Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Wrap Up

She decided Santa was real this year. 

So last year I wrote a note to myself (here) about how to do Christmas better, or at least, OK.

Reviewing it I have to say, we scored about 85%. This holiday season was MUCH better than the last three, for sure. Of course, it helped that no one had the flu and we have a working kitchen. It also helped that we continued in our yearly Lowering of the Expectations.

The Christmas Season in America is SO BIG. As soon as you've blown out the candle in your Jack-o-Lantern, BOOM, the Santas and the Reindeer and the Lights and the Chocolate and the STUFF is everywhere. There is absolutely no pretense of waiting until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is just the dress rehearsal for Christmas.

For adopted children who have trauma and loss in their little lives (which is all of them) and/or for children with less than jolly lives, all this forced cheer and bright lights can be agonizing. It's all just too much. So in our family we try, all December, to turn the volume down. We put the tree up the weekend before Christmas. We don't do Santa. (gasp! Read my apology/explanation here.) We don't spend a whole month talking about presents and Elves. I may feel a lot of extra stress and have a lot of extra chores, but I try to keep the kids out of that loop. It's my choice to make handmade cookies for my co-workers and send out lots of Christmas cards, not theirs. So all December, they go to bed early, and I do my holiday "work" in the quiet dark.

This Christmas the best thing we did was NOTHING. Christmas Eve we went to church and had famliy over for dinner and had a great time making a glorious mess opening presents. Christmas morning the kids found a small pile of unwrapped, pre-battery filled toys, and they simply started playing. We ate, we lounged, we played, we ate again, and we went to bed early. It was great! Low expectations equals low stress.

I hope your holiday season was just want you wanted- whatever that was! Here is to next year!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Say His Name

Tamir Rice,

Say His Name

Michael Brown,

Say His Name

Trayvon Martin,

Say His Name

Cameron Tillman,

Say His Name

VonDerrit Myers Jr.,

Say His Name

Laquan McDonald,

Say His Name

Qusean Whitten,

Say His Name

Dillon McGee,

Say His Name

Levi Weaver,

Say His Name

Akai Gurley,

Say His Name

Kajieme Powell,

Say His Name

Ezell Ford,

Say His Name

Dante Parker,

Say His Name

John Crawford III,

Say His Name

Eric Garner,

Say His Name

Victor White III,

Say His Name

Andy Lopez,

Say His Name

Kimani Gray,

Say His Name

DeAunta Terrel Farrow,

Say His Name

Malcom X,

Say His Name

Martin Luther King Jr,

Say His Name

Emmitt Till,

Say His Name

Too many to name.

Say His Name    Say His Name   Say His Name

The 14 Teens Killed By Cops Since Michael Brown

Police Killed More than 100 Unarmed Black People in 2015

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Polic 1999-2014

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas, Christmas

 The December passed in a big, jolly blur. There was much celebrating of many things, and many, many lists were made and checked and crossed off.

We are very tired.

Our Christmas surprise to the kids was a night at their favorite hotel. It has a giant water slide. And a buffet breakfast. What else do you need to be happy, at ages 5 and 9? Nothing.

So, here are some blurry photos of our blurry Holiday season. 

I look forward to the clarity of January!

We celebrated 3/4 Advent Sundays! A record!

I trimmed Lily's hair! 

We went to see The Nutcracker! (With our nutcracker, of course)

A tree was purchased.

And decorated.

Christmas morning! No tears! (This year we did not wrap the kids' presents. We unpackaged them, put the batteries in and put them under the tree. Christmas morning was "wow! Yes! Let's play!" BEST decision of 2015, hands down.)

Light sabers. Of course.

Recovering, poolside. Love those happy smiles.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent 2015

It's the Tuesday after the 2nd Sunday of Advent! Which means, it's about time I wrote about how awesome Advent is going this year! I'm permentally one week behind in life right now. I'm fine with it at this point. Anyway... Advent 2015!

But first, a little walk down memory lane...

2014: We did Advent, a little bit sloppily, but we tried. We nailed Christmas Eve, but by Christmas Day we kind of all fell apart again. Read Advent thoughts from last year  here

2013: We didn't do Advent, and also Christmas sucked because we had a construction site/house and the flu. You can read that fun journey here 

2012: First time celebrating Advent! I was ON THE BALL! Oh, man it was planned out. However, I think we may have missed one or two Sundays... We did still have a toddler living in our house. Everything from 2012 is kind of a blur...
            Advent Parts 1 -4 here, here, here and here

So here we are, four years in. And, I've figured out a couple of things. 

1. Children older than 4 are much, much easier to sit down and have a spiritual conversation with. Or really, do anything with.

