Santa Claus and Hanukkah Harry?

I’m conflicted.  Now that Cooper is 21/2 years old, he’s capable of understanding things more and more every day.  That is a good thing but when it comes to the “winter” holidays, it is becoming more of a feat each day to teach him and help him understand that he celebrates two holidays.

I am Jewish and my husband is Catholic. Neither of us is practicing, however we cling to our family traditions and want Cooper to understand he is lucky enough to celebrate the traditions and celebrations of not one, but two special holidays – Christmas and Hanukkah.

My husband explains to Cooper that Santa Claus comes on Christmas Eve to bring little boys and girls gifts so when they awaken on Christmas morning, there will be gifts under the tree.  As Shakespeare would say, “Aye, there’s the rub.”  I am left to explain how Hanukkah began and how there was only a tiny amount of oil left for the Menorah but miraculously it lasted eight days.  Hanukkah is celebrated with a gift on each of the eight nights and we play the dreidel and have latkes and jelly doughnuts. I don’t have a symbolic context, like Santa Claus, to physically show Cooper.  I guess there is always the gloriously made up character, Hanukkah Harry courtesy of Jon Lovitz on an old SNL sketch, but it’s just not the same thing as Santa Claus. Sure there is now the Mensch on the Bench to sit next to the Elf on the Shelf but it doesn’t work for me  I might just have to use Hanukkah Harry in the future because that is something that is fun and amusing to me.

Whatever the case may be, I don’t want Cooper to lose the importance and gratitude he should feel throughout the year and especially at this time. It’s not about the presents as much as it is being grateful for what you have and what you can give.  When my mom recently visited, we took the change Cooper had collected in his weekly Tzedakah (charity) box and took it, along with a big bag of dog food, to the animal shelter.  Dogs and saving homeless animals are a passion of ours and we want Cooper to understand that animals cannot speak for themselves and if we can help, it is important that we do.  I have also taken Cooper to Goodwill and we donated his old clothes and toys and I did my best to explain how this helps little boys and girls who might not have enough clothes to wear.  I am the last person who is preachy, I’m just trying to educate him to the best of my abilities to remember that this season may be about receiving presents but if he can also learn to give back his time to help others in need, that would make us immensely happy too.

And now back to our regularly scheduled show…

As someone who loves watching a good sitcom, it’s tempting to wish ones’ life functioned the same way: The day would start with me coming down the stairs fully made up with a glorious sense of confidence to match my chic outfit. Breakfast would be made, no less by Alice from The Brady Bunch, and the house would be clean and would stay clean. Cooper would want something other than a waffle and my hubby would greet me with a funny line that would follow with a delicious laughtrack. Cut to my real life: I run down the stairs sweating after my shower in black pants which need to be either hemmed or thrown away. My girdle is cutting off all of my circulation. The dogs are barking and won’t stop. There is no Ann B.Davis as ‘Alice’ nor is there the delicious laugh track.  Perhaps what keeps me going each day is the promise of these things along with the hopes that everything will wrap up in a neat bow in 22 minutes. For now I shall keep dreaming but somewhere…somehow…I know there is a catchy theme song literally calling my name!

Pinterest Picks: Winter Break Crafts

Winter Break is right around the corner and that means LOTS of time alone with your kids asking “what are we doing today?”

Fill in those days with some winter break crafts!

So far, these are the ones we’ve done:

Name Recognition Lights 

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                     Pinterest version                                                                    My version

I cut the lights out (freehand) out of construction paper and drew the bases of the lights with permanent marker. I took a piece of paper and folded and cut it in half and drew a squiggly line for the lights.

Then, I gave them glue sticks and let them go to town.

Lights (Patterns for older kids)

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        Pinterest Version                                      My version

I found this idea here and she used wine corks for the paint, but I had Do-A-Dot art pens laying around and used those! Much easier and less to clean up afterwards!

Cutting Practice trees

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     Pinterest version                                      My version

This one was super easy: Just draw triangle-shaped trees on a green piece of construction paper and let the kids cut them out! My girls actually used the Do-A-Dot makers again since they were laying around and “decorated” the trees.

With all the crafting, your kids are bound to get hungry. So, in addition to our crafts, here are some Pinterest picks for some holiday snacks and food:

Rudolph pancakes

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                   Pinterest version.                                                     My version

I buy pre-made frozen chocolate chip and mini pancakes just for breakfasts like these!

