Monday, December 29, 2014

The Week Between Christmas and New Year's

This just may be one of my favorite weeks of the year.  The slow, recharge the batteries week in between Christmas and New Year's.  The gifts have been opened, there are leftovers in the fridge and the kids can sleep in.

Which means I can sleep in.

Christmas was a blessed day.  We stayed home, cleaned some mess and left some mess.  We ate, rested and opened toys.  I watched A Christmas Story at least ten times.  Maybe more.  I can't say enough about how much I enjoy our stay-at-home Christmas Day.  This is the second year we've stayed home all day on Christmas and it's marvelous.

This week, it's much of the same.  I've cleaned out closets, made bags for the Salvation Army and ate fifteen tons of chocolate.  My big kids are decked out in new clothes and trying new video games.  My youngest was in her pajamas all day.  She even wore them to drop my oldest off at basketball.  Her jacket was her Doc McStuffins robe.

All part of the magic of the week between Christmas and New Year's.  It's all about rest and enjoying family and friends.  There is no better way to end a year.  

And next week?  I'll be focusing on getting my schedule back on track.  But for now?  It's all about having no schedule and no where to be.

Heaven.  Wishing you much of the same.

Happy almost New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

This Christmas, I wish you all noting but happiness.  Take time to be grateful for the gifts money cannot buy...because that is the true measure of wealth.  Once you grasp how precious the little things are, you realize they are the big things.

Don't sweat the small stuff.  Have faith, lean on the right people and don't get caught up in drama that isn't yours. 

Life is too short.

Love every minute.

And most importantly, have a very, merry Christmas!  Make it magical!




Monday, December 15, 2014

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Christmas is approaching. I’m in the middle of all my Christmas prep, and every night I get into bed thinking, “I really need to get in the basement and wrap some presents…or bake some cookies...I need to stay up and accomplish something! Definitely tomorrow…”
We’re under two weeks out, and while my main shopping is done my shopping isn’t done. This is because I put so much focus on my kids and family, that the week before Christmas I panic and remember the teachers, neighbors, friends who have helped me throughout the year and co-workers.
Yes, I said it. Co-workers. I’m still getting used to this working thing. I’ve balanced work and home very well since I’m home within an hour of when my kids get home from school. But still it’s an adjustment. I miss the the extra time to do laundry and make dinner. The extra time to shop in peace (at 10am) and the time to sweep and run the dishwasher.
I get it all done and then realize I’ve ignored my blog for too long. My sweet baby. My blog that I started four years ago and poured my heart into. I taught myself everything that is on these pages, and unfortunately most days the blog has to wait.
But that’s okay. It’s mine and I get to make the rules. With less time on my hands, I have to make every minute count with my kids. I have to get underwear clean and lunches made. And by the time I power on the laptop? Sometimes my creative energies are about zip.
This Christmas, I may be around a tad less. I’m relishing the wrapping and the movies. The baking and the music. I’m snuggling with babies and laughing with friends. I’m thinking of all of you too, wishing you are all doing the same.
We’re less than two weeks out, and the days will fly by in the blink of an eye.
Did you eat some rye?
I love your new tie!
Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Anyone else ever see Happy Gilmore?
Anywho, drink it up. Breathe it in. It’s a wonderful time of year and it’s time to eat, drink and be merry. Shut down the computer and put on It’s a Wonderful Life. Power down the phone and make some cookies with the kids.
Less screen time, more family time. Now that would be the best gift of all.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Time. Precious Time.

Before I worked Monday through Friday, I was a time waster.  I'm admitting it.  I blogged and cleaned and did my errands, but I sat on Facebook.  I went to the mall just to see what was there.  I sat on my deck when it was sunny and I sat inside in a chair by the window when it was cold.

I got a lot done, but I had so much free time once my kids were in school I didn't appreciate all the time I had to waste.  It was glorious.

I work now, and I budget my time so efficiently I can tell you exactly what I am doing from 6:35am until I leave the house at 7:25am.  It's the same story when I leave work at 4pm.  Give me any day of the week and I'll give you a rundown of exactly what is going on.  Every. single. hour.

I'm not complaining.  Working just means prioritizing.  It means being organized.  It means occasional dirty floors and laundry piling up.  

This morning I awoke to the blissful 2 hour delay call.  Even more blissful?  The call at 7:45am that the school I work for was closing for the day.  I spent the morning snuggled in with my babies, all of us in my bed.  There was no hurry.  No rush.  

