Thursday, December 31, 2009

what a wonderful xmas!

finally getting around to blogging about xmas...i have been waiting to get the pictures from adam, who already took them off the camera and uploaded to his computer. so hopefully by the time i finish this post he'll have gotten them to me.

this year we didn't have the pay cut that we had last year, so it started out feeling not so tight as last year...although still not extravagant, since we knew we wouldn't be getting a xmas bonus again. but i got a 6month ad just in time that was $600, so i felt like we were going to be able to do really well...well...then a whole thing happened with at&t, when i was about halfway through my shopping (i always shop late because we rarely have money til late)...to make a long story short, we ended up paying at&t over $500 which cut into our xmas money greatly (and our bank account is still in the red, since we have held onto what little cash we had left to pay pg&e today...used our credit card for the rest of xmas, *sigh*, something we are loathe to do) ANYWAY, so there were a few days of stress and we will be a few months to catch up on everything now, financially, argh.

soooo....what i had originally planned for the kids for xmas was new bikes...since both of them need them. maeven's is far too small for her and tyr still has a tricycle and he's going on 4 and a half and really wanting a 2-wheeler. but, i realized finally that we just weren't going to be able to afford to get them bikes. so i came upon the idea of getting snow clothes for everyone. the kids have been bugging me for a trip to the snow for ages and i keep saying we'll do it every year and every year we don't. so i finally figured if i got them the clothes for xmas that it would force me to use them. (i hate waste) so that's what i did. and then i figured if i got them snow clothes that i would need some for us too because otherwise we'd be miserable. so everyone got snow pants, boots, and those that needed mittens got mittens (i already had some). also bought us a plastic toboggan. the kids were thrilled! (i was a little worried that they'd take it less enthusiastically than i envisioned, but i needn't have worried.)

let me backup a bit to xmas eve...we spent xmas eve with adam's family (though we did bring my brother along since my parents were at dos palos for xmas eve, where my dad preaches on weekends and special holidays). it was really nice because there was no pressure to do lots of gifts. everyone knew everyone was hurting financially so we did another year of not even discussing gift exchange (we used to draw names since there's so many people, but we stopped when things got tighter and tighter). really nice because it was one less thing for all of us to worry about, i think. :) we still do gifts for the little kids, though, so i did my best to get what i hope was gifts that they'd like but that didn't cost an arm and a leg. i think everyone pretty much did that. and that was really great because frankly my kids don't need all the tons of gifts that past xmas's have held. it used to get so overwhelming with all the gifts that we used to have to haul home from some xmas's. i'm glad that the kids are seeing less these days...they don't need to come to expect all that excess. each of my kids got 2 gifts to open on xmas eve--each got a really cool kite and then maeven got a magic kit and tyren got a cute animal game.

and again i emphasized the act of giving, to my kids, so i gave them some money (mostly maeven), to buy some things or supplies for things to make for their relatives. both maeven and tyren made all sorts of homemade things that they were very excited to give, and i swear they seemed more excited handing those out than they did in opening the few gifts they received that night. that is how i wanted it to be, so i was happy to see it. and the surprise that everyone expressed when the kids kept coming at them with more gifts (each little thing was individually wrapped). i think that added excitement for the kids too. so i was really pleased at how my kids got to experience the giving at xmas. so proud. :)

one surprise of the evening was the dvd player that adam's dad gave us for in our car. so each kid has their own screen now for when we go on trips. WAY cool! i never would have even thought to ask for something like that, so it was a nice surprise! especially since that weekend we did go on a trip to the mountains, and it really came in handy!

so we spent a few hours at adam's sisters for xmas eve and had a nice time, then went home for the standard santa cookies/milk, night before xmas story (which maeven read to us all for the 2nd year in a row). oh and oats (dry oatmeal) and carrots in their shoes out front for the reindeer.

xmas morning was the earliest they ever awoke before...it was about 7:45am...our kids normally sleep in til like 9am and have to be aroused and reminded its xmas! last year tyren was saying how stupid xmas was because he didn't want to wake up, LOL!

so we did the stockings (full of candy and art supplies...big hit!) and gifts of snow clothes and such...went over really well...and the kids also got 3 books each from mommy and daddy, and one book to share that was a klutz book about tying knots that i found on clearance at the scholastic warehouse sale...and 2 books each from santa...and adam got me the blue tooth and car plug for my phone that i had really wanted! and i got him the polaroid POGO printer he had been wanting more than anything. (had to run out the door in the morning like 2 days before xmas to get the last one they had at office maxx! i looked all over town for that thing!)

and then after we all got dressed we headed to my parents house and opened more presents. maeven was having a really weepy morning for some reason, so it wasn't as happy a xmas morning as i had hoped....we think it might have been from all the candy before getting anything substantial in her belly. she tends to get like that without any "growing food."

my parents got maeven 3 big origami kits, which she LOVES! (she's been way into origami for awhile)...and tyren got a paper airplane kit and a flying things kits with all sorts of flying disks and airplanes and such. really big hit as well! and we all got clothes, which we are always happy for. and various little things that were fun. and we hung out much of the rest of the day. then headed home before things got too rough with the kids behavior going downhill and my mom's patience wearing thin.

