The Need to Entertain

I have six kids.  The three oldest are in their preteen and teenage years.  The three youngest are in their preschool/toddler years.  There is a BIG difference between the oldest three and the youngest three, when it comes to entertaining themselves.

The oldest three could play by themselves.  I have two out of the youngest three that can not. What makes the difference? Did my parenting change? Does birth order make a difference?  Or is personality a factor?  Maybe it’s our world today.

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Rainy Day Activities

 

(Photo from ourkidsmagazine.com)

I’m not sure if spring is here, or if it’s just a nice little teaser before winter dumps on us again.  But, after playing outside all day Saturday, it was tough to be in the house again on Sunday, while it rained.  Being cooped up all winter long is tough on kids.  Being cooped up on a rainy day, after getting a little taste of warm weather and sunshine, is just down-right mean.  Still, there are ways to enjoy a rainy day.  Below is a list of our favorites.  😉

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Please Take My Survey!

[wps-social-ninja global-settings=”1″ show-count=”1″ show-before-post-content=”1″ show-after-post-content=”1″ align=”left” social-engines=”twitter,googleplus,linkedin,pinterest,tumblr,facebook” layout=”wps-sn-layout-icon” /]I am working on a book – From Board Rooms to High Chairs: A Career Guide for At Home Moms, and need your help!  If you are a stay at home mom, please complete this survey.  I am looking for tips and strategies for managing your days at home, raising your kids.  If you are not a stay at home mom, please complete this survey!  You too have tips on raising kids and managing your days, so please do not overlook how valuable your input is!

I needed to limit my questions to ten, so if you have comments, tips, advice or stories that I did not touch on, please either leave me a comment here or complete the contact form below.

Thank you for your help!

Survey Link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/S7LM9PC

 

Good Morning Sunshine!

I set my alarm for 5:30.  At 4:00 I turned it off.  I have no reason to get up early, except to take advantage of the early morning hours, before the kids get up.  I didn’t reset it. I would get up when my husband got up.  That way, I’d have fifteen minutes to myself before I have to get my 11-year-old up and make his lunch.

We overslept.  I never even heard his alarm go off.  All of a sudden, he flew out of bed with a start.  I immediately thought, “Oh no.  My 11-year-old missed the bus.  I don’t want to drive him in!”

“What time is it?” I asked.

“Seven,” my husband answered.

Oh, well, that’s not so bad, I thought with relief.

“I overslept,” he says, planting a little smooch on my forehead.  “But it was the best sleep I got all night.”

Indeed.

Every time I make plans to get up early, I end up staying up all night.  I should just get things done at night, while the house is asleep, and then sleep in a bit during the morning, huh?  I was listening to a pod cast yesterday, and this gal stated she “gets up early – around 7:30, 8:00 and gets started writing right away”.  I laughed!  That’s early?  But then I learned she stays up until two or three in the morning.  Although I would never willingly stay up that late, I did have her beat last night!

My husband and I watched Breaking Bad (we are hooked!) until almost ten.  And then we resisted the urge to watch another.  I visited with my 17-year-old a bit about his college assignments and then hit the hay.  Thank God I did.

I went to bed early (11:00 to 11:30 is normal for me) so that I could get up early.  I was grateful I went to bed early.  The first couple of hours and the last couple of hours is all the sleep I got.  And sadly, I wish I could say this wasn’t normal, but it has been known to happen at our house a lot.  Not every night.  Not even every week.  But definitely at least once a month. To those of you with twins out there, sorry.  To those of you with twins and a preschooler, well, Good Luck.

Here’s a fun little outline of my night:  🙂

12:30  The three-year-old woke up and crawled in to bed with us.  I got up and put a pull-up on him.  No way was he sleeping in my bed with underwear on!  I hopped back in to bed.  Got all nice and comfy with him.  He asked for a drink.  I got out of bed, got him a cup of water.

20 minutes later……  Baby B wakes up.  I haven’t fallen back asleep yet, but I ask my husband to get him.  I was just up with the three-year-old, after all.  He gets up, slowly. By the time he gets there, Baby B is in a full blown cry.

