Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas: It Happened

Well, the Christmas spirit never truly arrived in our house this year, but it didn't stop us from having a really nice day. We all got sick in the last few days leading up to the 25th, which resulted in an extremely low-key day. No one woke up too early, presents were a big hit and overall I'd say it was one of our better Christmases. We hosted our annual Boxing Day party on the 26th and with 16 people, half of whom were under the age of 7, it was truly chaos (in the best possible way). We had all of Christmas taken down and packed away for next year by mid-day on the 26th, which is our scrooge-y Harris way. Love, love, love the buildup, love Christmas Day and then LOVE putting it all the heck away. I feel lucky that C and I agree on this...I can imagine it would be a big point of contention if that wasn't the case.

Low-key is really the best way to describe the whole season this year. I did a good job of sticking to the things I really wanted to do (and even skipped a few on the planned list because when it came down to it I just didn't have the energy). The kids' break from school has actually been a really welcome chance to hunker down at home and just have some lazy days playing with new toys, reading new books and staying in out of the cold. This usually makes me absolutely stir-crazy, but I guess the pace of December in general set me up nicely to enjoy a long winter's break.

Tonight we are going to a NYE party, the duration of our stay at which is unknown at this point. I'm 95% certain we won't be there at midnight (I really don't like staying up late and I kind of can't imagine the kids' behavior tomorrow after that sort of departure from normal schedule) but I'm trying VERY hard not to be too rigid and remember that it's just once a year.

I've never really been a big fan of New Year's Eve (did I mention I don't like staying up late?) but it feels good to take a slightly more celebratory approach this year, rather than the last holiday to "get through." I feel very fortunate not to be bidding 2012 good riddance...I always appreciate the fresh start of a new year but in general 2012 was a great year for our family.

I definitely have a list of tasks/goals/directions I'd like to focus on during the next year, and I plan to come back and write them out (since I know you're all DYING to know) in the next couple of days. Luckily there's nothing that needs such acute focus over the next 365 days that it requires a January 1 start date.

I wish you all a wonderful end to the year, whether it's with a glass of champagne in your pajamas at 10:00 (and I am already envious of those of you celebrating in this manner) or in a slinky party dress as the ball drops at midnight. Here's to a wonderful coming year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spreading the Word

I was shopping in Bath & Body Works the other day (apparently I like to smell like a 12-year-old girl) and while browsing the shelves, an employee of the store came over to me. "Hi," she said enthusiastically, "have you found your faith?"

Now, I'm no stranger to being approached by people wishing to share their gospel with me, but I have to say this was the first time it had ever happened in this setting.

"Excuse me?", I said, a bit startled.

She repeated herself. "Have you found your faith?"

I didn't really know how to respond to this particular line of inquiry while I was examining body scrubs, so I just stared at her blankly. Her face mirrored my feeling of confusion and I could almost hear her thinking, "what's your problem lady?"

"Your favorite scent?" she tried one more time.

OOOOOHHHHHHHH, my FAVE. Yes, thanks for your help.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sugar Plum Fairy

I took Brighton to see The Nutcracker on Saturday. Honestly, I didn't really want to. I felt pretty depressed and angry after Friday's news* and nothing felt like the "right" thing to do. As it turned out, it was a really nice thing to do that day. The production we saw was small and the cast was primarily kids. It was comforting to see something lovely and familiar and escape for just a little while.

I mentioned that I wasn't going to take Pacey. He'd have been bored out of his mind so he got to spend the afternoon with his friend Kyle, having cake for Kyle's birthday and going sledding. Pretty much his best day ever.

Brighton really blew me away with her behavior and enjoyment of the whole thing. She was literally on the edge of her seat for most of the first act and only really got wiggly about 10 minutes before the end. At one point she leaned over and "whispered" (in that wonderful way kids do when they don't quite get the purpose of whispering, "I love you very, very so much Mom." She loved watching the tiniest dancers (as did I) and has been putting on ballet shows with her two Barbies at home since then. I really hope it's something she'll look forward to doing every year during the holidays, just as I did as a kid.

* I don't have any coherent thoughts about this horrific act that I want to write here. I'm angry (so angry) and ashamed that these things keep happening in this country. I'm so grateful for my family's safety and health, and equally grateful that the kids are too young to need to know anything about this. I deeply, deeply hope that we can start to talk about some really big changes that need to be made.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Checking the List

My list, that is, not Santa's.

I thought it might be a good time to check in on my To Do List for the year to see how much I've accomplished over the past 12 months. I've spent exactly 0 minutes thinking about what will go on my list for 2013, so this seems as good a place to start as any.

1. Actively practice random acts of kindness. 

Hmm, I'd say I sort of fulfilled this item. I think I made more active efforts to this end in the first half of the year, but I'd like to think that I am always subconsciously aware of ways I can help people. I think this will stay on the list for next year.

2. Read 50 books, at least five of which are nonfiction, and keep a list. 

Check! I mentioned that I decided to re-join Goodreads and that is where I'm keeping track of titles I finish (and also those I abandon). I have discovered a love of memoirs, so fulfilling the nonfiction requirement was easier than I thought. I still don't tend to branch out from what I know I like, but since I read for pleasure I'm going to be ok with that.

3. Continue this blog.

Well I've definitely continued writing, that's for sure. My archives say that I blogged 108 times last year and 120 times this year, which was awesome until I realized I didn't start posting until May last year. I am going to think about what sort of specific goal I can set for myself to keep things rolling next year.

4. Find a place for regular, structured exercise in my weekly schedule.

I give myself a B- on this one. I had some great months and some not so great months. I did stay very active on the whole, and I discovered at least one class at my gym that I found extremely motivating and effective. I guess the fact is that while healthy living in general is always on my mind and affects my choices, I just can't always prioritize the structured exercise. Overall, I'm not beating myself up on this.

5. Go paperless wherever possible.

Fail. Fail, fail, big fat fail. I am still showing significant financial support for the postal service.

6. Continue to make connections and nurture friendships.

I absolutely scored high on this this year. I've made new and deeper connections through my position as president of the MOMS Club, and I find myself going out of my way to connect with people, however briefly, throughout my day. One of the coolest things I've seen happen this year is the various areas of my life becoming interconnected. Moms I know from the MOMS Club have kids in therapies at the same time as Pacey and we get to catch up there. Moms I know from swimming lessons have kids at our schools, new people we meet live in our neighborhood. It just makes me feel like part of such a community and I love it.

7. Potty-train my daughter and enjoy some diaper-free days. 

I like how I worded this..."diaper-free days." As worded, complete success! I am still purchasing two sizes of pull-ups that get worn to bed. B has been dry in the morning for probably six months now but she feels more comfortable in a pull-up (fine with me, I feel more comfortable sleeping without the risk of midnight sheet changes!). P hasn't shown any of the signs of physical maturity allowing for night dryness and I couldn't be less bothered by it (nor could he). So I can absolutely say that diaper days are behind us for these two in all ways I actually care about.

8. Complete the plan we hatched to redesign our downstairs space. 

This actually got accomplished really quickly. By the time my mom visited in March I was putting the finishing touches on the kids' new playroom. Chris has really enjoyed having his little pub down there and a bonus has been that we actually use the family room a lot more in the evenings after the kids are in bed. A definite success.

9. Continue to take the kids to the library once a week(ish). 

Another one I can say we definitely achieved! It helped that I really got the request system down through the online catalog and I probably averaged a book or so a week coming in for me, which provided extra motivation to fit our trips in. We discovered a different branch that is huge and gorgeous and serves as a great free afternoon-filler. And I would say that the number of books I purchased this year is probably fewer than ten which is a HUGE improvement on past years (since I am not one who likes to keep books). The kids have a great understanding of what behavior is expected at the library, can check out their own books using the self-serve stations, and I think we will go get their own library cards over winter break.

10. Avoid complacency in my marriage. 

I guess the best I can say here is that there is always room for improvement, but I think we're ending the year in a happy place. It's been an eventful 12 months and while we didn't have as many date nights alone as we might have, I do think we found some new and fun things to do as a family which in turn strengthened our relationship. Our 10-year anniversary is coming up next spring and I think an item on next year's list will be to make sure we give it proper recognition and celebration.

So not a bad year altogether. I wish I'd checked in on this more frequently, but it seems like I stayed on track regardless.

How'd you do on your resolutions this year?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Snowy Day

We received a blanketing of 16 inches of snow over the weekend, turning everything into winter overnight. Although I don't love snow, it'd definitely reached the point where if it's going to be cold there might as well be snow to play in.

The temps were too cold for the kids to play outside at school Monday morning (the cut off is 0 degrees with the windchill) but we bundled up in the afternoon and went out to shovel off the deck. Hooray for child labor! One child was genuinely helpful while the other preferred to throw large chunks of snow onto areas I'd already shoveled. 50% isn't bad...

This child is an absolute snow bunny. She'd stay out for hours if allowed.

"Ornaments" according to B

He doesn't love the cold quite as much...

Snow cap on the smoker

Proof I went outside at least once this winter

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Few Words About the Girl

I wrote not that long ago about how we seemed to be in a really hard phase with Brighton. I wouldn't exactly say that it is always smooth sailing with her now, but she does seem to be a little more in control of her emotions (provided she's not overly tired or hangry) and is generally much more pleasant to be around.

She still talks SO much. When she's not talking, she's singing a narration of whatever she might be doing at the time. It's all sort of charming for the first couple of hours of the day but by evening my eardrums are bleeding and I'm fantasizing about solitary confinement.

Her imagination is running absolutely wild right now. She loves pretend play and loves nothing more than for me to participate. If by participate I mean follow an exact script she feeds to me line by line. She can be rather...bossy. Pacey is very cooperative, until he's not, and then she comes to me to ask me how she can command him to follow orders.

Right now she is in the guest bathroom with her giraffe-topped whisk, making her "famous soup." This involves filling up the sink with water, adding copious amounts of nice hand soap and whisking it into a froth. It will be ready in five minutes, she tells me.

She is a competitor. The kids BEG to play games, which I keep guarded in an off-limits closet - partly because I can't stand the thought of the pieces being spread throughout the house, but mostly because I don't love playing games and they still need supervision for most of them - and every now and then I relent and we play a few rounds. The other day Brighton was trailing behind in a particular game and she got very upset, saying she didn't want to play any more (since she projected that she wouldn't win). We had the usual talk about being a good sport, how winning wasn't everything, blah blah blah, and she looked at me, deadly serious and said, "But mom, it's so important!" Oh, my husband's daughter she is.

When she's upset with me, she gives me this look:

It's comically impudent, but she also tells me frequently and unprompted how much she loves me, so I forgive her.

Better go, I have to go sample some soap bubble soup.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

'Tis the Season

We kicked off our holiday festivities this past weekend with a visit to Santa Claus and a sleigh ride out to a picturesque tree farm visit to Home Depot to select our Christmas tree.

I don't have a huge amount to say about the whole thing except that this was the first year I felt like the kids were into it, willing to participate, had a great time and generally weren't huge pains in the a$$. So, parents of the two-and-unders: It Gets Better.

Enjoy a few pictures while I go run some barf laundry. 'Cause that's what it's really the season for: highly contagious stomach viruses.

Santa Fail. Seriously Big Guy, what were you
looking at?!?

Ice Princess

Why yes, that Batman mask (?) was as hideously messy as you are

In direct contrast to last year - when Chris made the poor Home Depot lady
unwrap about 20 trees - this was the first one we looked at. It's a beaut.