Frighteningly Affordable Party Decorating

In previous posts I have declared my undying love for the .99 Cent Store. Thus when you pair my favorite store with my favorite holiday, you can begin to imagine all of the creativity that ensues. This year was all the more fun because my son decided on a Nightmare Before Christmas Themed birthday party.

This declaration came as a pleasant surprise considering the fact that his previous party theme suggestion was an alien luau….(Yes…you read that correctly!) While he certainly gets 2 gold stars for creativity, my thoughts were… W.T.H??. and N.O.

As much as party planning makes me giddy, I was literally at a loss with that one. There aren’t enough dollar stores in the world to get that idea off the ground. Needless to say, I took the Nightmare theme and ran with it…straight to Hobby Lobby and the  .99 Cent Store.

I have included party pics below and a few tips for making .99 cents look like a million bucks.  All items shown were purchased at a dollar store, Hobby Lobby, Target Dollar spot or Ross with the exception of the Jack Skellington Stuffed centerpiece..He was a splurge!  

Happy Holidays from my family to yours!

Tip 1: Layer several place mats and dishes to add visual interest. These are dollar store place mats!

 

 

 


 

 

 

Tip 2: Tuck little surprises into unexpected places. This dollar store spider peeks out to greet little party guests at the front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      More dollar store finds!
Tip 3: DIY! This banner was a do it yourself craft from Hobby Lobby. I added some tissue paper poms & a furry friend.               
Tip 4: Think outside the cauldron & use items in ways other than what they were intended for. This chair cover is stuffed with a standard sized pillow to add comfort & fun to the outdoor seating area.

 

Dollar store hanging pumpkins work perfectly perched atop outdoor urns.

Tip 5: Use every day items you already have around your house to decorate. This table runner is actually just wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby.

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coming up for air

Today, I am just now coming up for air. Just now feel like I am getting my life back to normal. A new normal. After every storm there is a new normal. Whatever normal really means. 

After taking life one step at a time I am just now coming up for air. 

After being woken by the storm I am just now coming up for air. 

The last few months have been a blur of events that I am just now even beginning to process. While in the middle of the storm I was emotionally paralyzed by my efforts to stay strong and show up. Two things that being a mom has taught me are essential to keep from allowing the storms in life to sweep me completely off my feet.  

July 4th – I was awoken by a summer storm rolling in to discover my father was in ICU hundreds of miles away as me and my boys were on vacation. Within a few days the label of Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma was cemented in my brain. FEAR, panic, bargaining, HOPE all set in at the same time. 

grieving my father

July 24th – I became an Aunt for the first time. I witnessed my sister’s life grow fuller as she held her first born. With new life comes HOPE, joy and endearing love. 

August 3rd – 19th – Aways a whirlwind in my home since both of my boys celebrate birthdays. I have 16 precious days with my Irish twins being the same age, this year both being 7 until my big boy hit 8. This means each getting their special family day to dictate where they want to celebrate. I am always relieved when they request family fun at any local establishment that comes with a side of Pinot Gorgio. Then comes the big friend party at whichever hot, stinky, germ invested party venue they choose. This year was another round at the local trampoline park topped off with a “Chill” cake and “poop” cupcakes. (the summer of Emojis for sure, is “poop” a feeling)

August 20th – My father peacefully went to heaven after being in my home for hospice for a short 48 hours. disbelief, shock, heartbreak, sadness, PEACE. 

August 21st – First day of school. 2nd & 3rd Grade here we come! relief, sadness, anxiety, excitement.  

This is where it all goes fuzzy like the old TV’s with the black and white static when no signal is read. This is where I slipped underwater into very unchartered territory. My father was gone. From feeling the ‘best‘ he has felt in a long time to “hitting the bed” as one doctor referred to him in just a matter of weeks. Typing this feels so unreal, its not true, there is no way. Typing this makes my heart race and that lump in my throat to pulse.

This is still so UNREAL.

grieving my father

The days that immediately followed were full of family and friends coming to our side. Great friends parading in with casseroles, muffins and hugs, oh…and wine. Friends I would have least expected called, texted, and showed up at my door with offerings of love. My home was filled with flowers, but the bed my Dad once lay in was now empty. Insert the frantic picture sorting and song picking that is requested by the local funeral home and a run to the mall for clothes suitable for a now 7 and 8 year old to wear to their Grandfather’s funeral.

