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12 Ways to Add Meaning to a Milestone Celebration

Grandpa Jim’s 90th Birthday Party

This past November all of my family members (on my dad’s side) gathered to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th Birthday Celebration! In planning this party with my family, I keep a few things in mind and implemented them into our planning process that helped to really add meaningfulness into this joyous occasion. Today I’m sharing those helpful ways to inspire you for your next milestone gathering.


Private Facebook Group for Communication/Include Family Members/Delegate Tasks

Creating a Private Facebook Group is smart way to keep your entire family members (well at least those on FB), involved and included in the planning process. Then they can decide how involved they desire to be or they can simply turn off the notifications and only tune in once in a while. This is extremely helpful when deciding upon the date, the time, the venue, the overall theme, and delegating tasks.

Have A Theme.

Yes, all “great” celebrations truly need a theme of some kind. This is really a sneaky (SMART) tip at being able to keep your budget in check. You see, if you give the party a “relaxed” theme to begin with, this automatically saves you from feeling like your décor needs to be over the top. The theme should make sense and really be true reflection of the guest of honor.

Incorporate your theme into the décor.

The theme should be communicated through the invitation first and foremost. Next it should be carried through on your tables and any other fun areas that can use a little décor and personalization such as the chairs, high top tables, welcome area, and the cake.

Display family photos and memorabilia, and signage.

Nothing make a milestone event more heartfelt than being able to view old family photos. This is such an easy way to add meaning. And signage is a big deal. Having a welcome sign is great way to greet guests into the experience.

Have a Plan for the Timeline.

Having a timeline for any type of gathering is a must. Never assume that you’ll make plan during the actual party, that’s not possible. You’ll be too busy chatting with guests to make any sort of on the spot decisions. This doesn’t mean you need to plan for something happening every minute of the gathering, but a simple timeline creates a flow that is needed when gathering people.

Plan for Family Group Photos.

If possible (especially with large families) arrange for your family members to arrive early, before the party begins. At this time everyone will have fresh faces and attention spans. It’s more realistic to plan for your family to arrive a preset time before the party, then scrambling trying to group everyone at the tail end of the event.

Involve the guests.

Plan for the guest of honor to have something meaningful to take home. Consider setting out a box of note cards, envelopes and pens. Encourage them to jot down their favorite memories for the guest of honor to read later, after the party. It’s a little melancholy when a celebration is over, this is nice way for the guest to have something else look forward to and enjoy.


Arrange for a Master of Ceremonies.

If you’re budget will allow, hiring an emcee/dj will make your job as the host, much more enjoyable. Once you’ve planned everything out, turning over the timeline to the Emcee is HUGE. Now, they become in charge of the flow, and lend a real “voice” (which is needed) to the event.

Be thoughtful with your music selections.

The music needs to make sense. If you can arrange for live music during cocktail hour, there’s nothing better. Next, create a playlist that the guest of honor will appreciate, music that they love. Also, choose some “feel good” classic party songs that help to fill a dance floor.

The cake is a big deal!

A great way to incorporate your overall theme is in the cake, especially when it comes to a milestone (like 90!). And be sure to make this a big part of the celebration. Arrange for the guest of honor to be brought out in front of everyone for this momentous moment.

Slideshows, always.

Never underestimate the power of a slideshow. Make sure it’s located in a visible area and preplan when it will scroll. Remember to turn it off during the presentation part of the celebration so it doesn’t distract from the happenings. The best time to showcase a scrolling slideshow is during cocktail hour and again after the planned festivities have concluded, during the dancing reception.

Involve Loved Ones.

Arrange for those closest to the guest of honor to be involved in some way. This could be through a planned speech, a family trivia game, really any kind of sentimental delivery. These are usually the moments that mean the most to the guest of honor and are the parts of the celebration that stand out the most to the guests in attendance.

A Love Note to My Valentines...

Dear Justin, Hannah, Emma & Hunter,


 Happy Valentine's Day My Loves!

