12 Days of Holiday Cheer–what a hoot!

It’s year two for 12 Days of Holiday Cheer at Valley Vista.  I’m having a great time with it.  Last year, our elementary team brewed up the 12 days and with minor variations, rolled out the festivities in unison.  This year, I joined a FB group started by Melinda Miller, Holiday Planning for your Staff and School.  It took 12 Days planning to a new level seeing what all these awesome folks around the country were planning!

Things I loved most about this year’s 12 Days:

  1. I posted the calendar from the start.
  2. Everything was free or inexpensive
  3. I got creative with things I already do with staff
  4. I left activities sitting out rather than swap them for the next one
  5. I realized too late that my 12 Days is only eleven days long… December brain at its best. 😉 Cracks me up every time I see the calendar.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 7.41.05 AM

Posting the calendar was an added bonus.  I stage the 12 Days of Holiday Cheer in the staff room along a row of windows.  Santa Hats numbering 12 where each activity will be posted along with the calendar.  Another calendar is on the white board near staff mailboxes.  “Hot chocolate is Thursday.  That’ll be good.”  “I wonder what the pipe cleaner thing will be.”  This was the conversation around the calendar I overheard one morning.

Day two’s duck hunt was an unexpected surprise.  As I finished setting up the evening IMG_1018 2before, I heard a teacher in the staff room, “I’ve got 4.  What have you found?”     Hilarious.  Then on days three and four, the ducks are MOVING.  Who’s moving the ducks around?  A duck hunt that just keeps going.  LOVE IT!

On our FB page, every level of budget was represented.  My goal was to spend as little money as possible.  The idea was fun and lightness, not prizes and competition.  Maybe next year I’ll incorporate those elements.  But for this year, I purchased: rubber ducks (Duck Hunt, day 2), pipe cleaners (Art Show, day 5), hot chocolate (Concert, day 6), M&Ms (Grinch Pills, day 9) and oranges (Orange you glad? day 11).

My office wall is decorated with rotating inspiration: quotes, screenshots from Twitter, kid art.  I use the wall regularly to ground myself, be encouraged, or have a laugh and not take myself so seriously.  Motivation Monday (day 3) took advantage of my collection and shared a motivating mantra with each staff member.  I put the extras on the staff room fridge and they’re slowly disappearing!  I love it!!

IMG_1210At the start of each year, I put out a staff survey.  It’s lighthearted: favorite warm drink, favorite snack, stressors at work, surprise day off wishes, etc.  So day 7 took advantage of this information I collected!  Clues about staff are posted in the staff room with the answer key on the fridge: Who’s Who?  Just like our students, staff looked for themselves first.  “Where are I?”  “I can’t remember what I said.”  The downside to this activity is that not everyone completed my survey.  Even so, I’ll keep it for next year.

Last year I took each day as a singular event–items/activity out then items/activity put away.  Not this year.  For one, I have too much going on to be that diligent and second, more staff get to experience each Day of Cheer.  Pipe Cleaner Art Show (day 5) is a perfect example.  From two items to four creations, we now have a table of creativity: a man in a boat, an owl, Christmas trees and presents, a flower.  What is more soothing to a busy mind that bending a pipe cleaner?  Personally I’ve been working on a swing set in my office whenever I’m on the phone.  😉


I don’t remember when I realized my 12 Days of Holiday Cheer only has eleven days on it.  But what really matters is that I chuckle at myself every time I see the calendar.  What a goofball.  It’s only 12… how hard could that be?!?  I blame the Friday off at the end.  😉 It sums up the whole point of the 12 Days: lighthearted fun, distraction, coming together as a staff, laughing together…. good stuff.  If you aren’t already ringing in the holiday season with your staff in some way, consider joining us next year!

Thoughts for next year:

  1. Elf hunt with staff faces on elves
  2. Holiday music lyric or movie quote guessing game
  3. Include 12 days! 😉









The Teen Years & Summer Fun

Summer break with a 13 and 15 year old.  Where to begin?

I’m not a mom that LOVED the baby stage or toddler years.  Every stage had it’s special moments, memories and milestones but I don’t ever WISH to be back in any of them.  At this point I can say I prefer relating to my sons over caring for them (as I did when they were little boys).  Our conversations, their connections, the ah-ha moments of adolescence are awesome.  Truly developing into adults, citizens of the world, opinion holders and discussion participants.  I love this time.

So what with this budding independence comes the push and pull of summer.  We’ve never been big on scheduling our kids summer time.  One, maybe two day camps in their lifetimes.  Our summer days are best spent hatching a plan the night before or morning of.  What do you feel like doing today?


Post-Conservatory Pic

Until now.  The teen years have brought nesting, hiding out, hermit-like qualities.  I don’t care for it.  So the prompt has shifted to So today we’re going to either do A or B.  Which do you prefer?

So far so good.

Example 1: So today we’re going to the Conservatory of Flowers or the Beach.  Which do you prefer?  The Q & A begins.  What will we do at the Beach?  How long will we be there?  What’s a Conservatory?  Is Japantown nearby?  Ok, let’s go there.  Decision based on lunch options.  These are definitely my children.

Example 2: So today we’re going to walk the Golden Gate Bridge or head to the Beach.  Which do you prefer?  Same kind of Q & A.  Breakfast was negotiated into the beach trip.  And the drive to Doran only resulted in 4 identifiable road kill specimens (the record is 14).


Frisbee at Doran Beach

And so it goes.  I love this time I get to spend with my kids.  Quality time, laughing, learning, settling arguments, getting slow and steady peeks into what they love, what they believe and who they are.

Each of them keep track of the time.  Jacob likes to get to baseball practice 30 minutes early, and Joshua has reading to do for his World History class.  Both of their evening commitments build in a need for downtime without their mom pestering.

Oh, and chores.  A reality of life at Casa Haugen.  On the mornings I go into work, the list is longer but when we have a plan for our day, we cut back on chores.  It works.

So this approach to our summer days works.  It’s a nice ebb and flow that makes my heart happy.