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Holidays ’ Category
Monday, May 12th, 2014
In the New York City neighborhood where I live, the streets are busy on the warm spring days just before the first Sunday in May. All stereotypes about rude New Yorkers to the contrary, it is a friendly place and it is common for people to wish one another happy Mother’s Day here. Even complete strangers say it to me, often when my kids are nowhere around.
I like to think I have recovered fairly well from the physical assaults of pregnancy. We are long past the sleepless nights of babyhood in our house and the tricycle is on its way to being a rusty garden ornament. So what is the giveaway? I look down…maybe it is my abs? I like to think not. Perhaps it is something else. My breasts? No, it’s been years since I nursed my babies, although they certainly were perkier before those midnight feelings. Hmmm…perhaps it is something more subtle?
In poker they call it a tell–the little unconscious signs that give you away. When it comes to motherhood I bet I have a thousand tells. Like the dark circles that cropped up below my eyes during the first sleep-deprived flush of new motherhood and never entirely left. Or those little lines that radiate from the outer corner of each eye. They’re called age lines but I know mine are a direct result of sun damage from Saturdays on the soccer field and hours spent squinting by the side of my in-laws’ swimming pool, doing duty as the designated water watcher for my sons and their cousins. Maybe it’s the little grey hairs that I’ve sprouted of late…it is just a coincidence that they came about just as our older son started to text and Snapchat and find his way around both the social and physical world with more freedom? The scruffy nails come from loads (and loads) of laundry–a thousand pairs of pants turned right-side out, pockets emptied.
But it might also be the laugh lines on my cheeks, born of many good times with the kids. Or the soft spots on my cheek, the lucky recipient of literally thousands of goodnight kisses. Or the happiness our boys bring me that radiates however subtle and not just on that rare day when I get breakfast in bed.
I know some women take issue with the rampant tossing about of “Happy Mother’s Day.” It can be a painful holiday, one that is all the more upsetting when a total stranger thinks every passing woman is a parent. So I am careful with my greetings myself, always mindful not to assume. But when another woman–a total stranger–has the sixth sense to read my signals, whatever they may be, I always wish her Happy Mothers Day right back. Anyone who knows how much I relish this little thank you also, I am sure, needs one herself.
Now about those abs…check out this advice about helping get them back in shape post-pregnancy:
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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
I’m in a rebound generation. My mom was unhappily hauled to church by her Lutheran mother and Catholic father and as a young parent thought that too many churchgoing folks were hypocritical, judgmental, or both. Though she had a baptism for me and a naming ceremony for my brother, she essentially never took us after that.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, which is largely Catholic, and my lack of churching was an occasional scandal for friends or a teacher. (Kindergarten was held in a church basement and the first time we went upstairs, I cried in fear.) My teenage besties brought me to youth groups and masses. It opened my eyes to how much I wasn’t learning: I didn’t know Bible stories, I didn’t know what communion was, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around what made one religion different from another.
In college I took a “Bible as Literature” class and, in the way you do, had deep discussions with people who were Jewish, Unitarian, and everything else. I went through a period of announcing I was “nothing” or an atheist but that wasn’t true. I did believe in a higher power—I just couldn’t figure out how to express it. Then I started taking my mom to church, just for Christmas Eve services in the little Lutheran church that my grandma still attended. We giggled through a lot of it but it still felt good.
I married a Unitarian and found a nice Unitarian church; he joined me for some education classes there, but out of a lifetime of habit, I couldn’t get it together to go every Sunday. Then I became a mom, and copied my mom’s example with a Lutheran baptism for my daughter, and a Unitarian naming ceremony for my son two years later. Unlike her, I tried to make us a church-going family.
Short story is: That didn’t work. My kids are fine with going sometimes, to see a family friend who plays the organ in his church, or to see cousins sing in theirs. We’ve gone to synagogue to see other cousins at their Bar Mitzvah. But my kids (and let’s face it, me) balk at an every-Sunday schedule, even though they seem to enjoy services. My daughter, in particular, likes to participate in open communion. At least I can be thankful they aren’t afraid of a church, right?
A lapsed-Catholic friend, also from Pittsburgh, found a little church near us in Brooklyn that has a lovely Easter service. We went last year and with serious intentions, I asked about the Bible study classes for kids. But I didn’t sign my children up. Now a year has gone by, and I’m planning on showing up again this Sunday. No doubt the regulars who keep the church running will spot us once-a-year folk a mile away, and sigh.
