Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions 2011: How to make chore lists for kids

My final Examiner post this year is on How to make chore lists for the kids. Happy New Year and here’s to helping our kids to become independent contributors to society…starting at home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Five Barbie Dolls

Every year on the Eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the children write a letter to Saint Nicholas and put it in their stockings. This is an Austrian tradition I found in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Van Trapp.

In the letter, they must say that they have tried to be good all year. Then they ask for their top five wishes, promising to be good in the future. Although they hand me a longer list around Thanksgiving (so I can get a jump on my shopping), this makes them really think about what they want the most, and why.

They also know they have to be reasonable. My second daughter would love to have her own real live African elephant; but she knows this is not possible, so perhaps she will ask for a stuffed elephant. This teaches them to really hone their expectations, a skill that will prove invaluable one day when they have to negotiate salaries or contracts. Most of the time they will get everything on their “top five”, as well as some of the things from the longer list.

My 12-year-old helped my 4-year-old to write her list. Top on the list was: “Five Barbie dolls”. When I asked her, “Why five?” she could not explain. Every day she would tell me to please make sure Santa got her the five Barbie dolls. “Nobody needs five Barbie dolls,” I thought, and bought her one Ballerina Barbie.

The week before Christmas, my 12-year-old was playing Santa with her. “Do you really need five Barbie dolls? Won’t one do?” she asked, at my request.

“Well, maybe two?”

“Okay. I think you can have two.”

The day before Christmas Eve, we were all hanging around, thinking everything was done. Then a story came out.

It sounded like a version of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “And Then There Were None”. Apparently, over the summer, her five Barbie dolls suffered some rather cruel fates at the hands of some visitors, ending with the decapitation of the last doll, whose head our poor preschooler found floating in the toilet bowl. I was horrified.

“I have to run to the store,” I told my husband. He understood.

I walked into the store, cart-less, hoping to get through the crowds easily and get out of there. I picked out two more Ballerina Barbies…four sleds (“good sled” was on everyone’s longer list)…toothpaste, soap, a dog bone, and three other small toys.

So there I stood in line along with everyone else, shopping at the last minute, with exactly twelve items balanced in my arms on the non-moving 12-item Express Line at Wal-mart.

I entertained the women around me with my tale of why I was there.

“I hope she enjoys her Barbies,” said one, “My daughter used to make her Barbie be the teacher with a bunch of crayons being her students…now she’s a teacher.”

“She talks about me like I’m not even here!” her daughter exclaimed.

Christmas morning came and the three Barbies danced along with Angelina Ballerina and Strawberry Shortcake’s friend Rasberry Torte. They got along just fine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Loren Christie's Blog

Today a local newspaper attributed my blog title to my good friend Loren Christie. Her blog is called Dude Where Am I? and can be found here. Loren recently put all her stories together into a book I hope God is laughing: Confessions of an imperfect parent that is now available on Loren is an excellent writer and her stories about raising three kids are hilarious. This book would make a great gift for yourself or any mother.

Celebrate the Whole Christmas Season

While Honey was at the vet getting spayed, Thumper got loose and explored under the Christmas Tree. Click here to see my Examiner column on how and why families can celebrate the entire Christmas Season (at least until Little Christmas).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Doing-it-all”: the Bare Minimum Approach

Today I am baking for my Christmas baby: a cake to celebrate at home, and cupcakes to bring to batting practice and school. With my four-year-old helping, I started pouring the first batch into the pans before realizing I had forgotten to put the eggs in. I went through a dozen eggs trying to make three batches of my egg white cake without getting any yolk in.

I didn’t make my Christmas houses this year – or my gingerbread – or my banana bread. And it’s okay. We finished our Nutcracker story ornaments and have been working on our Jesse tree symbols. Even that is touch-and-go. With sports after school, sometimes I can’t get the whole family together to do that, so on other days we will catch up by doing one scripture and symbol per child.

They also wrote their letters to St. Nicholas, which they put in their stockings on the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. Finally, we have our advent bead boxes. There are different colors to represent different types of good deeds; the children tell us what they did and they get beads to put in their boxes, which they offer to Jesus by placing them under the tree on Christmas Eve.