I find out later that Baby B threw a temper tantrum.  Dad put him down on the living room carpet and just let him cry it out.  This woke up Baby A.  🙁

I get up with Baby A.  Restart his music.  Cuddle and rock him in his bedroom to three songs, then lay him back in his crib awake.  He goes back to sleep.

Dad returns Baby B to his crib – awake, but calm – a bit later.

20 minutes later……  Baby B cries again.  Dad gets up again. Rocks him again.  Lays him back down again.

20 minutes later……  Baby B cries again.  I got up with the three-year-old and Baby A.  My husband got up with Baby B twice.  We were even now, so it was my turn.  I gave him the run-down:

Did you change his diaper?        Yes.

Did you give him Ibuprofen?       No.

Did you numb him up?                No.

So I got Baby B up again, gave him Ibuprofen, numbed up his little mouth (he is teething….just the two canines on the bottom – otherwise, he has a full mitt of teeth!), got him a cup of water, and rocked and cuddled him for a bit.  His spill-proof sippy cup leaked all over me, but I was too tired to change my shirt.  I assumed his jammies were wet, too.  But he had his little hands wrapped around that cup and it was cuddled up next to him. Oh well.  If he woke up again, I’d take care of it.  In to bed he went.

20 minutes later…….  Baby B cries again.  By now it is 3:00 in the morning. We have been up since 12:30.  Screw taking turns – my husband has a long drive to work in the morning.  I’m losing my patience.  I tell my husband that Baby B is going to have to cry himself to sleep.  I go in there, turn his music on and stand with him a bit by his crib.  He immediately stops crying.  I whisper to him that he has to go nu-night.  He wails.  I quickly and sheepishly put him in his crib and duck out before Baby A wakes up to see me.  If I’m not there, Baby A will go right back to sleep.  If he sees me, I lost the game.

I carry the three-year-old, who has been tossing and turning all night in my bed, back down to his bed.  He will sleep better there.  By the time I get back up, Baby B has stopped crying.

I crawl in to bed.  “That was easy,” my husband says.

“Yes,” I answer.  I’m suspicious.

For the next 40 minutes……  Baby B fusses, whines, and cries periodically.  He starts and stops.  I listen for a while.  He eventually starts crying loud enough that I can’t lay in bed and listen.  I head to my old stand-by:  the laundry room.  I like to shut myself in there, switch over the laundry, and fold clothes while the twins cry in the middle of the night. That way it isn’t so torturous for me – I can’t hear them over the noise of the machines.

Only, there is no clothes to fold!  What?!?  I am always behind on laundry!!  I groan in frustration, switch over the wet clothes from the washer in to the empty dryer, and put a new load in the washer.

I then go get Baby B.  I give him gas drops, just in case.  I walk through the house, through the living room, pointing out that everyone is going nu-night.  “Shhh…..” I say.  I show him outside.  “See, it’s dark,” I say, “It’s nu-night time.”  He babbles something and I immediately discourage him, “Shh…. Nu-night time”.  I put my fingers to my lips, “Shhhh…..”  I change his diaper, just in case it is uncomfortable, and check his jammies. They aren’t wet in the diaper area.  I check up by his neck.  Yep, it is slightly wet from his sippy cup.  Normally I’d change that. But tonight, I decide he can tough it out. After all, I’m still wet from his sippy cup too, and I’m quite fine.  I rock him.  Again.

The lull of the washer and dryer hypnotizes me.  Pretty soon I hear heavy breathing from Baby B.  I guess it hypnotized him too.  I put him in his crib and cover him and Baby A up.  I return to bed.

It’s 4:00.  I turn my alarm off.  I drift in and out of sleep for who knows how long, because Baby B still fusses and wines a bit.  But he never actually wakes up crying again.

My biggest worry, during nights like this, especially if I am letting them cry themselves to sleep, is that they are sick.  I envisioned Baby B puking all over me while I was rocking him.  You know?  They can’t tell you what is keeping them from sleeping.  We have to guess at it.  So I numb him, I give him Ibuprofen, gas drops, water, change his diaper in case it’s wet or uncomfortable, check his jammies to make sure they aren’t wet, cover him up, etc.  but I can never tell if he has a queasy tummy, or a headache, or the chills, or a body ache, or his ears hurt, etc.  So it’s good to have some compassion during the middle of the night.  Because you will feel AWEFUL if you let him cry all night long, only to discover he had the stomach flu.  He’ll be crying because his little tummy hurts and he wants his mama, and you will think he’s just being difficult.  It’s such a tight rope.