2. Advent+ Ice cream = Success! Everyone is too busy sucking down their sundaes to realize you are trying to TEACH them something! By the time their bowls are empty, Ha! You've done it! MAGIC.

So this year we have twice so far, with the help of ice cream, successfully taught our children a little bit of the mythology and history of Christmas, and tried to reinforce the magic that we are hoping will happen... not the magic of getting everything you want from your Christmas list, but the magic of the world stopping, for just one night, to reflect on the birth of a child in a manger. And perhaps, perhaps, marveling at the humanity and miracle that is in each of us. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three ways to help your marriage outlast your kids' childhood. Part 2.

It's no secret that raising kids is tough on a marriage. The sleep deprivation alone is enough to make your normally happy relationship fraught with tension and resentment. Romance, date nights, lazy Sundays together, brunch: all of those are kind of out the window when you have young kids.

BUT,  you don't have to wait til your kids are grown up to enjoy a happy marriage. In fact, you really shouldn't! It's not like your relationship has a "pause" button. (Well, maybe it does, but not a 18 year pause.)

There are three things we do to keep our marriage from falling apart under the pressure of raising children.

1. We invest time and money in our relationship. Time and money are in short supply all the time, especially when you have little kids (daycare, ballet lessons, co-pays, new shoes, school supplies... Kids are expensive!) This year Andrew and I very intentionally set aside a bit of our budget for a monthly date. We try to schedule the date early, before our calendars are filled up with family gatherings, sporting events, playdates and school functions. So far we've had 4 dates in 4 months, with only one of those interrupted by a frantic phone call from the babysitter about a sick kid. We try to plan our dates to be a little bit more than just dinner out. We plan a "grown-up" outing that we wouldn't enjoy as much with the kids in tow. We visit a museum, or take a long walk in the park or visit a part of the city we haven't been to in a while, or ever.  This summer we took a river cruise, which was so lovely. We try NOT to run errands during the date. As convenient as it would be to get some shopping done while the babysitter is still on the clock, a trip to Target is not romantic.

A couple of ways to save money on date night is to get friends or relatives to babysit (for free!) Or, exchange babysitting with another parent. Also, dates don't have to be at night. Brunch is lovely, and much less expensive! Plus you don't run the same risk of falling asleep in your dessert.

10th Anniversary of our First Date, last month.

2. We rescue each other. Parenting is hard work, and sometimes you just aren't have a good day. (or week) Even though we have a pretty good routine in place about who does what chore (Andrew does bedtime, I do the morning-get-out-the-door thing) - sometimes we each need a break.  Sometimes you can see that your partner is about to hit his breaking point during dinner, or if you do one more load of laundry you just might burst into tears. Tag team. Take a break. Hide in the bathroom. Put your headphones on and shut your door. It's okay for the other person to pick up the slack, just so long as you take turns helping each other out. 

Daddy is very good at taking the kids to the park when Mommy needs to stay home and clean veg out to Netflix.

3. We express our gratitude to each other. Even about mundane things. As in, "Thanks so much for folding all that laundry." Or, "That was delicious, thanks for making dinner." Of course the laundry is going to get done and dinner made, but it's so much more pleasant and supportive when you acknowledge each other's hard work. It helps remind you that you are in this together, and that even if the laundry is wrinkled or the dinner is instant mac and cheese, you're both trying your best. 
mmmm... oysters on the river cruise. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Lazy Mom's Guide to a Happy Thanksgiving

Dedicated to my mom. The original Amazing Lazy Mom.

Step 1: Don't cook. Make sure to announce to your family that you are not cooking so everyone can adjust their expectations accordingly.

Step 2: Get out of the house. Go watch a parade! What fun! Make sure to pack snacks, because hungry tummies are annoying. Also, scout the locations of bathrooms.

The classic.
Step 3. Let the kids play! Who is in a rush? Ramble around! Climb rocks! Enjoy the sunshine! There is nothing that needs to get done.

Who needs to watch a parade! There is a rock to climb!

So. much. better. than. turkey.

Step 4: Eat out. We have eaten Peking Duck for many Thanksgivings of my life. It's delicious, and you can order a ridiculous number of side dishes. Overeating is not culturally restricted. And, leftovers! We prefer loud, simple Chinese restaurants. Fancy is not for us, thank you very much.

Duck? Really?
At first very skeptical, but then chomping down!

Should read "yummy!"

Step 5: Go Home. Put on your pajamas and watch a movie. This is the best part. This year we were watching Elf and eating pie by 3:30PM. I baked pies, because I like pies and I like baking. But a truly lazy mom could have just broken out a tub of pumpkin ice cream and called it a day.

Step 6: Dinner? Who needs dinner!? Have some more pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!