I bought a HUGE bag of holiday M&Ms (which I’ve read I can save and use the red ones for Valentine’s Day and the green ones for St. Patrick’s Day).

I used one red M&M for the nose, two chocolate chips for the eyes and pretzel sticks broken up for the antlers.

Muddy Buddies

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           Pinterest version                                               My version 

Did you know you can buy these pre-made now?! Genius!

I just dumped a bag of muddy buddies, holiday M&Ms and pretzel sticks in a gallon sized Ziplok baggie and mixed it up!

Ruldolph PBJ

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Pinterest version                                 My version

Once again, red M&M and two chocolate chips for the face!

I’ve pretty much figured out that if I put 3 pieces of candy on anything, my kids will eat it ALL!

I cut the shape with my butter knife (it was supposed to be a heart-shape) and put mini pretzels in between the bread.

And just for some LOLZ and to show you that everything doesn’t always turn out just like Pinterest, here is my Pinterest FAIL!

Snowman pancakes 

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Pinterest version                                           My version

I had seen this lady’s post on a cute snowman breakfast and tried to replicate it.

She used mini chocolate chips and apparently, mine are enormous.

I used 3 green M&Ms for the buttons and pretzel sticks for the arms. Mini marshmallows for the snow beneath the feet.

Then, it went terribly wrong. I didn’t have anything cute to use for the nose. I attempted to use a candy corn, but then my snowman just looked like a penguin!

Oh well, the kids still ate them!

Happy Winter Break!

 

 

Don’t forget about us.

When you have kids, so many things change.

The one thing that you don’t expect to change however, are your friends.

Your whole life you and and your best buds have daydreamed about weddings, babies, dream homes, the dream career…the list goes on. In those plans, you of course always include your besties, down to the ugly bridesmaid dress and who is going to become “auntie” to the others babies first. Then there are the friends who you meet along the way- the college buds, the co-workers turned BFF, the couple you routinely double date with. No matter which part of life you met in, the friendship is seen as a pretty significant part of your life.

And then life changes. You have a baby, and all of the sudden…where did everyone go?

To parents, our children are the single most important things in our lives. We thrive off of baby smiles, first words, trips to the aquarium and late night cuddles. It seems though that sometimes this equates to being crossed off the invite list to Friday night dinners and adult only events. Its as if babysitters don’t exist, and we aren’t cool anymore.

That has a way of making a Momma- or a Dad- feel pretty crappy, to be honest.

So, friends without kids, here is my message to you from your friends with kids, still here, still loving you as our friends, and still down to go have a few drinks….

I am sorry my kids have quick, sticky hands that grab everything in your perfectly staged home. I remember when mine looked like that, but to be honest I have had to lower my standards.

I am still the same friend that I was before I gave birth- I promise- I may have lost my mind a little bit, but for the most part I still laugh at the same jokes, will gladly throw back 1… or 4 margaritas with you, and can put on something other than leggings and go have a good time.

At the same time, I am not the same. There are 2 little humans relying on me to nurture them, teach them, and love them. What you need to know is that I want you to be a part of that if you are willing.

Even though I am a parent, I still need good, adult fun in my life. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse WILL drive me to insanity if I don’t get out of this house every so often child-free.

Most of all, I am still here. I have not gone anywhere. I have had to reorganize my priorities a little bit. Doctors appointments, sick little noses, and putting my babies to bed every night have definitely taken over the top of the list, but at least you know where to find me !

I want you to know that even if I cannot attend- the invitation matters.

My heart is so full for these little humans I have brought into this world, and by being our friends, I want you to share that joy if you give it a chance.

If you don’t want to hang out with the tiny humans- it’s cool. I really understand, I was you once too. But like I said- we do leave the house. Let us know whats up, there are people we can pay ungodly amounts of money to just so we can go get 2 hours of freedom.

Just don’t forget about us. We still love you, and you are important to us. We need you in our lives too.

 

 

 

You’re Still a Good Mom

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You know you’ve all done it. Maybe you’re lucky and you’ve only had to do it a couple times. But maybe you’re like me and you’ve done it numerous times. No matter how many times you’ve done this, you most likely feel guilt – if not instantly, then maybe as a delayed reaction. So what is “it” exactly?

