It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like… Something

We put up our tree on November 17th this year. This is unheard of for me, and admittedly a little crazy. I had a few reasons.

10694335_10152894540904653_1220486293373605623_o1. Bribery. I had promised The Boy we could do it that night in exchange for help cleaning up the living room.

2. Taking Stock. Since I am not allowed to buy anything decorative for Christmas this year, I wanted to see what I had and was delighted to find that I need nothing, and can probably reduce the Christmas bins from 4 to 3 come January 7th.

3. Timing. I wanted time to enjoy the season once Advent started and it got super-busy, so this became one less thing on my list and truly, it makes all the other things seem more joyous.

4. Christmas is coming early to our house. (Kind of.)

My husband’s work situation will keep him away from home over Christmas, so we are gearing up to have our own family celebration on December 17th. This is the first year we have done this, although he often works on Christmas. We’re having a simple dinner and giving The Boy his gift from us. Nothing fancy, but I find myself really looking forward to it. (Spoiler: It’s Lego, so this has the added benefit of keeping him busy for a few days. I am so, so happy he is into Lego. It makes no noise and he doesn’t leave it on the floor because the dog will eat it. It’s the perfect toy.)

Since I’m not buying anything (I feel like all my sentences start that way lately), December has been mostly stress-free this year. I am unconcerned with making sure all my shopping is done and the wrapping is going to be minimal. Instead of last-minute running around, the plan is to spend Christmas Eve skating with The Boy before Mass, then we’ll have dinner and a leisurely Skype date with the family in Toronto. Finally, it’s homemade Christmas jammies (courtesy of my mother) and off to bed, because Santa is coming!

(Santa told me that this year, he’s only bringing one gift and filling stockings, so we’ll see how that plays on Christmas morning. I have high hopes.)

My family is coming over on Christmas Day to hang out and I’ll give them the few no-cost gifts I have cobbled together. I’m going to try my hand at a vegan “cheese”ball. Christmas dinner will be whatever happens to come in the CSA box that week. I’ll probably bake something. We’ll stay in jammies all day.

See how calm and zen-like my plans are? Who knows how it will all turn out? I can almost guarantee that the “cheese”ball will be a disaster.

Speaking of “cheese”balls, here’s a little ditty that always gets me in the spirit.

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Better to Give

Every once in a while, I come up with an idea that I think is pretty great, and then almost immediately I begin doubting that it’s a good idea at all, and I bashfully share it with a few people whose opinions will determine whether or not I follow through on it. This is how I end up having so many false starts. I am a professional fizzler. When I am gone, my headstone will read: “Here lies Monique. She finally finished something.” This pattern makes the times that my ideas do pan out all the more satisfying.

The Boy turned five in August, and his birthday has traditionally been a grand event. Lots of kids, lots of food, lots of presents. I am generally pro-birthday party, but my kid already owns way too many toys, and the prospect of adding more to the stash was not appealing. Plus, I don’t like the idea of guests feeling like they have to match the gift to the tastes of the kid and the preferences of the parents. It’s hard! The Boy had no interest in pruning his guest list, so I suggested an alternative. He could invite anyone he wanted, but instead of birthday gifts, he would ask his guests to bring a small donation to a charity.

Being an animal lover, The Boy chose to collect donations for a local shelter that takes in stray and surrendered cats and dogs. We printed a wish list of items from their website, and included it with invitations to the party.

Admittedly, I was a bit worried about how the request would be received by the parents of the invitees. I didn’t want it to come off like we thought we were too good for regular birthday presents, and I also was hyper-aware of The Boy’s feelings about it all. He seemed to understand the concept, so I stuck with it.

The day of the party came, and the guests were unbelievably generous with their donations. A couple of the parents shared with me how much fun it was for their kids to choose gifts for the animals. We left all the donations on a table, skipped the traditional “gift” opening in favour of more play time, and dug in once everyone had gone home.

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Every time I look at that picture, I am reminded of the wonderful people we have come to know over the years.

A few days after the party, we piled my mom’s minivan high with all the donations and took them to the shelter. The staff met us and offered us a tour, so The Boy got to meet some of the animals he was helping.

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I had been thinking for a long time how I would begin to foster the spirit of generosity in my child in a way that was age appropriate. This was the purrfect way to drive home the message that helping others feels good.

 

 

Five for Fun

Fred1. I’m pleased to announce that Fred has been officially adopted by our family! He’s been the perfect addition in every way. Thanks to Gail and all her helpers at Home to Stay for rescuing Fred from an unimaginable situation so that he can live out his days with us. We love him so much! If you’re looking to add a four-legged member to your family, please consider adopting a rescue animal. He or she will love you forever.

2. It’s back-to-school week for me. I have been taking courses from a local university via distance for over a year now. I’m still a little amazed that I can work towards a degree while maintaining a full-time job and a family. What a time to be alive! With The Boy starting school this year, I am happy to teach him that learning never ends.

3. It’s basically fall. It’s my favourite season in many ways, but I think I only wore sandals about a dozen times this summer. No fair.

