21 August 2017
More than anything else, for John’s thirtieth birthday, I wanted to remind him of how loved and cherished he is, and how much his thirty years on earth have meant to the people around him. I don’t think men necessarily hear how wonderful they are as often as the ladies in their lives, even if it’s equally true, and so for this special occasion I wanted to make sure he got the message loud and clear.
John’s birthday is in mid-July, so in late May, I sent out an email to close friends and family asking them to send me back the following by mid-June, written in the format of a letter to John:
One thing I really admire about you:
A favorite memory we share and why it stands out in my mind:
Something to look forward to in your 30s:
I included both of our parents and all of our siblings, of course, as well other family members and friends from childhood, high school, college, and North Carolina. I also asked for input from our nieces and nephews via their parents, and “assisted” June and our cats with writing their own letters, too :) My letter concluded the book.
Most people responded right away, and the ones that didn’t came through after a quick follow-up email, so it really wasn’t difficult to assemble the messages. Photos weren’t too hard, either, since I had done a bunch of scanning and organizing of old photos for our wedding slideshow. What took the most time was laying the book out, but even that was done in a few nights’ time (while shielding my browser from John, of course!).
I chose an 8×8 book with a hard, matte photo cover and layflat pages from Shutterfly. With 13 additional pages and a 50% off coupon (they are ALWAYS running promos), the total came to about $45. The book is beautiful in person – I’m thrilled with how it turned out!
John loved it, too. I think he was actually quite taken aback by it. He is a deeply private, humble person, and I think the thought of all of those people writing something nice about him was a bit overwhelming – instead of reading all of the letters in one sitting, he paged through them slowly over a few days. Mission accomplished :)
Have you ever surprised someone with messages like this? I think it’s always a hit (and I would love to hear your creative ideas!)!
8 May 2017
My dear friend Kristin is pregnant with TWINS! These babies are long-awaited and eagerly anticipated — and personally, two of the miracles I have most steadfastly prayed for. It makes sense that they have also been much celebrated! Last week I got to be a part of throwing Kristin’s first mini shower, and we came up with a fun game I wanted to pass along. Baby shower games can be so cheesy and lame, but this one was a definite crowd pleaser!
My friend Jess and I brainstormed twenty questions and printed up a simple score card. The questions were:
1. Who was the more well-behaved child?
2. Who asked who out on your first date?
3. Who said “I love you” first?
4. Who cried more on your wedding day?
5. Who is the better gift giver?
6. Who will be more intense about researching baby items?
7. Who will be more nervous in the delivery room?
8. Who will be the master swaddler?
9. Who will change more diapers?
10. Who is more likely to forget the babies somewhere?
11. Who will call their mom most often for advice or encouragement?
12. Who will be more likely to enforce the rules?
13. Who will have better voices when reading stories?
14. Who will plan the twins’ birthday parties?
15. Who will be the more laid-back parent?
16. Who will help with math homework?
17. Who will insist board games be played by the rules, even if the twins always lose?
18. Who will do the driving on family road trips?
19. Who is more likely to be an overenthusiastic sideline parent?
20. Who will cry more on college move-in day?
I read the questions one by one, and everyone wrote down either Kristin or Kyle for their answer. Then, we asked Kristin what her answer was, and if you got the same answer, you got a point!
For extra fun, I had also sent Kyle the list of questions in advance and he had recorded his answers on video, which we played after each of Kristin’s answers. (I asked him to record each one in a separate clip, name them according to the question, and upload them to Dropbox to keep it simple!) Kyle’s answers were SO sweet; I think incorporating the dad in some surprise way is always so fun and meaningful for the mama!
Any other baby shower games or activities you’d recommend? There are surprisingly few good ones and I’m always eager for suggestions!
P.S. We were at Making Things Happen when Kristin told us the news, so our wonderful photographer friend Amy Nicole caught it on camera. So good!
P.P.S. For those of you who know about my extreme skill at guessing baby genders – I am thinking two girls for Kristin!! But, I do admit I have never guessed twins before… we shall see! :)
13 March 2017
Ever since Brooke wrote about throwing a “Favorite Things” party many moons ago, I’ve wanted to host one myself! The rapidly-approaching end of my 60 Before 30 project was enough to get my butt in gear, and I’m so happy to say that this eagerly-anticipated event was just as fun as I thought it would be. Here’s how I organized mine, in case you’re interested in hosting your own!
Instead of inviting my usual roster of friends, I decided to use this party as an opportunity to get to know our neighbors a bit better. To make things simple, I issued a Facebook invitation. Here’s the text I used in case you’d like to copy it :)
Hi friends and neighbors!
I’ve wanted to host a “favorite things” party for a long time, and figured Valentine’s Day and meeting more neighbors were perfect excuses! :)
If you reply YES (which I hope you do!), plan to bring your favorite thing with you on the 16th (anything you like… your favorite lip balm, favorite kitchen tool, favorite gift wrapping supply, a gift card for your favorite frozen yogurt, favorite plant, etc.). Don’t spend more than $10, and bring THREE of the same thing (for a total of $30 or less). You’ll go home with the favorite things of three other ladies!
