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Taking the Crazy out of Christmas

As a kid I remember the Christmas holidays being nothing less than pure magic!  They were full of fun traditions, lots of presents mounds of baking.  As a Mom, I still find the holidays magical but have also come to realize that to make the “magic” happen, it can be crazy, stressful and overwhelming. 

The year my daughter was born, we drove back to our hometown and attempted Christmas with the family. We ended up going from house to house and found nearly no time to slow down and relax. The next year I declared that from then on we would spend Christmas at our house, but anyone and everyone was welcome to join us. This was an over-welcoming success and also gave us an opportunity to start some of our own family traditions – new pjs on Christmas eve and a new Christmas ornament. But at the same time I also stared some time consuming and somewhat stressful traditions – a lengthly, picture filled family newsletter, various cookie exchanges and a family calendar.

As the holidays approached each year, I found myself getting more and more anxious –  trying to find the time to get all these added activities completed. One year I sent out nearly 80 cards and newsletters, participated in 2 cookie exchanges, created 10 personalized calendars and spent countless hours hunting down footed pajamas for each member of my family. While I love that all of these activities bring much joy to others, this year I decided to take a step back, slow down and do less. First I said “no” to a couple of offers to participate in a cookie exchange. Instead, I decided to bake a couple dozen of my favourite cookies and call it a day.  Next I decided not to do a family newsletter. It’s a huge undertaking, very costly and realistically most people have already seen all the pictures and know what’s going on with my life because they follow me on Facebook. For those who don’t, I will be sending a simple Christmas card, enclosed with a school photo of each of my children.

Another change I made last year was Christmas dinner. Typically, my Mom and I spent most of Christmas day in the kitchen. Making a giant brunch followed by a giant dinner. Last year my Mom suggest having Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. What a fantastic idea! As it goes, Christmas eve is pretty relaxed at our house. This gave us plenty of time to get dinner made and served nice and early. Still lots of time for new pajamas and singing Christmas carols. It also meant that after brunch on Christmas morning we weren’t scrambling to clean up and get dinner started. Instead we could let the kids play with their toys, stay in our pjs all day and eat leftovers whenever we were hungry.

At the end of the day, to me the holidays are about being with family and making great memories. But I’m still a work in progress – I will admit to staying up to 4am on Black Friday so I could finish my calendars and take advantage of the great sale prices 😉

Wishing everyone a crazy-free Christmas season!

Until I write again…

Shay

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Elf-capades

Last year I got sucked into the commercialism of the holiday and bought the latest and greatest must-have-Christmas tradition – The Elf on a Shelf. I was one of those parents who spend hours scouring Pinterest for new and creative ways to pose our Elf each night in hopes that they would ooh and aah in the morning.  Our Elf was posing doing the YMCA with his Barbie friends. He was building houses of Lego. He even made himself a cozy bed out of Kleenex.  This year, our Elf is just plain lazy. He basically moves a few feet every night. Mingling with some of our other Christmas decorations, in hopes that he will blend in and the kids will be somewhat challenged when looking for him in the morning. So far there have been no complaints from said children. In fact my son was telling me that the Elf is magic and flies around the house at night to find the best spot to hide. Awesome! Let’s go with that. Especially since I have to set a reminder on my phone just so I don’t forget to move the Elf. Last year I had several nights were I woke up around 3am in a cold sweat because I realized I had forgotten to move the Elf. I remember how fun and exciting it all seemed last year.  A new and exciting holiday tradition. This year…I’m just not that into him. But I’ll keep up the magic for the kids and be grateful that I didn’t buy more than one Elf as many of my friends did (“so each kid can have one when they are adults. They can share the Elf with their kids!!!”). Honestly, I’m thinking that when our kids are older they are going to look back and find the Elf a little creepy looking and laugh at what fools we were for buying in to such an weird tradition. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will be the new ‘milk and cookies’ for Santa tradition that gets carried on for years to come.

Elf Conversations

Katie “Mommy, I really hope we get a girl Elf this year.

Me “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the same Elf that visited us last year…which was a boy”

(after the arrival of said Elf)

Katie “Mommy, did our Elf have eyelashes last year?”

Me (insert long pause) “Do YOU think our Elf had eyelashes last year?”

Katie “No. I knew it! We got a girl Elf this year!!!

(Naming of said “new” Elf)

Me “What are you going to name your Elf?