The nice thing about all-nighters?  They sleep late in the morning.  😉

(Photo from clipartpanda.com)

 

Toddler Clinginess

It drives parents mad.

You are trying to make supper – listen to the news….have a little glass of wine…..throw the veggies in the skillet….listen to them sizzle….smell the aromas….mmm…..

 

 

And you have a toddler clinging to your leg, screaming and crying, making every step nearly impossible. (Or, in my case, you have a screaming toddler clinging to each leg…)

Or you sneak out of the living room because you can’t hold it any longer. You really gotta go. You are in the bathroom, using the facility, having an actual moment to yourself to finish a thought (heaven!) and then he comes in screaming and wailing because he lost sight of you.

Sound familiar?

Toddler clinginess is, unfortunately, normal. If your toddler is showing signs of clinginess – wandering through the house looking for you every time you leave the room, or crying when you drop her off at daycare – congratulations! Your child’s emotional development is right on track. In these most stressful of times, it is helpful to remember that you want your child to be a little bit clingy. You don’t want your child to show absolutely no fear and go toddling off on his own without a second thought to the dangers that might be. A (small) dose of clinginess definitely serves a purpose.

Ugh, fine, you say. But why? Why does my sweet little sugar cry and beg me to pick him up every single time we walk anywhere? He knows how to walk. He loves to walk. Why can’t he walk from the car to Grandma’s house?

Your child was literally a part of you while he was growing in your womb. After birth, babies are still very attached to their mothers. As your baby grows and develops and learns to do things on his own, he slowly discovers that he is not just an extension of his mama….he is not another one of your arms or legs, and you are not just an extension of him. He is learning that he is a separate being from you. Independent.

That can be exhilarating for him. Pure bliss as he learns to run, jump, climb and just be. He absolutely loves it.

But it can also be incredibly scary for him. It’s a big wide world, and he just ran away from his security (you) with pure joy and abandonment. What does he do after he realizes what he just did? Run back to you screaming and crying, begging you to pick him up. So you kiss away his tears, love him up a bit, and reassure him that what he just did was amazing.

As toddlers and preschoolers grow and explore, their emotional development goes in to overdrive. Their brain is growing and developing as well, taking in more, grasping more, understanding more, imagining more. Things they never even noticed before are suddenly scary, such as strangers. When your toddler was younger, she may not have noticed the difference in a stranger’s face and someone she knew, so she didn’t cry when Auntie, whom she just met for the very first time, picked her up. Now she cries when Grandma, who she just saw two weeks ago, wants to hold her. Or, things she never used to be afraid of are suddenly scary. Big dogs. Cute little kitties. Funny rubbery, spikey balls. Enclosed spaces, such as garages, barns or high school gymnasiums. Loud noises. Four wheelers, snowmobiles, dirt bikes. Her brain is so very busy sorting all of this out. What’s safe, what’s not, what’s scary. What’s fun, what’s not. It’s exhausting for both of you.

During this time, your child will run to you for security any time he is overwhelmed, over stimulated, scared, unsure of himself, or just down right tired. So, he will run to you a lot. And cling to you. And it will always be at the most inopportune time.

So what can we do, as parents and care givers? Take a deep breath, especially if you feel yourself becoming frustrated. Remember that your baby is there for love and reassurance. Hug him, kiss him, pick him up. Talk to him, tell him he is fine. Show him you are happy to see him.

If you are doing something that can be put aside, put it aside and give your child some attention. Engage him in play. Show him that he is important to you, that his needs and feelings are real. Validate what he is going through, don’t belittle it and shame him. Don’t yell or speak harshly. Remember that he is doing exactly what he should be at this age – this clinginess serves a purpose.

The art of distraction is absolutely amazing. If you can’t sit and play with him right now, draw his attention to something else and help him to forget that he was worried in the first place. Engage him in something engrossing, something he doesn’t normally get to play with, such as coloring or play dough, or the pots and pans in the cupboard, so that you can return to what you were doing. If you can hold him while you work, then do that, and let him see what you are so busy with in the first place. Chances are, he will get bored and wander away on his own.

