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By Robin Dearing
Monday, December 3, 2012
Bill and I were in our bedroom Sunday night watching the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” when Margaret yells up to us from the living room:
Mar: Could you guys close your door? It's too loud and I'm trying to read.
Bill and I look at each other guiltily. Bill closes the door quietly and skulks back so we can finish our tv show.
Me: Sheesh. That kid knows how to make ya feel dumb, huh?
Then, today after picking Margaret up from school:
Mar: You know what I did at recess today?
Mar: I stayed in and read. My book is really good. You should read it.
Me: I’m really liking the Harry Potter book I’m reading.
Mar: (giving me a sad look) Uhh, OK.
Inside my head: Man, this kid sure can make me feel dumb.
In my defense, I am also reading “World War Z” which is a book about … uh, … zom ... uh, never mind. That kid can sure make me feel dumb.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I flipped the page on the calendar last night and made mental holiday deadlines. I don't think it's just the reporter in me that makes me do this. I think a lot of moms count the number of weekends left before Christmas and contemplate how they're going to get it all done.
How did Christmas get so stressful? As the cards start flowing in with their nice sentiments and perfect penmanship, I start thinking that everyone is doing Christmas better than me. Just today one of the preschool moms was saying that she already had all of her Christmas shopping done. What? Oy.
I've learned the last few years that I have to have a running start, beginning Dec. 1.
This year, we're lucky enough to have four weekends before the big day. My plan looks like this:
Dec. 1-2, Bake cookies and freeze.
I did this last year and it really worked out well for me. Cookies, the whole baking experience with the boys and the fanciness, is pretty fun especially when you're not pressed for time. I usually stick with only 3 recipes — two tried-and-true plus one experiment. Sugar cut-outs and thumbprints made from my homemade mulberry freezer jelly are on the menu. The experiment is to be determined. That should yield about 6-8 dozen cookies depending on their size. It's perfect for our needs and even leaves some for Santa.
Dec. 8-9, The Tree and all the decorations.
We've been cutting a live tree the past few years and now it's a family tradition our children look forward to. If we get our car back in time (Don't even get me started!), then I think we may give the Covered Bridge Ranch tree-cutting farm in Montrose a try. After you say MONTROSE?, I'll say "yeah, why not?" Afterall, it's the experience of cutting the tree that we're paying for. The hayrides, the kids' activities, the hot apple cider, all add to this tree-cutting experience. It's family time well spent if you ask me.
Dec. 15-16, Christmas shopping.
This will be a one-day trip to every store in the town with my handy-dandy super assistant Julie, and a day for wrapping. Last year my boys cheated and found the present stash. I vowed to them they wouldn't see a single gift under the tree this year until Christmas Eve and I'm sticking to it.
Dec. 22-23 Guests and more baking.
I promised I'd be holiday hostess this year. You think I'd be stressed, but I'm not. I'll have some immediate baking to do of pie and breads, but the rest would be left for Christmas morning. I also know that there will be plenty of family willing to help.
Good plan right? Well, I failed to mention all the stuff in between and that's where it starts to overwhelm me. There's this job I have with its own deadlines. Holiday parties and Christmas programs. Angel choirs and special friends. Christmas cards and school pictures. Secret Santas and white elephant gifts. Letters to Santa. Light parades.
Perfectly timed, I got an email today listing ideas to help busy moms like me keep it together over the holidays. Best-selling author Jennifer Ford Berry says first and foremost to remember that "Good Enough is the New Perfect."
That's gonna be my mantra throughout the entire month of December. It fits with my Gen X lazitude and justifies anything that might suck.
Making a plan and stick to it (check sistah!),
Remember to weigh experience vs. gifts, (Oh Yeah!). "How can you bring back the true meaning of the holidays. Ideas…shouldn’t be about money and point out how advertisers are the ones that make you feel this way," Berry said.
Keep in mind the true reason you're entertaining. Which is to say keep your holiday menu simple because you don't get extra points for being the busiest hostess, she said. I take this just one step further, in that, I've already established the rule that Christmas breakfast is EASY because there is no way in heck I'm missing out on watching my boys open and play with their new toys.
Don't be afraid to use gift bags. (I feel like we should high-five right here.)
Let go of the "It's a Wonderful Life" image of the perfect Christmas. Setting unrealistic expectations will only lead to disappointment.
You can find more tips on organizing EVERYTHING at Berry's website, www.jenniferfordberry.com.
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
This month I have been reading Facebook friends give daily thanks for the important and/or happy things in their lives. I’ve been playing along in my head:
Day 7: I’m thankful for always having enough food for my family and myself.
Day 11: Today I’m thankful that I can pay my bills.
Day 16: I’m thankful for my family.
And while the sentiment can get lost in the consumerism of our holiday season, taking time to give thanks is such a good thing. Being thankful is something I try to be every day. I’m also trying to be more present.
I have so many things to savor and be thankful for throughout the year. Little things that have brought me peace and satisfaction. I get to be home with Margaret in the mornings as she gets read for school. I get to French braid her hair, make her oatmeal, drive her to school and watch her walk in with her friends.
