Search Results For -year of less

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» Year of Less: Birthday Update
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Easter baskets during the year of less
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» A year of less
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Can I overuse the word blessing?
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» Home for Christmas, Nashville 2018
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» The Fight Against Screen Time, Summer Picks, and Giveaway!
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» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide
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» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide
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» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5
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» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida

» Year of Less: Birthday Update

We are steadily continuing the year of less and it gets easier with each event. This week brought another opportunity to put our resolution into practice. Charlotte is turning 8 years old! She’s a bit of an old soul so while she still has the remainders of a baby face it seems completely probable and appropriate that she’s a full 8 years old. When my kids were very little I made a promise to soak in each day and stage and do my best to stay in the moment, this has made the passing years seem more realistic even if they do feel faster than I would like.


This year a few of our kids were at various camps during Charlotte’s birthday and Calvin had taken Liam to Houston with him. This gave Charlotte and I a golden opportunity to share some quality time. We started the birthday festivities with pedicures and talked about what event she might like to do for her birthday gift. She requested a surprise and I took that as a challenge. I discovered through a random Facebook ad that something called China Lights Nashville was currently set up at the fairgrounds. After viewing the press release and videos I knew this was just the event to celebrate my half-Chinese princess.


I’m a firm believer in dressing the part for celebrations. I told her to choose a favorite dress and chose one for myself as well. We put on lipstick and drove the 30 minute drive to the fairgrounds. I kept the surprise until we arrived and she began to see the lights. It was beautiful! If this event comes to a town near you I highly recommend a visit!


When we substitute events for presents we are in favor of going all out. This means dinner, dessert and specials drinks. This means that the gift recipient gets the royal treatment. It’s a full out attempt to create very fun, out of the ordinary moments and memories. It means saying yes to all the things that we often say no to. When you are one of four kids there aren’t as many moments like that so that makes days like this even more special!


During the evening I made sure to fill her head and heart with affirmation, I told her how wonderful she was and about all the ways she makes our home joyful.

The year of less has become less about reducing the stuff and more about amping up the intentional moments. The removal of things has caused us to focus more on what we do and say during celebrations. I hope that when we come to the end of this year our kids have unforgettable moments and a knowledge of their importance and place in our family.

Easter baskets during the year of less

As I previously shared in this post, we chose to try out a year of less. A year with no physical gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc. Even though we have always been conservative with stuff it was still feeling out of control in our home. Here are a few ways we are planning to replace the traditional Easter Basket in our home this year.

For Elliott, our 9 year old:

A giftcard to a local arcade to spend some time with dad. We are also donating, in honor of his favorite sport, to provide soccer gear for kids who do not have equipment.

For Lola, our 9 year old:

A day pass for rock-climbing with mom, this is her favorite activity and she is so empowered when she’s climbing! We are also donating to provide food for a baby for a week through Samaritans Purse.

For Charlotte, our 7 year old:

A certificate for spa time. Nothing makes her happier than pretty pink nails. We will also donate in her name to provide baby chicks for a family in need. Also through Samaritans purse.

For Liam, our 5 year old:

A giftcard to the arcade for bonding time with Dad and big brother. In Liam’s honor we will donate to provide “comfort lambs to children. He is our babe who loves to have a stuffed animal tucked under his arm.

Each child will receive the gift of time and an experience with a parent and also know that another child will receive something that they need. We hope that these early experiences will foster a spirit of generosity and empathy for others.

 

 

» A year of less

We recently committed to a year of less. Specifically a year of NO tangible, hold-them-in-your-hand gifts. This includes Easter baskets, car trip surprises, birthday presents and YES Christmas presents too. It’s not happening in this house this year. The why of this decision has many forms. First of all, our lives have become very indulgent. I recently read a book about Abraham Lincoln with my daughter. She delighted as she read about his sister Sarah’s first toy… a corncob doll she made herself. Would our children treasure such a thing today? Probably not. Toys today leave little to the imagination. Imagine the depths little Sarah went to with that single corncob doll made by her own two hands. In Uganda, Haiti and Ethiopia I’ve seen children completely content with homemade wagons and cardboard boxes or stacks of smooth stones. Our initial reaction is sadness… but just watch the joy and ingenuity in their method of play for a moment and wipe that sadness away.

Secondly, we have toys. We have stem toys and mounds of Legos. We have paints and clay and paper. We have a swings and a trampoline. And most importantly we have bikes and sticks and mud and dogs to play with. We have everything they need and want.

Lastly, we want to invest in experiences this year rather than things. I would prefer to spend money on travel or helping others. I would prefer to heighten the quality of the time I spend with my children and create more room for memories. And really it comes down to the simple fact: enough is enough. When I spend more time managing clutter and crap in my house than I do with my children that’s a problem. This feels like a giant, deep breath of crisp cool air to my weary soul. It’s like painting the whole house white and just sitting in the middle of a blank slate. It’s a good start to good things… that aren’t actual things.

We let the kids in on our plans earlier this week. They weren’t terribly shocked, but they were definitely ready to help plan our experiences for the year! There isn’t a grand plan that I can lay out for you. We are simply going to plan experiences for the events that we would typically purchase presents for. Intentional substitution of time for stuff. This may range from visiting Six Flags to riding bikes at a park and grabbing ice cream. This plan can be tailored to fit your budget, lifestyle and interests.

So here’s to a year of less stuff and more togetherness. Anyone else?

Can I overuse the word blessing?

Just wondering, because I’m about to use it again.  Just like I overuse commas.  So… on to the blessing.  Last night Calvin and I met with our Pastor of Volunteers/Adoption.  I know what you’re thinking, who has a Pastor of Volunteers??  Long Hollow Baptist Church ladies and gentlemen.  Pretty awesome.  Any way, we met with Rob and it was so reassuring to find out that our church offers us some pretty amazing services when it comes to adoption.  They have access to a lot of information that will be abundantly helpful as we are preparing to welcome our next child.  They will help us go through all of our paperwork with a fine tooth comb, so as to ensure we don’t get stuck in Ethiopia or some other potential disaster.  And on top of those wonderful things they have paired us with a family who has completed an international adoption… mentors!  My anxieties are eased.  However, if you know me very well you would say “what anxieties?”  True, true.  I tend to leap before looking.  Perhaps a little anxiety is a good thing.  If we don’t prepare for potential problems we won’t know how to handle them when the inevitably arise.   So thank you Lord for Long Hollow and their commitment to adoption.  Thank you for your provisions!

Side Note: Rob gave me a bracelet (live strong style) that reads: “Share the Joy of Adoption”  and I snatched it out of his hand like a two-year-old and slid it onto my wrist all the while admiring it like it was encrusted with diamonds.  Yes, I would say I’m in the romantic stage.

» Home for Christmas, Nashville 2018

Nashville has a lot to offer when it comes to the year of less. If you haven’t been following along, 2017 for our family has the been the start of attempting to buy less stuff, but instead have more experiences together together. The year of less is slowly turning into a lifestyle of less. Our family is spending another December at home (for the third year in a row) and we’ve found lots to look forward to in doing so. Here are a list of events we are especially making plans to attend in December.

1. SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER

The Schermerhorn is a breathtaking venue that feels special no matter what you’re there for. For the last couple of years, we’ve attended Dave Barnes’ Christmas show, which we highly recommend. This year we’ll be going to Home Alone in Concert (performing on 12/5 and 12/6)! Experience John Williams’ delightful score performed live (by the Nashville Symphony and Nashville Symphony Chorus) while the movie is shown on the big screen.

We’re also excited about a Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes (12/2), Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas (12/17 and 12/22), and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Big Band Holidays with Wynton Marsalis (12/7). Also Handel’s Messiah (four performances to choose from), which has really become an annual holiday tradition for many families.

Full schedule and tickets available at NashvilleSymphony.org

2. NASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER
Nashville Ballet has performed Nashville’s Nutcracker for over 10 years. This has become a huge tradition for families, with fifteen performances to choose from. Our (young) family especially loves the early afternoon show so that we can grab dinner at Milk & Honey after the show!

Visit magical lands with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker, the Dancing Bear and many historic characters from Nashville’s past.

Nashville’s Nutcracker will be at TPAC’s Jackson Hall for fifteen (15) performances:

  • Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 21, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets available at NashvilleBallet.com

3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

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The only cold temperature we enjoy is from the Nashville Predators ice. Our kids love hockey when it comes to the food, the chants, and the crazy fans. Liam still loves singing (and shaking it to) Tim McGraw’s “I like it I love it” every time the home team scores.

There are plenty of home games in December to check out. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com

4. Marvel Universe Live!

If your kids can’t get enough of the Marvel movies or too young to watch them, this live performance might be a fit for your family. Witness cutting-edge special effects, aerial maneuvers, pyrotechnics, martial arts, motorcycles stunts, and vast video projection in this completely new thrilling adventure.

Seven shows available from December 6-9. Click here for tickets

5. Dollywood – Smoky Mountain Christmas

If you’re home but willing to drive a few hours, Dollywood should always be in consideration! Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas featuring Glacier Ridge is the most beautiful holiday addition yet. There’s no better way to spend your holiday season, and there’s no place quite as uniquely beautiful as Dollywood.

» The Fight Against Screen Time, Summer Picks, and Giveaway!

We’re only one week into summer and have already called a family meeting to create a schedule. My kids constantly want to play on an iPad or watch Netflix. And I’m starting to annoy myself with my long-winded statements starting with…when I was your age. I wish I had read these summer tips (Boundaries, Routines and Early Bedtimes) from lovewhatmatters.com a few weeks ago. In addition to the great article mentioned above, we’ve added a few specific things to maximize our summer and battle screen time.

HEXBUG

We’ve transformed the year of less into a lifestyle of less. Don’t get us wrong, our kids still want the ‘stuff’ they see in Walmart and Target isles, we’ve just provided jobs around the house to earn money to buy it themselves. My kids have been eyeing Hexbug remote control powered toys, specifically the BattleBots!

Does anyone remember watching this show as a kid on Saturdays? If there’s a sibling quarrel, now we can settle it in the arena! The tiny remotes are so fun and simple to use.

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The kids got things going in no time. In addition to the BattleBots, they loved their BattleGround sets that in some ways, combine BattleBots with Laser Tag. The obstacles can be moved in any design so you can make a unique playing field every time. Also check out AquaBots, remote controlled fish! Perfect for the long lazy days around the pool.

Long Cow

We typically reserve Friday nights for game night but now when it’s blazing hot outside at noon, we like to break out a board or card game. Long Cow is by far one of our brand new favorites. The goal of the game is to build the largest herd of cows. Extra points if you have the longest cow, hence the name of the game. My kids favorite rule in the instruction manual is having to say Your Moooooove when your turn is over.

Gamewright also makes a ton of other games including Tiki Topple, Sushi Go!, Loot, and many others.

Puzzles

Puzzles seem to be a thing of the past. I can’t remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have a puzzle in progress. I’ve discovered that my kids’ interest in a good puzzle all depends on the art. We recently found these awesome Disney-themed puzzles that are bright, colorful and keep everyone’s attention.

Library

Weekly trips to the library can be therapeutic. We love being a part of the local library’s summer reading challenge and checking out a huge stack of books for the week. Run-ins with friends make things extra fun. Our local library is next to a playground so for us, it’s easy to plan a couple of hours here.

GIVEAWAY (ends June 8, 2018)

Maybe we can help you fight screen time, too! Head over to the Instagram page and enter to win this set. We’re giving away:

(1) BattleBots Rivals Set
(1) Loot Card Game by Gamewright
(1) Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World book by Kristen Welch (this one’s for the moms!)

» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide

Have you made it to December without finding that perfect gift yet? Our list is shorter this year as we continue the year of less. We’ve been looking for non-tech gifts that promote creativity and/or spending time with others and these made the short list.

1. Chippo

Chippo is a fun game for the outdoors or even larger indoor spaces, think corn hole combined with golf. If you love golf, you’ll love Chippo. If you don’t love golf, you’ll still love Chippo. This was intended for dad but our oldest son who has never touched a golf club (other than putt putt) is always wanting to play a round. The game is best played with two wedges (not included), so make sure you grab an extra if needed.

Chippo website

2. KiwiCo Monthly Crates

Kids love getting mail, especially when it’s for them. After having friends try these out and seeing Facebook ads over the last few months, we had to try the Tinker and Doodle Crate for ourselves. KiwiCo makes science & engineering fun for kids of all ages. These boxes can be for an individual child or make it a family group effort to build or create together. Boxes are typically $20 shipped, but you can save a few dollars each month if you commit to 3 or more months at a time. As I’m writing this, your first box is only $7.95!

KiwiCo website

3. Brain Putti

Braini Putti is the perfect stocking stuffer for all kids. You can use Braini Putti similar to Play Doh but you can also make super bouncy balls with it. We’ve had a few nights around the dining table creating and laughing over Braini Putti.

buy on Amazon

Braini Putti website

4. Local Events

For those of you who are completely doing experiences over gifts, December is a great time to enjoy local events as a family. We’ve created many new traditions with this mindset including the Nutcracker for the family, and a date night seeing a Christmas concert (Dave Barnes this year). If you’re in Nashville, check out this post for events we’re most looking forward to.

 

» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I realize we’ve committed to a year of less… but I have to interrupt for just a moment because I know some of you are desperately looking for Mother’s Day ideas. So in spite of promoting less I’ve rounded up a few ideas for mom that I would be happy to receive. Although… I won’t be this year. I’ve tried to bring a variety of things you may have never seen or thought of.

1. Clay Mug from Haiti

Clay cookies are a known “food” in Haiti. Feed My Starving Children has created a market for artisans from Port-Au-Prince to use the same process to make mugs instead. These coffee mug purchases enable these Haitians to sculpt their way out of poverty and support their families! I cannot think of a more meaningful gift for mom. Check out Feed My Starving Children’s other items, too. You’ll fall in love quickly.

Feed My Starving Children website

 

2. Magnolia Journal Magazine Subscription

I love a gift that keeps on giving. And I LOVE Fixer Upper. Magnolia Journal comes out four times per year and is full of all the shiplap and chippy paint that mom craves. Additionally, make sure that you serve up some quiet time and coffee when that magazine arrives.

buy on Amazon

 

3. Ninja Coffee Bar System

A coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Read our full review here.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

 

4. Netatmo Smart Home

You know how much I love smart home products. Netatmo makes some beautiful products that compliment your home interior rather than cause a huge distraction. Now that our kids are getting older and more independent, the Welcome camera has helped me keep tabs on everyone. Face recognition technology has been really accurate so far so I know who’s inside (or outside) the house at all times. If that wasn’t enough, the unit also listens for alarms—whether it be a smoke alarm, CO alarm, security alarm or siren—it will send a notification and record a video. For the health-conscious moms, the Healthy Home Coach monitors the air quality level (CO2 levels) to make sure the home environment is healthy. I particularly love monitoring humidity levels for my son, who deals with asthma. The Healthy Home Coach measures what matters, notifies you (via phone app) of potential problems, and gives suggestions on how to fix them. I wish I had one of these years ago for an infant’s room.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon

 

5. Kitchen IQ

I love high-quality kitchen items that don’t need replacing every year. I finally tried Kitchen IQ’s knife sharpener after feeling the urge to replace an “old” set of knives. I also love their flexible cutting boards, kitchen scales, and graters.

Kitchen IQ website

buy on Amazon

 

 

» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5

When one of your son’s best friends wants to go to an NBA game for his birthday, you go to Houston! After six months of planning, we introduced our good friends to some of Houston’s best offerings, leaving them wanting more after the trip. The 2019 Mazda CX-5 crossover took us up, through, and down Houston’s Beltway and Interstates this time around.

Here are a few things we especially liked about the car followed by a rundown of our Houston adventures:

Design – We are still in love with the redesign that continues to improve from 2017. The interior comfortably seats five even with a group of crazy boys that tend to extend their arms and legs in all directions.

Interior – The interior of the CX-5 gets better each year. Every detail is well thought out, making everything in arms reach without having to take your focus off the road. The heated leather seats are offered for the front and rear seats to make everyone comfortable in the coldest winter months.

Safety Features – With a group of rowdy kids, it’s easy to lose focus to detail with the additional distractions. That’s more reason to appreciate Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. At just the right times when parking, the Mazda would display multiple angles of the vehicle to assist with parking.

Houston can be a stressful place to drive with lots of traffic and lane closures. The CX-5 made the drives fun and enjoyable. The attention to detail and response of the car make you feel in control and safe at all times.

Houston Boys’ Trip Highlights and Destinations:
After the plane ride, the boys were pretty restless so we booked it straight to the Museum District to visit Houston’s Children’s Museum. This has always been a favorite so my boys were excited to introduce their friends to this one. Anyone can safely plan a three-four hour trip here.


After running around for a few hours, the boys were starving. We headed to for a ten minute drive to find The Pit Room, a not-so-secret BBQ restaurant in Montrose.

There’s no wondering why this spot made Texas Monthly’s list for Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas. At the time of our visit, the line was not too long and went quickly. The environment is nice with a large outdoor seating option during the warmer months. We had some hungry guys so we went for The Feast, which feeds 4-6. The brisket was tender and the jalapeño sausage was a favorite. Make sure to macaroni and cheese as one of your sides. The George Jones’ hits on the house speakers come at no extra charge.

After a lazy Saturday visiting with family, our quick weekend birthday trip would be topped off with the Rockets facing the Magic for a Sunday night game. We showed up early to watch players warm up and maybe get an autograph or two. The Rockets do an incredible job from the way the employees greeted us, the family-friendly environment they promote, and the high standards they put on production quality. In short, the birthday game did not disappoint.

Before the big game, we visited BuffBurger in Montrose. Where do I begin? The smell is great when you first walk in, it must be the wood fire grill. The beef is high quality from Ranch 44 and tastes like beef should. The parmesan truffle fries were perfect say the least. We definitely ate more than we should’ve.

Kids eat free on Monday and Tuesday (with purchase of a regular dine-in meal). The Little BuffBurger was a big hit. We opted out of the soft drinks to indulge on the great selection of ice cream.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-5
For our trip, this car was perfect. We didn’t require a ton of storage since we were only staying for two nights. The gas efficiency and option for Sport mode are great for daily use. Houston driving always keeps you on your toes, and the Mazda’s safety features helps you focus on the important things when it comes to navigating the streets. We love this car as much as we love Texas, and that’s a big deal.

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2019 CX-5 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida

This November we spent three days exploring Universal Studies and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m going to save my thoughts and tips on that experience for another post. Today I want to share about our beach time that we tacked on the end of our time in Orlando. There are several gorgeous beaches within 1-2 hours of the Orlando area. After braving Disney for seven straight days a few years back we came to realize that we enjoy our vacations a lot more if a little sand and sun accompanies the endless lines and $12 ice creams.

Enter St. Pete beach, approximately an hour and a half drive from Orlando. St. Pete is a quirky, eclectic area outside of Tampa that offers everything from hand-rolled cigars to boardwalk ice cream, cuban food and high end beach resorts. For this stay we opted to check in with Tradewinds Island Grand resort. Tradewinds is comprised of two resorts, The Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost. Together they make up over 31 acres of prime beachfront fun. As we experienced firsthand there is plenty to do for families. Tradewinds offers a kids club, water sports, beach front pools, entertainment, fine and casual dining and family friendly suites. Our suite met the needs of our entire family AND the grandparents.

Tradewinds offers an experience that, while not all-inclusive, does include quite a bit. For example, cabanas and chairs on the beach are offered at no additional charge. Guy Harvey outpost also hosts a nightly beachside fire and smores experience at no additional charge. Other “free” activities include the massive High Tide water slide, surf wipe-out and paddle boats. There is also a daily schedule of poolside activities like bingo, which we all enjoyed.

Tradewinds offers various packages to help families add in a few extras. We did opt to try out adventure bands for our kids. This is essentially a little wristband that allows them to purchase snow cones, painting activities or other small attractions around the resort. If your child can keep up with money they may not need the band, but it worked well for our older kids who are only in the 9-11 year old range.

We spent time at Tradewinds Island Grand just as the off season was kicking in, late November. This meant lower crowds and plenty of beach space. It was just the dose of sunshine we needed as Nashville was headed into the 30’s that week. We’ve heard that a major renovation is on the horizon for this property and we are excited to see the suites and rooms get a refresh!

Bottom line, we highly recommend Tradewinds Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost for a beach vacation that has something for everyone. It’s family friendly with adult-only pools and areas as well. Best of both worlds!

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal