Monday, December 30, 2013

The Four Gift Giving Rule

As a parent I struggle at Christmas time when it comes to making sure my kids aren't solely focused on what they get. But the holiday is so commercialized it feels like the whole world is against me in getting that message across.

I remember as a young child my mum would take me and my brother to the mall where we would pick out a new toy at the toy store to donate to charity.  We would get to wrap it ourselves and label it for the gender and age that we chose. I always picked a girl my own age and would give her something I desperately wanted myself.

Then it was back to the mall to put the wrapped gift under the big tree. It felt good. Even as a child I knew I was doing something nice for someone else. It bothered me that there were kids that wouldn't get any presents otherwise.

That tree at the mall has been gone for year. And while you can still donate unwrapped toys into a bin it's not the same. I liked the personal connection I made to my unknown friend.  I liked wrapping the present myself with great precision and care. I've put toys in the bin and so have my kids. It's not the same.

I talk a lot with my girls about what Christmas is all about. I tell them its about being with family and spending quality time together. I tell them it's not about what they get or how many toys they get but it's that someone loves them enough to get them something.

This year I asked them "Would you be sad if you didn't get any presents this year?" My 7 year old (ever the diplomat) knew the answer I wanted to hear and said "No. Because it's about being with family." But my 4 year old spoke the truth. "Sad." she said simply.

And I know that at times I definitely contribute to the commercial side of Christmas - buying way too many gifts for my girls. Because I like to give. I get great joy out of seeing them open the gifts I picked out.

Last year both of them got tired of opening presents and wanted to take a break. If that's not a sign of over buying I don't know what is.

So this year I vowed to do things differently. While browsing Pinterest I came across the 'Four Gift Giving Rule' for kids.

Found on Pinterest

My first thought was whoever came up with this is a freakin' genius! My second thought was it's possible I have already bought them too much stuff to make this work.

So I went home, sorted through the purchases I had made to date and realized this was completely do-able. I still had to secure the 'things they wanted' (as that was changing on a seemingly daily basis) but otherwise we were good to go.

I told my girls a few weeks before Christmas that this was the plan this year. I was surprised that no only did they not get upset but they both thought it was really cool. My 7 year old even told her friends about it.

I decided to wrap their gifts in the same paper for each category and label them as such:

I let them decide what order to open them in.  Not surprisingly they saved the best (their want) for the end. But to my delight they loved every gift.

The toughest one to pick a gift for was definitely the 'need' category.  In the end I decided on a workbook for each (phonics for my little one and math for my oldest) and a digital counting piggy bank so we can start talking about the meaning of money.  I figured this would be the gift they passed over the quickest but my oldest actually hugged me when she opened her math workbook (what?!?) and then actually sat down to work on it after gift opening was done.

Wearing her Gryffindor robe and doing math on Christmas Day...could she be anymore Hermione?

If that was their reaction to the "need" gift you can only imagine how excited they were by the time they got to their "want" gift. It was a sight to behold...

Bottom line is that this is a tradition that is going to stick at our house.

The kids were happy, we were happy and it gives me some limitations when it comes to shopping.

And limits are a good thing...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the eve, the day and the Disney reveal

I have to admit I wasn't feeling Christmas this year. And that is very unusual for me. I love Christmas. I love everything about the holiday.

I love all the lights and decorations.  I love the 24-hour-a-day Christmas music station. I love shopping and wrapping and decorating.

I love looking at this from my favourite chair:

But this year I felt stressed and overwhelmed and just a little bit "humbug" about the whole thing. Even my favourite (solo) Christmas tradition of putting on Love Actually and wrapping all the presents by the fire didn't help to alleviate my grumpiness.

So I had to make a conscious effort to put on a happy smile and enjoy it for the kids. And you know worked. I watched the joy in their eyes as we went through all of our usual traditions and - to use a cliche - I felt the love. Because every moment was lovely.

Christmas Eve...putting out the cookies and milk for Santa (and a couple of carrots for the reindeer):

Christmas morning present opening:

Comparing stocking stuffers...

Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans for my Harry Potter loving daughter.

Best. Stocking Stuffer. Ever. We played russian roulette with these bad boys. Be warned - vomit and booger taste exactly like vomit and booger.
Phantom of the Opera CD. I think she liked it.

