Non Party Ways to Celebrate Your Child’s Birthday

The Epoch Times

A child’s birthday is a reason for the whole family to celebrate. While a blowout bash with Pinterest-worthy decor is one way to mark the occasion, some parents prefer a more low-key, low-pressure approach. 

Here are nine simple ways to make your child’s next birthday special.

Count It Down

The fun can begin long before the big day arrives. Whether you’re crossing days off the calendar, working your way up a paper chain, or simply marking the number of days until your child’s birthday in a prominent place in the house, counting down to the birthday extends the celebration, shows your child you’re excited for their birthday, and builds beautiful anticipation of the big day.

Morning Surprise

When the big day arrives, what a thrill it is for a child to wake up to a special birthday surprise! You could decorate their chair at the dining table, fill their room with balloons, hang streamers in their doorway, or simply add birthday decor throughout your home. Let the birthday begin with big smiles!

Birthday Pancakes

Just because it’s breakfast time doesn’t mean you can’t have cakes—pancakes, anyway, with sprinkles of course. Put a birthday candle in a stack of pancakes and get the party started bright and early.

Hide the Presents

Sure you could simply set out your colorfully wrapped gifts for your child or you can send them off with a clue that initiates a scavenger hunt that leads them, eventually, to their birthday presents. 

Wrap Their Lunch

If your child is in school on his or her birthday, make lunch a party by wrapping the individual components in their lunchbox with birthday wrapping. Be sure to include a birthday note and a special sweet treat!

Play Hooky

Better yet, if it’s a school day, opt for birthday fun instead. It’s only once a year. Perhaps you could check in with their teacher to confirm they’d not be missing something important and than break away for a day of fun. If you feel guilty, make it educationally fun!

Birthday Flair

A little birthday accessory can make the whole day feel special no matter where your child goes. A hat, a crown, a special t-shirt, a pin—give the birthday kid something that tells the world, “Its my birthday!”

Give to Others

A wonderful tradition to start and a reminder of all there is to be thankful for as well as the importance of giving, you may choose to mark your child birthday with a charitable donation.  A donation in your child’s name is a lovely way to celebrate his or her birthday and show how to make an impact for the good of others.

Experiences Over Things

When it comes to gifts, consider the benefits of choosing experiences over things. Rather than another toy or gadget, how about a class, a day out, an event, or even a trip? Memories like this last a lifetime and become the signposts of a happy childhood.

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Back to School: 6 Fun Things to Hide in Your Child’s Backpack

The Epoch Times

Back to school time can come along with a mixture of excitement and nervousness for children of all ages.

One small and simple way to lighten the mood and alleviate the pressure of going back to school for your child is to hide a delightful surprise form them to discover in their lunchbox or backpack.

A little piece of home or a token of love can go a long way toward reminding them they are not alone, have your love and support, and that school can be fun.

A Tiny Toy

For young children, discovering a small stuffed animal or favorite toy has stowed away in their backpack might be just the delight they need to get through the day.

A Favorite Book

Perhaps your child will be allowed some free reading time in their day. They might love to have a new or favorite book of their own to dive into.

A Joke

Including a school-appropriate joke in their bag may be just the thing to make them smile and might even prove a great icebreaker when making new friends.

Surprise Supplies

Adding special school supplies they weren’t expecting can bring extra joy to the first day and make them feel appreciated.

A Special Treat

Perhaps a special treat in their lunchbox like a homemade baked good or their most favorite snack would be just the thing to make the first day special.

A Simple Note

A classic note of love and encouragement can go a long way (and can accompany any of the ideas above) toward calming the jitters and easing the back-to-school blues.

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Book Review: ‘Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life’

The Epoch Times

Jen Hatmaker is a blogger from way back who has a loyal following among parents and the Christian community. She gained increased fame when she and her family starred in HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation” in 2015. Her blog is read by millions, and she is known for her relatable sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. 

Her post “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” went viral a few years back and still makes the rounds on Facebook each spring. Her book “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards” was a best-seller. 

Her voice is one of comfort for the modern mom who feels the pressure to do it all, attain perfection, and measure up to the curated social media feeds she’s comparing herself to. She’s walked shoulder to shoulder with women, especially parents, through her blog and books, and her latest release is no exception.

In her 12th book, Hatmaker fully embodies her role as Chief BFF, as she calls herself. “Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life” sheds light on the fact that we all face mess (disappointment, struggle, suffering) in life and that women have a way of facing the mess and overcoming it with their inherent moxie.