Wow, how did I ever deserve 4 Valentines?  You all fill my heart with more joy than I ever imagined and today I thought I'd share with you a few reasons why....

Hannah & Emma~

At age four, you two are really something else.  And to see you two together, as best friends....laughing and scheming everyday is quite a sight.  The love you have for each other is a relationship that is like no other.  One minute you two are in your own little world, deeply entrenched in whatever kind of imaginary game you are playing, the next minute you're completely enraged at each other for often time situations that I can't ever really figure out....only to be best buddies again moments later. 

Currently your favorite things to do are: color, paint, play outside in the backyard, help us to cook meals, and you LOVE to decorate for the holidays with me.  Your favorite toys at the moment are: your remote control dinosaur, your "dolly" house, STICKERS (they're currently all over nearly every wall of the house), and your puzzles. 

Funny things you say...Emma, whenever you get mad (like really mad) at your sister, I hear you call her "an old lady" in your meanest most serious voice.  "Awe, come here you old lady!"  I have NO idea where your heard this or WHY you say this but it makes me laugh so hard!


Forever my valentine.  Just when we thought life couldn't get any wilder.....Hunter Dean came along and rocked our worlds.  Little did I know I would fall in love with you even more deeply.  Seeing you become a Dad has been one of the most heartfelt things that I've experienced.  Seeing you with them....seeing you all my ultimate joy. 

You my love, are an incredible husband and an amazing father.  Our family is happy (and functional) because of you.  Thank you for loving us. 

My Little Hunter,

Where in the world did you come from and where have you been all my life?  YOU little boy, have completely stolen my heart.  I melt every time I see your smile.  And your SMILE is one in a million. People stop in their tracks anytime I take you anywhere and you flash your GIANT smile. 

You are the happiest little guy and our family is so much more complete with YOU.  You have  captured the heart of not only me, but also your sisters and your daddy. 

Hannah Jane,

My little HJ, my little Nanna.....

You remain so "tough" yet so "Intense."  Your personality still reminds me so much of your Daddy.  You are so focused, patient, and determined at whatever the task is you're working on.  Yet, when you wrap your arms around me, bat your eyelashes and say "I love you Mommy" your "toughness" melts away.  I love the way you run, I love to watch you concentrate when you draw.  You're quite the little fact your entire room currently has your "art gallery" displayed in it.  You still hold tight to your "Piggie" and every night when you go to bed you have "Piggie" next to you and you rub his soft ears.   

Trikes and dainty little rough and tough girls.

Emma Louise,

My Emmie Lou, my little Lou Who.....

YOU are such a goofball.  Honestly little girl, I never understood myself as much before until I met YOU.  Granted I don't think I've been as naturally goofy as you are, but you definitely have similar personality traits as your mama.  You love people and parties.  You always want to know "what are we gonna do next?"  and then you say "OH, that would be so FUN, I so excited!!"  When you get your mind set on something....LOOK OUT world, you're not  giving up on your idea easily, that's for sure.  You always care about others...especially your sister.  You're always making sure that if something is given to you, you always ask "for Hannah's too?"  Me and your Daddy never really know what you're going to say or do next, you keep us on our toes that for sure. 

On Sunday we kept our Valentine's Day tradition.  This has been something we've been doing since Hannah and Emma were born.  Emma at first was terrified of the "baboons." She once saw one float away and has yet to recover from that tragic accident.  But despite the fear of the "baboons" she eventually warmed up to them. 

Hunter just went with the flow. Just like he always does.  He was born into a loud, constant family and just fits right in quite perfectly. 


 And my little tornado twosome...loved every moment. They're always excited for fun times and new adventures!

Happy Valentines Day to my Sweet Little Family,

Thank you all for being MINE.  I love you all so much and feel so lucky that I get to spend every wild and crazy day with all of you.  I love you all more than my heart can handle, you are my everything.

LOVE, Mom.

P.S. Hunter, you better stop being SO CUTE!!!