 When the entire family came to our house in the afternoon and created mayhem (the good kind):

And stayed to witness the big reveal:

 Well...I say big reveal but truth be told I was (once again) disappointed by the lack of screaming and crying by my girls when they found out the news. I mean they haven't stopped talking about Disneyland since we got back from the last trip. You'd think it would warrant a better reaction than this.

The (not so) Big Disneyland Reveal from Kelly Duran on Vimeo.

(I think I need to lower my expectations...)

And to the quiet moments following the mayhem when presents were opened and played with:

To the sleepy cuddles at the end of the night when she just couldn't keep her eyes open anymore.

I'm glad I was able to pull myself out of my funk to enjoy each of these moments. Because they are only this young once...and watching the joy they get from Christmas is truly magical.

Chalk up another plus for parenthood...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snowshoeing & Snow Days

We don't get us a lot of snow here on the Wet Coast.  And really that's a good thing because a few inches pretty much shut the city down. Apparently we don't drive so good on our bald summer tires in the snowy conditions....

Usually our local mountains are covered in the white stuff by early December and the skiers and snowboarders and snowshoers can do their thing.  So when we planned a group work outing up to Cypress mountain for snowshoeing on December 17 you would think we would be safe.

Just barely...

We arrived at the mountain to find a light rain falling and the parking lot almost completely devoid of snow.  Not a great start.  I had never been snowshoeing before but having lost 30 pounds and significantly improving my health this year I was looking forward to it.

Once we got our snowshoes on and started up the mountain into the (luckily) snow covered forest I was certainly glad I was in better physical shape because this shit is tiring y'all. But also a lot of fun!

snowshoe selfie...

we stopped at the lodge midway for hot chocolate, warm cookies and some team building activities that were actually fun!

now that's a good lookin' crew right?
Heading back to base...
Frozen pretty.
Turns out if we wanted snow in the parking lot too we need only have waited a few more days.  That Friday we got the snow that grinds the city to the halt.

The kind that made me very glad to have a laptop computer and remote access to my work files because there was no way I was making the trek to work in this weather.

The kids were thrilled! It was the last day of school, pajama and movie day and now it was snowing? That's like the happy kid trifecta!

Little one's boots were at daycare.  She didn't seem to mind the cold feet...

our new house looks so pretty covered in snow...

View from the deck...
snow covered maple tree...doesn't get much more Canadian than that.
And once I had braved the roads just long enough to get my youngest to daycare.  I was happy to settle myself down with a cup of tea at my "home office":

It's so pretty if you don't have to drive in it.

In other words...let it snow (on the weekends only).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Today scrambled eggs...tomorrow the world

My dear oldest daughter is the picture of independence these days. She wants to try everything herself...

Recently she was bursting with pride as she told us that she had cooked her own eggs (under careful supervision of course) the night before when my aunt was babysitting.

"Can I make you some eggs Mummy?" she asked.  And then set about her task very seriously...

oh the pride on that little face...

Best damn scrambled eggs I've ever tasted!

I love these little moments where my kids realize they are capable of 'great' things. She's been offering to make us eggs every day since...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lullaby...and good night

It's been a rough week for my youngest.

She started it off with a head first fall into the edge of her bookshelf resulting in a pretty serious gash and bruise.  And a lot of tears...

And then ended it with a diagnosis of a serious ear infection that had us abandoning our seats at the Christmas pantomime show in search of a medical clinic still open at 8:45 on a Friday night.

A little ice and advil helped heal the bruise on her forehead and the antibiotics are well on their way to taking care of the ear infection.

As for the healing of your heart? Well that is taken care of with your older sister tucking you in and singing you a bedtime lullaby...

Lullaby and Good Night from Kelly Duran on Vimeo.

oh my did I get so lucky?

Monday, December 16, 2013


This number has big meaning for me today.  No...I'm not turning 30 (again) but this is even bigger than that.

Way back in March I set a few big goals for myself. Little did I know what life would have in store for me at that time.  So many ups and downs since then - sadly more downs than ups - but this a post of celebration.

I am officially down 30 pounds!  Hooray!

Clothes that haven't fit since before I had kids (yikes!) fit again. Double Hooray!

And even my 'skinny' jeans of old are too big already. Triple Hooray!

While I would love to be able to attribute all of this lost weight solely to healthy eating and exercise - the truth is that at least half of it came off as a result of my recent bout with depression and the fact I pretty much existed on coffee for 5 weeks.

but hey...that's not very positive is it? So let's concentrate on the other half that did come off due to hard work...and pounding pavement.

