It’s Okay to Buy Christmas Gifts

 

I feel like, somewhere along the way, people started seeing me as the mother who had it all together. I have been pulled aside, messaged, and flat out called out in front of a crowd for this blatant lie. 

I, in fact, have nothing together more than anyone else. Actually, I gave up having it all together after Veda was born. That baby #5 really rocked me. But, that’s when (more than ever before) people would confront me wanting to know how I could do it all — It’s as if my letting go and giving in to this stage of life really allowed me to relax and become a confident hot mess.

We are always late (or really early); my kids never have on matching socks – or any socks. I swear the crumbs in the van reappear within 38 seconds of me trying to vacuum the freaking thing out.  

All of that to say this: If you do believe that I am doing a good job over here, then know this:

You are allowed to not take your family on a magical trip for Christmas. 

You are allowed to buy them everything on their wishlist (and more). 

You are allowed to stick to the want, need, wear, and read rule.

You are allowed to jet set across the world for Christmas.

You are allowed to spend Christmas on the beach, in the snow, or sleeping under the stars.

You are allowed to make this YOUR family’s Christmas – not someone else’s.

I have focused a lot on why you should consider experiences over all.the.junk. I have written about our own experiences. It is true, my kids did not miss a damn plastic package while we adventured last year – and it was glorious, BUT – BUT – BUT – this year? 

This year, I am buying all.the.gifts.

Why? I’m not exactly sure.  We aren’t doing a big trip – possibly postponing my cross-country winter drive until spring, even. It will be our first Christmas morning in this beautiful house, maybe that’s playing into it?  Maybe it’s just that my oldest will be TEN next year, and there aren’t many ‘Santa Years’ left? Or, maybe, I’m just in the mood to have a big Christmas!

Buying a bunch of presents doesn’t ruin my kids. It doesn’t make me a bad mom. It doesn’t make our family any more ridiculous than we already were. We just live in a society that judges everything.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter my exact reasons – just like it doesn’t matter what you decide. The kicker, though, is that you just need to be happy with whatever you decide! Go big, go little, go outside, travel, bake, sleep… just make sure that you (and your family) are happy this Christmas!

 

32 Fun Christmas Books for Kids

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Sticking with more experience gifts for the holidays, I have read about children opening a new Christmas-themed book every day of December. The idea has been tossed around for a few years, and I have purchased a few books here and there, thinking I would complete the book gifting idea. Somehow, though, I always started collecting the books too late in the season, and I would give up before the second week.

This year, I am determined to be ahead of the Christmas avalanche. I know that fall is just beginning, and I haven’t even planned my Thanksgiving menu, but I’m going to start ordering or searching for great winter/Christmas/family books to add to our home library. 

If you want to jump on the bandwagon, I’ve listed out 30 of our favorite, or soon-to-be-our-favorite books. You can wrap them and set them under the tree. You can set them out on the Thanksgiving Day table to start after dessert. You can stack them next to your child’s bed and let him choose the order he wants to hear them. The options are limitless in how you gift the books, but the memories will be made none-the-less.  

Snuggle up. Grab some hot cocoa. Light the fire. Open a good book. (affiliate links included)

31 Fun Christmas Books for Kids

How to Catch Santa

The Littlest Elf

The Night Before Christmas

The Christmas Wish

Bear Stays Up for Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Little Blue Truck Christmas

The Polar Express

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Christmas Sweater

The Snowmen at Christmas

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

The Jolly Christmas Postman

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

The Spirit of Christmas

River Rose and the Magical Christmas

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

The Tale of Three Trees

Christmas Day in the Morning

Merry Christmas Curious George

Home for Christmas

Charlie and the Christmas Kitty

The Christmas Fox

A Pirate’s 12 Days of Christmas

The Nutcracker

Legend of the Candy Cane

The Sparkle Box

The Story of Holly and Ivy

Apple Tree Christmas

Socks for Santa

Any of your favorites not make my list? What should we add?