Dear Justin, Tomorrow Our Son Will Be Born...

Dear Justin,
Tomorrow our son will be born, tomorrow....our son. 
I think those words are still a bit shocking to us both.  But before we enter this new chapter of life...I wanted to share a few things with you.  Just recently we celebrated our 10 Year Wedding Anniversary.  I can't believe it's been 10 years, it feels more like 5 years.  During that time we've endured many life experiences...some of the most significant being....
1.) Our Wedding Day
Truly an amazing day.  A real reflection of both of us fusing together.  You were equally involved in the wedding planning process...just as you are today in our life, our home, and our family.

2.) Our Travels
I'm so thankful we were able to do some traveling before becoming parents....our trips together to Hawaii, Bahamas, Cabo, Vegas, San Francisco, etc. ....are so special to me.  Especially now as our traveling is very limited with all of our little ones.  But I know that we will have our travel time again in life.  Until then, I appreciate the amazing places we've been so far.
3.) Our Educations
Oh those student loan payments.  But, totally and completely worth it.  I'm so thankful that we were both able to receive college educations and both are doing our dream careers now.  As hard and time consuming as schooling and building a business has been, I'm so thankful that we kept pushing each other to reach our goals. 

4.) The Loss of Loved Ones
By the age of 29, you had already lost both your Mom and Dad.  Watching you go through these losses at such a young age, forever changed us and forever changed our relationship.  Through these most heartbreaking times, I saw unbelievable strength in you.  You inspired me in more ways than you'll ever know.  I'm certain in some ways...through this, our relationship was deeply affected in a positive way.  These hard times really showed us the gift of a time and the preciousness of life. 
5.) Your Graduation
Despite the tragic loss you continued on to receive your Doctorate of Physical Therapy.  I've never been more proud of you.  Several of your professors offered you the option of taking time off, but you powered through.  Seeing you graduate and walk across the stage to receive your diploma ~ you had a glow on you. I knew in that moment your mom was with you, and I knew you would continue to shine.

6.) Our Friends/Our Celebrations
Oh, the parties we have thrown...since our first year of dating.  Thank you babe, I know that often times our celebrations create a lot of extra work for you...but thank you for valuing these times.  Each passing, busy year it's harder and harder to keep in touch with friends (especially with kiddos) but you always support and help me plan many of our special times. 
7.) Buying our 2nd Home/First "real" House
Remember that one time, when I was SO pregnant with twins...and you had to get our current tiny condo sold, and find us a new home...pretty much ALL on your own?  Oh my.  You did it babe.  Thank you, that was a crazy time. 

8.) Becoming Parents (of Twins!)
Wow, we had NO idea.  I quit my corporate job just before they babies came after we had just moved into our home...and all of sudden we were parents? Talk about one of our craziest times.  But we did it.  And it turned our lives upside down and inside out...but we did it.  We made it so far.  We had limited time, limited money, and limited energy...but we've received ridiculous amounts of joy and love.  Seeing you handed our two baby girls in the operating room was one of my greatest moments in life.  Seeing you so happy, makes me happy. 

9.) Our Careers
I'm quite certain that there are several people in our lives that think we are absolutely nuts, because our schedules are busy and very untraditional.  But that's us, and that's probably why (with being parents of multiples) we haven't gone crazy (yet).  Thank you for always making it work.  You are a true team member and partner.
10.) Preparation for our 3rd Child  
And here we go.  God willing, everything goes smoothly tomorrow we will meet our Baby Boy!  Our little grand finale to our family.  This pregnancy, although (thankfully) a healthy one, hasn't been the easiest on our family.  Our tiny twosome requires a TON of physical and mental work....of which I've been lacking at times.  You've had to carry us through, just like you always do.  Last night I watched you play "Barbies" with our girls for a long time.  Using all of your silly accents and saying the most off the wall hilarious things...Hannah & Emma were loved every minute.  I truly never knew how much I loved you until I saw how much you love our children.  There is nothing better in life. 


