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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

I wish I had known about this tradition when my children were younger.  In a nutshell, your children write a letter to Santa asking him if he can spare an elf for the holiday season.  Around Thanksgiving you leave the letter, along with some saltine crackers (which crunch like snow) and water (melted snow).

The elf appears, and if you have ordered it from Elf Magic, he comes with a bag, some magic snow to sprinkle on him at night, and a letter of introduction telling you his name.  All very cute.

The fun begins when you put the elf to bed for the night.  They love to get up and play around the house at night and the kids awaken to find them in the morning someplace unexpected.

The tradition does not require that you buy an elf from the company, just find one to use and use your imagination.  The company website has lots of ideas and funny pictures.  I think my favorite was the elf who was found in the morning behind the wheel of the badly parked car with fast food wrappers all over the place.  Apparently he had late night munchies.  Our elf, pictured here, brought along his Webkinz reindeer friend one night and the two of them have gotten into all sorts of mischief.

I’m happy to say I just found a giveaway at Crafty Mama of 4.  Sign up for a chance to win an elf for your house.

To see the daily adventures of our elf, visit me at Lit and Laundry.

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Holidays can be crazy enough when you’re single.  Add in-laws and kids of all ages, and you have the potential for madness!  Following are tips from the HDYDI moms on making it through the big family gatherings with twins in tow.

Respect sleep needs

Whatever stage of daytime sleep your kids are in, do what you can to respect their normal routine.  If you have newborns who will sleep in people’s arms, lucky you!  Just pass them around until people’s arms get tired.  I know last Christmas was difficult with my 4-month-olds, as they were still in the “sleep every few hours” stage, but past the “sleep in anyone’s arms” stage. But the time we violated the “sleep every few hours” rule went very poorly, so, lesson learned.  If your older infants or toddlers have a good nap schedule going, stick to it to whatever degree possible.  Bring a pack & play (or two) if they’re likely to sleep at someone else’s house.  Or, consider doing the hour-long drive right at naptime.  It won’t be perfect, but if you want your kids to do well with lots of new people or places, better that they be well-rested.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year.  Plus, it was bedtime.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year. Plus, it was bedtime.

Also, be respectful of bedtime, especially in younger kids. Believe me, a 12-month-old is generally not going to appreciate the “special treat” of staying up well past bedtime.  Instead, you’ll just have a meltdown on your hands.  If you’ll be at someone else’s house and will stay there until bedtime, bring pajamas and change the kids before you get into the car.  That way, if they fall asleep on the way home, it will be one less thing to do when transferring them into their beds.

Consider giving warnings ahead of time, both for the sake of the kids and for your photos-at-the-last-minute family members.  Make it known that you are leaving in 30 minutes… 10… 5.  If your kids are old enough to understand the warning, then even if they still don’t want to go, at least it isn’t a surprise.  And though you may have family members who think you’re being a stick in the mud for leaving “so early,” you know full well what will happen if your overstimulated 18-month-olds stay up too late… it won’t be pretty.  Give everyone warning, try to make sure photos are taken before it’s time to put coats on, and then pack it up and go when you need to.

Pack wisely

Bring comfort items or lovies, but maybe consider bringing the second-string stuffed animal.  God forbid you leave the absolute favorite one at Aunt Judy’s house!  For older infants and toddlers, have a good stash of reliable favorite foods in case of a table full of unsuitable items or picky preschoolers.  There’s a time and a place for enforcing the “I am not a short-order cook” rule, but you’ll have to decide relative to the age and tantrum-prone-ness of your child whether it’s a battle worth fighting at your sister-in-law’s house.  My vote is to make sure you at least have some string cheese and goldfish in your purse, just in case.  If your kids are old enough for most table foods, I’m not saying you should bring a separate meal.  Just have a little bit of backup.

Have cup, will travel.

Have cup, will travel.

If having your toddler’s favorite sippy cups or a strap-on booster seat will make things easier when you’re there, then by all means throw them in the back of the car.  As always, don’t forget standard diaper necessities and maybe an extra shirt.  (Though, hey, a little kid running around in a diaper is always considered adorable at my house.) Really, though, you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink with you.  If your supplies require more trips out to the car than number of kids, you may have packed too much.  It’ll be OK if you don’t bring all of the favorite toys.  A wooden spoon and metal bowl can go a long way.

Advance Prep

If you are going to the home of a close friend or relative, especially one who has an affinity for small ceramic figurines, it might be worth a call ahead to see if some of the low-lying breakables can be put away.  But this works for some hosts better than others, and as both parent and guest, the responsibility is yours to keep your kids from demolishing the joint.  Potentially a pain in your ass?  Yes, but it’s not your house.  So, sometimes we have to suck it up.  Parenting is fun, isn’t it?

Older toddlers and preschoolers may benefit from some preparation of their own.  Especially for those who are wary of new places and new people, start talking it up in advance. [Obviously this advice is a little late for Thanksgiving ’08, but it’s a good time to start prepping for the December holidays, or tuck it away for some other future event.] LauraC makes the great suggestion of getting together pictures of everyone who will be there, and I know some parents even put together their own little photo book of what to expect, inclusive of pictures of the kinds of food that will be served.  Introduce all of the new players, maybe let the kids talk on the phone or Skype with unfamiliar faces whenever possible.  Frequent reminders of who the people are and what you’ll be doing can go a long way towards a smooth adjustment.  Also consider books and stories about the holiday, again to help the kids know what to expect.  Talk about what you say when you meet new people, or about the very special behavior you expect when we all sit at the big table together.

Adjust Expectations

Most importantly, go with the flow.  If you are relaxed, your kids are more likely to be relaxed (that goes for any tension you may have with your in-laws – beware, the kids can and will pick up on it).  Decide ahead of time which rules are most important for you to keep consistent (behavior, bedtime, etc.), and then consider being a little more loose on the rest.  If you never turn on the TV at home, an afternoon of sitting with Uncle Jim and watching the football game is unlikely to do any lasting harm.  If you avoid sweets, having a little dessert is unlikely to be the end of you.  I’m not saying you should let the kids gorge themselves on cookies all day, but pick things that you’re willing to let slide a little bit and just let go.  And have realistic expectations about how long your child can sit at a table, relative to his or her age and attention span.  I know you’d like to sit and chat with Cousin Sal, but it may be better for everyone if you and little Joey get up from the table.

If things crash and burn

… and sometimes they do, take a deep breath.  You’re still the mom, and you’re still in charge.  If your preschooler starts melting down and hitting his brother, and needs a time out, find a way to do it.  If they’re getting overwhelmed, find a quiet room to escape for a little while, or go for a walk around the block.  Fresh air and a change of scenery can work magic.  Remember, they’re just kids, and they aren’t trying to ruin your holiday.  They’re probably in an unfamiliar situation, overstimulated and maybe overtired.

And sometimes, sometimes you just need to cut your losses and pack it up.  It happens to the best of us.  I’m sorry if that means you miss the pie, maybe you can get a slice to go.  But if you can see that you’ve reached the point of no return, say your goodbyes and try again next time.

Readers… any good holiday tricks that have worked for you in the past?  Or mistakes you’d rather not repeat?  Let’s hear ’em!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner.  Being the organized twin mother I am, (aka: OCD), I have begun making a Christmas wish list for my duo.  This will be our second Christmas as a family of four, and I am hoping to make Christmas shopping easier and more enjoyable for my family. I am so blessed to have the family that I do, and please believe me that they are not at all offeneded by the idea of a wish list.  In my family, each gift-giver truely wants to give Faith and Jonathan a special gift that isn’t the same as a gift given by the other side of the family. And as F and J’s mom, I am quickly becoming skilled in spotting a dud from a gem, in terms of toys and activities.

With all that said, would you please help me with my list? Please keep all suggestions under $50, and bear in mind that we are facing a long, cold, boring Pennsylvania weather. My kids will be 19 months old at Chrismas. Your creative suggestions are so welcommed!

Jonathan testing out the sled.

Jonathan testing out the sled.

Faith hanging out under the tree-Christmas '07

Faith hanging out under the Christmas tree.

Here is my “thinking outside of the box” list so far:

  • Smocks for art projects
  • Aprons for cooking and baking
  • An IOU for a trip to the Aviary (hopefully with that relative!)
  • Any Crayola ColorWonder Art Supplies
  • A Trip to the Children’s Museaum
  • Beanbags
  • Dress-up clothes (consignment store )
  • CD’s of dancing music
  • DVD’s (30 minutes)

As you can see, my creativity is limited! 

I honestly don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking my kids should have “everything.” As fun as it is to buy them new things, I don’t think it is always good for them. I want my kids to learn to be creative, resourceful and thankful. They adore their family, and their best days are when someone comes over to visit. I would say we certainly value people over things, but I do want to give the aunts and grandparents some ideas… Please help!

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You have 100 days to get ready

Today marks 100 days until Christmas.

I enjoyed Christmas before I had kids, but when I had an army attacking the Christmas tree in the early hours of Christmas morning, I knew the real joy of the holidays.  The key to staying sane through the season is to get organized.  I have a friend who once said “All the holidays are a week apart now – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.”  He was joking, but as my kids have grown, I’ve found it to be frighteningly true.

So as much as you may be sweltering in the heat, or if your porch is still decorated for July 4th, you will be a happier, saner person if you at least start doing a little thinking about the holidays now.

Budget.  Especially with multiples, we can go overboard on the gift and clothing purchases.  Now is the time to put away a little extra or decide to brown-bag lunches.

Set up a calendar.  School concerts, trick-or-treating, parties; there are a lot of events coming up for the family.  Sketch them out now so you can find the time you need.  Want pictures with Santa?  Schedule a good weekend – then think about if you want new outfits for that picture.  Pencil in that shopping trip too.  I find I have to work backwards like this a lot.  There are fewer and fewer “free” weekends for us as the years go on.

Buy costumes early.  Sure, it seems like there are a million of them in the store now, but when you want that Thomas the Tank engine the week of Halloween, there is no guarantee you’ll find it.  I also felt I got my money’s worth if the kids played with their costumes before the big day.  Does your child want something unusual?  Try eBay.  One year my daughter just *had* to be Simba.  The costume wasn’t made by Disney any more, but I found it on eBay for $2.

Create traditions.  I think this is one of the most important things we can do for our children.  They don’t all have to be deep and meaningful, they can be silly as well.  Repeating things the same way during the season gives kids a wonderful sense of anticipation and nostalgia for home.

Set up wish lists for your kids.  I’ll admit I’m not always good at this, although the kids are old enough to do this themselves now.  If you have relatives like mine, some of them shop very early and will ask you what to get for the kids.  Have sizes and preferences ready.  People appreciate some guidance.

The holidays should be relaxed and joyful, without debt despair in January.  You can do it.

We’re getting ready for Fall by testing candy over at Lit and Laundry today.

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