Jack “Shark!”

Katie “No it’s a girl. I am going to name her Emily”

Jack “Shark…Shark..Shark..Shark…Shark”

Katie “Jaaaack!”

Until I write again…

Shay

Letters To Santa

LETTERS TO SANTA. Who knew writing letters to Santa would be so complicated. Here’s how it went down.

Jack’s Letter (unedited)

Me “Ok Jack, what do you want to say in your letter to Santa?”
Jack “Dear Santa. Love Jack ”
Me “Don’t you want to ask Santa what you want for Christmas?”

Jack’s Version (2nd edition)

Jack “Dear Santa, I want a BIG truck. Love Jack”
Me “No, you don’t want a big truck. You want a Green Lantern Plane, right?!”

Jack’s Version (3rd edition)

Jack “Dear Santa, I want a Green Lantern Plane and a blue stuffy Angry Bird. Love Jack”
Me “I don’t think there is a blue Angry Bird. How about a green one?”
Katie “Yes, there is a blue Angry Bird, it’s small. I’ve seen it in the game”
Me “I don’t think Santa’s elves make a blue Angry Bird. I’m pretty sure they only make green and red ones”

Jack’s Version (4th edition)

Jack “Dear Santa, I want a Green Lantern plane and a green Angry Bird. Love Jack”
Me “Phewf! Ok Katie it’s your turn. Why don’t you print your own letter”.
Me “Wait, what are you doing to Jack’s letter to Santa?”
Katie “I’m fixing it. You did not print your letters very good.  You didn’t do a good job crossing the ‘t’, you didn’t close the loop on this ‘g’ and you forgot the ‘r’ in Angry”.
Me ” I didn’t know my crayon printing skills were under such tough scrutiny.”
Katie “What does scrutiny mean?”
Me “Um, it means I didn’t know you were going to pretend to be my teacher and correct my printing”.
Katie – big smile

Katie’s Letter

Dear Santa. For Christmas I want angry bird and zoo zoo pet. Love Katie. 

Me “Perfect!”

She even gave herself a check-mark for writing it well.

LOOK MOM, ANOTHER PENCIL!  That’s what my daughter says at least once a week. I really need to invest in one of those industrial power operated sharpeners because Katie and I seem to spending our life sharpening pencils these days and my dollar store sharpener really blows.

“Mommy I finished my word packs – look what I got. A new pencil!”
“Mommy it was my birthday – look what I got! A new pencil!!”
“Mommy, we survived in the Mayan apocalypse – look what I got! A new pencil!!!”

A BIT OF GRATITUDE. Happy Jack has returned! It’s been so long since I’ve seen him I nearly forgot what he looked like. You see my normally sweet, goofy, giggly little (well maybe not so little) two-year old boy has been nothing but whining, miserable, crying, complaining, tired, cranky – ok you get the picture – for the last few days, weeks, months. I can’t even remember. It’s all just a big long miserable blur. One unknown illness after the next. Too many abnormal blood tests. Countless trips to see doctors and specialists and emergency room. On and on. But today he is happy. And not just happy. He’s truly returned to Happy Jack. He’s laughing, running all over the house. Being silly. Oh how I’ve missed this little man. I hope his return in permanent but even if it’s not I’m so very grateful to have it today.

Until I write again…

Shay

The Twelve Days of Whack-a-Mole

A Bit of Gratitude. So it’s been nearly a week since I’ve written and I can attribute that to the plague that has hit my home. Or so it feels. I was up four nights last week with sick kids. The last of which ended up in an ambulance ride to the hospital after my son had yet another seizure due to rapid fever onset. After four nights of no sleep and then being at the hospital till four, I shockingly developed the flu which has now turned into a wicked head-cold. But I must find something to be thankful during this time despite the fact that my nose is so red that if I were to sport some antlers I would likely be mistaken for Rudolf. So here it goes. I am so very thankful that my mom is visiting and taking my daughter to school and doing laundry and buying groceries and cooking dinner. Because if she wasn’t here I would be doing all of that on top of my trying to cope with an ever-growing head-cold and as much fun as I have known that to be I am much happier having her take care of me while I crash on the couch and catch up on episodes of the Vampire Diaries. I am also grateful that I shopped like a madwoman when my Mom first arrived last week and got all my Christmas shopping done. Because even though I can’t hear and my head is horribly fuzzy I at least don’t have the stress of having to shop! Ok enough pity party, let’s move on to something much more amusing.

