Last night Eddie and Ellie decorated our front door with gummy stickums.
The kids were overjoyed on Thanksgiving morning when the doorbell rang and they found two little suitcases sitting on the porch. Eddie and Ellie are back!
This year, Santa sent new outfits for each elf to keep them warm, along with a note and an animated Elf Magic DVD.
We had a family outing to the movies, and the elves accompanied us, bundled in their new “elfits.” Frozen, by the way, is delightful.
One year ago today, my son lost his best friend. Xander‘s last act upon this earth was holding a 3-year-old girl above the water so that she could breathe, while he drowned.
Xander’s parents have been such an inspiration to us over the past year. They have found the strength not only to move forward in the midst of a heart-wrenching tragedy, but also to use their son’s memory to make the world a better place. They strive each day to emulate Xander’s compassionate nature, and have continually worked toward saving lives and making a difference in the lives of others.
In a similar vein, we wished to honor Xander’s memory today, and decided to implement what we have started calling “Xander Day.” Jens and I both took off work today, so we had a full day at our disposal. Every member of our family brainstormed to come up with acts of kindness we could carry out throughout the day.
We also made donations to Goodwill. We took a big box of shoes and clothes, Kaelin donated some books, and Koren picked out some toys to give. The kids even managed to do kind things for each other. Koren took the initiative to go ask the hostess for a coloring page for Kaelin while we were at lunch, and Kaelin later volunteered to help Koren clean a mess he had made in the pantry.
It’s been a busy day, but one full of blessings. Many of our neighbors weren’t home, so we branched out and met some people on our street that we don’t know. We even discovered that one of our neighbors knew Xander as well. And it warmed my heart so much to see the kids doing things for each other, and also making other people smile. Today was an example to us that sometimes God can make blessings bloom in the midst of tragedy, and I hope that we are able to continue this tradition as we honor Xander’s memory in the future. As always, we’re keeping Xander’s family in our thoughts and prayers, and look forward to spending some time with them soon.
And now I need to go put up the leftover cookies to keep my kids from raiding them.
Ok, first and most importantly, we FINALLY got the air conditioning fixed, after over a week. I don’t have a picture of that because… well, I can’t think of a good reason to take a picture of an air conditioner.
But on to the rest of the day.
We started the event off with come-and-go crafts and activities, so kids could kind of pick what they were interested in. I somehow managed to wrangle a very brave friend to come help supervise the activities (thanks Aubree!!!) and kind of turned the kids loose in the sunroom. Activities included assembling pterodactyl gliders (which I apparently don’t have any pictures of), as well as:
Painting sun catchers:
And this funny little dinosaur stand-up that I got on a last-minute whim, but that the kids seemed to really enjoy more than I thought they would:
Naturally, with all this to offer, the thing the kids found most fascinating was the playhouse that resides in our sunroom. But hey, I had 19 kids in my sunroom and they were entertained. I still call that a win.
Next was the highlight of the party: the Dino Dig. We buried the bones of a T-Rex skeleton model in a sandbox in the back yard, and set the kids loose, equipped with shovels and brushes.
Our Junior Paleontologists found all 30 or so bones in a few minutes, and had a great time up to their elbows in the sand.
Koren even found the skull, which was very exciting.
After we hosed everybody down (literally), it was time for some food.
Other than the traffic problem, this worked remarkably well. We didn’t even have any spilled punch, which was nothing short of a miracle, IMHO. Koren took it upon himself to serve all his friends punch, and did an excellent job.
They even liked the party hats.
This was probably the quietest part of the party, and all the adults were able to visit because they could finally hear each other for the first time. The chaos was well-managed throughout the party and the kids were well-behaved… but frankly, when you put 19 kids in an enclosed metal sunroom, the noise is going reach some really ungodly decibel levels.
Pretty soon, it was time for the piñata. I had a terrible time finding a dinosaur piñata this year, and of couse as SOON as I purchased this monstrosity,
I walked into Target the next day to find the PERFECT dinosaur piñata that even matched our colors. But by that point, Koren had already fallen in love with the Red Giant (which was nearly as tall as he is), so we used it anyway, and Perfect Piñata got relegated to Table Decor Piñata.
Every kid got a turn to smack the piñata and Kaelin finally busted it open. The kids swarmed in on the downfall of candy and it was all collected in about .3 seconds
And last but not least, it was time for CAKE!
Koren loved his Volcano/Fossil cake… and by the looks of it, some other people liked it too.
By the time everyone finished their dessert, the party was basically over. It was a whirlwind hour-and-a-half, but the kids seemed to really have a great time. And my son has a really cute group of friends.
And with that, this Dinosaur party was history. A special thanks to Jens for helping me decorate and clean, and a HUGE Thankyouicouldneverhavepulleditoffwithoutyou to Aubree for dedicating her time to supervising kids, cleaning up, protecting my camera and carpet from mayhem, making things transition smoothly, and generally keeping my sanity in tact during this crazy adventure!
Happy 5th Birthday, Koren! I love you! And Mama needs a nap now.
Koren has themes already picked out for all his birthday parties through the age of 12. This was the year of the Dinosaur Party. I was super disappointed that the Herd Museum doesn’t have their Dinosaurs Live! exhibit up this time of year, but we probably would have melted in the heat anyway.
I thought he would want to outsource the party this year, but upon hearing about the possibility of a Dino Dig in our back yard, decided he really wanted to have it at home again. I was fine with this because I have a feeling that our years of having home parties are limited and it will be all Pump it Up or Chuck E Cheese in the future.
Out of fear that the cake would melt in the sunroom, I opted to have the food in the dining room this year, which meant covering up my purple wall. A few paper plates and table cloths did the trick.
I’m annoyed that I didn’t get better pictures of… well, anything. But I was running behind schedule and having to take pictures in between greeting the guests and everything was kind of a blur.
The cake was fun, and I finally figured out how to do palm trees that are structurally sound (enough) and look decent. As long as I can keep the cat from playing with them.
Our standard “plywood-over-a-coffee-table” worked nicely this year also, with JUST BARELY enough room for all the attendants. We moved our actual dining table out to the sunroom, where it served nicely as a come-and-go crafts table.
I usually don’t bother with party hats, but these little triceratops were too cute to pass up, and stood up when placed over a punch cup.
And of course, food. This was a big party day, and a lot of the kids (including mine) were attending multiple parties this day… so I couldn’t in good conscience have nothing but cake to offer.
…Ok, so maybe Jello Jigglers aren’t exactly a healthy alternative, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use my dinosaur cookie cutters.
We had very little food left over, which made me very happy. I hate having to find room to store a bunch of leftovers after a party.
And last but not least, party favors. I put the kids to work assembling these, so I hope everybody got the same distribution of goodies inside.
It’s funny how raising kids forces you to take intangible concepts and solidify them for the sake of teaching them to others. Because it’s one thing to understand something, and quite another to PUT IT INTO WORDS so someone else can understand it.
So here’s something I was forced to put into words the other day, while leading my children through the resolution of a confrontation.
Anger: a Secondary Emotion
The biggest myth about anger is that it’s a direct response to something that has happened to us. But that oversimplification leaves out one very important link in the chain. Anger is only a secondary emotion.
Most of the time, anger is a defense tactic employed to mask the vulnerability we feel from other emotions – often pain or fear, but there are a variety of emotions that expose this vulnerability we would rather keep hidden. In Kaelin’s case, Koren was making her feel inferior. Threatened by this emotion, she lashed out at him in anger, one of the two methods we humans have for defending ourselves when we feel vulnerable (the other being withdrawal).
While withdrawal is more like a shield, anger is a knife: a defense-via-offense tactic, and used much like a cornered cat uses its claws, or a frightened snake its bite. Emotion has a tendency to block cognitive function, so we flail our knife about in an effort to restore our own security, slashing whatever (or whoever) happens to be in our way.
But anger doesn’t solve anything. It typically makes our insecurity worse instead of better, because then we have regret to deal with, and usually end up causing in others the very wound we perceive to have incurred.
It isn’t really fair to bring anger unless you’re willing to own and admit to the underlying emotion. In Kaelin’s case, we worked on saying, “Koren, when you boss me around, it makes me feel like you think you’re better than me, and that hurts my feelings.”
Elementary, but it was so much more effective than her previous reaction, which sent Koren running to me in tears. Koren apologized for hurting her and said he would not do it again.
Dealing with Anger
The flip side to this is communicating with someone who is displaying anger. This concept is a little mature for Koren, so we didn’t go into it deeply at the time, but I’m going to put it here anyway.
There are basically three ways to react to someone who is flailing their knife around in response to something you have said or done.
- Engage them in the knife fight. This is basically allowing yourself to be caught in the same trap of mistaking your anger for the true emotion and refusing to admit the underlying vulnerability. We’ve all done this. Both parties get injured and nothing gets solved.
- Run away. This option is so very tempting. When you start to lose control of the conversation because you’ve set somebody off, it’s easy just to withdraw from the range of the knife, or put up your own impenetrable shield. Even though this may protect you from a few nicks, it still doesn’t solve the problem. Rather than restoring the relationship, it establishes distance. Distance demonstrates rejection and abandonment, which are damaging to the person who is already trying so hard to mask and protect his/her own vulnerability.
- Compel the other person to drop the knife by responding to the underlying emotion instead of the anger. In addition to patience and self control, it requires some insight to detect the underlying emotion. Generally it can be picked up by the cues of the conversation and the timing of the anger response. Had Koren been a little older, he could have analyzed Kaelin’s reaction instead of just responding to it. He probably would have realized that her anger was the result of being threatened by his attitude and dictation of the items on her chore list. It would then have been appropriate to say, “I’m sorry that I’m treating you unfairly. I don’t want you to feel that way, so I will stop. Also, it will help me in the future if you can tell me how you’re feeling instead of yelling at me, because yelling at me only hurts my feelings and makes me confused.”
The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone who is angry at you is that the anger is only a facade. What’s underneath is vulnerable and likely linked to a deep fear or pain, that the angry person themselves may not even recognize or understand. Handle with care.