Thursday, November 27, 2014

Infusing Thanksgiving into Christmas

So many people eagerly jump straight from Halloween to Christmas, with just a quick break for a big Thanksgiving Day meal before the dreaded/lusted after Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday shopping frenzy.

On the other hand, there are those who won't pull out a Christmas decoration or listen to a Christmas song one minute before the day after Thanksgiving, some not until December first.

I am one who appreciates that November is about Thanksgiving and gratitude, however I like to plan ahead and am thinking of Christmas presents already too.

How can these major holidays live side by side?

Be grateful you have someone to shop for.

So many people get depressed around this joyful time of year because they have had a significant loss. There are many with no grandma, no father, no husband, no best friend, no ten year old granddaughter, no four year old little boy, or no newborn daughter to shop for.

There are also so many kids who won't get anything or hardly anything for Christmas because their parents can't afford it or they have parents who don't care. It's hard to forget the little boy from Polar Express.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, be grateful for those you have around you. Add Thanksgiving into your Christmas this year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What matters most

My daughter Hannah is one smart cookie. Developmentally, she's hit every milestone early, from walking and talking, to reading and writing. It's something that I love about her, and it makes me super proud in that obnoxious honor-roll-student-bumper-sticker-parent kind of way.

Last school year, Hannah was involved in a mixed abilities class as a typical peer, which means her class was composed mostly of kids with some sort of delay or anxiety and needed a little extra help. I explained to Hannah that her job was to be on her best behavior to help kids see how they were supposed to behave. She was supposed to be a leader.

Pretty early on I noticed that several of the kids got excited when she arrived for class. They'd wave excitedly and give her hugs and high fives when she'd approach the line. I also noticed that most of the positive comments that came home from school mentioned her helping a peer when they were sad, or being a good friend to someone in need. I thought it was nice, but then I didn't give it a second thought. I just kept pushing her to read, or write her letters better. I kept focusing on the state kindergarten standards so that when the time came she'd be ahead of the curve.

On her last day of class we were all invited to a party. Hannah picked a spot for us and I went and sat by her. Soon two other kids joined us. There wasn't enough room at the table so we moved and they moved with us, and we were joined by a third kid. I noticed this small group of kids seemed to gravitate to Hannah. It wasn't because she is on the ball, or super smart, or put together, or any of the things I'd hoped she'd be. It's because she is KIND. She is a good friend to them.

And I had one of Oprah's golden aha moments.

I've spent the last five years hoping she'd excel in life and essentially be perfect. I've gotten frustrated with her when she wasn't meeting my high expectations of her. I've thought of her as a reflection of me. I thought, if my kid was super obedient, or exceptionally well behaved then that must mean I'm doing my job, so when Hannah wasn't perfectly perfect I'd get embarrassed.

Apparently, this is an oldest child thing, because I haven't been that way with my second as much, and I don't think I'll be that way with my third. Also, maybe I'm just wound too tightly.

I've wanted her to be the best academically, but really, what I should have been wanting was for her to be kind and to be a friend. Thankfully, it seems that it is one of her inherent qualities, and my personal negligence in that department hasn't negatively impacted her. I became extremely emotional realizing my own mistake: missing her greatest asset and abilities. She is able to love, and be loved. She treats her peers with respect and kindness. She listens. She is fun. She cares about people, and what they have to say.

When Hannah is a grown woman nobody will remember that she walked at nine months old or she was reading at four years old, and nobody will remember the things she achieved in high school or college or in her chosen career. They'll remember how she treated them, and I hope she continues to be her same sweet, loving self. Hopefully she knows how much I appreciate the person she is. Even when I'm a little neurotic.

Alaina, Hannah, and Emma. They've known each other their whole lives, and are in the same kindergarten class.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stay Home: A Holiday PSA

It seems like almost every time we take our two year old to church, she gets sick. I know it's not just us that this happens to because several friends have mentioned it also. It's even harder because we have a five month old who easily catches whatever her big sister has.

If you are sick, if your kids are sick, please stay home! Order some delivery for dinner. Rent a couple movies online. Or better yet- cook at home and watch the movies you own. Just please stay home!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Melissa's Top Fall Picks

This post contains affiliate links. 

As we all know, books, like clothing and produce, have seasons. I'm not talking about seasons of life, which, of course they do, but actual seasons of the year. A few years ago, a friend of mine lent me a book in late March. I saw the cover, and was immediately struck by it's beauty and I thought, This must be saved for October. The following are books that I've loved reading in autumn when the air is cool and crisp, leaves crunch underfoot, and my closet is fully stocked with knit sweaters. At least, those things would be true if I didn't live in Las Vegas.

1) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I don't know what it is about the arrival of autumn, but each September I have this urge to reread the Harry Potter series, starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Have you heard of it? It's this small little book about a young boy who discovers he's a wizard, and he's just been accepted to the finest wizarding school in all the world. Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it, it's pretty underground.

2) The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is the book my friend lent me. Isn't the cover gorgeous? Combine the aesthetic beauty with the story within and its a recipe for great literature. Kate Morton is one of my favorites, and this little tale of long lost family, betrayal and a forgotten secret kept me up at night while I devoured it, along with a cup of hot chocolate.

3) Happier at Home by Gretchen Ruben

Sometimes I just need a little boost of happiness, and Gretchen is the happiness guru. I love the advice she offers in this book. In it, she talks about how she views the start of a school year, and September as a whole, as a rebirth, a time to start fresh. I agree, which is why I love to read this book at the beginning of the school year, even before my kids were old enough to join the masses in school.

4) The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

This is a fairly recent favorite. I read this book last fall and fell in love. It's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read, and I immediately went out and started purchasing copies for my friends. The Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani is an epic story of the immigrant experience at the turn of the century. Trigiani stated that this book is based on her own grandparents, and that the book took over 20 years to write. It is a slow, beautiful burn. The writing is fantastic, the storytelling exquisite, and the characters are real and lovable. This book will take you to the Italian Alps and turn of the century New York City. Beautiful.

5) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This whimsical tale captured my heart a few Novembers ago. It is an enchanting story of competition, a long living feud, magic, and a beautiful love story as a bonus. Fans of the movie The Prestige will love it.

6) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This story needs no introduction. One of my favorites for any season, but especially fall, this book sheds light on the myth of the American dream. Throw in some sleazy characters, a likable narrator, and beautiful prose by Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald and we have a winner.

7) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Another book that needs no introduction. What better book for fall than this Gothic romance, featuring one of the greatest heroines in all of literature? After reading Jane Eyre, you MUST locate the 2006 Masterpiece Theater's miniseries staring Ruth Wilson and Tony Stephens. Swoon.

What are your favorite Fall reads? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

Some may consider this blasphemous, but I am not speaking about Christmas. Yes, I adore Christmas and everything that goes with it.  But truly, my heart lies with another season.  Fall is where it's at.   It's always been my favorite.  Just like Lorelai Gilmore and snow, I love fall. Why, you may ask? I shall tell you!

-The autumnal foliage. It's gorgeous. Suddenly the plants that have been green through spring and summer are now these rich, wonderful shades of gold, and burgundy and brown.

-The smells. You really can't beat the smell of a fresh pumpkin pie. Plus everything is spiced. The delicious smells of cinnamon and nutmeg in an apple pie. The sweet smell of a chocolate pie just asking to be eaten.

-You guessed it. Pie. 'Nuff said

-The weather.  I am not a fan of sweating. In fact it's rather annoying. Probably something I should have learned to deal with before moving to Texas... In fall it isn't cold, and it isn't hot. There is often a slight breeze that just brushes against your face.

-The clothes. You can add a few layers and not hide them under a huge jacket. You can add scarves and boots without having to wear big snow boots and huge fluffy scarves to cover you face. Plus the tan you have been cultivating all summer now nicely compliments the colors of the foliage outside.

-The preparations. This may sound crazy to most, but I love preparing for the holidays. I like to try and make them last as long as possible, without driving those around me insane. My way of doing that is preparing. Lists of foods for Thanksgiving. Old favorites and new experiments. Decorations for the Thanksgiving table. New ways to celebrate the wonderful season inside my home. And Christmas prep. Making lists of ideas, finding prices and looking for deals. I'm odd.

-Crafting. Fall has also become my excuse to spend extra money and time on crafts. Hobby Lobby probably loves this season for that reason. I spend so much more time making and brainstorming. I love crafts, and without my specific dedication to them in the fall, I would probably never get to do them.

-The weather, again. All summer I run around outside with my children, and I love it. All winter I stay inside or spend an absurd amount of time getting ready to go outside. And in the fall I can take a chair outside, and sit comfortably. I can even sometimes use a light blanket. Just because I love the feel of being under a blanket.

-The food. I know I already spoke of pie, and honestly, it deserves it's own bullet point. But now I am talking about everything else. Caramel apples, apple pie, stuffing, turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, pears, apple cider. It's all so delicious. And as an added bonus, as if you needed it. Who cares if you eat too many calories, those wonderful scarves and layers can hide it until you feel motivated to move again.

Really, there isn't a single thing that I don't like about Fall; and, if you knew me, that really wouldn't surprise you at all. I am sure there are people out there who have different opinions. It is their right, no matter how crazy it is, to have that opinion.  But, if you ask me, Fall certainly comes in at 1 out of 4.