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Patience

Halloween Fun for Families

Posted by Patience on October 1, 2010 at 4:35 AM in Holidays
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It's October 1st, which officially means we can eat candy corn and watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Trying to do any of those things before October just isn't the same; the candy doesn't even taste right. While we have been talking costumes since July at my house, we decided to add some extra family fun this year. We thought we would share some ideas to get your Halloween creative ideas flowing.

Have a kid Halloween dinner party. The excitement is off the charts for our Harry Potter dinner party tonight. We invited just a few kids, got costumes and have been thrifting for all kinds of cool stuff to turn our dining room into a spooky castle. The kids are dressing up and sitting down for a real meal followed by a board game. It's a nice introduction into entertaining and feels grown-up yet still tons of fun. The literary slant doesn't hurt either; I've never seen kids so excited about books.

Have a family drawing night and make comic books. My kids love all the Ed Emberley drawing books, especially the Halloween one. Make little books out of any paper you have lying around or flip books from a pad of post-its. Sit around after dinner and unlock your family creativity together.

Recycle or make your own costumes. I only make one costume a year since I have four kids, the rest are bought, borrowed or recycled. I find that one costume is always my favorite. I think it is more about the planning, talking, connecting with my kid over something he or she is so excited about. You really don't have to know how to sew or be crazy crafty either. You would be amazed what you can come up with some glue and stuff you already have lying around.

Go pumpkin picking together. We have a local farm that lets you have a many pumpkins as you can hold for $20. The best fun is watching my husband and his gorilla arms try to top his number every year. I think his record is 18. The hayride, apple cider and homemade doughnuts are a huge hit too.

Consider alternatives to candy. Your kids are gonna get tons of candy, we already know this. Why not let your kids catalog shop and pick out a small toy or trinket to give out from your house. Who knows, it might be some other kid's favorite treat?

What Halloween family activities do you do at your house? How do you make the holiday special? Share with us in the comments.

Patience

A Kid Friendly Valentine's Day

Posted by Patience on February 12, 2010 at 7:51 AM in Family ActivitiesHolidays
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Valentine's day has always been one of my favorite holidays. Ever since I can remember my mom made a heart`shaped meatloaf and decorated the table with hearts galore. My dad would bring home flowers and chocolates for me and my sisters and we all exchanged valentines after dinner.

It never occurred to me that the holiday was soley for partners, I just thought it was about love of all kinds. This turned out to be a social life saver through awkward middle school years and other times when I was on my own. It was a great parenting move on the part of my parents. I always felt connected and loved.

Here are a few ideas if you want to take back Valentine's back at your house.

1. Make a family love celebration plan. Ask the kids what kind of love party you should have. One year we decided we should eat everything we love. Every person picked something for the menu. It was hilarious. We ended up eating corn dogs, corn, ham croquetas, chocolate milk and cheesecake. I'll never forget that year.

2. Make a toast. Buying sparkling juice and start a new tradition. Have each family member make a toast to something or someone they love. Do it right and serve it in real or tiny plastic champagne/wine glasses. It makes it festive and fun.

3.Invite some friends. Invite someone different to your family love dinner. Maybe a single friend or an elderly neighbor, or even another family. Have a valentine station set up so they can make their own on the spot. Hang brown lunch bags on the wall with everyone's name to serve as mailboxes. Put a kid in charge of delivering the bags after dinner. It's always nice to widen the circle of love.

4. Do something different. If none of this sounds like your speed, why not try something totally alternative? Check out this project for reminding the world we are all loveable. Kindness will be sure to make the day your best ever!

5. Don't give up. You don't have to totally give up your time with your partner/spouse either. Plan a night out before or after when the restaurant aren't packed and it is quieter. A valentine's breakfast is always nice too! You can have both with a little planning and intention.

How do you make Valentine's Day special at your house? Tell us in the comments.

