10 Random Spring Holidays You Need to Celebrate

Embrace the weird and random with these 10 spring holidays you won’t want to miss. Trust me, your kids will dig it.

Forget the fancy Mommy Spring Bucket List of activities in pastel font with highlighted check boxes. That’s a panic attack waiting to happen. We have enough “to-do” lists as it is. Instead, embrace the weird and random with these 10 spring holidays you won’t want to miss. Trust me, your kids will dig it.

1 | March 3rd – I Want You to Be Happy Day

Pay it forward, people. Buy a cup of coffee for the guy behind you in line. Help your kids sort through forgotten toys and take them to a donation center. Tell your significant other you have not forgotten they exist. This is the day for selflessness. What better way to bring on the good cheer of spring?

2 | March 14th – National Potato Chip Day

What would we do without that spud, sliced and fried and salted to perfection? Have a chip and dip party with the kids. Maybe barbecue sauce would go great on those sour cream and onion Ruffles? You’ll never know until you try. Or finally, crack that baked sweet potato chip recipe you pinned on Pinterest five years ago. Even if it’s not perfection, it’s a chip. And you can’t go wrong with a chip.

3 | March 21st – Tea for Two Tuesday

Pull up a seat, whip out those Teavana sachets hiding in the back of your pantry and have a party. Dare I say make scones? Or buy them if you’re cooking and time management skills need a holiday of their own. Dress the kids up like Alice in Wonderland characters and get your tea on.

4 | March 20th – Alien Abduction Day

If you’ve always wondered if there’s life on other planets, today is your day to find out. Let’s hope the extraterrestrials remembered to plug this one into their Google calendar. But even if they’re a no-show, it’d sure be fun to watch the skies for signs of life and maybe pop in ET and munch on some Reese’s Piece while you’re at it.

5 | March 23rd – National Puppy Day

How could you not celebrate this one? Watch Lady and the Tramp and remember that the dog needs some love too. Take your kids (and dog) to the dog park to socialize. Visit the local adoption centers who always have lots of puppies in need of a good home…but do so at your own risk. Those big, sweet eyes will get you every time.

6 | March 28th – Something on a Stick Day

Yes, please. Corn dogs, Fudgesicles, lollipops, caramel apples. All the best foods come on sticks. And, unless it’s soup, most things edible can be speared in the name of a good holiday. For a healthier option, make fruit or veggie kabobs with the kids. For a fun date night, go out for fondue.

7 | April 2nd – International Children’s Book Day

The Reading Rainbow would be proud. Go to story time at the library. Read your kids your favorite children’s book. Help them write and illustrate their own stories. Definitely have a slice of cake to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, which was why the holiday began.

8 | April 9th – Name Yourself Day

You can finally get back at your parents for not considering your feelings before writing that name on your birth certificate. Today’s the day to switch it up and name yourself whatever you want. Dub yourself Queen Mother or go exotic. Pick a name with some pizazz and then enjoy making everyone around you submit to your whims.

9 | April 20th – Look Alike Day

You know that celebrity whom everyone tells you that you could pass for? Today’s the day to make it happen. Embrace your inner Beyoncé or Jennifer Lawrence and dress the part if only to be that cool for a day. Let the siblings twin themselves or help them team up with a friend at school to truly drive their teachers crazy.

10 | April 28th – Kiss Your Mate Day

Yes, someone made this a holiday. Perhaps they were feeling neglected. Whatever the reason, today’s the day for smooching. Bring on the PDA. Your kids may say it’s gross but seeing their parents show a little love will do them a world of good.
That’s it! Now go get random and leave the bucket-listers to their tasks.

How to Show Your Kids You Love Them on Valentine's Day

What are the five love languages and how can we use them with our kids to lay a healthy foundation for future relationships?

Haven’t we all left a copy of The Five Love Languages on our partner’s side of the bed at some point? (Or maybe that’s just me.) According to the book’s author, Gary Chapman, the five love languages are:

  • Physical affection
  • Acts of service
  • Words of praise
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts

While you might hope to come home to flowers after an argument, your partner might prefer you volunteer to do the dishes to show you care. According to Chapman, the key to a healthy relationship is for each person to express love in their partner’s preferred love language, instead of their own.
Chapman says this concept applies to children, too. According to child therapist Megan Cronin Larson, a child’s primary love language typically emerges around age three or four. While you can respond to cues from your child to figure out what his or her love language is, in The 5 Love Languages of Children,  Chapman encourages parents to use all five love languages with their children, in order to lay a healthy foundation for future relationships.

Physical Affection

Research shows that touch is vital to healthy neurodevelopment in infants. But the need for touch – whether a hug or a fist bump – doesn’t end with infancy. Physical affection lets kids know you care, and that you will listen when they’re ready to talk. But what if your child’s love language is touch and you’re not a big hugger?
Licensed psychotherapist and play therapist Brenna Hicks recommends parents “keep the physical touch small but consistent. [It] can be as simple as placing your hand on a child’s shoulder as you pass by, rubbing their head a few times on the couch, or giving them a quick kiss on the forehead. It isn’t necessarily long bear hugs.”

You could…

  • Let him sit in your lap while you read to him (or have him read to you).
  • Give a back rub
  • Put the couch cushions on the floor and have a WWF-style wrestling match
  • Wash her hair
  • Hold hands
  • Invite her to snuggle while watching a movie

Acts of Service

As parents, our lives are a never-ending blur of acts of service. How can we possibly do more? And why should we? There is a difference between responding to rapid-fire requests for snacks and help with school projects versus setting your phone aside, making eye contact, and offering to help, or taking time do something extra-special for your kid.
You could… 

  • Offer to fix a broken toy
  • Bring your child breakfast in bed (note: plan to change the sheets after breakfast)
  • Cook his favorite meal
  • Cut their sandwiches into fun shapes (Kitchen scissors or a cookie cutter make it easier.)
  • Give a manicure

Words of Affirmation

Research shows we aren’t actually helping when we tell our kids they’re great at everything. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use praise to connect with them in a meaningful way; rather, we should be deliberate about what we say. Parents should strive to acknowledge the effort, not the outcome. For example, instead of saying “Nice job!” when your kid comes down the slide, you could say, “I noticed how hard you worked to get up the ladder.”
You could…

  • Acknowledge how hard she’s working on something specific (e.g. “You’re putting so much effort into practicing your cartwheels/ math problems/ being kind to your little sister.”)
  • Say “I love you.”
  • Tell her three things you admire about her
  • Ask if he knows how lucky you feel that you get to be his parent
  • “Catch her” being good.  (e.g. “I really appreciate you doing your chores without being asked.” or “You were an awesome listener at the park.”)

Quality Time

Experts agree, play is the optimum way to engage in quality time with young children. Says Hicks, kids “use play as their language and toys as their words. By playing with them, you learn more about them and meet their need for someone to share in their experience.”
By adolescence, kids are no longer interested in playing. They are often busy with school, friends, and activities. Says Jen Harrison, mom of busy twin teens, she tries to focus completely on them in the rare moments they are together—and that this often happens in the car, which she describes as, “our best quality time.”
You could…

  • Play hide and seek
  • Engage in pretend play
  • Go to the library
  • Enjoy the outdoors together; walk, hike, or go for a bike ride.
  • Bake together. Younger children can be responsible for helping you pour ingredients into the mixing bowl with hand over hand supervision. They can also “help” by stirring a small amount of water and flour in a bowl.
  • Have a dance party. For older kids, draw the shades first.


Receiving Gifts

As with the other love languages, the importance of the gift is not the gift itself, but the intention behind it. As Hicks explains, “You can feel very confident that a gift need not cost money or be extravagant for your child to appreciate the extension of love.”
You could…

  • Surprise her with a homemade card
  • Inscribe your old copy of a book you enjoyed at his age and give it to him.
  • Find an accessory or a piece of clothing you no longer wear and give it to your kids as a dress-up item.
  • Draw him a picture
  • Build something for her if you’re handy (or brave).

No matter what love language you “speak” with your kid, Cronin Larson reminds us that our full presence is the greatest gift we can give our kids. So… put your phone down and connect with your kid, on Valentine’s Day, and every day.
 

What Kind of Hostess Are You? Take the Quiz and Find Out

I have determined that there are three kinds of hostesses: The Bold Hostess, The Loving Hostess, and The Sensible Hostess.

The thought of hosting a party sends me into a fight-or-flight panic. Even writing about thinking about hosting a party increases my heart rate. It’s not that I have agoraphobia or am an introvert or don’t love my friends and family, it’s just that I’m uncomfortable having people in my home whom I haven’t seen naked. (I know that sounds extreme, but in effect, it’s a great litmus test to restrict visitors.)
That said, I do enjoy going to other people’s homes for social gatherings and rarely turn down an invitation. I arrive fashionably early-latish, take the obligatory tour, peruse their bookshelves, eat Pinterest-wins off bamboo plates, and mingle with the other guests. But, make no mistake, I’m not there for pleasure; my real objective is research. I come to observe the hostess, because the concept of willingly entertaining people in one’s home is so baffling to me. I want to understand why and how she does it, so I find a good high-back chair with an unobstructed view of the kitchen and make like I’m Jane Goodall in the Kenyan highlands amidst a family of chimpanzees.
Over the years, I have studied dozens of hostesses in their natural habitats as they navigate the unpredictable and often calamitous terrain of hospitality. I have watched these women carry on conversations with people who are dropping Ritz cracker crumbs and sloshing red wine all over their floors, never breaking eye contact to glance down at the mess. I have seen improvisational maneuvers that would make Bear Grylls look like a tourist, executed flawlessly in Kork Ease platform wedges and slacks. I have grown to admire these ladies and respect their commitment to serve—though I’m still not called to emulate them.
I have determined that there are three kinds of hostesses: The Bold Hostess, The Loving Hostess, and The Sensible Hostess.

Which type are you? Take this quiz to find out:

One of your guests has clogged the main-floor bathroom toilet. What do you do?

A) Put an Out-of-Order sign on the door, and have everybody use the upstairs bathroom.
B) Make an announcement that you have a septic system and ask people to limit the amount of toilet paper they use, then try and find the culprit.
C) Take responsibility for the clog, citing your recent cheese binge, and try to plunge it yourself.


A friend brings her large, unruly dog to your backyard barbeque. The dog is knocking children over and snatching food out of people’s hands. How do you handle it?    

A) Recommend that your friend leash the dog in your garage until he calms down.
B) Insist your friend put the dog in her car, knowing she may very well decide to leave.
C) Accept the dog as an extension of your friend and fetch him a bowl of fresh water.


Two of your friends get into an escalating political discussion with no resolution in sight. How do you curtail it?

A) Break it up by suggesting they should agree to disagree for the time being, then change the subject.
B) Stick up for whom you think is right and flex your debate muscles.
C) Whisk the weaker of the two away with the pretense of needing assistance in the kitchen.


You are hosting a multiple-course formal dinner, after which you serve finger bowls. One of your guests picks hers up and drinks it. How do you react?  

A) Simply ignore her faux pas and carry on like nothing happened.
B) Inform her of proper finger bowl etiquette, including a history of its waxing and waning popularity throughout the last century.
C) Pick yours up and drink it.


Despite careful planning, there are an odd number of children at your daughter’s birthday party. When the kids pair off for a game, one little boy is left alone. What do you do?

A) Have the children take turns being the odd man out, making sure your daughter partners with the boy on the next round.
B) Remind the boy that this is just a game and life isn’t always fair, but give him the best prize.
C) Be the boy’s partner.


You witness one of your guest’s children accidentally knock over and break a decorative vase, but she doesn’t tell anybody. How do you handle it?

A) Mention to her parents that she broke the vase with the understanding that it wasn’t expensive, but you feel they should know.
B) Make her squirm by publicly accusing your own kid of breaking it, and see if that elicits a confession.
C) Discreetly pick up the broken pieces and say within the child’s earshot that you never liked that ugly vase anyhow.
 

Answers

If you answered mostly As, you are a sensible hostess.

You are practical, level-headed, and not easily frazzled. When you entertain, you like to focus on a specific occasion and do most of the preparation yourself. You are a wonderful holiday host, because keeping tradition is your strong suit. When things don’t go as planned, no worries, you’ve got a back-up.

If you selected Bs, you are a bold hostess.

You enjoy the attention that comes with entertaining and have a flair for the extravagant. You are in your realm hosting gala events and can delegate masterfully. You like big themes and big guest lists. When things get off track, you simply reset them your way.  

