Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Review and New Year’s Eve Thoughts

Christmas is over, and I (barely) survived.  Every year I say that I am not going to let myself get burnt out from the season, and every year I end up stumbling around in my jammies until all hours of the day wondering what the hell just happened.

In addition to some holiday drama, there were a few things that made this Christmas season especially challenging.

We sold our home.

first home mommy on the spot

We moved into myparents’ house.

multicultural living mommy on the spot

We moved into our newhome.

new home mommy on the spot

We celebrated 10 years of marriage.

10 year anniversary mommy on the spot

The kids have had some trouble adjusting to all of the newness.

I also started a new job and created 2 new courses which made me realize that I am no longer a full-time stay-at-home-mom.

New job mommy on the spot

I presented at the Rochester Writers’ Conference.

Rochester Writers' Conference presenter mommy on the spot

I’ve been on Live in theD Moms’ Panel.

Live in the D with Karen Drew mommy on the spot

Basically, 2013 was all about transition.

Most of these things are wonderful opportunities for which we are grateful. But I am not going to lie; it was a lot of hard work.  It wasn’t like we waved our magic wand, and suddenly we had a new house or a new course appeared.

We pushed ourselves in a lot of ways, and I feel proud of what we accomplished, but I am exhausted.


And in the face of all this pushing, I can tell you that I was not very nice to myself. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt as I figured out working part time mostly from home.  I felt responsible for Marie’s difficult transition.

So as I figure out what I want to do for resolutions for next year, I have decided to go with a theme for 2014, which was inspired by The Huffington Post Healthy Living post.

I originally thought “strength,” but that sounded more fitness orientated.  Then I thought “joy,” but I thought that sounded too generic.

Then, as I was folding laundry after going grocery shopping and managing the kids with their screen time, I was struck with this thought: I need to be more kind to myself.

Maybe that looks like sleeping in instead of going for that run.

Maybe that looks like going for that run instead of chilling in front of the TV.

Maybe that looks like cooking a really delicious meal or maybe it is getting take out.

Being creative makes me happy so I think I will finally devote some time to learn how to make iMovies and do that BritCo Skill Share workshop that I signed up for in December.

Being kind to myself requires me to be present and really listen to what I need rather than what I think I can push myself to do.  And that, in and of itself, is a challenge for me. 

I feel that our family has been through a lot of changes, and we could all benefit from a focus on kindness.

Yes, kindness is my theme for 2014.

What are your goals for 2014?  Do you have a theme?  Or are you more of a resolution person?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Traditions: A Letter to my Kids

Dear Thomas and Marie,

It is almost Christmas, and although this season is a lot of work, I would not trade it for anything in the world.

I love our traditions.

One year I had to get Marie out of the house because the fumes from our freshly painted basement was too much. I cranked up the heat in the car and took you for a drive around the neighborhood in your jammies to look at lights. The tradition stuck, and we now listen to Christmas music in our jammies as we drive around and look at lights.

I look forward to baking cookies with you and decorating them with Nana and Papa. This tradition was handed down to you since I used to bake cookies with Nana.

December 2009. Look at those cheeks.

December 2011. This face!

I love how we always get dressed in Christmasy clothes and write letters to Santa at Macy's. This tradition was created because you were both too scared to sit on Santa's lap. We eat in the mall food court before finishing up Christmas shopping for daddy. 

December 2012: This is one of my most favorite photos of them in the
history of their photos. Which is a lot of photos.

Our new Christmas Eve tradition of putting on our new Christmas jammies, watching a Christmas movie while eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate is one of my favorites. It is cozy and relaxing and so different than any thing I ever experienced as a kid. I enjoy this maybe a pinch more than the highly coveted Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve 2012. Hot Chocolate through a straw.
And by hot, I really mean lukewarm chocolate milk.

I cherish these rituals that are perfect for our little family.

I try to memorize how your little bodies feel all snuggled up under the favorite brown, fleecy blanket while we watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

I record your giggles as you sneak the chocolate chips meant for the Hello, Dolly bars because you didn't think I heard you.

In my mind, I etch the excited look on your faces as you find each house with lights the most amazing house in the whole entire world.

I realize how fleeting this time is, and one day you may not want to wear Christmas jammies and drink hot chocolate with me. 

