Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning

In the past I've always filled out a long survey of questions for my last post of the year, but I don't feel like slogging through the whole thing this time. Most of the answers are the same every year and some of the questions just don't seem very related to my life. I want to do some kind of wrap-up, though, just because it's nice to have something to look back upon, year after year. I'm going to cherry-pick the questions I like and see how that works out.

Past year-end posts: 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? I sucked it up, ignored the awkward hand-wringy feelings, and asked for a raise at work. And I got it.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
 Looking at last year's post, it does not appear that I made any resolutions. This year's goals:

>> floss

>> exercise

>> drink less soda

>> eat healthier snacks

>> spend more time snuggling with the big kid

>> spend more time reading to the little kid

>> keep up better with the kids' monthly letters

>> write more

>> read more

>> enjoy the small moments

4. Did you meet anyone new this year? I made two new mom-friends via facebook with kids almost exactly my kids' ages, and though one is planning to move away as soon as she can, I really like the other and hope we can remain friends for a long time. I got two new coworkers this year who I really like.

5. Any memorable dates or events from 2013? Nico started preschool; I got to see Neil Gaiman read in Nashville; my supervisor quit and I thought it was the end of something good, but it turned out to be the beginning of something better; and of course, Elliott was born.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 Proving myself at work. Transitioning pretty easily into life as a mother of two. Making the effort to see friends regularly.

7. What were your favorite books of the year? Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, though I'm still a little conflicted about the ending; The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

8. What was your favorite music from this year? They didn't come out this year, but I spent months with The King is Dead and Long Live the King by the Decemberists on repeat in my car.   

9. What were your favorite films of the year? I remember really enjoying The Avengers, though I think it actually came out last year.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry, merry

Merry, merry

We had a really nice and somewhat drawn-out Christmas this year, though someone needs to invent a word for feeling simultaneously grateful for and embarrassed by the number of gifts one's children have received. We saw MB's family the Sunday before Christmas and they went a touch overboard on the presents. Nico got four really nice CAT construction toys and of course he loves them, but he would've been equally thrilled with just one, you know? If you know a mighty machines-obsessed child, though, I highly recommend the shaking backhoe. It's really cool. (Other popular items received over all of the celebrations include a Play Doh brick mill and the Read With Me Scout and Little People zoo train toys that were actually given to Elliott.)

My extended family gets together for dinner and a gift exchange for the kids on Christmas Eve, but we had no other plans that day. MB and I ended up clearing out and reorganizing all the kitchen cabinets that morning while the kids napped and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I keep forgetting where the trash bags are now, though. Poor Nico's streak of never actually getting the things we put on his family gift exchange list continued this year due to my aunt waiting until the 20th to shop and the apparent popularity of the Duplo my first construction site set I put on his list. He did get a nice puzzle, though, and a Barnes & Noble gift card that we already used to buy a copy of his current favorite library book (and I snagged the Duplo set when it came back into stock on Amazon and have it stashed in the closet for his birthday). Elliott made out like a wee bandit with three toys, and so far his stand-out favorite is the apparently-delicious Melissa & Doug chunky safari animals puzzle. BoMB and Nie came by for a few hours Christmas morning and then we went to my parents' house for lunch and presents and a few hours of hanging out. Thursday night we took the kids on a carriage ride through the big light display in town. BoMB and Nie decided to stay in town an extra day and spent the evening and overnight with us on Friday, which was really nice. Last night was our annual Thanksmas party with our friends. I'm tired, y'all!

It was great to see everyone, though, and I'm left with lots of warm fuzzy Christmas-y feelings. Plus my house is really clean right now. AND I got the two things I asked for (a mini muffin pan and a steam mop) plus a new game that I really like (Qwirkle). Hooray for holidays!

Monday afternoon children's museum interlude:

Nico and bulldozer helping to put out reindeer food on Christmas Eve, which is apparently A Thing among the preschool set.

Ten months old on Christmas Day!

"When I visit Santa I'm going to tell him thank you for the green socks!"

