Christmas Creep

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Admittedly, I am getting excited for the holidays. As a celebration-loving person, what’s better than the behemoth of the year? However, with family arriving next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I can’t help but be conflicted about my attention to Christmas at the moment (it could also be that my parents are pretty easy houseguests!). After feeling so on the ball for the last few weeks planting seeds here and there regarding gifts, activities, and budgets, now that we’re on the flip side of November I am feeling like I wasted that early-November time!

I’ve already mentioned that I’d like our holiday to be a little scaled down this year. I would prefer to focus on time with family making cookies, snuggling with family by the fire, and enjoying what we already have. Last year, I was more energized for Christmas on a big scale–creating lots of Pinterest-y crafts, maximizing activities, and buying lots of gifts. I love how Christmas can be something different (yet the same) each year.

No matter my desires for each year’s holiday season, however, the bottom line remains the same. I’m a mom to two kids and have a number of family members and friends who I like to give gifts to and spend time with during the season. Therefore, I am victim to this Christmas creep (and am someone who is not objecting to holiday things in the stores too early–I need ideas early and often!).

Let’s hope my parents visit gets me in the Thanksgiving spirit!

November Notes

Today it’s cold here in southeastern Pennsylvania, though it’s still much warmer here than out West where my family lives. Despite enjoying fires in our fireplace and prepping for the winter holidays to come, I am not ready for these frigid temps! As any stay-at-home parent knows, winter is the most dreaded season with children because it’s not possible to walk them to the park at 4 p.m. to burn off that final energy of the day. I will have to get out more play dough, art projects, games, and puzzles in the coming months (and likely break up more wrestling matches!).

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Last weekend we enjoyed running and walking a 5K in honor of a dear friend’s mom. How nice it was to be walking around Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, basking in the beauty of autumn, and getting exercise to boot! Steve, who has been on a fitness kick of late, ran the entire race. I’m so impressed by his motivation to be in shape and am trying to keep up and exercise a few days a week, but I am nervous about trailing off with this colder weather!

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Other happenings? We’re preparing for two family visits this holiday season and a day trip to New York City. I’m knocking out some Christmas gifts early so I can enjoy the fun-filled holiday season with the kids (how nice it would be to avoid stores in December). I wrapped up my last big work project and am contemplating my next steps for freelance editing.

Oh, and one more thing. We’re psyched about the Eagles; hope to watch them through February!

ThisClose: Reflecting on my WAHM Status

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In the next few days I will complete my biggest freelance project to date as well as wrap up a CRAZY three months of work. I have learned so much about life as a freelancer in the last few months, including how awesome it is to have steady work and how stressful it is to have steady work with young kids at home. My hubby has been my main source of support while I’ve averaged twenty hours or more of work a week since early August.

I plan to continue my life as a freelancer in the coming years, though I am hopeful to have some rest between now and January to collect my thoughts, plan some fun holiday time with my family, and strategize on how I want to grow my business. Truth be told, having freelance income is something our family could use on a monthly basis, so I need to determine the best channels to pursue to make that happen without finding myself buried in too much work. This world is truly feast or famine, and I have experienced both this calendar year.

Working from home has many advantages. Steve and I can balance our working time so our kids never have to be in day care, which is something I hope to avoid doing while I am “home”  (Nora spent nearly three years in full-time care and Carson ten months while I worked in the corporate world). I can keep my skills current and be “in the trenches” while I raise young children and am out of the full-time workforce. I can get a break from my mommy duties and turn my brain to something else for several hours a week; I am thankful that my work is very stimulating and interesting (just lately, I’ve proofread a book on evolution, copyedited a journal on black music, and consulted on a college essay submission). And, of course, I receive checks for all of this work, which helps cover preschool tuition, our YMCA membership, and other “extras” like birthday parties and house updates.