Here’s what I want them to know: We’re lazy Christians, but we own it. We’re still proud (if extra guilty) members of the club. I mean, I named my children Grace and Joseph, for heaven’s sake. I’ve talked to them about what faith means, and the importance of having it. I have a book of Bible stories in the house. I tell them what Christmas celebrates, and the story behind Easter, and why the Easter cake I bake, the same one my grandma always insisted on, is lamb-shaped. I’ve told them that they can talk to God anytime they want to; He’s always listening. Even if they only show up in His house once a year.
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Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with 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 on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
On February 17, 2014, the country celebrates Presidents Day, which coincides with George Washington’s birthday. Known as the “father of our country,” Washington is said to have been a devoted stepfather to the two children of his wife, Martha. I cannot tell a lie: I really don’t know if it was the Washington family routine to take a day off (from the day-to-day demands of the Revolution and of the Presidency) for his birthday to spend quality family time. But for many parents and kids, Presidents Day means a three-day weekend, so if you’re able to take the day off with your family, I encourage you to do so.
Three-day weekends are unique parenting opportunities. Unlike the usual overbooked experience of a two-day weekend, filled with soccer games, playdates, and to-do lists of chores, a three-day weekend is bonus time for the family, especially if your kids are home from school and less programmed than usual. If you’re lucky enough to have Monday off, think twice about scheduling golf or tennis with your adult buddies and shipping your kids off to friends’ houses. If there are chores around the house, do them with your kids. If you can’t resist the Presidents Day Sale at the furniture store or car dealership, take your kids along with you and go for ice cream afterwards. If your plan is to sleep in for an extra two hours while the kids are watching TV, change your plan – sleep in an extra hour (you’ve earned it!), but spend the second hour with the kids not watching TV.
There are 940 weekends between your little girl’s birth and the day she leaves for college. Sounds like a lot, right? But if she’s 5 years old, you’ve already used up 260 of those weekends. And only about 100 of them are three-day weekends so, by the time she turns 5, you’ve already used up 25 of those! If you’re like most parents who think their kids are growing up too fast, you probably already wish you could have some of those weekends back. Even though you can’t, now is the time to make sure you don’t have any regrets about how you spend the remaining weekends of your kids’ childhoods. And three-day weekends are the perfect place to start.
Get out your calendars and mark down these official federal holidays (which include a few three-day weekends) for the rest of 2014: Memorial Day (Monday, May 26); July 4 (a Friday this year); Labor Day (Monday, September 1); Columbus Day (Monday, October 13); Veteran’s Day (Tuesday, November 11); Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 27); and Christmas (Tuesday, December 25). If your job doesn’t let you take off for all these special days, you can still spend the time you have wisely.
This February 17, take a little time to talk with your kids about George Washington and other great presidents in U.S. history. Give your kids a shiny quarter or a crisp dollar bill and point out George’s image. Or try throwing a rock or a penny all the way across a river (who can afford to throw away a sliver dollar today?).
On Presidents Day, honor the father of our country, and your kids, by doing something really fun that the whole family will remember until Memorial Day—the next three-day weekend!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus 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).
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Image: Silhouette of family on a beach at dusk via Shutterstock
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Holidays, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Chinese New Year began on Friday, January 31, which means a new animal in the Chinese zodiac. 2014 is the Year of the Horse, specifically the Wooden Horse. Even though there are 12 animals in the zodiac, each animal is connected to one of the five elements (earth, water, wood, fire, metal), which corresponds to a different year.
For babies born in Wooden Horse years, parents can expect strong-willed, hardworking, and charming personalities, coupled with stubborn, willful, and impulsive dispositions. Generally, though, people born in Horse years share the same positive and negative characteristics. Read on for a brief list of these qualities, plus tips on how to raise your fillies and foals.
Cheerful - Children born in Horse years are naturally animated and bright, so cultivate your child’s happiness. As your child grows up, don’t criticize her for bad behavior; instead, calmly explain the good behavior you hope to see.
Clever – Even though your child will be intelligent and a quick learner, you can still nurture his education at a young age and improve his teach lessons outside of the classroom during school years.
Communicative – Your child may be predisposed to be a chatterbox, but you can still boost her language development. Help her use her words by expressing emotions in a healthy way (and not through hitting or biting), in order to be an effective communicator.
Impatient - As the adage goes, “patience is a virtue,” so start teaching patience at a young age. Try simple activities to make waiting time fly by and, as your child ages, start teaching him how to improve his attention span.
Difficult to Control – There will be moments when you need to tame your bucking bronco, so brush up on the types of tantrums and learn how to give effective time-outs. If all else fails, try these mom-tested discipline tricks.
Too Talkative – Your communicative child may need to be reined in before she says something embarrassing. Follow these simple tips to avoid TMI moments and learn how to respond when she talks back in her tween years.
