Focus Kids Focus

I love Christmas. I love the season. But my kids are so wired that I'm seriously about to lose my mind. Really. Every year I swear I'm going to decorate the tree the day before Christmas the way my German ancestors did. But do I? No. So now we've had 23 days of Christmas and I'm exhausted. And worn out. But I'm not ready for it to be over because then it's just January and February. It's still cold and dark and there are no lights and nothing to look forward to.

My kids were like crazy mad people today at Barnes and Noble. (OK, my fault for making this an activity.) They are crazy about going to grandmas. Crazy about presents. Crazy about candy. Just crazy.

I think I need a Silent Night and I need to let my 'heart be light.' Focus mom, focus.


Christmas Letters....It's Like We've Just Caught Up

I love getting Christmas letters with my Christmas cards. My favorite one is usually from my friend Nicola who lives in Kuala Lumpar. I can actually hear her voice, Scotish accent and all, while I read it. Even if it's someone I talk to regularly, I love to hear what they deemed worthy of noting from the year. But mostly I love them because I feel like I just had a conversation with the person.

However, this year, I didn't follow my heart. After trying to write a pretty boring letter and staring at it for almost a week I went to print and had no decent paper. After making a stop for the paper, I came home to print 20 of them when my printer cartridge ran out. Super fun. So in an effort to be green about this, I sent the letters to people I know don't read this blog very often or who I don't talk to regularly (mom, that's why you didn't get one).

But after the cards went out, I felt bad that I didn't include the letter because I love reading other people's. So here it is in case you missed it this year:

Even though we’ve been home for two years already, in Linda’s mind “we’ve just returned from overseas.” Seems strange to us to be in one place with no signs of moving.

This year passed generally uneventfully for us, which was a pleasant change. We stayed in the same house, the children stayed in the same school, we stayed in the same jobs, our cars didn’t change, no new additions to the family—man or beast. And the year flew by quicker than we’d like to admit.

Alex will be five in March and it hardly seems possible that he’ll be in kindergarten next year. He’s is working on basic addition and subtraction, can count upwards to 100 and backwards from 20, and knows his letters cold. If you want him to sing ABCs backwards or skipping letters, he can do it. He’s starting to read a bit and usually spends his days playing with his sister. He has started a soccer/basketball class this winter, and it’s hysterical to watch preschoolers pass and dribble, not to mention do jumping jacks.

Anna is learning to write and loves it. She will start ballet next year—at her request. Everything is princess with her all the time, and she’s very much into twirling and prancing about when she’s not taking on her brother. She is quite a force to be reckoned with—as in force of nature—and we’re really glad she’s so cute. She and Alex are really best buddies. Both are about the strongest kids you’ve ever seen and totally live for the monkey bars.

Andrew has been on the road this year. Hard to believe in 12 months he’s been to: China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Greece, Italy, Austria, Belgium, India, Afghanistan, Honduras and El Salvador. He’s hoping his job doesn’t change too much with the new political map of the Senate.

Linda is still “at home” with the kids but working on many projects on the side. Her book Baby Bunching went to 20 publishing houses in the beginning of the year. And while the response from the editors was positive, there was no sale. She and her coauthor launched a website to help sell the idea: www.babybunching.com. The traffic for this site has been amazing. She sold her first two articles to Washington Parent Magazine and is writing for three blogs to keep up her writing.

All in all it was a peaceful year. We’re so thankful for the blessing we’ve been given. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

Linda, Andrew, Alex and Anna


The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

So yesterday was a bit rough for the Kerr trio--not nearly as bad as falling down the stairs,though. But since my day had started at 4 a.m. with coughing (it could have been vomitting so I should be thankful for small blessings) and no one took a nap, by about 3 p.m. I was spent!

We attempted the mall. I'm not sure, in retrospect, if I was drinking at the time I made that decision, but we did it anyway. It was next to Alex's soccer class, and I had promised the kids we'd go buy a gift for a child in need. No good deed goes unpunished, eh? Actually it wasn't all that bad....just chaotic. The pouring rain didn't help either.

After managing Anna during Alex's soccer class and arriving home to await the Chinese delivery man, I sprinted up to our door to unlock it so the kids could make a run in the rain for the house.

I stopped. In the rain. And stood there for a bit. All I heard was silence. (Ok, there was the sound of the rain and muffled screams from inside the car.) But it was quiet. For a moment I thought about just hanging out in the rain a little long. Perhaps grab a glass of wine while they play in the car. Hmmmmmm....child protective services might frown on that.

It was a struggle to the bedtime, but the upside to kids not taking a nap is that they go to bed at 7:30 and are snoring within 3 minutes.

Today you ask? We had 2 time outs for both kids before 8 a.m. Thank God, Daddy comes home today.


Starbucks Can Heal

Rough night last night. My son didn't go to bed until 10 p.m. due to a rest time when he actually napped. My daughter, who is sick, woke up at 4 a.m. and never really went back because of her cough. Hubby is out of town and it's raining.