There are some disadvantages to this lifestyle that I’ve discovered in the last year as well. As I mentioned, the work comes in at unpredictable rates. For several months (thankfully during our move) I had little work, and I panicked about my plan to make some extra money from home. However, once summer hit, several publishers gave me unbelievable amounts of work, and I had to balance many projects at once. I am also responsible for paying taxes on my income, which has caused some anxiety as of late. When my workflow was light, I didn’t worry about squirreling away money for Uncle Sam because I thought our usual tax return would cover my extra income. However, with this deluge of work, I have earmarked checks from specific jobs to go straight into the savings account to cover my taxes come February/March. Next year I’ll have to plan to save throughout the year to avoid this issue. I also struggle finding balance with various commitments I’ve made that don’t pay. I really felt the crunch a few times this fall when the church newsletter I edit coincided with a large volume of paid work (and other activities involving my kids). However, I am going to keep up the volunteering to provide balance to my life.

So, there you have it. A summary of my life as a real work-at-home mom. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be the hands-on mom I want to be while staying active in the workforce. However, both roles are constantly changing, so I am cautious of what 2015 will bring. I’ll keep you updated!

Halloween 2014

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With children ages two and four, the Halloween celebration cannot get much better. This morning the kids sang adorable Halloween songs at their preschool and each had a party with goodie bags (to them, there’s nothing better than a goodie bag!). We’ll trick or treat tonight as Anna, Elsa, and Batman. Now that we live in the coolest neighborhood ever, I am excited to see the camaraderie in the streets as the kids gather their candy hauls.

There is a chill in the air today, and it feels like the seasons are turning. We’re headed into deep fall, which means sweaters, leaf raking, and holiday preparation. I’m hard at work finishing my last (I hope) editing project of the year and after November 10 or so should be free to enjoy these last weeks of the year. I could not be more excited to spend time with family and savor the season.

Happy Halloween!

We Have Everything We Need

Like many parents I know, planning for the Christmas season is already high on the list of things to do (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween!). While in the old days our parents were responsible for the magic of the season, Steve and I are now charged with curating a holiday experience that will meet the expectations of our children and ourselves. And with this new role comes planning, budgeting, and executing.

Last night Steve and I had our first real Christmas discussion of the year. We’ve been thinking of it, of course, having saved our Amazon credit card points for gifts and started to book some activities for December. We’ve orchestrated family visits for Thanksgiving and Christmas from our West Coast contingency and have planned a pre-Thanksgiving jaunt to New York City for some festive family time as well. However, we have yet to discuss our expectations for this holiday season.

Our conversation began initially with the usual ideas–the Christmas card, the advent calendar, the kids’ gift lists, and ideas for family and friends. However, the discussion morphed into something entirely different as we continued talking. The theme that began to resonate with me during our chat was this: we have everything we need.

Now, let me translate this epiphany into real-life terms. It’s not that I don’t want a beautifully decorated, fun-packed, hand-crafted, and gift-filled holiday season. What I realized in the course of our planning session was that we are so lucky. We have our health. We have beautiful children. We live in our dream home. We enjoy our day-to-day lives. We love each other.

While the stress of everyday life augments as the calendar approaches December, I hope I can capture this feeling of contentment and carry it through the holiday season and beyond. If I can embrace this sentiment and adjust my expectations accordingly, then these next few months can be truly magical.

What a good way to begin this upcoming season of thanks.

 

Nora’s Elsa Costume

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My sweet daughter wanted to be Elsa for Halloween (and requested that I dress up as Anna). To avoid the Disney juggernaut, I decided to try my hand at making her costume, which I did following this pattern (found via Pinterest). I sewed it in August and am pretty glad I decided to do it ahead of time because I would have given up on sewing the stretchy knit and chiffon had I been in a time crunch. My sewing machine ate the fabric constantly, and I ended up hand sewing the chiffon cape and silver rickrack to the costume. The rickrack saved my unsavory seams on the stretchy knit.

