Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: My Life Lately (page 1 of 7)

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!


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.


Home Alone: What I Learned From 2 Weeks Without My Husband

When my husband first brought up the idea of going out to Oregon to mine for gold with his uncle and his mother, I brushed it off as a passing fancy. With the new baby cooking up, using the majority of his vacation time seemed like a bit of a stretch, and this summer had already been pretty full.  I assumed it would just kind of go to the wayside like so many half-planned vacations, and honestly didn’t think much about it until he brought it up again. And again. And again.

After many conversations and a lot of thought, I began to see this as a great opportunity for all of us. Sure, the timing was a little wonky, but it would be much harder for him to go do something like this once there are two littles around. Plus, I tend to take a lot of short trips throughout the year with my own mother or with friends, and he never really takes the same amount of time for himself.  Every parent deserves a break, and I knew he really needed this.

As he started planning for his trip, I started dreaming of all the things I could get done while he was gone. I immediately decided that cooking full meals for just my 4 year old daughter and I was absurd and created my meal plan around simple dinners and frozen food. That alone was going to save me time! Add the hours after my daughter goes to bed and the possibility of sending her to my mom’s for a night or two, and I was looking at a little vacation of my own.  By the time he came home, we’d both be refreshed.

On the Sunday he was set to leave, our child woke up vomiting and the excitement I had built up began to wane. I remained focused on the positive. Surely there’d be some great lessons to be found in this.

Boy was I right.

The first lesson I learned is that my husband is much better at dealing with illness than I am (among other things).

He’s usually the one cleaning up bodily fluids and offering comfort to our daughter, while I take care of things like bringing soup or administering medicine. Sure, I always give snuggles and do what I can to keep her comfortable, but he is much better at being a calming presence and making her smile than I am.  I hadn’t really recognized this until he wasn’t here to dad it up, and I instantly felt guilty that I hadn’t ever given him credit for that. In fact, over the course of his trip I discovered that there are many things I don’t give him enough credit for. I hadn’t realized how much I rely on him throughout the day.


life lessons, while my husband's away

Soup in front of the TV, pretty much the best comfort I can give.

Instead of allowing myself to feel guilty about this, I sent him a quick message to let him know how I felt and have set my sights on making sure I thank him more often. We really are a great team, and part of being a team is being encouraging to one another.

The second lesson I learned was that I have more time in a day than I think. 

We soldiered on and Monday I kept my child home from school. By mid-afternoon she started perking up a bit and had finally stopped throwing up and Tuesday I let her go back to school. As she had slept a lot, I took care of a lot of cleaning and organizing that needed to be done and I realized how much time I waste waiting for the weekend when I have my husband home to help with these things.

By the time I dropped her off Tuesday, I was out of stuff to scrub in the main area of the house. None of it had taken long at all, and I’d worked in short bursts, taking long breaks between tasks. It was interesting to me, because I had had the same amount of time in a day that I usually have. In fact, I had stopped working about the time he would usually be coming home from work.  The only difference was I’d psyched myself up about getting everything done instead of sitting around dreading the work and finding ways to distract myself. Maybe I needed to keep that in mind.

Come Wednesday she was sick again and I had to drag her to the doctor, and by Friday I was being seen for the same bug. Although the illness slowed me down a bit, I still managed to knock a ton of stuff off the to-do list, which helped me come to the realization that there is more than enough time in a day if I keep my head in the game.

The next thing I learned was that my life is just as interesting as anyone else’s.

This may seem like a ridiculously reductive statement, but it’s something I’ve struggled with when it comes to keeping up my social media presence.  We all know that in this day and age social media is incredibly important when building a brand, and it’s something I often find myself slacking on.  In fact, I’ve mentioned it on here once or twice.

The problem has always been that I’ve never thought I had anything interesting to share. If I’m not writing, I’m doing normal stay-at-home mom stuff. I pretty much stay in my house, and since I don’t do the cell phone thing, when I do go out I don’t have the ability to instantly upload a photo. On top of that, I’m generally a private person and don’t even share on my personal Facebook page that often. I look at all the posts from other bloggers, authors, and assorted artists that I admire and they all share personal posts that make me feel like I can relate to them, and yet seem so much more exciting than my own life.


while my husband is away, life lessons

Me, clearly excited about life.

Before my husband left, I decided to use the two weeks to give myself a social media challenge. During those 14 days I would have to find at least one thing to share. Since my Instagram links to my author page of Facebook and my Twitter account, I set my sights on taking one picture per day to document my time home alone. Surely I could find something funny or at least slightly interesting to share if I focused on the perks and challenges of handling the homefront on my own.

I managed to hit most of these days, which was a huge accomplishment for me. Sure, there were a few days where I couldn’t find anything to post, or simply put it off, but I dramatically increased my confidence in using the various social media platforms that used to fill me with dread. Not only did it help me overcome a huge stumbling block, but it increased my engagement, which was definitely needed!

