A few years back, we stopped throwing birthday parties.
They used to be my thing. I looked forward to, and also absolutely dreaded it every single year, because as proud of the result as I was, and as much as I loved watching the boys enjoy it (we did a two-for-one party with both of their birthdays being in September)–It was just so much work, and so incredibly stressful. I’d spend weeks planning, go totally all-out with themed decorations, foods, drinks, and activities, which meant days shopping– days and late nights trying to make it perfect for the kids–the ones who would actually show up. All that time, the effort, the money spent, all to create chaos in the house for a few hours of panicking you missed something, and worrying people would call the day off to say they couldn’t attend. It sounds like I’m being dramatic, but if you’ve ever thrown a party for a kid, you know this to at least be partially true.
And you’re not alone.
Did you know 71% of parents wish there was a better/easier way to celebrate their child’s birthday without all the added stress?
Instead, we started taking family trips-creating memories of DOING things in place of throwing parties.
NO ONE in this house misses parties.
Still, when the boys’ birthdays roll around, I always want to make at least a little bit of a stink about it, just on a far smaller (read: non-existent) budget. Netflix is making that SUPER easy for all of us with kids that love Netflix as much as we do!
It’s so easy. It’s called Netflix Birthdays on Demand- all ya gotta do is go to Netflix.com/Birthdays and choose from one of FIFTEEN Netflix originals with your kid’s fav characters (including DreamWorks All Hail King Julien, Barbie, Beat Bugs, DreamWorks Dinotrux, Las Leyendas, LEGO Friends, LEGO Ninjago, Luna Petunia, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, My Little Pony, Pokemon, Project Mc2, Skylanders Academy, DreamWorks Trollhunters and Word Party.)
And that’s IT.
It will feel like a tailor made birthday celebration just for your little one, without the stress, streamers, and hair torn out.
And maybe have a little bit of cake, too..
Just remember- if no one’s around to see it, the only thing that matters is that it tastes good!
“Aren’t the boys too old for strollers?”
This was the first question my husband asked while I was tossing around the idea of renting a stroller, like we always do, for our Disney World vacation this year.
In any normal circumstance, the answer is ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY. They are both 100% able bodied, and at almost 10 and 8 years old, hearing them whine about how their legs hurt after fifteen minutes of walking or less grates on my nerves more than anything else because I know that, well… I know that they’re full of crap. Crocodile tears. They can handle fifteen minutes of walking. They can handle a couple of HOURS of walking, but Disney World isn’t a couple of minutes of walking, or a couple of hours of walking. It’s walking all day long every day. It’s hours and hours of wading through crowds in the heat.
So while during the day to day they are way too old to be plopping in strollers, at Disney World, I thought it was an absolute necessity.
And I was right.
Like every other year we’ve traveled to Disney World, we secured a stroller with the amazing Orlando Stroller
Rentals. Usually we grab a double, but we thought, the kids ARE older, and more importantly heavier, so they can take turns in a higher capacity rental stroller. They have a really great selection of different styles of stroller to choose from depending on your needs/children’s weights. No pickup necessary, the stroller of our choice gets delivered directly to our resort and picked up when we’re done. And we’ve learned- ALWAYS GO WITH THE RAIN COVER. Just like there’s no guaranteeing how long your kids will last walking in the FL sun, there’s no guaranteeing that FL sun will even show up.
I don’t often like to pat myself on the back, but I’m patting myself on the back for ignoring the “kids are too old” judgment and reserving a rental stroller anyway.
Not only was it a great place for EITHER kid to rest when their legs decided “not to work” (insert eye roll here), but it was an awesome place for our youngest to hide from the rain while only three of us trudged through puddles and the few crazy downpours. Even when neither of them were riding in it (which actually happened more often than I thought it would, they’re growing up!) we used the seat as a place to rest our bookbag so no one had to carry it, and the undercarriage was an amazing place to store purchases to protect them from rain, and so we didn’t have to lug them around on us, or add weight to our bookbag.
Even better- they handle so much better than the strollers you rent from the parks. So easy that your older child (if you have one) can push it around FOR you. WINNING.
I really am going to be sad when both of my kids become too heavy for us to rent a stroller from Orlando Stroller Rentals, for ALL of the reasons listed above. It’s just so convenient and helpful! I honestly can’t recommend enough, if you are planning a trip to Disney World (or a theme park in Orlando) checking out what Orlando Stroller Rentals has to offer. See what works for you, they have a bunch to choose from! And then relax. The tired legs and rainy days and heavy souvenirs won’t be anything to worry about!
It wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse, but for me, it was pretty damn close.
On Saturday night, with no provocation, without losing a bet, or being sarcastic- I said, in mixed company, WHILE being recorded “I love cauliflower”.
I thought I’d be met with groans or disgust, but my friends actually agreed. In that moment, all I could think was “holy shit, when did we get so old?”
Could it be knowledge learned with time, because we know that rice is bloating and we can’t even look at certain foods without having to consider wearing a t-shirt in the pool and had to find a healthy replacement, or are our tastebuds actually dying because we are dying?
You may think that rolling out of bed and sounding like a wet bowl of Rice Krispies is one of the first signs, or maybe it’s the wrinkles, gray hairs, and/or the plethora of bills that come in my mail that should have been red flags everywhere, but you’d be wrong. Those are signs of aging, not getting old. Getting older is inevitable- and we’re lucky to be able to do so. BEING OLD is a mindset. We could control it, but we just don’t want to, because we’re old, and we want you to get the fuck off of our lawns.
I’m only two punches away from having an official “Old Folk” card. It comes with a discount on adult diapers and a discount on the first bingo card.
Here are 11 signs that you may be rounding the corner to the mental retirement home:
So how’d you do? Ready to collect your free bingo card and complimentary prune juice?
Out of all the stories I could tell about the Disney cruise I just returned from, I didn’t think this would be it. I thought it would be about how everyone on the cruise knew me by “Number 19!”, or how one night, my husband had far too much to drink and somehow, mysteriously, nearly broke his pinky finger. That particular story may be lost to the sea. I thought a more worthy piece to write would be on whether or not the cost of a Disney cruise is worth it, as they are far more expensive than the other cruise lines out there, or how many clothes you really need to take (so many articles say to pack half as much as you think you need… we ALL RAN OUT. THAT SHIT’S A LIE), or even the story about how a dolphin peed on me– but none of those are the memory I keep coming back to the most.
It’s such a small story, no big epic sweeping drama, or life-altering realizations, but if it’s something I can’t get my mind off of, I think it’s worthy of sharing with you– because it’s a moment of “Wow, people don’t all suck after all”, and I think we could all use more of those moments right now.
This Disney trip of ours wasn’t just any Disney trip, it was to celebrate not only the boys birthdays, but mine and Thomas’ 10 year wedding anniversary, so I guess you could say I was in more of a giving mood than I’d usually be. Or… more than I like to pretend to be but usually can’t help myself when it comes to Disney gear.
STILL- Parker is the king of frivolous purchases, so on day one when he found a baseball cap in a store at Epcot and insisted he absolutely had to have it, I was like “no.”
This is the kid who insisted he needed sunglasses and never wore them. Insisted he wanted this plastic stegosaurus from the thrift store only to put it in his donation pile a week later. To put it frankly: he buys shit he never uses. And this wasn’t just some $1 thrift store dinosaur, or $5 Wal-Mart cap– this was a $24 with tax Disney baseball cap.
ONLY get this if you plan on ACTUALLY wearing it- I tell him.
You need to be SURE you love this- I told him.
Not just at Disney but at home, too- I insisted.
THIS NEEDS TO BE SURGICALLY IMPLANTED TO YOUR SKULL– I didn’t actually say this one, but I implied it. He knew I meant business if he was going to have us shelling out serious cash for a baseball cap when the kid has never worn a baseball cap in his life. But he wasn’t leaving without it… and to be honest, it looked damn good on him.
Is that hat just made for him, or what?
Though he’s never heeded my words and warnings and insistence before, he actually listened and wore that hat everywhere. I think he even fell asleep in it a few times. He loved the hat so much that he needed to be reminded to take it off for meals (um, hello? manners!)
We hopped on the cruise with the hat, and with the sun bearing down and no trees to block it, the hat was perfect. He went to the kids club while me and Thomas played trivia (and lost every. single. game). We had meals, went in the pools and the hot tub, and the hat went everywhere.
And then came day 3 of the cruise. He wore the hat to the beach, and only took it off to avoid getting it wet. He left it next to our stuff, which was placed on a beach chair under an umbrella with a cup full of shells he collected. Everything made it back to the boat once we’d left the island except the hat and the shells, and by the time we’d realized it, it was too late. There was no going back to look for it.
