Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Building Blocks of Fun


It's all about timing.  

I'm a firm believer of that and what happened this past weekend is proof that the above saying holds true.  Alright. Brace yourselves for this revelation.

Believe it or not, I (yes, ME...bordering anti-social person who overthinks and easily gets stressed out about most everything and is also generally non-crafty!!) hosted a Lego-themed party for my son's birthday.

Say, what????!!!

Yes, I did it and I'm happy and proud that I lived to tell and tell coherently given that I'm still obviously sane!

I say that it's about timing because the idea popped up when I was feeling open to trying new things and challenging myself.  The thought also came to me early enough for me to do a lot of research and execute a lot of the necessary steps ahead of time that somehow helped minimize the stress level.  Suffice it to say that this party was one month in the making.  I also need to stress that the party would not have been at all possible without Pinterest and all the mom bloggers out there who have done it before and had the generosity to share their creativity online.  I was really surprised at the amount of resources available and honestly cannot imagine what kind of spirit possessed those other moms that they came up with such creative game ideas for Lego-obsessed kids!  Obviously that same 'spirit' is not available for me to invoke, hence my pure reliance on Pinterest.

I've been asked if it was difficult overall.  My most honest answer would have to be to say that on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most difficult, I would give this a rating of either 6 or 7.  I give that rating because it's definitely time-consuming and you need to give yourself ample time to either order things online or go to multiple stores to gather the needed materials (Lego pieces, Lego cases, colored paper or cardstock, food items, etc.).  Other than that, all you need is to have the skill to cut and be a little resourceful so that you can copy shapes from existing images.

This is how this party made my office look like for weeks...

My desk was completely held hostage at some point
cutting and printing images for the kids to color
This was one of the hardest for me...copying the Lego man's shape and
making him so much bigger for the Pin the Head game

Ordered a Lego brick set online and had to sort them so that each guest ends
up with the same amount of blocks and same shapes.  I got the mini-figure
cases (blue items on the floor) from 2 different Target locations because
they only had 6 left in one, and I needed 8.

The day before the party, I had the brilliant idea to decorate a steamer pan
so I can use it to hold the Lego marshmallow heads I made for the kids...

When it came to deciding on what kind of food to serve, I stuck to a simple menu.  I knew that trying too hard for BOTH the children and adults would be like hosting two simultaneous parties and I just didn't feel equipped for such a task (or insanity?).  So I decided early on that I would just serve pizza and cake and some other simple sweets for the kids and one dish for the adults (other than the extra pizza).  

Marshmallows on lollipop sticks coated with yellow candy melts
(sticks, plastic wrappers and candy melts all purchased from
Michaels)


I used PicMonkey to create the invitations and I knew it was a success when, after showing the card to my husband, he thought it was a photo I just downloaded online.  I proudly said, "Nope...I built those plates myself, took those three Lego men and shot the photo!"



I took my mommy friends' advice and made sure there was an activity or game planned for every minute of the two-hour party.  The following activities/games were played:  coloring pages (while waiting for everyone to arrive); guesstimate; build the tallest tower; add your creation to the plate; find the Lego man (I took 35 lego figures and put them in corners, low shelves or anywhere the kids can easily reach without being too conspicuous); and finally, pin the Lego man's head (instead of Pin the Tail).


coloring / activity table (while waiting for guests to arrive)


I cut Lego head shaped cards where each child was asked
to write his name and guesstimate as to how many Lego
pieces are in the jar
Add Your Creation to the Plate
the finished creation done by 8 boys
Pin the Head


Thanks to a high school friend of mine who informed me that Cold Stone can make a Lego ice cream cake!




I downloaded a Lego font and printed the letters for
the birthday banner

I made 'Lego cookies' for the kids (Instead of using sugar cookies,
I just bought Pepperidge Farm's Chessmen which are not too
sweet, and then topped them with icing and M&M's)


Pulled Pork (and pizzas) for the adults


So yes, it's all about timing.  

You need to plan way ahead so you don't run out of time and lose your mind.  

The thought of committing to hosting this kind of party needs to hit you and sink in when you are feeling adventurous and willing to invest the time and effort.  

I also believe that this kind of party can only really be successful and manageable if the celebrant and his guests are at that age when they can appreciate Legos and know how to abide by rules.  (That's me being practical and realistic, not to mention a control freak!).  

Most of all, it is about timing because I don't think I can throw another party like this again.  As such, I think I was able to do it just at the right time, when Noah is old enough to remember, and yet still young enough that he still has a lot of sense of adventure and magic in him.  I, on the other hand, feel like I'm getting too old for these things.  I'm glad it's done now and I feel like I've passed a test and gone through this rite of passage.  It was fun and I will always treasure the memories.  But next year, I hope my son will settle for a nice quiet restaurant meal.  We'll see...







Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hungry Haiku


I'm on my third week of trying out the Fast Diet and for some reason, today just feels exceptionally difficult.  I am craving carbs like crazy that I can't focus enough to write a decent blog post.  As such, all I could come up with at the moment is this humble and honest haiku....



I'm beyond famished
that the keys on my laptop
look like brownie bites.












Photo Credit: By Bryan Ochalla (Flickr: Reese's Pieces brownie) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall....

A couple of weeks ago, my son had his spring break and our family snuck out of town for a bit to have a quick exploration in Atlanta, GA.  Our mini-vacation would've been perfect had it not been for my discovery of the most evil and meanest gadget ever created ---  the magnifying mirror.


