Party for less than $150

In our home we celebrate one birthday a month, from April-November. A lot of fun always happening, but as you can imagine it adds up so we have to be budget aware.

Celebrating a birthday is such a fun and enjoyable time, where kids are looking forward to hanging out with their friends and family. Dreaming about what kind of presents will they get and how much fun it will be.   As a parent we want to go all out and make the most pinterest worthy party that will be all the rave.

Then the budget comes into play and we are put back to reality..

The first thing you have to do is think about your budget. How much do you have to spend on this event. Do not forget to add in all of the elements. A few things such as decorations, food, presents, goodie bags, games and anything else you have. Entertainment perhaps.   Then establish your theme and break down that list to must haves and wants.

Which is what I did here for Lincolns party, he chose a Jumanji jungle theme.  I knew we would have approximately 25 guests to feed,  cake,  presents,  decorations and goodie bags. Then breaking down to must haves, knowing that the number one thing was to get him his present. A leopard gecko.

 

We opted to do nachos and grapes, it goes a long way and can please a wide array of tastebuds! Instead of splurging for a tiered cake, we got a 8″ cake with 24 cupcakes. I printed off the cake topper that matched the invitations!

Then came the goodie bags. I knew I wanted to do something a bit “extra” so I splurged a little on the goodie bags. Making personalized bag for each guest. Inside was an individualized bag of popcorn, three pieces of candy and three miniature animal toys.

Tip: Do not put the address on the invitations. Instead write “Please RSVP for location” this helped with getting firm responses!

 

For decorations I really only had two major wants. The hanging banner and large number. I used real leaves on the banner and card stock. I ordered fake leaves and cut out card stock for the number wall. Take advantage of cardstock sales at places like Micheals, you can get packs as low as a dollar! I ended up adding an inflatable giraffe and zebra, they made for cute photo props!

For entertainment we planned to show the movie Jumanji outside with our projector, however we did not plan the timing well enough. Was a bummer but the kids just had a great time playing on the playground with each other. Never under estimate the simplicity of entertainment. Kids will be kids.

Here is the break down for Lincolns Jumanji party.

Leopard gecko: $35     Food: $38    Goodie bags: $19                                       Decorations: $33     Extra presents: $15

Whatever party or event you are planning next, just remember to establish your budget and have fun!  I am off to plan Emmetts party now for September, stay tuned for his theme and party details.

 

~xo  Diana

Command center station

Running a home is much like running a business, you are the CEO of your home. Every successful business has a version of a command center. Think back to the backroom of your job. There was a place employees had to clock in and out. The line up or schedule would be posted along side any newsletters.

If you caught my last post about how to beat the Summer end blues in five steps, you saw I listed having a command center! 

In our household we juggle multiple things at once. I’m sure many of you can relate to this. It is key to have organization, and know that it will get messed up from the floor up frequently. But alway having a base line of what to go back to will help the whole family reset and keep going.

 

Having the boys know what is coming up helps so much, especially with Ayden. So we have a large monthly calendar along with a weekly calendar. On the weekly we keep things that are recurring only. This is not where we keep our daily to-do lists. They refer to the calendar to see if anything extra is happening.

 

 

I don’t know about you but I absolutely hate having all of our personal business on show. We entertain rather often and having too much interest in what we have going on just bugs me! So I decided to utilize our upstairs hallway.  I have a backpack and jacket hook for each child.

In the middle I have two compartments. One for “notes for parents”  and then above that is their folder. In their folder I keep weekly papers/schedules they have. Like sports or homework packets.

Each kid has their own  Personal tracking books hanging from their hooks. Those are where I track their points, opps marks and allowance. More on those in another post. Above the hooks are their points charts. As they earn points they get tally marks. I love these chalk stone pieces, found at Michaels for under $5 each.

Last things on the command wall is the day tracker and chore chart.  As the day progresses each of the kids are responsible for moving their tile down the track. They have to reach the finish line to earn their points for the day.  The chore chart is versatile and easy to rotate their chores as often as needed. These are available on the blog store , Shop Threads.

I hope this helps give you some great ideas to make or revamp your command center to fit your home.

 

~xo Diana

 

Beat the end of Summer blues and be ready to tackle school like a BOSS.