Be Prepared. Ok well actually since I was just on the topic of being sick, let me tell you a ditty about our hospital visit. So back in October we spent way too much time having to quickly pack bags and run my son to the hospital. After which I decided the best thing to do was “be prepared”. So I did just that. I prepared several bags for us. One bag for each of my children with a complete set of change of clothes, extra mittens, you name it. I also packed a bag of snacks for the kids. I threw in a case of water and a small backpack of toys all in the back of my van. My thought was that if I ever had to run to the hospital on a moments notice, I would be prepared. It also turned out to be great when one of my kids lots a mitten or I forgot to grab a scarf on the way out the door. I had toys when we were out at a restaurant and had snacks when the kids didn’t like the menu items. I was a freaking Beaver Scout let me tell you. Prepared, prepared, prepared! But here I was last Friday night reading in bed, with my two-year old asleep next to me when he suddenly had a seizure and I was on the phone to 911. Shortly thereafter we were on our way to the hospital by ambulance and I had no emergency bags with me. Why? Because they were in the back of my van. The van which was at soccer practice with my husband. Hmmm, best made plans…Anyways, it turned out ok because my husband came to the hospital but now I feel like I may need back-up bags for the back-up bags. Oh and here is the best part of my trip. My wardrobe. That’s right, my awesome ‘pajamas’ that I was wearing when the paramedics arrived. Which I didn’t even think about until about three hours later when I looked down at my sorry self and just shook my head. You see I don’t really own any pajamas. I used to have  a lot of pjs but then I lost a bunch of weight and none of them fit anymore. Which is obviously a good thing. But buying new ones just hasn’t been on my priority list. So instead I just throw something together. On the night in question it was the t-shirt I wear when I dye my hair. An awesome old ratty white t-shirt covered in brown hair dye. And for pajama bottoms I was wearing an old pair of maternity bottoms. So as I was walking around the hospital in what looked like the dirtiest t-shirt ever, I also had the crotch of the pajama bottom’s hanging at my knees. Awesome! I think Santa might need to grab me a pair or two of pjs for Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Whack-a-Mole. So today we attended my daughter’s school Christmas concert. I’m not going to gush about how cute the 5 year olds all looked singing Little Toy Trains in their pjs or how adorable my son was because he just had to wear pjs to the concert too, just like his big sister (oops). No instead I’ll share a little story that I like to call the “Human Whack-a-Mole”. You know the ‘whack-a-mole’ game right? The one at the arcades or carnivals where moles pop up out of holes and you whack them with your hammer? Well that was me. Along with about 200 other parents and kids at today’s concert. Here’s the scene. The music teacher tells us that we are all going to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas, only every time a number is mentioned it is going to correspond with a birthday month. So when we sing “On the First day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” all the people with January birthdays have to stand up. And so on and so forth. Only we have to do it every time your number is mentioned. And if you remember the song, you add a number every stanza and then count down again. So it looked something like this:

[Shay stand up] “On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four colly birds, [Shay sit down Kelly stand up], three french hens, [Kelly sit down, Steve stand up] two turtle doves, [Steve sit down, Grandma stand up], and a partridge in a pair tree”.  [Grandma sit down, random person next to me stand up] “On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me , five golden rings, [random person sit down, Shay stand up] four colly birds, [Shay sit down Kelly stand up], three french hens, [Kelly sit down, Steve stand up] two turtle doves, [Steve sit down, Grandma stand up], and a partridge in a pair tree” and so on and so on. My friend emailed me tonight saying she will never, ever, for the rest of her life, forget my birthday month after going through that!

Seriously, try this at home with your family. It is truly  like a human whack a mole game. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was silly and we all looked ridiculous. But I think deep down everyone had a lot of fun.

I’m pretty sure I had another funny story to share but my head is becoming more and more cloudy and my thoughts are making less and less sense. So I am going to attempt to get a good night’s rest in hopes of a clear head tomorrow.

Until I write again…

Shay

Wacky Wednesday

Wacky Wednesday. I’m writing this post as I sit in the tea-cup chairs of Chapters book store. I’m not sitting in the kids section because I’m with my kids. I’m sitting here because the power just went out and they’ve locked us in the store. Just as I was thinking to myself “I’m just about done my Christmas shopping and can finally go home” BAM, power out. And so goes my day. This morning my daughter declared today “Wacky Wednesday” and I think got it right.

