Posts Tagged ‘ traditions ’

My Best Holiday Tradition

Monday, December 16th, 2013

When I said, in a Parents.com post on holiday traditions, that my favorite is taking a one-on-one holiday date with each of my kids, some people complained that my kids need more than one day a year of my attention. But of course, those two get my attention all day, every day. Here’s what makes a holiday time-out so special:
* They get me all to themselves with no sibling, no daddy, and no friends around. You’d think this would happen more often than it does, but I, like most mommies, have to work to be completely alone with any member of my family (the exception being my firstborn’s babyhood…we had plenty of alone time together!) Being with one kid usually means doing homework, walking to a playdate, shopping, or any number of mundane things, as opposed to just enjoying each other.
* I don’t cheat and do anything I “have” to do. That includes running by a bank or post office, etc., because then it wouldn’t feel like a date, right? 
* They get to skip school! At least as long as they are in preschool or elementary school. I try to keep our holiday date off of Saturday or Sunday, when we’re already off-duty. I take a vacation day from work, I excuse them from school, and we both take a break from responsibilities. On a weekday! It feels a little scandalous.
* I follow each kid’s lead. Joe is a nut about penguins, so this year’s date was to the Central Park Zoo where we spent maybe 45 minutes in the penguin room. After, I started to make an argument for seeing other animals (to make that entrance fee worth it!), but Joe wanted to eat a hot dog and then go look at Christmas decorations. So that’s what we did.
* Each kid gets something special, and I don’t fret about making  things even. Grace is now in middle school so, for the first time, I chickened out about taking her out all day. Her special mama date was a sleepover at the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan. (It’s not as pricey as it looks, at least by Manhattan-hotel standards, and it’s kid-friendly.) In the morning Grace ordered room-service breakfast, which to her represents the pinnacle of luxury. The fact that I didn’t have to fix breakfast, make the bed, or launder the towels was my own pinnacle of luxury. Joe didn’t get a hotel stay, and Grace didn’t get to miss an entire day of school, but they accept that they can have things that are different and equally special.
* Obviously, we do holiday things. When the kids were preschoolers I took them to St Patrick’s Cathedral a few years in a row, where they have a beautiful nativity scene with a crib that stays empty until Christmas. It felt more meaningful to discuss what Christmas is, mama-to-child, outside of church service (and outside of some lecture about asking for too many gifts, lol). Now that they get it, we more often view the Rockefeller Center Tree, or join activities like the cookie-decorating that the Conrad Hotel puts on. (Happening this Saturday, December 21st, from 3pm to 5pm, if you happen to be in NYC!)
Maybe I am just getting old, but it feels like the world is spinning so fast these days that taking a time-out with these little people is the best tradition I’ve ever come up with. I hope you all get a real rest and respite with loved ones in the next few weeks, before we’re on to new-year resolutions and a busy 2014. Happy Holidays!
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Tabletop Tree
Tabletop Tree
Tabletop Tree

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Check Out This Cheeky Elf on the Shelf Alternative

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

The Elf on the Shelf has quickly become a beloved Christmas tradition, but it might already be time for something new. For those feeling elf fatigue, another little creature could offer a fun alternative to the ubiquitous holiday spy.
Author L. van King pokes fun at elf mania with the cheeky parody The Dwarf in the Drawer. The Dwarf in the Drawer doesn’t do much, which might be refreshing for some parents who have run out of creative places to perch their sneaky elves. This lovable drawer-dweller is more of a sloth than his enemy, preferring to snooze among socks and watch Colbert rather than report back to the big guy up North. As he laments,
For most of the year, things at home were real peachy.
Then in came that usurper, acting all preachy.
Who died and made that elf king?
That creep who made Christmas a terrible thing? 
Based on the sheer number of Pinterest pins alone, The Elf on the Shelf is a huge hit, but the little guy isn’t for everyone.  Maybe you and your family have overdosed on good holiday cheer, and can commiserate with this grumpy counterpart. Here’s to new (and slightly sassy) holiday traditions!
Are you an Elf on the Shelf enthusiast, or are you more of a Dwarf in the Drawer dissenter? Tell us in the comments!
Find the best toys and games for your little ones here.
Image courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Circle Christmas Tree
Circle Christmas Tree
Circle Christmas Tree

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New Halloween Traditions Your Kids Will Love

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

October is finally here! I wait for this month all year around. Our family’s annual pumpkin-picking trip is approaching, as are our haunted-house and corn-maze trips. We love our traditions. But after years of doing the same things, I wanted to try something new. So I brainstormed and asked around for unique Halloween traditions, and I couldn’t keep these ideas to myself. Here are the top 5 new Halloween traditions that my friends, family, and I have come up with:

1. Pumpkin Painting Party

Gather your crafty kids for an afternoon of pumpkin art.  Mini pumpkins are perfect for little hands to paint, and your guests can take them home as favors.

Add a movie: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

2. Witches Brew Party

Give each of your culinary creators a bowl and the following ingredients to choose from:

Cranberry Juice
Ginger Ale
Apple Cider
Gummy Worms
Red Jellybeans
Raisins
Candy Corn
Milk Duds
Gum Drops
Black Shoestring Licorice

Watch them create and name their own witches brew.

Add a movie: Matilda

3. Harry Potter Party

Have your guests come dressed as their favorite witch or wizard. Supply the following and help them decorate their own broomstick and wizard hat:

Broom sticks
Glue
Glitter
Streamers
Fake bugs
Webs
Pencils, Markers, Crayons
Colored Paper

Add a movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

4. Scare Games

It’s not too cold for the outdoors yet! Get the kids outside for Monsters University inspired Scare Games. Adult referees can dress in costume, and the kids can compete in potato sack races, tug-o-war, and hula hoop contests. Award candy bag prizes to the winners, and end the day at home with a big pot of pumpkin soup.