If you chose Cs, you are the loving hostess.

Always sensitive to others, you go out of your way to make your guests feel at home. You like intimate gatherings, where spontaneous conversation is the focus, and you encourage friends to bring a dish to pass. When something goes awry, your guests’ feelings are paramount.
No matter your hostess style—sensible, bold, or loving—don’t forget to have fun at the party.
 

An Honest Look at Your Social Life Before and After Having Kids

Here’s a glossary that provides pre- and post-parenthood definitions of commonly heard words and phrases.

Crossing the threshold to parenthood changes everything. What once was a carefree – and even selfish – existence becomes a more duty-bound role filled with bonding, guilt, tenderness, sleepless nights, and unequivocal love.

To better prepare here’s a glossary that provides pre- and post- definitions of commonly heard words and phrases – all of which  completely change in meaning once an individual takes on the title of “parental guardian.”

Birthdays

Pre-parenthood:

Birthdays were a time for bar crawls and late nights with friends. Sushi or spicy hot Mexican food were top menu choices for one’s annual dinner celebration. Sitting at a high-top table while wearing skinny jeans was mandatory. Endless selfies were captured via cell phones and birthday cake came in the form of huge appetizers.

While no one liked aging, birthdays were viewed as logical reasons to stay out until sunrise and then bask in bed the following day for as long as necessary to recover from the night’s fun escapades. A person’s birthday, prior to parenthood, could stretch on for hours, days, or even weeks.

Post-parenthood:

Parental units do not celebrate, and rarely acknowledge, their birth date. It’s not uncommon for a mother or father to actually forget their own age because so many years go by without any big to-do or special gathering taking place to commemorate what was once a sacred, annual event. When a baby enters the picture, the only birthdays that matter are those of the children.

Parties must be planned weeks in advance and involve pastel invitations, pizza, ice cream, cake, and favor bags filled with stickers, fake tattoos, and plastic toys that will break within 24 hours. Piñatas, streamers, party hats, and matching napkins appear to be mandatory and the celebration typically takes place at a strategic time of day so as not to disturb the napping or eating schedules of siblings or party guests. Loud restaurant chains, playgrounds, and aquatic centers are the common venue choices.

Road trips

Pre-parenthood:

Before parenting duties took over one’s lifestyle, the thought of taking a road trip with friends or a significant other was met with joyful glee and butterflies of anticipation. Dreams of a “Thelma & Louise” adventure (without the morbid ending) were possible and even expected. Driving a convertible with the top down or hitting a nude beach were legitimate vacation goals.

Men could pack light and women could pack heavy because there was always more than enough room for the luggage in any vehicle. Long hours on the open road meant deep conversations, loud music, and being able to sleep in the reclined position whenever necessary because the road trip was an experience, not just a destination.

Post-parenthood:

Real road trips no longer exist for parents. If traveling for multiple hours in a vehicle becomes necessary it’s typically due to a cousin’s out-of-town wedding or funeral. Parents meet the travel challenge with fear, nausea, an apocalypse-ready supply of snacks, food, and drinks. An extended amount of time in the mini-van with little ones means continuous cartoons and constant singing of “Frozen” or other Disney musical hit.

Children will yell, fight, and complain while moms pound the ibuprofen and dads pray for ear plugs. Unscheduled stops to use the restroom have the potential to extend a family road trip by hours, if not days.

Live music

Pre-parenthood:

Hearing a musical icon sing sweet melodies into a microphone and jam out on stage were what great date nights were made of for most couples. Be it indie rock groups, country music legends, or a Top 40 superstar, people without children would line up for hours to secure tickets to see and hear their favorite musician perform live.

It never mattered if the concert started late and the encores kept the audience in their seats until well into the wee hours, because those in the crowd were happy to sip their alcoholic beverages and sing along to the tunes that spoke to their heart.

Post-parenthood:

Live music no longer means amphitheaters or concert halls. It now consists of holiday programs, where a toddler is sure to stand around and play with his or her belt while getting knocked in the head by an enthusiastic four-year-old with bell ringing duties.

There’s no longer a need to pay money or dress up for live music events because they can occur in one’s living room. Nightly renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” will be performed ad nauseam by preschoolers wishing to prolong the bedtime process. Parents may also find themselves pushed into the starlet role of crooning out numerous verses of “Bah Bah Blacksheep” in order to coerce their kiddo into taking one more bite of veggies.

