Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours!


This year, Christmas was bittersweet.  My husband had to spend his first holiday season without his father, our beloved Papa.  It was also our second Christmas without our beloved Uncle Terry.

Although our family has gotten smaller, I must say that the joy Little Lewie and his cousins share for the holiday has only gotten bigger and bigger.  Lewie's belief in magic was first fueled by the appearance of Tootie, our elf.  The anticipation of Santa coming then grew more and more as we counted the days down with his advent calendar and sent a letter to the North Pole.  I was so proud of Lewie as he only wrote three items on his list.  "This is all I'm going to ask for," he told me.  "Getting these three things will make me very happy."

Santa, of course, brought a few more presents that were unexpected.  He brought a water slide for the family to enjoy during the summer and the biggest gift of all, an Xbox One.  Lewie was so surprised by his gift (especially since he didn't ask for it) that he wondered if it was delivered to the wrong house.  "Mommy, I think this might be Justin's present," he announced.  "Justin told me he wanted an Xbox One for Christmas."  I was both charmed by his comment and a little worried that Santa may have gone too far. Santa knew how much this little boy loves Minecraft, so he bought the Xbox for this very reason.  Still, the gift may have commercialized the holiday a little too much--making Lewie feel as if Santa should be expected to bring these types of presents every Christmas. 

Grammy (my mom) and her two sisters, Aunty Irene and Aunty Kiki

Lewie and Grammy

Lewie's little cousin Crystal

Whether we went overboard or not, Lewie was shocked by his gifts and told me that "he must have been a very good boy."  We chuckled at his excitement and spent the rest of the day being incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to spend Christmas with our families.  We may have missed getting hugs from two extra special people this year, but their memories stayed with us.  My husband reminisced:  "My father was so excited to see us open our Christmas gifts every year that sometimes he would be the first one awake in the house."  We laughed at the idea, but then my husband ended up carrying on the tradition.  He woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't fall back to sleep!

Merry, merry Christmas to all of my friends, blog friends, and family members.  May your hearts be joyful and glad!


Elf on the Shelf Mishaps and Other Fun Holiday Happenings



Let me start this post by saying, I wish I was creative.  I can spend hours on blogs, Pinterest, and other places trying to find crafty ideas for the holidays (which I admire incredibly), but when it comes time for me to actually make something (or help my son make something), the pictures of my masterpieces are more likely to be found under the meme or category of NAILED IT! before they would ever be considered Martha Stewart worthy.  Simply put, I lack both the creativity and the artist gene in a big way.  I do my best not to get jealous of other people's talents, but hey, I'm human, and the one thing social media is really good at is making the rest of us non-artist, non-baking types feel well, a little bit left out.  But, I digress..

For the most part, I have reconciled with my feelings of inadequacy.  Instead, I have found my solace in laughter, and so here it is...some of my "less-than" moments this holiday.

1.  The Elf on the Shelf did not make his appearance after Thanksgiving.  My son came home from school one day and pointedly asked, "Where's Tootie?" (The name of our elf.)  "All my friends at school said their elves have come to see them.  Mine's not here!!"  (Evidently, some elves are even bringing candy--I guess the kids are taking notes during lunch break.)

2.  In horror of failing as a parent, I called on Tootie, and the magical elf did make his appearance (about a week late).  He sat on our living room bookshelf, but Little Lewie didn't notice him.  Tootie then moved our animated Christmas Polar Bear, but nope, he wasn't recognized there either.  I thought it would be too obvious to say, "Hey, look, Tootie's back!"  So, I went with option number three...

3)  After helping Lewie decorate the little Christmas tree in his room, Tootie made an appearance right above the tree.  He'd certainly be recognized this time.  "Lewie, come look at the lights on your tree," I said with excitement.  Lewie took one look and said, "Tootie's here!"  There was excitement, a smile, and even some jumping.  As we walked downstairs to do some homework, Lewie looked at me and said, "Mommy, can I sleep with you tonight?  I don't want to sleep with Tootie in my room.  He's a little scary."

4)  Since Tootie went from a cute elf to a creepy one in a mere 30 seconds, I called on Daddy's magic to help us.  "While we work on homework, can you help Tootie move to another room?" I asked desperately.  Daddy's magic had worked.  Tootie had left Lewie's bedroom for the night, which made one little boy feel much better.  But, where then, did Tootie go?  Of course, Lewie had to find him to make sure he wasn't in his bedroom anymore.  After scavenging the house, Lewie announced, "There he is."  Daddy's magic led Tootie right over the bathroom light fixture facing the toilet.  Great, I thought, Tootie has now gone from a creepy elf to a "Peeping Tom."

5)  Tootie, the elf, has been a little lazy.  After the creepy and Peeping Tom episode, Tootie has been hesitant to move too much.  I have considered having Tootie make one last grand appearance before Christmas and have summoned my favorite bloggers for help.  This idea, which I love, comes from  Actually, I love all the Elf on the Shelf ideas in this blog!

Elf ideas...some new ideas I haven't seen yet:
I end this blog post with some pictures of my son's first gingerbread house.  Again, our crafts will never make the front page of Good Housekeeping, but they will make a post in this blog. 

