Christmas Is Actually Kind of a Sh*tshow

It’s as chaotic as it is festive, but I wouldn’t have Christmas any other way.

Christmas morning is just a few days away and I’m overwhelmed with a house full of kids on day one of winter break, piles of Amazon boxes stuffed full of dolls, Legos, and other painful toys, and a mile-long list of things that I should be doing with my kids.

Things are going swimmingly. The good news is that chances are I’ll rally, pull my act together, and get my “mom” on for the remainder of the week. I work better under pressure anyway. I’ll cook, wrap, craft, sing, play, curse, and cry in the laundry room when no one is looking, but I’ll get things done!

Christmas Eve will undoubtedly be a stressful covert operation as my husband and I sneak the gifts under the tree while making sure no child awakes and thwarts our mission. Christmas Day will break with the dawn and our little girls will bask in the magic that is Christmas morning. Ahhhh. It’ll be a glorious event, I’m sure.

It will not, however, go off without any number of surefire mishaps that seem to occur every, single year.

Pictures will be snapped by my husband as he tries to capture each magical moment at 6 a.m. Every one will look ecstatic as they open their presents… everyone except me. I’ll look like crap in every picture. I’ll most likely be hunched over my cup of coffee in my giant fluffy bathroom robe looking like a drunk polar bear. Some pictures will show off my double chin, some will have me mid-speech with a gaping mouth. My hair will have dried in my sleep from last night’s shower, and I’ll look a bit like Michael Landon from “Little House on The Prairie.”

Sexy… I know.

As my children tear through their gifts, my husband will be just as surprised at the opened bundles as the kids. He has no clue what is in them. I do the shopping when he’s at work and the gifts get wrapped long after the last child (and my husband) have fallen asleep. We may have mentioned a present idea here or there in the context of everyday conversation over the last month, but he doesn’t usually remember these daily details.

Not knowing what Santa brought just doesn’t seem to bother him, just like it doesn’t bother him that our living room looks like an Evergreen forest threw up all over it. For one month now I have vacuumed up those blasted pine needed every, single day because my husband MUST HAVE his real Christmas tree. For 30 straight days, I’ve sucked the tree skirt up with the needles rather than bend down and move it out of the way! I’ll continue to find and vacuum up the damn needles for the next month, a reminder of the magic that has passed.

My parents will come over for Christmas dinner…they’ll be at our home by 10 am. My dad will do his best to slow down my mother’s Christmas mission, but he’ll fail miserably and give up on stalling her.

We all know how this plays out. The only person more jacked up than my kids over Christmas morning is Grandma. Even though there are no longer any children waking up at her house, she’ll be up bright and early, chugging coffee and pacing the kitchen, waiting to shower her grandbabies with a year’s supply of Costco toys – gifts she’s been hoarding since the summer. She will have wrapped each gift so perfectly that no one will be able to open any of them without the assistance of a pocket knife.

Grandma and Grandpa will roll up to the house, pop open the trunk of their SUV, and it will be stuffed full of brightly colored packages. Every year, Grannie upstages Santa. There’s no way that she’ll allow those beautiful grandbabies of hers to love a magical fat man in a red suit – or me, for that matter – more than they love her. She must do better.

And every year she does.

Last year, the kids got more gifts from her than they did from the fat man. Over the years we’ve tried to control her Christmas habits, but we’ve since given up and allowed her to do what she wants. She’s Grandma…she’s earned that right.

Round two of present-pa-looza will descend upon us and the whole show is repeated for Grannie and Gramps. My dad will sit on the couch observing the fiasco while doing some mental math regarding Grandma’s Christmas spending. My mom will fight the urge to yell out what the gift is just as it is about to be revealed. (I already know everything that I’m getting from her, she told me months ago. The woman cannot keep a secret to save her life.)

The rest of the day will be spent in a cloud of present-induced ADHD. The kids will jump from toy to toy not having a clue where to focus their attention and energy. We’ll have a grand dinner (somehow I’m able to pull this off) and everyone will collapse in their beds by 8, counting down the days until next Christmas.

364 days to go.

A Father’s First Christmas

As you get older, the less you care about receiving gifts, the more you enjoy giving them. This feeling only gets amplified as a parent.

