Monday, December 20, 2010

Keeping the Merry in Christmas and Happy in Holidays!

Tis the season! Time to trim the tree, make a list, check it twice, talk to your kids about being naughty or nice. There’s a wintry chill in the air and a spirit of festive warmth all around us. Why then, are we consistently bombarded with news stories and magazine headlines geared toward “keeping your sanity this holiday season”? Are we making ourselves crazy? All the shopping, baking, entertaining and striving to create the perfect holiday memories seem to be sucking the happiness out of our “Happy Holiday” intentions.

This can’t be good for our kids. How can we expect them to comprehend the true meaning of the season when we, as parents, are so often caught up in the mayhem? Here are a few simple ways to remind your children that this season, giving really is better than getting:

 1. Give it up. If your house is like mine, it’s about to be bombarded by an influx of shiny, new playthings that will turn today’s favorites into tomorrow’s castaways. I suggest you take a pre-emptive strike and enlist your kids’ help in cleaning out the toy box, toy bins, toy baskets, basement and bookshelves. Encourage them to say good-bye to the old – not only to make room for the new but, far more importantly, to teach them that a child in need deserves a good deed. This is their opportunity to do some good this holiday season; to “share” their gently used treasures with those less fortunate. So, take your kids and the books/toys/gadgets they’ve outgrown to a local children’s hospital, shelter, nursery school or even a thrift shop. (Call first to be sure they are accepting donations!) Tis the season to teach our kids that helping others is a great gift… one that will last a lifetime.

2. Give your time. With Christmas right around the corner, why not plan a family event that focuses on the gift of time? How many times have we all said “oh, how I wish there were more hours in the day! Just think of all I would accomplish!” Well, here’s something you can easily do – find a few hours and take the time to visit grandparents, volunteer at your local charity of choice or even just spend some time together as a family. Tis the season to unplug and tune in to those around you; this just may be one of the best ways to spread the joy of the season.

3. Something’s gotta give. When you “just say yes” to everything – the school bake sale, the Christmas pageant, the cookie swap, the class gift – you stretch yourself far too thin. Speaking from personal experience, I know that this can make you the overtired Grinch you detest rather than the jolly St. Nick you’d much prefer to be. This holiday season, do yourself (and your kids!) a favor and just say no. Giving up a few of the things you think you “have “ to do – whether it’s sending cards, wrapping gifts or baking yourself into a frenzy – will result in a happier you… which, of course, translates to happier kids. So, tis the season to “just say no” -- to doing too much and to the perfectionist ideals set forth in those charming Norman Rockwell prints.

Tis the season to be jolly… remember that and you and your family will indeed have a Happy Holiday season and a most Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Girls Day Out

Today was a delight of a day.  I managed to take it off and spend it exclusively with my little lady and one of my favorite aunts.  Just the girls.  No big brother, no little brothers, no one to steal the spotlight from my four year-old princess (or alternatively, drama queen!) in training.  Today was just for us and I must say, it was stellar. 

We took the train to the city and walked over to Lord & Taylor to see the windows and meet my aunt.  This aunt is the kind of aunt you wish for -- she's the one who let me play with her makeup, helped me through my teenage angst,  and got me a CB jacket for Christmas circa 1984.  If you were in eighth grade in the 80s and leaned toward the Preppy Hand Book side of life, you know just how cool that CB jacket was... it was the perfect complement my matching Bermuda bag and headband.  But, I digress... 

Today we marveled at the windows, strolled through the windy city streets and bonded over lunch.  If you were to ask Ciara about her favorite part of the day, it wasn't the train ride or the Rockefeller Center tree or the windows at Saks or the huge plate of cookies she devoured with hot chocolate; it was "having lunch with Auntie Pat when she gave me my special bracelet."

Just as we sat down, Auntie Pat presented Ciara with what can only be called big-girl bling... a silver charm bracelet with a little angel because, as she put it, Ciara is her angel.  While my little lady seemed rather unimpressed with the beautiful gift upon tearing it open (instantly remarking "why isn't the pizza ready yet?"), just a few hours later, it stood out in her mind as the highlight of a day filled with highlights.  It's the first thing she told her Dad about and the last thing she took off before bed.  It has a special place in her room just as the memories of this day will forever have a special place in my heart. 

Today was an excellent reminder of just how good (and perhaps even necessary!) it is to take a day off to bond with your little ones... as I'm told repeatedly and am starting to see firsthand, they really do grow up so fast.  So, why not treat yourself to some quality time with them and enjoy it while it lasts?!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree: A Tale in Four Parts

Decorating the tree just isn't what it used to be.  It used to be that we'd gear up for a big day out and hike into the woods somewhere to find the perfect tree.  After several heated but friendly debates about trees that were too tall/short/fat/thin, we'd settle on one, lug it home, bring it inside and decorate it.  Possibly with a nice bottle of wine and a fire in the fireplace.  The next day, we'd wake up, turn on the Christmas tree lights and revel in the glory of our totally terrific tree. 

