Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 29, 2014

Love, Work, and Christmas

Work is love made visible.
Kahlil Gibran
I am tired.

I imagine there isn't a mother right now, on the 29th of December, who isn't.  Especially mothers of many children, especially mothers of little ones, and especially mothers of teenagers who stay up late.

This is the 21rst Christmas Jeff and I have celebrated together, and as we've added more and more children, I have gotten the hang of the season-I know what I will commit to and what I will say "no thank you" to. I have a system of keeping track of gifts, I can rival Mr. Claus (I should I say Mrs. Claus, we all know a woman is behind that well-oiled machine!) with my list twice-checked. I have whittled our traditions to the most beloved and satisfying.  I know what Mass time is the best fit for us, and I have my go-to teacher's gifts.  I love our messy tree, I remember the year long ago when I shed the yoke of magazine perfection, and realized, with relief, that in the end, the gift of many little hands helping, produced a 'rare and beautiful treasure' that makes that magazine perfection look cold and shallow.

So what was it with this Christmas I ask myself?  Why did I feel so behind this December, and so tired and so overwhelmed, doubtful of our traditions, a little resentful that most of the work falls to me, and well, honestly, a little crabby?  Was it wrong to give children who have so much, more, especially with all the work involved in doing so?  That guilt was feeding my resentment, confusing the meaning of Christmas in my already tired, and exhausted head. In turn I struggled with guilt for feeling this way-I told myself I have so much, I am so lucky, I will never get this year back, what of the dear family who lost their son in a car accident just weeks ago, who am I to be anything but joyful, all my children are here and alive and good (not perfect, but good!), I have a hard-working husband who will do anything for us, and SNAP OUT OF IT for God's sake alive, what is wrong with you?  But still...why must the baby (not a baby, she is two) decide to not take naps now?  Why must everyone takes turns getting sick this month?  Why must my husband's work be more time consuming at the end of the year right when I need help more than ever?   Around and around my thoughts churned and my mood reflected those thoughts.

And then, a few days before the big day, I felt my heart changing. It was something I heard-I can't even remember where-maybe it was the Catholic radio station I listen to during my quick errands, or the homily at one of the Advent masses, or maybe it was something I read.  It was a message of the greatest gift given ever- freely, with no heavy sighing, with no resentment or doubting, with no tallying, with no questions asked, with nothing, nothing, in return.

Here is my Son.  For you.

It was my job to buy and wrap some presents, put together some celebratory dinners and bake cookies, decorate a tree, hang some lights, and set up a nativity scene in celebration of that greatest gift.  It was minuscule in comparison, the work I was doing, to celebrate a gift I could never ever imagine giving.  At home here, I was reminded that as mother I have the awesome opportunity to imitate the gift at Christmas for my family-to give as selflessly, joyfully, peacefully, tirelessly, completely as I can.      

It wasn't any new information, and I imagine when I am in the thick of December I will need the reminder every year for the rest of my life.

I am doing God's work, and it's big.

When I take that into account I am gentler with my expectations of myself and I know that come December, tired is good.

Work is love made visible.

Christmas is work for us mothers, some years more than other but in working we experience the authenticity of the meaning of love.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Lay It On Me Again, Will You?"

I posted this column three years ago and thought it was worth another post.  This month can be an overwhelming time for moms, especially those with many children.  I love this little reminder...oh boy, I need it this week!  It always makes me cry-and gain some new much needed perspective.

An Erma Bombeck Column:

A young mother writes: "I know you've written before about the empty-nest syndrome -- that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?"


One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!"

And they will.

Or, "You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do ... and don't slam the door!"

And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy -- bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way."

And it will.

You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company."

And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say: "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?" And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti.

No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms.

No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps.

No more clothespins under the sofa.

No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent.

No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathrooms.

No more iron-on patches, wet, knotted shoestrings, tight boots, or rubber bands for ponytails.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.

No PTA meetings.

No car pools.

No blaring radios.

No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night.

Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste.

No more sloppy oatmeal kisses.

No more tooth fairy.

No giggles in the dark.

