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Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Hang on to your Santa hats, mamas: Christmas is one week away. One week! Maybe you’re among the women who are cheerfully baking, excitedly wrapping, and gleefully counting down the days to next Thursday. Or, you’re a little more like me: You’re still doing all those things (and then some), just minus the happy adjectives.
I have so much to be grateful for this Christmas, and I bet many of you do, too. I want to love this holiday, particularly for the sake of my young children who can’t wait for it. But every year, a sense of dread creeps up on me the closer we get to the 25th, as a list of tasks to complete—so many tasks—fill my calendar and rattle around my brain.
This year, I tried harder to love Christmas: I made good on a promise to myself to get a head start on the holiday, thinking it would help make it more manageable and enjoyable. I ordered my cards early. I shopped ahead of time. I got stocking stuffers in November! Yet no matter how prepared you think you are, I find that for me, at least, there is always something left to do. Just one more person to buy for or holiday tradition to squeeze in. As I write this post, a friend messages me how tired she is, “and now I have to go put tinsel on the tree. Argh.”
Christmas. Argh. You said it, sister.
With seven days until showtime, no one is safe around me right now, especially my husband. He hasn’t done anything to deserve my ire, but that’s part of the problem: So much of Christmas falls on mothers. And my husband does a lot for Christmas. (Truly. I’m not the one stringing lights all over the tree or outside.) But, like that fictional mouse with the cookie, Christmas always demands more. Even if you don’t go all-out on Christmas and try to keep it fairly simple, there’s a never-ending checklist attached to this holiday. It drains energy. It empties wallets. It saps time. And so for the next week, I am in The Zone. I’ve got presents to wrap! Elves to move! Out of my way, people!
It’s an icky thing to feel possessed at a time when you’re supposed to be merry and bright. My complaints hardly qualify as problems. Knowing that not only makes me feel like a Grinch, but a guilty one. I felt relieved when a coworker, also a mom, admitted to me that “out of my way!” is her motto this time of year, too.
When I was a child, I loved Christmas. (And now I know why: My parents did everything!) I’m glad to be making this holiday memorable for my own kids–they’re only little for now, and we need to cherish their sweet, wide-eyed view of Christmas while we can. But I could stand to get some of that magic and innocence back for me. That’s why I said yes to a cookie exchange at a friend’s home this weekend. That probably sounds like a martyr move: With a holiday dinner to prepare and so much else I claim I have to do (wah, wah), how can I complain if I have time to melt chocolate and crush candy canes with a rolling pin because, Must Make Peppermint Bark? But if I don’t do the good stuff with my kids, then what is there to enjoy about Christmas? (Besides, have you tried peppermint bark? It’s good.)
So, we’ll feed carrots to the chubby sheep at the live nativity scene at a local church. We’ll make the time to send gifts to a family in need. I’m pausing to appreciate the holiday cards that arrive daily, which I can enjoy without guilt now that mine have been mailed out. I’m taking off from work today, to attend my preschooler’s holiday singalong concert, and if that doesn’t melt my frozen heart, well, I sorely need a Christmas intervention. Watching this video every year with my kids, and hearing their giggles, also puts an instant smile on my face.
Next year, I really want the days leading up to Christmas to be different, though. My friends and I complained to one another at pickup, and that helped: just knowing we’re not alone in our grinchiness. (“This smile on my face? It’s hiding the utter panic I feel inside,” one mom said to me, only half-kidding.) We all know our kids’ smiles will be worth our efforts Christmas morning, and no one’s going to put coal in our stockings, we hope, for being a little cranky right now.
How do you keep your good cheer, without feeling burdened by all that there is to do?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Let me say up front that I love the holiday season as much as the next person—the parties, the lights displays in homes and elaborate store windows, the ever-present Christmas music (well, to a point), the annual watching of It’s a Wonderful Life and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. People are in a warm mood, ready to celebrate with family. The whole thing feels so festive.