 And one day, if you decide to have a family of your own, we may not even be able to see each other on Christmas. This, of course, will be sad for me, but I want you to remember this: I will be fine.  I mean, you don't have to be jerks to me, but just know that I understand as life evolves, so do traditions.

Our traditions are based on being together because we love to be together. Not guilt. Not out of obligation.  Nothing sucks the joy out of Christmas than feeling stifled to keep a tradition that no longer fits.  I mean, how ridiculous would it be if we still were writing letters to Santa when you're 25, right?

Being a part of your lives will always be important to me, and because of that, I promise that I will not get hung up on the tradition that it becomes more important than the people who are celebrating.

Also, I am writing this as you are both only 4 and 7 years old, but I know how frustrating it can be to incorporate new and old traditions together.  Feel free to show me this because I know that I will want to buy you Christmas jammies (and calling them jammies) forever.

Love your favorite Christmas elf, 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Motivational Mondays: Christmas Cheer and My Favorite Christmas Songs

This is it: the last big push before Christmas.

I have had two marathon weekends of shopping. I broke my rule never to go to Costco on a Sunday, let alone a Sunday during the holiday season.

I’m fighting off a cold.

I’m wrapping up the fall semester.

Basically, I am feeling the light at the end of the tunnel is never going to appear.

I need a serious dose of motivation this Monday.

I do not like that I am not fully in the Christmas spirit so I chose this quote.  I love it because it is true.

Here is my classic list of favorite Christmas music to cheer me up. Yes, it is the same list I published a few years ago.  But that is because these songs are my classic Christmas mix.

What are your favorite holidays tunes  that bring on Christmas cheer?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Never Say Never: Elf on the Shelf

I vividly remember when the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon hit the stores, I vehemently declared that it would never enter our home.  First of all, it is creepy.  This little elf spies on you all day and comes creeping around at night when you sleeping? Who knows where it will end up? In your room? Next to you? While you are sleeping? Kind of sounds like the horror film Chucky, no?

The Elf on the Shelf pretty much stood for everything I was against: motivation by scare tactics instead of teaching kids to be self-aware and value kindness. I don't want my kids to make good choices because they are afraid to make wrong choices; I want them to make good choices because it feels good.

But saying never is such an armature parenting move. The first rule in parenting club is never say never. (Said like brad Pitt in Fight Club).

So why did I break down and let Elf on the Shelf wander its way into your home?

Ever so slightly, I could see that glimmer of magic start to fade from Marie's eyes.  

She was trying a little too hard to sound excited about writing letters to Santa.  

I saw a dash of doubt across her face when talking about kids who might not believe in Santa.

She is in the 2nd grade, people! In my book, that is way too young to not fully buy into the magic of Santa.

So I sold my soul to the devil and bought an Elf on the Shelf.  Marie expressed hope that one would arrive at our house, and just like the movie, it appeared on our doorstep on December 1st.

Her eyes twinkled as she carefully opened the box and read the story to Thomas. She had her name all picked out in hopes of his arrival: Snowball.

Ah, poor Thomas.  He has had to take one for the team. He looked at the Elf as an evil, little imp.  He did not like the 24-hour surveillance system that would report all of his not-so-good choices back to Santa.  He was scared it would appear in his room (I totally get this fear). He named it Poopy Pants in retaliation and defiance: no elf is going to change him!

But he slowly came around. He has quietly read his wish list to Snowball Poopy Pants. He has told him when he thinks I'm being mean.  He's working on making his peace.

Today, Snowball wrote the kids a note telling them all the good things he has seen them doing with gentle reminders to practice kindness and pick up their toys.  Their eyes sparkled as they witnessed a bit of Christmas magic, but they also looked so proud of all the nice things Snowball said about them.

Elf on the Shelf Mommy on the Spot
Besides Snowball eating popcorn, this has been the only other "creative" thing he has  done.
Usually he can be found doing something very non-Pinteresty, like hanging from a light or on a shelf.

Not only am I making my peace with Snowball, but I think he has bought me at least one year of Santa magic.

Yes, I sacrificed my parenting values for a shot to keep Marie's awe and faith in Christmas magic embedded in her childhood.

Small price, I think.

Have you ever said never on a firm parenting belief?