Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I woke up this morning so feel of peace and joy. There has been a bit of illness, stress and just busyness surrounding us -- this morning it was just all gone. My favorite thing is to just have downtime with E and Miss P and that is exactly what we are doing for the first half of today. As usual, P was out of bed within minutes of my getting up (someone asked her recently what time she gets up in the morning, her answer: "As soon as mommy does.") Often I admit that I slightly cringe, just wishing for a few more minutes to get organized. Today, I looked at her sparkly blue eyes and felt even happier than I had moments earlier.

We hit Star*ucks, breakfasted, and perused the Black Friday sale ads. P has me so entertained lately with her musings and questions. Today: "Why do the baristas shout the drinks when they are ready?" We headed back home in time for the Macy*s parade. I really enjoy it every year - especially the musicals. To keep P engaged, as she does not share the same affection for the morning chatter and balloons on TV, I found an 'alphabet sticker workbook' -- which had been hiding for a year in the coloring books tub. I'll be darned, but she actually likes it, and clamored to do 4 pages.

In a bit, I'll start my last two dozen apple dumplings for later today. We are due to see the in-laws in about three hours. I'm looking forward to connecting with family and am hoping to get everyone organized for a game of charades. (Or possibly to leave the babes later on at home with the grands, and head out with the sibs to see Four Christmases. We'll see!)

Tomorrow I'll be heading out to Tarjay early for Black Friday. After that, we may head to the park, maybe hook up with my mom or friends for lunch or dinner, and see a holiday flick.

I spoke to my mom this morning and she said she feels more in the spirit than usual, and she thinks its something to do with emphasis on meaning this holiday, instead of materialism. How's that for a silver lining in these economic times? Have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Relationship Building

Last year E and I took a parenting class called 'Raising a Resilient Child in the 21st Century.' It was awesome. Partway through the class we realized that it was really a class about building relationships, not just parenting. A lot of what we learned could be applied to all of the relationships in our lives. However, building relationships is the #1 key to parenting. Not rewards and punishments, sticker charts, etc. But listening, talking, playing and connecting with your children. There's more I'd like to say on this in another post. But what I've been thinking about is some of the homework assignments we had. One was to go on a 'one-on-one' date with your child. Another was to 'make a memory' with your child. Do something that they might remember forever (or at least for a really long time!) My challenge to myself beginning in Dec is going to be to do weekly one-on-one dates with P, and 'make a memory' with her once a month. Brainstorming (affordable) memory making ideas may be a bit tough, but it is very important to me (see my #1 Life Goal on sidebar) . Here's the kicker - I'm going to do the same thing with E! Although I think we will have to do a monthly date. Any ideas for memory making experiences for either? I'm in the market....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiday Card 2008

I thought about including this Halloween photo in our Christmas card....

Or this doozy, (of me in P's preschool class), gotta love the 'teacher face'....

But we went with this instead!

I don't love the ideas of 'studio' photos. I've always wanted to get a photographer to take some more natural photos of us, outside, etc. And I actually know a couple! Maybe that will be our route next year Anyway, after trying to find enough 'in focus' shots of the three of us, that didn't include random people, etc, in the background, we took the easy way out and headed to our local Picture People . We were partly motivated to get some nice shots of the Miss P in her flower girl dress (since we failed at the actual wedding). The card turned out great! (Better in 'real life') And you know what, we ended up getting such a great deal - not only was it the same price as my Kodak Gallery card mock-up, we had the actual cards in hand a couple of hours after the session. Instant gratification....
How is your card quest going?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not the best Haiku, but.....

Report cards almost done - yay
Turning off my mind
Magazines and TV - aahhhh

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I'll definitely be doing this December

Is it just me, or can preparing for the holidays almost feel like planning a small wedding each year?

I'm not really complaining. I actually love to plan, organize and take part in all of the festivities. I do think, though, that Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate in December) can be more enjoyable if you focus and savor the joys of just a few things, as opposed to doing everything. I read an article on simplifying Christmas last year that suggested determining what 3-5 things were most important to you and your family at holiday time, and doing just that.

Here are my must do's for making the holiday season special (some of them may seem a little silly or superficial, but, hey this is me!):

1) Christmas Music: I love Christmas movies. The ABC Family channel plays original cheesy Christmas movies each year that I typically eat up with a spoon and some hot chocolate. Sometimes, though, it feels a little forced. Like - 'Oh! It's December, better pull out the Christmas movies for the mandatory viewings.' That's not the case with my holiday songs. I love them so much that they are always at the top of my itunes 'most played list' -- even though I only listen for a month each year.