Here’s how my day begun. 5am and my two-year old son comes in to my bedroom “Mommy, I have to pee”. Sigh. “Ok” I say and drag my butt out of bed and him to the bathroom. After which I promptly return him to his room explaining that 7am is a much more reasonable hour upon which to rise. 3o minutes later and he’s back in my room “Mommy, I pooped”. “You have to go poop, or you pooped in your pajamas?” Want to take a guess on his answer? Ten minutes later, I’ve got him cleaned up, my bathroom cleaned up and thrown out his pjs (they did not survive the disaster). By now it’s nearly 6am and I’m wide awake.

On the way downstairs I dropped my son’s stainless steel water bottle. BANG, BANG, BANG, CRASH, it went down the stairs slamming into our hardwood floors. That’s when my daughter declared it Wacky Wednesday. And so the tale continues.

A few hours later I’m laying on the table at my doctor’s office having minor surgery and the fire alarm goes off. Again and again and again. Thankfully no one seemed to be too alarmed about …the alarm so I was able to stay put. Can you imagine having to leave while your half-naked and being stitched up? And now here I sit writing this blog entry. I’ve just been informed that they want us all to leave but they seem to have some type of back-up power on the cash registers so we should be able to pay for our items on the way out.  Wacky Wednesday indeed.

Paper Towel Dress. Last week I was at the my doctor’s office for my yearly check-up. The nurse tells me to undress all but my socks and hands me a ‘gown’ to put on.  Ok seriously, what is up with this ‘gown’?  I looked at that thing and all I could think was it looked and felt like a giant paper towel. And not even the expensive kind, the cheap no-name brand.  When the doctor enters he asks me how I’m doing. My reply “well I’m basically wearing a piece of paper and I’m freezing cold”. “I meant how are you feeling these days? Any concerns?” “Oh…”

A Bit of Gratitude.  When I put my daughter to bed tonight she decided it was a good time to have a serious deep discussion about religion, where babies come from and cancer. Awesome. Just the conversations I want to have with my five-year old at 7:30 at night. I did my best to answer each of her questions with just enough information that I felt was age appropriate. Once she seemed satisfied and no longer curious, she was content to go to sleep. As much I was feeling a little overwhelmed and surprised by the conversation, I am grateful that she was comfortable enough to ask me questions. I hope to be able to sustain this type of communication in the years to come. Maybe just not quite so late at night, and not all at once.

Until I write again…

Shay

Continuously Counting

Continuously Counting.  The last couple of months my daughter has developed a deep passion for numbers. In particular counting to 100. Throughout the day I will hear her start counting. About a month into Kindergarten she started counting to 100 by tens, then fives and now twos.  Most recently she’s discovered that there are numbers beyond 100 and now she will count until you find a reason for her to stop.  I’ve since learned that when we drive home from school on rainy days, Katie can count to 157 during the drive and that includes a stop at the mailbox. I’ve also learned that when I say “just give me a minute” what I actually mean is that in 230 seconds you will have my undivided attention. Oh and I have the added benefit of now listening to her brother count. I’ve been trying to teach him basic numbers 1-5 for months with no luck. Suddenly he’s counting along with her   So now I’ve got my daughter counting to 100 and beyond in the back of my car as I drive, and I’ve also got her brother echoing every number she counts. It truly is amazing though how overnight my son’s gone from only recognizing the number 7 (the hour he is “supposed” to be getting up in the morning) to being able to count to 20 and recognizing the numbers 1-9 as he sits on my knee when Katie and I play cards. I fully understand the importance of encouraging your children’s learning and am ever grateful for their love for learning. As you can imagine it takes some patience to smile and listen with enthusiasm as your child counts to 100 for the tenth time in a day.

Oh Christmas Tree.  I wrapped some presents this afternoon and when my daughter got home from school she noticed right away. She sat under the tree just staring at them for quite a while. When my husband got home she dragged him over to the tree and showed him each one and in informed him what order she was going to open them on Christmas morning. I’m not sure how she is going to last for 14 more sleeps. And I’m truly surprised that my two-year old has not helped himself and un-wrapped a gift or two.  Amazing self-control on his part.

