This year continues to fly by. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it only involves preparing and eating good food! No gifts to worry about, limited decorations (many leftover from fall/halloween.) No special outfits needed. It is a simple, fun holiday to share with family.
This year we spent Thanksgiving Thursday with my husband's side of the family. His aunt resides at a retirement community and her children made arrangements to use the community's guest house to host our family's dinner. There were twenty of us all together and we had a great time. The food was provided by the community's dining/kitchen staff and was good. Even better was that none of us had to cook and we could spend all the time chatting and catching up.
On Friday, I made Thanksgiving dinner for our family of three. I had "earned" a free turkey from the supermarket, so I made a turkey breast, pecan topped sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing/dressing, and pumpkin pie. It took me all day to prepare everything along with my curious and somewhat helpful sous chef, my three year old. We will be enjoying leftovers for a while.
On Saturday we did Thanksgiving with my family and my parents home. My son adores his cousins, so he had a great time playing with them. My aunt and uncle also attended...they had never met any of the youngest kids, so it was great having them there. The only problem we had was we confirmed that the little guy is definitely allergic to cats. He wasn't too bothered by the coughing, but when we left he had developed a swollen eye and hives, which went away by the time we got home. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with this, since almost everyone we know has pets. Hopefully his allergy isn't too severe, like his dad.
Last night we drove around our neighborhood to check out some of the holiday light displays. We have one neighbor who really goes crazy every year with the decorations. Thankfully he doesn't live on our street, but it is fun to look at them. We were able to park our car last night and walk around his property checking out the displays. It wasn't the gigantic Santa or snowman, or the eight million lights that excited my guy, no it was the speaker system. They had some outdoor speakers playing Christmas music and we HAD to locate all of them. He has a future in electrical engineering.
Shop early, shop often! I shop year round for my family and friends. It is a great strategy for shopping for toys and books, especially. I keep plastic tote containers in my basement and use them to store my gifts. When I find a great sale price or something on clearance, I buy it then. I’ve learned that waiting for lower prices doesn’t always work.
Use a chart, list, or spreadsheet to keep track of purchases and gift lists. I found over the years with my year round shopping that I’d forget what I bought, so now I use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my purchases. On it I also have a column for gift ideas to buy. I update it every time I bring home more gifts.
I purchase holiday outfits on clearance after the holidays, usually in January. Last January I found my son’s Christmas outfit for this holiday on clearance for 75% off. I got a three piece outfit for $6 and Christmas jammies for $3 from Sears and stashed them in the back of his closet. At this time, his size is still predictable, so this works for us now.
Shop online! I find great deals online for items that I know I specifically want. I use Retailmenot.com to find online coupons or codes for free shipping. I peruse the catalogs sent here for coupon codes too and keep a list of them from the retailers I use frequently.
I keep a running shopping cart on Amazon and other online retailers that have free shipping minimums. That way I am not placing small orders and paying shipping when I am sure to order more again soon. Once my cart reaches the free shipping threshold, I order.
I start trying to get a good snapshot of my son early in the year, usually starting in the summer, so that I have a few choices for the holiday cards. Since having a child, I love sending photo cards for the holidays instead of traditional cards. I've used Tiny Prints before for stationary and now in checking out their cute holiday cards I found a style I really like! Info about the company:
Tiny Prints provides stylish, modern and unique stationery from photo cards to personalized greeting cards to thank you cards and business cards. Offering exclusive designs from the nation’s top designers, easy card personalization, a powerful preview engine and top-notch customer service and paper quality, their designs have been lauded by numerous television networks, publications and celebrities. With Tiny Prints by your side the Holidays will be a cinch! They offer adorable Thanksgiving Cards, Christmas Cards, Hanukkah Cards, and even New Years Cards. All fully customizable and personalizable.
With photo cards, I don’t have to spend time signing cards, since greetings and names are printed right on the cards for me. I know it’s impersonal, but some things have to go when there is a time crunch. I also use printed mailing/address labels that I create on my computer using Avery labels. It really saves time when addressing cards.
Plan holiday baking and schedule it. I use my planner to decide when I’m going to bake in the month and what kind of cookies I am making. Then I assemble my shopping list and make sure I have all my baking supplies on hand.