Cue meltdown. I didn’t give him too much of a hard time, as Thomas was the one who told him to remove his hat, and who also collected our stuff to bring in, so it was really the fault could be laid on anyone. There was no use arguing about it.
The glimmer of hope came in that Disney owns the damn island. The only people there were people on our boat, and employees. The kind folks at Guest Relations assured us that they comb the beach before picking up anchor, and if an employee found it, it would absolutely be returned. All would be right with the world again. We breathed a sigh of relief and went about our business, planning to return once they’d collected all the items and were ready for people to come and claim them.
Which we tried to do. Twice. Once that day, and once the next morning (our last full day on the cruise)- just to be absolutely sure. The hat was gone. Which means either it was swallowed by the island or someone else picked it up and kept it.
I TOLD YOU THIS WAS A POSITIVE STORY. UPLIFTING. THIS AIN’T THE END, I PROMISE.
Parker was upset, obviously. We took him through the shops on the ship once they opened to try and find a new one, and none of them clicked. He found one he kinda liked, but you know how it is– once you attach yourself to something you love, a replacement just isn’t the same.
Bummed, we sent him to the kids clubs with his brother and went off to the LAST round of trivia while we tried to decide what to do. By that point at the cruise, we recognize the crowd in the room. We’ve been playing trivia against these people the entire time, and we know who’s been whooping our asses, and who we can take down. We’d lost by 1-2 points every. damn. time. to one or two teams, and we were determined to win.
Almost everyone leaves immediately after, but we stick around to say our goodbyes to the cruise host we’d been torturing the entire time, and to chat with people (remember, I’m #19, PEOPLE KNOW ME).
The winning team approached our table, asking for a picture with us. I guess they wanted to remember repeatedly whooping our asses. After pleasantries exchanged and photos snapped, the cruise host walks up to the winning team with their prize- Disney Cruise baseball caps.
I AM NOT ONE TO ASK FOR FREEBIES– and maybe it was the drink I’d had during trivia talking– or the fact that it was the last day and I was desperate– but I pulled the cruise host aside and explained the situation and asked if he had an extra hat he might be willing to spare.
Before he can even respond, the winning team approaches us again, and offers up one of their hats– a special Disney Cruise hat you can’t buy on the dang boat (well, that I could find, and we scoured the stores) just for Parker. I was so shocked and thankful, I must have said thank you 100 times, and when we picked up Parker and presented it to him, his entire bummed out attitude was completely turned around by this tiny act of kindness from a random passenger on the cruise.
He had no reason to give us the one trivia he’d won, the special prize he’d received, but he did- because he could. Because he wanted to. Because not everyone sucks. As small as the moment was, even though he’s probably already forgotten outside of that one random snapshot he took, it’s those small moments that prove the world is still SO fill of good. There’s never a bad time to be reminded of that.
Three days back from vacation and I think we’re finally getting back into routine here. The kids are in school, the mountain of laundry has been washed, dried, AND put away (that deserves a parade all on its own), and I can FINALLY sit down and get some real work done.
It’s not all blog writing and meme sharing, though. My job after our annual vacation is to sift through the even larger mountain of photos taken during it, pick out the cream of the crop, and painstakingly place them, in order, into a photo book that, once it has been completed, my entire family sits down and looks through together. I’ve become the photo book champion, six years running. Or is it seven… Honestly, after the thousands of photos, hours upon hours of tedious work, and years of putting myself through this, I’ve forgotten how many I’ve created.
Am I making this sound fun? Because it’s not fun. Don’t get me wrong, it used to be. To get back from an amazing vacation and to sift through all the photos and relive the experience all over again; to weave the photographs into a story my family can look at and relive for years to come? How would that not be awesome? But awesome turned to stressful. When you take over 200 photos per day on vacation and can’t decide between the one where everyone’s actually looking at the camera and the one where everyone’s smiling and/or doesn’t look like their face is melting (which usually happens to me), the fun part burns up in less than an hour like my skin in the Florida sun and morphs into this hideous hybrid between stress and frustration. And it was hours of that per day, because I’m an obnoxious perfectionist, and just like making sure to document every moment of vacation, I wanted to document every one of those moments perfectly in the book.
