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The Reality Of The Perfect Christmas

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I remember the holidays when I was a little kid. We watched Christmas movies on our only TV when they came on one of the 6 channels we got because my dad refused to pay for cable- but only if dad wasn’t already watching something. My mom made us hot cocoa from the packets- sans marshmallows because the ones with marshmallows were a dollar more. We went to one family Christmas party on Christmas Eve after church and all the other holiday parties were adult only. On Christmas morning we woke up to our unwrapped presents separated into piles for each of us (thanks Santa). We had a couple of hours to enjoy them before being forced into our frilly Christmas dresses and beginning what my sister and I now refer to as the Holiday Parade of Homes through 4-5 relatives homes where we would be shuffled off to play with cousins or dogs while our parents enjoyed wine (mom) and scotch on the rocks (dad) with the adults. See back then Christmas was not all about how to create the perfect, magical Christmas for the kids.

Fast forward to the current day.

Pinterest is clogged with 10,546 creative ideas for Elf on the Shelf to delight your kids, 999 extravagant holiday recipes to make at home with your kids, 6500 new family traditions to start immediately so as to not spoil childhood for your kids, 498 ways to make your gift wrapping stand out, and 1.4 million holiday crafts to do with your little cherubs. Christmas has become a whole thing dedicated to creating the perfectly staged Instagram and Facebook posts to show friends, family, and complete strangers that you are a family (and mom) to be envied.

No more. I’m saying no to the pressure to frantically manufacture Christmas magic, to send the perfect holiday cards, to all the things that everyone says you must do to create the perfect Christmas season for your kids. I’m saying no to pushing and forcing and making my family participate in all the activities that society today deems necessary for a picture perfect Christmas. I’m saying no to using Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook as guidelines for what I should be doing this holiday season. I’m saying no.

Instead, we will focus on what matters most to us. We will drink hot cocoa from a packet- with marshmallows because we’re not savages. We will lounge in our comfy fleece pajamas in front of a fire watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We will make Christmas cookies from refrigerated dough and enjoy every bite. We will decline most holiday party invitations in favor of quiet family nights at home. We will blast our favorite Christmas songs and sing along. There will be no perfect Christmas cards, no outrageous elf antics, no 4 hours spent waiting to spend 20 minutes driving through Christmas town to see lights, no 5 course holiday meals, no matching family pajamas, no expertly decorated Christmas trees or mantles, no Clark Griswold-esque outdoor light displays.

I’m not sending any Christmas cards this year. I can no longer justify spending hundreds of dollars on cards that just get tossed out in a couple of weeks. Our elf, Jingles, likes to find creative places to hide every night but she very thoughtfully does not create mischievous messes for me to clean up. The kids don’t have any desire to drive through the Christmas town to see the lights anymore. We’re going to be dining on Cinnamon Roll Bake and a delicious egg breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. I don’t think there is any possible way to force Tyler to participate in matching Christmas pajamas- he’s pretty stubborn. One of our Christmas trees is lopsided because a foot is cracked and the other Christmas tree is half lit because I can’t find the burnt out bulb. We bought one of those Star Shower laser light things to project Christmas lights onto our house this year instead of hanging real lights.

And you know what? That’s ok. Christmas isn’t about perfection. I’m happy with how we are celebrating Christmas. My family is happy. I can scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, enjoy those perfectly decorated houses, and smile because they really are beautiful. But I don’t feel envious or cheated or less than. I feel grateful. We have everything we need. And that’s what matters. 

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Christmas: Then and Now

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Nothing hits home the fact that I have big kids like the changes in how we celebrate Christmas. Long gone are the days when the kids wanted to take pictures with Santa. I miss those days….

Then: The kids couldn’t wait to decorate the trees the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Now: We haven’t even put up our trees yet because the kids all had plans the weekend after Thanksgiving. We might get them up this weekend. But the kids aren’t bothered. 

Then: The only things on their wish lists were the current year’s hottest toys.
Now: Tyler asked for money. Maia asked for clothes. Mason asked for body pillows (ha! He’s a grandpa at heart.). And Zoey asked for an electric blanket. Who are these kids?

Then: We watched every single animated Christmas special that came on television.
Now: We watch the unedited versions of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Christmas with the Kranks, and the kids favorite is Elf. 

Then: They couldn’t wait to help me bake Christmas cookies and treats.
Now: They only want to eat them. 

