12 Signs of Christmas, from a teacher/mama (Daily December #12)

1. You fall behind on everything on your to-do list (including updating your blog) because you’re too busy shopping – real or online.

2. Most of the aforementioned shopping is for yourself and your children, until you remember that it’s nine days to Christmas and you haven’t bought a thing for anyone on your list.

3. You actually get real mail that isn’t junk for a change.

4. Children everywhere have lost their minds. Especially teenagers. It’s awful.

5. Things that you never, ever eat suddenly seem irresistible because it’s Christmas. Bring on the figgy pudding. And the fruitcake. Throw in some mincemeat pie, too.

6. None of your clothes fit and you find yourself wishing you had put “larger pants” on your Christmas list.

7. On that note, having to wear pants is depressing. Isn’t it pajama season?

8. You look at your lesson plans for the week, sigh heavily, and start perusing Netflix for something you can pass off as instructional.

9. Resisting the urge to post your Christmas card all over Facebook before you have mailed it takes so much effort that next year, you’re just going to do it anyway. It’s the digital age, right?

10. You read about someone getting drunk at their office Christmas party, and you miss the days when that was a thing. Or you cringe because it is still a thing, and that someone was you. Either way.

11. Instead of excitedly counting the days until Santa arrives, you are stricken with panic because you ARE Santa. Figuratively, of course. Not literally. Of course you’re not really Santa.

and finally

12. Amid the chaos, there are moments of pure joy that remind you of the Christmas season – unexpected gifts, a child’s wonder at the lights on the tree, time spent with family. The real signs of Christmas.

Holiday Reflection + Bonus Crafts (Daily December #6)

Craft pic

Today’s challenge was “Holiday Reflection,” which probably means I should have photographed a reflection of some sort. But my previous blogs have already highlighted my lack of photographic prowess. Instead I thought would offer an actual reflection on the upcoming holiday. Our house has been decorated, our tree is plugged in, the stockings are taped to the wall- And yet, for some reason, it doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas.

I’ve always associated certain things with getting into the holiday spirit – Christmas music on the radio, baking Christmas cookies, going to an overcrowded mall, going ice-skating, decorating the house, wearing Christmas socks and earrings, watching Christmas movies. But life is difficult with twins, and even more so when you are a family with one car and two full-time working parents. Somehow it doesn’t feel quite as Christmassy to watch Love, Actually alone – and it’s really frowned upon to drink spiked hot cocoa alone. Especially on school nights. My knee-high Christmas socks don’t fit my post-partum calves (yes, my calves grew; no, you don’t get to judge me.) I put Christmas music on for my morning commute, but it’s drowned out by the voices in my head: “Crap, why didn’t I set my alarm earlier. If I hit another red light I won’t have time to put on mascara before the first bell. Shit, I think I forgot to turn in my attendance. And what I am doing period 3? Did I make copies?”

I wouldn’t say I feel Grinchy, but I’m definitely feeling apathetic. To counteract this, my husband and I have really been working on trying to pull in some Christmas spirit where we can. I did manage to make two Pinterest crafts, which is an epic feat with toddlers, let me tell you (instructions below). And those little acts brightened up my mood! Which made me realize – the Christmas season, like life, is about faking it until you make it. So I might need bigger Christmas socks, and I might need to play the music louder in the AM. And I’m probably going to drink my spiked cocoa alone; no one call the authorities.
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Simple Christmas Wreaths

Materials:
Super cheap paper plates
Paintbrushes
Construction paper
Washable red and green paint*
Sharpie
Toddlers
High chairs
Patience

Instructions:
1. Put children in high chairs wearing only their diapers (and not your favorite BG artist print; this is going to get messy).
2. Give one child a piece of construction paper with a glob of paint on it.
3. Show him how to swirl the paint around with a brush.
4. Give him the paintbrush.
5. DO NOT become alarmed when he eats the paint and the brush. It’s non-toxic. (*You DID buy non-toxic paint, right?)
6. Paint the hand of the other child green.
7. Stamp his hand repeatedly on a paper plate.
8. Switch kids.
9. Repeat.
10. Paint perfect little holly berries and a ribbon with red paint while your children create masterpieces on their construction paper/high chair tray/face/hair.
11. Bath time!
12. When wreaths are dry, write their name and the year to prove that you had some modicum of sanity in the early years.

Greyson craft

sawyer craft

Voila!

Salt Dough Ornaments

You might have seen this on Pinterest as a way to create salt dough Santas. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you buy clearance paint and it doesn’t come with the color white, and then you can’t paint Santa because his BEARD IS WHITE and so you tell yourself that your ornaments are authentic. Really. Very. Authentic.

Materials:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
Straw
Rolling Pin (unless you want yours to look like mine.)

