PDA with Your Device? GET A ROOM. The Unplugged Hotel D.I.Y.

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So, about those New Year’s resolutions. There is one–but it’s really more of an every day resolution for the entire population in our ever evolving plugged-in world, and that is: REAL WORLD trumps online world. The people in front of you win over the people on your screen. The real life creative projects that are begging for your hands and attention win over the device that is competing for them.

I love the convenience, creative ideas and community that my phone connects me to, but I sure as hell don’t want my kids growing up with memories of a distracted mom. And as much as I love the quiet and space to get things done that handing my kids iPads grants me, I always want to challenge our family to maintain a healthy home environment with appropriate boundaries for time on devices. Let’s be honest, we’re facing major problems with device addiction in this country, and I’m guilty of it too. It’s a constant challenge, but one I whole-heartedly embrace. I love my phone but I love my family more. Balance, balance, balance.

A while ago, a family member mentioned that a friend they knew took everyone’s phones at a gathering once, demanding full connection, and assured everyone that their phones just needed to “check into the spa for a while.” I loved the reference, and it triggered an idea I’ve been wanting to do for our family–create a motel for devices in our home and a fun way  to encourage unplugged time. If anyone is showing too much PDA for their device, we keep them in line with requesting they GET A ROOM.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the newest lodging in Naples, Florida…The Unplugged Motel.

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A comfy 5-star resort for your devices to chill the eff out while you TALK TO EACH OTHER, LOOK EACH OTHER IN THE EYE, PRACTICE COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

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Not only is it easy to make, but we had a blast decorating it. I suppose any shoe box would work, but we used a heavy-duty photo storage box we picked up at Michael’s. It was already a nice Palm Springs pink, so we hardly had to do anything to jazz it up. What we used:

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I mounted the box to a cake board (baking aisle at any craft store) with a construction stapler to create a platform for our sign and palm trees. We made the sign by covering a flat wood oval (wood craft aisle, craft store) with some mint green scrapbook paper, cutting our “MOTEL” letters and arrow with pink glitter scrapbook paper and hot gluing pearls around it. The skinny dowel rods (wood craft aisle or bamboo sticks from baking aisle, craft store) can be poked into the cake board and hot glued in place. A little moss and some fun mosaic tiles (craft store) glued on to the platform completes the look along with a few miniature palm trees (craft store).

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Finally, we cut a hole in the back of the box for charger cords because everyone knows relaxing at a motel is the best way to recharge. Bonus? All your cord clutter gets hidden.

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I love that the motel creates a fun way to communicate device problems without nagging and can even be offered to guests or family members who seem to be distracted. “Mom, can I offer your phone a free guest suite at our motel for a little while? It has a pool! And plush linens!”

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I want our entire family to keep each other in check. I’ve told Brett to tell me “PDA, Get a room” if I’m not paying attention to the fact that maybe my phone needs to unwind at The Unplugged Motel. And the kids are on board (at least with the initial excitement–ha) with this fun new approach as well. “Your iPad looks tired. Let’s give him a vacation and check him into the motel for a while.”

And when all our devices are stacked up and checked in to the motel, that only means one thing: there’s more vacancy in our home for what matters most…us.

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Here’s to more balance in the new year. 

Camp Bliss: A Summer Camp Adventure

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Seeing as we’ve now watched Parent Trap 19 times on this trip (NOT KIDDING–it plays in the car when we’re on the road, and Nella won’t let anyone switch it out), we decided to kick off our own camp day this summer. Actually, I made that sound like a random carefree decision, but let’s be real here. I thought the dickens out of this thing. I started out landing on some cute tube socks around Christmas, thinking “oh, wouldn’t these be cute for a summer camp day,” and then it snowballed until one day I was designing camp logo shirts and googling how to emboss leather. I don’t know how the hell it happened. One minute, I’m throwing canoe stickers into a pile saved for summer and next thing you know, I hold the inventory to run a 3-month camp for the Girl Scouts of America. Whatever, we rolled with it.

We planned this for a weekend with some dear little cousins, but they couldn’t make it this year so we invited some new friends who live near my dad’s cottage. (Lainey had a blast with her new friend but isn’t in a lot of photos here because I don’t know the family of the little girl with her and didn’t have a chance to ask if it was okay to feature her photo.) Also one more disclaimer and I swear I’ll shut up–I’m editing on a tiny laptop with limited software, so these photos are a little off.

Basically, I wanted to give the kids a full camp adventure with an emphasis on arts and crafts lodge because I was the dork who hung out there all day long. What’s that? Time for tug-o-war? No thank you, I’m finishing my 59th lanyard keychain. You go ahead. Also, they are too young for the hot sailing instructor, so I skipped that part too.