Then: Threats that Santa is watching them ensured a very peaceful December.
Now: They just laugh at me. 

Then: I dreaded the mere thought of entertaining kids for the entire Christmas break.
Now: I am counting the days until the kids are out. No packing lunches, no homework, no early morning wake ups, no carpool…14 days. We have 14 days. 

Then: I had presents hidden all over this house in obscure places to keep them away from prying eyes. Then we spent 3 hours in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve trying to quietly sneak them under the tree…after I remembered where they all were hidden.
Now: I have all presents wrapped and under the tree way in advance of Christmas and I know they won’t be touched.

Then: They all had matching, color coordinated Christmas pajamas and I made them all pose in front of the tree for pictures before they opened gifts.
Now: I guarantee at least one, probably 2, of my kids will wander out without pants. One of said children will be Tyler. There will be no posed pictures. If I’m lucky I’ll get one pictures with all of them in it, looking somewhere near the camera, and not making any weird faces. 

Then: The first kid woke up around 3:3oam and tried to incite a riot of stampeding children down the stairs. We spent 3 hours shuffling kids back to bed before giving up around 6:30am. 
Now: Matt and I are the first ones awake. We enjoy a cup of coffee while we wait for our offspring to emerge from their caves, usually around 9:30am. 

 

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Halloween 2017 Recap

It seems impossible to me that Halloween is already over! This year is just flying by and I’m not prepared! We had a great Halloween this year. It was a fun week of festivities for the kids with spirit week at school, Character Day for the little kids, and they got the day off of school yesterday. That’s like the trifecta of happiness. Ha!

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The lower school does Character Day instead of Halloween which I love. It’s a whole day of fun. They spend a few days prior to Character Day decorating a pumpkin or scarecrow according to a classroom book chosen by the teacher. Zoey’s class did A Bad Case of Stripes and Mason’s class did Three Little Pigs. They loved it and they really love seeing their display out in the front of the school every day! For Character Day they got to dress up according to one of their favorite books and parade around the entire campus getting high fives from the middle and upper school students. Mason chose to be the ninja from Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja and Zoey chose to be Pete from the Pete the Cat series. 

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The upper school students were allowed to dress up within reason according to a specific decade assigned by grade. The juniors were supposed to dress up as young 20’s. Tyler is rocking the Frat Boy Morning After look. Ha! He had a baseball cap that he put on backwards as well. I’m getting a pretty clear picture of what he’s going to look like in a couple of years. I’m scared. 

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A friend who is a teacher at the school got these great pictures of Zoey for me during and after the parade. So cute! She wasn’t able to get one of Mason because he was running along with friends. Of course. I love love love having friends who teach at the school. I get all kinds of pictures that I wouldn’t get otherwise. 

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We had a full crowd come trick or treating with us. Tyler declined to participate, choosing instead to hit several parties with his friends and football teammates. He was cleared by his medical team to go as long as there were no strobe lights, no black lights, and he wasn’t the one driving people around after dark. He was so happy to get back to some semblance of a social life. Maia had one of her best friends come spend the night, Mason’s good friend came with us, and Zoey’s best friend came too. I made Chocolate Chip Sheet Pancakes topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and bacon on the side for dinner. It was delicious! This is just a small portion of our trick or treating gang! We were about 18 people strong out trolling the neighborhood for candy. 

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It was such a fun night. After everyone who wasn’t spending the night had left we watched Annabelle Creation and The Mummy with the big kids while they ate most of their candy and enjoyed Brownie sundaes and popcorn. Maia and her friend even took a midnight dip in the hot tub. They all collapsed in bed around 2am and didn’t move until around 11am, looking like zombies. Ha! 

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10 Truths About Turning 40

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Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 40. 4-0. Forty. FORTY. Y’all. I am 40. And you know what? Forty rocks. You couldn’t pay me to go back a decade. My twenties and early thirties were spent raising babies and toddlers. My late thirties were spent recovering from raising babies and toddlers. But 40? 40 is the gravy. I’m happy, I’m secure in who I am, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. 

1. Numbers on the scale mean nothing. I’ll probably always carry these extra 10 pounds. Ok fine, 15 extra pounds. But life is too short to not eat cake. 

2. Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to true friends. A lesson learned the hard way, unfortunately. I have a lot of friendly acquaintances. But I have only a few true close friends with whom I can share anything and everything. And that’s just fine!