Oh, and this is the new thing today. My baby!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

kid gift roundup - ages (almost) four years and (almost) ten months

kid gift roundup - ages (almost) four years and (almost) ten months

According to a very unscientific Twitter poll, I am not the only person who enjoys reading blog posts about what folks got their kids for Christmas. And I suppose there's a chance someone might be looking for ideas for a few more gifts for kids of similar age to mine. We didn't buy either kid a big Santa gift this year, mostly because I couldn't think of anything large / expensive that either of them really needed. (We're also planning to take them on a long weekend trip to Memphis in the spring, so that'll be kind of like a big gift to the whole family.) Two holiday traditions I've heard of and love but have yet to implement: 1) the one thing they need, one thing to wear, one thing to read concept; 2) the new pajamas, Christmas movie to watch, and movie snack to open on Christmas Eve concept. I haven't done #1 because I've never been able to limit myself to just three little things and we can't really do #2 because we have our big family shindig on Christmas Eve evening and don't have time to come home and watch a Christmas movie. I do really like both of those schemes though, if you're looking for some kind of tradition to establish.

I bought things here and there through the year and didn't have a good grasp of what I actually had for the kids until last night. I realized that it was my last free evening until Saturday and decided to suck it up and wrap everything instead of procrastinating. While it's not a huge deal since 1) Elliott is a baby and can't count and 2) I'm more interested in spending the same ballpark amount on each kid vs getting both kids the exact same number of gifts, I wanted the number of gifts to be pretty equal. After going through everything and sacrificing one gift that I had planned to save for Elliott's birthday in February and holding back one for Nico's birthday in January, they will each have four gifts to open. As I was listing them prior to the wrap-fest, I was thinking the kids really wouldn't be getting much from us, but now I've swung across to the feeling like we maybe got them too much side of things. I did contemplate saving more things for their birthdays, but they'll get more gifts then since we do a family birthday party and all my aunts will buy each kid a birthday gift but not a Christmas gift. When all is said and done, they probably fall on the middle of the spectrum between "just enough gifts" and "holy crap, too many gifts." As I desperately try to justify my crass consumerism, I will say that most of the items were in the $10 - $15 range (and several were under $10), so we didn't spend an astronomical amount.

Elliott, almost ten months, is getting:

1. A four-pack of stripey onesies from Carter's, which I have coveted since Nico was a baby but could never justify buying. They are so soft and I love stripes on a baby. Elliott is a little short on 18 month onesies so this was a good practical choice. I got them half-price online on Black Friday.

2. A painfully adorable moose outfit, also from Carter's (though I got it from the Kohls website, also on sale on Black Friday). Also 18 months, though it's almost comically large compared to the striped onesies. If I'd known how big it would be I would've probably ordered it in a 12 months instead, but it's fine...I'm sure he'll grow into it entirely too fast. The pants have a moose on the butt. MOOSE ON THE BUTT.

3. A mini bead rattle from Maple Landmark Woodcraft. The standard disk rattle is his favorite toy, and the friend who bought it for him alerted me to a sale on their other products back when I posted asking for gift suggestions.

4. This animal-sorting truck from Melissa & Doug (bought at Barnes & Noble). He loves to dump the pieces out of our chunky M&D puzzles and chew on them, so I figured this was a good choice. Plus it'll be nice for him to have a truck that's just his (though I guarantee Nico will be constantly attempting to "share" this one with him - meaning, Nico will try to play with it himself and call it sharing).

I wanted to have a tradition that Santa always brings a book for each kid, but of course I can never choose just one book. I have an additional difficulty in that Elliott currently chews on board books until pieces come off and thus can't be left unsupervised to look at books. Thanks to a genius tip on my gift ideas post, he is getting three books from the Indestructibles series, plus a cloth farm animal sounds book. I also got him two of the rubber Tonka Chuck & Friends vehicles that Nico adored as a little and this adorable stuffed dinosaur from Kohls. I may sneak over to Old Navy and buy him the next size of socks. He does need some socks.

For additional gift ideas, here's what we put on his various Christmas lists for family:

>> Leap Frog Scout dog (Nico got one for his first Christmas and still listens to the lullabies every night at bedtime

>> Melissa & Doug chunky puzzles

>> fleece footie pajamas in size 12 months (we specified no sports)

>> cloth or vinyl books

>> something he can dump out (he really loves stacking cups for this purpose)

Nico, almost four years old, is getting:

1. A simple CAT front loader (bought at Menards). He didn't have a good front loader in his collection, and he played with this same loader for quite a while at his playgroup a few months back when they had one out.