I am definitely not opposed to reading two books a day!

The Time I Decided to Donate Half of Our Toys

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I may be drinking wine.

I’ll let you decide.

I am DONE with a basement full of SHIT that is worth $234,957,478,470 – but yet can never be played with because:

a. “Mama, I can’t find all the pieces.”

b. “This part is broken.”

c. “I don’t know what to do” – because there’s too many things to choose from, duh.

d. “This is for babies.”

e. “I can’t find the charger.” One year later, “I still can’t find the charger.”

f. “I don’t like that anymore.”

g. “It’s not fair that we only have one, and Lyle is playing with it! I want one!”

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU*K. No. I am so freaking done.

As you know from following my amazingly non-consistent blog here, I have switched over to ‘experience’ gifts, and we had a KILLER time last year at Christmas in Colorado. But, that means that I didn’t purge ALL.THE.SHIT. before our trip.

Somehow another year has passed before my eyes. Veda is a toddler. Ollie actually grew hair. We’ve *almost* adapted to life in the midwest. But, I still haven’t purged the basement.

(pours wine)

Guess what I’m doing right now?

dun. dun. dun.

Did you see the picture up there? That is what is happening. No. That is not what the basement looked like an hour ago. Everything was in its place…. until I somehow needed to accomplish something. I swear you could see vacuum lines earlier today, but what fun would that picture be? Exactly. I’m here to show you REAL LIFE. So let’s get to work. But, alas, Rome was not built in a day, my friends. After tearing EVERYTHING apart, I laughed at myself and retreated upstairs. I may have overwhelmed myself on day 1.

Time Out: I do have a plan, here. I’m not just drinking and throwing shit out. (Although, that may get it done faster.)

Our ‘Experience Gift’ this year for Christmas is redoing our basement into a ‘big kid’ area from a little kid play room. Yes, this requires buying a ton of age-appropriate crap. We’ll be investing in a sectional couch, smart TV, Xbox, air hockey table, basketball arcade game, and an art/drafting table/craft area for Scarlett. Our family will *hopefully* chip in and fulfill the kids’ wishlists so that John and I can cross off the big items. But a basement overhaul cannot be completed unless the current state of the bottom floor changes.

What have I accomplished thus far? I’ve created a bonfire-worthy pile of kid crap to sort.

We’ll be donating a lot to local charities (The Ronald McDonald House, shelters, and churches), gifting some to neighbors and friends, and saving anything and everything that will continue to be loved by our little ones. Yes, we will still have a lot of stuff, but, with my new layout, I’m hoping to keep things better organized.

The best part of everything is that none of the kids are fighting me. They are actively wanting this change.

So cheers to moving forward in this parenting journey. Instead of having a play room centered around a play kitchen, we will soon have a game room with a corner play kitchen. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crazy happy about giving my big kids a place where they feel big-a place that their friends will love, too.

 

When a Friend Goes Quiet.

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Sometimes a friend goes quiet. Sometimes you wonder why. Sometimes you write it off and let them be… because, who are you to reach out? Maybe they just want to be alone.

Reach out. Always reach out.

In this society of loneliness, mixed in with the demands of adulthood (and parenthood), it can be easy for a friend to withdraw from life for awhile. But, in these moments is when friendship is needed the most.

My Quiet

When skies turned gray and smiles frowned,

I felt as though we’d been drowned.

Seasons changed, but all stayed sick. 

We came to learn it was a tick…

Or was it really, after all?

That pushed us down and made us fall? 

Unexplained aches, pains, and tears.

My worries turned into true fears.

Doctors said, “We’re not sure, more tests.”

Then we learned: An Autoimmune Mess.

Now we start the road to heal

And hope that someday soon we feel – 

Sunshine in our souls again…

We’ve lost count of how long it’s been.

 

Hello, Dear Friends, Hello.

