Friday, December 30, 2022

7 Quick Takes about Needing Elder Care, a One-of-a-Kind Gingerbread Village, and Why I Love Being the Heart of the Home

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! Happy New Year!


This week between Christmas and New Year's is the happiest week of the year, in my opinion. It would be a little better if Phillip had any vacation time left, but he used it all on our transcontinental spectacular

(Phillip claims that he still feels like he's on vacation, though, because when he comes home after work we're just laughing and decorating gingerbread houses instead of running around with our hair on fire trying to get everyone fed and off to their after-school activities.)


How was your Christmas? This year we continued our no-gift Christmas and only gave experience gifts to the kids. 

Last year we printed out certificates for each one and thought of a creative way to package it; this year, we decided to print out a picture describing each one, cut it up, and hide the pieces around the house like a puzzle they needed to put together. (Everyone's was mounted on a different color construction paper so they could tell whose was whose.)

Now we're busy fitting as many experience gifts in as we can to the next two weeks. Monday was an escape room for the older kids, and today is indoor skydiving for the younger ones.  Tomorrow the teenagers are going with Phillip to Avatar in Imax 3D, Monday is pizza and candlepin bowling (New Englanders will know what this means), and on Tuesday the two oldest girls are taking a glassblowing class. 

The only thing we won't be able to do with the 18-year-old before she goes back to college is a family-friendly improv comedy show, which didn't have any showtimes available until later in January.


I was the one who got to go with my teenagers to the escape room. It's a fun place, with multiple hallways lined with mini-escape rooms. You can pick which ones you want to do, and you can do as many as you want before your time is up. 

In the car on the way home, my 16-year-old asked me "When does that switch happen where instead of the parent taking care of the kids, the kids take care of the parents?"

Thinking about people I know who are caregivers for their parents, I answered, "I guess it all depends on their health, but I'd say in their 70s or 80s?" Then I looked down and realized I was still wearing her sweatshirt, which she'd given me earlier at the escape room when I said I was cold. "Or maybe right now," I amended.


We committed to Christmas dinner at a friend's house, and even though it was a rush to get over there and it meant we didn't have time to clean up our own trashed house until the next day, I'm glad we went.

They invited a few other people, including an acquaintance one of their sons knew from work who only spoke Spanish. (I overhead heard Matías telling someone else in English that he was trying to learn and he sounded good to me, but based on my experience with my language exchange app, most non-English speakers who claim to be "beginners" actually speak English that is easily 5-10 times better than my Spanish. But I digress and am certainly not jealous.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun to speak with Matías and understand a solid 50% of what he said.

We had dinner, played some games, and enjoyed Christmas music. Our family brought over a set of handheld chimes we got that morning from my brother (the set we have is here, although there are free instructions online to make your own, too.) You pass out the chimes to different people in the group and try to follow along playing a Christmas carol from the attached songbookit's harder than it sounds. 

The only problem was that our set only came with two mallets. Luckily, the dad of the family is a drummer and brought in over a dozen drumsticks for us to use as makeshift ones. I'm pretty sure I saw him exchange a look with his wife that said, "See? I told you I need this many drumsticks."

I know because I've seen that exact look from Phillip, but about tools.


The Christmas tradition my kids look forward to most is building gingerbread houses. It's evolved over the years, from pre-made kits into designing our own out of graham crackers (I realize you can bake your own gingerbread for houses, but I'm not that kind of mom. I impress myself enough by making the icing.)

The 11-year-old.

The 8-year-old.

The 18-year-old.

The 6-year-old.

The 14-year-old decided to model his house after Gru's house from Despicable Me, although with Santa on top (I love the hat.)

The 14-year-old.

The 16-year-old.

The kids always enjoy the building portion, but their real favorite part comes on New Year's Day, when we go around the table and smash them with a meat tenderizer.


My 11-year-old has been doing a lot of baking during the break. After watching her, I came up with a great idea for a YouTube channel: it's called "ADHD Cooking" and every episode starts with a recipe but ends up in a completely unrelated random project. 

I think it could be pretty funny.


I saw this meme online and immediately loved it:

People sometimes (read: all the time) ask me if I'm going to go get a job now that my kids are all in school. The answer is no, I'm perfectly content doing what I'm doing, but I've never been able to sum it up this perfectly. 

Unless earning a paycheck was a matter of financial necessity, I just wouldn't consider it an investment of my time or energy that makes sense.

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Terra Heck said...

Sounds like you had a good Christmas. Love all the gingerbread houses and I like the idea of experiences instead of gifts.

AnneMarie said...

Merry Christmas! I may show those gingerbread house photos to my kids as inspiration-this weekend we're having a "gingerbread party" (which my kids requested) and, according to them, it involves making a gingerbread house and then making lots of gingerbread men to go around the house :) We've been looking forward to it. I hope that you have a wonderful rest of your week enjoying festivities with your family!

Anonymous said...

#7: dropping off my 1st baby at fay care, i felt relieved because the people there obviously knew how to take care of babies far better than i did. With baby number 2, it just hit me that i was handing over a task that i of all people throughout the world was uniquely suited to, ie be a mum to this particular baby, to go do work where i could be replaced in 5 minutes.
After i was, in fact, replaced, i stayed home for a bit and now have a job that allows me to pick up the kids from school 4 afternoons a week. The 5th afternoon is for dad, who is also irreplacable.
Thank you for your blog, please keep inspiring us, because your voice here is also unique and irreplacable:-)

Rachel said...

I love your gingerbread houses and your experience gifts! As far as #7 that hit close to home. It is a financial stretch but we are committed to me only working while the kids are in school. Currently that means 3 hours a day being a lunch lady at a school which also comes with having the same days off as the kids and summers. They are my priority!
I don't know that I have commented before but I love your blog! Thank you for sharing with us. I hope you and your family have a Happy New Year!

PurpleSlob said...

#1 is so sweet! I love your experience presents!