He was gone. So UNREAL

grieving my father

There is no coming up for air when you feel like the waves are constantly engulfing you. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to keep your kids first week of school as normal as it can be while you read them “Grandpa Went to Heaven” for bedtime and console them as they are hit by the waves that Grandpa is not coming back. There is no coming up for air as you lay in bed staring at the clock as the nights tick away. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to hide the tears that uncontrollably pour from your eyes.  

There is no coming up for air when the strongest women you know just lost her husband of 45 years, your husband just lost the most of a father he has ever had, your children just lost one of the best man in their life, your days old nephew will never know how amazing his grandfather was.

grieving my father

What does coming up for air feel like? Surreal. What once was, is no longer. Family has all gone home, the casseroles have stopped coming, the flowers have been put on the curb. Surreal is just when your heart begins to ache there is a subtle reminder that he is still here. It is when guilt hits you because it has been a few hours too long you have not missed him, yet my heart tells me it is okay to refocus on what is before me. Surreal is when you hit quick dial in the morning to call him as you would while driving to work so you call your Bestie instead. Unreal is when you go to mom’s house and your mind wants you believe he will be home any minute. When you go to the Ranch, but he is not here.

Coming up for air is unchartered territory. You cannot prepare your self for your parent to pass away especially a daddy’s girl losing her father.

My life changed the day my Dad passed. My life will never be the same, I will never be the same, my family will never be the same. Now that we are starting to catch our breath we find small ways to talk about Papa as often as we can. Just a couple days ago as we saw a boat being pulled down the street Cooper asked when we can go to the lake again. Papa loved family day at the lake. Whenever we see a John Deere tractor we wave to Papa. When Papa’s dog proudly brought a dead rat to the back door we laughed knowing that Papa was snickering at his proud catch.

Coming up for air feels like I can breath again, yet moments still take the breath out of me. There are no clear definitions of how to grive so navigating this unchartered territory is scary without my Dad. There are no right ways, no certain time lines, no ending really. Grieving my father is now part of me as I try to keep breathing. Now I have more reason to live in such a way others see him in me.

cancer

I Love you Daddy.

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The Crazy Busy Life: How to slow down when you can’t slow it down.

Ylkphotography
 Life is truly going by in a hurry lately. I started back to work last week, which of course was bitter sweet, but surprisingly much more sweet than bitter. I’m beyond grateful to be able to stay home most days with my sweet baby #3 and still squeeze in the luxury of human interaction a few work days a week. Not a bad deal. But, none the less adding work into the mix has made my busy life busier.

I’m not one to like being busy. I’d much prefer a lot of boredom than action. Busy tends to equal stress in my experience. But, the thing is I don’t have much choice anymore. Taking care of 5 people, myself included, means there’s a lot going on most of the time. Sitting down is a vacation I embark on at 9:00 at night, 30 minutes before bed. All the rest is just a lot of “doing”.

The funny thing is that I’m actually enjoying  this crazy new lifestyle… For the most part anyway. To be honest I’m surprised by how much I like it. Knowing myself as the introvert that I am, in regular need of quiet down time, I’m perplexed as to why I haven’t imploded with anxiety yet…. what exactly is keeping me sane in the midst of this insane life of taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 job, 1 self, family, and friendships? That’s the question of the night…

To be honest – I don’t really know. But if I had to take a guess it would be this –

1) Stay in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to get caught up in what’s NEXT. The next thing on the list, the next task to be done, the next place to go, the next thing to do, the next, the next, the next. There is always something next. When I’m focused on what’s coming next, I find myself uber stressed, irritable, frustrated, angry even. It’s like I’m resentful of everything going on because I just can’t get to a quiet calm place. The “next” is getting in the way of that. Or! If I can be present to the “busy” as it’s happening I find that I do enjoy it more, even when it’s hectic, loud, and hurried.

2) Embrace the interruption.