Instructions:
1.Mix flour, salt, and water together to create a dough.
2.Break into balls; flatten with your hands.
3. Roll out with a rolling pin. **Skip this step if you like “authentic” ornaments**
4. Locate your toddlers in the hall closet, where they are making vacuum noises and playing with “no-no” items.
5. Convince them to make a handprint on your freshly rolled dough.
6. Poke a hole with the straw so a ribbon can be threaded through.
7. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for around three hours.
salt dough ornaments

Capture Wonder (Daily December #3)

I’m no photographer (as you can tell from my over-edited picmonkey tomfoolery), so I plan to be creative with this December photo challenge. What better way to “Capture Wonder” than to get professional pictures of your adorable child and send a holiday card? I’m obsessed with the photography of Chrystal Cienfuegos, and you really should be also. If I could afford to pay her to follow me around full-time with a camera, I would. I can’t possibly spoil our holiday photos, though, so I’ll show you this adorable sample from their first “official” photo shoot.
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When your children are this cute, not just any card design will do. Luckily through the wonders of fate and the internet, I have befriended a fabulous graphic designer who just happens to specialize in cards featuring adorable children. Melissa of Sour Pea Design is always coming up with fresh new material for her Etsy shop. She creates custom or pre-made digital files at prices that are realistic for moms. Buying one of her designs and having it printed is not only cuter than your average photosite.com, it’s infinitely more affordable. I mean, check out these fabulous holiday options:

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AND there’s even an option for twin moms (featuring the lovely Steely twins, photographed at their teeny-tiniest by Chrystal, of course.) How could you resist?

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Dealing with Loss.

I lost my baby at Costco.

Not literally, of course. And not my toddlers – they were safely strapped into the double cart, attracting as much attention as usual. No, I lost the teeny tiny glimmer of a future child my husband and I had just conceived. I can’t explain how I knew. But I did. I felt an odd sensation, and was instantly filled with panicky anxiety. I was nervous enough to be pregnant again so soon, and something just didn’t feel right. I tried to rationalize it away, but my body felt off. It knew.

It’s a strange thing, this grief. I was so excited to be pregnant again – my first babies are turning into big kids and I love every minute of it. I don’t want them to be newborns again – not by a long stretch. No, instead it is that I love toddlers so much that I want more of them. These little people that we made – we want another one. You’ve seen them – who wouldn’t? I knew it was time when I brought it up and my husband didn’t turn a whiter shade of pale. We were ready – we ARE ready. Our life is already chaotic. What’s one more?

It was just as easy as the first time – in fact, I found myself thinking it was too easy. We wanted a baby, and boom! Two pink lines. I was worried, a little, but mostly just overjoyed. We would be having a June baby – every teacher’s dream, right? With the right luck, I wouldn’t have had to take maternity leave. I’m terrible at secrets and so we told everyone. I don’t regret that; I don’t even know how to keep things to myself. And why would I? Pregnancy is exciting. Scary, but exciting. Which brings me back to Costco.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong that Friday, and I was becoming increasingly nervous about my first appointment. At the last minute we found out my husband’s work schedule changed and I would have to go alone. Considering the last time I went for a dating ultrasound they discovered TWO babies, I was less than thrilled with the thought of being by myself. I had a nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away. I got to the appointment early, did all the paperwork, peed in a cup. The usual. I saw the same nurse practitioner and we talked about all the logistics. And then came the moment of truth – the last time I was in this position, my life changed forever. And this time, again, it did. I knew immediately that something was wrong. She thought I would be almost nine weeks based off my cycles; I knew I should be almost exactly seven weeks due to my charting. Instead of a first heartbeat, however, the ultrasound showed only an empty gestational sac. A white circle.

She went on about “grey areas” and “follow ups” and how charting can be wrong, but I knew. I did the math over and over and over in my head and I knew. I was not five-six weeks pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant at all. It’s all kind of a blur; I scheduled the follow up appointment as I was told. I sat in my car and cried. I texted my husband and my mom, and cried more. I got home just in time to put my kids to bed, and they knew something was off. Everyone was crying. I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Miscarriages happen, but they don’t happen to me. I was going to have a June baby, and now all of a sudden I wasn’t going to have a baby at all. My friends and family were supportive; I tried to maintain hope. Things just didn’t feel right.

That appointment was a Wednesday. On Saturday, I started spotting, and by Sunday it was worse. I woke up Monday two hours before my alarm in so much pain I could barely breathe. I put in for a sub and tried to brave through the minutes until the doctor’s office would open. I made it almost half an hour before I gave up and called the triage line, where I was directed to head to the ER. I am so grateful that I have family around, as my husband was able to stay home with the boys while my dad dropped me at the ER, where my mom was already waiting. I was admitted quickly and everything happened fast. Ultrasound, painkillers, fluids, dizziness, nausea, cramps, the “M” word, tears, exhaustion. I was “treated and discharged” quickly and everyone was very kind. They instructed me to have a follow up ultrasound done, and that was that.

It’s strange, this sense of loss. How do you grieve something that never was? Everyone has their own path, I suppose. I remind myself I am blessed to have two beautiful boys, and I take comfort in the kind words and thoughts of others. The bottle of Don Julio my friend left on my doorstep surely hasn’t hurt. In the grand scheme of life, it’s just another small bump to overcome. A memory to tuck away, soon to be covered with piles of other, more wonderful memories. Greysonfleecesawyerfleece

Smelling the roses

In case you couldn’t tell from my recent blog posts, life is overwhelming right now. I’m struggling to find my rhythm, and I’m frustrated that there aren’t more hours in the day. The honeymoon is OVER with my students, so I am dealing with defiant teenagers all day, and then I come home to toddler twins. They are delightful, and they are exhausting, and I am exhausted.

I’m trying to focus on enjoying them, though. It’s hard to always be in the moment, but lately I have made a conscious effort to try and it has been rewarding. I occasionally go through Facebook withdrawals, but it’s worth it to read my boys their favorite book five times. Because – they have a favorite book! I mean, that’s mind-blowing. They actually have a couple favorites – literary blockbusters such as Bubbles, Bubbles; Nighty-Night; The Belly Button Book, and the cream of the crop – Superman Fights for Truth. I think they love that one the most because not only is it all about bananas, it features a giant BUUUUURRRPP that sends them into a fit of giggles.

The truly mind-blowing part, though, is not their excellent taste in books. It’s the fact that they are people. With preferences. And they can express those preferences. As any mom will tell you, there are months (and months and months and months) where you give everything to your littles, and you are rewarded only in tiny precious pieces of personality. A first smile. A coo. A laugh. A gesture. Little bits that you cling to; that get you through the rough times. But then you hit toddlerhood – and you get so.much.more. They turn into people! They can play with you, and point to things, and speak words or use signs. They crawl into your lap with a book they chose. They beg for a bath, because it’s part of their little routine. They do things that are human. They’re not little needy adorable blobs of goo; they’re people. They’re YOUR people. And they are amazing!

I hear a lot about toddler tantrums, and the terrible twos, and I’m not trying to take away from anyone’s struggles. They’re real. The frustrations that kiddos experience at this age are astounding in their quantity and depth. But for me, I am just so enamored with their budding personalities that I truly dwell on the bad. I spend the whole day managing teenager tantrums; I’m happy to read the same book twenty times to avoid a toddler tantrum. I don’t get much done around the house anymore because little people are sensitive and needy. But they’re also so incredibly cool. I think of toddlers as a reminder that I need to slow down, and manage my expectations. What is more important than listening to tiny incoherent babbles as my munchkin pages through a book? Why do I need to walk so fast that I can’t be bothered to hold a little hand? The answers are “nothing,”and “I don’t.” I thought teaching high school taught me patience – no. My children are doing that. Everyday. And I’m thankful.

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Balancing Act

As a mother, I really struggle with the concept of balance. How does one have enough time for kids, job, marriage, household, friends, hobbies, errands, chores, sleep? When there aren’t enough hours, what has to give? How can you avoid feeling guilty?

I really wish I had an answer to all of this, but the truth is I do the best I can each day, in each moment. There’s a lot of buzz out there on the internet about what we should be doing, but not enough about what we are doing. I am raising two beautiful children. I am teaching the youth of America. I am learning more about my husband and falling more in love with him each day. I am running a household. I am making new friends, but keeping the old – and losing some, and that’s okay. I am discovering that my favorite hobby is still reading, I just read Facebook more than I read best-sellers. I am discovering that I can survive on little sleep, but that it’s also not advisable.

Each day, I have positive moments. But for some reason, at night, I focus on what I did wrong. There is so much pressure and so much guilt. I should have had more patience with that student. I should have eaten more than just ramen for lunch. I should have sat on the floor and built block towers instead of sitting on the couch and scrolling through my newsfeed. Why is this? Why do we do this? We should reward ourselves more. We should recognize that some days giving 85% takes 100% out of you, and that’s okay, too. We are not perfect. We shouldn’t strive to be perfect. We should focus on just being.

As my family adjusts to our new reality – two full-time working parents, opposite schedules, ships passing in the night – we have to adapt. It’s a good thing, this change. It involves sacrifices, but also rewards. So my bedroom is a mess, but I get more sleep. My kids can entertain each other sometimes, and other times my needs can wait so I can entertain them. My husband and I – well, we can spend time together when the kids are in college, right? Sitting next to each other on the couch counts as a date night. And I should feel lucky we can sleep in the same bed each night – not a luxury everyone has.

On rough days, it’s hard to see the positives. They’re there, though, buried under the “shoulda, coulda, woulda, not-good-enoughs.” I have a lovely family. I am surrounded by a community of family and friends. I am lucky. Things are hard, but they are also wonderful. I can achieve balance. And on the days that I don’t, I can take a deep breath and know that there is always tomorrow.
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