The older the kids and I get, the more I realize that you can leave a lot of stuff out – it is in the way that you do things that really matters. I can’t bake for every class party, but if I do I do it out of love. I can’t be at every one of their sporting events – now that they are all at different places doing different things – but they know I do my best to see each of them do their thing, and when I am there I am completely “present”, eating up every pitch, play, or move they make.

It’s also tricky toeing the line on how visible they want me to be, although they all want me there. My four-year-old wants me at the door of her ballet class watching every step, often photographing and videotaping. My nine-year-old is okay if I’m not there, but he prefers knowing that either his dad or I saw it if he had a good hit or pitched a great game. My twelve-year-old won’t admit that she cares if we are there or not, but she does. My fourteen-year-old can now go to sporting events on the school bus, but she begs me to go see her if I can. She smiles when she sees me show up, but then shoos me away, signaling for me to keep my distance.

“Doing it all” suddenly becomes a lot more doable when you aren’t really doing it all – just doing the really essential things right (or as close to right as you can make it).

Luke 12: 25-26
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan?
If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?

Friday, December 10, 2010

“Little Star” by Anthony DeStefano

If you are looking for an original, Christ-centered Christmas picture book, then “Little Star” by Anthony DeStefano might just be the one for you.

A little boy is looking out his window for the Christmas star and his father tells him why he cannot see it in the sky. He tells the tale of a little star who is often overlooked by the bigger stars. They are all talking about the upcoming birth of Jesus. When the great event occurs, the little star puts forth all of his energy to cast light upon the infant Jesus to keep the baby warm and help others to find Him. He burns himself out in the process, but is remembered forever for his place in history.

You can look at this book at many levels. Behind the story in the forefront lies a loving relationship between father and son. Parents who have been sharing the lives of the Saints with their children might also want to talk about the way the little star gave his life for Jesus as did many of the Saints. Children can also be invited to discuss bullying (as displayed by the bigger stars) and using their little talents to glorify God in their own ways.

“My goal was to try to encapsulate the whole gospel message in a simple Christmas story,” said DeStefano. This he has done, and has received rave reviews on and elsewhere.

A few months ago DeStefano’s first children’s book was published - This Little Prayer of Mine. He has also written a couple of bestselling non-fiction books — A Travel Guide to Heaven, and Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To — both published by Doubleday. You Tube has a video of Pat Boone reading the new book to a group of children.

With realistic, colorful illustrations of the humans in the story mixed in with the fanciful cartoons of Little Star, Mark Elliott has captured the meaning of the story in a way that will be easily understood by children. My own four-year-old was a little scared of the pictures for some reason, but that is for you decide if you think the paintings will appeal to your children or not.

The author sent me his book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 Reasons to be Thankful for a Cold

Although I suffer from seasonal allergies, I very rarely come down with a full-blown cold. Although no one ever wants to have a cold, the relative discomfort has made me more thankful for my good health. I also felt grateful for the ability to work from home, where my schedule is extremely flexible during the school day.

Most days I keep myself busy from the moment I wake up in the morning until at least midnight. Being sick gave me a good reason to give myself a break, chill out on the couch with my pre-schooler, and treat myself to hot soup and lots of tea. It reminded me that I should really give myself some downtime during the day on a regular basis.

Here are the lovely things I enjoyed while recovering from my cold:

1. A variety of delicious, aromatic, hot herbal teas.

2. Hot, sleep-inducing chicken noodle soup.

3. A nap on the couch curled up with my pre-schooler and growing puppy.

4. Baking rolled shaped Christmas cookies with the kids on their day off for
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

5. Watching Peanuts videos with the kids on their day off; laughing at Snoopy’s antics and trying to figure out why Charlie Brown always loses his clothes after every pitch.

6. Reading dog-training books.

7. Catching up on our Jesse Tree scripture readings.

8. Wearing comfy sweats and oversized sweaters.

9. Reading Christmas books.

10. Staying home from the stores.

Of course, the best part is the recovery: suddenly realizing I can breathe freely, that my head doesn’t hurt, not having to blow my nose every five minutes.

I wish my readers good health through Advent and Christmas. If you should come down with a cold or something worse, try to make the best of it!