When I dropped my kids off at school I went straight to the mall.  I returned, I shopped and I grabbed groceries on the way home.  I stacked my gifts, counted and made lists.  I swept, vacuumed, did four loads of laundry and framed pictures.

I topped off my productive afternoon with mailing my Christmas cards.  

All of this wonderfulness had me realizing that I wouldn't even know how wonderful the day was if I wasn't working.  I wouldn't appreciate the free time.  I wouldn't relish every minute of driving my kids to school and picking them up.  

There was so much magic in today because I appreciated it.  I appreciated the opportunity to spend more time with my kids, more time preparing for Christmas and more time with myself.

I wish everyone a day full of things they truly appreciate.  Even with all the Christmas chaos, we can all find time to look around and count our blessings.  Wrap, bake, see friends and decorate, but in between it all step back and drink it in.

Whether you work or stay home, slow it down and hug those babies.  There is nothing in the world like it.

Cheers and happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Winter Self vs. My Summer Self

Lately I've realized my winter self and my summer self are two totally different animals.  I'm going to break it down below:

Summer self: Tees and breezy light clothes.
Winter self:  Parkas, jeans and wondering how many layers I can fit under a sweater.  I try for three.

Summer self: Fresh air and sunshine.  As much as possible.
Winter self:  Sunshine through glass windows. Do I really have to go somewhere?

Summer self:  Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Winter self:  Carbs.  All. Day Long.

Summer self: Running and exercise.
Winter self:  Shivering is all the calorie burn I need.

Summer self:  Tanned, freckled skin.
Winter self:  Is that a mirror? Bleck.

Summer self: Barbecues and eating out.
Winter self:  Take out.  Delivery.  Anything other than getting back into my frozen car.

Summer self:  Showered, dressed and wondering how much I can squeeze into a day.
Winter self: Pajamas and squeezing into jeans.

I'm thankful I have two seasons to transition into my two totally different entities because my family probably couldn't keep up if the switch was made overnight.  

As I write this, I'm actually hoping for a little snow.  At dawn.  Just enough to get that golden two hour delay. Mama could use the Zzzzz's.

Happy almost hump day!



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Uncommon Gift Ideas

I struggle finding unique gifts for certain people in my life.  Most often these people are men.  Many men I know don't seem to need anything or they buy what they like when they want it.  It's not like moms who go years with the same underwear and grease splattered sweatshirts.

Other moms do go years with that stuff, right?  

UncommonGoods (http://www.uncommongoods.com/) is a site I recently found that has some different, affordable and fun gifts for those hard to shop for people on your list.  I spent an entire evening browsing their site, and I found several possibilities I would have never thought of for quite a few people I still need to shop for.  Not only does the site have unique gifts, many of the items are handcrafted and made from recycled materials.  The company operates in the USA and supports artists and designers.  

My favorite gift idea for men is the Aurora Borealis Sand Art.  The sand shifts into a different landscape with every turn of the frame.  You never have the same design twice, and after we opened the box we spent a good hour just staring as the sand created views of what appeared to be midnight skies.  I love this gift for an office or a modern living space.  

Click here  to view the item and see more information.  Isn't it gorgeous?  And simply breathtaking?


If you have newly driving teens to shop for, Uncommongoods has a "you got your license" kit (http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/you-got-your-drivers-license-kit) that is perfect for the holidays.  The kit has practical items like a tire gauge and an emergency flashlight as well as fun stuff for the car.  I love this idea because it's something useful but has cute items that make the gift whimsical as well. 

If you have hard to shop for men (like I do with four brothers and my dad) visit the gifts for men page (http://www.uncommongoods.com/holiday/christmas/christmas-gifts-for-men) the gifts for husband page (http://www.uncommongoods.com/sets/gifts-for-husband) and the gifts for dad page (http://www.uncommongoods.com/for-him/gifts-for-dad/gifts-for-dad).  There are stone drink dispensers, hygiene kits and gorgeous sets of handcrafted drinking glasses.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!  Check out Uncommongoods - I love good companies and I found several items I'm excited to give this holiday season!  

Cheers!

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life. Celebrate the Good Every Day.

While every family has ups and downs, and no childhood is perfect, I do remember my parents always giving.  They gave their time, their money and their energy to countless causes and organizations.  My dad ran the football program, my mom ran the concession stand.  They coached, volunteered and donated.  With six kids, they certainly had every excuse to politely say no, but, they never did.

