Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creating Family Holiday Traditions

In Canada, those who celebrate Christmas have the luxury of getting an early start (if we take advantage of it) since Thanksgiving takes place in early October.

Every family has their own approach to the holidays so I thought I would share ours:

Winter Solstice

This is something I want to incorporate more into our holiday traditions. I think it is important to recognize natural patterns and celebrate the lengthening of the days. This celebration also makes me feel warm and fuzzy. This year I see us celebrating with a hearty soup or chili, hot chocolate, candlelight, gifts of knitted goodies, and maybe a family game of snakes and ladders – the only board game we own that B can play.

Christmas Eve Church Service

Christianity was significant in my upbringing, less significant for DH. Both my parents were practicing Christians. Church was a Sunday ritual. Once I reached adolescence, it became less significant to me and I attended less regularly. Now, as an adult, I appreciate good morals i.e. treat your neighbours as you would yourself, don’t steal, etc. (also taught by society in general) that Christianity reinforced in me. However, I remain undecided on whether or not I wholeheartedly believe in all parts of the faith. Consequently, I have adopted a somewhat piecemeal approach – accepting parts that seem relevant to me and taking the rest with a grain of salt.

Growing up, I attended Christmas eve and morning church services. As a child, I felt heavy about going to church in the morning as I was naturally anxious to explore new gifts. For my own family, we have decided to only attend the evening service. 


Both DH and I feel strongly about charity and want to make giving a significant part of our holiday traditions.

Beginning this year, we will be asking B to pick a few toys he no longer uses to donate since he will be receiving new toys as gifts. Also new for us this year will be buying a food hamper for a family through a local charity. While the toy donation will be a ritual, we plan on finding new ways to give every year. For example, next year we might buy winter clothing for a family. In doing this, we will have the opportunity to explain to our children that there are others less fortunate and instill in them the importance of giving to those in need.


There is much debate out there in the parenting sphere on incorporating Santa into the holidays. We do. Santa was an integral part of our holiday traditions growing up.  That being said, we have made a few deviations from our upbringings, for instance, in our family Santa only comes for the children. This means no stockings or Santa gifts for DH or I.


We didn’t buy wrapping paper last year and still have a small stash from previous years including gift bags (which we reuse). We plan on using this up. Beyond that, we will use recycled brown paper which B can draw/paint on to decorate. In subsequent years I would like to use handmade Christmas gift sacks – although I realize for children half the fun is peeling off the wrapping paper so I don’t want to eliminate paper altogether just yet. Maybe we’ll just phase in the sacks by using them for adult gifts.

Besides having a limited budget which forces us to be creative by making handmade gifts or search for used items, we also limit the number of gifts. For example, B will get one gift from us, one from his brother, and one from santa (besides his stocking). DH will get one gift from the boys and one from me. This also allows us to spend a little bit more on quality gifts.

Activities and Food

DH’s family enjoys doing lots of outside activities up North during the holidays like winter walks, tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and bonfires. They always convene on Boxing Day (December 26), so we like to partake in these activities with them, and avoid the Boxing Day shopping madness in the city.

Until this year, the Christmas tree farm was a large part of our winter holidays. DH has always had a real tree since he grew up at the farm. We’ve continued this tradition and plan on finding a local Christmas tree farm where we can get our tree this year. Again, as the kids get older, we may look at other more environmentally-friendly options such as “renting” a potted tree.

Lastly, home-cooked meals and holiday baking (gluten/dairy free for me) with family and friends are big for us. This year I may initiate a baking exchange with family!

What traditions do others have/plan on implementing this holiday season?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When Birthday Parties Become Larger Than Life

Yesterday afternoon I took B to his first birthday party he had been invited to by a classmate. Pretty exciting, right?

This party was BIG. The parents had gone all out. Afterwards I estimated that the party likely cost upward of $500 for 2 hours of fun. The whole class and some parents (of younger kids including myself) were in attendance. The decor was of course superhero themed with licensed characters galore. This was actually the second "larger than life" party we have attended. Aside from the monetary cost of the party, what really bothered me was the following...