4. The Boy had a fire drill the first week of school, and he was terrified by how loud he imagined the bell would be. His teacher had practiced with the class the day before it was scheduled, and he freaked out, so she wrote me a note asking if we could talk about it a bit that evening. He freaked out again just talking about it. I found a fire alarm on YouTube and played it for him a couple of times, during which he continued to freak out. At bedtime, he asked if we could say a prayer together that he wouldn’t be so afraid of the bell the next day, and we did. I got an email from his teacher the next afternoon saying how well he did and how brave he was during the fire drill. I am just so pleased with his teacher, his school, and the way he’s adjusting into this new phase of his life.

5. My buy-nothing year is off to a great start. I’m documenting most of it on my personal blog, Monique Makes Do. If it interests you, please follow along. If you’re like-minded, then you can join us over at our Facebook Page!

Five for Fun

Sleepy Dudes

Plum tuckered.

1. There is a dog in my house, and he just might end up being ours. We’ve been giving a lot of thought to adding a four-legged member to our family, but both my cat allergy and my father’s rodent-loathing have narrowed our choices considerably. We found a fella we believe to be the perfect fit, but I won’t jinx it by giving it all away just yet. He is a very sweet boy and these two are fast becoming best buds.

2. September 1st might as well be New Year’s Day to me, since that’s when I make all of my resolutions. This year’s list is short: buy nothing. There will have to be exceptions, of course, and it is enumerating these items that occupies much of my fun-thinking time. Stay tuned and watch me succeed/fail spectacularly!

 

Lippy

Stove-top Alchemist.

3. My brother is getting married tomorrow, and I spent this past weekend making custom lip balm wedding favours. I am always so pleasantly surprised when something turns out as well in real life as I pictured in my head. I used the recipe from Karrie at Happy Money Saver (with slight modifications for the bride’s and groom’s custom flavours). I love it. Would make again.

4. While helping to choose music for the wedding playlist, I remembered that I know all the words to a lot of songs.

 

 

Monqgoldtilenavy13B

Monique.

5. I once bought a dress online for the stupid reason that it had the same name as me, and it’s never fit me so it’s hung in my closet for over a year. One of those aspirational dresses. You know what I mean. Or maybe you don’t, in which case I congratulate you on being so highly evolved. I had planned (months ago) to wear it to the wedding this weekend, but wisely, I had a back-up plan: I borrowed a dress. Well, I borrowed four dresses, actually. I have never done this before, but I suspect it helps to have friends with great taste. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

 

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Tuesdays at Gramma’s

Today was The Boy’s last day of his first year of preschool. Swimming lessons ended last Monday.  Saturday gymnastics classes are done. The structure that accompanies the weeks of the school year (even at three years old!) has made way for frozen treats and later bedtimes. We’ve got some stuff on the schedule this summer so there won’t be any day camps or weekly lessons for The Boy. There is one standing appointment, however, that we intend to keep.

Tuesdays are for Gramma.

Every Tuesday, after work/the gym/Hot Yoga/whatever, four generations of my family gather at my uncle’s house, where my Gramma lives. (“I’m just a boarder!”-Gramma) There’s usually supper, occasionally a treat, and always knitting. It’s been going on for years, mostly while I lived away, but once we discovered Skype, The Boy and I started dropping in. Now that we’re living nearby, Tuesdays at Gramma’s are pretty sacred.

Tuesdays by the Numbers

Four: The number of rear ends that should fit on the couch. No stretching out. That’s what the floor is for.

Three: The minimum number of cans of D.C. you’d better bring up if you are going down to the beer fridge. (Lately we’ve all been off the artificial sweetener, so now it’s more like Club Soda.)

Seven: The typical number of people knitting at any given time.

Eleven: The average number of times Gramma will ask, “Do you knit?” if you are not, in fact, knitting.

Twenty: The number of stitches Gramma is supposed to have on her needles, in case she asks.

Forty: That’s how much you should charge for that cowl.

Countless: The number of zingers Gramma comes out with when everyone assumes she’s not paying attention.

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Monique’s Actual Gramma

Gramma repeats herself because she forgets. She knits the same twenty stitches back and forth because she can’t follow a pattern anymore. But she still knows when it’s Tuesday. Sometimes I’ll catch her talking to someone she doesn’t see often and she’ll say, “Oh, they all knit! They come over every Tuesday!” and I can tell she’s really happy that we do.

I will not pretend to know what it’s like to be nearing a hundred, to gradually lose grasp of people and things that used to be familiar. I don’t know if I would handle it with the same grace and humour that Gramma has, even though I really dig getting older so far. Gramma makes it look kind of fun. Sitting in a comfy chair, knitting all day, having your kids bring you supper and do your laundry? I’ll take it! I am looking very forward to the days when I can be as saucy as I want.

In the meantime, I count my blessings like stitches: I have a great family; I have a great Gramma; The Boy has a great Great Gramma who knows him and loves him. No matter how busy life gets, I always know where I’ll be come Tuesday night.

Tuesdays are for Gramma.

~Monique