No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?"

and the silence echoing, "I did."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Favorite Christmas Books

I am a little picky about Christmas books so we don't have much more than a dozen. (Please leave me some suggestions!)

My favorite are the classic ones from my childhood, and the Nativity books with beautiful pictures.
I think the books we grow up with are so impressionable-they form the images in our mind of what Santa looks like, and Jesus in the manger, and elves, and the wisemen.  Does it seem overly-thoughtful that I want to "choose" these images for my children?  I think it might, but I still choose carefully.
The Night Before Christmas -The one illustrated by Leaonard Weisgard on the right is my favorite.
Frosty the Snowman- I am working on getting my hands on the vintage Golden Book version of this story, but this one with vintagey-illustrations will do.

I have a Golden Book collection and a few more (like the Frosty one) on my wishlist.

My mom bought this years ago (she is the best book picker-outer) for my kids and they love this story.  Beautiful illustrated and just the right amount of words in this version of the classic fairy tale.

I love this book because it is tells the traditional story, with beautiful illustrations.  

Another beautifully illustrated book.  Mothers will love this book because Mary tells the story.

We love I Spy books.  They hurt my eyes but they are also so addicting.  Once I start a page I have to finish all the searching.

And of course, my all time favorite:
(It is out of print, so if you want one for yourself, you'll have to search a little.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guest Post -Affordable Gifts for Teen Girls

Shopping for teenagers is definitely harder than other ages (I would know, I am one) and one of the biggest problems is not knowing exactly what they want.  If you're stuck on this and need a few ideas, these are some of my favorite things that I have gotten, and some things I am asking for this year!

1. Headphones. Definitely a broad topic. My favorite are the brand Skullcandy .  Lots of styles, affordable, and great quality! Pink and purple are my go-to colors.

2. Something that I am in desperate need (okay, want, sorry Mom) of this year, this iPod adapter thingy for an older car like the one Isaac and I share.  Because radio music can get old too fast when they play the same songs over and over...

3.The Wet Brush Detangle Brush . Last time I went to the salon, the lady who trimmed my hair suggested this because my hair is so long and gets tangled so easy. It works wonders.

4. OPI and Essie nail polish. great quality and true to color. New favorite colors: Gargantuan Green Grape by OPI (minty green) and Mango Bango by Essie. You can find Essie at Target and OPI at salons and makeup stores like Sephora and Ulta.

5. A subscription to InStyle magazine.  Full of great ideas, new trends, fashion advice, cool pictures, and classy clothes!  Once I am finished reading a magazine, I look through it and cut out pictures that inspire me and my style and collage them onto my doors.

6.  These hair ties from American Eagle are a cute way to finish off an outfit, not to mention that they won't leave marks in your hair after taking them out!  My friend wears them on her wrist as cute sporty bracelets too.

7.  Jean jacket!  The style staple for the season, its a no-brainer! I received this one from American Eagle for a birthday gift and love it.

8.  I asked for these Sperrys this year:
Women's Bahama Boat Shoe
9.  A great easy gift: iTunes card.  ALWAYS appreciate getting new music!

10. Every girl needs something Vera Bradley! Such cute patterns and very durable. I use my bag for everything, school, shopping, etc.  (Sometimes I see these at TJ Maxx for a great price!)

11. And when I don't feel the need to lug around my big purse, I love this wristlet:
It doubles as a wallet but it fits my phone and has another little pocket for small makeup items! Perfect for football games or parties. I found it here.

12. Another car accessory but a great stocking stuffer: A car clip air freshener like this one from Bath &  Body Works.  When Isaac hid bacon scented air fresheners in our car after he left for college, this helped like crazy to make the car actually breathable again.  My favorite scent is Island Margarita but there are so many to choose from!

13. One of my absolute favorite Christmas presents last year from my grandma was this Color Daze Blockbuster from Sephora. For girls that love experimenting with makeup and trying new techniques, this set comes with it all: Mascara, blush, eyeliners, lip gloss, eyeshadow, luminizer, and brushes. It could also be a good starter kit.

14. Pink yoga pants and leggings are definitely on my list for this year.  So comfortable and easy to slip on after a long day of school.

15.  A jewelry organizer is a must-have for a cluttery closet! This one hangs anywhere and is two-sided.  I found mine at T.J. Maxx.

Hope this helps!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Toy Ideas: Our Favorites

Here's an updated list of our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

I know that finding good, classic stuff can be hard...there is just SO much straight-out junk for kids in the stores today.

I do end up spending a little more on good stuff, but to me it's worth it, because it just gets handed down from sibling to sibling (I've had 18 years of Santa visits at our home already!), and really really played with-it's not just broken and thrown away.  I have always loved adding to our collections (and always have something to offer when those relatives ask, "What should we get them?)...whether that collection be Legos, or a train set, or Magna Tiles.

If you have some family favorites of your own, please let me know-I love suggestions.
Our family favorite books and games are here and here.

Patrick loves this puzzle-I think it was his most-played-gift last year.  

Everyone should have a big ugly plastic basketball hoop in their living room, don't you think?
I don't mind it as much when I think of all the energy the four boys burn during the 5 long months of winter.
We've tried a few different brands but this one has been the only one that has really held up to all the dunking it endures daily.

A great marble run that comes with a nice booklet of different configurations.  (I have to help Patrick with this one-Andrew who is nine can figure it out on his own.)

This is another really cool marble run that the boys get really creative with.  I often find it wrapped around my living room.

We've had this forever and it's about the only toy that makes noise that I don't mind.

Patrick and Andrew were introduced to Playmobil by their cute neighbor friends.  
Legos will always be a favorite of ours, but this collection is a little relief from the thousands of little pieces and parts, while still being "buildable" and great quality.  
They decided to start with the popular dragon land sets.

Ripstiks are probably one of the favorite outdoor toys we've purchased.  They do take some co-ordination and core muscles to master-which means it takes kids about 5 minutes to figure out.

Andrew's big birthday present this year was the Razor Electric Scooter.  He was SO excited about it, and uses it to patrol the neighborhood. 

This basic ancient scooter has suffered so much abuse from all ages of children, poor thing, but it has endured it all.

For teenagers, a longboards are all the rage.  

This particular one has just the right amount of spring.  I think Andrew's record is several hundred, no joke. It gives me a headache just watching him.

I don't even remember who asked for this once, but it's now in Patrick's closet hiding his treasures.  He loves that it is all under lock and key.  The kids have used it to play store too.

This maze is a great toy for bored kids.  From Isaac to Patrick, it's been a hit.

A nice reader left a comment about this toy being a favorite with her sports-crazy boy and I bought it for Patrick and he plays with it constantly. He is always setting up games-one time I thought he was cleaning up because all the guys were in a big pile, but he corrected me and told me he was just waiting while they all fought over the ball.  
His Christmas/birthday list this year asks for the Football Guys and the Hockey Guys .    
(I love that each of the sets comes in its own box.)

Magna-Tiles   A few of you asked me what in the world these cool blocks are when I posted this picture in one of my Ordinary Day posts.
Patrick and Andrew probably play with these the most out of any toy we own.  Honestly, they are really irresistible even to me.  All the sides of each tile are magnetized so they click together.  We bought the 32 piece set,  but this year I'm going all out and getting the 100 piece set which I would have bought in the beginning had I known this was going to be an all time favorite.

The boys also love Zoobs. We have thiscase of them.  They come with a huge set of instructions for all different types of models.  Andrew loves these (he is 8.)  Patrick (almost 4) just started being able to snap them together. Andrew is asking Santa for the Zoob car designer kit.

Build A Road set-It has little cars that DO need a battery in them just so you know, but the batteries seem to last forever, and the cars really zip around.  The kids can snap the track into all different configurations.  k.

Magna Doodle-A cheap old magna doodle has always been a favorite with each of the kids.  Patrick and I play a game where I draw something and then he guesses what it is and then he draws something and I guess.  I never get it right, go figure, and he loves that.

 Kapla blocks -My parents had a set of these at their house last year and at first I thought, "What's the big deal with a whole set of little planks?"  Well, my kids (and my husband!!!) played for hours with these things and Santa brought us our own set.  It takes concentration and skill to build with these blocks.  The set comes with a big book of ideas.

Scoot N Shoot Indoor Soccer with 2 Goals
This year's all time favorite-thank you Aunt Tracy! It has gotten many a boy tired before bed time and my boys playing together-ages 17-3. It comes with 2 nets and a different that has a flat side so it doesn't sail in the air.  What a great invention!  Except that my children, because they know I will only get mad if I hear lamps fall, use a little "real" soccer ball. There is a game at my house (in my living room) almost every evening...the furniture pushed back, teams chosen, and sweaty kids rolling everywhere.  I go hide in the den.
PlasmaCar-Andrew and Patrick wore this thing out with miles and miles of riding.  They would also wear out the tops of their shoes with miles and miles of dragging, but I didn't mind.  That energy burning exercise is all I'm looking for.

Drawing books and sketch pads.  Once in awhile Michaels will have a 50% sale for their nice sketchbooks.  I have found all sorts of drawing books at book stores.  

A vintage typewriter from Ebay.  Abbey loved this when she was younger and her friends did also.  Make sure you get one that comes with tape-they don't sell that at Office Max anymore. :)

Vintage Fisher Price (from Ebay also.)  They don't make them like they used to.

Paper Fashions Klutz book-One of Abbey's all time favorites- she played with it from about 3rd grade till about 6th grade.  (I have seen this book at Michaels also.) She received it with a big sketch book and a little pair of scissors-it comes with the all the cute paper.  She filled a big folder with fashion designs.  Aren't they cool?  When I was pregnant with Patrick she did a couple maternity designs for me.  How cute is that?

Shrink Art Jewelry Kit-Abbey also loved this craft book. She even had a little business going in 7th grade selling earrings to her classmates.  I spent many an evening, baking shrinky earrings, thinking, "Oh boy what did we get into here?"  She loved it though and could hardly keep up!

Snap Circuits -Matt (12) has always loved these and I saw Andrew (8) had it out the other day.  I have never figured it out but the kids seem to be able to make things work.  I know they've tricked me with a door bell sound before.

The Razor Rip-Rider-This thing is crazy and gives me a heart attack but all the kids love it.  It goes really fast and the wheels in the back allow you to spin in circles.  We've gotten lots of use out of it.

Of course Legos are a huge favorite here.  My favorite is the Eiffel Tower that Matt built.  I am glad that we bought it when we did because it now sells for $1,189.  No joke.   I think Andrew's favorites are the Star Wars Lego and Lego City series.  I can't imagine life without Legos.  As you can see, they can quickly take over a room.

Jumbo Zoo Animals-This is a cheap little set of BIG zoo animals.  It's really hard to find big models of animals and I searched high and low.  These go in the bath tub, the pool, the sandbox.  Sometimes it seems that they all get along so well, and sometimes there are a few battles.

Zingo-One of my favorite games to play with Patrick, and all the kids enjoyed it through the years.

Duplos-Especially the Thomas the Train duplos.  Some of these blocks are 17 years old, no kidding.  All the kids, even Abbey, played with these.

Trains, of course!  This collection started 17 years ago and I just love it.  We started with the most basic set (and I think it was maybe just a Melissa and Doug-not a Thomas brand) and added to slowly and surely over the years.  Even with all the boys, I think it was one of Abbey's all time most played with set.  I just love those little Thomas characters.

Groovy Girls   Abbey loved these little rag dolls! She had some of the clothes that are made for them, but she would often just sew or pin her own together out of little quilting quarters I would pick up, or just plain felt.  Her and her friends would put together the cutest little outfits on these girls.

Here's some things that wind up in our stockings on Christmas  morning.  It's funny because lots of these things you can just find during your weekly grocery shop.  Mrs. Claus I'm sure is in charge of this aspect of Christmas. :)
-flashlights/headlamps for reading in bed
-new pens and pencils for school
-cheap gloves (the kind that cost $1)
-gum/breath fresheners
-socks and underwear
-for girls: little make up items, hair bands and ties, nail polish
-new toothbrushes
-card games
-ITunes gift cards