Stuff We Love What's Up This Week

What’s Up This Week: Holiday Hangover, Little Kid Gift-Giving Hacks, & Everyone’s Favorite Presents PLUS: One Year of Sharing Our Journey

Well it wasn’t easy, but we survived our first holiday season at Charlotte House with three kids here in a brand new (to us) home, and OMG are we exhausted.

The kids were simultaneously a dream (so cute! so excited!) and a nightmare (they’re still here! at the house! all day long! again!), but of course that’s the age they’re at, and it was magical to see them enjoy all their Christmas shenanigans in this glorious old house.

But now, it’s time to take all these lights and decorations down. Anyone free?

So cozy…But why is all this stuff still up?!

What’s Been Happening

How We Hacked Gift-Giving

Because the kids are so young and we’re trying to avoid an overabundance of extra “stuff,” we have a gift-giving strategy that helps keep things a little more manageable. Each person gives one gift to each other person in the family, plus everyone gets one additional gift from the big guy up North and a few low-key stocking stuffers.

Doing it this way means we don’t just throw a huge pile of presents at each kid and expect them to “be grateful.” Instead, they learn that each gift is actually from someone, and that giving gifts is one way that we do something kind for the people we care about.

That beautiful age when gifts can still be considered “educational.”

Since we’re up to five humans at this point, each person receives five gifts: one from the other four family members + one from Mr. Claus. We keep stocking stuffers to simple necessities, like socks, hairbrushes, and some leftover candy from this year’s rainy & slow Halloween (“Waste not, want not,” so they say.)

To help get them in the Christmas spirit, we snuck each kid away while the other ones were too busy to notice, and had them choose what they wanted to give to each person from a couple of “curated” options (e.g., “Would you like to give your sister this book or these crayons?”) Then they helped wrap, label, and hide their give-away pile somewhere in the house until Christmas Eve, when they “played Santa” and carried their piles downstairs to place under the tree.  

So far, we’ve found that focusing on the giving part of the holiday also helps them have something to focus on other than what they’re going to get – they handle that part just fine on their own.

Making Christmas cookies with Yaya
…and Eggnog Ice Cream with Papa

This Year’s Favorite Gifts

One of the other reasons we try to keep gift-giving simple is that our kids are still too young to really have high expectations of what they’re getting. While we didn’t exactly wrap up a piece of broccoli, the biggest hits are often the simplest. Case in point: the older kids’ absolute favorite item this year was a small hairbrush for each of them, which have been used/played with/talked about/fought over more than any other gift either of them received.

These hairbrushes contain a special kind of magic, known only to small children, sorcerers, and My Little Ponies.

The brushes are pretty great in terms of hairbrushes for kids, but I mean…they’re hairbrushes. For the baby, we pulled options from old baby toys we already had that were living in storage, and everyone was thrilled to give them out or drool on them, respectively.

Aside from new grooming tools and old hand-me-downs, other favorites included a small steel tongue drum for each big kid (soooo much more pleasant than some other musical toys), a build-your-vehicle set, and some beeswax crayons along with a huge notebook full of completely blank sketch paper. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that last one so far…more empty notebooks please!

What the Adults Loved

First and foremost, the absolute best gift anyone around here got was the pair of handmade & laminated ornaments that the kids made for Jack. Let’s just be clear on that.

Additionally, some actual money was spent.

Jim’s job has been very, very busy these days, and he’s spending a lot of time on work calls, so he’ll get good use out of his new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. They’re noise-cancelling, which should help him concentrate when he’s trying to work in the middle of the circus house.

Jack is still recovering from creating another human this summer and she’s been trying to reclaim her sanity, so her big gift was a giant Manduka yoga mat that’s nearly the size of her entire tiny yoga room. (Yes, there’s a tiny yoga room, and yes, this room used to have a tiny bar and kegerator in it, and yes, it’s been a much-loved room in both scenarios). She also snagged a Shakti acupressure mat and will report back on the experience with a bed a nails…but so far, so good!

The Yoga Room, a.k.a. the “Escape Room,” a.k.a. a room formerly known as “Shenanigans,” where there was a small bar, small kegerator, and small window. Did we mention? It’s small.

One Year Already?!

It was around this time one year ago that Jack first started our Instagram account to document our frat house adventure. We didn’t expect such a great response from all of you, so thank you for following along and sharing your stories with us. It’s been a hilarious and exhausting ride, but we’re having a great time with it all and hope you are, too.

During Demolition
During Construction
During Superhero Rescues

What’s Next

There are no shortage of tasks, ideas, and to-do’s around here, so if you haven’t already (what is wrong with you?), sign up for → our email list ← to be that one guy who has the inside scoop about what’s going on in the old fraternity house. Because as much as we love you, please don’t peek in the windows or come knocking on the door. Unless you want to come take down our tree and put all these Christmas decorations away for us, in which case, heralded angels will “Hark” in your honor and offer you a beer while you get to work.

Because nothing says Charlotte House like free labor in exchange for beer. Amirite?

She’s either running to eat something or running away from cleaning up. Or both.

Necessary(-ish) Things This Week

Christmas Favorites: Kids Edition

Christmas Favorites: Parent Edition

REAL TALK: We tend to go a little overboard when choosing items to buy for our home and family – we want things that function well, look good, and fit within a given budget. Everything must check AT LEAST two of those boxes, but ideally we’ll hit all three. This usually means that we spend WAY too much time researching and reading reviews, but whatevs – our obsession is your gain, right?

When you click on one of our website links or a link from our social media, we may receive a small affiliate commission from the seller as a thanks for sending you to the good stuff. It won’t cost you a penny more, and we’re only going to recommend things that we really use or love. Doing so helps us offset the cost of dedicating a ridiculous amount of time finding the very best stuff, so THANK YOU for taking a look at what we share with you online – Clearly you have excellent taste 😉




  • Mimi Shapiro

    Always love to read the take on real life ! from parents of small ones !! We are thrilled that you are in our neighborhood ! and remember there is the first big snowfall and Valentines Day !! and then Spring ! which we will all be ready for !! really soon !!

    • jack

      Hopefully we get that pretty snow they’ve been promising! ❄️

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