I am sorry for the long pause in my words here. It has been a long season of life here, and although, I would love to analyze every detail with you, I am exhausted by the thought. Perhaps, someday I will. And, perhaps, I will not. Either is okay.

I can say this, I am beyond thankful for our lifestyle and our strong immune systems. I am grateful for our choices, as this mess could have been – or would be – extremely worse than it currently is. Doctors are amazed at our overall health, and now that we have figured out underlying autoimmune issues, we should hopefully begin to feel normal again soon. With the help of a healing center here, we are all on tinctures and herbs that are (fingers crossed) killing off co-infections. Everyone is sleeping a lot; sugar, dairy, and anything processed is a no-go. But we have smiles that last longer than a few hours, finally.

As a mom, I have been a blubbery mess. I’ve watched my husband suffer from Lymes Disease this summer, and we learned that it is most likely the root of my son’s lifelong issues we’ve always been puzzled by. After many – many tests, we have unlocked autoimmune answers that connect all of us. It was finally time for me to stop ignoring my own underlying issues, too.

Motherhood is hard. I am giving my all, 200% of the time. But, this has knocked me on my ass, and I have significantly readjusted our lives. I am grateful that we had already slowed down, but now we are focused on happiness and health within each day.

I did, however, go quiet. I stopped texting. I stopped posting. I stopped doing anything more than working and going to doctors or keeping kids alive each day. I am so blessed to have an amazing cross-country friend who is living this same life out, and together we have laughed and cried. But, I have come to realize that our world today is severely lacking in real life connections.

This can be blamed on moving and living away from so many loved ones, of course. But, in all honesty, it is the state of our society.

It is easier to forget about a friend than it is to reach out to one.

We are all guilty. We all get caught up in our own lives. But, taking a few extra moments to harvest our true friendships may save our society, and model for our children what is truly important in life.

This experience has opened my eyes to many things. One being that I will protect ‘My Bubble” – my family – above all. Another being: it is time to purge… detox, if you will. Toxic elements of life can be let go of. Social media can be ignored. But, true friendships should be strengthened.

Pick up the phone and reconnect with someone. Sit down and share lunch. Bring a neighbor a bottle of wine. Let’s dig deeper than surface level. Let’s get to know one another.

 

 

The Year Without Travel

I never thought I would see a calendar be flipped, month after month, without a significant chunk of time blocked off for a trip.

Those of you who know me, know my love of road-tripping with my kids.  I have rarely let more than a few months pass by without a crazy trip on the books. But here I sit, the calendar crossed out through more than eight months of the year, and I just don’t know where the days have gone.

While I am planning an epic cross-country trip for the kids and I this winter, it does not happen until 2019. It will be a large portion of our family’s Christmas gifts this year. And yes, I have started planning minor details of the trip, I haven’t started really getting after it, and that’s ok.

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated here, and while I can give you 10,000 excuses of raising five humans, working, and all.the.things. The truth is that most of this year was needed to put myself back together. I know that I technically was not injured, but I feel as though I was in a fog of survival. There was no way I was capable of keeping five young humans alive in a car for weeks on end.

And survive I did.

I almost didn’t share this little post with you. I figured it was minute and worthless.

I was wrong.

There is no shame in my inability to conquer the world.

There is no shame in NOT traveling.

You know what I did do this year?

I rebalanced my life. I made it through postpartum baby blues. I celebrated small milestones. I snuggled my last baby every possible moment.

I DID NOT RUSH.

I DID NOT OVER PLAN.

I regained my happiness.

I’m telling you this so that you know it is okay to take a break and get your shit (back) together.

I’m still hoping to sneak in a getaway before the new year, but I don’t feel the pressure to make it happen. And that is a good feeling.

me

 

 

 

 

What Happens When I Find My Way.

As you all know, we have relocated and are still adapting. It has been 11 months and 5 days, and I cannot believe how fast the months are flying off the calendar. After a serious elimination diet, which I’ll be writing about next, the kids all seem to be back to their supremely healthy selves again.