I’ve been crying a lot lately. This is due, in part, to the passing of my maternal grandfather, Lawrence Isbell. A kind southern gentleman who lived a full 86 years, despite suffering a catastrophic and all-but-fatal heart attack in the early 1990s. His loss alone is enough to shed tears. But this year, there’s something else.

I’m 34 years old, and I became a father for the first time this spring. My son, Hayes Lawrence, was born on May 25, 2016, and like all parents, my wife and I are witnesses to the daily wonders of human growth.

It’s awe inspiring to watch your child discover new things. To see pathways in the brain created right before your eyes. These moments have moved me to tears countless times over the course of my son’s first six months on earth. The Christmas season brings with it a whole new element I hadn’t expected.

Since my wife first left her home in South Carolina to be on her own, she’s enjoyed a pre-lit artificial tree that stands about five feet tall. It’s portable and easy to put up and take down. In the first few years of our relationship, I was more than happy with that tree – first in our apartment, and then in the living room of our own home.

Now that we have a son, however, an artificial tree just won’t cut it.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, about an hour outside of Portland. If you don’t know anything about the area, I’ll let you in on a little secret. We have trees. Lots of them. It was Christmas tradition in my family to drive out to some quiet tree farm, cut down a beautiful 10 to 12 foot tree, bring it home, and proceed to spend the next several hours maneuvering it into the house and decorating it. The upper portion always required a ladder.

While my wife is content to continue using the-little-fake-tree-that-could, I feel compelled to carry on my family tradition. Lucky for us, there’s a wonderful little tree farm about a 10-minute drive from our home, just a block down the street from where my wife’s parents now reside.

We dressed Hayes in his little Santa Claus outfit and drove to the farm. My father-in-law and I scouted the territory and chose a six-foot Noble Fir that would fit perfectly in our modestly sized living room. We cut that bad boy down and, after a brief photo-op, brought it home.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a freshly cut tree in the house. It immediately takes me back to the Christmases of my youth. Being reminded of warm family moments is reason enough to have a fresh tree in the house every December.

After situating the tree, we began the process of decorating it with the company of Bing Crosby’s Christmas album on the turntable and a hot cup of spiked cocoa to enhance the cheer.

When I was a kid, this was serious business. My mother put Christmas knick-knacks everywhere: a tree in every room, each with its own motif; a garland strung with lights that wound it’s way around the railing from the upstairs to the downstairs; a large collection of Snow Babies. To say my mother has a flair for decorating would be an understatement.

No decorating could be done without one of my mother’s many Christmas CDs playing on the stereo. We used to roll our eyes when she’d try to play them before Thanksgiving. She loved the season so much that she couldn’t wait. While I didn’t inherit her decorating abilities, I, too, am ready to play Christmas music as soon as the clock strikes 12 on Black Friday.

Earlier this week, we took Hayes to see Santa for the first time. It went about the way you expect these things to go – full of crying and confusion. But it was adorable. We payed for our overpriced photo package, happy to be kicking off our son’s brief, but magical belief in jolly old St. Nick.

I was devastated when I found out Santa wasn’t real. It happened during class one day when a bunch of kids who already knew the truth spoiled it for the rest of us who didn’t. I kept myself calm and composed, told the teacher I didn’t feel well, and my mom came and picked me up.  When we got home, I calmly asked her if Santa was real.

When she told me the truth, I bawled my eyes out. But after a period of grieving, I got over it, and I had the privilege of helping my parents continue to perpetuate the magic for my younger sisters.

We had our first snow yesterday. It made this first Christmas even more complete. It snows just rarely enough here that it’s a big event. The flakes begin to fall and suddenly, I’m a child again, hoping it piles up enough to grab a sled and go flying down the street. Never mind that I have a job I need to do. It’s SNOWING!

My wife and I bundled Hayes up in his “A Christmas Story”-style marshmallow man outfit and took him outside. We only stayed out for a few minutes, but the pictures and memories of our son in the snow for the first time will last forever.

Last night, we finally started wrapping our Christmas gifts. It’s funny how as you get older, the less you care about receiving gifts, the more you enjoy giving them. This feeling only gets amplified as a parent. My wife and I wrapped gift after gift and shared a moment of disbelief as we wrote “From: Mom & Dad” on the labels because we can’t possibly be parents now, can we?