Wrap gifts throughout the month of December. Ideally, I would wrap the gifts when I buy them, but that never happens, so I try to spread the wrapping out so that I’m not spending last minute late nights trying to get it all done.
Simplify as much as possible. We stopped exchanging gifts with many of our family members and friends because we found we were all giving each other the same thing…candles and gift cards! Instead, we focus on the kids and the time we spend together. I also like to give small homemade gifts, such as cookies or chocolate pretzels as a little gift.
And of course, at some point I recognize my limits and accept that not everything has to get done!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a $75 Tiny Prints gift certificate! For more information on how you can participate, check out the Tiny Prints webstite at TinyPrints.com.
There is a local organization that I recently learned more about and I want to share. Kisses for Kyle benefits local children and their families who are coping with cancer. In my worst parenting moments, usually in the midst of a temper tantrum or sleepless night, I try to remind myself of how fortunate we are that our little Tasmanian devil is healthy and growing well and we are not dealing with something terrible like cancer. It makes my heart heavy to read about families struggling with childhood cancer. Kisses for Kyle was founded because of one family's struggle with cancer and sad loss of young Kyle in 1998 at just under three years of age. Out of their tragedy this amazing organization began and they have helped so many children over the years. Their mission statement, as copied from their website, is :
The Kisses for Kyle Foundation is dedicated to helping children with cancer and their families who reside in the Philadelphia region, its surrounding counties and portions of New Jersey and Delaware. Our mission is to alleviate some of the massive burden that these families face during this trying time. The foundation serves to:
• Raise money to provide grants to families whose children are battling cancer; and
• Provide hope and happiness to children with cancer through donations of gifts and their participation in other fun events
Our ever growing network of sponsors and volunteers, giving both time and funds, has made Kisses for Kyle a true community effort. Your participation in our fundraisers, benefits and other scheduled events will help our local children and families at a time when they need our assistance the most.
Families who need help can contact the foundation to receive support and assistance in a variety of ways.
For the holidays, Kisses for Kyle has a published wish list on their website listing gift wishes by children living with cancer and their siblings. Last year the foundation was able to fulfill all of the children's wishes. The list will grow as the holiday season gets underway after Thanksgiving. If you are able to help make a wish come true for a little one, please check out their site. There are easy instructions there for how donations can be made.
My husband and I have talked about how important it is for us to teach our little monkey the joy of giving and the importance of helping others. I am planning to take him shopping to fulfill a wish from the list. While he is young now, I am hoping that this will help create a foundation of giving for him.
Somehow it is Friday again. This week has been disrupted greatly by the time change. My son, who was finally sleeping until 7:30 am most days is now waking up at 5:45 am. He keeps telling me that it is morning because he can see light peeking out around the edges of his blinds. He also is not going to bed any earlier, staying up playing in his bed until close to 10pm each night. That makes for one heck of a cranky mommy boy most days!
We had several potentially traumatic events occur this week too, which added to my continual sinus headache and made the lack of sleep all that more fun...not! On Tuesday we visited the library after preschool at my son's request. He likes to use their preschool computer there, that is stocked with preschooler-friendly games. While he was contently playing a Mickey Mouse ABC game, I was using the reference computer next to him to find books about visiting the dentist. (a traumatic event we may be delaying for another couple months.) I found a few that looked promising and were in the library, so I decided to go find them while he was occupied. I had never left him to look for a book before, but he was engaged in the computer, it was across from the librarians' desk and I only had to go to a small side area that was diagonally across from where he was sitting. I told him what I was going to do and said I would be back in a minute. He did not protest. It took me a couple of minutes to find what I was looking for, so when I stood up to check on him I was surprised to see one of the librarians approaching him reassuring him that I would be right back. When I got over to him he was beet red and tears were streaming. He was in a panic that he was lost. This is his reoccurring fear that he talks about all the time; he tells me if he can't see me that I am lost or he is lost. He was inconsolable at that point so we had to go home. The librarians were so nice about it and reassured me that it was ok and that he must really love me. I felt/feel terrible about it. I know how horrible panic feels and to see him in that state was heartbreaking. He was so upset all the way home that he actually cried himself to sleep during the eight minute ride! Later we tried to talk about it but he did not want to discuss it. When I tried to get him to talk about his day with his dad, he denied ever being at the library! Oy.
Today we went to visit our favorite local farm to pick up some fresh veggies and to visit the turkeys. We saw them in the summer when they were baby birds...now they are plump and ripe for Thanksgiving! (Didn't try too hard to explain that one to him...some things can wait!) Afterwards we went to Whole Foods to buy organic milk and some lunch, among other irresistible things that I find when there (like awesome apples that only Whole Foods sells and dried organic cannelloni beans.) While I was having my items rung up at the cashier, the monkey boy decided to climb on to the side of the cart. He does this to all shopping carts, which when full of items and I am holding on, isn't a problem. The carts at Whole Foods, though, are smaller than most and not real stable. So guess what happened while I was trying to get out my wallet...the cart flipped over on to him, knocking him to the ground. Thankfully he was more scared and embarrassed than hurt. The bagger helped fetch my purse that had gone flying and the cashier was trying to give the monkey a sticker, but he just wanted to cling to my leg and hide. Later he told me the sticker was scary so he didn't want it. By the time we got to the escalator, the magical one that lets the cart ride down with you, he was fine and very interested in how the escalator worked. Today's headache is not sinus related, but tension related!
Since turning three, monkey boy has been coming up with new things that he finds scary. We had to remove the frog humidifier from his room because for a solid week he would wake up between 2 and 3 am hysterical. When he finally calmed down he would tell me that the frog was scaring him and later explained that the frog was "ribbiting" at him in the middle of the night. Thankfully he is back to sleeping through the night, even if it isn't for as long as I'd like. It is so funny how his brain interprets his world. He is extremely expressive verbally, so at least we get some insight into his thoughts and fears.
So the weekend is here and we have a lot to get accomplished in two days. Santa arrives at our mall tonight! (CRAZY!) We are planning to go watch him travel through the glass elevator and welcome the holiday season. (ugh) My little guy told me this afternoon that he didn't want to go because it is too scary, the music is too loud, and he does not want to talk to Santa. Let's hope his mind changes after his nap, especially since his daddy is coming home from work early to go with us!
To counteract the holidays, and because I just prefer fall way more than winter, we did visit pumpkins today while at the farm. I'll end with the pumpkin inspector posing for the camera! He also tried to befriend the garden statue, even though he told me it was just pretend.
I can't believe how fast this week has flown by. How can it be Friday night already?? I feel like this past week was ridiculously busy and I had very little time to write. So I don't forget what we did this past week, here is my wrap up for my memory:
Started the week with Halloween, lots of candy, and some wine! We still have a huge bowl of candy because the little guy forgot about it already.
Toy Story 3! We are big fans of the Toy Story 3 "trilogy" so it arrived from Amazon on Tuesday and promptly was viewed. I forgot how sad it was for parents. The first one is still my favorite, but this one was enjoyed too.
Morris Arboretum...we headed over there on Tuesday to enjoy the sunny and crisp fall weather. We missed many of the trees turning colors, but we did collect a large pile of leaves and discussed what trees they were from, such as the fan shaped ginko leaves. We also discovered a section of the arboretum we had never explored before.
Election day was also Tuesday. The little guy went with me and got to push the "orange" button for me. The outcome was disappointing...let's see what happens next in PA!
Spent the morning with play group at the local playground and the kids had a blast in the chilly morning. It made for great napping that afternoon!
I crocheted a scarf for a teacher gift! I think I'm actually getting the hang of the hook now and figuring out the crochet patterns. I still look at "dc" and think it means decrease, but the scarf turned out great. Now I need to make a second one.
Christmas shopping...speaking of gifts, I went through my supply of gifts in storage and made my list of what is purchased and what still needs to be bought. I use an excel spreadsheet each year to keep track of purchases and since I shop year round and stash everything in plastic storage tubs, I have most of my shopping completed. Such a relief! Now to figure out what needs to be crafted for gifts this year...I might actually have time to make a few things! (Like the teddy bear my little guy asked for...he wants two more to go with the first one I made him!) He sleeps with this bear and has proceeded to smash it almost flat! He saw the pattern for it this week in a book of my patterns and requested one in chocolate and oatmeal colors.