‘Tis the Season!

'Tis the Season Now, I know I said a few weeks ago that autumn was my absolute favorite season of the year – and it is. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my favorite time of year is from Thanksgiving through the New Year. You see, I’m a traditional kinda gal and this time of year is just steeped in tradition.

It starts with the night before Thanksgiving, when we go to a friend’s for his annual Pre-Thanksgiving festivities. He started it the Thanksgiving immediately after we graduated high school and has done so ever since. It’s always fun to catch up with those we really don’t see any other time of the year due to either distance or just busy schedules but my favorite thing has been watching us all morph from college kids to 20-somethings trying to figure out once and for all what we want in life to 30-somethings with actual careers,  spouses and families. The night doesn’t go quite as late as it once did and shenanigans of inebriated “kids” have given way to [slightly] more mature adults but it’s still a good time and an evening we always look forward to. Unfortunately this year, it snowed the entire day before Thanksgiving so we were unable to go. It felt a little odd but we put on Elf and let the kids experience that movie for the first time. (It was a hit.)

The next day is Thanksgiving – the one holiday my husband, kids and I still split between both his family and mine. It makes for a hectic day but it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we did it any other way since this has been what we’ve done since our first Thanksgiving together in 1995. My mom always makes the same foods which is extremely comforting to me. I’m sure they’re probably pretty similar to what most Americans have that day – roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, a dish of gherkin pickles and olives (it isn’t a holiday without it), pumpkin pie… We always head home fat and happy after two dinners, singing Christmas songs in between all the groans and buttons popping off our pants.

The day after Thanksgiving, I avoid stores at all costs. I can’t think of any worse thing than to go fight mobsMy girls with Frederick II of people just to save a few bucks. Some people get a high off of it but I am not one of them! Instead, we head off to the local tree farm to pick our Christmas tree. A sub-tradition of getting our tree began a couple years ago when our son announced that he was naming it Frederick – which I thought was a great name for a Christmas tree! Last year was Frederick II but this year, he wanted something a little less “fancy” so he and his dad came up with… Johnny Needles.

We spend that entire day decorating the tree and the rest of the house. My house decorated for Christmas is my favorite. It is so warm and homey with the warm glow of the Christmas tree and candles flickering… As I type, we are all together on the couch watching Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. The only thing missing is hot chocolate. In the next week or so, my husband and I will take part in one of my absolute favorite traditions of ours. We turn off the lights, cuddle on the couch and watch Love, Actually. We have done that every single Christmas since we were married 10 years ago. I. love. it.

In between the craziness of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, we have another big happening – on December 21, 2005, I gave birth to my sweet boy. Though his birthday is only 4 days before Santa arrives, we always make sure we have a big birthday celebration. I’ve known others who’ve had children with birthdays at Christmastime and most of them wait to put up any decorations until the birthday has passed. My boy, however, loves when we put up the Christmas decorations because then he knows his birthday is right around the corner.

Christmas Eve evening is one of my favorite nights of the year. My children are in the children’s choir at our church and our minister of music has them sing at the 6pm family service. I love watching them stand stmattchristmaseveon the altar singing of Jesus’ birth. Our church is gorgeous any day but it’s especially breathtaking at Christmastime. My entire family attends the family service and then my mom and I usually return to church for the candlelight service where I sing with the adult choir. (I’ll be taking a break this year as the gifts that Santa is bringing require quite a bit more assembly than his gifts have in the past so I’ll be staying home to play Mrs. Claus to my husband’s Santa. As much as I’ll miss my candlelight service, I am looking forward to playing Santa!) My mom and dad then spend the night and I think we’re just as excited to see the kids on Christmas morning as the kids are to see the result of Santa’s visit!

As you can imagine with three little ones, Christmas morning is pretty crazy but I love it. I love watching the kids faces as they see the tree with all the gifts underneath of it for the first time. I love playing along with the whole Santa schpiel. I love watching and listening to them play with their new stuff as the smell of Christmas dinner begins to waft through the house. Inevitably, at least one kid will pass out… and nine times out of ten, so does my dad.

There is really nothing I don’t love about Christmas. I love the traditions and the new memories made at every turn. I love seeing the lights on houses, the carols on the radio, baking cookies with my husband and kids… I love it all. And now that you know a little about me (okay, a lot!), what are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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Letting Go

b o a t  c r u i s e sNo no no, not “Let It Go” – letting go. As in, letting go of your kids.

You spend 40 weeks growing these little beings inside you. You feel every kick, every somersault, every hiccup. You dream of their features, their personalities, you choose their name. You provide them with everything they’re going to need on the outside… and yet, as soon as they are born, they’re on a mission to gain independence from you. And this? This is one of the most gut-wrenching things a parent will ever experience.

Sitting up, crawling, first steps… all exciting moments. But with each of those moments comes the realization that your little one needs you just a little less than they did before. The good thing is that these milestones only happen every so often. The bad news is that they sneak up on you like a stealth ninja warrior and before you know it, your child is waving to you from the window of his school bus or ignoring you as you drop her off at the mall to meet up with some girlfriends. (You hope.) And you wonder, how did I even get here?

I am not quite there yet but I am at the precipice and let me tell you, these are scary waters to navigate. My daughter came home with an invitation to her first non-family sleepover party last week and like any 6 year old girl, she was stoked. Absolutely stoked. But then I read the invitation and my heart sank. I didn’t know this girl, nor did I know her parents. I knew nothing about them! There was no way I was going to allow my kid to go to some party with people I didn’t know from Adam. And then I stopped and I thought. I thought about the sleepovers I went on when I was younger. My parents weren’t friends with the parents of those girls… but they still let me go. Crap.

One could say that it’s a different time than we grew up in and yes, you would be right. But when we were children was a different time than when our parents were children and… they still let us go. Knowing that my husband was on the same “No Way” page as I was, I asked my mom for advice and as she always does, she came through. She suggested I reach out to the parents to see if we could meet before making a decision about letting our girl attend the party. Such a simple solution! DUH. Because any normal parent would totally understand and anyone who didn’t, well, that’d be our answer right there. So I contacted the mom – who totally understood – and we set up a time for our entire families to meet. The meeting happened earlier this week and wouldn’t you know it? Super nice people, nice kids, and off our girl goes in another week to her first sleepover party.

But all of this got me thinking. If our parents’ generation was mostly okay with allowing us experiences – even when they weren’t thrilled with them – why and when did our generation become so scared? I was ready to throw this perfectly nice kid’s birthday invitation right in the trash and for what? The unknown. I was scared.

You could say, Well, our parents grew up in a different time than we did” and you wouldn’t be wrong. But they grew up in a different time than their parents. Every generation has their challenges. And there has always been evil in the world — it’s just at our fingertips now. Literally. We have access to so much information, it scares us.

I’m not suggesting that we let our kids do everything they want to do. Obviously they need to learn about the dangers of the world and boundaries and all that fun stuff but they still need to live. They need experiences. I know a sleepover is a minor thing but I’m so glad I reached out to my mother for her advice instead of just throwing the invitation – and this opportunity for my daughter – away.

Now, will someone please remind me of this post when my children reach driving age?

Playing catch-up

W I N  A  T R I P If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s playing catch-up. Whether it’s at school with homework assignments missed during an illness or just a simple conversation of which I missed the first part, it’s a pain in the butt to play catch-up… and yet, that is where I find myself today with this new blog of mine.

My apologies for disappearing off the face of the earth. On October 1st, I started a new job – my first job in almost 9 years, actually. So I knew October might be a bit on the crazy side, juggling kids, home, new job, and everything else. But then on October 2nd, my grandmother passed away aaaaaaaaaaand that was the (temporary) end of LoveLaughterLunacy. So again, I apologize and I sincerely will try not to let 6+ weeks lapse between posts here.

That said, what I’d like to share with you all today is my new job.

A couple months ago, it was becoming clearer and clearer that my days as a stay-at-home mom needed to come to an end. I was beyond stressed – I hadn’t worked since 2006. Who would hire me? Especially with my limited availability? AND make it monetarily worthwhile? I’ve done retail before and I hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns; there was NO WAY I was doing that again. So I decided to meet with a ridiculously smart and business-savvy friend from church to go over how she successfully launched her education blog and how I might do the same. It was quite daunting to think about, especially for one as UN-business-savvy as me so when she approached me a few days later with an offer to do some general office work for her, I jumped on it.

You know you just know when something is right? For me, these times include things like when I first kissed my husband (even though we were only 17 years old and we’d known each other for years, I just knew that was it) or when we first walked through the doors of our church. And now it also includes my job. From the very first day, I knew that this was the beginning of something really awesomely special and so far, I have not been disappointed.

My new job combines three things that are very near and dear to me – children, the arts, and education. I provide office support (and am dabbling in marketing) for an arts integration professional developer. What is that? Well, there are some school districts in the world who think that the arts (music, visual art, dance, theatre) are not important and have either done away with those programs in schools or are threatening to do so. We help these schools find the connection between the arts and the subjects that are pushed (science, technology, engineering and math), like teaching fractions through music because that’s what music notes are – fractions of the measure! What we DON’T do is show “regular” classroom teachers how to incorporate the arts so that the music/art/dance/theatre class in the school itself is abolished. Not only am I able to work at home 99% of the time, but she understands when things come up (like when my daughter running into the doorframe at her school yesterday and ending up having to go to the doctor to get checked out). She tells me all the time how happy she is with what I’m doing and how much I’ve helped her. The best part is that I don’t even feel like what I’m doing is work! It’s fun and interesting and I absolutely love it.

My friend got in on the arts integration movement in the very beginning so even though it’s a newer movement, she is already a well-established and credible source of help to struggling school districts. The sky really is the limit for her and I feel so blessed that she allowed me to join her in this journey. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!