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Category: holiday drama

10 Tips for Surviving the Family Road Trip

Rules for a Family Road Trip

As Spring Break approaches, I’m reminded of the nostalgic family road trip. As a child, I don’t remember a single vacation that was not taken on the highways of America.

When our holidays rolled around, we rolled out of the driveway in our simulated wood-paneled wagon, which was awkwardly hitched to the pop-up camper. Today, people fly, and the family road trip has slipped in popularity along with the fondue parties and potluck dinners of yesteryear. I say we bring it back.

But first, you need to be prepared. Thus…

Top 10 Tips For Surviving a Modern Day Family Road Trip:

1. Don’t Leave the Directions to Dad, Leave Them to the GPS
The problem with dads isn’t that they don’t have good directional skills. It’s that if they get lost, they have too much pride to admit that they don’t have good directional skills. Your father might knowingly drive 1500 miles in the wrong

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood…

snow picture

Why Moms Shouldn’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Mom Resolutions New Year

 

As a new year rolls around, I have some hard-won advice for moms making New Year’s resolutions: Just stop. Don’t do it. It’s a bad idea. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Instead, take a look at your day-to-day life: packing lunches, paying bills, doing laundry, potty training, the baby’s nap, breakfast, clean up, lunch, clean up, dinner, clean up, dry cleaning, phone calls, and on and on.

Obviously, Moms shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Here are the top eight reasons why:

1)  You’re already bombarded with everyone’s schedules and goals—you don’t need a new set for yourself.

2) If you’re talking fitness, moms do more lifting than most. Up the stairs with 35 pounds of screaming toddler, and down the stairs with 15 pounds of baby.

3) If you want to set a goal to get more sleep, that’s a very bad idea. You’ll never make this goal—not for 18+ years.

4)

Queen Esther Wins Purim

Queen-Esther-Wins-Purim-Do-Try-This-at-Home

My Favorite Things

brown paper packages

When I was little, a “lonely only” (just my mama and me for a long time), I think I realized we didn’t have a lot of money. But, boy, we were rich in all the ways that mattered.

I still have the giant stocking she sewed for me when I was a baby and filled to the brim each year by scrimping and saving all year and hiding things in her closet. If my house were burning down and everyone was safe, it’d be one of the first things I’d grab to save. My birthday and Christmas gifts were few and usually not expensive, but they were thoughtful and wrapped more prettily than any department store could ever manage.

Tonight I wrapped Christmas Eve PJs for my tinies–something my mom did for me every single year even after I went to college. They are in brown paper packages tied up with string,

Cowie Comes Home for Christmas

photo by Dorothy ODonnell

My daughter was three when she fell hard for a little black-and-white stuffed cow. Sadie and Cowie went everywhere together. To school and the park. To restaurants and birthday parties. At Disneyland, Sadie bombed down the Matterhorn clutching Cowie. At night, she slept with Cowie tucked under her chin.

We don’t know any Scottish people. But through Sadie, Cowie channeled a delightful brogue and a sassy personality. I got used to hearing her chuckle first thing in the morning and soon found myself talking to her like she was a member of the family.

“What do you want for breakfast, Cowie?”

“Me Cowie wants chocolate!” was the standard reply.

One day, a few weeks before Christmas, when Sadie was five, Cowie vanished.

She was with us when we stopped at Starbucks, cheerily informing the barista that the milk for my latte came from her udders. But when we pulled into our driveway, Cowie was gone.

A

Thank You Stepmothers

Thank you stepmothers

To all stepmothers. Well, most, because some of you really may be wicked, but for the rest of you, those just beginning your role, those who have been doing it for years and those who put in the time and continue to be an endearing part our lives:

Thank you.

Thanks for not running for the hills when I glared at you like you were a monster. I was just confused, scared and shell shocked. Here was some strange woman coming into my life at a time when I didn’t know who to trust in my own house. And man, I didn’t make your job easy, that’s for sure. But you hung in there. And now look at us, we can laugh about it. Right?

Thanks for loving me. After all, I was just extra baggage that came with that man you were dating. You didn’t have to be so nice to me

Christmas Star

Christmas Star

How A Stingray Saved My Vacation

Photo by: Darren Johnson

I will admit I did terrible job packing for my family’s week-long Thanksgiving vacation. As the designated momager to four small children and a husband, I am in charge of wardrobe planning and activity bag packing. Along with clothes and shoes, there are medications, special blankies and outdoor activity gear.

If you’re a mom, you know this packing job sucks.

I was utterly uninspired for the packing tasks that lie ahead for this trip. I shoved long-sleeved clothes in for everyone. I packed those imitation Uggs. There were winter coats, sweaters and jeans included. I even packed myself these ridiculous flannel leggings and a wool sweater instead of my bathing suit.