After placing the pile of presents under the tree, we had our annual viewing of Die Hard (it’s a Christmas movie, dammit!), and got ready for bed. Before unplugging the tree lights, I stood back and took in the scene.

I felt a little like Ebenezer Scrooge viewing Christmas’ past, present, and future. I could see my sisters and me tearing into our gifts with reckless abandon. I could see my wife and me in our old apartment, just the two of us exchanging a couple gifts set under our plastic tree. And now I could see my new, little family (and our dog, Wrigley, of course) opening presents in the warmth of our very own home.

The visions hit me like a ton of bricks, overwhelmed with gratitude for the life I’ve been lucky enough to live, and for the life that’s yet to come. So yeah, I’ve been crying a lot lately. But never have my tears been more joyful.

Taking one last look at the tree, I unplugged the lights, and went to bed.

Helping Kids Handle the Post-Holiday Blues

The build up to the holidays can be a big deal. There are strategies to help your children overcome the feeling of the post-holiday let down.

The build up to the holidays can be a big deal. No matter what holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, or another gift-giving occasion, there’s no doubt that kids have their eyes on the prize. Or prizes.

Presents, that is, and usually lots of them. It’s exciting for children of all ages to make a wish list or tell their relatives near and far what they really want to open on the important day (or days!). Parents can easily get caught up in this excitement, too.

The day arrives to open gifts, and – BAM – all that preparation, planning, and thoughtfulness, is gone in an instant. Kids will open their presents with glee, only to toss each aside and hurry to open the next one, hoping for something even better and bigger than they asked for. Sure, children get uber-excited on present opening day, and many are happy and grateful with what they receive.

Even if they’re pleased with the toys and gifts they got, and the celebrations they attended, some children can experience a let down after the holidays are said and done. We all know this feeling – it’s a feeling of emptiness. It’s when you ask yourself the question, now what? Weeks, maybe even months, of anticipation is over – just like that.

This feeling can manifest as sadness, anxiety, or depression. Children, especially those who are young, may not even realize why they feel the way they do.

There are strategies to help your children overcome the feeling of the post-holiday let down. Communicating and sharing feelings can help them both understand and work through it.

Donate and appreciate.

During the holiday season, create moments for your children to learn about the world around them. Teach them that some people struggle, and not all children are as lucky as they are.

Put together a Thanksgiving meal for a needy family. Take a trip to the store to purchase a new toy and either drop it in a donation box or find an event where you can physically hand it over for another child to open. Participate in community events that act as fund raising for local children in need.

The idea is to place your child in a situation where it’s abundantly clear that someone is less fortunate than they are. Teach them that while toys and gifts are awesome, not everyone gets everything – or anything – they want. Place less emphasis on their wish list, and more on the ways they can help other kids like them.

Write thank you letters.

If your child got to open gifts from grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor, etc, have them take the time to sit and write out a nice thank you note for each individual. If they’re too young to write, have them draw a picture or scribble on paper.

Shift the focus from sadness that it’s all is over, to thankfulness for having people in their lives who love them. Take a trip to the post office together, get some stamps, and send out the colorful notes.

The New Year is upon us.

While the holidays and presents galore may have come to an end, a whole new year of possibilities is at our doorstep. The feeling that all is over after the holidays is real and, sometimes, envisioning the future can help ease that emptiness.

Sit with your child and go over the events of the year to come. Who has a birthday next? What parties or other holidays are coming up? Teach about New Year’s resolutions. What do they want to achieve in the upcoming year? Opening the door to anything is possible can get your kids to stop feeling down and start focusing on their plans going forward.

Quality family time.

Focus on what is important during the holidays and every other time of the year – your family. Play that brand new board game, talk a long walk, sit around and sip some hot cocoa, read a book together, complete a craft, and so much more. Create memories of enjoyable moments with the family.

Give your children a reason to love what happens once the holidays are over. You just may discover that they look forward to the small traditions that come after all the presents have been opened. Make these moments more on the quiet, relaxed side, and leave all electronic devices turned off!

Get back into the school routine.

While this one may not be as fun, many of us will agree that kids need routine. By getting them all set to head back to school after the holidays, it puts them in the right mindset for the rest of the school year and focuses their attention on something besides the holidays and presents. If your child’s school does not send home work for the school break, consider making your own worksheets or playing educational games to get their mind back on the learning track.

