A Note to Self: The Wish List

Note to self:

Please, for the sake of your own sanity, ask the kids for their Christmas wish list in November.  Preferably before the day you go shopping.

Sincerely,
A Tired Santa

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photo5Every year it’s something.  At two it was a Spider Man ball and at three, a skateboard.  Last year it was a scarf.  This year, we got a handwritten list the last week of school.  As in this week.  As in after Santa has completely finished all the shopping.

And every year Santa manages to pull it off.  Barely.  The tiny finger skateboard instead of the full size one she was expecting didn’t go over so well, but it happened at least.  Rose’s in the Plaza turned out to be a great place to get a scarf on Christmas Eve….while she waited in the car.  This year the list has been a bit more challenging.  Here’s the rundown:

1.  Spider Girl Costume:  So, who knew there even was a Spider Girl anyway?  Chica, apparently.   I considered making one.  For about 17 seconds.  Ha.  Hahahahaha.  I owe all my thanks to Jay and Amazon for this one.

2.  Rainbow Dash:  The list says, “Pegasus.”  I sure hope this is the same thing as Rainbow Dash…??  Anyway, during one of our stops at Michael’s over the last month, Chica spotted a stuffed version of her most favorite pony.  Despite multiple methods of coercion from her (begging, whining, shaming, etc.), we didn’t walk away from the store with this toy.  Thankfully she has a gracious Nana who was willing to go back to the store and rescue Rainbow Dash this week.

3.  Wishbone:  Seriously?  Where does she get this stuff?  She wants a real wishbone.  Like from a turkey.  This week we happened to buy a whole chicken already cooked from Fresh Market when my mom was here visiting.  When I saw the list, I thought I had the wishbone covered.  Welllll, Jay never saw the list.  So, while fixing leftovers one evening, he called her in the kitchen to offer her the wishbone.  They broke it together, and she  made a wish.  Still not sure whether I can count this list item as covered.  We’ll see.

4.  Elements of Harmony:  Definitely didn’t know what this was.  Her first couple of attempts to explain it to me were rather vague too.  So, like any other clueless Santa, I took to Google.   Turns out the Elements of Harmony is some sort of book of necklaces from My Little Pony that contain magical powers.  There are six different elements, each with a different color and symbol.  Amazon failed me on this one…this is not something I could buy.  (Second note to self…I need to pitch this idea to some toy maker and get rich so that next Christmas I can afford a personal shopper to pull off this increasingly difficult Santa stuff.  Errr…I digress.)

So I realize full well that at some point Santa can’t pull off every wish that will be on the list.  But my wheels started turning, and Nana’s wheels started turning, and we knew Rachel would be here soon to help.  We decided to just make the crazy thing.

I’m not going for a Pinterest-worthy how-to post, but in case you ever need to pull off a similar stunt, here’s how we did it:

1.  Pour a glass of wine.  Or in our case, three glasses.  Put the extra in the downstairs refrigerator because you’ll probably need it.
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2.  Gather the materials:  A box disguised as a book, fake jewels, Velcro, scrapbook paper, scissors, ribbon, felt, glue, paintbrush, etc.
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3.  Get your husband to use fingernail polish remover to rub the shiny finish off the back of the jewels while he watches football.  He won’t fuss as much about having to participate if he’s distracted by the game and manly conversation.
4.  Get your mother-in-law to search her amazingly huge collection of scrapbook papers for the necessary shapes:  star, diamond, lightning bolt, balloon, butterfly, and apple.  Be prepared, however, that even if she has 1,290,387 pieces of paper, you may still have to draw a few freehanded.
5.  Get your sister-in-law to cut out the shapes and modge podge them to the back of the jewels.
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6.  While they do the hard parts, you can work on creating the necklace from felt and ribbon.  You can also line the box with more cool paper from her huge collection.  Then you can do the dangerous part of hot gluing the Velcro to the jewels and the box.  Be prepared to get burned.  It’s obligatory when using a hot glue gun.
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7.  Remind yourself many times that, in spite of how much fun you’ve had creating this one of a kind gift, your five year old may open the box and immediately pick up on one important fact:  the real Elements of Harmony have 6 necklaces and hers has one with interchangeable jewels.  Be prepared for the worst reaction, and then you can be happily surprised if she loves it.
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8.  Be sure to hide all of the evidence of your late night craftiness.  This includes deleting the pictures from your iPad after you blog about it!

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SO excited about Christmas morning now.  I know that the gifts are not what it’s all about, but I just can’t wait to see her reaction.  I know that there is this small window in her little life where the magic is still very real.  I plan to enjoy that with her as long as I can.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Oh…and Lynchburg friends…

I’ve still got one more thing to check off the list so that Santa can be 4 for 4.  Anybody cooking a turkey before Christmas?  : )

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The Best Piece (and a Giveaway!)

I’m trading in my ba-humbugs this year.  I’ve decided to upgrade to joy and wonder and peace.

