started talking about what worked for her and her kids when they were small.

“We used to play an alphabet game,” she tells me. “I’d say, for example, animals that start with the letter B and he’d name one, then he’d ask me and so on.”

“I know that game!” I enthused. “Except when we played it with my mom we did bands or songs!” I went on, explaining that it didn’t stop with the alphabet. We’d do bands with a color in their name or songs with love in the title, for example. The games could go on for hours, especially on road trips. I still try to start one up every now and then.

Almost-Mother-In-Law looked perplexed for a moment. I could see the thoughts churning in her head: what kind of weirdo of a mom does that? How is that educational? There’s really people that into music? No wonder Brandyn’s the way she is!

I laughed as I explained that this is the same woman who had all us kids able to name all the members of the Beatles and the Stones by the time we could speak. In fact, a lot of time was dedicated to our Rock and Roll education. We’d listen to the radio and mom would give us a fun fact about the artist or the song. A rocker’s birthday never passed without acknowledgment. The older we got, the more in-depth the discussion became. We’d talk about the meanings of a song, the use of metaphors in lyrics, how to look at things in context. If we were looking for something to read, she’d helpfully guide us to an autobiography of a rock legend.

She also would have bought us this bear.

When we developed our own tastes, she’d make sure we had all the books and magazines we could want about our favorite bands and that we always had the full discographies. She’d go out at midnight to be sure we had the new releases when they came out. She’d listen with patience and enthusiasm while we prattled on about our favorite artists, even if she didn’t particularly like them or already knew what we were saying. She’d take us to concerts and signings, even if it meant a 7 hour drive or going without sleep the night before her yearly trip to Beatlefest. She validated our rights to have our own likes and opinions, to question the world around us, and to be heard. She encouraged our fancies. She made an effort to know what we were into and use those things as a frame of reference for teachable moments. In short, my mom rocks.

Now that I’m a mother, I find myself doing many of the same things. For example, the other day we were in the car and “I Can’t Drive 55” came on the radio. “That’s Sammy Hagar,” I told her. “He’s the Red Rocker. We like him solo, but we don’t like him with Van Halen.” She’s heard things like this repeatedly throughout her 14 months of life. She’s learning that David Bowie is the Thin White Duke, that David Lee Roth is Diamond Dave, that Johnny Cash is the Man in Black, that Ozzy Osbourne is the Prince of Darkness, Elvis is King and Lemmy is God. She hears that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are the Glimmer Twins and that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are the Toxic Twins. I could go on with the nickname thing, but I think you get the point.

We watch music videos and I point out each of the band members and tell her what their name is and what instrument they play. We work on pumping our fists, flipping the horns, and banging our heads. We dance, we sing. If she responds strongly to a certain song, we make sure we play it often for her. All because I feel that music is just as important to her education as colors, shapes, or the ABCs. It’s a wonderful medium that provides rich ground for all sorts of learning possibilities, regardless of what type it is and I can’t wait to see where this part of our journey will take us.

Now, the funny thing about all this is that not even an hour after having this conversation with Almost-Mother-In-Law, I ran across this. Funny how life can sync up sometimes. For those of you who aren’t going to click the link, it’s a freakin’ hilarious piece about talking to your kids about Ozzy. It’s done in the style of a bit about talking to your kids about sex or drugs, and it just so perfectly captures how my family does things that I couldn’t help but to share.

Maybe your family’s thing isn’t music, or maybe it’s a different type of music. Maybe it’s baseball or it’s larping or something. Maybe your family has many “things”. Maybe your family hasn’t found its thing, yet. Whatever the case, I think shared interests serves to unify a family and strengthen it’s bond. They can provide a starting point for engaging conversations. The more you’re able to communicate, the more chances you have to impart your lessons and values. The more often these come up organically as part of a mutually enjoyable conversation, the better the chances are that those little nuggets of information will really sink in.

Music is how my mom got through to me and I’m grateful that I had such an amazing teacher. I hope that I am able to use the same template to serve my daughter as she learns, develops, and grows, whatever her “thing” may be.

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