Patience

The New Year Revolution

Posted by Patience on January 1, 2010 at 7:15 AM in Connecting with kidsFamily ActivitiesHolidaysParenting tips
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I'm always torn by New Year resolutions. On the one hand, it seems like the natural time to work on something in your life and on the other they always seem to be some sort of set up for personal failure. I went back and forth in my parenting mind if I should even bring the subject up with the kids who completely live in the moment anyway but Jorge unintentionally decided for me at dinner the other night.

"So guys, do you think our family should have any New Year's resolutions this year?" he said.
"What's a New Year's revolution?" Jack replied.

We both laughed and Jorge went on to explain. Instead of the usual set up for personal development he framed it a little differently by asking the kids if there was anything new they think we should try together, or anything different they wanted to be part of our family life. I was sure someone would insist we should get another dog and I would be toast but surprisingly they got the whole concept.

"I think we should be outside more, that should be our revolution. " Jack said.
"That's perfect because we just ordered the new trampoline today that Marmie and Opa gave you for Christmas." I returned.
"And I want to ride bikes with papa now that his knee is better." Josiah piped in.

So right there at the dinner table, we crafted a plan for our Salgado family outdoor "revolution". Here are few things I learned in the process.

Keep it positive. I think I would have just said, "We should exercise more, don't you think?" Jorge's approach to "enhance" our life instead of "fix" it made the invitation/goal feel more positive and attainable.

Brainstorm together. Letting the kids direct the idea gave them ownership and investment in its success. It also leaves the door open for further development down the road if this plan doesn't really work and we need to come back to the drawing board.

Keep it simple. Being outside together is pretty general, there are about a million things to do outside. This leaves our options wide open and makes it easy to add to our everyday lives.

Create a visual. Get a large roll of paper and markers. Write or draw pictures of all the ideas or things you want to try in creating your revolution. Hang it on the back of a door you open and close a lot in your house to remind you of all that is possible.

We'll see how it works out over here, I promise to let you know if our resolution turns into a totally (as Jack says) revolutionary idea. What do you think about kids and resolutions? Do you do them for yourself? Do you think they are a teaching opportunity or a waste of time?
Let us know in the comments.

Jen

Christmas Rx or How to Keep the Season Bright

Posted by Jen on December 22, 2009 at 8:05 AM in Holidays
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Christmas isn't always the easiest season, despite the snowfall, Santa and all the rest. The pressure to make everyone happy, meet expectations and relax can be overwhelming--especially when you have the complication of trying to make meaningful memories when everyone involved (yourself included) won't win any awards from Dr. Phil anytime soon.

Christmas has been a very painful time for me over the last few years--between the dissolution of a marriage and strained relationships across extended family lines. Here's my Rx for getting through the holiday just in case you've been there, too.

Keep it simple. You can let go of all your grand plans. The holiday picture, the Nutcracker, perfectly thought through presents. Yesterday the kids helped me write plain old white cards for their teachers while listening to the very non-Christmas-y local pop station. No Christmas photo op there, but it made everyone happy and got the job done.

File the bad news away for another day. Now is not the time to take on major behavior issues, fix your marriage or have a family meeting about the general state of crabbiness in the house. I can see that there are some things that need to be addressed around here, but waiting until January won't make matters worse.

Allow a small indulgence. And I don't mean chocolate or Christmas cookies--you're already in deep on those points, right? I mean the indulgence of stepping out of a familiar family drama, the indulgence of passing on a painful family function, the indulgence of NOT being a bridge builder when you really want to take a nap. You can justify this by hunkering down and enjoying your children who will be thrilled to have more of you, trust me.

Invite the real. Now is not the time for tales of Christmas bliss. Let your Christmas theater be all Charlie Brown and that mean one, Mr. Grinch. These stories address the hard parts of holidays and how it's difficult for us to all get on the same page--and kids can relate. Grown up versions are The Family Stone and Elf--where family dysfunction gets mixed up with just the right mix of redemption.

Maximize your together times, no matter how they come. Right now my kids are obsessed with a show on television that deals with death, grief and the after-life. This particular show skirts the horror genre a little bit too much for my taste, but it has them riveted, as we all process the losses happening in our family at the moment. While this is not the Christmas memory to write home about, we look forward to this time together each and every night--this holiday especially.

Do something unexpected. Sometimes when you're deep in your own mire, it helps to reach out and delight someone else. I spent the day yesterday writing little wishes for the new year for people near me who aren't expecting a thing this Christmas. It didn't take that much time, but it helped me remember the best medicine is being able to offer what's most needed in your world. Today, I hope to entice my kids to do the same.

Do you struggle with this time of year? Feel free to say yes and add your own Rx in the comments below.

Patience

The Pretty Present

Posted by Patience on December 18, 2009 at 5:12 AM in HolidaysRaising Girls
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I sat in the car pool line at preschool waiting for Lucy; her teacher Gillian held her hand as they walk towards the car. I could tell Lucy was about to cry, holding it all in, but just barely.
"I have a pretty present for you!" she wailed the second Gillian opened the door.
"Yes, Lucy has a present for you but it isn't quite ready yet, right? It will be okay Luce." she replied with an even voice, almost no emotion.

I laughed, knowing it had been the third time that week Lucy had cried when it was time to leave school. Each day held a different reason for all the emotion of devastation that my four year old girl feels. Feelings are so big at this age and I would venture to say even bigger for Lucy whose joys are as great as her sorrows. I always wondered how this part of her would play out at school when there are lots of kids with lots of different needs.
She needed understanding, strength and guidance all at the same time.

Just days later we found ourselves at the park, playing pretend as all roads lead to this game.
"Mom, you be the girl and I'll take you to school, okay?" she instructed.
I nodded and followed along.
"Now honey, have a good day at school! Be a listening girl and Miss Brea and Gillian will take good care of you, okay?" she mimicked my speech. I smiled.
She stopped the play. "Mom, let's get my teachers a pretty present for Christmas okay?" she insists.

I agree and wish I had about a hundred pretty presents to give these women. Sometimes when you are in the trenches of parenting, you wonder if anyone can see what you see. Maybe it is that you hope they will pick up where you lack, and love all the parts of your kid the way you do, even the hard ones.

The day I found out Brea and Gillian would be Lucy's teachers I just knew they were a gift to us both. The tattoos and a tiny nose ring combined told stories of strong and yet tender women who know what it means to choose the life you want. They embraced Lucy's strength while I still struggle to know my own and learn how to parent someone so different from me. They have offered boundaries yet still held space for her delightful spirit. They have helped her wield her power and remind me to keep my compassion. They have loved her well.

I feel all kinds of grateful for the village this holiday season. It is the kind of tribe that shows you how to live by standing beside you and jumping in to invest in love on so many levels. The place where we gather together and wish pretty presents could be enough to express our gratitude and love.


Who are you feeling grateful for investing in your child this holiday season? What pretty present are you wishing for them? It's like your very own talk show dedication in our comment section today.

Kristen

Wherein I Nearly Tell Virginia There Is No Santa Claus

Posted by Kristen on December 14, 2009 at 6:13 AM in Holidays
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Santa is a dicey conversation in my house these days. Ethan asks a lot of questions and now the whole Santa story has more holes in it than cheap Swiss cheese. We have discussions about the authenticity of Santas at malls and Chick-Fil-A's ("by the beard I say 'yes' but by the face I say 'no.'") and those of the Salvation Army variety. Complex questions. "Does anyone give Santa presents? Like something for his house?"

It all started two years ago when he was nearly three. His father bought a Santa suit. On Christmas eve, he disappeared into the garage and suddenly reappeared at the front door as jolly St. Nick. He looked really, really good. Ethan sat on the couch in the corner and barely spoke a word. If his stare was a laser beam, Derek would have been dead. Ethan never called him out, but you could see the wheels in his head turning at the speed of light.

Fast forward one year later to last year. I told Derek he had to be in and out in 45 seconds. I didn't think we had much more than that before Ethan figured it out. He sat on the same couch in the corner and stared. Then he asked where his father was. I gave Derek the high sign that we were about to be busted and he was gone. We never mentioned it again.

So when the holidays started to roll around, I wondered when it would start. It didn't take long. It was the day of our scooter ride and the ride was a long one. The boys began talking about Christmas.