You also know that I have tried embracing the ‘slow life’ and simplicity of the Midwest. That simplicity is what they all pride themselves on here. That simplicity that goes against every Type A fiber of my being. At first, it felt ok. Then, it felt like I could do it. But after an amazing trip back to where we left our hearts (#VirginiaIsForLovers) – I stepped off the airplane and into the DC airport and breathed in the souls of my people. Everyone was going… and going… and no one cared what I was doing. Everyone had their own to-do lists and were checking them off mentally as they smiled and held the door for the person behind them. My soul began singing.

Now, we won’t be returning to Virginia any time soon, and who knows if we ever will (TEARS). But, we will be here – in Omaha – for quite some time, and I am okay with that. In the past year, I have cried, yelled, prayed, cried, searched, found, lost, and re-found myself.  A few things that I have learned:

  1. I like to adapt to my surroundings: Everyone is laid-back here, so I should be too.
  2. I’m not the ‘typical’ midwest homeschool mom: Finding like-minded homeschool friends out here is hard.
  3. I’m not made for negative temperatures: negative temps = $400 gas bills… and no one goes outside when it’s this cold. That being said, I am learning to layer, plan well, and hibernate.
  4. I need to let go of expectations: I don’t need to be surrounded by like-minded homeschooling friends. I’m confident in our lifestyle and education decisions, and ‘my people’ here are being found poolside and in other like areas.
  5. I thrive with more.

This last one brings me to why I am writing today. I have always been a Type A, list-making, more-is-better kind of a person. It’s probably why I have five kids. I know it is why I can homeschool and work from home. But lately, I was pushing this natural yearning away. I was trying so hard to fit the ‘simple’ mold. Not anymore…

The kids’ co-op classes started back up last week. I just signed the oldest two up for 3-days a week (or more) of martial arts, on top of 3-days of swim team with weekend meets for Scarlett, Soccer for Emmett, Scouts for both each week, piano, gymnastics for all, homeschool, and speech for Emmett and Lyle. When I add all of this on top of my love of writing, weekly articles, and other work tasks, errands, home crap, cooking, and kissing boo-boos, I have no idea when I find the time to workout – but I do. I’m with you right now. I have NO CLUE how it all gets done. But THIS MAKES ME HAPPY. Of course, I burn out sometimes, but then I rest and jump back in.

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The saying, “If you want something done, give it to someone who is already busy.” – that was written for me.

So, this is me telling you that you should do you. YOU SHOULD DO YOU. Do not conform to your environment. Make your soul happy. Until you figure out your own groove, you will not be happy with where you are – physically and mentally.

This is all to say that Omaha has grown and is growing on me more each (FREEZING FREAKING COLD) day. I fought it all so hard and tried to change myself to fit here. After letting it all go and listening to my inner self, we are finally thriving here.

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The Withdrawals of Not Christmas Shopping.

You see, we are having an ‘Experience Christmas’ this year.

If you follow my writings over at My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear, I’ve had numerous articles published on the why’s and how’s of having such a holiday….  but the one thing I haven’t covered over there? The reality of quitting Christmas shopping cold turkey.

Ya’ll, we have FIVE children. Can you imagine the money we spend on Christmas over here? Let me just show you what our day typically looks like (and this was when there were only 3 of kids)

(This is not including gifts from grandparents and other extended family)

The amount of shit that I donate every year is in upwards of 2 truck beds full. THAT IS INSANE.

I was done. I still am done.

The truth is this: we are upper-middle class, as is the rest of our family. We have the only kids in the family thus far. We all enjoy shopping.  (Yes, we donate, too.) But it had gotten out of hand.