So my being the private person that you are and me being the obnoxiously public person that I am....I hope you don't mind me sharing these thoughts with the world today.  I just wanted to share how truly amazing you are, even if I may not tell you or show you that everyday. 
Thank you for the last ten years, every single moment, I can't wait to see what the next ten years holds for us. 
Let's have this baby already. 
I Love You,

A Few Life Lessons...

This morning I thought I'd share a few life lessons that have been weighing on me lately.  I learned these from my Granny.  I hesitate to blog this for fear that I might leave something important that she taught me out...but I guess I can always write a follow up if need be.  I'm just gonna let my heart spill out a bit.

You see, she was incredibly important to me. But in a way, that I never really realized how much before because it was buried so deep.  It wasn't until recently, as she lived her final days, that her role in my life has became more magnetized. 

1.) Love Hard. 
She taught me to love hard.  She made sure everyone that she loved, knew they were loved, deeply.  She never held back the chance to say "I love you." She never hesitated to give big hugs.  When ever I left her home, she insisted on walking me out.  Even the very last time I visited her.  She would wait until I was in my car, just to have the chance to wave goodbye and blow me a kiss.  She always expressed love abundantly, and without hesitation.

2.) Sharing & Giving.
She shared everything.  She struggled accepting gifts, because sharing was so much more important to her.  Life wasn't easy for her growing up, she didn't have much as a child, and lost her mother at the age of 12...and then lost her father a few years later.  She was the eldest of her four siblings and had to take on a lot at a very young age.  She learned early on what it meant to stretch a dime.  That always stayed with her.  She was uncomfortable with large purchases for herself, but always wanted those around her to have it all.

3.) Approachability
As my mom wrote in her obituary "She never knew a stranger." She talked, laughed, and joked with everyone.  Going to the grocery store with her was an experience.  She hugged strangers, she gave random children cookies, she called cute young boys her "boyfriend." She was a hoot.  She never cared much about social norms. She just saw goodness in people.  And that was just on the surface.  For me she was incredibility approachable because she shared her stories with me.  She told me all about her first love, the birth of her babies, her many travels (as my Papa was in the air force).  The common theme in all of her stories was about "the people".  She loved people and all their differences.  She allowed me to share my life with her. I could tell her anything, and she would always respond back with a caring tone.

4.) Warmth & Kindness
The moment someone stepped foot in her home.  "Can I get you something to drink? Can I get you something to eat? You look tired.  Why don't you go get up on my bed and cut the fan on." She wanted to make sure you felt as comfortable as possible in her home.  And in her glory days...she could cook. Wow, the best food I've ever tasted.  The moment you were in her presence (even strangers) you immediately felt loved. 

5.)  Sense of Humor
She never took herself too seriously.  She loved to laugh, tell wild stories, and she was famous for her random sayings in her Tennessee accent.  She joked around a lot, and cracked herself up a lot.  She knew the power of a good laugh.

6.)  Building Memories
Whenever I left her home she would always tell me "I love you Jenny Girl, go build some memories." My eyes tear up just typing those words as I can hear her voice so strong.  She constantly encouraged me to "do fun things." She always reminded to build as many memories now, because memories are all you have towards the end of your life. 


Happy Monday My Friends.....

Cheers to loving hard and laughing along the way.  xo

~Jennifer Starr

Checking In: Reflections + Standing Still

(Photo by Ben & Kelly Photography, Floral by Avant-Garde Floral Design Studio, at the Arizona Biltmore, as seen in Arizona's Finest Wedding Sites Magazine)

I've often said to Justin "I wish I could capture emotions and bottle them." Just open up a pretty little glass bottle grasp an emotion from my heart, label it, and put it on the shelf. 

The bottles could be labeled a variety of things...

"Doubts + Fears about my Business" {Summer of 2014}
"More Joy than I Ever Imagined Possible/Birth of Babies" {December 2013}
"Exhaustion Upon Exhaustion" {Spring 2015}

But the best part would be...that once in a great while I could take off the cap to the bottle and "feel" that exact same emotion that I once felt at that time.  I could use this to make myself feel better at the present moment, and truly appreciate life. 

