Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas shopping for the kiddos, equal gifts or equal amount spent?

It's that time of year again.  The TV is flooded with Christmas advertisements, the kids channels have new toy commercials on constantly.  It seems like every single day a new toy or clothing catalog gets delivered in the mail.  And, I swear to God, if I get one more 40% off EVERYTHING coupon from Justice, I might boycott the store all together.  After all, how many freaking coupons from one store do you really need in one month?

Years ago it was really easy to shop for the kids when they were little.  The coach and I actually used to take them with us half the time.  At first we would tell them they were gifts for other people, like their cousins.  Then we started hiding things in the carriage.  Next we evolved to the good ole split up with a child and shop for the other one tactic.  It was awesome and we got the job done.  By the time Christmas strolled around, they had forgotten what we bought the month before anyway.

Even deciding what to buy was easy.  Except for the athlete.  This is a child that after the age of 2 stopped playing with toys.  And I mean every single toy.  He just wasn't a toy kind of kid.  That didn't stop us foolish parents from buying him toys for Christmas every single year and shoving them down his throat, insisting that we could "teach" him to like to play with toys!  (Yeah that worked out real well.  It only took 5 or 6 years for us to realize we were spending a small fortune on things for him to open on Christmas morning, oooh and aaaaah over, and then never touch again.)

We finally smartened up and stopped wasting our money on crap he would never use.  But, it makes it difficult to try and keep things fair between both our kids.  The athlete tends to want/like more expensive items, while the princess is really into arts and crafts, toys, and clothes.  We tried to spend an equal amount on both kids but what ended up happening is we would have a carriage full of stuff for the princess and maybe a handful of things for the athlete.  One year the athlete had significantly less gifts to open than the princess.   He was old enough to understand that his gifts cost a lot more money than his sisters. He did ok with that.   But I felt terrible while he sat there and watched his sister open gifts for another 20 minutes after he had finished.   I decided then it was not the way for my family to do things. 

So again, I changed my philosophy.  I decided that it's more important for my children to have close to the same amount of gifts to open under the tree than to have spent the same amount on each of them.  After all, they aren't going to open their presents and then start calculating the total price of their loot! (At least mine don't anyway!)  But I can tell you from my own childhood memories and 10 years of Christmas mornings with my own children, that they will keep track of the number of gifts they and their siblings receive!  I would rather the obvious be more equal.

When all is said and done and I tally up the total spent for on both children, the difference is within a couple hundred dollars of each other.   We're not talking about a huge amount more for one child over the other.   So, that's my way of keeping it fair and the reasons why I do it.   And I don't feel guilty about it one bit!

How do you play Santa for your children?  Do you have the same problems with one child having a  more expensive Christmas wish list than another?  What is your fair way?  I would love to hear how all the other moms out there do things!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My oldest niece...

The Cousins

This picture is from a couple of years ago when we decided to surprise all the kids and take them on a Polar Express journey one night around Christmas.   Shame on me that I don't have a more recent one of all the kids together.  So this one is just gonna have to do. 

The athlete and the princess are very close with their cousins and as parents it's so nice to see the bond they have with each other and witness them grow up together.  The oldest of the bunch is my sister and brother in laws daughter.  She is the one in the back left corner in black.  We'll call her K.  She is 17 years old and a senior in high school.  (Hard to believe that when I met the coach she was a busy, full of life little four year old with a head full of curls.  Whenever it was time for us to leave after a visit she would run out in the yard and right up to the fence crying for her uncle not to leave.  Every single time!  I still remember like it was yesterday.  God I'm getting old!)

Now in the blink of an eye, some 13 years later here she is, almost grown up.  She is a big sister to 3, and cousin to 5.  All of whom look up to her.  And boy what a role model they have!  I could not have hoped for a better niece to watch grow up, love like my own, and set the bar so high for the rest of the children coming up through the ranks after her. 

She is mature and responsible, polite and kind.  She is trustworthy and has a great head on her shoulders.  For a parent I think these are all qualities that we work very hard to instill in our children.  I look at her and hope that one day my children will grow up to be just like her. 

K is the type of kid that knows what she wants and goes after it no matter what it might be.  When she started high school something really clicked in her.   She had her sights set on the future and going to college someday. She put her priorities in order and again dug in her heels. Her grades were amazing and something any parent would be proud of.   She started taking AP classes and looking into prep courses to ready her for the SAT's.   All this she did on her own because it's simply what she wanted. The typical parent nagging his or her teenager to buckle down and be responsible, think of the future scenario?   Never an issue with this girl.  She is a go getter.

When she decided to start playing softball and volleyball she did it the only way she knows how,  with a hundred and ten percent effort.  She never settles for being mediocre.  If there is room for improvement she strives to reach it.  If obstacles get in her way she climbs over them.   Failure is not a word in  her vocabulary.