Add a movie: Monsters Inc., or Monsters University after the October 29th DVD release date.

5. Spooky Sleepover

Get out your pumpkin pajamas for a halloween themed sleepover. Roast pumpkin seeds, make s’mores and swap scary stories deep into the night. Add to the fun with a Halloween craft like this adorable paper owl.

Add a movie: Monster House

For more Halloween ideas visit our 100 Days of Holidays page.

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10 Special Traditions Beyond Thanksgiving

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Mother and daughter in pile of leavesEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart from this series.

At Thanksgiving time, we are reminded again of how important traditions are in a family’s life and legacy. But many parents express anxiety about how to find the “right” traditions for their family. Should traditions just “evolve,” or should parents consciously establish them? The right answer is do both – allow some traditions to evolve by embracing the activities your kids naturally gravitate toward, and consciously experiment with other traditions to see which ones work within your family dynamic.

There are two secrets to establish lasting family traditions: repetition and anticipation. When you find something that brings out smiles, repeat it on a regular and predictable enough basis that it becomes an ingrained part of the family repertoire. For those traditions that need planning ahead, begin talking about the event days before it occurs to build excitement. Anticipation can be as much fun as the tradition itself.

Traditions come in two sizes: big (national and federal holidays, birthdays, anniversaries,); and small (those unique to your family). Both are important in a family’s legacy, so personalize them with these 10 ideas for creating special traditions:

1- Make the big holidays your own. Serve meals at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving morning. Play backyard football before Christmas dinner to work up an appetite. Bring flowers to the local military cemetery on Memorial Day or July 4th.

2- Turn birthdays into unique celebrations. Hang balloons in the kitchen the night before so the kids arrive to a party room on their big morning. Eat pancakes for breakfast in mom and dad’s bed. Sing “Happy Birthday” in the most off-key way possible.

3- Double (or quadruple!) the number of birthdays. Serve a cupcake on quarter birthdays and half a cake on half-birthdays. Avoid gifts on these fractional celebrations, and instead focus on laughter, singing, and fun. Add a balloon or two. Celebrate your pets’ birthdays, too!

4- Have monthly Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Give mom a night off from household chores on the first Tuesday of every month, and make a special dinner for her. Do the same for dad on the second Thursday of every month. Pick which day of the month works best for you, but your family will have 22 more “celebrations” each year.

5- Share quirky inside secrets. Make a funny noise in the elevator when it’s just your family taking a ride, or give a whoop every day when the clock strikes your address number (if you live at 920 Elm Lane, cheer at 9:20 every morning and night). Invent a secret family hand shake.

6- Have the same meals for special occasions. Serve Chinese food for every anniversary, Indian food for good report cards, or hot dogs on the opening day of baseball season every year.

7- Get dressed up for a candlelight dinner. Once a month, have everyone wear their best party clothes and eat a fancy meal at home by candlelight. Put on soft music, bring out the good dishes, and use restaurant table manners.

8- Celebrate the first sign of seasons. Have a family leaf fight every fall when the leaves begin to pile up in the yard, go sledding after the first snowfall, eat fruit salad in the garden to celebrate the appearance of the first spring flower, and have a family water fight on the first summer day that reaches 90º.

9- Have family-only activities. Plan a family comedy night or a talent show, make holiday cards from scratch, or write personalized lyrics to an old song and then sing the new composition together.

10- Give back to the community together. Identify a favorite charity and participate in its fundraising each year – walk, run, bike, volunteer, and/or donate.

Try lots of different ideas. There’s no such thing as “failure” – if an idea doesn’t work, you’ve still spent wonderful moments with your kids. Plus, you’ve created unforgettable memories and, perhaps, given them something to tease you about for years to come (“Remember when dad thought it would be fun to have all of us join the “polar bear club” and jump into the lake in December?”)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Mother and daughter in autumn yellow park via Shutterstock.

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Who Celebrates What: On the Lollipop Man and the Coming Baby

Monday, November 15th, 2010

HanukkahA few weeks ago, I blogged about my attempts to teach my 4-year-old to love and cherish our lives as Jews—and the traditions and beliefs that come with it—and at the same time understand, learn from, and respect the beliefs and practices of other people. In this case, I’ve been talking to her about holidays, and the fact that we celebrate some and not others, while different people have their own holidays that are theirs and not ours. Two incidents this weekend suggest that maybe it’s actually working, perhaps too much in one direction.

The first happened in synagogue. Every synagogue has a Lollipop Man, the old guy who hands out lollipops to every kid who approaches with an outstretched arm and a hopeful look in her face. The kids seem to instinctively know who the Lollipop Man is, even if they’re new in town, and the Lollipop Man is invariably fundamentalist about his mission, ignoring all parental entreaties  against handing more sugar to our children. On this particular Shabbat (Sabbath), my daughter was trolling for the Lollipop Man who gives out heart lollipops specifically (yes, we’re blessed with two Lollipop Men, only one of whom has the coveted heart-shaped ones). She was getting desperate, but alas, he was nowhere to be found. “Maybe he doesn’t celebrate this holiday,” she eventually said matter-of-factly, and dropped the subject entirely.

Then yesterday, my daughter was talking about her soon-to-arrive sibling, and raised a concern: “What if she is not Jewish? What if she celebrates different holidays than us?” We assured her that the baby would be Jewish like the rest of us, and we would all celebrate our holidays together.

Score one for universalism and respect for diversity. Maybe I need to emphasize the “tribal” part of the equation a little more!

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