2) Christmas Cards: We missed sending out cards in '05, and I was sorely disappointed. I adore receiving cards, especially the 'family photo' style cards almost everyone does now. I even love getting the 'holiday letter' some people do. I have started saving my cards and putting them in a little scrapbook, which I occasionally look at.

3) Get-togethers with special family and friends: My school has a little holiday shindig (potluck at someone's house of course), and some of E's friends from high school throw a big party that is kind of like a reuinion every December. Both of these events are nice, but I could truthfully miss them and be OK. (One year, we were so starved for a date, that we did miss my school party and went to see 'The Holiday' with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz - which is now one of my favorite movies of all time, btw.) However, there are a few get-togethers that are really special to me. I have a few friends that I got my teaching credential with. Two of them teach in my district and are married with their own families now. We have a very special friendship and I really relish our annual little Christmas celebration. One has a son Miss P's age and I have a great pic from their first Christmas with the two of them in little red suits clawing at each other, while I laugh hysterically in the background.

It also wouldn't feel like Christmas without my aunt and uncle's party. Growing up, my family spent all its holidays with the relatives on my dad's side - we're talking every special day. As everyone has grown, changed, moved and branched out, that is not the case anymore. However, we still make it to my aunt and uncle's party which is now the weekend before Christmas each year. Spending time with the family I grew up with really says Christmas to me!

4) Special clothes: During these special get-togethers it's important that I (and Miss P) have something special to wear. Not necessarily fancy, just (subtle) festive, cute and appropriate.

5) Church and the true meaning. Finally, attending mass on Christmas Eve is a must-do (as well as pretty much every Sunday). As Miss P gets older (and now attends religious education), I have been really enjoying teaching her about the true meaning of holidays, and Christmas is a big one! Something new I'd like to add to this vein, is a way to give back to the community. We've done different things in the past. I've been talking to E and Miss P about this and I have a few ideas that I will be posting later.

What's on your list?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Celebrity Collage by MyHeritage

This is way fun! (Although the first couple of times I did it, I had several male 'lookalikes,' so don't feel too bad if that happens to you! Hee hee)

I heart Angie Harmon and Kristin Davis!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving Fun - Getting in the spirit

I'm looking for fun activities that demonstrate gratitude and celebrate Thanskgiving. What do you do with your family?

Some ideas I have brainstormed or collected thus far:

~Make Happy Thanksgiving cards (kid versions could have a 'hand turkey' on the front). Inside write a note telling someone how and why you appreciate them, maybe citing a specific example or story.

~Make a big turkey shape out of construction paper and hang it up. Write on construction paper feathers something each member of the family is thankful for. Ask visitors to add their own additions. Send feathers in advance to faraway relatives so that they can be added.

~Fill a thankful jar year round with strips of paper (in Autumn shades or Christmas colors) that list things you are thankful for. Open the jar and read them on Thanksgiving day and then make a paper 'thankful' chain to decorate the house or upcoming Christmas tree with.

Tomorrow I'll post some games the whole family can play, either to keep kiddos busy during feast preparations or to work off a bit of that turkey! Meanwhile, how do you practice gratitude?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fun and Games, or How to be the Life of Your Next Party

Oh, I wish I had taken a picture. Last night our playgroup had 'parents night out,' or a 'simultaneous girls and guys night out.' (Girls gathered in one half of the house, guys on the other.) Great times, but we decided to mix it up a bit and play some charades!

I love games. I'm the person who loves activities at showers and even makes parents (sometimes) play ice-breakers at Back to School Night. Oh, people good naturedly moan and groan at first, but, wouldn't you know - everyone is smiling and laughing and having fun in spite of themself within just a bit. I've always wanted to partake in a good old fashioned game of charades, and so last night was the night. The theme was movies and - thank God - I got the easy ones! (Top Gun, A fish called Wanda, Striptease, Full Metal Jacket, to name a few). We did girls against guys and then a 'couples speed round.' Too fun!

I got to thinking about some other games I've enjoyed and thought I'd share. I recommend this game on Thanksgiving while you are letting the turkey digest.

"Consequences." A friend from England taught me this game, and it is E's family's favorite. (some people have recipes, I have entertainment!) You need at least 6 people with a writing tool and piece of paper each. One person gives the 'writing prompts' and everyone passes their paper to the right. Here is how it goes:

1) Write down the name of a woman - someone everyone in the group knows. She can be famous or just familiar. Underneath her name, write the word 'met.' (Then pass to the right)

2) Write a man's name (same directions as with the woman). Underneath his name, write the word 'at.' (pass)

3) Write a place. Underneath write, 'He said to her.' (pass)

4) Write 'a saying.' Underneath that, write, 'She said to him.' (pass)

5) Write another saying. Underneath that, write, 'As a consequence....' (pass)

6) Write a consequence! (pass)

7) One at a time, each person reads their papers out loud.

This is great fun! After one round, each group will 'get it' and find a humor that fits them - from silly to 'R' rated. Great way to bring people together!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hooray for girlfriends!

Had a 'Surprise around the corner' this morning. Was barely awake when greeted by the ring of the telephone, meaning either 1) a work call, 2) emergency, or 3) a cheerful invitation from my fantastic (early rising) girlfriend. It was the latter! My dear friend A was up organizing breakfast, her hub had taken #1 son to school, and with 'just two' boys underfoot she thought it was a great opportunity to have us over for a quick impromptu date before #2's afternoon preschool. Miss P and I had been snuggling in bed. I was out late last night having an (always) glorious girls' evening. You know the mood I was in yesterday, my 'aunt' is in town, and dear Miss P is 'experimenting' with testing the limits, all which were not particularly helpful. Last night was renewing, and I had awoken determined to make today a wonderful day. I was aware that I've been letting other areas of my life (work, social engagements, desire for clean home) crowd my playtime with P and was determined to spend the day having fun with her.

Anyway, after I hung up, we quickly showered, dressed and grabbed some scones to contribute to the breakfast feast and finally made it by 9:00 a.m. The photo above shows Miss P with her friend M (A's #2 son - and exactly Miss P's age and 'lifelong friend.') Photo was not taken today but shows their bond! Anyway, A's #3 son was sleeping, so we had a relaxing breakfast of banana pancakes, bacon, scones and fruit. This girl rocks - let me tell you. A very rare friend - always generous, gracious, thoughtful, positive, and makes everyone feel comfortable.

Afterward we head to the Discovery Museum and then grocery-shopped. The day had a good balance of fun, together time, and getting things done.

I adore E and Miss P and they are my favorites to spend a day with, but there is just nothing like girlfriends! I have some of the greatest!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No room for error!

Brrr....we've had various types of weather in the last week and a half. Very warm, to very rainy, to now - cold! I am bundled as we speak.

I have not posted since Halloween as I've been trying to prioritze....I've been bellyaching about stuff that needs to get done, and I finally decided to do something about it! On Saturday (November 1st) we did a major cleaning blitz at home. Our 'secret' to a tidy house: Keep the visitor-trafficked areas (living/dining room, kitchen, guest bathroom, Miss P's room) respectable, while ignoring (not quite) the rest. I decided I didn't want to sleep with the paper shredder next to my bed anymore, so we kicked it's silver metal body out of the room along with E's bobblehead collection. (Bobblehead collection had been waiting in an oh-so-attractive brown box lid, along with a collage frame needing updated photos and a Giants poster. The collection of items had been waiting -- who knows how long -- to make a new home in E's classroom on some mystical future day. I intervened and 'arranged' for the box to move to E's car - unsure if bobbleheads have reached their destination yet.)

Anyway, when I figured out all the things I should be doing to stay on top of the multiple areas of my life at the level I would like to - home (and all that entails) and work (with a partner teacher, student teacher, and twenty families to answer to) - it's a bit daunting. I 'masquerade' as part-time, but it often feels like I'm trying to squeeze full-time work into three days. That's why sometimes it feels like there is no room for error. If I get off schedule, there seems to be a domino effect....and I have one child, and two days off a week! I am in admiration of moms who have mulitple children and full time jobs. (Secrets, anyone?)

When it is good, it is exhilerating to have such full and stimulating days. Other times it can feel a little overwhelming.

I am (trying) to read Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston. It talks about visualizing what you want, setting an intention, educating yourself about the changes you'd like to make, and then letting yourself shift naturally. I'm only on page 13, but it is resonating with me. Although I was talking about organization and workload above, I do think that is connected to health and wellness, as this book is about health from a mind, body, and spirit perspective.

So, I will find time to do more frequent and likely shorter posts, while forging ahead on what I need to get done. What I know for sure: it is all about how you look at it. Attitude is the key. Because life is what you make it!