My parents not only gave to others, they gave to us.  I remember Christmas mornings with gifts scattered all around the family room.  Most times we couldn’t even get near the tree cause there were so many gifts.  Our holidays were plentiful.  My parents dressed us in similar clothes and took photos and we spent many nights combing through the giant Sears wish book.  While we were extremely blessed, my parents made sure we knew not everyone was quite as fortunate.  We were aware that our small pocket of the world was not the norm.

One of the many memories I have is my dad and his charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I can’t remember how old I was when it started, but I remember how it started.  My dad had read a local newspaper article about an inner city post office and all the Santa letters that went undelivered to the North Pole.  These kids asked for simple necessities like coats and shoes, and many times they asked for them for their parents and siblings.  The article detailed a few of the most heartwarming letters, with a few children asking Santa for simple things like new socks because “mine have holes in them.”

My dad read this article and decided to go to the post office and retrieve the letters.  It tugged at his heartstrings that these letters would go unread and be discarded.   My parents have always felt children deserve to believe in miracles.  Kids need to know there is good in the world, and they have a right to believe in magic.  The innocence of childhood is often robbed from these kids who grow up without the basic necessities most of us take for granted.

The next year my dad’s charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was born.

For the next several Novembers, I remember reading through hundreds of letters from kids living in poverty.  My father reached out to a few select elementary schools in the most poverty stricken areas and the teachers gave their students an assignment:  Write a letter to Santa.  Those letters came to our home, and we sorted through them.  Every year the local Kmart opened its doors at 3am and a group of volunteers, myself included, walked the store with a stack of letters each.  We read the letters and chose jackets, socks, pants and sweaters.  We bought new backpacks and blankets.  Every child, whether they wished for one or not, received a toy.  I remember one year going to my mother with all the items I chose for a little boy and his letter.  She checked through them but sent me back for a toy.  While I didn’t see how important it was then, as a parent I can now see where my parents were coming from.  While some kids asked for expensive items, most wished for only necessities for their families.

Kmart discounted our bulk purchase by 10% and the gifts were loaded into a truck.  A few days later the same group of volunteers gathered to wrap the hundreds of gifts.  And one week in December, my dad dressed as Santa and delivered the presents to each classroom.

Over the years the charity evolved, as all things do.  Some years my dad worked with the Department of Public Welfare, receiving addresses of the neediest families.  Other years he gave a monetary donation to a school.  One year when we were delivering to actual houses, our last stop was the Green family. There were seven children.  They lived on the 8th floor of an old apartment building in a rundown area of the city.  We pulled up in our van, and all seven children walked down eight flights of stairs and helped us unload their gifts.  When we got into their apartment, with a Christmas tree and a turkey for them to enjoy on Christmas, my dad saw they had no electricity.

All they had was a kitchen table, a few other pieces of furniture and mattresses on the floors.  The mother was a single mom.  But what I remember the most was how helpful the kids were.  How politely they spoke.  How excited they were to have an actual Christmas tree.  The floors were sparkling clean.  This family was an example of how even in the hardest of circumstances you can still take pride in what you DO have, even when it isn’t much.  You can still expect your kids to hold themselves with dignity, and to be grateful.

My dad immediately contacted the Department of Welfare and paid to have the Green’s heat and electricity back on.  He did this for the next several years until there was no longer contact information on the Greens.
My memories of working with my dad’s charity remain vivid, and the lessons I learned are priceless.  I can say with certainty I have not gone a Christmas season without sponsoring a child or grabbing a name from a tree in the mall since getting married and starting my own family.   My children have packed shoeboxes of goodies for kids in other countries, and donated jackets, toys and food to local organizations.  There is always a way to help a family in need, even if you don’t have much yourself.

At the end of the day we all belong to each other.  This is a lesson I want my kids to learn.

 


This holiday season let’s celebrate the good in others and all around us.   New York Life is encouraging people to go to their site and share photos of themselves or friends celebrating the good moments in life.  New York Life (@NewYorkLife) is donating 25 meals to Feeding America for every tweet that includes #KeepGoodGoing and the charity specific hashtag.

Very cool.

*Through 1/9/15, New York Life will donate $2.50 for each approved post, with a minimum of $25K & a maximum of $100K.
See full terms and conditions at NewYorkLife.com/CelebratingGood. Find info about Feeding America at feedingamerica.org
.


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