Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happy #8, Max McAlister | A Sherlock Holmes Party

"...and she loved a little boy very, very much.  even more than she loved herself.
- Shel Silverstein
(A perfect quote by one of Max's favorite authors)

Dear Max, 
You changed my life the moment you entered it eight years ago today.  You taught me how greatly I had underestimated nearly everything I thought I knew about love or vulnerability or patience or happiness.  

You are so full of dreams and determination.  I often feel like a stagecoach driver pulling back on the reigns of a wild horse so ready to charge ahead into the future.  

Sometimes I grieve the little boy you used to be, but every day you are showing me the beauty of giving you the space to grow and become yourself.  I'm so in awe of the person I see unfolding.  As much time as I spend trying to hold on tight to each and every moment/detail/memory I see something even more amazing happen when I loosen my grip.

I often tell you that although you'll always be my baby, you don't belong to me.  You belong to yourself and to the world.  I hope that  inspires you to take ownership of your choices and empowers you to live your life in the way that feels right to you.

You have already made us so proud.

My whole heart,

***Max's Sherlock Holmes Birthday Party***

Max has been reading the Sherlock Holmes series (modified for kids) and he's fascinated with mysteries in general.   I love that he still let's me go all-out on his birthday theme without being embarrassed by it:)

He got to invite a few friends to go to the Escape Room at Union Station this past weekend.  There was a "221B Baker Street" themed room, so he was thrilled.  I was so impressed that the kids solved most of the clues...we were only ONE away from breaking out in time.

Then we continued the theme at his family party at home...

I put together a mystery game for the kids to play.  They had to discover who stole the party favors...and then find where they were hidden.

the party favors.

they loved this old typewritter I borrowed from my Gram.  They kept asking "where's the 'ENTER' button?"  and I'm like...."it's NOT A COMPUTER!" :))

the cousins deep into solving the mystery.

I designed the cupcake toppers, but Sullivan cut and glued them for me!

Mimi & PopPop gave him money for our Iceland trip...real Kroner to spend!

The Murray's got him one of his favorite gifts...a real chef's coat, with his name on it!
Since Max's 1st birthday we have collected items for the Ronald McDonald House in lieu of gifts.  But...he still get's plenty of nice things:)

Although nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes, this is what he wanted for his school bday treat.  Donuts to make an "8"...featuring a picture of BB-8.  You get what you want on your birthday.
I hope you had a memorable birthday, Max!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Secrets of a Lazy Mom - Quick Breakfast

I have this thing where I refuse to go to the grocery store more than twice a month.  I do a big 2-week shopping and I'll do everything in my power to make it last.  Towards the end of the two weeks the cupboards start looking embarrassingly bare, but I can always scrape something together for a meal so as not to undermine my "2 week" grocery rule.  This streak is important to me for some reason:)

Breakfast items are always the first thing to go and one evening recently, long after the kids had gone to bed, I realized that I had absolutely nothing that would pass as "breakfast" to feed them in the morning. And "grocery day" was still a day away.  Do I go out in the freezing cold and pick up a couple things??  Or I could just give them chicken nuggets in the morning and call it "Dinner for Breakfast" to make it seem like a real thing.

The only thing vaguely resembling a breakfast item was less than a cup of Old Fashioned Oatmeal I had leftover from making "Reindeer Food" at Christmas.

The other sad ingredients I had in inventory were milk, an almost empty tub of plain greek yogurt, honey and PB2 (powdered peanut butter still remaining from some health kick that didn't last).  

I had heard of "overnight oats" but didn't have a recipe.  And, again, too lazy to look one up late at night.  So I got out some parfait cups (maybe they'll eat it if it reminds them of ice cream) and just divided what I had into them.  

I remembered some lonely chia seeds (another random health-kick-thing long lost) and discovered a small bag of mini chocolate chips hidden behind the chia seeds.  I tossed in a little of both with the other ingredients and popped 'em into the fridge.

In the morning I announced we were having a special breakfast - Peanut Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats!  The word "chocolate" had them racing for the fridge.

I'm happy to report that, although our groceries have been restocked, this is the only thing they want for breakfast now.  Double bonus - I showed them how to make it so they'll make a batch on Sunday and breakfast is ready for the week. 

I love stumbling upon life-hacks.  At any rate, I'm not a food blogger, but here's how we make PB+Chocolate Overnight Oats in hopes it can make your mornings easier too...

PB+Choco Overnight Oats
*not pictured...the most important ingredient...mini choc chips!

3 Tbsp Old Fashioned Oats
1 Tbsp Plain Greek Yogurt
1/2 Tbsp Honey
1/2 Tbsp PB2 (powered Peanut Butter, but real PB would work too)
a splash or two of milk, just enough to cover the oats
optional: a pinch of chia seeds + a pinch of mini chocolate chips

Stir and cover.  Refrigerate until morning.

into the fridge. at least overnight, but taste just as good after a few days.

Quick, easy, protein-packed brekkie.

More Secrets of a Lazy Mom here: 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

NYE Printables for Kids

And suddenly you know it's time to start something new...and trust the magic of beginnings.

Wishing you peace and happiness in the new year!
the Murray clan

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gifts That Keep Giving

The influx of toys around Christmastime can make me a little nauseous. So much generosity from friends and family, but so much STUFF.  My children want for nothing, but *I* want simplicity and that's hard to come by when you feel overwhelmed with all-the-things.

Our solution since Max was a baby has been for Santa to only bring 3 gifts per kid.  And when they ask WHY they only get three I tell them, "Jesus got three gifts from the three Wise Men...should you get more presents than Baby Jesus?!" Works every time;)

This year we're taking it a step further and Santa is bringing experiences instead of stuff.  And the shock of this will hopefully not ruin Christmas morning.  My hope is that in the long run they're getting memories that will last a lot longer than the toys broken and forgotten by January.  

We'll see how this works out.  There could be a mutiny. 

Here's a list of a few things my kiddos are getting from Santa in hopes that it might help another Santa with some last minute non-toy gift ideas:

Mail Order Mystery - puzzles, clues, adventure and intrigue.  No batteries required. The boys have done one of these before and LOVED it.  They stay busy solving each mystery for hours and then another one arrives the following month.  If the first package doesn't arrive in time for Santa to put under the tree...there's THIS letter to put in a stocking.

KC Culinary CenterMax is determined to be the next Top Chef Junior.  The courses here for kids include knife skills and learning how to read a recipe.  The first actual "cooking" class focuses on a Chinese New Year menu...he'll be learning to make dumplings from scratch (is it bad that I'm imagining all the ways I can benefit from this?!). There are options for all ages (starting as young as 2 years old) and they're all wonderful.  We've done 3 or 4 classes over the years and cannot recommend this place enough.  Santa is packaging the gift certificate with a cook book and starter knife set.
Max at the KC Culinary Center - 2013
Sullivan at the KC Culinary Center - 2014

Kiwi Crates (<--$10 off with this link)- this monthly subscription curates hands-on projects for kids as young as 0-2 years, but also goes up to age 16 with some fun STEM projects. Each of the boys will get their own box each month full of things to make and explore. 

Little Passports - Each month a small suitcase will arrive at the house that contains things to discover about a new country each month, with souvenirs and hands-on activities.
Actual Passports - this one is a little extreme, I admit.  Santa is delivering the two oldest boys their first real passports and our gift to them is a trip to Iceland.  We heard about an amazing airfare deal through a travel agent friend and it was just too good to pass up.  If you feel like being spontaneous and maybe a little impulsive, contact Tara Koehler at Royal Travel & Tours And it doesn't have to be as drastic as going to another country:)

Needless to say, my kids are going to be waiting at the door for the mail to arrive A LOT this next year.  And also asking..."how many more sleeps until our trip?" on a daily basis.  Which might make me crazier than tripping over a million new toys:))

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Peace in the New Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Story of a Fish

This is the story of a fish named Taxi.  
Taxi was a Beta, a fighter, a friend and someone who kept us company in the bathroom.  That's where Taxi resided.  Nestled between two sinks Taxi saw a lot of life.  The busy hub of a bathroom to 6 people.  
Never a dull moment for the fish.

I'm always the last to bed so I'd turn his tank light off every night.  He would swim toward the opening in the tank hoping for a few more specks of food.  He loved me.  Or it was just a conditioned response to the hand that feeds.  I'd like to think it was a little of both.  People looked at me like I was crazy when I said I genuinely cared for that fish.  But he was a part of our family for over two years.  And another living being who needed care.

He was a birthday gift to Sullivan from us on his 4th birthday.  Sully was thrilled.  He loved having the responsibility and would talk to him daily.  It's funny how a pet - no matter how small - can get in your heart.  And he really did with the boys.  They would talk to him while brushing their teeth, tap on his tank before washing their hands and tell him goodnight before bed.  I even overheard them whisper "don't tell mom!" to the fish in a fit of giggles over who-knows-what, more than once.  
Oh the secrets that fish kept.
Taxi on the day he came home.  Before I splurged on a fancy filtered tank.  Don't fish live in fish bowls??
Sully meeting, and naming, Taxi for the first time...8/2015
I can't believe how much he looks like Fletcher in this picture!
We also threw parties for Taxi...
  Gathered around his tank we'd sing happy birthday on the arbitrary day we picked to be his special day.  That fish was never bored, if fish actually get bored.
So it was last month...  
It was time to change the tank water and I found him.  Grey and lifeless.
My heart sank, because the worst part was coming...telling the boys.

Max laughed nervously.  He immediately tried to play it cool.  
Announcing we could now get a new, better pet.  Even though I could see the devastation in his eyes.

  Fletcher didn't quite understand and accounted the whole business to Taxi being sleepy.