It’s that time of year, where we pack away the suitcases and bring out the backpacks.   The time where most parents dread the “school battles” ahead.

I have put together my  to do list to take on the battle.  The best ways to beat the end of Summer blues and be ready to tackle school like a BOSS!

  1. Create a schedule. Make it visible for the whole family. It works well for everyone to see what is happening. I suggest doing this now and wean into the rhythm, so they don’t get “school shocked”. You can adjust as needed.
  2. Restock the pantry. If your home is anything like mine the pantry never seemed  full all Summer, because they seemed to never stop eating! My favorite places to stock up are Smart and Final and Costco. I find it easiest to buy in bulk once a month and the fillers along with fresh produce weekly.
  3. Go through your kids drawers BEFORE you go back to school shopping. Do they really need an entirely new wardrobe or maybe just a few select items? If they have grown out of a size or style bag it up and donate it.
  4. Going back to number one, expand on your command center! Having a central place for the endless papers you will encounter is necessary.
  5. Make sure that you and anyone else you are sharing responsibilty with have a synced calendar! My husband and I use google calendars and I color coordinate items.

Here is our new schedule on display. I got this folding chalkboard from Michaels, right now it is 30% off!

These five things will ensure you start the school year off smoothly. Check back soon to see what I include in my command center.

~xo Diana

 

How to keep kids entertained while camping

Growing up camping is a wonderful childhood memory. Now having kids of my own I often wonder how did my mom do it? As fun as camping is, it is a lot of work! Well be that as it may her and I just took on the camping adventure with just her, myself and all my eight kids.    But before we went I knew I had to come up with a schedule.

You’re probably thinking “who the heck makes a schedule for camping?!” Um, this mama right here!

As relaxing as camping is and there is usually lots of day activities to keep kids busy, there is always a lull time. For me that tends to be when kids are waiting for dinner to be ready and “bored” around camp. Before we went on this trip I wanted to be prepared. I filled the schedule with a craft/activity they could do around camp, during that lull time.

Kids activities:      – Create your name using nature

                               – Scavenger hunt around camp

  – trace leaves

– play doh

 

__ It can be as easy as the picture shows. I grabbed brown lunch bags and listed their scavenger hunt items.___

 

 

We went camping for two nights. I refuse to camp for any less with all the work that goes into it, even two doesn’t seem long enough.  We live in Northern California and our go to location is Lake Tahoe, South shore. Luckily the drive is not too far, takes about a movie and a half.  haha

Here are a few side tips I have for those traveling with kids:

1. We are not able to check into your site until 2 p.m. So we did not get there until 1:30.

Don’t get there too early or your kids will be a wreck while you try to set up. 

                                        2. Have activities for them to do during lull times

                                                Especially with little kids, with small attention spans. 

                                         3. Your kids will always want to eat around camp.

                                              Create snack bags ahead of time. Put their names on them. This will help keep the locker tidy.

4.  Have FUN!!

Remember you are creating their childhood memories. Make it count.

 

 

From my pack to yours, enjoy your next adventure!  Come back and share what worked for you and any tips you have to share.

 

— Diana

Toxic friendships…. Friend or Foe?

In life we encounter a wide range of social opportunities. Some great while some are not so great.

If you are anything like me you like to socialize. But may not always be the brightest bulb in the room. Lets take it back quite a few years, as a kid in elementary school I was super confident. Talked to everyone, friends with everyone. Some where in middle school I got quiet. Friendly, but didn’t reach out as much. Then came high school and again friends with many but stuck to a core ‘click’. Then came graduation and  friends sometimes drift. You go different routes, college or whatever. For me it was starting my family right away, immediately put me in this awkward place. I still stayed in touch but after some years it’s faded.  When  I first started having kids I was 20. Everyone I knew was not starting that stage of life but pursuing other adventures.  Then social media went crazy, in a good way,  and allowed us to search and reconnect with those we lost touch with.

Then enters this, you start off on one of these foots:  

-right where you left off, like no time has passed

-catch up on everything! And then just “like” each others posts from there on out.

-You realize it was a good thing you lost touch and try to hide them from your page.

                         –How will you mix new friendships with old ones? 