Reading

Pre-parenthood:

Perusing through a magazine, reading the newspaper, or relaxing with a great novel used to be the only way to spend a Sunday morning. Book clubs could be joined and the book could actually be read to completion. Having time for real reading meant having great, adult discussions at club meetings that always included good wine and delicious cheese. 

Post-parenthood:

The only authors a parent gets to regularly read are: Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and any other child author that knows to stick to the basics of colors, shapes, and animals. Plot lines are much simpler and before long most hard-covers can be read to children without even actually glancing at the pages. What was once entertainment, is now an important obligation because it has been determined that children really do better in everything if they are read to by their parents.

If by some chance, a mother or father is able to sneak in a quick chapter from Stephen King or Gillian Flynn before bed, they can plan on re-reading the same four pages multiple times due to falling a sleep from the simple act of sitting down alone. Sometimes parents will not get further than one page in a book of their own choosing due to interruptions of tiny, desperate requests for more water and another bedtime story from kiddos.

Life

Pre-parenthood:

Before the duty of parenting took hold, a person’s adult life was their own. It was okay to be selfish and spoiled. It was common to just go ahead and buy the expensive shoes, and hit up happy hour every night. Sleeping in late and going to bed even later was the norm. Daily showers, having enough time to see friends, and going to the fitness center were things that were taken for granted before kids entered the picture.

Post-parenthood:

Having a child is the best and most brutal job in the world because a parent’s own life must take a backseat to the lives of their children. Schedules are dictated by nap times, extra curricular activities, and toddler temper tantrums. The simple acts of eating and sleeping are altered as little sons and daughters demand attention for absolutely everything.

Love

Pre-parenthood love does not hold a candle to post-parenthood love.

While life gets harder after having kids, it also gets so much better. Life as a parent is a challenge, but it’s worth doing for the reward of loving – and being loved by – a child. 

Debate Club: How Many Baby Showers Is Too Many?

Two Parent Co. writers face off about baby showers.

debate club

A Second Baby Shower is One Too Many

by Michelle Downing

My little sister is expecting her first baby in the spring, and my other sisters and I were recently discussing her shower. My husband asked why we never had a shower for our daughter.

“Well, I did have one, before,” I replied. Before he was around, I meant. With my oldest daughter, when I was married to her father.

We never got to experience any of that, because I had already done it when I first became a mother more than nine years ago.

Granted, the situation could have warranted another celebration. My oldest was almost eight when our daughter was born. I had put the high chair and swing on Craigslist. I’d given away the crib and clothes to friends. A lot of things had ended up at Goodwill. I had never expected to remarry and find a man who was so great with children and who so badly wanted one of his own. And I had never expected to want to give him one.

My family had offered to throw us a shower when we made my pregnancy announcement. They wanted to celebrate this new chapter of our life and were so excited for a new little girl in our family.

But I declined. They had already thrown me a shower.

To me, a baby shower is just as much a celebration for becoming a mom as it is for the new baby. All the cheesy games center around being a first-time mom. Friends and family gift her with diaper genies and wipe warmers and a surplus of supplies she’s probably never seen and never knew she needed.

All the other moms get to offer their sage advice of tips and tricks. They get to share their sweet stories of the first time their son said, “I love you.” They share the horror stories of their daughter’s first blowout at the grocery store.

Once you’ve had children, you’ve done all of this. More importantly, your family and friends have already gone through the trouble of throwing a shower for you.

Unfortunately, showers aren’t always a celebration of a new birth. Sometimes they’re just a ploy for gifts. I’ve even seen etiquette rules for a second shower. The number one rule? Don’t ever throw your own shower.

This. This is appalling. The shower is not the problem. It’s the sense of obligation behind it. 

People argue their kids are far apart in age (I know the feeling!). Or now they’re having a baby of the opposite gender, and they don’t have everything they need.

Yes, kids are expensive, it’s a daunting task to go out and get everything you need to raise a little person of your own. But it’s part of being a parent. It is your responsibility and yours alone. No one will come over every night to buy groceries and supply your little one with dinner. No one will write your weekly check to daycare. No one helps with school supplies, larger clothes as they grow, a new car, college tuition, etc. 

When a baby is brought into the world, it’s a joyous event that should be celebrated. But a celebration doesn’t have to include balloons and invitations with storks. It doesn’t have to include every woman you interact with. A celebration doesn’t even need to include gifts. Why do people have to buy you something to prove they’re excited for you?

I had a nice brunch with my family before my daughter was born. We received lots of well wishes and cards in the mail. We had tons of visitors at the hospital, and at home once we were settled in. Some people brought gifts and some did not. I never once doubted how happy everyone was for us, and I have no doubt about how much that little girl is loved.

Each child is a blessing. But let people do it on their own terms, however they feel it’s appropriate.

Congratulations to all you first-timers preparing for your first shower. Make it a memorable one.

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The Arrival of Every Child Deserves Recognition

by Sarah Broussard Weaver

I have four children, and each have had a baby shower, or at least a gathering of friends to mark the event. Each of my shower gatherings had a very different flavor, corresponding with the situation my husband and I were in at the time.

My first shower was kind of a flop because only three or four people came. It was a combination of the wrong day, the wrong location, and a community I was out of touch with, having moved away a year before. But it was mortifying for me. My mother-in-law and friend planned it and had prepared so much delicious food and fun games to play. The recollection of it was a painful thought for me for years.

When I had my second baby, I was given another shower, and the second baby was also a girl. Many people came to that one, and I felt strangely healed from the embarrassment of the first.

For my third daughter, work colleagues threw a small shower, and I went to see “Wicked” with my best friend.

For my last baby and only boy, my three best friends took me out and plied me with Mexican food and gifts. That was more of a pamper-the-mother thing, and it was just what I needed.

Baby showers are a time-honored tradition, born of needing to help a young couple gather the things needed for their first child. After receiving the layette of tiny nighties, socks, a crib, and later, the more modern “needs” such as a Bumbo seat, baby food makers, co-sleepers, and boutique baby slings, the new parents are prepared for any following children. Worn out nighties or other items can be replaced as needed by the parents themselves, because they would presumably be established in their lives and capable of doing so.

But modern baby showers seem to mean more than just providing the baby’s needs. The shower for a first baby is still the biggest affair. But often subsequent children will merit their own shower, especially if the baby is a different gender than the first (or than the first two or three, as the case may be).

So many baby necessities are color-coded these days – rose-petal pink or baby blue – and some parents don’t want to ignore these societal cues. I can tell you from personal experience that even if you have your baby girl all robed in pink, strangers in the grocery stores will still coo, “He’s so cute! What’s his name?” so there’s not much point in that.

Multiple baby showers are fine in my book. They’re celebrations, gatherings to celebrate the child coming soon. I think the practice of multiple showers started slowly, with some mothers getting another shower when they had a “surprise” baby long after they got rid of their baby things, or when they were having a girl after two boys.

Now subsequent showers have themes like “diaper shower” where people only bring diapers and baby wipes, Diaper Genies, or cloth diapering supplies. There are “book showers” where people bring their favorite baby books. Showers to replace worn out baby supplies are called “baby sprinkles.” (Get it? Not a full-out shower, just a sprinkle. I guess that sounded better than drizzle!)

Sometimes showers for non-first children focus on pampering the mother before the baby’s arrival. They don’t have to be a huge fancy deal, but rather a great way for people to get together and celebrate.

Parents need different things at different times. When my son came, although I had nothing geared for a boy, we were in a place in life to provide it all ourselves. I just needed some relaxation, and a night out with friends gave me that, plus a feeling of the coming baby being honored and recognized. Sometimes parents need or could really use new supplies they might have difficulty providing. Others just need a nice celebration.

Just as people celebrate birthdays every year, I think the arrival of a new child is an event that deserves recognition. If you don’t agree, just RSVP your regrets, and all will be fine.

12 Unique Days to Celebrate With Your Kids in 2017

Each year, there are many unique, entertaining, and family-friendly days to celebrate that you’ve likely never heard of before. Mark these on your calendar!

Did you know February 8th is Kite Flying Day? Each year, there are many unique, entertaining, and family-friendly days to celebrate that you’ve probably never heard of before. If you’re searching for engaging ways to create some family fun, adding a special day to your monthly calendar might be just the thing you need to create some happy memories and cherished adventures.

