Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All the Whos Down in Whoville Like Christmas A Lot

What a wonderful Christmas!  After my post about expectations, I tried my best to not have any about the big day.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  Yes, I had carefully selected gifts that I was sure would be the best ever.  Yes, I planned big meals that I hoped would be delicious and eatten by all (all the adults anyway).  Yes, I dreamed of sweet children sharing their toys and delightfully playing all day.  BUT, I knew most of that would not happen and I would not be sad when things didn't turn out the way I hoped.  My plan was to do whatever was best in the moment.  Kids crazy - time for DORA or The Grinch.  Food picked at - make some nuggets. 

Fortunately, the kids loved their gifts and did play all weekend with them.  I think there was only one meltdown Christmas day (by Jack).  Gwen did admit she was jealous that Maddy got the same dolls as her, I guess she thinks DOLLS are Gwen territory, but she was very matter-of-fact about it and moved on.  John and Jenna both liked their gifts and I LOVE my NOOK COLOR that John got me. 

The food was delicious, but the kids mostly wouldn't eat anything new.  Who cares - I got to eat Monkey Bread, Aunt Anne's cheesy potatoes, ham, cucumber salad, brisket and wine.  The kids were happy with their mac'n'cheese and rolls. 

This Christmas was GREAT!  Looking back two years ago to our first Christmas as a family of five, things have improved dramatically.  I'm looking forward to next year already, but not setting any expectations that will disappoint me.  Whatever will be, will be!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Focus for January

I plan to follow the Happiness Project for 2011.  Gretchen chooses a focus of the month and has an activity or thought for the week each Monday.  BUT, my personal January focus is money, or more specifically spending.  I'm not in debt or living beyond my means by any account, but I am unhappy with my spending habits.  I definitely enjoy spending money, but later feel guilty about it. I also don't think that I appreciate the wonderful things that I do have.  My other concern is the effect this has on my children.  They are not awful brats - yet.  I can tell them no at the store and they know they don't always get treats, but I frequently buy things just for the hell of it, like toys/coloring books/more of what they already have. 

My first step is defining what I do NOT want to spend money on.  This is the start of my list -
more toys!
more craft supplies (I have to use what I have, same for the kids)
shoes for me (how many flats can one girl own? don't answer that)
handbags (rotate what I have more often)
pointless things for the kids
eat the fresh produce I buy!

I need to remove myself from emails or blogs with "HOT DEALS" and take away the temptations. 
Make a list of "wish list" items to look forward to, if I truly still want them a month later, look for the best deal.
Consider if each purchase is a want or a need

2011 is Nearly Here

2011 is nearly here - 5 days left in 2010.  Since this is a time for setting those traditional resolutions, I thought I would post a link to THIS ARTICLE from the Happiness Project blog with tips for keeping your resolutions.  Here are some that I liked -
1. Be specific. Don’t resolve to “Make more friends” or “Strengthen friendships”; that’s too vague. To make more friends as part of my happiness project, I have several very concrete resolutions like: “Start a group,” “Say hello,” “Make plans,” “Show up,” and “No gossip.”

3. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it. I review my Resolutions Chart every night.

10. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail, do laundry) than every few days.
13. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Thank you, Voltaire. Instead of starting your new exercise routine by training for the marathon, aim for a 20-minute walk each day. Instead of cleaning out the attic, tackle one bureau drawer. If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Expectations

Article from Simple Mom

I liked this article about setting expectations for the holidays.  This part especially:

2. Let go of expectations.

Expectations are planned disappointments because we are too attached to the outcomes. When we go into a situation with a desired outcome already set in our mind, we will wind up disappointed.
The key, then, is to let go of expectations and allow things to unfold in the moment. After all, the moments when we are truly surprised, grateful, and happy are when the unexpected happens.
“Gratitude is the key to happiness and anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” -Dennis Prager

3. Be present in every situation.

You’ll more fully experience each situation when expectations are reduced and events are allowed to simply unfold. You’ll connect more with your children. You can listen and spend richer time with your spouse. You’ll give of yourself more freely.
When you are more present and engaged, you can give your family the greatest gift of all – your presence and your love – with no strings attached! And what a great holiday gift that will be.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bowling Buddies Craft Project

In the bag

Jack's Bowling Boys
Lady Bowling Buddies
A few weeks ago I saw this idea in Family Fun magazine and decided to try it.  These turned out super cute and will make a fun Christmas gift for the kids. I left some of the 'heads' blank so that Gwen could draw them herself.  The game is to set up the 'Boys' like bowling pins and use the ball to knock them down.  I predict my kids will not use them for this purpose at all.

Only thing I did not like was that some of my Sharpie markers bled on the wood so I had to be careful to test them out first. 