This year, we are all heading to Winter Park, CO for a family mountain Christmas.  We have some wonderful ‘experience gifts’ planned such as lift tickets, snow tubing, snow scooting (scooters on snow!), and ice-skating. We have broken the meals up by family to cook for each night, ordered cases of wine to be delivered, and made plans to buy a Christmas tree for the rental house.

This all sounds amazing… and it will be spectacular (after my anxiety attack is over), but the one thing  I wasn’t expecting was the withdrawals of not shopping for 123,543,255 gifts. (A lot of which were for myself.) It wasn’t that bad until Black Friday rolled around. I am normally Amazon-deep on my shopping by Black Friday. But this year, I purchased a carpet cleaning vacuum because we needed it. That’s it. That’s the only thing I bought on Black Friday.

We had the kids make a list – and then narrow it down several times – and then a few more times…

I purchased all 11 items ( 2 per kid and 2 for the hubby) on Cyber Monday. It was ridiculously uneventful for someone who loves to shop. The same went for our extended family.

And now  — now, there is absolutely nothing to do until our trip. It’s driving me MAD. I am deleting 100 emails a day about deals and Christmas coupons.  I am avoiding Target like the plague. It just feels so strange. I can’t drink wine and shop at night because we have already spent all the money on reserving tickets for these experiences!

I know this is a good thing. Hell, I’m the one that suggested this whole thing. But hot damn, this is fucking hard.

I like buying random crap – and picking things out at the 11th hour as a last minute buy and crossing my fingers that it arrives on time! Maybe, this year is making me a better person?  Probably not, but whatever – I’ll be over here drinking wine and NOT SHOPPING.

I know that my kids will have a blast this Christmas. This isn’t about them  – I know that. It’s all about me. And holy shit these withdrawals are intense!

If anyone has (or is) experiencing this too – please come hold my hand….

A few things to note if you decide to plan this next year:

  1. Book your AirBnb or rental house early in the year so you can pick from all that are available. You want mountain views or shuttle service to the mountain within walking distance.
  2. Find out if your rental house will be decorated for the holiday (ours will not, and with 5 kids, that is NOT okay…).
  3. Don’t think you’ll save money. We assumed we could put the kids in ski school, but after seeing the $749 price tag for 3 hours, that quickly flew out of the window. Once you factor in rental, gas/flights, food, a few gifts, and everything you plan to do while on the trip, it’ll play out to be about the same (or more) than previous holidays.
  4. Having extended family is key to making it feel ‘homey.’ We have built up this trip like nothing else with the kids, but the biggest selling point was having ‘Uncle Willie’ there!
  5. Don’t forget that you are going to have to pack a SHIT ton of stuff. I am basically in panic mode right now. Packing 7 people’s worth of WINTER clothing, boots and snowboarding gear, an adult and kid’s snowboard, possibly a sled, gifts (only 2 per person!),  food, tree decorations, and everything else… for an 8 hour drive…
  6. You will be away from home. This is a huge consideration! I didn’t think this through well. You have to explain to the kids that Santa will find you; you have to figure out if you are packing stockings or have them filled for when you return… and the  of course you have to swallow the whole “Christmas in your own home” feeling because you’ll be somewhere else!
  7. Make sure that you book an experience for you and your partner. Having something to do for just the two of you will be exactly what you need. John and I reserved lift tickets and rentals at Winter Park Resort, CO and will be snowboarding together for as long as Baby Veda will allow!
  8. Piggy-backing on #7, make sure that your trip is full of Christmas activities for the kids.  Winter Park, CO celebrates Christmas with fireworks and Santa sightings and more – so we are hoping that our kids will love it all!

If you are still reading, I wish you well. I’m not sure what we will do next year, but I am hoping that this experience trip will break me of the obsession I have with holiday shopping, so that next year I can go into the season with different feelings and expectations!

 

An Unfamiliar Adventure

I sit here with a growing belly, listening to a thundering storm outside. I am surrounded by a gorgeous house full of changes we are making to call it our home. All of my babies are asleep, as is my amazing husband – who hit Mother’s Day out of the park with a full-day spa treatment for me and a detailed mini-van… I sat down tonight and realized that I have been neglecting this lovely blog of mine, and it’s time that I have explained why.