There are some cases when clinginess is a bit extreme. It’s good to note the difference between normal clinginess and something more going on. Your child may be excessively clingy if the clinginess lasts, day in and day out, for quite some time. Note if there are any other behavioral patterns that changed when the clinginess became excessive. Did her sleeping patterns change? Eating patterns? Did she used to play by herself and now she doesn’t? Does she cry when she goes to daycare? Does she have any unexplained injuries or bruises? What about exposure to media? Is she watching inappropriate television shows? Listening to inappropriate music? There might be something more going on than normal childhood development. If you suspect something is not right, talk to your doctor.

If you have had a recent move, went back to work, had an addition to your family, a family loss, or any other such life changing event, these situations can also cause excessive clinginess. This is normal. This is how your toddler or preschooler works through the situation. She is feeling insecure, and rightfully so, so she clings to the most comforting, secure, consistent thing in her life – her mom. Be patient with her during this new situation. Reassure her, love her, comfort her, and above all, always make it painfully obvious that you value her and her needs.

Remember, clinginess in toddlers and preschoolers is absolutely normal. It is a necessary stage that they will go through, and it will pass quickly. It is good to keep this in mind during the most stressful moments. And it doesn’t last. It goes so fast. One moment your son will never let you put him down and the next he wants you to drop him off down the block and walk the rest of the way to school, because he doesn’t want to be seen with you. So enjoy these moments now. They definitely don’t last.

 

(Photo from mommyshorts.com)

 

A Momma SOS!

A typical day at our house goes like this:

Baby B will play nicely and be totally engrossed with whatever toy he is playing with.  The three-year old will  play nicely with him, but more often than not, he entices Baby B to play something entirely physical and teetering on dangerous, such as running around the “circle” linking the kitchen, dining room and living room, or jumping off of the bed and landing on pillows.  Baby A will sometimes join in.  Usually, though, he follows me around while I am trying to get house work done, just crying.

If all three of them are playing together, it is always something physical and led by the three-year-old.  It is never a nice, quiet activity.  The three-year-old almost always ends up hurting someone, and it is almost always Baby A.  And it almost always is on purpose.

Even if I play with them, it usually ends in the three-year old and Baby A climbing all over me and fighting for my attention.  Baby A almost always gets hurt.  By the three-year-old.  Baby B still sits and plays quietly.  Usually.

Then the three-year-old started preschool.  And I noticed something.  If you take him out of the picture, Baby A and Baby B play quietly  together – nice, normal activities – all day. Baby A does not follow me around the house.  He is not clingy and crying at all.  He does not, in short, drive me nuts.  🙂  He is quite enjoyable.  And totally adorable.

Enter three-year-old after school, and the whole house is chaos again.

My older boys tell me that they are all three amazing when they babysit.  They tell me they play well together when I am not home.  And Baby A is not clingy.  And he doesn’t spend the whole day crying.

Come to think of it, when I am doing the dishes, my husband has to take the twins in to their bedroom or down stairs just so I can get the dishes done.  It doesn’t matter if he is sitting and playing nicely with the twins.  Baby B will sit and play.  Baby A will run in to the kitchen, scream and  holler, and literally hang on my leg.

Could it be sibling rivalry for momma’s attention?  Separation Anxiety?  I don’t think it is separation anxiety.  I have never had a child so social, so unafraid to go with total strangers.  Baby A will go to anyone.  He will ask strangers to pick him up.  And he will tell me good-bye.  So he’s not necessarily afraid to leave me.  Baby B cries more when I leave than Baby A.

Which makes me think it has to be rivalry for mom’s attention; particularly between the three-year-old and Baby A.

I’ve been doing some research but haven’t found anything that really grabs at me yet.  Although, in an article “Coping With a Clingy Toddler“, Baby A did show three of the four signs of a clingy toddler listed:

  • Holding on to you even when you leave him just to use the bathroom (although now he has graduated to just following me in there, sometimes asking to be held while I am using the facilities….)
  • Cries and throws tantrums that he should be carried along
  • Experiences sleep difficulties
  • Constantly searching for you around the house (I do move from room to room pretty quickly when I am getting stuff done….)

The only one he doesn’t exhibit is:

  • Becomes cranky and shy when other people are around.