Say hello to imagination, exploration, and discovery. Here are 12 unique days to celebrate with your kids in 2017.

January 29th – National Puzzle Day

National Puzzle Day is a perfect day to ditch the electronics and gather puzzle enthusiasts, both young and old, around the table to complete a common goal. From 25-piece puzzles to Sudoku, puzzle choices abound for kids of all ages. Plus, children hone their problem-solving skills, concentration, and memory in a collaborative and positive environment.

February 11th – Make a Friend Day

Make a Friend Day is a great chance to encourage your children to get to know the classmates who might not be in their immediate social circle. It’s an opportunity to do something kind or unexpected for another child and maybe even find a new friend.

March 26th – National Spinach Day

Is it easy to get your kids to eat greens? I can hear the resounding, “No!” from the majority of parents. Nonetheless, National Spinach Day is an excellent excuse to talk to your kids about the healthy nutrients (like iron, vitamin C, and magnesium) in spinach and other greens that fuel their growing bodies.

Try putting spinach on pizza or hiding it in a smoothie to help your kids adjust to the taste and texture. Better yet, hold a contest to see who can come up with the best spinach-inspired recipe.

April 2nd – Children’s Book Day

April 2nd marks the 1805 birth of Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. With fairy tales like The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Little Mermaid, his stories have inspired generations.

Children’s Book Day calls attention to all children’s books and aims to spark a love of reading in kids. Public libraries may celebrate this day with reading hours or other events for children. Can’t make it to the library? Spend time reading one of your favorite childhood books to your kids.

May 4th – Star Wars Day

If you’re a “Star Wars” fan, you’ve probably heard, “May the fourth be with you” a time or two. Once a grassroots movement, May 4th is now a global celebration of the Star Wars legacy for fans of all ages. Cozy up with your kids and commemorate this day with your family’s favorite “Star Wars” film. Why stop at just one? You can turn this event into a movie marathon!

June 7th – National Trails Day

Looking for a way to instill the love of nature into your children? With thousands of free events across the country, National Trails Day allows your family to share in the beauty of the outdoors and connect to local trails. From hiking to photography to bird watching, National Trails Day offers activities to ignite the interest of children of all ages.

July 16th – National Ice Cream Day

Who doesn’t love ice cream on a hot summer day? And for one day only, you have an excuse to take the whole family for a tasty, sweet treat at your favorite ice cream shop. Enjoy!

August 16 – National Tell a Joke Day

Few things are better than a day filled with laughter. So gather your family around the table and let the joke-telling begin for National Tell a Joke Day. Laughing releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which is sure to boost you and your family’s mood.

September 11th – Make Your Bed Day

A chore that often elicits groans can be turned into a friendly (and extremely helpful) competition. Who’s the fastest bed maker in the house? Give that person a prize for winning the bed making challenge and help your children create healthy, lifelong habits.

October 1st – National Homemade Cookies Day

Chocolate chip. Peanut butter. Molasses. The cookie combinations abound! If you’re looking for an excuse to make some homemade cookies, your reason has arrived on this aromatic day. Your children will enjoy the family time together, not to mention licking the bowl and the yummy delights that follow.

November 15th – America Recycles Day

With more than 2100 events around the country, America Recycles Day is a great opportunity to teach your kids about the value of recycling, reusing, and reducing unnecessary waste. Don’t see any activities in your area? You can involve your children in this important day by having them pick out clothing and toys they no longer use and donate them to children in need. Or organize a park cleanup with your family and friends where your kids can hunt for recyclable items.

December 27th – Make Cutout Snowflakes Day

During an extended winter break and a chaotic holiday season, making snowflakes is an enjoyable way to spend some quality time with your children. There’s only one rule: You must have fun! So grab some paper, coffee filters, and scissors, and get to creating some beautiful, one-of-a-kind snowflakes.

What special days do you have planned for this year? Please share in the comments!

How to Make the Most of Your College Student's Winter Break at Home

Parents get excited when their college kids come home for holidays and schools breaks. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and be together.

Parents get excited when their college kids come home for holidays and schools breaks. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and be together. Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do to make the most of visits home.

Do family time

Plan one or two mandatory family activities. