A Christmas Hack

This may be the easiest Christmas hack you will wish you were already doing.  We have been doing this for a few years at our house, and it has allowed us to sit back and relax while the children open their presents.  When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, they open their stockings first to find out what wrapping paper is theirs.  Santa gives them each their own wrapping paper, and then there is a wrapping paper for group gifts.  With a warm cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, I savor the moments while my kids take turns opening up their presents and cleaning up after themselves.  Wait!  What?!  You may be wondering how we managed to get them to do that.  I know when I was little, it was my dad’s official Christmas job to stand guard with a trash bag and collect the massive amount of paper flying everywhere.  Growing up as the oldest of four, I know how hectic and crazy Christmas mornings can be with a bunch of little ones.  This hack will take five minutes and I promise you won’t regret it.The Easiest Christmas HackWith four small children, I am no stranger to online shopping.  I can usually count on at least one oversized box around Christmas.  Instead of putting it out for recycle, I give it a starring role in our present opening time.  Using a coordinating wrapping paper, I wrap the oversized box.  This is where I might lose you.  As daunting of a task it may seem, it is actually very easy.  You don’t need to wrap the bottom.  Your edges don’t need to be crisp and you don’t need to use a roll of tape to secure it.  Wrap around the sides in whichever way works for your box and the design of your paper.  I leave a few inches over the top of the opening and cut slits down to the corners.  Then I fold the paper over and tuck it into the box.  It is so easy!  Now relax because you earned it!Easy Christmas Hack

Merry Christmas!

American Girl Pop Up Grand Opening

Last Saturday marked the grand opening of the Philadelphia area American Girl temporary store.  Located in King of Prussia mall, the store is just a short drive away from Center City.  This is the first American Girl store in the area with American Girl Place in New York City previously being the closest.  The King of Prussia American Girl store is slated to close on January 28th of next year, which gives you plenty of time to handle Christmas purchases and exchanges at a retail location.

We arrived at 9:00 am knowing that they were handing out tickets, but not exactly sure how that process would work.  I later found out that the tickets each had a group number on them and there were 50 tickets in each group.  They ran out of tickets after 26 groups, so they handed out 1,300 in total!  We ended up being in group 15, so there were approximately 750 people in front of us in line.  The first two groups were granted immediate access, while the others were encouraged to shop the rest of the mall.  We got our tickets at around 11:00 am, so we decided to walk around and then grab something to eat.  We were excited to see that our number was on the board when we returned.  We lined up in the standby area and anticipated a quick entry.  Here’s where things got a little tricky.  If your number was lower than what was on the board, you were to get into a different section to gain entry before the group that was in standby.  Based on the timing of everything and the size of the other section, it seems like the earlier numbers flew by because many people were at lunch or elsewhere.  We ended up spending an additional two hours in the standby line since they allowed the earlier numbers to go in first.  I feel as though it wouldn’t have been so bad if they had alternated the earlier numbers with the current standby.American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia American Girl Philadelphia  Check back in a couple days to see more pictures from inside the store and see what the freebies were at the grand opening.

First Smile

Dear Asa,

You have now been alive for 45 days.  Somehow that amount of time simultaneously seems like a lifetime and a blink of an eye.  My days have begun to blur into endless sessions of diaper changes and feedings.  Despite you being my fourth child, I still worry that I am somehow messing up at this whole motherhood thing.  You know what would really help ease my fears?  A smile.  I have been waiting these past forty five days for your first smile.  I have caught glimpses of it when you are gassy or when I brush your cheek with my finger, but I have yet to see an intentional smile.

It is funny that people mention how easy it is to forget about the pains of childbirth; that our forgetting is how we can trick ourselves to go through it all again.  I find that the experience that I tend to block out is the limbo after birth where I wait for you to first smile at me.  The time where we enter into cycles of repetition: eat, sleep, change, eat, burp, change, sleep, eat, etc. throughout the day and night regardless of whether the rest of the world is awake or asleep.  The time where coffee and cuddling are what convince me that I have gotten a full night’s sleep.  Surely I must be slipping into delusion as I repeat the same steps with such little sleep.  Perhaps this is why I question my ability to parent you.

No matter the reason, the truth is that I do question whether or not I am giving you my best.  It is especially difficult since you have three older siblings that are also vying for my attention.  So if you could please smile at me and let me know that we’re ok, I would really like that.  I know that your first smile will come right at the moment that I need it the most, so I will wait for it.  Until then, I will take your grip on my shirt as I hold you as a sign that you like being around me.

Love,

MommyFirst Smile

Asa’s Birth Story

I am currently sitting with a sleeping two week old sprawled across my lap.  I figured that I should probably take this quiet time to share his birth story while I still remember the details accurately.

I woke up on November 17th at 3:39 am after getting only four hours of sleep.  The night before I began suspecting that the baby would be arriving soon.  At bedtime, I dressed the kids in jeans and t-shirts in case we needed to leave for the hospital in the middle of the night.  I was prepared to go to the hospital, but at almost 4:00 in the morning, I didn’t think now was the ideal time.  I laid between Maeby and Abram (how I had continued to co-sleep while being nine months pregnant was beyond me) and began timing my contractions.  They were around eight minutes apart, each lasting at least a minute.  I continued timing them for an hour as a way to pass the time while my family slept.  Stephen’s alarm went off.  I told him that we were going to be having a baby today and that he probably shouldn’t go into work (he works in the city and his commute can be up to an hour and a half long).  He got up to start getting ready for us to go, but I stayed in bed awhile longer.  I knew that being upright would make my contractions stronger and I was hoping to make it until 6:00 am before having to alert my parents.  I was trying to let everyone around me get as much sleep as possible.  I texted my mom at 6:00 to let her know that she might want to head up to our house.  I was correct in thinking that being upright would make my contractions stronger.  By the time my parents made it to our house, I wasn’t able to time my contractions anymore (they were close together and long, so it was like a never-ending contraction).  Stephen drove me in his car, while my parents and the kids followed us in my van.  Along the way, my contractions started to fade.  I guessed it was because I was sitting and not in a good position to make progress.  I was afraid that they wouldn’t believe that I was in labor when we arrived at the hospital. Continue reading →

Welcome, Baby!

We are happy to introduce the newest member of our family!

At 12:58 pm, we discovered that our mystery baby is a sweet baby boy.  Weighing in at 9 pounds 2 ounces and measuring 21 inches, he is anything but “little.”  Please help us in welcoming our newest addition…Welcome, Baby!

Asa Rhodes