As I stated before, he is quite the opposite – he loves people.

 

So far I haven’t found much on the unique combination of one year old twins and a three-year-old.  I’d be very interested in hearing from my readers.  What do you think?  Sibling Rivalry?  Separation anxiety?  A weird little combination of both?  Just general crabbiness from teething?  Something else entirely?  What am I missing?  Because the stress level caused by this, amongst all eight of us,  is quite intense.  It’d be nice to “nip it in the butt”! 😉

 

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think it might be, or some strategies that I could try.  I’d really appreciate it!

Oh, and by the way, if your comment doesn’t immediately appear after you leave it, don’t worry.  I have to go in and “approve” all comments before they appear – I think it is some kind of a spam thing.  😉

(Photo taken from beingtheparent.com)

The Hero of My Story

I am working on a few things, a few goals, for 2016, outside of my role as a momma.  I think it is important for every mom to have something her own, something outside of her family and children.  So I have set some personal goals for myself.

And to reach these goals, I have had to do A LOT of research.  I’m a busy momma.  I don’t have time to research or learn anything new.  Until I discovered podcasts.  And now, I am addicted to podcasts.  I subscribe to a few, and I listen to them whenever I am in a vehicle alone, which doesn’t happen all that much.  But also when I am folding laundry.  I fold clothes every day after the twins go down for their nap.  I usually have a good half hour of clothes folding to get done, so I listen to a podcast while I fold.  I have come to crave “clothes folding time”!  Funny, how we can train ourselves.  I used to hate taking the time to fold clothes.  Now it is one of my favorite times of the day!

But I digress

I recently discovered The Five AM Miracle, hosted by Jeff Sanders.  I am hooked.  I have since subscribed to him, and can’t wait to hear the rest of his shows.  I will also get his book, eventually.  I have a few other things I am in the process of reading right now, and it takes me FOREVER to get something read.  But I am so excited about his message that I just had to share it!

I think I was listening to Your New Plan for 2016, but I can’t be sure, because my phone deletes the episodes after I listened to them.  And in that episode, Jeff asks us, “Who is the Hero of Your Story?”  What action are you taking, right now, that assures you are acting as the hero in your own story?  What does that hero look like?  What can you do, today, that turns you in to the person you want to be, the hero of your own story?

Wow.  Powerful stuff!  My hero, in my story, is a mom who loves and serves her family and children above all else. She does so with amazing grace and self-sacrificing.  She never complains.  She lives each day with joy and love, embracing her children and her husband and all that they are.  She spends her days making their days better for them.

That is the hero of my story.  I think right now, I play the role of villain.  🙂  I spend my days trying very hard to be that wonderful image of an award-winning momma, but I usually end up giving up by the days’ end.  It’s exhausting!  The constant crying, fighting, and complaining.  The yelling and screaming.  My house is loud!  And it wears a person out.

I’ll start out the day full of joy, love and patience.  I’ll play, be goofy, and lift every one’s moods.  I’ll end it by barking orders and snapping everyone in to shape!  A bit of a drill sargent comes out in me at the end of the day.  And HE does not belong in my story!

So what do I do to take action, to be the hero of my story?  I think, in each and every situation, I have to take a step back and ask, “What would my hero do right now?”  And then do it!  No easy feat, because I can get so involved emotionally in what is going on.  And to step back and take an objective look at what is going on, you need to let go of the emotions.  It’s also hard, to give that task to part of your mind, while the rest of you is still orchestrating the situation, living right in the moment.

So, if I have a baby hanging to each leg, sitting on each foot, screaming and crying at the tops of their lungs, with their brother standing right next to me, trying to tell me a story, while I’m trying to brown hamburger, what should I do, if I were the perfect person I wanted to be? Well, in my story, ideally, that would not be happening in the first place!  If I could write my own story, I would be quietly browning hamburger, watching the news, and serenely sipping a glass of wine.  🙂  My boys would be quietly driving cars in the living room.

But….since we can only operate the main character, the hero, in our story, and not the scene taking place or the other characters, then I guess I’d have to take a step back and look at the situation without my emotions being involved.  For starters, it is not safe to have three small children standing right by the stove.  The greese could splatter on them, or one of them could reach up and pull the frying pan right off of the stove.  Or touch the hot burner.  There are all kinds of reasons, other than my sanity, that they should not be in the kitchen with me while I am cooking.

So what are my options?  I could lock them up in their high chairs.  I could  call a family member to take them outside of the kitchen to play.  I could try to entice them to play by themselves in another room.  I could scream and holler and throw a temper tantrum myself.  But what would the hero in my story do?  Well, she would use this as a teachable moment, of course!  Even though it takes more time and patience, she would repeatedly take them back in to the living room, telling them why they need to stay there, and how dangerous it is, or whatever, until they learned to stay there on their own. That is heroic!  🙂

How are you going to take action to be the hero in your own story?  It doesn’t have to involve children.  It can be any every day situation that you face, that you know you handle with less grace than you should.  How would the perfect you handle that situation?  What can you do to take that same action?  Let me know – leave a comment, sharing how you are going to be a hero in your own story!

And check out the Five AM Miracle.  It’s inspiring!

A Nifty Little Tip for Your Kids’ Toys

I tried posting this on my Face Book page, but it really didn’t work.  I wonder if the post was too long?  So I apologize, this post will be too short on Making Mommas.  It probably really belongs on Face Book.  But I think it is a good tip, and worth posting, regardless.  🙂

So, A nifty little tip regarding your kids’ toys:  Rotate them!!

My kids have a lot of toys.  The twins have inherited a lot of their older brothers’ toys – some of them are dang near 17 years old now!  And, they continue to get their own, new toys as well.  So what is a mom to do with all of these toys?

Well, we naturally purged them when we moved.  We cleaned out all of the toys, and got rid of a lot.  Trashed them.  I didn’t have time to bring them anywhere or to put on a garage sale.  We don’t miss them.

But for those we kept, I rotate them.  I have some of them stashed under the stairs, to pull out occasionally when we need some new inspiration.  I have a closet and toy box downstairs full of toys.  I have a basket in the living room upstairs, full of toys.  And the twins have a basket in their bedroom full of toys.  The three year old has only a select few in his bedroom simply because he shares a bedroom with his 11-year-old brother, who really doesn’t appreciate having that many toys hanging around.

I often will bring some selected toys from the toy box downstairs to the basket in the living room upstairs. I then will move some of the toys in the basket in the living room in to the basket in the twins’ bedroom. And then I will move some of those toys out of the bedroom and back down to the toy box. I do this for big items as well, such as the kitchen and the Lego table. It’s amazing what a new setting, i.e., new room in the house, can do to an old toy!

How do I know when it’s time to rotate? When I get tired of cleaning up the same toys again and again! I was sick and tired of cleaning up the Duplex Blocks for the umpteenth time today. So rotate we did! It’s also a good time to rotate when you need something to capture your kids’ interest for a bit longer than usual. Some “new” toys can do the trick. Maybe rotate when you need to get some Christmas preparation finished up! 😉

And with Christmas around the corner, it’s a good time to go through all of the toys as well. Clean them out! Tuck them away, chuck them away, or haul them away. Give them to the Salvation Army or The Boys’ Ranch, or bring them to a second-hand store.

Happy Cleaning!

 

(photo from accesscal.org)

Shannon’s Holiday Traditions

Need some inspiration for Holiday Traditions?  Here’s a list of my family traditions.  Have fun!

 