Believing in the Magic.  This morning as I was volunteering in my daughter’s class I overheard two of the children talking about their Elf on a Shelf. One of the boys stated very matter of factly “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Elf isn’t real and that my parents just move him around the house at night”. I didn’t hear any more of the conversation but it’s probably going to come up more often now that my daughter is getting older and in school. It’s such a short time in their lives where they have that unconditional belief and it seems magical to me. I love how my kids play make-believe with their toys and how creative they can be.  I know that there will be a time, probably sooner than I’d like, where she no longer believes in the magic. For now, we are making special memories and enjoying every minute of it.

A Bit of Gratitude.  Last night my husband and I were catching up on one of our favourite shows, Homeland. It was just before 10pm and we had one more to go. I don’t usually last past 9:30pm. I just get too tired so I usually have some sense and head to bed. But that show is just so good I HAD to see what happened next. I cracked open a coke zero, down a square of dark chocolate and said “ok, let’s do it”. About 10 minutes in I started seeing double. Does that ever happen to you? You are so relaxed and tired suddenly people turn into twins before your eyes. I kept trying to shake it off but next thing I knew my husband was waking me up. Ug, my first thought was “I am so tired and I still have to tidy up the house and move that darn Elf on the Shelf”. But I looked around to discover that my husband had done both. He is awesome like that. So I dragged my butt to bed and got some sleep. I am very grateful for moments like that . Steve you are the best, thank you!

Until I write again…

Shay

Teeth Are Big Business

Teeth Are Big Business. My daughter is obsessed with losing a tooth. The problem is that none of hers are loose. She is constantly trying to wiggle them and look in the mirror to see if any are ready to fall out. I’m not five so I don’t really understand why this is such a big deal but she informs me that it is a VERY big deal. So it got me to thinking, how much does the tooth fairy leave these days? I was personally thinking a quarter would do just fine. Mostly because she’s got a lot of teeth to lose and because she has no idea what the difference is between a quarter or one or two dollars. Upon asking around I got a few different responses but the overall consensus was that I was being a cheapskate and at least a $1, perhaps $2-$5 was more along the average.  While I was in volunteering in her class yesterday I overheard one of the children tell the teacher that she had lost her tooth and that the tooth fairy had left her $20. TWENTY DOLLARS? I nearly spit out my water. I’m not sure how I am going to explain why she’s getting a freaking quarter and her friend’s getting twenty bucks but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I mentioned the $20 to my brother and he laughed and said for $20 he’d start pulling out his own teeth.

That’s a Wrap. Now that our tree is up I figured it was time to start wrapping presents and shoving them under the tree. So this afternoon I thought I’d start. My two-year old son was very curious as to what I was up to. I know what you are thinking – why on earth would I attempt to wrap gifts with a two-year old around. I have no idea. I showed him a few gifts and he watched me wrap them and put them under the tree. He then asked where his gift was. So I searched around and found an empty Cars gift bag and handed it to him. He was over joyed and immediately filled it with cars. All in all a very successful activity – or so I thought.  Fast forward a few hours after we pick up my 5-year-old from school.  My son immediately runs to the tree to show his sister the presents. I’m barely even up the stairs before I hear him say “Katie, that present has a Barbie in it and it’s for you!” Sigh. She was not impressed. “Don’t tell me what’s in the presents Jack!” After some discussion we decided that perhaps she will forget what’s in the present and it will then again be a ‘surprise’ on Christmas morning. Of course the best part of the whole thing was that she literally told me that she wanted her brother to buy her a Popstar Barbie for Christmas so she really wouldn’t have been surprised either way. But I’ve learned my lesson. No more wrapping presents around my son.

Nap No More. My son’s been waking up at the wee hour of 5am for the past month or so. We decided it might be high time to try to take away his nap and see if that causes him to sleep in later. Over all it is working but we are dealing with a pretty miserable and tired little boy in the late afternoon. Today we were out and he fell asleep in the car. When we got home I woke him up. He said to me “Mommy, I’m tired and I want to go to sleep in the house….on the couch…with the tv on…”hmmm, I see where this is going.

A Bit of Gratitude. Today I got to talk on the phone to my BFF. I haven’t been able to talk to her on the phone for a few weeks and it’s sucked. We normally talk nearly every afternoon and I had no idea how much I took that for granted. It was so great to hear from her so for that I am truly grateful!

Until I write again…

Shay

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