Fast forward back to today. I am back to my elementary self. Social butterfly, who wears her heart on her sleeve. So much is happening around the world, many mixed emotions and views.  Almost ,makes you wish social media wasn’t a thing.  I have been losing sleep over how my friendships are being affected.  However this morning I have come to a realization.

If a friendship can not withstand a little disagreement, diversity and honesty then it is not a friendship worth stressing. It is time to let it go and move on.

It may not have been a friendship at all. It may have been another person with an alteritve motive from and was not a true friendship. It could have been toxic from the beginning.   For those that know me, know I am as honest as they come. The good and the bad. I will tell you like it is, I will confront you if you talk behind my back, I will speak up on my view of things as I see them. I will go to bat for my friends and admit when I am in the wrong. Even at the age of 32 I am still learning how to navigate social situations. Trying to figure out who is real and who isn’t. Even in the past year I have been burned more than once. My realization this week is you never know. You really never know who you can trust and who is being real with you. I am going to take all that has been happening and stay true to me. If a friendship is worth keeping it will make it through. If not then take it for what it was and move on. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic relationships. Too short to have to defend yourself. Don’t let it drain your positive energy and keep you up at night. Like I won’t let it do to me anymore. Those worth keeping will still be there. Those true friendships won’t make you feel like you are less than them or talk about you. At this age we don’t have time for that. Put your energy into what will make you happy and join me in getting some much needed treasured sleep!

Know that God placed these people in your life for a purpose. Their timeframe in your story is never known, just focus on the good and learn from each one. 

 

 

 

Parent, like a boss.

                                         Parent, like a BOSS!

My New year resolution was to put more focus on my family. Those that know me probably thought, how? Because I am all about my family already. Why do I feel like I need to do more? Something I realized a short time ago was that I was lacking in putting enough effort into my family on a deeper level, not just the surface.  That I wasn’t giving my family the attention and real care that it needed.

As you can imagine, in a household with many children and a wide range of ages, with three having special needs and owning business { the list goes on }, we are busy. And I don’t like to tell my kids no when it comes to their activities. I want them to experience as much as possible in their childhoods! That just adds to our schedule, one more thing to do.

Jackson works a full time job with loads of on call and my business is continuing to grow and expand. Which means we put in a lot of hours to our jobs. Just the other day I had five meetings in one day.  IEP, PTA, Tech and branding for DHP, New hires…   It was a long day. I put in the time and effort to make those meetings happen. Those meetings needed to happen, to make growth and progress within my business and their education. I planned out meeting notes, questions and ideas. I left each meeting feeling as though so much was accomplished.

Meanwhile, at home it was ” We’ll handle it later” or “I’ll see what I can do” and just put it to the side and back to work.

If we put as much effort into shaping and helping form our family

{ and not in a physical numbers sense } it would help us grow stronger, together. 

After I had this light bulb moment I viewed my family as a business. Made my notes of “what’s working and what’s not”, then put into place Family meetings. I mean I take time to make all of these other meetings happen, it’s time to make it happen for the family too. After we called our first meeting it was amazing the immediate result! We went over all aspects of our daily chaotic life, heard each child out on their views of things. From what they want to eat, to what frustrates them.

Here’s some ideas to go over at your family meeting:

~Schedules

~Frustrations

~Wants

~Expectations

Ground rules for our family meetings, to keep it productive.

  1. For every complaint, they need to have an idea on how to address it. 
  2. We raise our hands, no talking over one another.
  3. Respectful of others ideas and concerns. { Important that they feel like they can talk openly }

To have a strong family, a strong business, the leader {mom + dad}

are only as strong as their employees {kids} are. 

 

We will now be having bi-weekly family meetings and putting lots of good ideas from he kids into play. Already, the stress levels for the kids and Jackson and I are way down. Because we are all working as a team. I’m excited to share more on what we come up with during our meetings, so stay tuned. In the mean time, plan out your family meeting and let me know how it goes!

 

Til next time parent like a boss.

xo-Diana

 

DIY Valentines

 

How to make 135 Valentines for less than $10!