File:Wall Mounted Cosmetic Mirror.jpg
Image by:  Stilfehler_commons.wikimedia.org

These things are ruthless!  At first I was happy to see that our hotel had one of these in the bathroom, and as expected, it was just quietly and innocently hanging on the wall, to the side of the bathroom sink.  My mistake was that I let myself be tempted by it.  It was dangling there like the evil Biblical snake, luring me to come closer.  I was powerless against it.  The seduction was just too much for me to resist.  

So I gave in.

Closer and closer I went.  At first I thought it wasn't so bad.  But see that's the thing.  It makes you think that way in the beginning so that you don't stop and just keep scrutinizing.  Then you reach the point of no return.  Or at least I did. Without being fully aware of it, I found myself tilting my head side to side, and then up and down I went.  Pores and age spots I'd never seen before were glaring back at me.  Worse, (and yes, there was something worse!), hairs on my face that never bothered me before suddenly caused me unspeakable trepidation!  I got so disgusted that after a few minutes I began doubting if I was really female and thought that perhaps it IS time for some hormone replacement, correction or whatever!  It was a good thing I still had enough sense in me to simply step away, and force myself to calm down, rather than reach for either the tweezer or the razor!

All I could muster to say to myself as a sigh of relief was this:  "Thank God I'm not a celebrity!  How horrible it must be to feel so much pressure to be perfect and flawless!"

Then something more worthwhile kicked in as well.  I began thinking that this is what 'intimacy' is.  To experience intimacy is not only to be so close to someone, but to be so close that everything is seen or known.  Authentic intimacy is to not fear the closing in of distance because you feel safe with each other.  There is a feeling of acceptance and appreciation.  Isn't it true that as we become extremely close to something, our vision becomes more blurred and we get to a point that we don't see so well anymore?  It's because at that distance, with that closeness, we no longer see the senseless details so much.  With that closeness, perhaps we don't need to see with our eyes anymore but with our hearts.  What we see doesn't have much weight anymore when weighed against what we feel. The little flaws, the misplaced spots and hairs and annoyances don't really matter as much because what the heart sees is so much more true and enduring.  

Intimacy is definitely not for the fainthearted and not everyone is entitled to it.  A lot of things we are not comfortable with, things we even reject about ourselves get exposed when intimacy is present.  This is why intimacy takes time and a lot of effort.  It is earned and should never be wasted once achieved.  

You need a whole lot of self love and complete acceptance (or is it resignation?) to be able to look at every inch of your face in a magnifying mirror without being defeated by it.  And it sure requires even more love and genuine intimacy to allow someone else to be that close to you and have everything exposed.  But the beauty of being in love's presence is that for the most part, it really only magnifies that which makes us most beautiful.

Friday, April 5, 2013

When Defeat Is Not An Option (A Review of 'To The End & Back: Lessons Learned Through Surviving Cancer')


I never really believed in plain coincidences and time and time again, life finds ways of further reinforcing this tendency of mine.  

Very recently, someone dear to me was diagnosed with cancer and then less than a week after I received this news, a blogger friend of mine asked me if I would be open to reading his newly released ebook about his journey through cancer, and let him know what I thought about it.  I was really struck by the timing of it all and found it undeniably providential.  So before anything else, I want to say, THANK YOU, Aaron Afford.

Aaron's book is entitled "To The End & Back: Lessons Learned Through Surviving Cancer".  You might think that this is a book that details the author's physical experiences of his diagnosis (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and that you don't want to feel any more grim and depressed about life.  On the contrary, this book doesn't really delve much into the disease itself and its challenges, but rather on the gifts brought on by the diagnosis.  As such, this is a book that echoes with so much inspiration and positivity that the wisdom shared can be applied to any life challenge. Aaron could not have been more spot on when he said that receiving a cancer diagnosis should be taken not as a 'death sentence' but rather a 'battle' to be fought.  

To The End & Back: Lessons Learned Through Surviving Cancer
I found the tone of the entire book to be undeniably upbeat, highly relatable and most of all written in a tone as if you have a close friend holding your hand each step of the journey.  Oddly, if you read this book, you may just find yourself asking, "Does this guy really have cancer??", mainly because of how positive his message is, and how you feel that the book is about you and not him.  

And this is actually one of the author's strongest messages in his book --- that in challenging times (such as one's battle with cancer), you need to look outward.  You need to find reasons to fight and that the desire to give back and look beyond yourself is actually more healing than one can ever imagine.  He explained in detail what he called his 4 P's (Peace, Perspective, Passion and Purpose) which essentially served as not only stages, but tools in themselves that can pull anyone through their personal dark tunnels.  

To anyone who is going through a serious illness, or anyone who thinks it's time to give up on life whether literally or that you've simply given up on finding the joys and endless sources of wonder in your daily journey, I recommend reading this book.  You will be inspired to focus on gratitude and strengthen that gratitude muscle once more.  Over and over, Aaron Afford challenged himself to ask and see what's 'more' and he always found an answer and a reason to continue the fight.  This guy's not giving up and we can all find some inspiration in his strength and amazing perseverance.  I suppose surviving adversity does this; it makes you appreciate little victories that are no less significant or powerful, and as you take one step at a time and see those little triumphs, you also feel more empowered. 

Life is ALWAYS worth living, no matter your challenges.  If you don't believe me, take it from Aaron.  He knows, and he definitely has the wisdom worth heeding.  

If you want a copy of his book, please click here.