My day, and night (hello, I have a newborn), is one big interruption. I can’t have even one thought without someone, say a 5 or 3 year old, butting in with a question that could most reasonably be answered by anyone else but, of course mama mama mama is the name of the hour. Every hour. If I get annoyed by this, and believe me I often do, then I’d be setting myself up for a lifetime of frustration. The interruption and disruption isn’t going to stop any time soon, so I may as well accept it. Embrace it. It won’t last forever. The kids will grow and when they do I will definitely miss it.
 
I’ve been surprised that with each addition of a child into our home I’ve found myself chilling out a little more. I still freak out, like a lot, in a different way. I just can’t take myself too seriously. I’m a mess most days. I make bad mom choices, I forget things constantly, and I’m late to pretty much everything. If you knew me before kids, you’d know this would have sent me straight to anxiety hell. But now I’ll just text you a warning ahead of time – I’ll be there but, most likely I won’t be on time. Deal with it.

The lesson that I’m learning is that peace and calm aren’t found by doing less, they’re found by paying attention more to what is happening right here, right now. It all goes by so fast; I know I don’t want to miss it.


Photo credit belongs to YLK Photography

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20 reasons why I choose to not go to my 20 year reunion

This evening is my 20 year high school reunion from BTWHSPVA. In case you don’t know what that stands for: Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the Most Unique School in Dallas.

I am not going. I have had people tell me I should go, ask me why not and share with me great stories about their last reunion.

Since I have found myself feeling I have to justify my position here are 20 reasons why I choose to not go to my 20 year high school reunion:

  1. I just don’t want to. From the second they started planning it I have had Zero interest.
  2. I still talk to who I want to talk to from high school. That is 2 people in case you are wondering, 2.
  3. I could not decide what color of lipstick to wear. 
  4. Frankly, there are people I have no desire to see.
  5. I choose to focus on my like and friends now. This is more my “glory days” than high school ever was.
  6. All the babysitters are booked.
  7. Downtown Dallas – TX/OU weekend – need I say more?
  8. Since high school was not my “glory days” why would I wasn’t to reflect on that? 20 year reunion
  9. Social media already gives me highlights of those I would like to see.
  10. Just seeing the social media build up to the reunion looks like the same cliques still exist. No Thank You.
  11. High school was a social experiment I barely survived. I don’t need the social experiment of a reunion with the same crowd.
  12. The only memories I have of our 10 year reunion is a lot of drinking, cliques and hearing who is cheating with their spouse as he is prowling on old high school flames.  
  13. I can’t find my Doc Martins. This actually sucks because they are coming back in style.
  14. I was so disconnected in high school so I really don’t have much connection with many from those years.
  15. When I think of high school I think of my eating disorder, depression and thoughts of driving my car into White Rock Lake.
  16. A youth group reunion sounds more fun because more of my good memories from those years were from there.
  17. I think I would remember about ten peoples names. 
  18. In no way do I consider high school as my glory years. For those who did, I am sorry those days ended for you, enjoy rehashing old stories tonight.
  19. I’d rather watch Netflix and Chill.
  20. oh, and I never lost that 30 pounds.

Sure, a little piece of me wants to go. To say I went. To see my bestie from elementary school. To see the show because I am sure there will be something amazingly creative happen. We are talking about a reunion of artists, dancers, actors and musicians. Hubby said we would be going if Nora Jones had RSVPed. To my knowledge she hasn’t.

Instead, today I choose to live today as I do these days. 20 years after the ending of the worst social experiment ever. I am relaxing at home with my hubby watching the TX-OU game from my couch, cooking dinner, clothes in the wash and my boys outside playing with friends in the street. This evening will probably just be a regular Saturday night here at the Johnson house. Chill.

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Enough

How many more ? How many more precious souls will be lost before we collectively seek to understand and heal the underlying causes of mass murder in America?

As a mental health professional, I wish I could say I was hopeful about finding a solution but unfortunately, I am not.  If we did not make this horrific problem a priority the day 26 innocent children & teachers were senselessly slaughtered in their classrooms, I fear we never will.

enough Continue reading

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Mothering a Newborn: Tips for the Criminally Exhausted Mommy

5 weeks. 5 weeks of being an official mother of 3. 1 newborn, 1 preschooler, and 1 kindergartener. How do I feel? Probably the most common question I am asked, right before “Are you getting any sleep?” Both of these questions can and should be answered the same: It changes every day.

