Thanks For the Giving

dressed up boys on thanksgiving

I never felt more like the matriarch of my little family than yesterday, Thanksgiving Day. I spent most of the day cooking or doing laundry, and by the time we sat down to eat, all the dishes were delicious and still warm, and everyone was dressed up for the occasion, even though we didn’t go anywhere and nobody came to us.

The lovely dinner couldn’t have happened quite the way it did without everyone’s help, though.

My parents were visiting from Connecticut, so my mom helped in the kitchen. My dad took the boys to the park. Later, Stewart kept an eye on them when they frolicked around in their traditional Thanksgiving Day mud puddle.

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Well, it’s a tradition now.

With no real agenda for the day, I concentrated on the cooking – making sure all dishes would be hot when they got to the table, despite my toy-sized oven in my tiny kitchen that can only fit a small turkey and barely anything else. We ordered the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and rolls from a local grocery store. I made a bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce, a traditional green bean casserole, and carmelized Brussels sprouts, and my mother made candied carrots. We poured a lovely zinfandel to accompany it all.

The kids were very helpful, too. I suggested to Brady that we all dress “fancy,” and he enthusiastically agreed. He wore his fancy jacket and fancy hat, and even combed his hair.

brady combs hair

His energy was infectious. Kyle donned his First Communion suit. Stewart whipped out a salwar kameez that a student had given him a while ago that he has never worn. Kyle picked out a dress for me and urged me to wear lipstick. My mom donned a beautiful new sweater with matching jewelry. Even my dad put on a dress(ier) polo shirt.

stew in salwar kameez

And Kyle, in his fancy suit, took on the role of waiter. He drew up formal menus for the meal, and acted like a waiter in a fancy restaurant, urging us to retire to the “luxury room” after we ate to wait while the dishes were cleaned before returning for dessert (homemade pumpkin pie, which turned out great).

After we ate we took a walk around the neighborhood. It was 59 degrees and just lovely. We rounded out the day watching Home Alone, which is Brady’s favorite movie, reserved for Christmas time.

I guess it’s Christmas time now.

Wordless Wednesday: Wii Family

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Props to the co-owner of Frost It Cupcakery in Thousand Oaks CA, who delivered these to my house personally. Swoon.

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Quick and Easy – My Kind of Holiday

Every holiday season, people look for ways to put a personal stamp on gift-giving or gestures of kindness or even to adopt traditions that make the holidays feel like their own.

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I have developed a few things that I do with the kids for Christmas. We drive around town looking at holiday lights while drinking hot chocolate, usually on Christmas Eve while Daddy is helping prepare the house for Santa. We bake a ton of cookies to give to our neighbors with a little greeting tag included to remind them that we are thinking of them. And for gifts for our teachers and community members, well, that’s what we decided do show you in this video.

Target recently asked me what special things I like to do to make Christmas my kind of holiday. Watch as we have a ball assembling these inexpensive but lovely little gifts for the special teachers in our kids’ lives:


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What inspires you and tells you it’s holiday season (finally!), and what are your own unique traditions? Share them on social media using the hashtag #mykindofholiday so we can follow along! Obviously, mine is going to involve chocolate chips and hot chocolate. Are you sensing a theme here?

artwork by Kyle!

artwork by Kyle!

This post is sponsored by Target.

Allowance Jars

What is the opposite of Pinterest? Because this is raw, homemade, unpretty stuff, but it works.

IMG_9481Nailed it!

When school started this fall I instituted allowance for Kyle, who is eight now and really good at math so I figured he can finally handle it. I threw Brady a bone by giving him the option to earn allowance too but at only 6 years old he’s not so interested in the value of a dollar because he thinks Mom and Dad can just buy everything. So for him, it’s really just symbolic.

Kyle wanted to buy the desktop version of Minecraft, though, which cost €19.95. Yikes! That’s $26.91 as of this moment. And Kyle already had the iPad version of Minecraft, so I didn’t want to just turn around and get that for him..without striking a deal.

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We drew up a list of daily chores for him, plus things he has to do on the weekends, and some jobs he can complete to earn extra money. For his diligent completion of his chores he earns $5.00 per week. He must split his money three ways:

  • Give 10%
  • Save 45%
  • Spend 45%

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The night we figured this all out, Kyle calculated that he’d be working for something like 24 cents a day. I am probably wrong on that math. I should film him working out the numbers. He can go on and on and on…

Kyle gets paid every Saturday, except when I forget. Then he is good about reminding me. Building up to buying Minecraft, every day was a countdown to the next payout. The first true test of our system was the weekend Kyle thought he had saved enough in the “Spend” jar to buy it. Unfortunately he had the 19.95 in his mind and forgot about the exchange rate, which I had explained to him when we first priced it out. We sat down to download the game and he counted out his money. $22.07. He needed $26.95 that day.

As the shortfall dawned on him his face fell, and he scrunched it up and started to cry. My heart broke for him, but only a little, because I knew this was a Teaching Moment. I stayed strong and did NOT make up the remaining amount. He worked hard that week to earn extra money to go with the $2 of spending money from his allowance that he could add to that amount. The next weekend we downloaded Minecraft on my laptop. I am not going to go into that topic here because OMG ALL THE TALKING. You parents whose children are obsessed with Minecraft know exactly what I mean. Those of you who don’t? Well, consider it one way to get your kid to talk to you, even if you will not understand one word.

Once Kyle blew his Spend jar on Minecraft he wasn’t as motivated by allowance to do chores. That’s fine with me. HE STILL HAS TO DO HIS CHORES. I pay attention to how much he gets done during the week but I haven’t docked his pay yet.

On Halloween he forgot to bring his Unicef box with him when we went trick-or-treating, so he put the contents of his Give jar (which he rebranded as “Charity”) into it. He was proud to give. I was proud of him.

So far, so good.

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