But the holidays are a bit different if you’re a Jew. You might get invited to a tree-trimming party, a Christmas concert, or even caroling (though you might be more inclined to watch than to participate). You might even have a holiday tradition that seems “Christian.” In my case, the season is never complete until I’ve seen the tree at Rockefeller Center, at night, with my kids.
In the end, though, you are acutely aware that this is not truly your holiday. You have your own: Hanukkah (which started last night, by the way). It’s a nice little holiday. There is the menorah you light to commemorate the victory by Judah Maccabee, who restored worship at the temple in Jerusalem nearly 2200 years ago. There are latkes and jelly doughnuts and chocolate coins and dreidels to spin. And as Adam Sandler’s comedic Hanukkah song points out, rather than just one day we get “eight crazy nights.” Let’s be honest, though: Hanukkah is no Christmas. It’s not a major holiday on our calendar, like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and a host of others. Were it not for the proximity-to-Christmas timing—with the exception of last year’s Thansgivukkah—it would barely move the needle at all.
Which brings me to my daughter, Isabella. She goes to Hebrew school and loves learning about Jewish history and traditions. She is proud of her religion and loves saying the prayer as we light the menorah each evening. Yet she also desperately wants us to get a Christmas tree. She’s been asking me for years, though her persistence recently reached a new level.
My answer, reinforced by her older brother (who is not nearly as caught up in the spirit of the season as she): “No. We are Jewish. This isn’t our holiday. We have Hanukkah.” She was hardly dissuaded. She’s pointed out that we give out presents both at Hanukkah and on Christmas Day. This is true, and a concession to my wife, whose family always celebrated this way. She’s suggested we could have a little mini tree to decorate—what she has cleverly called a “tree of life,” which also happens to be the title of a popular Jewish song they sing in class.
Still, I’ve refused. I’ve explained that we have our own traditions, and that Christmas trees aren’t one of them—and never will be. I explained that wanting a tree made it seem like being Jewish wasn’t enough for her. And I asked her to please stop asking. It made me feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof when he disowned his daughter Chava for marrying outside the faith. Or, to cite a more contemporary example, like the Grinch before his heart grew ten sizes plus two.
Isabella gave up, sort of, but she didn’t give in. A few days later, she came home with a small branch that had fallen off at a nearby Christmas stand. She put it in water, added an “Isabella” ornament she had once been given, and put it alongside a singing snowman that her mom had once bought her. Every day on her walk home from school she scoped out more branches and added them. It was a bit pathetic—reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s droopy little tree (before its absurd transformation at the end courtesy of his friends’ decorations)—but also oddly charming.
I have to hand it to her: Isabella found a way to embrace a symbol of the season without technically going against my wishes. Call it a pine-scented loophole. I decided to let her enjoy it, her own little Christmas miracle—even though I’m sure she envisions this “tree” (like the one in her favorite ballet, The Nutcracker) growing magically bigger and bigger in future years.
David Sparrow is a senior editor at Parents and a dad of two. He knows “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by heart.
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Friday, December 12th, 2014
These days, it seems like Barbie just can’t catch a break. From showing up on the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to the recent controversy with the illustrated book, Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer that was all over the Internet recently, as someone who grew up adoring the doll, I’ve been disappointed to say the least.
If you haven’t heard, the book, which was originally published in 2010, was thrust into limelight when author Pamela Ribon wrote a post on her blog about finding it at a friend’s house.
At first, the book’s premise sounds great. Barbie has officially entered the 21st century and is creating a computer game for school. Cool!
Unfortunately, the book’s plot quickly takes a turn for the worse. You can read more about all of it here. The line that got to me (and I think many other women too) most was when Barbie decides that rather than learning the information she needs on her own, this happens: ” ‘It will go faster if Brian and I help,’ offers Steven.’Great!’ says Barbie.”
As a girl who both grew up playing with Barbies and studied informatics in college, and also once had an assignment to create a computer game just like Barbie did in the book, this was just embarrassing. Yes, learning to code is challenging. But that doesn’t mean you can just drop your whole assignment on someone else!