The last thing I learned was that I can really hustle when I need to.

By the time my husband called to tell me they were leaving a few days ahead of schedule, I was more than ready for him to come home. Between my daughter being ill and passing it on to me, the challenges of dealing with a child who’s routine has been completely turned upside down, and the lack of adult interaction, I was beat. I was missing him like crazy and couldn’t wait to catch up…and then dump the kid on him so I could take a breather.

However, I was slightly panicked as I had hatched a plan to completely redo the bathroom before he returned. Due to conflicting schedules, the only day I could get both  a sitter and some help was the Saturday before he was to come home With the trip being cut short, I now had to rush if I was going to pull off the surprise…and that meant doing it alone.

I managed to get everything done, except painting the very top of the walls.


while my husband's away

Stupid short arms.

As it turns out, even with a ladder I wasn’t tall enough to reach, so I had to leave it to be finished later. Still, I was happy to have made so much progress, and he loved the results.


redoing the bathroom, life lessons, while my husband's away

Not pictured: the horrendous white strip between the light fixture and ceiling.

All in all, the time alone was extremely eye opening, and I’m glad for the experience. That said, I am certainly not in any rush for my husband to take another trip alone!  Getting back to the routine has been wonderful and I can’t wait to see how these lessons change the way things run from here on out.




Special Announcement: There’s Some Big Changes Going On!

“I need to write a new blog post soon,” I told myself, sitting down in front of my computer Tuesday morning. “I have about 80 drafts started, if I get my head in the game I can get a bunch of them finished.”

I typed in the address and attempted to log-in, shocked when it took me to a screen declaring my website was down.

I immediately hopped over to Bluehost and found that my hosting fees had been due on the 4th…not the 9th like I had written down on my calendar. With a sigh, I closed my laptop. It was two days ’til payday, nothing could get done until then.

I quickly shook it off and busied myself with housework. It didn’t take long until I was ready for a break, which lasted about 5 minutes before my 4 year old daughter needed me to get her some milk.  As I poured her drink, I couldn’t help but think about how far off track I’ve gotten with my blog and social media posts lately. In fact, I hadn’t really worked on the next novel much either.

I carried the beverage back to my child and collapsed on the couch, feeling exhausted. She curled up beside me and I smiled. At least I hadn’t gotten too off track with her.

I took a moment to remind myself that it’s okay to slip every now and then. Sometimes we need rest. Especially when there’s a lot of big changes going on.

With my daughter starting preschool a few weeks ago, I have been busy adjusting to a new routine. A routine that will undoubtedly be shaken up again in the very near future as the changes taking place in my body culminate in a brand new life.

Hold up…does this mean?

Yes, ladies and gents, yours truly is pregnant with Baby #2!

I found out shortly after the Fourth of July and it has been so hard to keep it in!

In fact, we went against all the usual advice and told immediate family and our closest friends very quickly. After going through multiple losses, I found that for me personally, I’d rather have the uncomfortable conversation if something goes wrong and have the love and support of my family and friends, than go through it alone.

However, we waited to tell everyone else until after we had our first ultrasound and entered the “safe zone”.  Now that that is done, I can share with you!


simple pregnancy announcement

My little princess is so excited!

I am now a little over 14 weeks along and everything is going smoothly. All the nausea and exhaustion is starting to subside and I’m finally feeling like a functioning human again. Of course, that’s likely to change again in a number of months, but I’ll take the reprieve, no matter how brief!

Ever since I took that first test, I have been unable to focus on anything else. I’ve been making my lists and worrying about everything I need to have done before the little one gets here. There’s all sorts of housework and decluttering to be done, a new budget to work out, and a name to choose. There’s changes to account for in the timelines of some goals.

And of course, there’s a lot of work to catch up on in terms of my career! Posts to write and schedule, a book to finish, and a few other projects to deal with…to say I’m a little overwhelmed is an understatement!

Of course, I felt this way when I was pregnant with my daughter as well.  I was a nervous wreck and had a huge list of things I wanted to do before she arrived. I wound up knocking out a good chunk of that list, and ultimately none of it was as big a deal as I’d made it out to be.

This time, I think I have some reasonable goals and am so excited to get everything in place!

Over the past couple weeks I’ve finally gotten my writing groove back and am back to work on the fourth book in my “Instruments of Life” series. In the interest of not taking on more than I can chew at the moment, I’m aiming for it to be out in March, however I am hoping to have it ready sooner than that if possible. I’m really excited about this one and I can’t wait to wrap it up and share it with you all!

With so much going on, I’m sure to have more than enough fodder for blog posts between now and then, so be on the lookout for new posts! In addition to finding them on my Facebook and Twitter pages, you can also subscribe to this blog via email at the bottom of the page.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you all and as always I want to extend a huge “Thank You!” to my wonderful readers for all your love and support!

Let the new chapter begin!



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