Things to Do - 12 in 12 (December 2014)

Now that I can't walk or drive (annoying broken foot), my days have slowed down considerably. I have a lot of work I should be doing - finishing up final edits from end of November photoshoots, reworking my website to showcase newer photos, newsletters, business cards, taxes, branding. But I don't have a laptop and I'm supposed to keep my foot elevated as much as possible. So I took the week off . . .

Don't forget to check out Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to see how their Fridays went.

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7:45 am - Our elf isn't as creative as some of the other elfs out there, but at least he moves around a lot.

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8:15 am - The kids unwrap fake mustaches for day 12 of the countdown to Christmas. These prove to be a HUGE success.

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8:45 am - My friend picks the kids up to walk them to school, since I can't really move that well.


9:15 am - I elevate my foot and finish the last episode of Puberty Blues, Season 2 on Hulu (probably the best show ever on TV, you can read my review of Season 1 here).

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11:45 am - My friend, Ann, picks me up for lunch at Busboys and Poets.


1:30 pm - Back on the couch. This time I alternate between reading The Paying Guestsand watching Broad City on Amazon Prime (that show is HYSTERICAL!!)

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2:30 pm - Take a selfie of myself on the couch, just to take a picture of something.

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3:45 pm - F makes root beer floats for everyone after school.

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4:30 pm - Kelly picks us up to drive to playgroup. Unlike us, she has TVs in her car, which enchant my children. (I know you can't see the whole ensemble that well in this photo, but there is NOTHING in the world cuter than a toddler in a shark jacket/costume).


6:30 pm - Friday night playgroup at Julia's. Wonderful salad, wonderful friends.

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8:00 pm - Drive by some crazy Xmas lights on the way home. Apparently the house has its own AM station, but we just stay long enough to get the general idea.

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9:00 pm - P trying to delay bedtime for just a few minutes more.


Things to Do - Gravity Maze GIVEAWAY!!

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I have a friend who loves making marble runs with her kids - they own runs in every size and color imaginable. But me? Well up til now I've always been more neutral on the marble run experience. Yes, it can be fun to build a little roller coaster of sorts, but after awhile the whole process seems a little redundant. Until now.

Over the past year or so, Thinkfun has asked us to try out a variety of their new toys and games and we've always been rather impressed with their offerings. But Gravity Maze is the best yet. The puzzle/game comes with 60 challenges, ranging from beginning to expert. And it is up to you to arrange various translucent "towers" in such a way that the ball rolls from A to Z.

Gravity Maze is designed for children 8 and up. P (my 8 year old) loves solving the challenges both with me (as a team) and on her own. Whereas, T (my 5 year old) prefers to let me do most of the problem solving, while he drops the ball to see if we're working in the right direction.

All in all, this is a great pre-dinner activity, especially during the LONG LONG nights of December. Think Fun has offered to giveaway one gravity maze to a No Monsters reader (US addresses only). To enter, just comment on this post. Please include your email address in the body of the message (so I can find you). This giveaway will close this Thursday night (December 18th).


Places to Go (Vacation) - Bourbon Street & A Broken Foot (New Olreans, LA)

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These are my best friends. I don't see them as often as I'd like. But when I do see them, we have fun.

I really don't think there's any better place for a girls' weekend than New Orleans, LA. Especially when you're edging 40. Because you can: drink outside in December, dance to a live band singing "Don't Stop Believing", and (miraculously) find yourselves some of the youngest women in the room. Vegas just can't give you that last part.

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Everything became fuzzy after the hurricanes (granted there were several margaritas before the hurricanes even began).

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Apparently we drank more.

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And more.

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And danced.

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Night two was much more mellow due to an ill-placed pothole colliding with my right foot (I actually fell in said pothole while checking my fitbit steps, oh the irony).

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After walking proved difficult, we ended up at the hotel bar, with its overpriced drinks and eclectic clientele.

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Wine numbs the pain.

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And if a stranger tells Allison she has big hair, as in "really big, like Texas, hair" . . .

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Then she will find a way to make it bigger.

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And bigger.

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So Saturday was sort of a bust. But after 4 hours in the New Orleans emergency room (not a place I'd recommend), they told me my foot was definitely broken, gave me a coolio boot, and sent me on my way.

Still a great weekend. And that says a lot.


Things to Do - 7 Ways to Ward Off the Gimmies This Holiday Season

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Every year my friend Tara puts together this amazing event called the Gifts That Give Hope gift fair, where kids can "shop for unique and meaningful teacher and grandparent gifts personalized by your child, learn more about 15 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visit with Santa, enjoy facepainting and kid's activities, all while teaching children the true meaning of giving by shopping at our Children's Gift Fair."

Usually, we're out of town for the fair, but this year we can't wait to participate. If you're interested, Gifts That Give Hope will take place this Saturday from 10 am til 2pm at Calvary United Methodist Church (2315 S Grant St. Arlington VA 22202).

In the meantime, check out Tara and Katherine's wonderful article about how to avoid the holiday gimmies.

7 Ways to Ward off The Gimmies This Holiday Season

For many of parents, the kids’ first glimpse of the glistening holiday display at the mall ushers in a side of the holiday season that triggers a pounding headache: The kids come down with a case of The Gimmies.

It’s hard to blame them. The television, the radio and—good grief—even the mailbox are full of ads for items add to their ever-expanding wish lists. “I want a bike,” “I need a Transformer,” or “I’m going to ask Santa for an American Girl doll.” Often, the appeals come from kids who would never nag for a toy, outside of this increasingly amped-up season draped in snowy wonder.

In the age of thoughtful parenting, many of us wrestle with how to deal with it all — not just the gifts, but how to merge family traditions without making the whole month of December into a celebration of decadence and spoiling. What none of us want is a collection of rotten kids to live with for 11 months of the year, when the guests have gone, the Elf on a Shelf has moved back north and the family routines return to normal.

Here are seven ways to ward off The Gimmies, many of them borrowed from friends and loved ones who, like us, are wishing for oodles of holiday joy, but hoping we can get through it without create little monsters.

1. Make the holiday season about more than presents; make it about experiences. These don’t need to be elaborate, Facebook-ready photo-ops. Instead, put away your to-do list. Slow down. Take a holiday light drive. Bake cookies with the kids, and then sit down to enjoy one yourself. Be sure—throughout the month—to talk about gratitude for all that you have and all that you can do.

2. Get rid of the catalogs. They fill your mailbox, pile up on your counters and are menus for The Gimmies. Instead, steer kids—and gift givers—to activities like skating lessons, outings and other memory-makers.

3. If you have indulgent family members, ask them to limit gifts. This can get tough. However, at the end of the season, mom and dad have to be the Curator of the New Toy Collection. Muster all your diplomacy and ask for their support. Hopefully, they’ll understand that you’re doing your best to raise good-natured and appreciative children.

4. If you wind up overwhelmed by generosity, tuck some gifts away, if you can do it without hurting anyone’s feelings. Save them for the summer—or even a big spring snowstorm—when they won’t get so lost in the holiday deluge.

5. Let the giving be the receiving. Have the kids help pick out presents and talk to them about giving thoughtfully. When it makes sense, help them make
some gifts, even simple ones. (Read: Don’t look at Pinterest first. Construction paper snowflakes and glitter are still adorable.)

6. Talk about the meaning of the holidays. If you are Jewish, teach your children about the miraculous menorah that burned for eight days. Explain the significance of eating delicious food cooked in oil, like latkes, and invite friends over for dinner. If you are Christian, make Advent and the coming of Jesus a significant part of the December narrative. Get to a Christmas pageant or see a live Nativity. Think of ways to get through to the little ones: Why not bake a birthday cake for Baby Jesus? Whatever your beliefs, use them to start a conversation with your kids about the traditions of your holiday.

7. Be generous yourself. Talk with your children about adopting a family or contributing to Toys for Tots. Remind your kids that not everyone has a lot. We adore the charity Gifts that Give Hope, which hosts alternative gift fairs online and in the United States and Canada. There, shoppers can purchase acts of kindness for loved ones, rather than another sweater. These conversation pieces at the holidays can remind everyone—young and old—about the value of supporting charities that help the homeless, sick children and others who need a hand.

- Tara Bibb and Katherine Shrader are Arlington, Va., moms, and board members at Gifts that Give Hope. They are doing their best to discourage The Gimmies, but know there will be plenty of moments that test them between now and New Year’s.


Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Bedtime (Oh, the Sleepover)

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As an only child, when we decided to have three children ("decided" being somewhat of an iffy word choice, but I'll go with it) I assumed they would play with each other. Isn't that the point? But life is always throwing me surprises.

During a period of random happiness, I told F that her best friend could sleepover. I didn't even think about it. They're good kids. They're in 3rd grade. Sleepovers are pretty easy by this point. BUT within seconds my other two children started whining and complaining about my unfairness (oh the curse of unfairness, which always seems to cling to me).

And I believe in equality (or, at least I used to).

So this is how, on a seemingly innocuous Friday night, I ended up with 7 children (YES SEVEN!!) sleeping over at my house. Three boys. Four girls. All in the basement. Ages ranging from 5 to 9.

Things started out swimmingly. We stayed at a friend's happy hour until 8:30 pm. We walked home. We changed into PJs. I rented Maleficent. Everyone snuggled into their own sleeping bag, so cute and innocent-seeming. P's best friend fell into a deep slumber. Life was good.

Then, around 11 pm, all except one found a second wind. I didn't know what to do (Dan was busy hosting a rather large poker game in our outdoor party room), so I photographed the chaos - mainly kindergarten/1st grade boys vs. 2nd/3rd grade girls. The boys used toy swords and life sabers. The girls countered with Dan's old crutches.

Finally by 12:45, I had them back in sleeping bags. I fell asleep upstairs at 1 am, so the rest of the night remains a mystery to me (did they sleep at all? reports vary).

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!! Just wondering, how does the rest of the world handle sleepovers when you have multiple children? Do they all take turns hosting or do you end up with nights like mine? Any advice would be appreciated. Now don't forget to click over to This Untamed Life to see everyone else's bedtime images.

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