I always feel like as a mom and a teacher that I’m supposed to be IN to Christmas.  But I’m just not.  If I had no tree in the den, no Christmas music on the radio, and no cookies baking in the oven, I’d be just fine.  Very fine, actually.  So much of Christmas feels like work to me.  So many lists to check off, traditions to carefully navigate between families, and don’t even get me started on the money.  Ugh.

But I’ve been feeling some gentle nudges this year to look at things differently.  Focus less on the have-to’s and more on the get-to’s.  I’m trying to listen.

So today I got to spend the day shopping with my mom.  I must admit we actually had fun.  We waited in a line outside a store for our first time, chatted with a few other crazy people in the cold, and cheered when they actually had the item we wanted on the shelf.  We made memories today while also making my list of have-to’s get-to’s shorter.

IMG_1565One of the things that we happened upon in Michael’s was this felt nativity set.  So while Grandma & Grandpa drove home, Daddy was relaxing, and Chica was busy making a paper countdown-to-Christmas chain, Bubba and I opened up our new treasure.  We dumped all of the pieces onto the sofa, then tried to rebuild the scene while I translated the story into two year old language.

That’s a stable.  It’s where the animals lived.

That’s a wise man.  He brought gifts to baby Jesus.  See it in his hand?

No, silly.  That’s not a horse.  It’s a donkey.  Hee-haw!

See the star?  God put the star in the sky to tell people where Jesus was.

That’s another wise man. He has a present for baby Jesus.

That’s Jesus’ mommy.  Her name is Mary.

There’s his daddy.  He’s Joseph.

That’s an angel.  He says, “Glory to God in the highest!”

Ohhh….here’s baby Jesus.  He goes in the manger.

Again and again we built it and dumped it, built it and dumped it.  Each time he would describe a few more pieces on his own.  Donkey?  Star?  Angel?  Jesus Mommy?

As I watched him and listened, I all of a sudden realized something so beautiful and obvious but profound.  Each time we dumped the pieces, he had to find the Baby Jesus first.  Where Baby Jesus go?  He would arrange Jesus just so on the straw and then on the manger before fiddling with any of the other pieces.  One time I even watched him lay Baby Jesus carefully over top of Mary like she was holding him.  Baby Jesus was his favorite piece.  The best piece.

And hasn’t it been that way with each nativity set for me too?  The old one at my Grandma’s house.  The white ceramic one on my parents’ mantle.  The plastic set I bought when Chica was an infant.  Isn’t baby Jesus always the best part?  The part you want to touch and inspect and put smack in the middle with everyone looking towards him?

So why not in my life too?  WHY NOT IN CHRISTMAS?!?!  Thank you, Bubba, for such a loud and clear message.  I hear you.  I get it.

Jesus, come be the most important piece of my Christmas.
The best piece.
The peace.

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125_bI heard about something this week that I think may help my little family keep Jesus in the center this Christmas.  It’s called Truth in the Tinsel, and it’s a Christmas devotion & craft e-book just for little guys.  I gathered all of the craft materials this week, and we are eagerly awaiting Sunday to start!

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Interested in joining us in this journey?  I’d love to give away a copy to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is leave a comment here on this post.  I’ll draw a random name at noon on December 1st  and e-mail the winner a link to download his or her own copy.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Don’t Send Your Kindergartener to School in Ivory Tights

But she really looked cute this morning.

A hand-me-down pink ribbed shirt with tiny matching rhinestones at the collar that I’m not sure she’s ever worn.  A brown and pink flowered corduroy skirt with an extra ruffle at the bottom.  And the ivory tights.  It was a whole outfit of things that matched.  And it was really my only option since she had (literally) not a single pair of clean pants.

So we went for it, and she was cute.  Cold, but cute.

Then 3:45 rolls around and she appears out of nowhere in my classroom just like she does every afternoon.  “Hi, mom.”

Woah.

Shoes untied.  Hair staticky and everywhere from her fuzzy hood.  A stain mingled with the rhinestones.  The ivory tights are now mostly brown, and one knee cap is completely poking through.

Not so cute anymore.  Looks like she’s going more for the Mom-Doesn’t-Take-Care-of-Me look.  And it only got worse.

I had made plans to work with a friend in her classroom on one of those ridiculous paperwork things that make teachers want to poke their eyeballs out and/or just retire early.  Chica, armed with a few markers, scissors, construction paper, and her creative genius, had her mind set on creating a whole flock of turkeys.  And if you have a kid or teach kids or have just ever been a kid, then you know that pretty much the only way to draw a turkey is to trace your hand.

So perhaps 45 minutes later we discover her….left hand completely black, black marker smears on the brown tights, and black marker all over her face.  She is truly talented…at making messes I mean.  The turkeys were pretty good too.

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Tonight we had planned to have dinner at Bubba’s school, but there was no time to take this piece of work home and clean her up.  Her daddy could barely look at her he was so embarrassed.  I just tried to keep reminding myself that it was all a sign that she had had a good day.  A really good day.

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On the way home I knew that the image of Chica and her holy tights had to be my thankful picture for the day.  Sure, I’m thankful for her creative spirit that will not be squelched by dirt or lack of materials or a grouchy mom.  But I think even more, today, I’m thankful that tomorrow is a new day.  The tights will go in the trashcan, the clothes will go in the washer, and the girl has already been in the bath.  Tomorrow she’ll skip to the bus a new kid, ready for a new day.

