Winter Break Fun

holiday collage 2012

The holidays are officially over and we are back to our regular routines again.  Gone are the days of sleeping in until 8 AM,  figuring out which museum to explore each day, what wonderful friend or family to visit with, and how many yummy treats to indulge in after each meal.  The kids are back to school, I am back at work (full-time at that), chocolates and cookies have been replaced with fruits and veggies, and we are back to the hustle and bustle of our busy life.  The holidays are busy too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a different kind of busy.  There is gift buying and wrapping, a busy social schedule of holiday parties, and long days of no school to fill for three little kids, but that is certainly a fun kind of busy.

In our house, the “holiday season” seems to run from November 15th – January 8th.  During that time we have Isabella’s birthday, Thanksgiving (which we host every year), Hanukkah (what we celebrate in our house and with the Levins and Stevahns), Christmas (which we celebrate at my parents), the New Year, and Les’ birthday.  It is two months of nonstop eating, spending money, socializing, and fun.  It can be a little exhausting and overwhelming, but I love it.  This winter break seemed especially great – for the kids, for us, and for me personally.

As the kids get older, they seem to get more into the holiday spirit and understand more of what is going on.  Isabella really got into Hanukkah this year.  She has always enjoyed getting presents, but she was much more interested in some of the culture and tradition that comes along with the holiday.  By the 5th or 6th night of Hanukkah she could almost say the entire prayer over the menorah, making Les and I very proud.  She loved having her Grammy and Pop as special guests at her school to teach her classmates about Hanukkah.  She lead dreidel games and even tried her first potato latke – a big deal for our very picky eater.  Jacob and Noah both got into the spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, relishing the unwrapping of the gifts as much, if not more, than the gifts themselves.  We all got a kick out of Jacob’s squeals of delight and laughter as he unwrapped a gift or Noah’s exclamations of “Whoa” or “cool this” each time he opened a new toy or book.  The kids had a blast on Christmas day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, opening their stockings and presents, and playing with all their new toys.  I love experiencing any holiday through my children’s eyes, especially Hanukkah and Christmas.  There is just something magical about that look in your child’s eyes as they open that special gift they have been wanting all year.  I don’t think there is any gift I could receive that would equal the excitement and joy I get from giving my kids gifts.  I know that the holidays are not all about the gifts, and I want my kids to know that too, but when you are three or five – it kind of is all about the gifts.

This winter break was really great for Les and I because we got to have some pretty awesome dates.  We had an overnight trip to Richmond for a delicious dinner with friends and a day of holiday shopping and time alone in the car and at lunch with just the two of us.  We try to go out on dates regularly, but there is just something different about being away overnight that feels more luxurious and special.  We also got to see our close friends John and Corynne for a dinner date.  These are friends that we don’t see nearly enough of, and it was great to catch up on the exciting things coming up in the new year.  Les and I have also been on three movie dates in the last month – pretty amazing considering that we probably had not made it to three movies in the theater in the past five years total.  Although Les always works a lot around the holidays, I had a lot of time off as I transitioned to my new job.  The overall pace in our house was slower, more relaxed, and less stressful – making for a happier marriage.

I was thrilled to spend quality time with my sister Emily.  We don’t get to see her nearly enough since she is in California, so we try to spend as much time as possible with her when she is in town.  We even got to go out for sushi and a movie date to see Les Mis (a fantastic movie, but glad I spared Les on that one).  I was able to tackle some home organization products (freezer, refrigerator, pantry, and only a small part of the office).  I completed home study for my new job and went away to San Antonio for a week of training for the new job.  I am very happy with the job change and very impressed with the new company so far.  I really enjoyed being home for a few weeks.  Of course, getting paid while being at home probably made the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable than if I were not employed.  Now if I could only find a way to stay at home for work AND still get paid – that would be the ticket.

We rang in the New Year with our neighbors and friends at a fantastic grown-up party.  We got all fancied up and danced the night away.  I look forward to this party every year and am so appreciative of the Hempecks for throwing such a wonderful bash.  We got together with the Reuter family for a fun play date and gift exchange.  Even though we only live 30 miles from each other, it seems impossible to get our 6 kids and crazy work schedules aligned for more frequent family fun.  We’ll have to do better at this in 2013.   We did our annual trip to the Great Wolf Lodge with our dear friends Zach and Parul and their adorable daughter Madeline.  That place gets better and better as the kids get older and more independent in the water.  This is one of our favorite ways to kick off a new year and celebrate Les’ birthday with some of our best friends.

NYE2012collage

All in all – we have had a blast these past couple of months.  As I have been able to sit back and reflect on the past year, I feel so fortunate to have the life that I have.  We feel so blessed to have our health, our amazing family and friends, jobs, and a wonderful life.  I know how quickly life can change and the good times can turn to bad in just the blink of an eye.  In 2013, I am trying to cherish each moment  and be grateful for the many gifts that I have in my life.  Now if only I can remember this resolution during the crazy, stressful times that will inevitably occur in my world of five spinning plates!

Hang My Art

What do I do with all the art and the crafts that my kids make?  This is a question that I have often asked myself.  I had piles of stuff throughout my house that the kids would make at school or at home.  You hate to throw that stuff away, even though I do throw lots of it away.  I try to save the good stuff, the cute stuff that only a 3 or 4 year-old could come up with, and the stuff that makes me laugh or reminds me of something.  The rest of it goes in the garbage, and I pray that it does not get discovered there.  I have a storage bin for each child that I keep in the attic and some of their stuff goes there.  After 2 years in pre-school for Bella and 1 year for Jacob, their bins were filling up fast and I knew I needed another solution.

We are fortunate to have a playroom in our house – a 1st floor room filled with toys, books, a train table, and even a television.  The playroom is painted bright green and has white cube shelving with wicker baskets for storage.  The planets of the solar system are hanging from the ceiling (in inflatable form), reminding us of Isabella’s obsession with all things space from the age of two and a half to just after her third birthday.  The kids love playing in this room, and I love having a place to throw all the toys and kid related stuff that we have.  The playroom features a large wall, perfect for this idea I saw  on Pinterest.

                            

The only problem is that I am not especially handy.  I also did not want to spend a lot of money on wires and I could not get Ikea to ship me the cool looking metal and wire hanging system in the picture on the left.  I went to the garage and gathered some heavy-duty string, nails, and thumb tacks.  I hung the string horizontally using nails to secure the ends and thumb tacks evenly spaced across.  The goal was to make sure the string stayed secure and taut, but to also leave space for clothes pin hooks to hold the actual art.  I could fit three strings of hanging art on the wall.  I have since added a fourth string and I plan to alternate the art on this fourth string the most frequently.  This solution worked for us.  It was cheap, easy to put up, did not take very long, and works.  I love the bright colors and variety of pictures featured along this wall, and my kids love seeing their own art work on display for friends and relatives.  I have another friend who takes pictures of the preschool art work and projects and saves them that way, saving memories and storage space.  This picture below shows a creative and adorable way to display these photos of artwork in a way that does not take up very much room on a wall.

There are a lot of great ways to achieve the same end result – preserving and showing off your child’s masterpieces.  I am thankful to Pinterest for exposing me to a few of these awesome ideas.  I am proud of my makeshift version of  a gallery and look forward to hanging many more new creations from summer camp and school in the future.