“It” can be described as the ever-mounting list of things that we, as moms, think we are doing to stunt our children’s full potential, usually because we have fallen short of insane expectations we have built for ourselves. Examples? Too much TV, too many sweets, more educational “toys”, less fast food, more reading, more organic, more sports, less this, and more of that  – the list simply goes on and freaking on. The guilt we feel as mothers is simply exhausting. Why do we do “it” – those things that cause us so much guilt as mothers? Maybe we need a break. Maybe we ran out time or energy – or both. Maybe it was cheaper than the alternative. Whatever the reason – the guilt and self-shaming simply must stop.

perfect-motherWhy? Because you’re a damn good mom – and you are trying your best. If someone were to tell you that they had done something that traditionally you feel guilty about with their kids, you’d be sure to find a positive spin on it, and to remind them that their kids will be ok in spite of the extra hour you let them watch Disney Channel so that they could decompress from a truly horrific work day. You’d definitely find the words to reassure that mom that her kids would one day look back over a sea of memories with her, only to recall fun and wonderful moments despite what may have been going on in the background of their lives.

So you, dear mother who is working her butt off to make sure your kids come out of their childhood with all the qualities a parent could ever ask for, give yourself a big FAT break in life. Stop the fussing. Stop the worrying. Your kids love you – and they will look back at some point and appreciate all you did. Each day is a new day, and if you screw this one up a little, there is the potential to make tomorrow better. Love your kids and family, but just as importantly – remember to love yourself.

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Communication Stages and Your Toddler

I’m not certain it is because I had my only child, Cooper when I was a bit older, 42 to be exact, or if it’s because I lack a certain sense of maturity myself along with an appropriate filter. I am a comedienne and actor and feel my humor and view of the world is what gets me through rough times.  I know “everyone” says that you have to grow up when you have a child but being immature and silly is what keeps me looking much younger than I am, which I am thankful. Instead of  losing that part of me, I have chosen to accept that this is one of the strengths which will help me raise my child and give him a great perspective on life.

One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered with raising Cooper is the different ways of communication come into play. I’ve broken it down into three categories:  How I communicate with Cooper, how Cooper communicates with me and how we, collectively, communicate in public places.

Since Cooper began daycare, at 4 months old, I would use our commuting time in the car to talk to him or sing songs.  I knew he wasn’t capable of retaining much but I continued to do so on a daily basis.  As he began to speak words and slowly string words together, I often found myself acting like Anne Sullivan with her student, Helen Keller, from The Miracle Worker. I would say things very slowly and point and gesture in order to help him sound out words and understand their meaning.  I want to be silly with him and teach him funny words often just to hear how he will say them.

At 21/2, Cooper speaks very well and strings phrases together like a pro.  I realize I can’t take all of the credit because he goes to a wonderful daycare with a lot of interaction with fellow classmates.  Sometimes he will just burst into song (If I hear “Let it go” one more time….) and other times he surprises me with sentences which actually make sense, albeit hurtful at times.  Today, as I put him in his carseat and gave him a little cookie he said, “Go away Mommy” which made me feel super!

I used to laugh at the parents who would communicate loudly with their children in public places. I couldn’t understand why they would do and then look to strangers for a laugh if their child did something that was SO funny (but not really). Guess what I do on a regular basis? I have full on conversations with Cooper in public places, often times so loudly that I’m mortified when I realize that the only reason strangers are looking at me is because my annoying sing-songy voice could be heard from miles away.

“Cooper, I’m using a new eye cream but I’m still going go get Botox eventually.”

“Cooper, sometimes Mommy has to wear her flip-flops after work because she retains water and it makes her feet swell from her big-girl shoes.”

“Cooper, will I ever perform on stage again or is it over for this gal (as I gesture to myself with my thumb)?”

I don’t expect an answer, even though he is grasping an understanding of the English language more and more on a daily basis but a simple affirmation would always be appreciated. I can’t always talk baby talk – it gets so old so quickly. Plus my innate sense and need to entertain brought me to the realization that if I’m going to have full on, often one-sided conversations with my toddler, then at least they should be entertaining.

I hope that Cooper has our sense of humor and continues to be as funny as he is, even if he doesn’t realize what he is doing or saying is funny. I know it isn’t always ideal to encourage him but being funny and silly can make a dark day seem so much better and, while I hope he doesn’t have dark days, at least he will be equipped to handle them and help others too.  Laughing and making others laugh is one of the best gifts I can give him…that is until he says “Go away Mommy” again!

