Tis the Season to be Jolly?

By Lisa Van Meeteren

Tis’ the season to be jolly….yeah right…you can tell that little “diddy” was written about a hundred years ago, before the advent of giant adrenal gland wrecking coffees, the smartphone, and computers that keep us plugged in 24/7. Perhaps when Christmas only lasted for two weeks it really was wonderful and jolly, but now those lyrics ring false when one day we’re carving pumpkins, and the next day ‘BAM!’ the Christmas season in all its stressful glory has begun. So three short Christmases ago I decided to tackle the holiday by avoiding the crowds of cranky, harried, adrenaline filled shoppers and finally conquer my “to do” list early…or so I thought….

The first week in November

I see the best gifts and I am in a good mood! I feel proud of myself every time I buy an item and smugly think, ha! I won’t be amongst the shoppers running around maniacally in December thank you very much. I hide my purchases in the top of my closet. Yes! Progress!

 

The end of November

I am done. DONE! Just have to wrap. And make cookies. And decorate. Oh, and buy new outdoor lights and hostess gifts for the next three parties we’re invited to. Oh and damn, I forgot about stocking stuffers…okay that won’t take long. Breathe. It will be fine. There are still three and a half weeks to go.

 

The first week of December

All of my decorating for Christmas is done! I am out admiring the Christmas decorations in the mall, or at least I’m trying to as my two year old excitedly points out Santa’s village to me. I am a little distracted as I drag him away from the reindeer and into a department store for more holiday shopping. I still need to find those hostess gifts, and stocking stuffers and then I will be done. DONE! I slow down as something catches my eye in a store window. The same item I bought for my husband is on display with a huge 50 PERCENT OFF sign plastered underneath. Why is it that every year, the same item I bought early goes on sale two weeks before Christmas? I take in the rest of display. Oh! He would love that wallet and scarf combo…where was this stuff in November? I drag my now restless two-year old into the store and buy the newly discounted item making a mental note to return the original.

 

The second week of December

Back to the mall to buy stocking stuffers with my toddler in tow, looking none too happy. This time I am armed with more gear then a soldier going into battle; toting along bags of snacks, his favourite trucks, and books. It isn’t easy but I knock the rest of the items off my list only having to stop twice for snacks (I forgot to bring some for me), once for a diaper change, and once to rescue the toy truck that my son somehow managed to wedge underneath a store display. I did it! I’m finished! I feel lighter on the way home, happily humming Christmas songs; unfazed by the person in the car behind me who blasts their horn as I slow down for an elderly woman walking in front of my car. I think of my daughter as we drive past her school, smiling. This is her first real year in grade school with two teachers…crap! I didn’t buy anything for her teachers. Oh no. I also need to buy the unwrapped donation gift for her classroom and then there’s the staff at my son’s pre-school. My good mood deflates faster than a pierced balloon. I’m not done.

 

One week to go!

The presents are wrapped! I haven’t started baking yet, but that’s okay, it’s safer for my pre-Christmas waistline. I am smiling as my daughter arrives home from school, and produces a new book from the library. “I love these!” she says.

“Are they as good as the fairy books?” I ask hinting about the series I bought her for Christmas.

She ponders for a moment. “The what?” she asks.

A tendril of panic starts to wrap itself around my insides. “The fairy books, you know the ones you’ve been asking for, for the past two months!” I laugh, a little too brightly.

“Oh those,” she shrugs. “Dunno. They’re still okay I guess, but these are way better.”

ARGH! I clench my coffee mug so hard that my nails dig into my palms around it.

“What’s the matter? Mom?” she asks.

“Uh, nothing.” I run upstairs to find the gift receipts so that I can return her books and remove them from under the tree. No big deal. I can do this. One week is plenty of time. I just have to finish that writing project I haven’t started still, continue toilet training my two and half year old, call the cable guy about our TV and…the phone rings.

“Hey honey, it’s me,” my husband says.

“Yes?”

He laughs. “Okay…just wanted to let you know my side of the family has decided to do a draw this year! You’re buying for my sister and I have Carrie.”

“In other words I have Carrie and your sister to buy for now too.”

“Thanks! That’d be great. Did you get Mason’s gift yet? They’re coming in a couple of days so they can pick up everything then.”

“What? Oh, crap forgot about him.” He is the latest addition to the clan, at five months old, and since he was only a blip on the embryo horizon the preceding holiday, I apparently erased him from my memory.

“Okay, gotta run and I’m going to be late tonight. We’re really busy.”

I hang up and try not to swear. My kids begin a game that involves tossing toy cars down the stairs to see which one will win. “SANTA IS WATCHING YOU!” I yell, running up the stairs. “Do you guys want Santa to come?”

“Mom?” My daughter puts her hand on my arm gently.

“Yes?” I snap.

“Even if Santa doesn’t come, I’ll still love him, and I’ll still love Christmas.” I hug her. I’m sure they are just acting up because I’ve been ignoring them to get everything done.

“Let’s go look at the lights,” I say. It is a tradition I started with the kids this year. We walk around the neighbourhood admiring the Christmas lights each of us pointing out our favourites.

“Yay!” Both children cry in unison. With all of the things I have left to do I shouldn’t really be going anywhere, but I suppose the list can wait.