it was a nice holiday overall and we had a fabulous trip to the snow on sunday, 2 days after xmas.

pics will be inserted into this post after i get them from adam. for now, i do have all the snow pics up on our shutterfly site already.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"the gift of giving"--sorta different perspective?

i mean "the gift of giving" in a little different sense. usually its used to mean that its a gift of giving something to someone, right? i am thinking of it in terms of giving my kids the gift of learning to give. its on my mind a lot lately, during this season.

i'd love to hear how other people instill this gift in their children...i'm sure we all want to have giving children...i'm sure we all have different ways of looking at this. right now i'm thinking about it as my little girl (9) plans out the rest of the gifts she's making for friends and family...and listening to her delight in planning it all out. and how excited she is to have them open them for christmas. she's so funny, she already has figured out that other kids aren't super interested in homemade things from other kids, but most grownups go gaga over them, LOL!

we've always encouraged out kids to give...since they were little, we've tried to get them to give something handmade...even if its just a little fingerpainted bookmark from a toddler. we don't necessarily do it every year for every person...but i try to somehow instill giving to my children each year in some way. sometimes its purchasing toys for a family in need.

a couple years ago we started giving maeven a little cash to purchase her own gifts for people...knowing that its very special to make your own gifts but sometimes there are things you want to buy as well. sometimes its supplies to put together, sometimes its a little item from a dollar store...they're all special. and dollar stores are great for this purpose, i tell ya. you can get a lot with very little and its all so exciting to little gift buyers. :)

maeven's been working extra hard this year on presents for loved ones that are homemade. and she also has things in mind to spend the xmas money on gifts for family as well. i talk to her about planning out who all she wants to purchase items for...and divide it up accordingly. she's done great with this in the past. and whether or not the gifts mean something to those that receive them, they mean something to her, and that's what i'm going for.

i hope i'm doing a good job at it. i am making it up as i go along, but she seems to be getting it. and tyren is still only 4, but he's slowly getting the idea some as well. this year i'm thinking of giving him a little xmas money to buy something for family members as well. and we'll do some homemade things as well.

there really is something so powerful to that feeling when you are able to give to someone else. its a feeling that i am very proud to share with my children. good heavens, i'm no saint. i don't give to every homeless person i see (and i see them every day)...i don't go out of my way to do wonderful things for people every day. i do what i can, when i can. and perhaps i could do more, but what we're doing seems to be working as i see the spark in my daughter's eyes as she talks about the special things she's making for her daddy and grandmas and grandpas and such. hopefully tyr will follow suit, as he gets older.

what do you do with your kids to help them experience the gift of giving? i really want to know! maybe you have some ideas i've not thought of that i might want to "steal"! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

hallelujah!!

ok, i seriously suck at regular housework...i mean i do it all the time but i can't seem to maintain anything. and i've not been really great about consistency with the children with chores. i want to, and i really mean to...i just suck at it. i'm starting to really get that i suck at consistency in most anything and so i have been finding ways to make things work without it relying upon me being consistent about anything.

so, that's exactly why i got the program times up kidz for my computer...so that i don't have to hover over my children to keep them from being on the computer all day. also to avoid the fighting. so that's worked fabulously, and the kids now have resigned themselves to the program shutting them down after an hour. (with recorded warnings at 30min, 15min, 5min and 1min) love it!

so then i finally came up with another idea to help get the chores done. going by what dr phil calls "finding your child's currency", i figured out that for my kids, its computer time. i have been using the computer timer to remove time when they are misbehaving...but it finally occurred to me to make them earn their time on the computer.

so....instead of them getting 2 hours of computer time free each day (with an hour in between each hour, so only an hour at each sitting)...i took off an hour. so they only get 1 hour play time free. the other hour, if they want it, they have to earn. i also added that they have to wait 4 hours in between sittings...to get them away from the computer during a chunk of time during the day.

how do they earn it? they have to do their chores. if they do half their chores, they get an extra half an hour. if they do all, they get an extra full hour.

well, this isn't working super great for tyren...because, well, he's 4. so he still needs a lot of guidance and supervision for chores...but maeven...wow! its seriously working well!

not only that but i figured out that i need to rotate the chores to help keep them from getting old. this was something that i hated as a child. i basically had the same chores assigned to me my entire childhood. i didn't want to do that to my children, so i planned to rotate them and finally did a little and maeven was talking about how much more she likes her chores now! she just started talking about it on her own, so i was really pleased!

she ROCKS at doing laundry, i must say! i've given her laundry as part of her chores, broken down into steps, so one chore is to put a load in the washer, one is to move a load from washer to dryer, one is to take a load out of dryer and sort into piles, and another is to fold and put away all her own clothes. (not necessarily in that order) she really has been an amazing help!

ROFL, she just told me that she's almost done w/her chores and i said "really? all 9 of them?" (they have 1 chore per year of their life)...and she said "well, its easy when most of your chores are laundry!" LOL!

so are there days when they still don't do chores, and choose to just not get that hour on the computer? sure. and that's ok, because i don't do all my work every day either...and i figure its win-win because the days they don't do the chores, they have less computer time--which is good too! :)

we'll keep working on more consistency, but for now i was just really happy watching my little girl go to work on her chores today. :) another proud mama moment.