Thursday, 25 December 2014

What our kids really want from us this Christmas

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The house is quiet now. All that you can hear is the soft sound of Christmas music still playing in the kitchen and Christmas cartoons now on the TV, with little people still in their jammies having quiet time and nap time. We've moved into mom and dad's house for the week, along with Jen and Jeff and their two kids, as we always do over the holidays--and the calm after the excitement of the morning has already begun. Cookie crumbs sit on the counter, wrapping paper is tucked away, dishes are stacked in the dishwasher from our big brunch this morning, candles flicker on the kitchen island, new toys are scattered all over the sun room floor and treats can be found in mason jars and cookie tins all over the house.  

Christmas was great this year.

And the build up to it? Well, it was as insane as it should be.

It was Christmas shopping until 10:00pm at night and baking up delicious treats late into the night until my kitchen exploded with chocolate and cellophane and ribbon.

Chocolate covered apples...  

Christmas bark...

 Christmas crack...
 and chocolate covered caramels...

 all got wrapped up and given away to my teaching partners, our friends and neighbours and Mya's teachers as well.

Just days before Christmas, shortbread cookies were laid out in a row, ready for our friends and their kids to come help us decorate them with candies, icing and sprinkles...

 and drinks with fun straws were placed just so.
 Snowman poop tags were made in a rush just the night before and handed out to little friend's eager hands...
 and the hot chocolate bar was set up and ready to go.

I think sometimes the build up to Christmas--the parties, the baking, the wrapping and the gift giving is just as much fun as the actual event itself. And yes, it can certainly be overwhelming and stressful...yes it certainly can. But I tried this year to keep my perspective in check, my expectations realistic and my stress therefore low.

Because what I've learned about being a parent is that we try to give our all to our kids--to give them the presents that they want and the magical experiences that we envision Christmas to be in their childhood. And of course, yes, they want this from us--they love the presents, the magic and the excitement that comes with this wonderful time of year. But what they really want from us is for us to be happy.

They want to be able to look back on Christmas and remember mom and dad laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves. Sure they love the cookies and the twinkle lights, the Christmas tree and the talk of Santa coming down the chimney. But what they really want is for everyone to feel the same type of excitement and happiness that they are feeling--even if you have to fake your way through it and pull it together for their sake, as I did last year. Our kids really just want for their parents to be happy at Christmas.

So this Christmas, as I started to feel the overwhelming pressure of not having enough time to shop, or bake or wrap all of the presents...along with of course the typical daily grind of trying to come up with dinner each night, making sure lunches were packed, wiping dirty faces, getting to work on time and caring for my two little loves all while carrying around a few extra pounds in my belly as this sweet baby continues to grow--I stopped myself and reminded myself of what my children really needed from me this Christmas. They didn't really care if homemade treats were made. They didn't really care if their presents weren't exactly what they asked for. They didn't really care if the lights were strung as perfectly as I wanted them to be. They just wanted me to be happy. So, with this in mind, my perspective was instantly changed and we put together a wonderful Christmas full of magic and laughter, and toddler meltdowns and sleepless nights. Similar to last year, and just as it's supposed to be when you have four children under the age of four all living under the same roof (and three of them sleeping together in the same room for the first time this year!).

 So they unwrapped matching Christmas jammies on Christmas eve...

 and they helped to set their little table with fun Christmas straws and cups, and plates and Christmas crackers full of paper crowns and cheap, useless toys that of course they loved.

 Santa bibs were wrapped around little boy's necks..

 and the excitement of everyone cramming around the kitchen island to fill their plates with turkey, sweet potatoes and delicious food began.

Mom made up reindeer food for the kids to sprinkle all over the front lawn--because the reindeer need food too when they're waiting outside for Santa to finish filling the stockings...

 and we watched as excited little people fell for the magic of Christmas as they excitedly sprinkled their oats and seeds and magic flying sprinkles all over the grass.

 And our Christmas tradition of Santa somehow magically coming early and sneaking a special present into our mailbox for all of the kids to share (always a new Christmas book for the kids to read together on Christmas eve) continued

 and Jen read them their new story while all decked out in their new jammies in front of the Christmas tree.

 So with cookie crumbs left from Santa the next morning,

 and all of us crammed among presents as we watched as the kids opened their gifts first...
 it reminded me again about what our kids really want from us at Christmas time.

It's not just the juice boxes that Santa brought, which just thrilled them to bits.

 or the homemade dolls from moms who spent hours sewing the perfect clothes, eye colour and hair onto this adorable doll for a little boy who really wanted an Oliver doll (my sister is amazing isn't she??)...those are even Oliver's old baby clothes transformed into doll clothes!

 It's not the tool set that thrilled this little boy to death...

or the fancy nail polish spa that took place once all of the gifts were unwrapped.
 It wasn't just the new board games being played with Papa or the mounds of treats tucked into each stocking. The reason why our kids will hopefully look back on this Christmas and wish for it to be able to happen all over again is that the adults around them pulled themselves together and enjoyed themselves amid the chaos, magic, excitement and pressure that Christmas undoubtedly brings.

And once all of the presents were unwrapped, and the toys were pulled apart and the Christmas brunch was eaten...we came in to find these three snuggling on the couch together...

 which is really what Christmas love is all about.

Merry Christmas everyone.
Stay in your jammies as long as you can today.

Erica xo

Thursday, 18 December 2014

DIY ottomon and a new playroom

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When Terry and I were scoping out new houses, a place for a playroom for our kids was on the top of our priority list. We really wanted the kids to have a place of their own, a place for all of their toys and a space where toys could live which wasn't our main living room. But once we found our house I found myself trying to somehow transform this extra living space into a playroom/adult living room. I put my fancy Pier One silk pillows on the couch, added breakable vases on top of the piano and searched out beautiful artwork for the wall...while the rest of the room filled up with kids toys. 