Our life is an adventure. Anyone who knows us understands this to be true. I do not shy away from crazy tasks and typically take on more than one human should. Not only do I do these things, but they are my way of life. I do not know how to ‘just be.’ For God’s sake, I wrote an almost 400 page natural-minded pregnancy book in the last year, had a fourth baby, homeschooled my children, road tripped like crazy, moved across the country and wrote an average of 28 articles a month! (See the links to my words tab to read some of those awesome freaking words.) I mean, I was basically SuperMom.

Isn’t it amazing how life hands you what you need even when you had no idea that you needed it?

I’m sitting here with absolutely nothing to do, and I have no idea what to do about it. All of you non-type A types can bite me right now because this is hard.

We have been in the Midwest for 10 weeks now. With every other move we have ever made, I’ve felt settled and in my groove by now. I’ve come to realize that this relocation is taking more than an address change to overcome. It is shifting the entire daily dynamic that I am used to. You see, life is much slower here. MUCH SLOWER. This is a good thing with baby #5 due in about 3 months, but a hard pill to swallow.

On the plus side, we have plenty of ‘school’ time (which means exploring, bike riding, playground trials, and some reading, writing, and math), and my kids are actually the greatest kids in the world and absolutely love playing together. We’ve joined different activities and classes but are still in search for ‘our group’ here. It will come; it always does; it will just take more time with this move.

On the negative side, we have been dealing with strange sicknesses since we arrived. From 2 weeks of nightly vomiting with the 3 year old to random itchy rashes, snot, coughs, belly aches, and other crap… Our typically crazy-healthy family is trying to adjust our bodies to the new location. Again, it’s just taking time.

But back to the point of writing tonight. The reason I have been neglecting my blog is simple: I haven’t been happy here (yet). I planned to (and still plan to) share our housing projects, upcoming road trip adventures, natural-minded ways, birth plans, and all of the other ridiculous ins and outs that have been requested by followers. I’m not sure if it’s the new location, realizing baby #5 is coming soon, or the yearning to be back on the coast, but I am struggling here! No worries though, this slower life will soon settle in with me – and grant me extra bread-baking time, along with writing time.

 

 

Moving West: Virginia to Nebraska

 

We have spent the last three days caravanning across nine states together.  We drove through snow, crazy wind, and sun so warm, Scarlett stripped down to her undies in the back seat.

This move has been emotional – and the pregnancy hormones are not helping.  We are sad to leave behind Virginia, as it was an amazing home for 3 years. But we are holding on to our friendships there and keeping our heads looking forward.  We arrived in Nebraska today, March 4th —  The only day of the year that tells you to do something ‘March Forth!’ So that we will do.  It is the eve of our youngest son’s first birthday, and I am currently watching him sleep.  My mind is in a million different directions:

  1. How has it been a year since Ollie arrived on our bedroom floor, three-weeks early and faster than anyone could imagine?
  2. We close on a house in 2 days. Holy crap.
  3. Where in the hell are we? Omaha? We saw nothing but farmlands for hours today…
  4. The first thing the house needs is paint… no, the kitchen backsplash needs ripped out… no, that carpet needs to go.  Can we even afford any of this?
  5. The kids need friends ASAP.
  6. I can’t even drink, I’m pregnant.
  7. Please let the movers get our crap here in one piece.

So far on this journey, we have stayed at the amazing Blackhawk Hotel in Iowa, saw the Mississippi river, went bowling, cooked a few random comfort meals, survived a child with the flu, and landed in a great apartment rental until the movers arrive with the goods.

I’m glad you are coming along with us as we journey through this craziness. I’ll write more soon, updating about the transition, our trip, and how we (and you can) plan to update our outdated house – on a budget!