2. A set of construction equipment magnets for his magnet board

3. An I Spy Eagle Eye game that might be a little above his current comprehension level. It was on clearance and he loves doing seek and find books with MB so I took a chance on it.

4. The newest Winnie the Pooh movie on DVD. I was going to put this on his list for the family exchange, but I didn't know how to describe it to make sure they got the right one. I can only ever get it to show up online right if I search for "Winnie the Pooh (2011)." So to simplify my life, I just ordered it for him myself.

His Santa books are:

>> Digger, Dozer, Dumper by Hope Vestergaard which we've had checked out from the library for months and months. He has the entire book memorized and it's adorable. I found the author on Twitter and she's super nice and sweet, and agreed to sign a copy for Nico for Christmas, so that's what we did. She also sent a copy of her book Potty Animals.

>> The National Geographic Little Kids First Book of Why

>> a Tonka-truck themed set of phonics books

>> this board book, which he's probably too old for, but I know he'll love the flaps and pull-tabs:

Other stocking things that I can recall - a big boy drinking cup with cars on it, a little spin drum, maybe a cheap ukelele sized guitar (though I can't get it to tune very well, so I might scrap it), a Matchbox dump truck

Other ideas for a kid of his age / interests:

>> Pooh's Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin on DVD

>> 36 and 48 piece wooden puzzles

>> Duplo My First Construction Site set - we're lucky that he's not quite ready for Legos, considering how Elliott puts everything in his mouth.

Is anyone else posting gift roundups? I want to read them!

Reading:  Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Playing:  Christmas music, of course

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Where does he live?

Where does he live?

Nico: December 24th is Christmas Eve. Why is December 24th Christmas Eve?

Me: That's just how it is. Do you think Santa will bring you presents, or do you think it'll be Pete the Cat?

Nico: What does the Easter Bunny do?

Me: He brings you an Easter basket. 

Nico: Why does he do that?

Me: It's how we celebrate Spring. 

Nico: Is the Easter Bunny gonna bring me an Easter basket?

Me: Yep!

Nico: Will he put it in my hands?

Me: Uh, no...he'll leave it while you're sleeping. 

Nico: Where does the Easter Bunny live?

Me: That's a good question. I actually don't know. 

Nico: Maybe he lives at the Northeast Pole.  

Friday, December 06, 2013

snow day

snow day

Reading:  Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Playing:  Yuletide Beat and 'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets by Los Straitjackets

Sunday, December 01, 2013

December to-do list

December to-do list

(November recap at the bottom)

I feel like there should be a lot more stuff on here, but this is all I could come up with...perhaps I'll get lucky and this will be the extent of my December to-do list.

Finish putting up house decorations

Sort already-bought gifts and make a list

Set Thanksmas date

Nico's December book order

Come up with Christmas list for myself

Order Christmas cards

Make exchange ornaments

Update card list and buy stamps

Get gift cards for Nico's teachers

Mail Christmas cards

Start wrapping presents

Buy parent & sibling gifts

Make ginger squish cookies for family gatherings

Arrange / print / mail Nico birthday invitations

Set January playdate / girls night / game night dates

November to-do list

1. Set up weather radio

2. Take Halloween stuff back up to attic in a timely fashion.

3. Make Xmas ornaments for book club.

4. Start Xmas ornaments for group exchange.

5. Set up December playdate / girls' night / game night

6. Set cookie party date

7. Set Thanksmas date

8. Make Christmas photo appointment

9. Order birthday gift(s) for BoMB and Nie

10. Hang Elliott's hospital photo and owl print

11. Choose and order photos for living room

12. Catch up on boys' monthly letters

13. Read a non-bookclub book

14. Write to MIL twice

15. Bake a cheesecake for MB, dammit!

16. Sort and store / hang / donate frames behind bedroom door

17. Start 2013 Nico / Elliott photo books

18. Fix dining room buffet crapmagnet

19. Streamline / clean up blog template - enlist MB's help as needed