But clearly, I realized very quickly that this just wasn't going to work. It was supposed to be their space. Their space where they could use the pillows on the couch as beds for their baby dolls, a space where the artwork represented them, and a fun colourful space which they could call their own. The vases came down--I stopped looking for beautiful artwork, and the fancy pillows now sit all pretty on Terry's and my bed. This was now officially a kid zone--and I wanted the decor to reflect that. 

So I stepped out of my comfort zone of neutral colours and decided to just go for it--adding lots of colours, bold patterns and comfy pillows that are completely kid friendly. But I was missing something for the kids to sit on, drive cars on and put their feet up on while they hang out on the couch reading stories. 

An ottoman. 

But if you've ever gone ottoman shopping before, you know how difficult it is to find something within a reasonable price range and which matches the specific colours of your space. I found myself flipping price tags over and being shocked at the $250-$300 price tags--and I was even more disappointed that I couldn't find something in the colour that matched my pillows and colours of the room. So, I figured I'd just make my own. 

 But you see...I get these great ideas as if I actually know what I'm doing. But I really have no clue.

So I spent a lot of time researching how to make one of these suckers--what type of fabric to use, what tools I'd need, etc etc. And then a few weeks later...


My very own DIY ottoman. With tufted buttons to boot!

It's bold. It's got a funky pattern. It's a strong, kid-friendly (aka wipeable) fabric. It has cute little buttons that I made myself and a it's soft and comfy--so perfect for toddlers who are learning how to walk.

And the pillows? Well, the green one is from BouClair, and if you remember from last year when I made my own bench cushion, I also made this pillow to go on top--so I stole it for our playroom and picked a fabric almost identical to my bench cushion fabric so that it would coordinate once again.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see step-by-step instructions on how I made this ottoman...and I promise you, it's easier than my bench cushion, so if you're not too crafty, you might even be able to pull this off. And the best part? Well, it cost me a whole $40 total...instead of hundreds. It's worth a try!

But before I go ahead and bore you with the details of how to make this thing...I figured I'd provide you a bit of playroom inspiration...on the cheap, and totally kid-friendly.

So after deciding on the colours of our couch cushions and ottomon, I headed to Ikea and bought these simple white (empty) frames. They were only $7 each. Then I got my dad (who is in the sign business) to create these images--ABC's, polka dots and Playroom Rules...all in the exact colours of the room. Perfect. And in total, it only cost me about $38 for the artwork. If you don't have a dad in the sign business though--you can easily take images off of the internet and play with them until you get what you want, then take them to a sign shop and have them print them for you. Much much cheaper than buying framed artwork yourself from a store--and you get exactly the colours and images that you want.

Then we set up our little Ikea book shelves (which are actually spice racks!), the kids Ikea table and I bought cute little marker/pencil holders from Ikea as well (and got the little medal buckets at Target for only $1 each!).

This is Mya's favourite space of the entire room. She'll spend hours here each day drawing, colouring, and making crafts...with everything at her finger tips.

Then you get your dad, the sign guy, to print out Master Pieces and stick the letters on your wall--and he made us this simple artwork holder out of a piece of wood painted black and then added some clips from Staples.

And the rest of their toys? Well they're all tucked away all neat and tidy (when the kids aren't home) in our Ikea expedite shelving unit.

And when the kids are home?...well, the room explodes with toys and movement and noise--exactly what the room is meant for.

SO...if you want to make your own DIY ottoman, here you go...step by step instructions, from my house to yours:

Go to Home Depot and buy a piece of their scrap plywood (this piece cost us a whole $3). Then buy some table legs at any hardware store (I bartered at an overstock hardware store for these and talked them down to selling these to me for only 50 cents each). It's always worth asking.

But if you don't want to make your own table, just use an old coffee table from a thrift store--works well too.

Glue and screw the legs onto the bottom of the table top, then add simple, small brackets to help to support little people who will surely jump on this thing and roll all over it.

Buy some 3inch foam from any fabric store and cut it down to size (I used a bread knife and measuring tape--drew a line with a marker onto it, then cut it...and it worked perfectly).
Using spray glue or a hot glue gun, attach the foam to the board (use only a bit of glue from your glue gun--a few dots and strips of glue along the edges and in the middle).

Then spend a ridiculous amount of time, and shoot yourself in the foot trying to get the math right for where you should be placing each of your buttons...and use a marker on the back of the table to mark your spots.

Then buy some batting from a fabric store, cut it to size and staple it under the table top...pulling it tightly.

This is what it will look like when you are finished stapling the batting all around.

After ironing your fabric, flip the table over and start stapling the fabric tightly around the edges of the table--pulling really tightly as you go.

When you get to a corner, spend the time to carefully fold the edge over and line it up perfectly with the original line of the foam, then quickly staple it down tightly.

 Keep working your way all around the table, pulling the fabric tightly and using lots of staples to keep it all in place.

Once your fabric is all stapled down, put it aside and head over to start making your buttons. I bought this button making kit, and some extra button refills. Follow the instructions on the kit and you can make the cutest little fabric buttons out of your original fabric that you're using for your ottoman.

Aren't they adorable??

So then get some super long needles from a fabric store, and use some strong string to thread the needle..then from the back of the table, thread it up and through the wood, through the foam, and through the fabric...then add your button and try with all of your might to thread the needle back down through the fabric, foam and wood until it comes out the back of the table...

then tie the string around a washer to keep it snug and in place.

Then once you've pulled your hair out finally getting all those buttons in'll finally have your funky ottoman...all done!!

Give it a try.

Happy last week of school everyone!
Erica xo

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