 Being a mom of so many I am always looking for ways to keep the costs down, especially around holidays.  While browsing through my local dollar store I found these! Glow stick packs of 20. I knew I had to find a way to use them, because I mean they come in packs of 20…   I have to make 135 Valentines. lol

For these Valentines you will need…..

Supplies list:  (x) packs of glow sticks.

(I bought seven to cover the amount I needed)

Hole punch

 Scissors

        Plain paper. I used a heavier cardstock.

  Printer

 

After I grabbed, seven of these I headed home on a mission. I wanted to keep them simple but fun. Got on my computer and came up with a fun pun to attach! Grabbed my scissors and hole punch to cut out the tags and then punch holes for the sticks.

 

After you have them all cut out and punched, grab the glow sticks and start slipping them in.

Be careful not to activate any of them.

And Voilia!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Mamas instinct

I wanted to take a moment to do a little bit on mamas {and papas} instincts.

 

I have eight children, each and every one of them have a different personality.  Their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, hobbies and so on.  As a parent we have a job, a responsibility to our children.  That is that they come first, plain and simple, in my book.  I will forever do for them, what is in their best interest, no matter what it may mean for me. No matter how one may view me, I do what I do for one reason, them. {more like eight reasons for me 😉 } I will always trust my mama instinct over what others tell me.

 

What the heck are you talking about lady?

{I’m sure is what you all are wondering}

 

Right out of high school I worked as a para educator with Special needs children. I took child development courses in college and have always had a soft spot in my heart for them. To me it’s no surprise that God has blessed me with the strength and privilege to raise them.

When my first born was just 16 months old I knew something was off. That he needed to be assessed for speech.  He had a lot of jarbling and loss of words. To even get him looked at was hard because I didn’t have a lot of peer support. I was the mom “looking for problems”. After his assessment, it was determined that he was in need for speech services. Taking it further, I had only worked with children on the Autism spectrum, but never had personal connections with them. But something was telling me, keep digging. Don’t ignore those signs, those instincts that there may be more going on. So I didn’t, I was his advocate. I did not settle for “lets wait and see”, I did not accept “he’s just a boy, being a boy”.   Now when I say I didn’t have support I don’t mean all around, I did have a few people who have stood by from the get go. But many who did not. Many who went out of their way to give me unsolicited advice. I would listen, say thank you. But I listened to my instinct more. And thank God I did, because our Ayden may not even be verbal right now had I not been his number one advocate.

 

 

Fast forward six years, we welcomed our fifth baby boy!

 

It was dejavu. A repeat of what I went through with Ayden, our first. Loss of words, quirks, the whole bit. This time though I had personal experience with a child on the spectrum. Mama instinct took over and I was on it, speech therapy started at the age of 18 months and he got the official diagnosis at about age 24 months. Then rolled in all of the unsolicited opinions, advice and those that know my child better than I. { we all have had encountered these folks in one fashion or another } I took it and said thank you and moved on. He is now five and doing fantastic, still receiving speech therapy and working on behavioral.

 

 

Fast forward to today…

I woke up at 6:20 a.m, got myself and my seventh son ready to go. Grabbed a coffee and bagel then we drove an hour to the assessment clinic. The drive there I had all of the unsolicited advice running through my mind. Causing me to question myself. As we pulled into the parking lot and I said a prayer, asking for guidance and strength to handle whatever happens once we went in there. After a three hour long assessment and questions being asked, we were ready to be out of the 10 x 10 grey room with a two way observation window. { for me it felt very much like an interrogation room.  That I've seen on t.v. of course }    After about fifteen minutes after it was completed,  in walked our doctor who talked over what we did and asked for my last opinion and concerns.  Then she gave him the official diagnosis. "Your son is on the Autism spectrum, rated moderate".  Now in my heart I saw it coming, but hearing it really made it reality. This changes nothing about him, or how I view him. But it opens doors for him to get the supports he may need.

 

A few things I want you to take from this, whether you are experiencing this first hand, observing or just reading.  If you are observing or just reading, remember that this is a huge life change for someone. This is rocking their world on so many levels, emotionally, financially, their family dynamic and so much more. Please refrain from discouraging words such as “you’re just seeing things”, “he’ll grow out of it” and whatever other, unhelpful, things you can think of. We don’t want to hear it! Seriously. No one goes to get a diagnosis for their kid because “its the thing to do”. Or because we have to have something wrong with our kid. We look into these things because we trusted our instincts and we are being our childs’ advocate.  We don’t want our children to miss out on vital years of services that will help them to improve their skills and adapt to life within their means.