  1. Potato Club Day – every fall, my mom, sister, brothers and I get together to make potato club. It is a Norwegian/Scandinavian dish and it is actually spelled “klubb”, but I never knew that until recently. 😉 I have been told you either absolutely love it or absolutely hate it. I LOVE it!! It is simply flour, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, ground together and boiled. (LOL! I realize how awful it sounds!) Sometimes we would add ham, side pork or hot dogs.
  2. Lefse – every fall my mom, sister, aunts and cousins used to get together to make Lefse, also another Scandinavian dish. The Lefse would then be frozen and used during the holidays. I was never a part of this tradition because I always had little kids around, and there are too many hot grills to have children present. Now life has gotten so busy that they don’t do it anymore.  🙁  And I do not know how to make it.
  3. Christmas Tree Decorating – see the article Holiday Traditions for more on this. However, we used to go to the Wild Life Refuge and cut down our own tree. My boys loved that. But when I was offered a good deal on a fake one, I killed that tradition.
  4. Christmas Movies – we have to roll through the list! The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, A Christmas Story, Elf, to name a few.
  5. Christmas Shopping – my husband I very rarely do anything just the two of us. So one weekend in December or November we go away for the weekend. We rent a hotel and we power shop. It sounds horrible but it really is fun. We get all of our shopping done, kid-free. We get meals out together, just the two of us. And when it is all done, we go back to the hotel room, have a few drinks, watch a movie together and wrap up the presents. It’s great!
  6. Christmas Light Sight-Seeing – this one has gone away for us.  🙁  I just don’t know how we’d fit everyone in the vehicle. But we used to grab some yummy snacks (or McDonald’s), load the kids up and let them roam around the vehicle unrestrained (oh the horror!). We often would put the back seat down and they’d “camp” out in the back and eat their snack. And we’d drive from town to town and look at the Christmas lights people would put up. We usually knew where all the good ones were. 😉 We’d listen to Christmas music and talk. It was great fun!
  7. Christmas Cookie Decorating – My mom, sister, and I, along with all the kids, get together and decorate sugar cookies. It gets quite competitive.
  8. Christmas Eve Day – This is always spent at my mother-in-law’s, and if there is snow (there usually is) then we would start the festivities off with sledding at the “big hill”. (We live in a very flat area – the “big hill” is a landfill/dump from ‘back in the day’ that is buried and no longer used!) We’d hit Midnight Mass, if they had it, but some years it has been earlier in the day. And of course, the day is filled with gifts, food and games.
  9. Christmas Day at Home – my Husband and I have claimed Christmas Day for ourselves. We have a large family, so it is fun to do so. I make a marvelous Christmas meal and we play all day. This year’s menu: Ham, Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes, Broccoli Salad, Stuffing, Garlic Monkey Bread, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie and Pecan Pie. My boys created the menu. (I added the Garlic Monkey Bread.) We have Christmas goodies out on the table all day. And we literally just play. The day is dedicated to playing with our kids and all of their new toys. It is so much fun!
  10. The Dice Game – pretty much everyone has some version of this game. But, on my side of the family, we all buy a gift for the exchange. We put them in the middle of a circle and we pass around some dice; three, five, I’m not sure if it matters. If you roll doubles, you pick a gift and open it. If you don’t roll doubles then you don’t open anything. Play continues until everyone has picked a gift and opened it. Then you set the timer and continue play. This time if you roll doubles you have to exchange your gift with someone else. It is quite fun and very competitive! I can’t tell you how many blankets my 11-year-old has stolen from me over the years playing this game!
  11. 20 Questions – Another game we play on my side of the family. One person buys a gift and wraps it (the person who won the game last year). Then play goes around the circle with everyone asking a question about the gift. They can hold the gift, feel it, shake it, whatever. The questions have to be yes/no answers. If they choose to guess, and they guess wrong, they are out of the game. If they guess right, they get to unwrap it, keep it, and bring a new gift next year.
  12. White Elephant Gift – this is a new tradition, established on my husband’s side of the family. It is a version of the dice game (above) but you have a few options.  You can purchase a gift or bring something from home.  The only “rule” is that it can’t be useless, broken or a food item.  My husband’s family has an amazing sense of humor, however, and the presents are often hilarious!
  13. Cheese Cake – every Christmas, my mom makes two new cheesecakes. We spend the day playing board games, eating, having a delicious meal, and opening gifts. After all the gifts are opened, she brings out two new cheesecakes. We love this tradition, although my husband often wishes she’d bring back some of the old ones she has already made, because they are oh, so good!
  14. Weekend Get-Away – My mom started a new tradition. Rather than give us gifts, every 18 months she takes us somewhere. It ends up being every-other season, meaning it is during the winter one time, then the summer the next, then the winter again. We get together for three, four days, and all stay in a cabin or fancy hotel and just play. It is great!
  15. Hide the Pickle – my boss knows our love of traditions, so she started us on this one.  She gave us a Pickle Christmas Ornament.  On Christmas Morning, we hide it somewhere in the tree.  Whichever child finds it first gets to be the first one to open a present.