Fortunately, Mattel has since pulled the book and made a public apology for the book’s contents. The book’s author has also spoken out. “Maybe I should have made one of those programmers a female – I wish I did,” the book’s author Susan Marenco told ABC News. “If I was on deadline, it’s possible stuff slipped out or I quietly abided by Mattel without questioning it. Maybe I should have pushed back, and I usually I do, but I didn’t this time.”
Despite much of the controversy though, growing up I’m thankful for all of the creative play time I had with my Barbies and believe that time was truly well spent developing my own imagination. The thing that I loved most about my Barbie dolls was that I could shape their stories into whatever I wanted. I had no interest in following the story lines set by the paper boxes my dolls came wrapped in. I had dolls that were doctors, small business owners and high-powered executives (and actors and models and fashion designers).
As parents, it’s always important to observe what kinds of messages our daughters receive — from books, movies, TV, whatever. No reason to hate on Barbie all together! After all, even without Barbie, just about a decade after my obsession with the doll waned, I registered for my first computer coding class.
Image: Little girl and her doll via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 11th, 2014
There are several parenting styles you can choose to follow when raising your kids. There’s helicopter parenting, when mom hovers over her kids during play dates or homework assignments, and lawnmower parenting, when dad mows down any obstacles in his kids’ way and smooths over all the problems. But lately, every parent seems to follow an animal’s approach to child rearing.
With the publication of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua in 2011, the Tiger Mom came to life. This mom is known for her intense focus on her kids’ success and achievements, and her discipline-based parenting approach. Since then, no animal has been left un-claimed by parents looking to define their personal parenting strategies. Last week, The Atlantic’s Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar explained why it’s okay to be an ‘elephant mom,’ which is the opposite of a Tiger Mom. Sharma-Sindhar defines Elephant Moms as “parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage children, especially when they are still impressionable and very, very young.” To stay in-tune with the animal-parenting trend, The Washington Post’s Terri Rupar decided she is a ‘Sloth Mom,’ a parent who “loves her kids and lets them hang off her adorably sometimes, but is a big believer in conserving energy.”
Realistically, every parent has their Tiger Mom days (when they push their kid to practice the violin right before the holiday concert), Elephant Mom days (when they are waiting with a supporting hug after their kid missed the winning goal in soccer), and Sloth Mom days (when the iPad gets passed to the kid so mom can finally finish Amy Poehler’s Yes Please). And it’s even okay to be all three animals in one day.
Have you picked your animal spirit guide yet? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Elephant Mom via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Both of my daughters’ schools have held holiday food drives lately, and it makes my children and me feel good to walk through the aisles of the supermarket and pick out canned goods for families who need them. (Our go-to donations: big jars of peanut butter, 4-packs of tuna, canned soup and chili.) I also appreciate the opportunity to remind my children that there are kids right in our own town who may not have enough to eat.
But I’ve learned recently that I could be selecting much more nutritious picks. I fully admit that I didn’t equate “food bank” with “healthy food.” And I had no idea that the organization SuperFood Drive exists. Its goal: to transform every food drive into an opportunity to collect healthy, nourishing food for those in need, helping reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more–all of which are too high among the impoverished families who often rely on food banks. I cringed when I read on SuperFood Drive’s site: “It is unjust to ‘help’ people in need with provisions that promote disease instead of prevent it.”
The site has plenty of important resources, including how to host a healthy food drive. It also offers ways to donate healthy food online. What I found most helpful is the list of healthy foods I should shop for from now on. This is what’ll be in my cart for the next food drive:
- Steel-cut or rolled oats (low in calories, high in fiber and protein)
- Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (packed with protein and fiber)
- Black beans (a low-fat source of protein)
- Low-sodium canned tomatoes (more beneficial than fresh!)
- Canned pumpkin (it’s high in fiber and bursting with nutrients)
Check out a complete list here.
Photo: Food donations box isolated on white background via Shutterstock.
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