When did this last happen?  Hmmm.  It's hard to remember -- perhaps because for three of the past six years, we had a newborn (or newborns!) at Christmas time and I'm suffering from major case of mom-nesia.  What I can tell you based on our recent tree-trimming experience is that what used to take a day, now takes at least week.  Our annual tree-trimming has become a tale in four parts:
  1. Buy the tree. This may or may not be a family affair.  Last year my husband bought a tree on the way home from work one Friday night.  No debate, no fanfare.  It just arrived on our front porch.  And there it stayed for several days until we found the time and energy to lug it inside.  This year it was a family event -- at a local supermarket.  Not exactly prime for photo ops and warm, fuzzy memories!
  2. Bring the tree inside.  This year, we successfully managed to get the tree from the porch to the living room and into the tree stand all in one day.  Quite a feat with five little ones tearing around -- two of whom were giddy making lists for Santa Claus and three of whom "no like that guy!".
  3. LIght up the tree.  We learned the hard way that toddlers like to get tangled up in the lights so we now put them on after our little ones are all tucked in.  This year, it was a random Tuesday after a long day of work.  We were both bleary-eyed and even Burl Ives crooning in the background couldn't put us in the Christmas spirit. It felt more like an obligation or chore rather than the festive event it used to be.  Even so, it was nice to come down the next day to see our tree all lit up... even if the branches were still bare!
  4. Decorate the tree.  Now, this is it -- the grand finale, the moment we've all been waiting for.  It's Friday night and the kids have been asking for a week if we're ever going to decorate the tree.  I've lugged boxes of decorations up from the basement, Christmas tunes are blaring and our five little elves are eager to get the job done.  And indeed they do.
It is finally beginning to look -- and feel -- a lot like Christmas.   So what if what used to take a day now takes a week?  So what if a few ornaments broke in the process?  So what if the tree is a bit crooked, has some bare spots and all the ornaments are clustered together in just a few spots?  We had fun.  In fact, we had a lot of fun.  And when Liam said, "we're really happy, huh Mom?", it was as if Christmas arrived a little bit early this year.  Because really, what more could any parent want than that? 

Monday, December 6, 2010


It was bound to happen. In fact, it has already happened several times with less significant consequences. Me, looking at three identical toddlers, asking these adorable, wide-eyed little boys who is responsible for an array of grievances that range from ripping books to throwing sand. They have mastered the “not me”, “he did it”, finger-pointing, blame averting response like little con-artists in training -- leaving me to wonder, “Geez, they just turned two, what’s next?!”

 Well, I didn’t have to wait long to find out:

Yep, our couch. There was an artsy adventure that apparently included a ball point pen, one (or more?!) of my trio of tots, and our beige couch. This is the couch we got when we were first married; the color was chosen because it would hide the fluffy golden fur of our retriever.  The notion of a dark patterned couch to hide the pen stains of toddlers never even crossed our minds.  Ah, if only we'd known.

In the past eight years, this couch has been chewed by our second dog, baptized by breast milk, christened with newborn spit-up and now permanantly adorned by our budding artiste... or artistes... the only question is, which one?

I will say, one of them had a pen in hand and, since I naturally jumped to conclusions, he was swiftly removed and none too pleased about it:

It was then I realized I nothing but circumstantial evidence.  This guy insisted another guy did it and that guy pointed his finger at the third one.  None of these fingers had ink stains and all three tykes were insistent that it wasn't him -- leaving me to simply shake my head, search for the stain stick (wish me luck!) and wonder what will be next.  Stay tuned because I'm quite certain it will be something and, I'm quite certain these three mischievous tots are sharing in the sense of victory that my "not guilty" plea elicted from Suspect Number One:

Friday, December 3, 2010

What to wear?!

With the holiday season upon us, it’s only natural to wonder what to wear. So many events, so little time! There’s the preschool pageant, the Sunday sing-along and perhaps even a Saturday night soiree. The ideal outfit will easily transition from day to night, resist wrinkles, and make you feel great when you wear it.

That’s why my guys have chosen the ever-so-fashionable Huggies Jeans diapers. You know how hard it can be to find a pair of jeans that fit but, as you can see, these seem to instill both style and confidence…

… they provide the perfect posterior lift…

… and they really look great both coming and going.

Sure, they may not provide quite enough coverage for the winter chill that has settled in but, when the party gets hot, why not show then what you’ve got?!