As they run around the block excitedly pointing out inflatable snowmen and twinkling reindeer, their cheeks rosy and their smiles bright, I think, this is what matters. This is what makes the season ‘jolly.’ This is what the old carols are singing about. I breathe in the crisp clean air and erase my ‘to do’ list from my head. Things will get done, they always do, and if they don’t it’s not what I will remember many Christmases from now. No the rushing, the mayhem, and the ever expanding list of things that didn’t get done will be a distant memory but these moments of joy will be strongly etched in my mind. Yes, I resign; tis definitely the season to be jolly.

How do you deal with holiday stress and remember to be jolly?

 

About the Author

Lisa Van Meeteren is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 9. She works as a copywriter and has just completed a novel!

Putting Creativity back into Christmas

Our family is going overseas for the holidays this year.  I hate the thought of Santa having to turn up at our holiday destination because it means I have to lug oversized bags full of gifts both there and back. A family of eight has enough gear to drag around.

To avoid this situation, I had the children write to Santa and ask him to come to our house early in hopes of having their presents delivered before the trip. This system actually works well, except for the fact that I’m Santa and if you think it’s tough meeting a December 25th shopping deadline, try pushing it forward a month. Yeah, that’s the not awesome part.

Having said that – I think I nailed some great presents this year. Each kiddo in our family ends up with one big ticket item. I tried to think outside the “gadget” box and have come up with some awesome presents that my kiddos will love. Here are my faves:

1)      A mermaid tail. (Yes, you can actually buy mermaid tails online.) I have one kid who spends most of her time swimming in the pool pretending to be a mermaid. When she’s not doing that, she is watching mermaid shows and movies. I can only imagine how delighted she will be when she unwraps her very own mermaid tail (www.finfunmermaid.com) with a built in fin.

2)      An instant camera. Yep, what’s old is new again. Remember the old Polaroid cameras? If you have a kid who is an “in the moment” type, this camera might be a winner!

3)      Extra special Pokemon cards. It just so happens that a kid in our neighbourhood recently won the World Pokemon Championship. Believe me – it’s a thing, a BIG thing. And now the “Andrew Estrada Winning Deck” is available for purchase. My Pokemon crazed kids will go off the rails when this turns up under the tree.

4)      A Harry Potter Chess Set. One daughter has two loves: Harry Potter and chess. So why not marry them in a themed chess board? It’s a bit of an investment, but I’d rather put my money into a chess set than a lot of other things she could be begging for.

5)      A GoPro Camera. Do you have an adventurous kid? I sure do, and she’d like to catch all of her daring stunts on film. Some of these gadgets can run pretty pricey, but if you shop around, you can find one for a pretty reasonable price.

6)      Hey, let’s not forget mom!  I spotted this little beauty and immediately sourced a talented knitting mama and commissioned her to make one for me. I always get myself the best presents. I know me so well!

Have you found anything special Christmas gift ideas to get your kiddos this year? Are you anticipating anything surprising and fabulous this holiday season?

 

About the Author:

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.

Three tips to increase your child’s communication skills + Contest!

Communicating is an important part of a child development. Though all children progress at their own pace, if you are looking for ways to help your child with his/her communication skills and listening skills at home, here are three tips which you may find helpful.

1) Get Face-to-Face with your Child
This allows your child to pay closer attention to your face and what you are doing with your lips, tongue, etc., since body language is a large part of communicating. It also lets YOU pay attention to what your child is interested in and makes it easier for you to identify your child’s attempts at non-verbal communication. Communication does not need to be in the form of words or sentences. It can be as simple as a look, a gesture, sounds or words.

2) Follow Your Child’s Lead
We all have our OWN favourite toys, however, it is important to follow what toys and activities your CHILD is interested in. When your child is interested, their motivation to learn and communicate is enhanced. Respond enthusiastically to your child’s interests and join them in this activity. This interaction allows for many communication opportunities, and most importantly, your child will love this special time with mom or dad!

3) Interpret Your Child’s Message
Your child may not use words, but you can still help their communication along by interpreting what they are “saying” to you. Your child may be pointing or nodding, pulling you towards an item, or making sounds. These are all great preverbal ways of communicating but to help those words along, interpret your child’s message by saying a word or phrase that matches your child’s gesture or sound. In other words, say what your child would say if he/she could. For example your child points to the bubble you just blew, you can say, “bubble, big bubble.”

These three tips are a great start to helping your child on his/her way to becoming an effective communicator. Speech therapy sessions with our In-Home Speech Therapists incorporate these tips for good communication skills and many more. For more detailed speech pathology tips or activities for late talkers or early language development in children, please contact us at info@speechkids.ca or 1 844 804 5437.

About the Author:

Erin Avramidis is a Registered Speech Therapist and Founder of Speech Kids Canada, an In-Home Speech therapy company supporting children in Southern Ontario and the GTA. For weekly speech therapy tips and activities follow Speech Kids @speechkidsCA on twitter and visit www.speechkids.ca

 

[CONTEST ALERT]

Would you like to win a free Speech Assessment? In the comments below, tell us why you think the assessment would be useful and you could win an assessment with Erin!

If you’re in Barrie, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Halton Hills, all of Halton, Cambridge, Kitchener/Waterloo, Hamilton/Niagara, face to face for an assessment.  Otherwise, for clients outside of those areas a video call!

Contest is open from November 20, 2014 at 1pm EST to November 26, 2014 at 11:59pm EST

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