If you’d like to bring a dessert or bottle of wine or another drink to share, as well, that would be great! You can comment below with what you’ll bring so we can all get excited :)
Finally, please feel free to extend the invitation to any other ladies you love in [our neighborhood]!!
Looking forward to it!
Going the Facebook route made it very easy for friends to invite other friends, something I was really trying to encourage! We ended up having three gals attend who I’d never even met before – success!
The party was on a Thursday, starting at 8pm (after kiddos were in bed – another bonus of it being neighborhood-centric was that everyone just walked over, some in slippers, after lights out!). The first half hour or so was spent chatting and eating dessert, the second was spent passing out the “things,” and the third was spent chatting :) For decor, I cherry-picked the Target Dollar Spot on February 15.
Upon arrival, I had everyone write their names on three slips of paper and fill out one of the interview cards I made:
Then, I read the cards one by one, and everyone tried to guess who had written each. The person who guessed correctly introduced her favorite thing, then drew three slips of paper from the bowl and gave her things to those three guests. We continued until everyone had three new things to go home with!
I had a duo for my favorite thing: EO French Lavender hand soap, which I first smelled at Serenbe and always makes me feel like I’m in a fancy hotel, and a few brownie bites from Whole Foods. If you haven’t tried the latter yet, you probably shouldn’t – they are my ultimate WF weakness. Other gals brought cute socks, a milk frother, a body scrub, a silpat mat and three favorite recipes, and face masks, to name a few.
This was such a fun evening – in fact, we’ve already talked about making it a twice-yearly tradition! I was definitely nervous to put myself out there, especially without my usual crew around me, but I think the “favorite things” aspect actually lowered the pressure, because there was something to “do” instead of just stand around and chat. Highly recommended all around :)
Have you ever been to a Favorite Things party? What would you bring if you were invited to one? It was really hard to decide!
20 February 2017
How are you all feeling about your 2017 goals, if you made some? (My company actually declared last week “Cultivate What Matters Week” because February 15th is statistically the day that the majority of people give up on their yearly goals!) I am feeling pretty good overall. I’m particularly excited about one practice I’ve implemented to help with my second and third focal areas: loving my loved ones well and cultivating a rich life for my family.
If you’re curious about my planner, you can read more about it here!
It’s my monthly prep days! When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from doing kind and fun things for the people I love, it wasn’t a lack of money or time, it was a lack of preparation. This came up over and over again as I filled out my PowerSheets, and eventually led to my word of the year (preparation!).
Starting in January, I’ve designated one day a month my monthly prep day. They’re usually on the last Sunday of the month, and I’ve already put them on my calendar for the rest of the year. I’ve noticed a huge difference in just the two months I’ve tried them so far, and wanted to share! Here’s what I do:
— After June goes to bed, I sit down with a few supplies: my laptop, my planner, my perpetual birthday calendar, and my phone.
— First, I note any birthdays coming up in the next month. If I’m going to send a card, I write the card, address it, and put a stamp on it. If I’m going to get a gift, I decide what it’s going to be and order it (or make a plan to buy it). I also set individual reminders on my phone to call or send a text to each person on his or her birthday.
— Then, I look through my planner and note any upcoming holidays or events. Where appropriate, I decide how we’re going to celebrate, and then make a plan. For example, in February, we had the Super Bowl, the Walking Dead premiere (ha!), Valentine’s Day, the Oscars, my Favorite Things party, and my birthday. Right then and there, I decided what special game day food we were going to make for the Super Bowl, I made a note to buy a Valentine’s Day card for John, I decided what we were going to do for June’s teachers for Valentine’s Day, I made the invite for the Favorite Things party, and more. Not everything gets done that evening, but I try to at least make a plan for anything I can’t do right then.
— I run down some of our normal monthly happenings and consider whether we want to schedule anything for the month: dinner with friends? A date night? A trip to the Museum of Life & Science? Some other sort of adventure? If necessary, I reach out to friends, make a restaurant reservation, etc.
— If a babysitter is required for any event, I text our babysitter and try to get on her calendar.
— Finally, I try to think if there’s anyone that’s been on my heart — someone who’s been celebrating or hurting, or who I just haven’t connected with in a while. If applicable, I take some sort of action there!
All told, my monthly prep usually takes about two hours. I do NOT do it perfectly, it needs to be said. Even with all this forethought, I forget things, I leave things to the last minute, I say the wrong thing or don’t say anything at all when something should be said. But I’m trying! And instituting these prep days has helped me immensely.
The downside? Decision fatigue can set in big time, and John is not always on board to be peppered with questions about what we should do for this or that (which is fair enough, since I’m working on my timeline, not his!).
One final tip: If you see someone celebrating in a way you love and you want to try it yourself, write it down! I have a simple doc on my computer, split into months, where I write down cute or clever ideas I see. Just got a lot for Valentine’s Day 2018 from all the sweet things you guys posted last week :)
I’d love to hear: do you have any systems for thoughtfulness? Or are you just a naturally, spontaneously fun and celebratory person? :)