Friday, December 23, 2011

All Wrapped Up

One of my favorite parts of giving gifts is the wrapping-so they bring joy even before they're opened. Maybe that's why I buy my paper months in advance and rolls of ribbon too. When I see the perfect print I buy it, whether it is January, or June. 

This Christmas I started shopping early, and wrapping early. It has made such a huge difference on my checkbook, and on my sanity. I feel for each and every person who is running around like a nut right about now, trying to track down those last few presents and dreading the late nights to come taking care of last minute wrapping, assembly and finishing touches. I have certainly been there. But this year it is different.

I started wrapping before Thanksgiving. Instead of hiding presents all over the house-well, I did that too-I wrapped them immediately. If the kids found them, which I am sure they did because they were stacked in the corner in my less-than-clean, disorganized bedroom, they would have to rip open the paper to see what was inside. In late November I added embellishments; ribbon made into beautiful bows and decorative name tags that coordinate with the ornaments on our tree in lime green, pink and red.
A combination of coordinating gift wrap, ribbon
and reusable decorative boxes.
After the kids left for school each morning I set up my wrapping station and transformed each package into a decorative masterpiece. Wrapping didn't seem like work at all. In fact, it was therapeutic and relaxing, like working on a scrapbook or sewing project. I felt accomplished as the piles of gifts grew under the tree, sitting patiently, waiting to be opened on Christmas day.

Today my parents arrived from NH to celebrate Christmas with us. We spent the better part of the day sitting in my nice room by the tree, surrounded by the kids and all the wrapped presents. My mother added her gifts to the pile, with her big, beautiful bows that closely mimic mine. She taught me the craft of wrapping early, and introduced me to the beauty of a carefully decorated Christmas tree decorated with thoughtful ornaments-antiques, vintage bulbs and handcrafted specialties. This year I added tinsel for a little extra sparkle-like the sparkle in my kids' eyes as they look at their gifts, occasionally turn over a name tag hoping to see their name, and imagine what's inside.

Whether you started shopping early or are kicking yourself for waiting until the last minute, take some time to enjoy the beauty of the season. From the sparkling lights on the tree branches to the gifts below, to the smiles on faces and the warmth in your heart, allow time to take it all in. Instead of worrying about what hasn't been done, enjoy what you have accomplished. Take time to do the things you love-sing out loud to Christmas carols, decorate a gingerbread house with your favorite candy (and favorite children), turn the most special presents into decorative masterpieces. But remember, the best gift you can give yourself and your children for Christmas is time to enjoy what makes the season special.

Our kitty Olive whose favorite holiday past time
is clawing at the  Christmas tree and presents.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Home Filled With Holiday Cheer

This morning I was super motivated. I got the boys up and out the door on time-despite the fact that it was about 29 degrees outside. We chatted as I drove and I made sure to keep the small talk upbeat, hoping that it would help the three oldest Dermody kids start the day out on a positive note. When I got home I pressed play on the new Christmas Sing Along CD I bought last year on clearance after Christmas and got right into washing dishes and bleaching the counters. Rowan came downstairs and grabbed a seat at the kitchen island. He worked on finishing his homework as I scooted around the kitchen, happily shaking my butt and belting out the words to Frosty The Snowman. He looked at me with a smile and said, "So, is this what you do all day when you are home with just Davey?" I asked him what he meant. "Do you clean up the kitchen and listen to happy music?" he asked, "because this is really fun." And he was right. It was fun. I kept working on the kitchen and he kept watching, bopping his head to the music while practicing writing the letter "t" and the number "8" on his kindergarten homework.
Not all days in our house are this picture perfect. More days than I would like to admit I wake up frustrated, dreading having to roust three teenage boys for school, looking at the leftover dishes from the night before with malice and disdain, wondering just how much peace and quiet I will get before the babies-the two littlest Dermodys-wake up wanting apple juice.
This morning much more happened to me than just driving the kids to school and finishing my chores. The spirit of Christmas was alive in my house and it gave my family a wonderful morning. From the beautiful tree in my nice room to the perfectly wrapped presents below, to the treats in the advent calendar and the music in the CD player. I was reminded this morning of how blessed I am. I have beautiful children to wake up, dishes to wash as reminders of the meals that we are fortunate enough to eat together, babies whose hugs and kisses can cure anything, a warm home, a loving husband. I am thankful that the 2011 holiday season gave me that moment this morning-and if I remember anything from this holiday season I hope it's the picture of Rowan's face as I danced around the kitchen-a reminder that it is the little things that bring true cheer to a family.

Rowan decorating our Christmas tree
while Davey admires the decorations.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Priorities: School, Sports, Social Life - In that order.

A friend asked recently "How did you get all your kids to be such good athletes?" I didn't have an answer for her right away because I had to think about it. I guess it's surprising that all 7 of the kids are athletic and love college and pro teams. What I realized in coming up with an answer for her is that kids who excel at sports aren't just born, they're made.
I walked into Rowan and Davey's room this morning to pick up, and I started thinking about my friend's question. As I made Davey's bed I admired his sports themed quilt. I fluffed his pillows and piled the basketball and football throw pillows on top. I sat down in the little blue school chairs near the boys' play table. I found the chairs on the side of the road and they were the perfect shade of blue to match the rugby stripes painted on their bedroom walls. I sorted the laundry piles-a New England Patriots jersey handed down by Landon, a Virginia Tech Football t-shirt, a Boston Celtics sweat suit, a soccer jersey from Italy. Perched on Rowan's bed stand next to his vintage looking baseball lamp was his first trophy-earned for playing T-Ball last season.
Sports is a way of life in our family. We watch the Red Sox together. Dave makes tailgate food for big Navy games or when the Pats play on Sunday's. I follow Michael Phelps on Facebook, sharing pictures from his page with Cal, encouraging him to keep on swimming-to keep breaking records. My kids have seen the Sox play in Boston, Baltimore and Tampa.
So, to answer my friend's question, we didn't just get lucky, we created our brood of sports-loving kids. When parents show kids a good thing, encourage it with enthusiasm and make it a priority, it becomes legend. Cheerleading, gymnastics, ballet, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, track & field, swimming, diving, wrestling, karate-we've played them all. Sports keep the kids busy, encourages team work and who knows, might even end up paying for college. But, if the product of all the expense, time and effort that we have dedicated into creating kids who love sports goes no further than creating 7 more Yankee haters in this beautiful world, it will all have been worth it in the end.

Cal at the start, summer swim All-Stars 2011

Evelyn paddle boarding at Plum Island, MA

Lily's first summer competitive swimming 2011.

Austin, #42, a machine on the field.