What are some funny or proud holiday happenings
in your little corner?

The Lessons in Gift Giving


Lewie came home last week from school with an envelope for a holiday shop.  Apparently, every year his school turns the gym into a holiday gift shop where the children are able to purchase Christmas gifts for their families.  On the envelope, I had to write the names of people Lewie would shop for and how much money was to be spent (maximum) on each.  (Prices of gifts ranged from $1 to $5.)

On the envelope, I wrote that Lewie would shop for me, Daddy, his two grandmothers, and his teacher.  I checked off $4 for each, and I put $20 in the envelope.  The goal of the event was twofold.  It's main purpose, of course, was to teach children about how wonderful it feels to give to others.  The second lesson, however, was to teach children about how to budget their money accordingly. 

Lewie came home that day smiling ear to ear.  "I have presents for everyone," he announced wildly. 

"Aren't those supposed to be for Christmas?" my mom asked.

I suppose I could have made him wait, but waiting twenty days, for a first grader, is an eternity.  Not only would he probably forget what he bought for everyone, but the excitement of us opening them would be lost in the lapsed time.  Plus, he'd be too wrapped up in opening his own gifts on Christmas (no pun intended).

I gave Lewie the green light to hand us his gifts, and he did with JOY!  Daddy got a package of screw drivers (because he loves to fix stuff and put batteries in toys), his two grandmothers got special pens that said "World's Best Grandma," his teacher got a sticky note memo clip in the shape of an apple, and I got the best gift of all--a beautiful silver necklace with a shiny blue stone (because my favorite color is blue).

He was so excited to show us his gifts and to explain why he bought each one.  "This one's for you Mommy because I know you'll love it," he said cheerfully while jumping up and down. 

"I do love it!!!" I exclaimed.  "You remembered my favorite color!"

Our gifts were followed by a long set of hugs and then another set of hugs.  Lewie was so proud of his good job, and I was so proud of him.  (He even came under budget, bringing at least $3 back home.) 

Needless to say, I've been wearing my beautiful blue necklace everyday--not only to show Lewie how much I like it but because I am so touched by his thoughtfulness.  He truly took his time in considering and selecting each gift.   Now he knows the secret--the true magic of Christmas comes from the joy of giving to others.

Do your children's schools provide a holiday shop too?

The Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens


Last year, I learned about the Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens, and I wanted to take Lewie desperately; unfortunately, by the time I learned about the event, the show was sold out!

This year, I kept the show on my "holiday bucket list" and scored tickets.  I chose Black Friday for our date because 1) we all had the day off, and 2) I thought the lines might be less since most people reserve Black Friday for shopping.  My assumption proved correct.  The lines were much less, and we had another unexpected bonus--the weather was close to 67 degrees (in November!)

We took the Metro North Railroad to 125th Street and then hopped on another train to the Botanical Garden stop.  The railroad transportation couldn't be more seamless, and once we arrived at the Botanical Garden train platform, all we had to do was cross the street to get to our destination.

From the moment we started our little adventure, Lewie couldn't stop beaming.  Not only did he enjoy the train ride into the city, but he couldn't wait to see the model trains inside the gardens.  Stopping to have a bite to eat at the Garden's Pine Tree Café was torture for our seven year-old who didn't want to wait one second longer to see the trains.  Still, we made him eat something before we went inside.


Outside dining at the Pine Tree Café.
Once inside, we were in awe of the majestic train display running inside the gardens, over our heads, and beneath our feet.  Part of the allure is that favorite NYC monuments are painstakingly made out of twigs, pine cones, seeds, leaves, and other natural elements, which are then displayed with trains running around them.  Our favorites were Grand Central Station, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and the Statue of Liberty!

Grand Central Terminal

We spotted Thomas!

The NYC skyline

The Statue of Liberty


At the end of the show, we took a tram ride to see the rest of the gardens outside (mostly in hibernation during this time of year) and then left the Botanical Gardens to visit Central Park where we had a nice lunch/dinner at Tavern on the Green

After dinner, we asked the doorman of the restaurant about getting a cab; he politely recommended that we take a pedicab back to Grand Central, so we could weave in and out of the congested NY traffic and take in the sights.  The added expense of a pedicab wasn't part of our plan, but in the end, we couldn't be happier with the ride.  The driver gave us a little history about NY while pedaling all three of us up 5th Avenue.  He made sure to take us by Rockefeller Center, Time Square, and 42nd Street before dropping us off at Grand Central.  It was still warm outside, and so the gentle breeze hitting our faces as we took in the sights and listened to disco music (that's right--like Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff") made us giggle with delight.  Lewie was in awe of seeing the Big Apple this way, and he admitted that he loves disco music. 

Tavern on the Green - What delicious food!

Central Park

Front entrance to Tavern on the Green

The doorman

The pedicab!

My attempt at a selfie!

I saw this smile all day long!

All in all, we had an exceptional day in the city.  I knew it would be fun, but honestly, our experience went way beyond any of our expectations.  Lewie called the day "epic" (his new favorite word from classmates at school), and I couldn't agree more.  Our visit definitely inspired us to get into the holiday spirit.  What an awesome time of year!