For example on the days that I feel so exhausted and defeated by motherhood, I could inhale a little bit of "More Joy than I Ever Imagined" bottle and be instantly reminded of how amazing life is, (even while I'm scrubbing magic markers off the wall...)

Or like this summer for's been rather stagnant and definitely sad as my sweet Grandmother (known as Granny) passed away a few weeks ago.  It's been a time period in which I just didn't have my normal energy, excitement, and momentum.  Instead, my heart and mind have been in a more reflective and contemplative place.

I remember last year at this time feeling so much self doubt as a business owner.  But over the last month I'm really starting to see all the "seeds that I planted over the last year start to bloom." (thank heavens!) I'm so grateful and excited for the future of my business.  It's on days like today I wish I could visit my little imaginary shelf of "bottled emotions" and  inhale a little bit of "last summer" to truly appreciate the new place I'm at now and really appreciate it. Before jumping full force into "the next" stage of life.

Sometimes I think life forces us to stand still for a moment, whether we want to or not.  And in those moments, we begin to see things more definitively.  So here's to the past, the present, and the future ~ whatever your goals might be.  May you be able to "stop" once in awhile, be okay with standing still for a bit, and be proud of how far you've come.  And if you need a high five, I 'm sending you a virtual one now. 

Happy Monday My Friends.

With Lots of Love and Big Dreams,
Jennifer Starr

The Salt River & The Starrs

I have so much fun stuff to catch up on.....

{My Favorite Shot....It doesn't look like it but Justin and I were standing right next to them ready to jump if they started to move they were on a was terrifying, I thought for sure I'd end up in the lake....but how precious did it turn out??}

Let's rewind a bit shall we?  I believe it was around the second week of November...we were able coordinate my schedule with Justin's schedule with Matt's schedule {our dear friend and owner of Still Life Studios}....We've been doing a "family session for a few years now, before the kiddos....but this was our first time doing this as parents..

{Hannah's FACE!}

{Oh Emma}

Things we did right:
~Took them in early November... that allowed much more time for editing, ordering our Christmas cards, and getting them sent out
~Asked Matt to take them...years previously we would try and do this ourselves using Justin's self timer or remote....super difficult...lemme tell ya.

{Chewing on Mommy's Bracelets...the only way we could think to keep them calm and not scared of the crazy photographer:}

~Chose a RAD location....several people has asked me if the back ground in the photos is REAL, umm...YES!  It's a really gorgeous location at the Salt River that Matt and the SLS Crew frequently shoot.
~Made sure everyone was fed ahead of time prior to the shoot...babies and husband
~I took a pair of flip flops to the shoot to switch out as we were walking {hiking} all over the place.

{Hannah LOVES Mommy's Jewelry}

Things we did wrong:
~Didn't allow ENOUGH TIME,  yes Matt had told us what time to pick him up to make sure we allowed plenty of the time for the shoot...and we ended up picking him about 45 minutes LATE.  This then forced us to RACE against the sun light....imagine us hiking up and down hills with all the camera gear, babies bags, and two little munchkins strapped to our sides.... I have to keep reminding myself that it takes MUCH MORE TIME than I ever seem to estimate to get four people dressed, fed, packed up and out the door.... 

{At this point in the evening I remember  getting panicked as I could hear animals close by}

But thankfully Matt is SUPER talented and was still able to pull of a great shoot, we were able to get some lovely shots for our Christmas card and for our new wall gallery in the living room.... Thanks Matt!  I'd also like to send a special out to Bridget Levi with Still Life Studios...who the custom designer of the Starr Cards this year, Thanks Bridgie!

Their little hair bows lasted the first five minutes, the little pink shoes didn't make it at all}

All in all it was totally worth all the effort...I'm so glad we did this.....don't underestimate the power of family photos...precious time slips away too quickly not to take them!