Running.  Who knew I would love it as much as I do? I certainly didn't expect to but love it I do.  I love the feeling of lacing up my runners and pluggin in my ear buds.  I love that I can do it anywhere and anytime.

And I love the changes it has made to my body.  My legs are leaner and stronger. I can run with my head up and can even talk while I run now. If you had asked me back in March when I was struggling to get through just 30 seconds of running I would have thought that impossible.

But now...oh now...I know better.  I know what I am truly capable of. Which leads me to the second important "30".

30 days from now I will be competing in my first official 5k race.

Just a few days ago I will still feeling a little nervous about this since I had yet to finish an actual 5k distance. So yesterday I decided to conquer that fear and just do it.

I battled through wicked side stiches (must drink more water) and an even more wicked head wind to complete my first 5k in just over 40  minutes.

The fact that I had to walk a good deal of the distance because of the stiches was a disappointment to be sure but it also proved that even having to walk I could still complete the distance in good time.

And I am certain that on race day - with the knowledge that my loved ones will be waiting for me at the finish line - I will be able to overcome any obstacles.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to seeing 2013 come to an end. But this year has also been one of great revelation for me.  I have learned a lot about myself. About the depth of both my emotional and physical strength. And about how hitting rock bottom can be liberating in a way.

I know that in 2014 there is no where for me to go but up.

Except on the scale... 

That my going down.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmasizing (part 2)

We finally got around to opening up that Gingerbread Village kit and making a mess with the icing and candies.

4 year olds...


7 year olds...

We made ourselves a pretty adorable little village. I love these little houses more than working on one big one. Everyone gets to show their individual styles a little more.

and in the case of my youngest...use a lot of icing and eat half the candies that were destined for her roof...

Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Meeting the Big Guy

One of the Christmas "traditions" I have never been a big fan of is Santa photos at the mall.

First of all it's a huge ripoff. ($20? Really? Is the photo engraved with 24k gold?)

Secondly...the mall is always a zoo and all the parents are stressing out and most of the kids are complaining about their itchy "fancy" clothes. It's not fun never know what kind of Santa you are going to get. I feel like the quality control on mall santa's has been in a steady decline for too long.

Finally...did I mention it's a huge freakin' rip off?

This year however, when my best friend suggested we all take our kids together and then have lunch I thought it sounded like a good idea. I mean at least I'd get lunch out of the deal. (I kid...I kid...)

But seriously I love doing anything with my best girlfriends and their families. And my kids love hanging out with their kids. So win-win all around.

I don't make my kids dress up at fact...I don't buy them fancy dresses at all.  The reason for this was made perfectly clear when I asked my oldest what she was going to wear to see Santa and she said "cozy pants".

I managed to convert "cozy pants" into leggings and a skirt which I considered a major win. I even got her to wear a hairband. Mother of the Year over here!

We met at 11:15 - 45 minutes before Santa was meant to arrive and we were 6th in line. Wow...there are some keeners out there. The kids...bless their little cotton socks...actually amused themselves for the entire time with no (major) blowouts.

aw look at their fancy clothes. so adorbs!
Little T was playing the diva card and refused to go in the group shot. Typical...
Same trees from when I was in high school. Back when these damn photos were free.
Just as we got close to the front of the line my youngest started playing her little shy game. "I don't want to sit on his lap." "You need to come with me mummy." "I don't wannnnnnaaaaa!!!!"

Thanks be to god for the little train nearby for providing perfect the perfect bribe. "Sit on Santa's knee, smile for the picture and you can ride the train."

The rest as they say was history:

I even grudgingly handed over the $20 to get the 'official' shots...and I was glad I did.

Both girls were shocked that Santa didn't ask them what they wanted for Christmas. I told them he already knows because he's magic. M said we better write him a letter "just in case."

It was then time to fulfill on my bribe promise. I don't know what it was about this silly little train that went in circles but good god my kids were so darn happy...

So good was their mood in fact that we managed to get through lunch with no major meltdowns. Helped mainly by the fact that we handed over our phones for them to play with. ( gotta do what you gotta do.)

So...bottom line?

- This Santa turned out to be a rockstar.

- The people and kids in line were (mainly) happy and non-whiny.

- The picture was actually worth the money.

- And the kids had great fun with their friends.

Sounds like I'm out of excuses to not do this again. Damn...just when I was thinking I was going to get away with it too...

See you next year big guy!