The Power of Three

I met Amy the day after her family moved into our neighborhood. She was stepping out of my front door with a toddler on her hip, two more kids circling her ankles and a smile on her face. She had the "I-just-moved-to-the-beach look" and then the "auughh, yesssss!" relaxed forehead that we all did when we first laid eyes on our front porch views. There's just something about living in a teeny tiny house by the sea that makes all the other stresses in life disappear...well, for awhile.
John and I managed to hold on to our beach-hood enthusiasm for well over two years before life got in the way again. Every so often, we draw back the curtain of obligation and peek out at the sea, and breathe in the salt air, and remember why we pay so much mortgage and have so little closet space. But Amy, Amy had that same look the first day I met her. I was returning home from a run, and Amy had stopped in to introduce herself and take a tour of our years long remodel to get a look at what a Potential House could look like. She had just bought a Potential House a few blocks away. We had recently transformed our Potential House into a Home and Amy intended to do the same to hers very soon. Out with the disco balls, in with the magenta antler chandeliers (well, maybe that's just me).
Having just relocated from Georgia, her three young kids looked to be working off the energy they had saved up since last Easter. Picture Tasmanian Devils in Munchkin suits: Sweet, adorable, and faster than lightning.
I've met up with Amy and her three speedy kids a few times since our first introductions. I soon learned that her husband returned to Georgia for a few months to finish his work commitments. Yeah, alone with Tasmanian Munchkins in a Potential House. Is there enough Valium and Vodka to cope with that?
Every time I see her she's chasing a toddler, mediating a squabble or chasing a toddler. I said they were fast. Amy is the at the height of mothering, her skills are honed, she's on her toes at all times, she's got game. She's the Ninja Warrior of motherhood. I'm exhausted just watching her.
Being in the holiday spirit, I've dreamed up a little list of helps for my new friend and neighbor. Amy, this one's for you (and the distant future of your sanity):
#1. Gymnastics class, twice.
#2. Babysitters
#3. Pedicures
#4. Coffee
#5. Whiskey
#6. Live In Nanny, cuz we'd all trade a husband for one at some point.
#7. More Whiskey
#8. Therapy with Childcare
#9. Chick flicks: The Devil Wears Prada, Sex In The City Movie, Chocolat, Volver
#10. A sense of humor to the Nth power
#11. Locks on your bathroom door
#12. Red wine & bubble baths
#14. The Return of Husband & subsequently your sanity
You have more stamina and less body fat than anyone I know. You win this year's Mother of The Year Award in my book, girl. Go Amy.


Family Reading & Christmas Traditions

Some genius mom (by the name of Carol) came up with a means to her annual Christmas problem: When the word Santa is mentioned, every child turns into wild monkeys and promptly abandons their manners for high pitched screaming, whining and cruel treatment of all siblings and household members. So she created a book called, The Elf on The Shelf to read to her children each year convincing them that this little stuffed plush elf sitting on a shelf in their home was reporting to the Big Man himself each day, deciding whether they were naughty or nice. Brilliant!
Go to http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XR6MBQ?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen if you care about your sanity this holiday season and want a fantastic holiday tradition in your house.
Other books that our family enjoys this time of year.....
Jan Brett has a whole slew of Christmassy themed books which include some of the following:
The Night Before Christmas, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Christmas Trolls, The Three Snow Bears, The Mitten.

Other Great Christmas Books: The Polar Express. Picture Me Christmas Cutie has a slot for picture of baby. The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats. If You Take A Mouse to The Movies by L. Numeroff.
I'm quite positive I forgot at least a million other fantastic holiday reads for children and would appreciate any additions to this list! Thanks, G


The Bottle Fairy Delivers

It took 3 months of convincing our 3 year old, and a thousand dollar bribe (cough cough), before the bottle fairy finally dropped a giant box full of playhouse parts all over our garage in exchange for every toddler bottle in the house.
What we failed to negotiate was the final construction of this bribe. The playhouse parts lay motionless for nearly 3 months after the Bottle Fairy's final deal was done. Try convincing your now 4 year old that her trade was still a good one when she gave up her beloved bedtime bottle for a pile of kindling in the garage that usually screamed, "Don't touch that!" everytime she got near it. Some fun this playhouse was, so far.
Thanksgiving came and went and Shelby's excitment for the playhouse was all but extinguished, as was her interest in bottles (thank god). And then, miraculously, in the course of two days, with John and his dad, a 6-pack of beer and a few curse words, the playhouse was resurrected in our back yard.
That Bottle Fairy deal finally came through.
When everything was said and done, Shelby declared, "NOW, let's paint it pink!"
The fun never ends around here.
(If you want the Bottle Fairy to bring you this playhouse, you can put in a good word-and a credit card number-for The Pixie Playhouse at Sam's Club)


The Meaning of Christmas

I've been committed to Christmas for two weeks already. We officially "Chrisma-fied" our house before the month of November came to a close. I've shopped, collected, thought, and made plenty of lists (and checked them twice). I've lamented to John how I've accumulated STUFF for the kids, but nothing that really means anything. And then my consumerism was solidified today at the library.
I found myself in a conversation with three other moms about their financial plight and how they approached the holidays this year.
"I am making all my gifts this year, "said one particularly crafty mom. She majored in construction and has a PhD in everything. She continued, "I just flip through the toy catalogs and find something I think my kids would like and figure out how to make it myself."
I took a moment to picture her hand mixing a vat of eco-friendly recycled poly-euro plastic and shaping an inflatable Rody horse. "...I'm making Mark a set of homemade building blocks and knitting Eva a sweater!"
The other moms nodded their heads and one chimed in with her Holiday Mantra, "Free Christmas." I was pretty sure she was going to share her newest shoplifting techniques right there in the Children's Book Aisle of the public Library.
"I figured out a way to accumulate gift cards for switching around our prescriptions from pharmacy to pharmacy. Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, and Target all give you a $25 gift card if you change your prescription to their pharmacies. So I'm using the gift cards to buy presents!"
Wow! I'm just accumulating credit card debt, I thought.
"We couldn't afford to do Christmas this year so we've introduced "Thrifty Santa" to our family," chimed the other mother. She went on to explain how her entire family agreed to give second hand presents found at garage sales or thrift stores.
I wanted to contribute something thoughtful and similar but all I could come up with was Amazon.com and the Tom's Toys discount program(which, by the way is 25% off any purchase of $38 or more) .
So I've given this Christmas some more thought. I've pulled down all the shopping bags and re-evaluated my gift stash. I've chosen two presents I bought for my own kids and dropped them into a Toys For Tots box. I've carefully picked a few items that my girls want and need. And then I turned my attention to my fantastic husband. I have a long list of "usual gifts" including a new surf calendar, surf DVD, and some clothes. But I wanted to do something a little more thoughtful, something that required more effort. So I set my sights on a 12 days of Christmas plan that didn't require much money, just a lot of love and thoughtfulness. So far, I have enough for 9 days and I think I may just stick to that unexpected number. Here's a few items on my list if you're interested in doing the same:
#5 -$5 Starbucks card and new travel coffee mug
#7-7 words to describe you (a colorful collage of magazine snippings)
#2-Two mixed CDs to make his morning commute a little more interesting

I may not be crafting my daughter a set of porcelain tea cups or hand-tooling a new pair of leather moccasins, but I did venture to a few garage sales and found myself reevaluating the consumer in me this holiday season. I'm hoping to keep the spirit of giving in perspective, and my gifts meaningful. What are you doing to make this Christmas special?