Jingle Bell 5k with Gwen

Gwen after her race
Last Sunday Gwen and I participated in the Jingle Bell 5k at the Domain in Austin.  It was very cold and very fun.  Gwen ran the kids k first - well, sort of ran.  Poor Gwen.  She was SO excited to go with me and run, excited at the start line and took off with the other kids.  After about 2 minutes we turned a corner and headed into the wind.  Gwen slowed down, her face turned red and she was trying not to cry.  We walked for a moment before she started to cry and asked to be carried.  I put her on my back and ran for her.  When we could SEE the finish line I made her get down to finish.  She took off like a bunny and sprinted the rest of the way.  She got a medal and was happy. 

I pushed Gwen in the 5k portion and finished in 25:14, 4th place in my age group.  It is pretty hard to push a 4 year old and run but I was glad to enjoy the race with Gwen.  Normally I run in the mornings before the kids even get up, so I took the opportunity to show her that Mommy runs and it is a lot of fun.  Post race we had juice and cookies, and picked up doughnuts for the family on the way home. 

Merry Chrismas with the Cowboys

In front of Cowboy's Stadium, Dallas
View from our seats - giant video board

For John's Christmas gift, I got him tickets to the Cowboys vs. Eagles game at Cowboys stadium.  I wish I would have kept it a secret until the day of, but he knew about it ahead of time.  Our babysitter watched the kids all afternoon/evening and John and I headed up to Dallas.  We had dinner and got to the stadium early.  The stadium lives up to it's reputation, this place is crazy.  Music pumping, people everywhere, fountains, dancers, cheerleaders, and some football.  The game was good too, even though the Cowboys lost.  It was a fun afternoon.  Merry Christmas John!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Traditions - Baking Cookies Edition

Holiday traditions can be meaninful, fun, a pain in the butt, and change from year to year as we grow.  I remember making and eating homemade cookies with my mom growing up, but maybe I remember it more fondly than the reality, or maybe we didn't really do it every year.  For the past 3 years I have made cookies with Gwen and we did it again this year.  I let her pick which kind to make - Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and we made the dough together.  She was disappointed that it had to sit in the fridge 2 hours before rolling it out.  In that time frame we made and decorated Spritz cookies.  By the time we got around to rolling and cutting the gingerbread cookies we were getting tired and cranky.  Maddy helped some, which she enjoyed.  Before dinner, I gave each kid a cookie, mini M&M's and frosting to decorate their cookie.  Jack dove into his snack and demanded more cookies.  Maddy touched each M&M to the cookie before eating it.  Only Gwen pain stakingly placed 300 M&M's on one butterfly cookie before eating it. She also decorated a few more with Alex.  I quickly covered any remaining cookies with icing and sprinkles to finish them off.  It was a long day, and I remember in kid-free years past making 5 different kinds of cookies in one day.  I can't imagine getting that much done now!  Maybe next year I will let Pillsbury make the dough and the kids decorate while I make the more elaborate cookies. 

Other holiday traditions for the Mills family -
Driving around to see Christmas lights (yes, I'm my mother's daughter)
Leaving cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer
Opening gifts Christmas morning (not Christmas Eve for us)
Not attending church - this isn't a NICE tradition, but I can't imagine the tourture of 3 little kids and long Christmas service.  This will change eventually.
Dad decorating outside - John put up the inflatables and lights, the house looks lovely
Mom decorating inside - Tree is up, Christmas village is lit and the stockings are hung

Traditions to begin -

Elf on the Shelf - Jenna sent it last week, I'm looking forward to having a good behavior weapon

Special holiday meals - since my kids refuse to eat anything consistantly, we don't have a favorite go-to-meal that is special.  Last year Aunt Jenna made lasanga, which was awesome.  Growing up Christmas Eve was Busha's pierogis, golabki (stuffed cabbage), mushroom soup and her special rolls.  Christmas Day was ham, Cheesy potatoes, shrimp, green jello and Grandma's coconut cream pie. 

What are your holiday traditions?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What is a Happiness Project?

Your "happiness project" is your own project to take specific steps to boost your happiness. Start now!

To help you identify changes in your life that might make you happier, answer the following questions:

What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?

What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?

Is there any way in which you don't feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?

Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what areas of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

Answering these questions provides a good roadmap to the areas that you could tackle and the Tools will help you stay engaged with your happiness project.
- from Gretchen Rubin's Project Toolbox (link below)

The Happiness Project Toolbox
The Happiness Project Blog
Happiness Project

In her book, Gretchen Rubin chooses a focus each month to work on, adding goals to those from previous months.  I am working on my list of ideas to focus on.  Here are some things I'm considering (in no particular order):
Wife-ing (Marriage)
Extended Family & Friendship

I'm not sure what any of these would entail, but they are areas I would like to improve on or at least consider re-evaluating my current way of dealing with them.