And then there was Sully.  My old soul who feels everything.  He burst into tears and truly mourned the life of his fish.  I resisted the temptation to cover his sadness with the promise of a new fish.  He had to make his way out of the tunnel and feel what he was feeling for his pet.  I let him be sad.  He cried himself to sleep more than one night.  He wanted to talk about where Taxi went and if he was happy and if he'd see him again one day.  He was thoughtful about whether Taxi would've wanted to be flushed or buried in our yard.  I was proud of his process.

Then, recently, Sully handed me this drawing.  He had stayed up silently drawing in his bed one night.  He said the last  image is of him ready to meet his new fish.

(Sully's description of his picture: It was a happy, sunny day when he met Taxi.  Then his heart was sad when Taxi died.  And now he is ready to go get a new fish with  momma.)
And soon, we'll go find Taxi 2.  
To be continued...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fletcher is FOUR! | A "Dragons Love Tacos" Party

Dear Fletcher,

Four years old! It’s been a blink. A flash. A blur. You are my heart and also my hardest work.  Strong-willed, quick and charismatic. You challenge me to my core…there are times you leave me speechless (and maybe even outsmarted). But you truly are my little sidekick and our connection runs deep.
Every morning, after you hear your Dad shut the backdoor on his way to work, you tip toe into my room and tunnel under the covers.   Before your brothers are even stirring from sleep we talk about dinosaurs and Paw Patrol.  And you always, without fail, cup your little hands on my cheeks and say "you wook bootiful, momma" with a sincerity that makes me believe it's true in spite of my dark circles and messy hair.  These are our best moments together.  You’re sweet and sleepy and lean into just “being” without plotting how to be one step ahead of me:)
Last week you asked me, Does being a momma mean if you are chilly, and also your kid is chilly, you still want to give him your blanket anyway?” And I said, “That’s exactly what it means, Fletcher. The best definition I’ve ever heard.

I hope the next four years pass a little more slowly, although I know the reality is that they will go twice as fast. 

Happy fourth birthday, Fletcher-man.  So thankful for this wild ride with you.

My whole heart,

YOUR PARTY!  | Dragon's Love Tacos

I was happy this was the theme you picked.  I LOVE that you love tacos as much as me (and dragons, of course).  But I've been crazy busy recently (all good stuff) and I literally didn't plan a single detail other than "make tacos" until 3 days before your party.  I scrambled to find the pinata you wanted, make a sign and come up with a quick "pin the tail on the dragon" game.  It always comes together in the end.  And a smile on your face is all I need to declare the party a success.
Adding a few more "tomatoes" to our taco cake. 
He also helped me make the mini "taco" cupcake toppers out of cookies.

Helping me with the taco garland.

This one...no help at all;)

Fletch & Clara born just hours apart and best friends forever.

Annabelle & Sully, being cute.

Pin the Tail on the Dragon.

the Taco Cave full of cookies and donations for the Children's Mercy Mitten Drive.

Adorable cookies from The Sugared Shamrock!

with Lolli and his new Hatchimal.

with Mimi & PopPop (and Max, photo-bombing)

We had so much fun celebrating you.
I hope four was everything you wished for!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Milo's "Milk & Cookie" Happy Hour

Milo had a Happy Hour buzz made up of sugar and love.
The youngest Murray is TWO!
My wild-haired, twinkly-eye'd little monster is growing up so fast. I still scoop him up in my arms and try to hold him like a baby...but the persistent wiggling and "dowwwn now, momma!" cries make it clear that stage is behind us.

We were traveling on Milo's birthday so we postponed his little party until this past weekend. Our days are jam-packed lately and the only thing we could squeeze into the madness was a little "Milk & Cookie" happy hour on Friday eve.  Luckily, Milo is super understanding...and wants nothing in life more than cookies :)

We hosted at The Vintage House, because it's beautiful and easy and much cleaner than my house during a whirlwind week like we had.  The weather was perfect and we really didn't do much other than eat cookies and play in the courtyard.  
A blue sky.  Fresh air.  Platefuls of cookies. What else is there?
Uncle Michael & Dad
in lieu of gifts, we collected donations for The Humane Society.
Milo up to bat and Mikey waiting patiently with his bag!

my trusty crew.
after getting a couple quotes on a 4-layer cookie cake, I decided to make my own.  Chocolate chip with marshmallow fluff.

Dear Milo, 
You are feisty and sweet and just the best of everything.  You are a dreamboat with those big blue eyes and your curly hair.  You love wearing any and all accessories, but not actual clothing.  Your favorite outfit is a diaper, a glove, sunglasses, hat and socks...which is what I let you wear if we're not going anywhere.  And you love to draw.  You carry your little notebook and pencil everywhere we go, drawing circles upon circles.

We all adore you.  Even your brothers can't resist kissing your chubby cheeks or squeezing your sausage-link legs whenever you're near.  And you try sooo hard to keep up with them.  

Above all you are incredibly LOVED.  You melt my heart daily with that mile-wide smile.  I promise to do my best to help you become who you are in the years to come.

My whole heart,