What are you going to ask Santa for Christmas?
I want a spark scooter.
Really? Are you sure? You have a scooter.
But I don't have a scooter that shoots sparks.
Listen, I don't think Santa is going to bring you a spark scooter.
Why not?
It's too expensive. And I read up on it. It only works for like a day and then all you have is a scooter, which is what you already have.
I really want that scooter, Mom.
Ethan, it is too expensive. Santa can't bring you one this year.
But Santa can pay for it. He's got a lot of money.
That's not how it works. Santa doesn't pay for the presents.
Santa doesn't pay for the presents?
Nope.
How about the elves?

The funny thing about the slippery slope of lying? It's a slippery slope.

The elves are strictly assembly. They have no money.
So who pays for the presents?
Parents. That's why some kids get more than other kids.
So parents buy the presents and kids whose parents have more money get more presents.
Yes.
Oh. And we don't have a lot of money.
Not this year, buddy.
Oh.

Bless his pure heart, he nodded as if this all made sense. He wasn't upset.

And some kids don't get any presents because their parents don't have any money.
They don't?
No. Isn't that sad?
It is sad. So parents pay.
They pay for the materials. The elves put it together. Santa is in charge.
Wait.
Yes? (sensing danger ahead)
Parents pay for the materials?
Yes. (because I don't know when to stop).
MOM!! I 've got it! We can take THIS scooter (and he held up his $2 yard sale scooter). We can give Santa THIS!!! He can use this (pointing to the handles) and this (pointing to the base) and this (to the wheels). MOM!!! He can use all THESE materials and then you can just give him the money for the spark box on the bottom. I don't think it cost that much. Does it cost too much?

And with that, my heart broke. My heart broke because he wasn't getting that scooter, because there is no way we are going to make it until December 26 without him figuring it out and because I felt like a total loser for lying to a four-year-old who is sharp as a tack.

Take all the Santa out of it and he's just a kid that is going to be luckier than some to get something for Christmas and not as lucky as others who will get everything on their list. Maybe I'm just wasting time trying to keep him from figuring it out. What do you think?


Patience

Family Holiday On A Budget

Posted by Patience on December 3, 2009 at 11:32 PM in Budget livingFamily ActivitiesHolidays
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Everyone is feeling the pinch this holiday season. The usual time for splurging has become a time for gathering the resources we already have. It's a wonderful opportunity to come together and make things special with whatever you have in your family. Here are a few tips for making your family holiday great.

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1. Make your own decorations. There is no extra cash for decorations beyond a tree this year so we decided to make our own with some greens from our front yard. I was surprised how good the kids were with just an old hanger, greens and some floral wire. We made wreaths, garlands and various other pinecone creations.

2. Recycle Christmas. One particular year I noticed that the local thrifts stores and consignment shops had some pretty good toy finds. I asked the kids if they might like to have a recycle christmas. With the exception of one small new present for each person, the entire holiday gifting was repurposed gifts. Lots of the treasures we found were perfect for stocking stuffers and the kids loved the hunt. No one seemed to notice or care the items had been previously loved.

3. Skip the holiday madness. You are allowed to skip the 5,000 tree lightings and grand illuminations that are usually followed by eating out and the $10 glow necklaces. Stay in and make homemade pizza, decorate the tree, have a living room holiday dance party, watch a classic movie together. The best traditions often evolve out of just hanging out. Our latest expert, popular author Katrina Kenison has some great ideas for simplifying your holiday.

4. Alternatives to giving gifts. We let our extended family know we will not be sending gifts this year. Instead we suggested a cousin holiday card exchange and a small donation to a local charity.
Choose an experience over a gift, it sends the message there are other ways to express our love than exchanging presents. Go ice skating or go bowling, create a new family tradition outside of the norm.

What are your thrifty ideas for making this holiday great and not breaking the bank? Let us know in the comments.

Kristen

Asking For What You Want From Santa

Posted by Kristen on November 23, 2009 at 6:57 AM in Holidays
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My mom flipped through her camera to show me the pictures from the day. It was only a matter of time before I came across this one.

Mom: I didn't tell you about Santa?
Kristen: Uh, no.
Mom: Ethan saw Santa when we went to the craft show. He wanted to get his picture taken with Santa but Santa was walking through the show. I was worried that Nate would run off so I sent him running after Santa.
Kristen: Where was Santa?
Mom: He was about 20 feet away. Ethan came back with a lollipop instead. But he didn't have one for Nate so I sent Ethan back to ask Santa for one for his brother. Ethan then told me that he also wanted his picture with Santa.
Kristen: So what happened?
Mom: Kristen, I told him that if he wanted a picture with Santa he was going to have to ask him for one. You know that when you girls were growing up that you had to ask for what you wanted. It taught you to be independent.
Kristen: So what did he do?
Mom: He weighed it. Then he went over and asked Santa for a picture. Santa said, "Of course."
Kristen: That's my boy. And Nate?
Mom: Not so much.
Kristen: Also my boy.

So when you were young, would your mom have asked Santa for you?

Kristen

Four Tips for Holiday Shopping on A Budget

Posted by Kristen on November 2, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Budget livingHolidays
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I hate to be the person to tell you that Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away, but Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away. Typically I like to ignore Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year the finances are much tighter than they have been in a few years so by planning ahead, I can be sure to give heartfelt gifts to the ones I love without emptying my bank account. Here are just a few tried and true tips from our house.

Exchange names for gift giving. If you have presents to buy for 12 nieces and nephews, you may easily find yourself spending more than you should or buying "filler" presents to check the box. Our solution in our family is that every cousin's name goes in a hat and Madeleine picks the names out one-by-one to see who will be giving a present to whom on Christmas. With only three gifts for my family to buy now, we can better focus on finding the perfect present for each name picked and no one is worrying about their children sending their sister's family into the poor house because of gift giving.

Focus on thoughtful gifts. For years we have made photo calendars for each grandparent. Last year I was so overwhelmed with life that I didn't get to it and there was great disappointment on Christmas day. Typically photo calendars run around $20, but most photo processing websites will have specials or discounts if you purchase early or if you purchase more than one. I usually upload around 20 pictures and switch the photos around for each grandparent. That way everyone is looking at a different picture each month. Adding your own captions helps personalize the calendar. "It's your birthday this month, Nana!! Happy Birthday!!" under a picture of Junior blowing out candles on his birthday cake is sure to bring a smile to Nana's face.

Let your kids make some executive decisions. Letting your children take ownership of a gift allows them to truly experience the joy of giving themselves. For Carter's birthday this year, Ethan was determined to get him an ice cream cake. I will never forget Ethan's face when he carried that candle lit cake to Carter. Apparently Ethan has not forgotten it either because he still brings up that ice cream cake. It was his idea and he was committed to it. Because of that, Ethan had as much joy giving that cake as Carter did receiving it.

It is possible for less to be more. Teaching your children that a gift from the heart is more important than what something costs is an invaluable lesson that they will carry with them forever. You only spent $10 on that photo coffee mug, but the fact that your kids picked out that special photo because they thought Dad would like it best can mean more to Dad than a gift which costs ten times more.

These are just a few of the things we do. What things have you done to keep your heart in giving without having to dig as deep into your pockets?

Patience

Halloween Happy!

Posted by Patience on October 30, 2009 at 12:07 AM in Holidays
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We are only a day a way from candy goodwill friends! The day when dress-up and sweet collide making Halloween every kids' favorite holiday. I pulled out some Halloween pictures from over the years remembering the fun costumes we made. Shaggy and Scooby being one of my personal favorites. Don't the kids look thrilled?

The role call this year is:

1 Lego character guy
1 ninja (new costume but repeat performance)
1 frog (mid-week switch, she was going to be a princess)
1 undecided (we have no idea about Lyra's costume)

What should Lyra be? Someone on Twitter suggested Ken Burns , which is still in the running.

What are your kids dressing up as this year? Please tell us in the comments, all the last-minute-Marshas are still looking for ideas.

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