Light, entertaining, and reassuring, “Of Mess and Moxie” is like a leisurely coffee date with your best friend: an arm around your shoulder, a much needed reset, and a kind voice telling you that even though life can get crazy, you’ve got this, we’ve got this.

Hatmaker lovingly defines just who she wrote this book for: women, likely (though not necessarily) Christian and in their early 20s, just launching into adulthood, or in the middle, juggling family and career responsibilities, or in the “afternoon” of their lives, perhaps grandmothering and making the most of their season of life.

Truly hitting on both the mess and moxie of life, Hatmaker has packed this blog-like book with hilarious personal stories and emotionally raw life accounts, along with tongue-in-cheek lists of advice sprinkled throughout, like “How to Get a Toddler Dressed in Three Easy Steps.” This list, a list of seven “steps,” is one that all parents of toddlers will nod along to and does not end with a dressed toddler. Then there is “How to Ensure People Feel Compelled to Pop in for a Visit,” which begins with “Don’t do the dishes for a day and a half” and ends with “And, by all means, do not shower that day.”

An easy read that’s perfect for the end of summer, “Of Mess and Moxie” doesn’t present any earth-shattering ideas or scientific discoveries, but it’s hilarious, fun, and clearly made with love.

How to Avoid Overcommitting in the New School Year

The Epoch Times

The last weeks of summer, when, perhaps, you’re enjoying some down time before the back-to-school hustle begins, is an opportune time to take stock of all that you’ve got on your plate and ask yourself, if, perhaps, it’s a bit too much.

It’s all too easy to set our sights on the menu of possibilities and feel hungry for it all. We want to do all of the things and please all of the people.

This time of year, parents are enticed by after-school activities, enrichment opportunities, volunteer requests, and more. We’re entering new items on our calendars at an alarming rate, making commitments, to-do lists, and plans. We’re registering and signing up and signing on and raising our hands.

On paper, it looks great. Those pesky constraints of time and energy hardly reveal themselves as we schedule every second from now through Christmas.

Taking on too much, however, even with the best of intentions can generate the opposite results. Those of us that have been to this rodeo before know that overcommitting leads inevitably to dropped balls, chronic lateness, disappointment, anxiety, and stress—which, of course, leads to more dropped balls, more missed deadlines, embarrassment, more stress, more anxiety, and so on.

Overcommitting, it’s helpful to note, is a choice—a self-inflicted wound that can be avoided with just a little bit of foresight. As August presses on and all of the possibilities vie for your attention, here are a few tips to avoid falling into the trap of overcommitment.

Set Up Rules

Defining some parameters for yourself and your family can be very helpful. Perhaps you’ll allow each of your children only one extra-curricular activity at a time. Perhaps you’ll make every Sunday family day where no outside commitments can interfere. Perhaps you’ll only agree to one volunteer commitment this year, or even (gasp!) none.

Whatever parameters work for you and align with your family’s priorities, define and commit to them before signing on to other commitments.

Pencil in Breathing Room

Most people overestimate what they can do in the short term. Adding a buffer to your calendar can be enormously helpful. Every so often, block out catch up days on your calendar. When they arrive, if you’re all caught up, you’ve got yourself some free time. If you need to catch up, you’ll be so grateful to be able to.

Reduce Social Scrolling

If you find yourself scrolling through your social media feed more often that you’d like to admit, you are inviting inputs that can trigger unhealthy feelings of comparison and a fear of missing out. This can lead to silly decisions that do not align with the highest priorities of you and your family.

Create a Someday/Maybe List

One of my favorite concepts in David Allen’s productivity book, “Getting Things Done,” is the idea of maintaining a “Someday/Maybe” list. When you are tempted to take on a new project, add a new task to your to-do list, or when thinking of taking advantage of a new opportunity for your children, rather than committing to it now, add it to your Someday/Maybe list for future consideration. It an be quite surprising how the simple act of recording it in a trusted place can both alleviate the pressure to pursue it immediately and yet satisfy your interest in it.

Define Your Family’s Priorities

While you’re sitting on the beach, lounging at the pool, or chilling at home, take time to consider what is most important to you and your family. Understanding what you value most and what your long-term goals are can inform what you should say yes to—what is worth investing your time and energy in.

Just Say No

To the requests that don’t align with your family’s priorities, get comfortable with the art of saying no. While we tend to wish to please and oblige others, not miss out on anything, do the things everyone else is doing, and not let anyone down, a simple “no” is very often the way to go. Saying no clearly up front is always better than saying yes and not being able to deliver later.

As summer winds down, set up your family for a new season that flows smoothly, supports your priorities, and leaves room for joy and rest.

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