All of her hard work is paying off.  Something amazing and truly deserved happened yesterday.  K got her first early acceptance letter to the University of New Haven.   I can't even imagine what her parents must be feeling right now, but as her aunt I am filled with pride.  The sky is the limit for this beautiful and talented young woman and I can't wait to see where her journey will take her.

K,  your uncle and I love you so much.  We are so unbelievably proud of you!!! 

(Just don't ask me to ride in the car if you're driving, ever again!!!!  Ha ha ha ha)


Auntie T

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why trick or treat sucked this year, well sort of...

It started going down hill when trick or treat was cancelled due to a freak snow storm in October and was postponed until 5 days later.   It makes you really not even want to bother with the whole damn thing.  It's kind of like,  "Oh well, the moment has passed, why bother?"  But of course, you have to man up and put on a good show for the the sake of the kids.  So all morning I put a smile on my face and pretended to eagerly agree with them about how excited I was to go trick or treating with them later that evening.

Add to that a long day of work, and several phone calls from the school nurse about my daughter complaining of a stomach ache and soar throat.  Finally on the second call I say screw it, close daycare early, and rush out the door to pick her up and jet over to the doctors for a rapid throat culture.   An hour later we get a negative result and I begin to  realize that my child is just fine.   Suddenly she has made some kind of miraculous recovery and I have a hunch that something is going on at school because I've noticed a trend with the whole nurse and stomach ache thing, but that will have to  be investigated at another time.   

We sit in rush hour traffic trying to get back from the doctors' office, finally we make it through the door and there is my husband wrapped in a comforter on the couch shivering and ghastly pale with a fever of 103 and it dawns on me that I will be all on my own tonight.  Meanwhile I had  been trying to make plans to meet up with some others to go trick or treating in a group but I get a text that they've already ventured out without us. 

Sweet, the night just keeps getting better and better.

Frustrated, I park on the side of the road in a neighborhood great for trick or treating. Tthe kids are upset about having to trick or treat without other children.  Again, I rise to the occasion,  put on a smile and say to them, "We can still have a great time guys!  Don't worry about it, it will be fun, trust me!"   But what I'm really thinking is just how much the flipping night sucks and how badly I just want to go home and park my ass on the couch.

After about 20 minutes the princess starts slowing waaaaaaay down.  She had insisted on wearing black high heel boots because they matched her costume and sneakers wouldn't.  Of  course it's much more important to look good than actually be practical, don'tcha know!    She wanted to go back to the car and be driven door to door.  I had no issue with this at all, the problem was we were way deep into the neighborhood and had quite a hike back.  We had no choice but to hoof it back to where I'd parked the car. 

In all fairness to my kids, they were AMAZING the long, cold walk back. The athlete offered to carry the princess's candy bag and he even took it up to all the houses on the way back so she didn't have to walk to every door because her feet hurt. She in turn raved about him the entire time and even gave him a giant hug at one point! 

Every once in a while they will both rally around each other and be there to support one another.  It's so reassuring and nice to see.   It gives me hope for the future that when they grow up they will have a close relationship and support each other.  This was the highlight of my night!  Very proud momma moment right there!

Our walk back was much slower but that was ok.  We made it eventually.  All three of us jumped in the car and proceeded to drive down the next street eager to keep trick or treating.  Our spirits were lifting.  I was warm, the princess was off her feet and the athlete was just happy to gather more candy.  We made it to two more houses when at the third I heard the princess yell from the grass, "I smell poop!"  As they made their way back to the car I heard her gag as she realized that her brother had stepped in dog crap.  I jumped out to assess the situation and was  blown back by the stench.

Upon further inspection I can report that he did not step in dog poop, he pretty much SUBMERGED his entire sneaker in a fresh pile o' crap.  It. was. foul.  There was no way in hell that sneaker was being salvaged, at least not on the side of the road.  With that I made the decision to call it a night.  Moans and protests rose up from both of them but I was done at that point.  To top it all off, I had just cleaned my van that week and had nothing to put that putrid smelly sneaker in.  We had to ride home with the windows down, freezing,  just so we could breathe and prevent us all from vomiting. 

The kids dumped their loot on the living room floor, proudly showing their sick as a dog father what they had collected.  I looked on in disbelief at just how little candy they had in their bags.  I was fearfully awaiting both of them to freak out at their small amount of loot.  But much to my surprise and delight, they didn't!  They were thrilled and content and even offered to trade candy with each other. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and thought back on the entire night,  the good, the bad, and the utterly foul.  It definitely wasn't the best Halloween we've ever had.  But, seeing my kids be there for one another and appreciate each other was a special and unexpected Halloween treat for me.