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Nonetheless, this Elsa-inspired dress looks adorable on my four-year-old, and we added a blue leotard for warmth and some fun handmade barrettes and a headband to complete the look. I would consider four to be an ultimate princess year for a kid at Halloween, and I am really pleased with how this look came together. Nora was adorable dancing with all of the other princesses (another Elsa included!) at a Halloween party on Saturday night. This age really can’t get much cuter!

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Oh, and as an added bonus, it is versatile enough for the playground!

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New House: Attic Guest Room

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After painting the walls of our attic playroom a deep blue last week, I finished the facelift of the third floor by painting our guest room a cheerful and vibrant sky blue. The color gives the room life and goes really well with the Amy Butler bedding and travel art from a 2003 calendar.

Operation make the attic more comfy and cozy complete! Now it’s time to host some guests!

Mommy and Daughter Crafternoons

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Well, it’s no shock to those who know me that I love some craft time. Nora seems to be taking after me, and now that she’s four, we can really get busy!

Carson has a pretty consistent two-hour nap every afternoon, and we need to fill time at home while he rests. This week we enjoyed the refreshed attic space to get our craft on–and Nora surprised me with her desire to learn some new crafting skills.

Our first project involved making some hair accessories for fall. Nora will be dressing up as Elsa for Halloween in a costume that I made. To make the costume even more fun, I wanted to add some bling to go with her outfit. We made a beautiful rhinestone headband (wrapping an old headband in blue ribbon and hot gluing jewels of different shapes and sizes to it) and some barrettes and bows.

After we finished the project, I started working on an embroidery project and Nora was eager to try it herself. After setting her up with an embroidery hoop and some floss, she got busy next to me on the couch. She wanted to do it the next day as well, and she’s pretty amazed at her new skill set (as am I). I am not fully prepared to have a preschool embroiderer on my hands, so I highly recommend this tutorial on maya*made if you want to get your kids started. I’d like to purchase some burlap and yarn needles for Nora so she can take the project with her where she goes (I do not feel comfortable giving her a sharp needle to take around the house so it’s a with-Mommy project only at the moment).

I’ll keep you updated on what other projects we tackle in the coming months.

New House: Attic Happenings

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With the weather turning cooler (the exception being this weirdly warm week!) and company arriving for the holidays in just a short while, Steve and I are determined to finish upgrading our attic into a cozier space. When we bought our new house, the finished attic was a major selling point, providing us with room for toys, crafts, and guests. However, the space needed improvements.

The previous owners finished the attic themselves some years ago, but when we purchased the house this spring, upgrading the space was an immediate priority. The attic needed carpet, new light fixtures, and some general TLC. Within the first month in our house, we had replaced the carpet and lights. We also purchased a bed for the guest room and set up the larger bonus space as a playroom and craft room.

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However, the room still lacked a cozy feeling. Figuring that the cold and dark months ahead will encourage us to use the attic often, we wanted to add some elements that would cheer up the room. Enter paint! Thanks to a can of dark blue paint (Hotel St. Francis Spirit Blue) from Lowes and painting some accent walls, the space is already feeling more homey and comfortable. I also purchased a color for the guest room, so I’ll add the full attic reveal soon.

Rejuvenating Weekend

Well, I didn’t spend the weekend at the spa, but it was truly rejuvenating. While it was full, it was not spent entirely in front of a computer screen so I could catch up on work. Now, I have a GIGANTIC project that will be on my doorstep today, but I don’t have the number of projects that I’ve had to balance in the last few months.

What did I do instead of work?

  • Went to a vow renewal of close friends.
  • Cooked (Moosewood’s Cauliflower Cheese Soup!).
  • Crafted. (Currently knitting really cute scarves for my little ones for Christmas.)
  • Taught Sunday School.
  • Painted our attic.
  • Watched the Eagles rout the Giants.

Today is Columbus Day, so Nora’s school is closed. We’re heading to a fun kid activity center and then we’ll put the attic back together. It’s a nice, low-key day, complete with Trader Joe’s pumpkin cinnamon rolls. What more could one want?