Board Games Every Family Needs

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In our home board games are a major part of our family time. My husband has been gaming for years and has made it a priority to seek out games that we can all enjoy. Finding games that keep everyone’s attention for more than ten minutes can be difficult. During our trial and error phase, some games we attempted to play with our 4 year old had us wanting to rip our hair out. With that being said, the following list contains games we have played and enjoyed without feeling as if we want to murder one another. I also want to add that most of these games have two levels of difficulty and cover all age ranges. We play the difficult variants when our daughter goes to sleep… shhhh don’t tell!

Ravensburger Labyrinth This game is fun for all ages and has two variations of game play. It challenges your child and teaches cause and effect, planning, association, recognition, and taking turns.

The Magic Labyrinth Board Game This game has a fun set up! It is great for challenging your child’s memory.

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Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters This game is a cooperative game. It is quite challenging when playing the more difficult variation. It had my husband and I biting our nails one night. This is a must have for every family. The easier variation is great for kids age 4 and up. It teaches your child to work with others as a team.

Ticket to Ride First Journey This is game is super simple, yet challenging. It teaches children strategy. Ticket to Ride is one of the most popular family games around. This version is targeting the younger children age 4-10. If you love ticket to ride, but want to include your younger children, this is a must have.

Forbidden Island Another fun and intense cooperative game. It teaches strategic thinking, problem solving and cooperation. Our daughter technically is not old enough for this game, but since it is a cooperative game she enjoys “helping” and watching us play. I would say this is great for ages 8 and up.

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Machi Koro This is a city building dice rolling game, much better than monopoly and super fun with 4 people.

Elf on the Shelf Naughty or Nice Board Game When I picked this game up on sale I thought it was going to be lame. Much to my surprise, it is super fun! It is short, sweet and easy. My daughter was playing it at age 3 with no problem. It helps children with counting and is fun and interactive. Many times we end up in a tie, which gives everyone a sense of accomplishment. Even if you don’t partake in the Elf on the Shelf craze, this is still a great game for your family.

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Madeline At the White House Our daughter and her friends love this game. There is no reading involved and is a stand up and play game. You can all play together or against one another. We have a great time with this one. It is also super affordable!

Rhino Hero & Rhino Hero: Super Battle 3D card stacking game that helps with fine motor skills. The first time we played this we were hooked immediately. We could play this game for hours. We have even played it with just adults and that was fun too! This game is perfect for all ages.

 

Carcassonne Tile laying, land & building grabbing strategy game. This is by far my favorite game of all time. It can be extremely complex or simple. There are many expansions. When we play with our 6-year-old we leave out most of the expansions. This game says 7+ but my daughter was playing at age 5. There is no reading involved.

No Thank You Evil A tabletop game of make-believe, adventure, and storytelling for creative kids and their families! This game hits any parent that has ever played a role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons right in the FEELS! 

Dragonwood Defeat Dragons with this die rolling game. Change your strategy as the landscape changes too.

King of Tokyo King of Tokyo is a game for 2 to 6 players where you play as mutant monsters, rampaging robots, or even abominable aliens battling in a fun, chaotic atmosphere. Roll the dice and choose your strategy: Will you attack your enemies? Heal your wounds? Improve your Monster? Stomp your path to victory!

King Domino Family strategy game for ages 8 and up. Build the best Kingdom! Domino game with a twist

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Santorini Santorini is a strategy-based board game that’s exhilarating and intellectually challenging! Play together and make family game night even more fun. Play against an opponent or team up and play two against two. Race to build your way to the top of a stack of blocks! Use builder pieces and move one space in any direction.

Hive These are domino like tiles. This is a great strategy game. It is a tile laying strategy game much like chess.

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I hope that you and your family buy at least one of these games and enjoy them as much as our family does. If you would like to demo any games there is an awesome new game store in town called CoolStuffGames Tampa  . They have a wall of games you can play right in store. My husband takes my daughter just about every Sunday for a few hours. They sell snacks and drinks. The staff is super friendly and knowledgable. Best part is their prices are competitive and comparable to Amazon.

If you have any questions about any of these games, feel free to private message me. I would be happy to help.

Happy Gaming!!!!

Suzette Foister

SHAM, Wife, Homeschooler, Artist/Owner of Bring Your Own Canvas

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