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Table camp décor: compass plates, campfire centerpiece, pine tree cupcake toppers, mini flashlights. Also, several people have asked about the kids’ tube socks. We wear these ones, and they are perfect–nice and snug.

I fly my camp freak flag much like my Christmas one, so anything that screamed summer camp, we were all HELL YAAAAAAAS. Kayaking? Yes. Archery? Yes. Build a lean-to out of sticks? YES! Okay, we didn’t build a lean-to, but look! Sack races!

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Our outdoor nature lesson came from my dad’s butterfly house where more than 30 butterflies feast on milkweed and flowers.

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I ran the camp tattoo parlor (Tattly camp set), and I take my job seriously.

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We did these camp crafts for the arts and crafts lodge along with several others, and I’d hereby like to say a huge thank-you to my dad and Gary for not saying one word about their back deck looking like a ransacked Hobby Lobby bin.

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The 10th Camp Commandment: Thou shalt not hold camp without tie-dye.

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Or archery. Even if you don’t ever make it even close to the target. Just fling the arrows at each other and get mad and throw them when they don’t go where you wan them to go. I think that’s how the professionals do it too. One more thing–FAKE ARROWS. Whew, that was an important one.

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Camp. of course, ends with a fire. With wood and sticks gathered by the little ones. And hot dogs and marshmallows.

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And now, I pause this post to impart the wisdom I gained from toasting marshmallows for 30 consecutive nights. Want the perfect toasted marshmallow? Crispy and brown, bubbly in all the right places?

1. Don’t use those commercial metal sticks they sell. The marshmallows slide off them, and there’s no grip to keep them positioned properly. You need a real stick, scoured from a Walk for the Perfect Stick (proper noun, of course). 
2. Don’t go near the flames. Go for the glow–the wood that’s red hot but won’t catch your marshmallow on fire.
3. ROTATE. Think rotisserie. Slowly rotate your marshmallow to even brown all sides.
4. Patience. It’s going to take time. You have to be in it for the long run. Think goals. Perfectly brown takes time, but that marshmallow will be worth it in the end.

With those four rules, you too can create this beauty.

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We rightly trashed our camp shirts with marker and glue and dirt and marshmallow. We laughed and made messes and decided that camp is really just real life summer with a cool logo.

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Either way, we liked it. And I’ve got 12 months to start planning the next one

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So much to do…so little time. wink-wink.

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To all our fellow Monday-ers out there, happy day to you.

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Behold I Bring You…Rainbows.

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Hear ye, hear ye, rainbow lovers. We here at Enjoying the Small Things are color lovers and feel it is our duty to bring you all the rainbows, especially over summer break when you might have had a day where you–oh, I don’t know, ventured into Trader Joe’s with all three kids and let them all use those tiny little carts that you used to think were cute but now, thanks to your bloody ankles and all the “DEAR GOD, STOP BANGING THAT THING INTO ME” you yelled today,  have settled on the fact that tiny little carts are the devil’s evil weapons to take sweet and patient mom to a full blown sinner. And this coming from someone who doesn’t even believe in the word sinner. But if there ever was one, today she appeared. I mean, not that it was me or anything, but–you know–someone I know. I saw a fellow school mom at the grocery store the other day. Her kids were climbing on the cart like baboons like mine were, and we looked at each other and had a gaze-int0-each-other’s-eyes moment of solidarity.

“Hey,” I said weakly.

“Hey,” she answered weakly.

“How’s your summer?” I asked.

“Heh heh,” she laughed. “Great.”

“Heh heh,” I answered. “God speed.”

Besides the heat and the little bit of stir craziness, we really are loving the time off and catching up with friends. We’ll be off to Michigan in a couple weeks, so we’re trying to stock our time home with as many friends and sleepovers and barbecues as we can.

And rainbows! If I wasn’t totally crazy about them before, I’m loving them even more now that they’re popping up in some of our favorite brand’s clothing and accessories. We’ve tucked away some great rainbow goodies for summer but wanted to make some fun things to add to our stash.

So, inspired by these Boden rainbow beauties, we decided to make our own rainbow sneakers for less with some acrylic paints. Lainey needed some casual play sneakers for summer, and these turned out to be just the ticket.

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We used these $15 classic canvas Keds. For the dots we dipped a blunt pencil lead in black paint and pressed it into the canvas–super easy.

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We love how they turned out so much, we ordered another pair for Nella. Mama just might need some too.

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We found a pair of plain kid sunglasses around that were begging for a matching rainbow paint job, so we whipped up some complementing accessories using Sharpie paint pens.

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And Voila. Colorful summer happies.

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I just feel like the world is especially in need of some rainbows right now. I don’t take that challenge lightly. I’m ALL IN.

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