The problem was, we weren’t going to Minnesota for Thanksgiving–we were going to Los Angeles. The weather was supposed to be in the 80’s all week. The sad part is that I was privy to the weather report for the week and

Tree Trimming

tree trimming

Ah, the Memories

Christmas presents

It was Bridget, the blond girl up the road, who did me in. After Christmas we would take a walk that passed by her house. In response to, “How was your Christmas?” she’d roll off a list of new acquisitions, all of which, I knew, had been wrapped in shiny paper that was immediately thrown in the trash.

In our house there were gifts under a tree—a small tree, because “we don’t want such a big thing.” When we unwrapped presents we carefully peeled back the tape to preserve the paper, then folded it back along its existing lines, so it could be used again next year. This wasn’t paper we had ever bought; it has been saved from some long-ago offering from a cousin.

My sister, who was as sentimental as my mother was practical, spaced her gifts out, taking breaks to sigh and reassess in between. The

Agreement Between Homeowner and Elf on the Shelf

Antique Elf Figurine

A binding letter of agreement between THE HOMEOWNER (henceforth: “HOMEOWNER”) and THE ELF OF THE SHELF (henceforth: “ELF”)
I, HOMEOWNER, pledge the following:

To dutifully dig you out of the box every year if not on the exact day after Thanksgiving, within a reasonable amount of time thereafter.
To give you a cutesy, elf-appropriate name and to entertain, but not be bound by, your suggestions on this matter.
To read your accompanying book to my children without irony or eye-rolling so they are appropriately informed about your role in their lives and suitably enchanted and impressed by your so-called connection to Santa.
To do my best to make sure you remain out of reach of all household pets.
Not to pose you in an embarrassing/demeaning/inappropriate manner (the terms “embarrassing” “demeaning” and “inappropriate” to be defined by mutual agreement of the parties in an addendum to this letter).
To take you to the stupid Elf Hospital if, despite my best efforts, someone ends up touching you.
You, ELF, pledge the following:

To stay where I have placed you and absolutely, under no circumstances, sneak up on me (or any member of this household) while we are
sleeping.
Not to look at me in that creepy way (you are here to keep an eye on the kids. The KIDS. Not me.)

Your Year in Review

year in review clock

How was 2013 for you? Did you have a baby, a kindergartener, a teen? Even though it’s natural to focus on your child’s milestones, take a moment to look at yourself: what did you do differently this past year that made life easier/richer/fuller?

We’re borrowing the end-of-year prompts from the blog Three31 and turning it over to you.

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Mama, Do You Believe in Santa Claus?

santa-caught

“Mama, Do You Believe in Santa Claus?”

What was I to do, being a mindful parent who had pledged never to lie to my children? How was I supposed to answer when my ex-husband’s new wife had given Santa gifts last year and I’d chastised her (I chastised my ex, but of course, he hadn’t shopped or wrapped; he had a new wife.)

If we’re being honest to our kids about Santa, we ruin a childhood fantasy. If we lie to them, we’ll later be pillaged and used as an example anytime our children do something we’ve told them not to. As my mother would have said, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

So there I was on Christmas, when my son was six and my daughter was three, celebrating at my sister’s house (yes, I dad haul all the presents). My son was mopey. He’d play with gifts,

Plan a Strategic Santa Response

photo by Kevin Dooley

1) Answer every Santa-related question with a question, and however your kid answers, go with it:

How do YOU think he gets down the chimney?…Wow! I never even imagined he gets Floo Powder from elves in the the wizarding world! That makes such perfect sense!

2) When that doesn’t work, say you don’t know:

Well, I’ve

Up Goes the Star

The Star Goes Up

This One!

girl with Christmas Tree

Big Kid, Big Pumpkin

big kid big pumpkin

Zombie Monster Pumpkin Cake!

Halloween cake

Happy Halloween! A photo of my girl taking 2nd place in the school Halloween bake off  with her “Zombie Monster Pumpkin Creation,” aka Cake.

One Sweet Plan

Halloween candy list

At first they just hid their Halloween loot, ostensibly in a place I wouldn’t find it. Those poor, sweet, delusional children of mine.

Then they resorted to taking an inventory and making a detailed list noting each piece of candy — down to the very last, awful, ugly Mary Jane. (As if I’d stoop to steal, much less ingest, one of those. Jeez, kids, give me SOME credit.)

Eventually they landed on a winning solution to keep me from snagging their sweets. Those savvy, sweet, resourceful children of mine…

One Sweet Plan

“Trick or treat!” my kids both yell
as they approach a door.
And when it opens, they recite
A speech not heard before: