Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

This year I am getting the family more excited for Christmas (not like we needed any help) by doing Christmas activities that lead up to Christmas. I know there are a lot of fun traditions out there: advent calendar, elf on the shelf, etc. We have always had a Christmas calendar from when I was a little girl that counts down the days by moving the star over nativity characters. This year, in addition, I have added activities to go along with each day.

Each day the girls will find an envelope on the counter with a card inside instructing them of their activity for the day. It also shows the current day and how many days left until Christmas! The design is really simple, black card stock with printed candy cane paper and the item written in a pretty candy like script.

I have been so excited for these little activities. I think it will be a fun way to spend time with each other and a chance to teach lessons like gift giving, thankfulness, creativity and the true meaning of the season.

Here are some things we will be doing counting down to Christmas:
  • Hot Chocolate and watching Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer
  • Make Glitter Ornaments
  • Donate unused toys
  • Make Christmas Gifts for daddy
  • Ice-Skating at the Park
  • Visit Santa at the Mall
  • Play board game in front of the Christmas tree
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • Sledding
  • Make a pizza snowman
  • Paint toenails in Christmas colors
  • Christmas stories by the fireplace
  • Make Christmas goodies for the neighbors
  • Host a cookie decorating party
  • Homemade Carmel Corn and watching Frosty the Snowman
We no doubt will have a lot of fun! I'm excited for the extra special time with the family and I totally love this time of year.

Merry Christmas!! I'll post pictures as we countdown :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Decorating

Surprisingly, I have discovered that I truly enjoy decorating for each season in my minimalistic type of way. I don't have a lot of decorations for each season, especially fall, but little touches here and there really get me excited. Add a few scented candles for the appropriate season and you have yourself a masterpiece...but I get ahead of myself...

This weekend we said good-bye to the pumpkins and brought out the Christmas decor. My decor is a healthy mix of sentimental items from when I was young, new items that add some bling, and traditional decorations. And, as always, it's just a little bit here and a little bit there.

First, our beautiful Christmas tree which was given to us by my husband's grandparents. Our main level has 15 foot ceilings, so this 9.5' tree looks perfect nestled in the corner of our living room. I have it sparsely decorated with red, silver and white. Mixed with the abundance of lights, the tree sparkles when lit up. There is a red velvet tree skirt to add pizazz.

On top of the piano in the living room, I have draped pre-lit greenery and decorated it with white and red berries, a few snowmen (my favorite) and some scented cinnamon pine cones.

My newest addition to the winter season is my hot chocolate and coffee bar set up on our built in hutch. "Baby it's Cold Outside" is proudly displayed on my homemade chalkboard, while my decorative snowman pot is displayed next to it. My fun snowman dishes are out of the cabinet ready for use at anytime during these seasonably cold days. Candy canes, marshmallows, cinnamon, cream and chocolate are proudly displayed and ready for use.

The fireplace mantle, which also houses the TV (unfortunately), has two different groupings of decoration, incorporating my love of snowmen, pretty red sparkly ornaments, and scented pine cones.

A few extra decorations throughout the main level....

...and finally the kids' tree. The girls had so much fun decorating it this year.  Every year it is fun to see their personalities come out while doing the project. Mia is so particular in doing it "just right" while Lilia's different approach and creativity is something to chuckle at.

What fun decorating things do you do in your house?!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Making it all work

Since having three children, the laundry never lets up, the house is constantly chaotic looking, chores seem impossible and life, well, just happens. With two children it seemed stressful many of days, especially being a mother who works full time both in and outside of the home, but three has brought a whole other level of crazy!

Questions like..

"Is my house ever going to look normal?"
"Which is more important: clean clothes or clean toilets?"
"Should we have a family day or clean the house?"
would cross my mind daily.
When I went back to work after Kasen was born, I was stressed about continuing some of the "Mommy time things" that I had become accustomed to that I knew were beneficial, working out being one of those. So I put together this daily schedule to keep me sane. I still follow this schedule pretty closely except my day does start at 5:00 AM now, giving me plenty of time to workout and get ready for the day at the gym (let's be honest...if I don't get ready there it ain't happening at all!)
Since returning to work, my house has fallen apart. I barely seem to keep the main level of the house acceptable for anyone who may show up at my house; the bedrooms have been classified a danger zone. Now, I have come to realize that I get really stressed out when my house isn't clean, laundry is piled up, dishes are in the sink and there are crumbs on the floor, but I don't have the time, or the desire, to be a crazy cleaning lady all hours of the day. Not to mention that, though a clean house is inviting, an unused house is a turn off. I have three children who I want to enjoy and actually LIVE in our house, so things cannot and will not be perfect. 
As I processed through how to keep everything up, I continued coming back to the schedule I grew up with: work/school during the week, chores on Saturday, rest on Sunday. Though I love the concept of this schedule, it leaves very limited time for family activities (especially since the weekends are all we have with Casey working nights.) After scouring blogs, talking to other struggling mommys and finding unique ideas on Pinterest, I came up with this cleaning/home schedule for myself.
Some people have said "as easy as 15 minutes a day..." however, I don't know how they manage that little of time. I do know though, that I have found that no more than an hour a day makes all this possible. Usually that time is broken up throughout the day - kitchen clean up doesn't happen until after dinner; the dishes get in the dishwasher, the counters all cleaned off, spot cleaning on appliances, and the floor swept under the table (I do have 3 kids under 5!) If I'm working at home that day, I will do the laundry and cleaning early in the morning - that leaves the rest of the day for family time and work. Similarly, if I'm in the office that day, I do my "chores" in the evening after the kiddos are in bed. It's just a matter of manipulating it around, and with a small list like this doesn't make it feel overwhelming ultimately causing me to just sit on the couch and eat ice cream and watch TV.
A few rules I've set for myself:
  1. This schedule is only to maintain cleanliness; it is not meant for deep cleaning
  2. If for some reason I don't get one day done, I do not try to do two days in one. This causes the schedule to feel daunting and it probably won't get done. Instead, I move on to what is on the schedule and pick up the missed activity the next week. 
  3. It doesn't have to be perfect!! Life will still find dust balls on the baseboards, crumbs on the floor and fingerprints on the glass but we live here and I'm proud of that!
  4. Even though I'm mom, I am not responsible for all the mess. My children must clean up their messes before creating new ones and their toys must be completely cleaned twice a day: before nap and before bedtime.
I have high hopes that, as this continues, any part of my house will be welcomed to guests and that my feeling of stress at the end of the day will be non-existent on the home front end. 
My final suggestion: find yourself an awesome husband like I have! My hubby helps me out whenever he knows a clean house = happy wife! It makes it so much easier when you can tag team on it. :)
If you have any creative ideas about how to make life work smoothly, I'd love to hear them!!