Holiday Traditions

Family traditions are important.  And fun.  But it’s hard, when you are newly married, to meld your family traditions with your husband’s.  My husband and I have been doing this for twenty years now, so we’ve got it down!

Not only did we have to find a way to meld our traditions together, but we had to do away with some 🙁 and add new ones.  It’s been trial and error over the years, but I think we have our Christmas traditions established now!

Why are traditions so important?  The same reason why everything else is so important – because it builds a relationship with your child.  It is a way to spend time together.

I get told so very many times, and so does my husband, that we are amazing parents.  That our boys are so very awesome.  (They are!) And that they wish there were more kids like our kids in this world.  That kids now-a-days……well, I’m sure you can complete that sentence for me.  It’s one reason why folks have told me I should write a blog.

My husband and I always laugh.  And we have spent some time musing over this.  Why are our kids so amazing?  Most of it, honestly, is their own doing.  It is their own personalities and character that makes them so wonderful.

And we have nothing to do with that – no control over that. Who knows how the youngest three will turn out?!? Will my husband and I still be such good parents if we have one wild child? One little renegade coming up to throw the whole thing off? Because, I think we do! And oddly enough, he is the youngest of all the boys, the youngest twin.

We did, in all of our musings, though, decide that we do stand out from other parents in one simple way. There is one thing we do that we don’t see very many other parents doing.

We make our children the center of our world.

Sound daunting? Well, it’s not. It’s very easy to do. We simply make sure we have their best interest in mind with every decision we make. Jobs, careers, vacations, where we live, weekend get-a-ways, which vehicle we drive, right down to what TV show (if any) is on during the evening and whether or not we are heading out to the bar with a friend. It’s not hard to do. If it’s not going to be good for the kids, we don’t do it.

But the biggest way we make sure our children is the center of our world is we spend time with them. And we spend time together as a family. We do chores together. And of course, we play together. Playing together is our biggest “chore”. It is the most important thing we can do. You have a gynormous to-do list today? Good. Put “play with the kids” at the top. They are number one.

And one way we play with, or spend time with, our children, is through Family Traditions. And we have a lot of them! But one of my favorite is decorating our Christmas Tree. Here is how it is done in our house:

The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. If dad has to work, only lights and tinsel go on it. The rest of the house is decorated, but the tree is left bare until he gets home. Then, cheese, crackers, meat and egg nog are served. Christmas music is played. And the kids all have their very first present to open up – a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament.

I’ve been buying them for twenty years now. It started out I bought one for my husband and I each Christmas. When we moved out of our parents’ houses, we didn’t have ornaments of our own. So I bought a new one, commerating our year, each year. After the kids were born, I stopped doing it for us and started doing it for them. They get a new ornament every year, and that ornament somehow symbolizes that past year for them. When they are 18, it will end. Then, when they set up their first tree, they will have at least 18 ornaments to put on that tree. And each ornament will have meaning.

So we have Blues Clues, Thomas the Tank Engine, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Vikings, kitties, puppies, sports, and just plain silly ones, like the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The kids all each have their own tote, and as they decorate the tree, they go through their memories. You hear a lot of “Oh I remember this one! This is when…..” And I love it. It has gotten to the point, now, where I don’t do the decorating. They handle it all. It has also gotten to the point that our tree is so overloaded I’m surprised it stays standing! Six new ornaments every year…… plus, family members know our tradition, so we often get new ornaments from them as well. My kids will have the best trees ever when they get married! 🙂

I wrap their ornament in “their” wrapping paper for the season. Each year, they each have their own wrapping paper. For example, one twin has kitty wrapping paper this year, and the other has penguin. This is because one twin has a love for kitties. My oldest has Star Wars. (We have had a lot of Star Wars over the years.) This started when they couldn’t read. It was how they knew each present was theirs. They had their own paper. (I quit when they all could read, and we had a coupe at our house that year!)

So they each have their own paper, and they have to guess which paper is theirs. Of course, I try to buy paper that also represents their personalities. That makes it a little easier for them. If they guess wrong, the next kid goes. If they guess right, they get to open their ornament. It is the first ornament they put on the tree. And of course, we take a picture.

And that is how we decorate the tree at our house! The ornament at the top of my website is my three-year-old’s Baby’s First Christmas Ornament.  🙂