- Even if we try really hard to limit the exposure of our own children to licensed characters (a whole other post for another day) they will inevitably learn of these characters through classmates. B goes to a Montessori school and while the learning environment doesn't support these types of characters i.e. children are not allowed to bring toys from home etc. I have found that most other parents do not practice the Montessori method in the home. We now run the risk of our kid having the "lame" party with no superheros.

- Extravagant parties set a precedent for the birthday child who is receiving these type of parties but also for the other children and parents attending the parties. They "set the bar" so to speak, for subsequent birthday parties. Que massive anxiety attack.

- While parties used to be centred around the birthday child, aside from seeing this child blow out the candles and receive the first piece of cake, there was very little indication of the significance of the event to the birthday child. This could've been due to the size of the party....which brings me to..

- The size of the party... the fact that everyone in the class was invited was odd to me. Growing up, for my friends and myself, birthday parties were only ever limited to close friends. Surely the birthday child was not close friends with all 20 of the children in the class. I realize now-a-days parents are so concerned with children feeling left out. But in speaking with my mother about the party afterwards, she mentioned that an integral part of growing up for us was learning to accept that we cannot always be invited to everything.

- Gifts. It is extremely hard to find anything that even looks like a substantial gift - which is important for keeping up with the Joneses in the birthday department - these days for under $30. Not to mention the fact that a lot of these kids with the extravagant parties have every toy imaginable already. Furthermore, how do you pick out a gift for a child that both yourself and your child, if they aren't really close friends with the birthday child or are still quite young, do not REALLY know very well? (not usually a problem with parties limited to close friends only). But what really bothers me is that at both said party and other party of similar magnitude, gifts were not opened in front of the party guests. This means that the birthday child does not have to thank each child for their gift, appreciate the thought put into gifts by close friends, and of course learn how to appropriately handle situations where say..they receive something they already have or is a duplicate of another gift. For this birthday, B wanted to make his friend a card. He worked really hard at this card and I assured him that his friend would love it and appreciate his hard work. Unfortunately we'll never know..we'll also never know if the card got mixed up and placed with another gift by mistake or lost all together, something that could easily be identified if the opening took place in front of the guests.

There is so much more I'd like to say on this but for now...

End rant.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On My Own

Firstly, let me say I have the utmost respect for single parents. I couldn't imagine raising children on my own day in and day out. Sometimes when things get tough I need a little break and that is when DH is there to step in or vice versa... also when I'm on the verge of caving after long battles with B, he is there to reinforce me and remind me not to give in and that things will get easier in the long run. Furthermore, in my experience... sometimes all it takes is a different person saying the same thing to get through to a toddler - as frustrating as that can be.

That being said, DH is gone for the week so I am going at it alone this week. Although the days are long and I miss the companionship (and sometimes relief), it feels really good at the end of the day knowing that I am capable of watching my two precious boys on my own. It also presents a challenge to find a new rhythm, make time for both kids instead of relying on the usual divide and conquer routine (a luxury that single parents can't take advantage of), and find time to get my own schoolwork and housework done.

In short..I pretty much feel like superwoman!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Finding an equitable balance in the home

Man does this post from Feeding the Soil ever resonate with me. Finding an equitable balance in the home sure is tough, especially when one person is "working" in the home. In my particular situation, I have found the hubby is much more willing to take on a larger share of the domestic tasks when I am not at home 100% of the time. I have also learned that in order for me to avoid feelings of resentment towards domestic tasks/child rearing, I need to spend some time "working" - or in my case doing coursework - outside the home.

This is a topic that I'm always curious to hear about how others divide the tasks in their households. Do other women find that they end up doing the lion's share of the domestic chores as well as raising the children as SAHMs? Does being a SAHM mean working around the clock and always being on call for nighttime feedings, pee accidents, and middle of the night sickness episodes?

When DH and I got married we had to take a preparation course in order to get married in the church. We learned that the #1 cause of all fights in the household in marriages is over the division of household tasks. In this day and age where household roles are not so cut and dry along gender lines, running a household sure is complicated.