12 Gifts That Will Help Your Family Stay Crap and Craft-Free

The best holiday memories often have little to do with the actual presents. The excitement is in the build-up- full of togetherness, fun, and tradition.

When I think back to childhood Christmases, my best memories have nothing to do with the presents I received and everything to do with the experiences I shared with my family in the days leading up to December 25th.

The list of activities on Christmas Eve day alone was enough to send me into fits of spine-tingling glee, tempered only by a reckless launch into a snowbank or a spirited jump on the bed. The sheer sensorial overload of it all kept my brothers and me awake for hours, as still as our sugar-infused bodies would allow, straining our ears for the sound of bells.

Christmas morning held all the allure of a mountain summit in the distance just catching the first light of day. We gazed at it for weeks as if in a trance, dreaming of all the secret delights it held in store.

Such anticipation gives everything else a certain luster, a heightened tremor of possibility. All that possibility had us searching avidly for elf footprints in the snow, and feeling certain that any rabbit or fox tracks we found were actually elf prints in disguise.

Anticipation is what made our search for the perfect Christmas tree a day-long affair that involved trekking through knee-deep snow on Jack George’s farm with a saw and a scrap of cardboard, shouting into the wind at one another: “Here’s a nice one!” “Ooh! Look at this one over here!” “I found a beauty! Tall and full!” Once home, our 13-foot trees (the tops of which poked up over the balcony where I slept) took that evening and much of the next day to trim.

On Christmas Eve, we pushed anticipation to the hilt as, one by one, we presented our gifts to each other. We weren’t allowed to open them, but we could take all the time we liked wondering at what might lay inside. It became a sort of competition to see who could come up with the most misleading gift enclosures.

On Christmas morning as we clambered onto our parents’ bed, they’d pretend to snore and, upon “waking,” grumble about taking long, slow showers or cleaning the toilets before the unwrapping could begin. A few more stalling antics later and we’d finally feel our way down the stairs, eyes closed the whole time, and wait at the mouth of the living room, its warm glow seeping through our eyelids, until Dad finally exclaimed, “Open!”

The gifts? Some of them fun, many of them to read, most of them useful – things we needed or other people thought we should have. But the buildup, the excitement, gave the holiday its sparkle.

In light of that Rockwellian account, here are 12 ideas for how to enhance the magic of your holiday and cut back on the influx of material crap:

Count down the days

You can do this in any number of ways. The Advent Calendar is a classic. Creative twists on that idea are also fun: Empty 25 walnut shells, number them, and hide a little something under each one. Have your kids take turns as they discover the miniature riches beneath each.

The “riches” can be symbolic or just plain silly. The simple act of discovery is what we’re after here.

Get creative with your holiday greeting

Friends of ours realized they had enough offspring for a starting basketball lineup: five boys. So they wrote and performed a rap song with a verse for each member of the family, and then recorded themselves performing it on a basketball court.

It’s hilarious, totally memorable, and no doubt made for a lot of fun in the process.

Make a movie

I’m not sure how it started, but the grown-ups in my family got it into our heads that it’d be fun to make a movie over the Christmas holiday starring all our kids. So, in between meals and gifts and walks and naps, we made armor out of cardboard scraps and wrote a script called “The Vengeance of Prince LeBleu.”

The kids got so into it that the storyline evolved, and we continued shooting for a few consecutive holidays, coming up with characters for every member of the family. Was it crazy and totally unwieldy? Yes. Did it make us laugh hysterically? Most definitely. Are we now armed with the most adorable footage with which to embarrass our children on their wedding days? Absolutely.

Make food together

Christmas cookies, especially that irresistible recipe from your grandmother. Or bread, because the smell of it baking is that good. Or a gingerbread house if you crafty folks just can’t help yourselves.

Whatever you make, get your kids involved from start to finish, and make enough so you can give some away. Nothing says “I like you” like a fresh-baked delight delivered by hand.

Take in performance art

Plays, ballets, Messiah sing-alongs, and candlelight masses abound this time of year. Pick something you’ve never experienced before – or pick the same something you’ve done a hundred times – and bring your kids along.

Even if they complain initially, that music and those costumes and the tock of toe shoes cueing the fake snow to fall from the rafters will find its way into their subconscious.

Play outside

Ski. Snowboard. Sled. Skate. Take winter hikes into Narnian woodlands. Do whatever outdoor winter thing you enjoy as a family.

