One of the most surprisingly sweet moments of my every day is from 7:40-8:09 am. When Cruz started kindergarten this year, we weren't sure how to go about the schedule change with Mila and Cruz having different destinations at different arrival times each morning. There was a before-school option at our daycare that Beau saw as the best option for Cruz, however, my gut told me to keep him here and I'd get him to school myself. We'd save a little money each week, I'd be able to bring him to school or watch him climb on that yellow school bus, and it felt like God was calling me to sacrifice that extra half hour I'd have to myself to start my workday and instead direct my attention to something that matters a little more. And I haven't looked back a day since. Beau takes Mila to school on his way to work each morning, and it's amazing how quiet the house becomes when we're at half attendance. It is here I set two place settings at the kitchen island, make him breakfast and pour my coffee, and have a few uninterrupted moments with him before our busy day begins. I look him in those brown eyes, practice sounds from his phonics book with him, and ask him questions about what he's most excited for that day, or what we should have for dinner that night. Then I stick in a surprise snack in the front pouch of his bag, make sure he has all the right clothing choices for recess, and take him to the bus stop. We small talk with other parents and kids, listen to the Gabel girls fill us in on all their newest clothing accessories, and watch them line up like robots the minute the bus turns on to Erik Road. Then we wave like crazy, every single morning, and I walk to the car with an extra spring in my step, hoping this little routine of ours becomes a ritual we both treasure as the years pile up so quickly.
"If routines are about keeping our family from going off the rails, rituals are about infusing those routine days with meaning." (Jenny Rosenstrach)
I think a lot about the rituals I want to be part of our family's blueprint, about the traditions and quirks and celebrations that give our family its own unique identity and story and turn otherwise mundane, ordinary days and experiences into something a little more special. I hope Cruz and Mila grow up and remember things like power bombs from daddy on our bed when he gets home from work, freezy pops and dum dums in the tub (if a good supper is eaten), Hartman hikes on a Sunday afternoon, with movie and popcorn nights to follow. I hope they inherit my love of the seasons and all the traditions that accompany them --- from apple picking in the fall and our yearly trek to Northeast Iowa with Papa and Grandma, to North Pole breakfasts on Dec. 1 and matching jammies on Christmas Eve, egg carton lunches and egg dyeing parties in the spring, and summer bucket lists, with movies under the moon, frequent picnics at the park, and afternoons at the pool. And, I hope they grow up and remember that life is just too good not to celebrate it. In our case, with birthday pancakes, a room filled with balloons, three-day celebrations, and of course, Mom's crazy themed parties.
It's no secret I love planning a good birthday party. I love when a little theme seed gets planted early in the year and my mind swirls with fun and creative ways to connect the dots with food, games, and decorations. I've simplified a lot over the years, but my favorite part is incorporating the small details that are unique to each theme. Like the sweet puppet show stand Beau built for Cruz's first birthday, Mr. Hooper's Store, that homemade sign, and the C2 crayons I molded for the Sesame Street party, and the pirate treasure hunt Beau's creative rhymes sent us on for birthday 3. Cruz still talks about the silly string superhero game they played for year 4, and one of my personal favorites, the hot dog buffet I served last year for Cruz's Cubs party. Every party stands alone, with its colors, details, stories, and memories.
This year was about camping. And cozy. And all things comfort. After our late summer camping adventure, I desired to take that same environment and apply it to Cruz's 6th birthday party. With a mid-October date, an earlier sunset, and all those cravings for comfort food, I wanted to create a cozy, intimate, and simple way for our extended family to gather together, celebrate Cruz, and indulge in all the reasons we love this fall season. I envisioned a campfire and all the fixings for s'mores, chili and campfire dogs and apple cider to eat and sip, a tent to play in and flashlights to explore with after dark, adults curled up with flannel throws and chocolate cake and kids running around the house with glow sticks around their necks. I craved simple and pretty and seasonal, and loved pulling this particular party together.
What will Cruz remember the most about this one? I'm quite certain it will involve eating glazed donuts with no hands alongside his cousins and his Papa Curt, laughing and falling repeatedly during potato sack races, glow stick necklaces and flashlight hide-and-seek, and hiding in the tent with his new light saber and a few lingering neighbor boys. And me? I'll remember how handsome you looked, how fun it was to have our entire extended family with us, all dressed in flannel as requested. I'll remember how nice it was to sit outside and watch you open presents, and how you brought every single thing over to me after opening them. I'll remember how messy your faces were with the glazed donut escapade, and how Mila took matters into her own hands (literally). I'll remember Livi telling Gina that she "wants to live here forever!" and how excited all of you got when I bent that first glow stick. And I'll remember that cider punch, that chili dog, and that Cubs grand slam.
Sunday, we woke up to sticky floors and half-eaten donuts hanging from string off the deck, somehow resembling a scene from The Walking Dead. We had cake for breakfast and sang Frozen at the top of our lungs all the way to church. Two more rituals and signs of a good weekend spent. More on your Camp Cruz party to come... :)