3. Keeping up with the Joneses is overrated. Seriously. It’s overrated. I have learned to be content. 

4. Beauty truly does come from within. Wrinkles happen but the very best wrinkles are laugh lines because they radiate joy. I’m a firm believer that a person’s inner joy shows on their face. I hope mine does. 

5. Happiness is a choice. Just like being angry and bitter is a choice, happiness is a choice you make. So choose happy. 

6. Life is too short for fear. This is my mantra anytime I have to do something out of my comfort zone. Life is short. Embrace every moment! Fear means you’re alive!

7. Gossip makes you ugly. Truth. Gossip is a useless time suck that only serves one purpose- to hurt others. Rise above. 

8. The only opinion that matters is yours. You can’t find peace or happiness from living up to others opinions or expectations. The only opinion that you need to listen to is your own. 

9. Create a life you don’t need a vacation from. Another lesson learned the hard way. I don’t want to spend 358 days of the year counting down until my 7 days of vacation. I want to spend 365 days of the year enjoying my life. 

10. It’s okay to not be liked by everyone. I used to be a people pleaser. Now I’m a reformed people pleaser. You cannot make everyone happy. So I don’t waste my time trying. If someone doesn’t like me, that’s ok. I like me and that’s what matters. 

It’s taken me 40 long years to learn these lessons. But now that I have? Life changing. I had the best weekend celebrating my birthday. Matt and my sister planned a surprise family cook out for me and my parents came with Camden to celebrate with us. It was awesome and exactly how a birthday should be spent. 

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Cheers to 40, friends. I’m ready to rock this year!

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New York Trip Day 3: Niagara Falls & Casino

So yesterday we left off when we were on the observation deck at Niagara Falls. After we enjoyed the view we made our way down to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour. 

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We didn’t even have to wait in line, as soon as we got down there they were filling up a boat so we got to load right away. It was so funny to watch the kids trying to put on those blue rain ponchos with the wind swirling around. After several attempts that ended in kids with their heads shoved through the arm holes they were finally all decked out and ready. We took some pictures before the boat launched. 

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Once the boat tour started I was really glad that my iPhone 7 is water resistant! Or I wouldn’t have gotten any good pictures at all because of the spray from the Falls. It was intense.

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The Falls were so very gorgeous up close. I’m so glad we decided to do the boat tour. Amazing!
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See that platform up there? That’s the observation deck that we were standing on in some of the earlier pictures. It did not seem quite so high when we were up there. 

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After the boat tour we decided it would be fun to climb the stairs that are right next to the Falls so we could see them really up close. We totally underestimated how wet we would get. Ha!

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The view was spectacular! It was a rough climb and the kids were good sports about getting totally soaked. I saw more smiles out of Tyler during the climb than I did for the entire rest of the trip. What can I say? The boy loves a challenge. But it was so worth it to get to the top. 

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Zoey and Mason are in there somewhere. They were smart, hiding behind the adults to avoid the spray. Ha! I snapped as many pictures as I could in a couple of minutes because that was about as long as we could stand the massive amounts of water spray smacking us in the face. The wind was intense and it was a hard climb back down. But I would do it again in a hot second, talk about some amazing memories! After we arrived back up at the top of the Falls we had an hour or so to kill before meeting everyone at the casino for dinner, plus we were soaking wet, so we decided to take a trolley tour.

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By the time the trolley tour ended it was time to walk up to the casino. We stopped for a picture in front of the Hard Rock Cafe Niagara Falls on the way.

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We ate dinner at the all you can eat buffet in the casino and it was so good. I think we gained 10 pounds each just on Sunday. Never in my life have I done 2 all you can eat buffets in one day. I regret nothing.

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After dinner Matt’s dad and uncle took the kids to the arcade so the adults could lose some money in the casino.

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Poor Tyler. He almost made it into the casino but at the last minute they asked for his ID so he was stuck in the arcade with the kids. I paid him $20 to watch the little kids. Money well spent considering when we got back Matt’s dad was asleep on a bench and his uncle was in the bathroom. Ha!

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Matt was very excited about his $10.64 winning on the penny slots. He felt very good about it until his aunt came out and said she won $480 on the same penny slots. Ha! I guess sometimes it does pay to be a gambler. We had a great time even if we didn’t win a jackpot. It was a really fun trip and I’m so glad we went. We left early the next morning at 8am for the 12 hour drive back home. 

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