Do it until noses turn red and mittens are encrusted with chunks of ice and someone gets a snowball shoved down her neck. Nothing a little cocoa by the woodstove can’t cure.

Build something together

Snowmen and snow forts and sledding jumps are obvious (and very awesome) options. But when winter doesn’t deliver, makeshift lean-tos work, too. And they serve as great bases for epic snowball fights when the weather finally decides to cooperate.

If you have poor circulation and would rather keep all your extremities, see options 1 through 5.

Tell stories

Every family’s got them. This is a great time of year to recollect that time Aunt Susan – ever the festive house guest – decided to wrap herself in Christmas tree lights, plug herself in, and declare herself Spirit of Christmas Present.

You may or may not decide to include the part about how, at age 11, it became your job to deliver her Martinis so she wouldn’t have to abandon her post by the wall socket in the living room. Either way, stories like these enrich your children’s sense of a shared family history.

Write stories

Don’t love reliving the past? Write your own holiday adventure/mishap/whodunnit. Challenge your kids to do the same.

Or write a family letter to Santa saying thanks in advance, with suggestions – perhaps one per family member – about some other ways he might apply his wondrous feats of giving.

To simplify, ask your kids to fill in the blank: “If Santa could solve any problem in the world, I think he should ________.”

Create a scavenger hunt

It can be a one-dimensional indoor affair to stave off the stir-crazies, or a staged, multi-day wild goose chase stretching across whole neighborhoods and involving clues and limericks and store clerks and wanted ads in the local paper.

Primarily though, it’s yet another way of exhibiting for your kids a different kind of “giving” – and for your spouse, a creative kind of love.

Leave offerings

For St. Nick, the reindeer, the Food Shelf, the Mitten Tree, your neighbors, your public radio station, the birds, the lost dog you heard howling the other night.

Leave little things around for each other, too, like chocolates in lunch boxes or notes in door jambs. Leave elf-like footprints in the snow just below your four-year-old’s window.

Do something, anything, you’ve never done before as a family

Draw a wild card this year. Who knows? It may become a tradition.

Why We’re Happy to Be a Christmas Tree-Free Home

As a kid, being Jewish at Christmastime meant feeling the pain of being different. But those experiences shaped my values.

I am Jewish. My husband was raised Presbyterian, considers himself atheist, and until he met me, had never known a Jewish person. So it was with some trepidation and a few drinks that I told him, if he was serious about me, he would have to let me raise our possible children Jewish.

Never mind that I wasn’t positive I wanted kids in the first place, or that we’d known each other all of two weeks. Yet I was sure of two things: Dan was awesome, and I had no time to date a guy I’d never marry.

He asked me what having Jewish children would look like. I wasn’t sure. Seven years and two children later, I’m still winging it. But I had to answer the question, so I started with the one thing I was sure of.

We would not have a Christmas tree.

It’s hard for me to articulate what it means to be a Jew. It’s much easier to say what being a Jew is not. For me, being Jewish is not celebrating Christmas. As a kid, being Jewish at Christmastime meant feeling the pain of being different.

In the second grade, my well-meaning teacher handed my homework back with a sticker, a symbol of a job well done. I don’t remember what the sticker was, only that it was different than the red and green Christmas stickers that adorned my friends’ papers. I wanted a candy cane, an elf, or a Santa hat, too. My sticker was no doubt cute, but to me, it was an ugly stamp of my otherness.

I used to dread holiday season small talk. I remember being 10 years old, lying on my dentist’s mustard yellow chair for a cleaning, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Inevitably, my friendly dentist asked the dreaded question, “What are you asking Santa for this year?” When he removed his instruments from my mouth, I replied, “Nothing.”

I did not care to elaborate, and my tone conveyed that. Above his mask, his eyes betrayed shock. After an awkward pause, my mom looked up from her magazine and explained with an apologetic smile, “We’re Jewish.”

In high school I attended an all-girls Quaker prep school. Although none of the students were Quaker, practically none were Jewish, either. Aside from being the only one in my class to miss school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my Jewishness was a non-issue. Until the school replaced the time-honored Christmas Vespers pageant with the politically correct Lumina celebration.

I was thrilled. I wouldn’t have to sing about the birth of our lord Jesus Christ anymore. No longer would I feign excitement over a tradition I secretly loathed. I never told my classmates I was invited to be one of the few student representatives on the Lumina advisory committee. When talk at the lunch table turned to the tragic loss of the beloved ritual, I kept my mouth shut. I don’t blame 17-year-old me for prioritizing fitting in over defending my identity.

As a kid, I wanted a Christmas tree, badly. I was thrilled when a friend’s family invited me to help decorate theirs. I would daydream about what kind of tree I’d get if I were Christian (real, not fake), and how I’d decorate it (with rainbow lights, no tinsel). Even now, when we go to my in-laws for Christmas, I selfishly wish their tree were more festive.

Now that I’m an adult, I can have a tree. I can have any kind of tree I want. I can dress it up as fancy as a prom queen if I feel like it. But like I tell myself before taking a bite of my daughter’s leftover chicken nuggets, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Because for me, the presence – or absence – of a Christmas tree in my living room is about much more than home décor. It’s a public declaration of who I am and what matters to me.

I am a Jew. I am the great-granddaughter of Jews who fled Pogroms in Eastern Europe and came to this country with nothing, hoping for something better.

I have fond childhood memories of sneaking out of services with my brother and my friends for epic games of hide-and-seek spanning our entire synagogue and its grounds.

I remember breaking the Yom Kippur fast at my grandmother’s house, the dining room table covered with food: a heaping bowl of warm, fresh bagels alongside platters of lox and cream cheese, my great-aunt’s noodle kugel with Cornflake cereal topping, and my mother’s chopped liver.

I remember three generations of grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, and cousins taking turns reading the Haggadah at the Passover Seder, while my brother and I joked in whispers at the kids’ table.

I remember getting together with Jewish family friends, who were as much family as blood relatives, every Christmas Eve for Chinese food and ice cream sundaes. I remember going on a teen tour to Israel and feeling totally at home with 40 teenagers I’d never met before, an ocean away from my parents.

I also remember the deep longing I felt for a Christmas tree and a stocking full of Lip Smackers and scrunchies every December.

But if I had the chance, I wouldn’t trade that longing for the fulfillment of my childhood wishes, because the sum of all these experiences have shaped my values. I believe it’s more important to be who I am than to be like everyone else, even when it’s uncomfortable.

If I can pass that belief on to my daughters, I will have given them a greater gift than anything I could put under a Christmas tree.

6 Reasons Why Having a Winter Baby is Actually the Best

Mothers of summer babies may have their cute maternity sundresses, but there are all kinds of reasons why being the mommy of a winter baby is awesome.

Winter babies hold a special place in my heart. My son was born in the middle of January almost three years ago and, this month, I’ll welcome my second baby.

In the months leading up to my son’s due date – and during the snuggly newborn months after – I could not have been more grateful that he was a winter baby. Mothers of summer babies may have their adorable spring baby showers and cute maternity sundresses, but there are all kinds of reasons why being the mommy of a winter baby is awesome.

No one expects much of you during the holidays.

When you have a winter baby you’re either very, very pregnant or you’re the parent of a newborn as the holidays roll around.

Because of this, no one expects you to be the one to cook, or clean up, or to do the extensive planning, shopping, and decorating that can suck the fun out of the holidays. For this year at least, you’ll get to sit back and relax (as much as one can with a huge belly or tiny baby).

You’ve got the perfect excuse not to let anyone hold the baby.

When you have a new baby – especially a cute one – it seems like you can’t head out with friends or to family events without expecting to hand them over to everyone in attendance.

While a break is nice every now and then, sometimes you just don’t want to give up your snuggle-time. During winter, you have the perfect excuse to keep your babe in the Ergo and refuse any offers to hold the little one. After all, it’s cold and flu season, people. No one gets their hands on that baby without a thorough scrub down.

And, if you just don’t want to share, no one can argue with a mom looking out for baby’s health.

The food.

The only person hungrier than a pregnant woman is a mom who’s nursing.

Don’t hesitate to share just how starving you are as you make your way to the front of the buffet line. Holiday foods aren’t known for being particularly calorie-conscious, but pregnant and nursing moms need the extra calories.

So, please, this year, indulge knowing that you absolutely need the extra energy for your little one.

Your ankles are out of view.

Almost every mom I know has a moment – sometime in the last few weeks of pregnancy – when they realize that they’re going to have to leave their shoes unlaced or opt for clogs a few sizes too big for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Luckily for the mom of the winter baby, those ankles will be tucked away from prying eyes and rude comments under a nice pair of long leggings or maternity jeans.

Adorable winter party themes to daydream about for years to come.

Sure, summer parents might get to plan fantastic pool parties and easy get-togethers at the playground, but winter mamas get to drool over Pinterest’s winter party themes as they plan their baby’s birthdays for years to come.

I pinned somewhere close to a thousand Winter Wonderland ideas long before my son emerged from my womb.

Lots of quiet, snowed in bonding time.

Though a cold, stormy winter can make even the most introverted mom go a little stir crazy, there are some wonderful benefits to being snowed in. A cold winter provides ample opportunity to build a fire, cuddle up with your partner and your new baby, and bask in the simple joys of hot chocolate, warm blankets, and a perfect newborn to love.

33 No-Tech, Super Fun Activities to Keep Kids Busy on Winter Break

It’s time to get (modestly) creative with cheap, tech-free activities for elementary school-aged kids.

Winter break is upon us and it’s time to get creative. Here’s a quick list of cheap, low-tech ways to entertain an elementary school-aged kid over winter break.

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  1. Make easy popcorn balls (with marshmallows or corn syrup).
  2. Make duct tape wallets (hey, even Martha’s doing it) or a bunch of other oddball duct tape crafts).
  3. Buy cheap notebooks or use some sticky notes to make flipbooks.
  4. Get out the camping gear and set up a backyard winter explorers base.
  5. Write some Star Wars fanfiction (or Harry Potter, etc).
  6. Experiment with making your own personal ultimate ramen recipe (ramen tips, more on Pinterest).
  7.  Go for an epic walk.
  8. Throw a housecleaning party – complete with music and snacks. Get creative and invent a point system for certain tasks.
  9. Same as above, throw a thank you card party for all those Christmas gifts. (I do not know, it’s worth a try).
  10. Make epic blanket forts.
  11. Try some new winter crafts.
  12. Have fun with simple baking recipes. (Or just make these pretzels from a box mix.)
  13. Go sledding – on a homemade sled (or, take your normal sled and give it a rad new paint job).
  14. Let the kids plan and put together a family game night. (Don’t worry – you can still bring your own beer.)
  15. Make a Rubber Band Guitar.
  16. Create a scavenger hunt with your leftover Christmas candy.
  17. Score some old board games at the thrift shop and let the kids mix and match the pieces to create their own games.
  18. Likewise, invest in some all-day board games to keep the kids busy. With snacks, of course.
  19. Use toys, string, and recycling materials to make a breakfast-cereal pouring Rube Goldberg machine.
  20. Make simple kite that really flies out of newspaper or a simple kite out of foam.
  21. Print your own fake Apple Watch. That way your kid can go back to school with some bling.
  22. Make a homemade lava lamp with salt and oil.
  23. Write funny captions in old magazines or newspapers with a sharpie.
  24. Make some awesome magazine collages.
  25. Have a prank party – set up a bunch of pranks to play on the other parent or siblings. Pranks for kids. More pranks.
  26. Homemade pizza night! Or lunch.
  27. The old standby of making homemade play-doh is still fun (easy play-doh recipe one, easy play-doh recipe two).
  28. If you have some of those silicone oven safe muffin trays, you can recycle all those broken crayons into new ones.
  29. Look at all the things you can do with cardboard. Some of them might be fun. More here.
  30. If you live someplace cold, freeze stuff outside, Han Solo-style.
  31. Go to the library and borrow a mountain of books – for free.
  32. If you live someplace with snow, grab some food color send your kids out to create snow graffiti (more here).
  33. If you have access to a stick, some pipe insulation foam and duct tape, you can make a pretty legit sword / lightsaber that you can use to battle.

Check out the Unbored series of activities, ideas, and adventures for great activities not listed above!

5 Bonus Tech Activities

  1. Make a video game with Hopscotch
  2. Download some podcasts and set up an audio theater
  3. Explore the posts on Today Box
  4. Take a virtual tour of art museums around the world
  5. Experiment with learning piano with Pianu or drop beats with Patatap

What are your go-to “entertain the kids at home” ideas? Post in the comments below!