Today I am tired. Tired from several sleepless nights due to a recent discovery that my newborn is lactose intolerant, which apparently equals to painful feedings, screaming, crying, and incessant toots – those being painful, too. Poor baby. And yes, poor mommy.

Then the morning comes, always too quickly, and my older two children need to be fed, dressed, and out the door before the tardy bell rings. The tardy bell – that’s a whole other story… who knew kindergarten teachers could be so scary! To me, not to my kid. He loves school. I’ve already managed to get in trouble for messing up the car pool line, forgetting my car pool sign, being too early to school, too late, buying the wrong color binder… geez! Get it together, mom! I should have done a little more research on mom expectations before the first day. But, oh well. We will survive. And, we’ll all be okay.
These first weeks of mayhem are reminding me of 1 very important lesson I’ve several times learned and frequently forgotten…

Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.

I find I often want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of tasks. Clean the house, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, go to Target (because that’s what all home bound moms live to do) cook dinner, eat dinner, bathe myself, bathe my kids, sit down, sing nighttime songs, read bedtime stories, spend time with my husband, wash my face, brush my teeth, go to sleep, get some sleep! Before waking up and doing it all again.

Seems doable, right? On a “normal” day, sure. But, with a newborn? Not so much. Doing any one of these things can feel like an accomplishment when you’re bartering with a tiny human for food, sleep, and comfort.
 
When I’m approaching that danger zone of “If one more person asks for me for one more thing, I’m going to freak out!” I must ask myself, which of these “must-do’s” can I erase off my list? Better yet, maybe best to just trash the list all together. I’d rather have a little extra calm while wearing a spit up stained t-shirt, feeding my kids pb&j for the 5th day in row (trust me, they love it!) than be frantically squirming back and forth between laundry piles, burnt food on the stove, and kids crying because “mommy keeps yelling at me”.

I mean is that what I want my life to look like?

I think not.

 So, I ask myself, what can go un-done today? What can I let go of? What can I put off until tomorrow. What can I ask for help with? Epiphany! You can ask for help!

Maybe for today it means I let the dust collect a little more. (I reeeaaaallllyyy hate dust, but it will not kill me to see it for one more day). Maybe it means ordering takeout or eating soup for dinner. Maybe it means not making it to the gym, which is a luxury these days anyway. Maybe it means greasy hair (for me and my kids) or maybe it means getting to school after the tardy bell rings. Shocker! Life will go on. And by the way, no kid was ever sent to therapy because his mom got him to school late one day (or a few). It will be okay.

You’ve got to make sure you are okay. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Forget the dishes. And the laundry. There will be another day, if we are so lucky, to do it all again.

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I AM THAT GIRL

GIRLS MATTER.

Girls receive over 3,000 messages a day telling them what they aren’t and I AM THAT GIRL exists to help them celebrate what they are.  I am that girl is a movement inspiring girls to love, express, and be exactly who they are.

My Girl…You have a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind. I love you! Mom

They have several local chapters of forward thinking girls & women on High School and College campuses. These chapters work to shift girl culture in America, by raising the standards for how girls treat themselves, each other, and the world.

When I spotted this noble venture on line, I was reminded that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is rooted in exploring and challenging negative core beliefs individuals have about ourselves,  others, and the world. This type of therapy teaches the skills necessary to overcome negative & destructive patterns of thinking.

Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps to identify which factors are playing a role in maintaining a negative body image and works to address each one by teaching the skills necessary to allow healing to occur.

Once the negative thoughts have been identified and evaluated for truthfulness, it is time to replace them with positive, productive thoughts that create a favorable outcome. this involves practice and dedication but has been demonstrated to be extremely effective in breaking the cycle of negative thinking.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Maya Angelou

If you or someone you know suffers from body image problems, low self esteem, or body dysmorphic disorder, I would encourage you to contact a counselor in your area for guidance and support. Please take a minute today to visit I AM THAT GIRL.COM and take the pledge today!  I have done it…Now it’s your turn. http://www.iamthatgirl.com/

I, Angie Glancy, am that girl…

I have a brilliant heart and a beautiful mind. I am me, an amazing work in progress, and perfectly flawed. I promise to lift other girls up, have their backs, and make it safe for them to be exactly who they are. I’m on a mission to raise the standards for how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves, and how we treat the world. Every time I look in the mirror I’ll remind myself that I’m not alone, that my voice matters, and that I am enough.

 

https://instagram.com/iamthatgirl

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Good Bye High School, Hello College

So nice to hear from someone who recently went through this big transition. She shares what helped her the most when it was time to go. Written by my Summer intern Karley Knight who spent the first half of her summer studying abroad in Ireland and the second half helping me get more “put together.” She offers parents a few hints as to what your budding college freshman really need from you as they get closer to move in day.

The big transition…

          Consider two fruits- apples and bananas. They’re both fruits, nutritional, and have the same goal- to fulfill hunger. However, they differ in crucial ways. They’re different colors, taste differently, have different benefits, and so on. Compare the similarities and differences of apples and bananas to high school and college. Both high school and college are forms of schooling, have the same goal of educating students, and so on. However, they also have defining differences that make them seem like two completely different concepts.

going off to college

            Almost every high schooler can’t wait until they can finally escape the immaturity and monotony of high school to flee to the magical idea of college. They’ve enviously eyed college students and their wild parties, autonomy, and seemingly glamorous lifestyle from the confines of their dreary hallways for the last four years, and they’re more than ready to join the cool crowd. Although dreaming about their idealistic future can be exhilarating, their excitement can be easily squashed when they realize the other, more sobering factors that go along with leaving home. They have to think about the less fun realities of college- harder classes, doing their own laundry, having to shop for groceries, and other things they’re used to having their parents do for them.

            I was just like the majority of overly enthusiastic students whenever it was my time to depart for college. After graduation, I was so excited to finally exchange my all too familiar small town for a new, diverse college environment. I was so busy planning how I would decorate my dorm room, constructing my class schedule, and picking out school supplies that I didn’t leave any time to think about anything else but the pros of moving away. As the summer drew to a close and move in day crept closer, my blind enthusiasm slowly began to be replaced by a growing realization of what I was leaving behind. I had been waiting for move in day for so long that I’d forgotten that it was actually going to happen. I now thought about how drastically my life was about to change, and had the same worries that most college freshman have, such as the first week of classes, dorm life, a new social scene, and so on.

what i needed from my parents            My parents were a huge help in assuaging my newbie college anxieties. Their support helped my transition from high school senior to college rookie smoother. There were three main things that my parents did in the time leading up to my farewell that really encouraged me:

  1. Constantly reminded me that my core social support (my family) would always be there for me with unwavering love
  2. Advised me that I wouldn’t be 100% successful, and that it was going to take me a minute to get used to my new situation, but that it was okay to not be perfect at everything right away
  3. Always demonstrated genuine confidence in me and my ability to adapt and thrive in college

            By having a secure, supportive backbone to fall back on, I felt less alone in my journey to college. In addition, by being told that I wasn’t expected to automatically be perfectly established in college alleviated the pressure I put on myself to prove that I could be successful on my own. The third, and probably most important one, was the way my parents responded to me whenever I expressed my apprehension about leaving. Both my mom and dad always assured me that they had no qualms concerning my capability to do well in college. They constantly told me how proud they were of me for going to college and how excited they were to see me flourish in the coming years. By hearing about how others believed in me helped me believe in myself, which was crucial in assuaging my fears. I encourage parents with kids preparing to leave the nest to practice these same strategies to help their children feel better during this time.

            Parents shouldn’t expect their kids to be perfect, but instead expect them to learn from their experiences and become a greater person because of those opportunities. And although they may want to, parents can’t do everything for their kids. They can support and advise them, but ultimately adolescents must learn for themselves how to manage their affairs on their own.

college transition

This progression period is a tough time filled with conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety, but the transition from home to college is a very important time in a person’s life. College helps develop one’s true identity and realize what they really want in life. It seems daunting in the beginning, but after acclimating to college, life becomes much more exciting.

Written by Karley Knight

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