To the moms {and dads } that are going through this. You are not alone!!  You are amazing! You are strong! You an do this!!

{ now repeat that three times to yourself ! Because it’s true. }

Continue to trust that instinct and be the voice, be the advocate for your children. If you don’t, no one will. If you think there are quirks about your childs development don’t shy away or feel embarrassed to ask about it. Do not let others compare their childs situation to yours. No two Autistic children are the same! Don’t think that your child will be labelled or defined by a diagnosis. That will only happen if you allow it. I do not introduce my child “This is Ayden and he is Autistic”. That labels him. The diagnosis isn’t labelling him, my introduction is. Instead try “This is my son Ayden, and he wicked smart”.

I hope this helps someone who may be observing or going through this life change, as I am.  Now I am going to go play with my crazy, fun crew and process how our world changed today.

 

xo ~ Diana

 

Power of a Dum – Dum

 We all search for that magical way to get things done. 

The way to keep our kids happy, cooperative and quiet when we have a million errands to run, or even to do around the house.   No, there is no secret formula to make this happen but there are ways to get us by.   A little secret I do to keep my kids from being a complete disaster in public and me not to lose my head while trying to tackle my to-do list . . .  . .    dum-dums.

 

Seriously, I keep these gems in my purse, glove department, cupboards, pants pocket. . . Anywhere I could possibly be that I may need to pull out my secret weapon. {which is basically anywhere I am,  because I generally always have at least one my spawn in tow}

Mommy just needs to make an appointment, here’s a dum-dum. Mommy needs to pay the lady, here’s a dum-dum. Mommy is trying to put away laundry and not wake the sleeping baby, heres a dum-dum.  { it’s not an everyday thing, it definitely keeps its ‘special factor’  don’t worry}

I have found that a tiny dum-dum is perfect! Not too much sugar, they last just long enough to get your job done.   I am not one to just give my kids whatever they want, when ever they want it. However, I AM the mom that is not above bribing her children.

The next time you have an outing, or heck even at the house! Grab a pack of dum – dums         { I get them from our local dollar store for an entire bag!}

Bribe away mamas and tackle that to-do list!

 

 

 

xo~Diana

Started with a POP!

For the longest time I have been stalling on getting this blog started, as I didn’t know where to begin.  Then it hit me start from the beginning!

Jackson and I met back in 2001, taking it back y’all. Picture a perky sixteen year old girl, who just got her drivers permit, walking into In- N -Out Burger {INO}. Looking to have the best day ever, get her permit and a job. In cork platforms, off shoulder white shirt, tight pants and a loose hip belt.

{ I just threw those shoes away last week! They finally broke, very sad day. One of my all time favorite pairs. } Okay back to the story…

I walked right up to the counter all bubbly “Hi, I’d like to speak to the manager and turn in my application”. And out of the corner of my eye I see this super cute boy, working the board. {where they assemble burgers} Our eyes met and I shied away. Then I hear this, POP. POP. Look over and see him slapping these bags on his leg. Now for my fellow friends who have worked at INO, we call{ed} it “popping the bags”. Made them open nicely, etc.. Anyway, come to find out popping them that loud is more of an attention thing. Think of it like a Lion struttin his stuff. haha.

Fast forward few weeks.. I got hired.

{I found out about a year later, I got hired on a bet. The manager at the time was Jacksons brother in law. He said he would only hire me if Jackson asked me out! }

It took him about four to five months before he worked up the courage to ask me out. And the way he did it was so cute. Remember that permit I told you I got, well I still couldn’t drive alone. So after a work meeting I was calling my mom to pick me up. Before I hung up, in walked Jackson who yelled across the back room “need a ride? I can give you a ride” .

 

I took the ride and to this day we are still going on a ride. It has been filled with highs and lows,  blessings and struggles. But we never run out of gas.  No matter what you and your partner go through, never run out of gas.

 

                  

{Our engagement shoot 2004}                                       {Family session 2017}