How To Celebrate Holidays And Birthdays As A Family

Some suggestions with input from moms and dads in the know, on how to celebrate the upcoming holidays…

MANAGE TO ENJOY THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

The holidays can be so manic, that they really do require some management to really get the most enjoyment out of your time, money, and sanity. Here are some tips to help you manage these 3 elements.

Start seriously thinking about Christmas on Nov 1st. Make a list of what activities your family would really like to do to celebrate. Ask the other members of your family and be sure that everyone is heard. Schedule on the calendar those that are most important and time sensitive.

Think about which activities are not adding a lot of enjoyment to your holiday. Are there some activities you should be removing from your list? For example, we used to cut down our tree every year and loved doing so…….then we had kids. We invited one set of grandparents to come along to help out with the babies, but invariably one of them cried through the entire thing. We gave up after 2 years of hanging on to this tradition that was no longer working and we couldn’t be happier. Now, we drive out to a beautiful nursery just outside of town, buy one of those beautiful fir trees that keeps it needles forever! And we spend the rest of the day getting on the lights and decorations. It has gone from a two-day job to a one-day job and everyone is happier.

Plan to be active. Everyone needs to get some exercise and/or fresh air in order to feel good. Plan activities to get your family out and moving, or schedule some gym time for yourself. This is a great way to avoid the crabbiness associated with too much togetherness.

Plan your treats. Christmas can mean an extra 5 lb or more to many adults. Planning which treats you will indulge, and which you can live without will help you to minimize that holiday bulge.

Plan at least one Sunday afternoon (or another quiet day) in November or December making homemade cards or gifts. It’s relaxing, it’s quality family time, and your friends and family will be delighted to receive the gift of your time and creativity.

Really plan out your gift buying. Not only will you spend less, but you’ll be much happier with the gifts you get. Start with a spreadsheet on paper or on the computer. Write down all the names you buy gifts for, including hostess gifts for the season, and write a separate section for any stockings you may be stuffing. Then beside each name, write the gift and the price you paid. Last year I was unimpressed with the stocking stuffers I had for my husband. Since I have started the spreadsheet system in November this year, I already have better gifts and I know I’ll spend less because I won’t be overcompensating for how un-creative they were (like last year!) With the kids, writing down the stocking items also signals you when to stop buying and to keep things equitable among siblings. You really don’t need more than 6 items in one stocking, do you? If you plan your hostess gifts, you can pick up some great items on sale rather than spend a fortune at the florist on the way to their house.

Take some time to do some menu planning. Often we spend all our time and energy thinking about cooking Christmas dinner, and forget that we have to eat the rest of the week. Of course, if you are hosting, you should plan a large enough turkey for a couple of days of delicious leftovers. And for when those run out, plan some easy to make dinners so you can get in some extra relaxing time over the holidays. Crock pot meals such as stews and chilis are great in the winter months. Pasta with meat or vegetarian sauce, homemade pizza or macaroni and cheese, roasted chicken and potatoes are fairly easy to make comfort foods that your family will enjoy. Another idea, is to make a freeze-ahead casserole earlier in December. Find a recipe that makes two, one to eat the day you make, and the other to tuck into the freezer for the holidays. Lasagnas are great example of this kind of meal. If you spend extra time on your menu planning and grocery list, you can limit your visits to the grocery store to once per week.

Put a little extra focus on your family’s health. Many people spend a good chunk of December and January sick with a virus or other illness. Invest some extra time into getting lots of sleep, avoiding sugar and taking your vitamins. This will boost your immune system so you can fight off what is going around. While you are doing your grocery list, do stock up on your cold and flu supplies: 3-ply tissues, throat lozenges, over-the-counter medications, menthol body rub, chicken soup, whatever else you might need. Are your humidifiers ready to go?

Put up your Christmas decorations on the last weekend of November. The tree can be done a separate day if you like (it’s a big job). The rest can go up in November and you won’t be doing everything in December. Plus the longer they’re up, the more worth it it feels.

Schedule one full day to clean the house (or if you are lucky enough to afford it, hire a cleaner to do so). Figure out how where the timing works out the best for your family and get it on the calendar. Perhaps when the kids are in their last day of school is a good time for you? Whenever it is, commit, and do not move it.

I hope this list helps you to manage your holidays to be enjoyable. If you have something to add, please post a comment, we’d love to hear it!

FAMILY CHRISTMAS CRAFT ACTIVITIES

Mother And Children Making Christmas Cards Together

Time has become the most precious thing most of us have, and so homemade cards and packaging are becoming more and more appreciated. Do you remember the last time you received a hand written letter in the mail?

CHRISTMAS CARDS

Children of almost any age will enjoy making special cards for loved ones using age appropriate tools and supplies.
Using construction paper or card stock as a base, gather your collection of washable kid’s craft supplies. If your children are toddlers and you haven’t yet started your craft bin, here are a few suggestions for you. The dollar store is a great place to purchase your supplies, but be sure they are washable. It is worth the small investment for name brand washable markers such as Crayola, as you’ll be able to wash them off walls, out of clothing, etc. This is true for glue, paint and glitter glue. My daughter once ruined an expensive Christmas outfit because another parent had supplied craft time with dollar store glitter glue and it was not washable — not one bit.

For things that are dry, the dollar store is a great place to find large beads, foam shapes, cut-out shapes, coloured felt, fabric pieces, yarn, paper, glitter sparkles, confetti, tinsel, you name it! Your child might enjoy helping to choose some of these items.
Older children will use a lot some of the same materials, but teens will gravitate toward more sophisticated papers, cutting tools, paint and glue with fine brushes, stencilling materials, scrapbooking materials, and so on. Many of these you can also find at the dollar store, or your local craft centre.

Your teens may also be interested in using the computer to design Christmas cards using photos (no glitter glue in sight!) There are so many great sites out there that will allow you to use your family photos to create custom Christmas cards. When we had children, this became a big hit with our family. With these cards, you don’t need to hand-write notes in every card to make it feel personal. It is already personal because it features your family’s picture, plus everyone wants a picture of the kids anyway, right? Many families put their address lists on the computer and simply update each year and print out labels. What could be faster? Some of these sites will actually mail out your cards for you.

Here are just a few of many examples where you (or your teen) can go online, and have a blast creating and customizing your family’s holiday cards. Most sites create your order with a couple of days, and ship to you within 3 days, or faster if you’d like to pay for express shipping. Cards come in any number of fun styles even retro, and you can use more than one photo image on your card. Size, style, paper, colours, envelopes, design all are up to you. How much fun is that? Check out some of these sites for yourself, or search your internet browser for photo Christmas card.
www.shutterfly.com
www.tinyprints.com
www.simplytoimpress.com
www.photocardsdirect.com
www.cardstore.com
www.kodakgallery.com

Whether you are designing a card online, or creating homemade cards with glue and paper, the most challenging dilemma is often – what to print inside the card? Let us help. We’ve combed the internet for a few of the very best, family friendly, easily usable verses and poems to print inside your very special cards.

CHRISTMAS CARD VERSES

Wishing you happiness that fills your heart and home all the year through. Happy holidays!
Warm thoughts and best wishes for a magical Christmas and wonderful New Year.
May joy and happiness snow on you, may the bells jingle for you and may Santa be good to you! Merry Christmas!
May the joy of your Christmas last all through the New Year.
Wishing you a season of blessings from heaven above. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
May your Christmas be filled with happiness, love and laughter.
May the warmth of Christmas fill your heart and home with joy.
Wishing you the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love at Christmas and always.
May your home be filled with warmth and good cheer, this holiday season and throughout the year.
Wishing you the joy of family, the happiness of friends and the love of Christmas.
Wishing you the warmth of home, the love of family and the company of good friends this holiday season.
Very best wishes for the Christmas holidays and a sparkling, magical New Year!
May the holidays make your dreams come true and may the love you share throughout the year return a hundred-fold to you.

CHRISTMAS CARD POEMS

The Gift of Knowing You

The Christmas season fills our hearts with joy;
Bright, happy days bring special kinds of pleasure.
We’re wrapped in the excitement of it all,
The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes we treasure.
Yet when we have some quiet time to think
About our finest blessings all year through,
We focus on our family and our friends,
And appreciate the gift of knowing you!
(Author – Joanna Fuchs)

My Christmas Wish For You

My Christmas wish for you, my friend
Is not a simple one
For I wish you hope and joy and peace
Days filled with warmth and sun

I wish you love and friendship too
Throughout the coming year
Lots of laughter and happiness
To fill your world with cheer

May you count your blessings, one by one
And when totalled by the lot
May you find all you’ve been given
To be more than what you sought

May your journeys be short, your burdens light
May your spirit never grow old
May all your clouds have silver linings
And your rainbows pots of gold

I wish this all and so much more
May all your dreams come true
May you have a Merry Christmas friend
And happy New Year, too.

(Author – Ruth Kephart)

CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING PAPER

Making homemade Christmas paper is a great family craft for kids 2 years and up. Keep in mind that you will need a drying rack of some floor space to leave the paper to dry.
Toddlers and preschoolers especially love making homemade wrapping paper. Simply buy a pad of newsprint with large sheets, or a roll of brown kraft paper, or white poster paper. Prepare yourself (and your home) for some washable mess and arm the kids with sponge cutout shapes, waterbased paint squeezed onto paper plates, and let them go. My little guy who “hates crafts”, cannot resist driving a couple of mini-tractors through red and green paint and onto the paper, then presents his gifts so proudly. If you’re working with a two-year-old, the end result might not be as perfect as you might like, but with some matching ribbon and bows, it’ll look great.
For older children and teens, you can get into stencilling, block painting, they can carve their own potatoes and do potato stamping, gold foiling, you name it. Actually, I remember that I used to make my own wrapping paper even before I had kids. I had these great foam stamps and I would stamp green and gold trees on brown kraft paper and finish with green and gold ribbon. Apparently you don’t even need a family for this family craft activity.

CHRISTMAS PICTURES AND FRAMES

One last suggestion for your family craft day is to take homemade artwork, pictures of Christmas, photos of your family, or Christmas poems and have your children create a frame and decorate the frame. The framed artwork becomes a Christmas decoration or a gift.

CELEBRATE EASTER

  1. Enjoy nature. For younger children, have an Easter egg hunt. The kids can make or decorate their own egg hunting baskets beforehand. Slightly older children might enjoy a scavenger hunt, or a hike in the woods.
  2. Create a spring-themed table center piece. The age of your children will direct you as far as what kind of materials to use. Toddlers can decorate plastic eggs with stickers and put them in an Easter basket. Preschoolers may want to glue feathers or silk flowers to the base of your centrepiece. Tweens and teens will appreciate working with potting soil, collecting stones and choosing fresh spring bulbs at the garden center to plant a living centerpiece.
  3. Host a brunch for friends or family. Choose a simple menu with recipes that can be made ahead of time. Enlist your family to help prepare the food. Children love to bake and help in kitchen, especially for a special occasion.

Celebrate Easter with nature. Go for a family hike; create a nature-inspired table centre piece and don’t forget the eggs!

EASY MAKE AHEAD MENU FOR EASTER BRUNCH
Overnight egg strata
Homemade muffins or scones
Baked ham
Honeyed fruit and yoghurt parfaits

 

CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY

  1. Give mom a spa day – either at the spa or at home. This gift can be as upscale and glamorous as you like (new bathrobe, bath or manicure tools, lotions, perfumes, nailpolish, etc), or you can simply give her something small like bath salts and a coupon for two hours of quiet time to complete her spa experience.
  2. Give mom a clean house. Clean it yourself, or hire a person or company to do the work.
  3. Give mom a break from cooking. Let the kids help to make homemade pizzas, or order something from Mom’s favourite restaurant.
  4. Pause for tea. Involve the children in preparing a “fancy” tea party for mom with her favorite tea, and some cookies or pastries from the local bakery or farmer’s market. You could even invite Grandma.
  5. Make something special. Have the kids make a special craft to present to Mom on Mother’s Day. If your children are under the age of 3, crafts with kiddie handprints make especially treasured gifts. And if you’re not feeling crafty, take and develop some special photos and present them to her in a purchased or homemade frame. She will love it!

Let the kids help to plan a special Mother’s Day for Mom or Grandma.


CELEBRATE FATHER’S DAY

Help dad wash the car this Father’s Day.

  1. Have a ball.  Grab your soccer ball, football, baseball, or whatever you’re into as a family and hit the park. Or maybe, you’d rather go fly a kite.
  2. Give dad a clean car or garage. Help dad clean out and wash his car, or the garage.
  3. Hand dad the barbeque tongs – and let him grill up some of his favorite burgers, sausages, steaks, or whatever. If the weather is sunny, plan to eat al fresco. (And if dad is the main meal-maker in the house, give him the night off and order take out.)
  4. It’s a matter of taste – and it may not be yours, but, for today, let Dad pick the music. And stop complaining so he can actually hear it.
  5. Make something special. Perhaps the kids could decorate a plain canvas barbeque apron, or fashion Dad his own crown for the day?