According to the Huffington Post, famous Wooden Horse year trailblazers include Ron Howard, Condoleeza Rice, and Jackie Chan while other Horse Year celebs include Aretha Franklin, Oprah, Paul McCartney, and Kobe Bryant. So your child will be in good company!
Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.
Image: Traditional Chinese paper cutting of a horse via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Chinese New Year is one of my favorite Chinese holidays (in addition to the Mid-Autumn Festival) because it symbolizes good luck and fortune, a fresh new start, and the promise that spring (and warm weather!) is around the corner.
Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, and this year it starts on Friday, January 31 and ends on Friday, February 14. And in the Chinese zodiac, it’s the Year of the Horse. Even if you’re not Chinese, you can still ring in the New Year at home with your kids. Here are eight (a lucky number in Chinese culture) simple and fun ways you can celebrate during the two weeks.
Clean and de-clutter your home – It’s important to clean your house a few days before the New Year begins to sweep out bad luck and make way for good luck. So get an early start on spring cleaning — wipe dirt off the floors and windows, remove dust from tables, throw out old and broken things (including dishes and bowls), and organize everything from top to bottom.
Decorate the house in red and gold - Red and gold are lucky colors because they convey happiness and prosperity. Traditionally, paper cuttings and firecrackers, poetry scrolls, and signs with the Chinese character for good fortune are displayed on doors and walls. If there’s a Chinese grocery store in your neighborhood, you can look for decorations. Otherwise, purchase red and gold streamers and garlands to hang around the house, or print out images of horses and the good fortune character and glue them onto red/gold papers.Visit Pinterest for DIY Chinese New Year decoration ideas, including these pretty paper rosettes.
Set out some sweets - It’s tradition to eat candies and candied fruit to sweeten the New Year. Buy bags of your favorite candy (or dried fruit and chocolates) at the local supermarket and set them out in small, pretty dishes. Or find a traditional Chinese candy box or bags of red-and-gold wrapped “lucky candy” at local Chinese stores (even Amazon.com has them). Better yet, indulge in a limited edition box of Godiva’s Lunar New Year chocolates. The beautiful red-and-gold box includes six pieces of horse-stamped truffles in three flavors (white chocolate pineapple macadamia, milk chocolate cherry almond, dark chocolate caramel pear). The folks at Godiva were kind enough to send our office a sample box, and we gobbled them up — everyone loved the creaminess and subtle sweetness of the truffles. Plus, other Lunar New Year chocolates from Godiva are available.
Give out lucky red envelopes – Red envelopes filled with money are always given as gifts during the New Year, usually by older, married couples to kids and single adults. If you also can’t find red envelopes at a specialty store, pick up some regular red envelopes or make your own from red paper and then decorate them with gold pens and images. (Side note: The Godiva chocolate box also comes with red envelopes.) Don’t break the bank by stuffing envelopes with a ton of money; for kids, a few dollars or coins (including gold-wrapped chocolate ones) would do. Just avoid giving money in fours (4, 14) or odd numbers (5, 7), which is bad luck.
Prepare some meaningful dishes – You don’t have to master any complicated Chinese recipes to eat foods usually found during New Year feasts. Instead, cook simple foods that have special meaning. Fill your table with long, uncut noodles (symbolizing long life), chicken (family unity), fish (abundance), and dumplings (prosperity, because they look like gold ingots). Don’t have time to cook? It’s fine to order these dishes from a local take-out or to dine at a local buffet.
Have oranges for dessert - Oranges are a must-have during the New Year because they symbolize good luck, good fortune, and abundance. So pick up some mandarin oranges, tangerines, or clementines at the local market and snack on them during the day or after meals. You can also set them out on plates or in bowls as decoration or give them as gifts (in addition to red envelopes).
Watch dragon and lion dances - Head to a Chinatown near you to watch the annual dragon dance and lion dance, where performers dance to the sounds of drums and cymbals. These animals symbolize strength, ferocity, and dignity and are said to drive away bad spirits. Firecrackers and fireworks may also be seen and heard during performances at nigh. If you can’t make it to a Chinatown, make a dragon marionette and put on a mini dragon dance of your own, or make these mom-approved fireworks at home.
Craft your own paper lanterns – A Lantern Festival, where lanterns are lit, hung, or paraded through the streets, marks the last day of celebrations (when there is also a full moon). Instead of buying lanterns, follow our craft expert’s how-to instructions for making crepe paper lanterns and baby food jar lanterns. Just make sure to use red/gold crepe paper or paint as your colors. Or follow these Kaboose.com guidelines or find a lantern project on Pinterest. Insert and secure electric candles or tea lights into the lanterns, hang them up in the yard or the house, and then watch them glow.
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Translation: Happy New Year!)
Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.
Image: Two mandarin oranges put on red packets via Shutterstock
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