I was actually kind of dreading putting together this year’s photobook. Like… really dreading. The kind of dread you feel when you have to go to the gynecologist for your annual pap-smear kind of dread. It’s gotta be done but in no way shape or form do you want to do it.
This morning I sat down and tried to mentally prepare myself to dedicate hours of every day of weeks of my life to this project. I inhaled deeply and opened the first folder which contained day one of our photos so that I could begin going through them to write down the ones I might want to put in the book, start planning out the pages they’ll go on to be sure that I don’t go over the maximum amount allowed, only there weren’t hundreds of photos in it. In fact, there weren’t hundreds of photos in any of the folders. In one of the folders, there were maybe ten photos total. A slight sense of panic washed over me. I hadn’t gone through them while we were in the hotel/on the cruise. Had something gone wrong? Had I lost a bunch of photos? I’d forgotten the cord to offload photos from my camera to my laptop, so we ended up having to remove the SD card and popping it into the laptop and copying them that way, which we’d never done before. Did we do it wrong?
After I calmed myself and thought about it a bit, I realized that the truth was simple: I just didn’t take as many photos. My big DSLR barely ever came out of its bag. Unlike our previous vacations, I didn’t carry it around on my shoulder, and I hadn’t taken the time to stop, take it out, turn it on, tell everyone to wait, and snap a photo as often as I used to. I took more random shots on my phone than anything else.
But what about my photo book? What does this mean for it? I worried momentarily that it would make the photobook shittier if I wasn’t cramming it full of photos of every thing we did, every meal we had, every ride we rode, every step we took. There are more than enough photos to make a great photobook, but there would be things missing. It saddened me, like I’d messed up. I’d screwed everything up by not photographing it so we could look back on it later, but as much as I’d love to have photos of everything, not having the photos doesn’t mean the experiences didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean we didn’t have an amazing time, or do amazing things together. It means that, for once, I stepped out from behind the camera.
If you’ve never thought you spend too much time behind the camera documenting life as it goes on instead of being in front of the camera experiencing it- think about that now. Does it hit home for you? Because it does for me. I didn’t take as many photos because I was having an awesome time. Because I stopped caring so much about having photographic evidence of our vacation, and more about enjoying our vacation.
Thinking back on all the photo books I have from my own childhood- they’re great to have, and I love looking at them, but the memories I remember the most, the ones in the stories I tell my kids, and the ones my family laughs about when we get together, aren’t the ones that have hundreds of photos to prove they happened– like the time we were staying in a really shitty beach bungalow my mom rented, and EVERYONE was mad at her, and somehow I managed to get myself stuck between the crib and the wall and my poor uncle couldn’t get me out for hours because he terrified me– or the time my cousin got mad at me for laughing at her after she got slapped in the face by a fish- YES, SLAPPED IN THE FACE BY A FISH while tubing, and chased me around the yard with a tennis ball, or the time I got so scared on Snow White’s Scary Adventure at Disney Land that I screamed my way through the entire ride. They’re the ones we all experienced together, camera flash or not.
I want stories like that for my kids. Okay, maybe not exactly like those, but you know what I mean. I want to make those kinds of memories that we talk about for years, and while pictures would be great, the pictures don’t make the memories.
What I’m not saying is that documenting your vacations, activities, etc. is bad. I’m sure I’ll find myself doing it again, because I’m insane about my damn photo books. What I AM saying is that every now and then, put the camera down. Maybe even hand it to someone else for a bit. Take it all in. Enjoy it. You may not have photos you can hold in your hands, but I promise you’ll have a story to tell.
Did you know that toothpaste becomes stronger than concrete if left on surfaces for too long? I didn't either. Thanks, kids!
Y'all can keep your creepy little elves- my kids live in fear of the PRESENT PRISON. holdinholden.com/2014/12/the-…
Cut Yourself some Christmas Slack goo.gl/fb/4WVJe2
My day as a parent isn't complete until I've threatened to sell at least one of my children on the black market. Twice. At least.
He only has himself to blame pic.twitter.com/UffL59jSmz
I'm forever teaching my kids to never say never... but... I'm breaking my own rules, here. NEVER EVER EVER will there be an elf on my shelf. Here's why: holdinholden.com/2012/11/why-…
If you have the desire to be in charge of someone else's bedtime who listens to you even less than you listen to yourself when you say "GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!"- having kids is definitely for you.