My friend suggested I stop by Starbucks to get a Peppermint Mocha. And yes, it is possible that coffee, chocolate and mint can mend the spirit.


Can a Room Makeover, Makeover My Son?

The answer to this question seems to be 'yes.' This past weekend after Alex's dresser finally broke after a few years of Gorilla Glue....we got it free from a friend so I can't complain....we decided to upgrade him to a real wood dresser. I won't go through the very long story about how the new dresser came to be, although I will interject that I got a new piece of dining room furniture out the of gig as well. Anyway, we reorganized his room in the process. Moved the bed. Took off the closet doors. Added a new/used giant dresser. Added some new bins for toys. Got rid of the old ones. Purged and organized. But in the process of upgrading to the big boy room he seemed to grow up a little as well.

I first noticed it Monday morning when a spontaneous visitor gave him the opportunity to not only give the full tour of his "new room," but share his toys and give one away as a parting gift.

Then I found him upstairs (three days now) making his own bed without anyone asking him to. I also have noticed him retreating to his room to clean it up and organize, only to take it all out again and play. Every morning he comes down dressed for the day and tonight he was actually picking out his clothes.

Is it any wonder that this new room layout wouldn't lead me think that my soon has also be reorganized?


Kids Finally Get It

Sorry that I've been MIA for a few days. This whole Advent activity thing has taken more time than I thought. So far this past week we've made paper snowflakes, made a paper chain (in red and green), learned some Christmas carols, drank hot chocolate, decorated the house, attended a live Nativity, made cookies for friends and celebrated St. Nicholas Day. Every afternoon has been dedicated to this type of activity. And boy am I exhausted! I don't know how preschool teachers do it!!!

But the strange and wonderful thing is how much the kids seem to be getting out of it all. They really seem to be into this year....compared to last year or even the past years where they were just in the way while I was trying to get things done. And I've even managed to add a few "chores" into the Advent calendar. I told Alex we needed to organize his room and he wanted to know what day of Advent that was. Clever little man.

But it's definitely fair to say my kids are fully into this year. They are acting out Santa. They have a stuffed Santa and they bring all the stuffed animals up to it and each animal takes turns asking for what they want. Then they move onto the tree. Pretending to be surprised by what's under there. And if that's not enough, they've taken to playing out Mary and Joseph with Anna in her Pippi costume. So I'm pretty sure that my kids are ready for Christmas.


To Tree or Not To Tree

This question has come up in some form or fashion every year--for as long as I can remember. What is the Christmas tree and its significance? The reason I bring this up before Thanksgiving is because my recent issue of Wondertime magazine made me rethink this all over again.

Bringing an evergreen indoors during the winter (solstice) dates back before Christianity. It goes back to the early Egyptians and then Romans and somewhere along the way the Christians swooped it up and stamped their name on this tradition.

So as I read through this Wondertime article where one husband tried to convince his Jewish wife that a Christmas tree, without Nativity scenes, would be OK for their family. Apparently Wondertime magazine has gotten some flack for this article. Although I haven't seen and/or heard what it is.

Let me be totally honest here. Christmas trees rock. Winter is dark and gray and boring. Christmas trees are the total opposite of that. And let me tell you unless you've really lived in a totally dark and dreary place in the middle of winter (ahem, Sweden) you don't know what it really means to have some kind of winter celebration and bring some kind of life into the house.

Even in the sunny desert of Qatar, I used to watch the abaya-clad women buying up the Christmas decorations and picking out small trees the minute they were displayed in the stores. Think some Muslims in the Middle East aren't all over this? Yes, they were! If you asked them why, they would answer, "Because it's beautiful to have in your home. Why wouldn't you?"

And why wouldn't you?


Shameless Self Promotion

I've been busy lately and that's despite the holidays. Check out my post over here at Tea Blogs and my post over at DC Metro Moms.

The other fun news is that Baby Bunching was featured on BabyCenter a few weeks back thanks to my friend Kim (fellow Longhorn and DC Metro Mom). I couldn't believe it when I logged on the other day and found the story linked to the homepage. And it has been one of the most popular posts Momformation stories. Yay!


Advent Calendar To Dos

My family is very familiar with the Advent calendar -- especially the ones with chocolate in them. Each day a new door with a different piece of chocolate. This year we're trying something new. I want the kids to know this season is about doing things. So for each day they open a door we'll have a Christmas activity to do together:

Make a gingerbread house
Make Christmas cookies for a friend
Sing some traditional Christmas carols
Read a Christmas classic
Do something nice for someone we don’t know
Look at Christmas lights
Bring food to someone who needs it.
Decorate the house with decorations
Decorate the Christmas tree
Go see The Nutcracker
Attend a Christmas event
Make popcorn garland.
Read the Christmas story.
Make hot chocolate.
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)
Celebrate St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13)
Make paper snowflakes and decorate the windows
Go ice skating
Watch a Christmas movie
Unwrap/open a present
Make a paper chain
Hang lights up in the house
Family game night
Buy a toy for a child who doesn’t have one.