Most days I get to pick her up after school. I get to take her to doctor’s appointments, singing lessons, to the mall. We can go shopping or get Red Mango in the afternoons. We talk about her day, her frustrations, her triumphs. I get to be present. I love that.
I get to spend my days doing meaningful work, work that I enjoy so much it doesn’t even seem like work. This is good because I work off and on all day long most days. I work more now than I ever have. I’ve even taken to returning students’ emails when I wake up in the middle of the night. And I love it. Of course, it helps that I get to do most of my work wearing sweatpants in my bed with my mattress pad warmer on (so cozy).
This semester afforded me the opportunity to get back into the classroom. For the last several years, I’ve been teaching online. I’d forgotten how much I love working with the students in person. I have to put on proper pants, but it’s so worth it.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel with my family. My mom, Bill, Mar and I travel well together. We like to go see interesting things and we’re happy just sitting around taking in the view, too.
I could go on and on about how lucky I am to be married to a man who makes me laugh everyday, about how I lucky to have my mom with us, about the rest of my family and friends.
My cup runneth over and for that I am thankful and humble.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Yesterday, CoPIRG released their latest list of toys that pose dangers to children due like choking, noise levels and other hazards.
It's near impossible to remember them all, but worth a look if you know there are specific toys on your list.
Here's the article and here's the link to the list.
Most importantly, I think, is that you remember who you're shopping for and also keep your younger children top of mind. It may mean substituting some toys for older children in the best interest of your younger child. Just shop with a mindful eye. Better safe than sorry.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holiday Shopping!
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
While Richie is scouring the toy aisles for the perfect young boys gifts, Santa and I are focusing our attention on what to get for the tween girl who has everything.
Margaret is spoiled. Have I said that before? She has everything.
But Santa is still coming, so what is on the tween list this year?
Electronics … of course. She wants a new laptop or even a desktop. She doesn’t care which, she just wants something to play Minecraft on. Oh and she wants to be able to Skype with her friends and brother (who is deployed with the Air National Guard over the holidays).
Mar loves to read, but she just told me yesterday to not buy her any books. She’d rather have gift cards so she can pick her own books. (Kids getting older can be sad for mommies who still want to pick out books they think their kids will enjoy. Gift cards, boo.) Plus she reads on her iPad, so hard copies of books are so passé.
Luckily, Mar still loves to play board games with her mom. Just last night we played several rounds of Spot It! Remember, Richie and I wrote reviews for that game a while back. Now you can find it in Target. It’s a good game for a wide range of ages. We also love Dicecapades. It’s got a little of everything, trivia, drawing and activities.
I need to look around for good board games that are interesting and fun for a 12-year-old and not boring for adults.
A large part of Margaret’s Christmas list is clothes. She wants a whole new wardrobe every two months. She wants skirts and dresses even though she often wears jeans and t-shirts with mustaches on them. Mustaches are still a thing, dontchaknow? Oh and leopard print anything.
Jewelry and accessories are also a huge part of her list. Makeup, earrings, bracelets, hair clips … she can never had enough. She likes things that are sparkly, pink, cute, and containing mustaches and Eiffel Towers. I'll likely be putting some Shains in her stocking. Their kits are fun, simple crafts that are cute and hip.
She also wants a pair of combat boots. Those are in style again. I’m not buying her a pair of Dr. Martens until her feet stop growing.
Phew, I’ve got a lot of shopping to do. But I only have one kid to buy for, so I’m not going to complain around Richie.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, November 19, 2012
So, toys are obviously on my list this year.
A few months ago, Marty purged the toy boxes of all the toys with battle scars including those missing legs, arms, heads, batteries and pieces. The trash can was full of plastic stuff made in China, not only to our dismay, but that of the boys. They learned a hard lesson in "taking care of your stuff" that day. Their toy boxes actually shut at the moment, and some of what is left they have outgrown. Poor kids, they've taken to playing with soup cans lately.
Toys are pretty easy. I'm going with action figures for the most part. But, there are a few things on the list that I've put some thought and mommy reasoning into.
First, there are going to be puzzles. When we stayed in the cabin on the Grand Mesa, Jonas couldn't get enough of putting together puzzles. He was pretty good at it. The trouble is finding puzzles that aren't super-easy but aren't super-hard either. He is only 5.
I like these puzzles made by Ravensburger.They have a whole assortment of puzzles with dinosaurs, dogs, and cartoon characters with 60 pieces instead of 200. I think 60 pieces would be pretty challenging.
Last year, Soren got LEGOs from Santa. Grrrr .... LEGOs. I have a confession to make. In the past year, random LEGO pieces have been all over my house. I suck them up with the vacuum.
The problem with LEGOs was Soren impatiently ripped into all the sets and then there was no way we could figure out how to build the Ninjago mansion. We tried to follow the instructions, but hooking c35 to red no. 1 was nearly impossible. I got bored and started building bridges and houses and pizzas or whatever came to mind. This kind of divergent thinking infuriates Soren. He's the kind of kid who plays by the rules, puts things in their exact place, and he finds there to be no good reason to deviate off the chosen path. I do NOT think like this. So, we butted heads, he deemed his LEGOs useless, and they ended up lying all over my house getting sucked up by the vacuum.
I would love for him to just build freely. How can he be an engineer when he can't build freely. So, when I saw this toy at Sam's Club I thought it might help him improve his building skills.
The purpose is to build something to take a marble from point A to point B. It's more functional than a LEGO and I think he'll like that.
Soren has also asked for a chalkboard.
When we go hiking, the boys' pockets are filled with rocks. Their undies are showing because their pants are sagging down from rocks and then they wonder why they're sooooooo tired. I think we need a rock tumbler so we can at least do something with these treasures after we get home.
Those, for the most part, are the big ones. Or, at least, what I've figured out so far.
Games and books are also on my list, but I have a couple of custom books coming for the boys and I'd like to save the games and books post in order to show those to you when they arrive.
Just for the record, I have not shopped for any of these items yet and my list is still subject to vast change in the next month. I still want to hear your suggestions.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, November 15, 2012
While Robin's been lying in bed sick, I've been busy trying to clean up all the many things that have been breaking in my life. It's cliche, but true, when they say that everything tends to happen at once.
First, there was this:
A crazy man went on a rampage through my hometown crashing cars and unfortunately my parked car was one of them. I've spent most of my 'free time' these past couple of weeks talking to multiple policeman, insurance agencies and mechanics.
And after that, the dishwasher broke, and then I decided the carpet needed cleaned and someone should come check out our furnace so we don't accidently die and maybe we should have the deck checked out and what happened to that lawn guy? and doesn't Kip need a shot? and my kitchen needs cleaned before the holidays and I'd better start working on my Christmas list and how long is going to get my car fixed?
Maybe my procrastinating caught up with me. Maybe the stars are not lined up in my favor. Whatever it is, things have gotten a little overwhelming these past couple of weeks but I finally feel like I'm getting a hold on most of it.
In the meantime, we also got Cletus.
Because what's a zoo without a cat?
Cletus belonged to a coworker who got a new job (yay) but couldn't take his cat (pooh). For whatever reason, I decided that Cletus could live with us. He came with his own cat bathroom that cleans itself. That was a big selling point for me.
He's starting to venture out of the basement and inspect the rest of our house. He doesn't mind Kip and Kip learned pretty quickly not to put his nose near his claw.
I'm wishing for everything to simmer down soon.
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Bronchitis and laryngitis. Cough medicine and vitamin C. Yeah, yeah, I went and got myself sick. Then I played with my band Saturday night. Even though a couple people said my husky lilt sounded good, singing completely wrecked my voice. Now I sound like a seal barking during a circus performance.
The good thing about working mostly from home is that I don’t have to worry about going in to the office and talking to people. The bad thing about my type of work is that my work still has to get done.
Did I ever mention that I picked up a basic writing class this semester? And two writing labs, too? I had to cancel classes this week. Interestingly, none of my students seemed sad about it. I hate canceling classes, but I had to. Not just because of the coughing, but because the croaking sounds that used to be an audible voice is undecipherable.
Luckily, email and the university’s online platform has allowed me to keep my classes humming along. Essays are being turned in and graded. Exams are being studied for. Questions are asked and answered. All the while I cough all over my computer screen.
I got this illness from Bill who had been complaining and complaining for two weeks about how horrible he felt. I may or may not have suggested that he was a bit of a pantywaist. I’m eating those words now.
This is terrible. My throat itches and burns. My head hurts from the prescription medicine. My chest aches from the coughing. My nose is sore from the constant blowing. Everything else is made of lead.
So yeah, I’m sick and that’s why I haven’t written anything this week. *cough*
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Loyal Haute Mama reader Julie suggested that books made great gifts. I agree. I get Margaret books for Christmas every year.
Mar reads a lot of James Patterson. She loves thrillers and action plots. When I was Mar's age, I read a bunch of crap. Like those Sweet Valley High pulp novels.
I'll still read crap from time to time (nothing like brain fluff now and again). But I'm always on the look out for great reads for me and for Margaret.
What was your favorite book when you were 12? What's your favorite book now? What book should I get Margaret for Christmas? What book should I get for myself?
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
On this Election Day, we here at the Haute Mamas are ignoring politics completely — not because elections aren't important or worthy of discusson, but because we've voted and now it's out of our hands. So vote, if you haven't already. Then while you're waiting for the results, check this out:
Yes, Richie and I are already thinking about Christmas. What do our kids want to get this year? What do we want them to have? What can our budgets afford? What will fit in their stockings hung by the fire with care?
This year my daughter is 12 and Richie’s boys are 6, 5 and 3. We are looking for input. What do you think are good gifts for kids this year?
Should Soren get a Red Ryder BB Gun? Should Jonas get an amp that goes to 11? Should Marek get a pony? What about my tween? Should she get high-heeled boots and red lipstick?
Over the next couple of weeks, Richie and I will be compiling a Christmas gift guide.
What are your guidelines for buying gifts for kids? What are your kids hoping to find under the tree this year? What were your favorite Christmas gifts? What do you love to give to children?