Tomorrow will be a new day.  As I turned on the bathwater, I thought of all the things I wanted to wash down the drain from my day.  The shortness I had with a friend that just wanted help.  The hurried and grouchy words with my kids.  The even more grouchy words with my classroom full of big kids who just four years ago were turkey-making little kids.  That yucky feeling of not doing what you know you need to do.

I’m thankful for forgiveness and that I get to try again tomorrow.  It’s a new day.

Oh…and I guess I’m also thankful that I now know never to send a kindergartener to school in ivory tights.  Shouldn’t I have known that already?

Dollar Tree Valentines

So there’s a reason I don’t write a craft blog. It’s this:

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I never clean up as I work. If you write a craft blog, you have to take pictures along the way, so you clean up as you go. Me? I make a mess, scoot to the next open space on the table, and plan to clean it up when I’m done. Or tomorrow. Ok…..so definitely by two weeks from now.

Actually, there are a few other reasons I don’t write a craft blog. I’m always doing dumb stuff like cutting my own fingers with scissors or pressing print before I double check my spelling. I also am frequently missing essential items like a paper cutter or a whole punch, and my improvised tools don’t work so well. Projects that look like they’ve been cut out by a second grader don’t make for very good close-ups.

I definitely like to be crafty, but most of the time it seems that it takes too much time and money…two things I don’t have very much of that is unspoken for already. But tonight the pinspiration hit me, and I managed to pull off homemade Valentine’s for both of my kids’ classes. (Oh gees…I really did just use that word.)

Jay was at a meeting at church, and the kids and I had a few hours to kill. I now have just enough experience as a mom to know that if I wait until Wednesday night to figure out Valentines, it will be disaster all around. That’s certainly not enough time to pull off something homemade, and the only premade cards at Wal-mart will be either very expensive, inappropriate, or something you’ve never heard of in your life. Yeah….been there, done that.

So I pried Chica away from My Little Pony (what is it with that show these days??), loaded both kids up, and headed to the Dollar Tree. Actually, first I showed her a few non-food Valentine ideas that I thought we could pull off with stuff from our one-stop shopping trip. She didn’t seem particularly thrilled by any of them (I was rooting for these), so I told her we’d just be on the lookout for something else there that would inspire us. And then, of course, I had to define inspire.

After nixing the heart shaped mazes (Come on….”You amaze me”……so perfect!), the silly straws, and the bugs, she finally landed on glow sticks. We had seen a glow stick idea before we left, so I liked the idea of something I wouldn’t have to recreate. I also found bubbles for Bubba’s class (I was thinking, You blow my mind, Valentine), glue sticks for Chica’s teachers (I’m stuck on you), and lotion for Bubba’s teachers (Thanks for making every day so smooth). Oh, and she picked out a card for her daddy, complete with jokes she didn’t really understand, and one somewhat useful item from the man aisle. Useful if you were stranded on a deserted island, maybe?? We made it out of there and managed to only drop $15.

Anyway, I got home, made the usual Daddy’s-not-home dinner (PBJ), and decided to look for ways to pull off these projects quickly and easily. Guess what?! I found something ready to just print, cut out, and tie or tape on for three out of four of my projects. Since we’ve only recently acquired a printer as a hand-me-down, I am just now realizing the miracle that is the “free printable.” Jackpot!

In case you need a quick, cheap, and easy homemade Valentine, here’s a rundown of my sources:

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Glow Stick Printable. All that’s left to do is to have Chica sign her name to all 17 of them. You don’t think that will take all week, do you? : )

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Bubbles Printable. This mom made the pattern to fit Dollar Tree bubbles, so they were absolutely perfect. This turned out to be my favorite of the night.

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Stuck On You Printable. Her actual craft that goes with the printable is way cooler than my dollar store glue sticks, but my glue sticks are way more useful in a pre-k class, I guess.

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I couldn’t find anything I really liked for my lotion idea, so I used these gift tags and some super-cute fonts I found here to make my own.

Oh gees, it’s 11:00. Wrap this thing up, Tracy!

So here’s the big money idea (or maybe two) for the night: creative people are really just people who are good at borrowing other people’s ideas. Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. If you have an idea, chances are someone else has had it before too. If it’s something crafty, check Pinterest and Google images to see if you can mooch off their hard work. And spend the time you saved yourself on cleaning up your work space when you are done. (Ugh…still have to do that.)

Big money #2: I am not too proud to admit that this project today was 95% about me. Chica would probably be much more thrilled with a box of My Little Pony tear off cards than her homemade Valentines. Bubba’s classmates might enjoy the bubbles, but they’ll be oblivious to the perfectly-sized wrap I so carefully (ha!) added. But seeing this project from start to finish has made me feel good. I like creating (or recreating, I guess) and admiring the finished product when done. Oh, and I like writing about it.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wish you a little time this week to do something you enjoy doing, too!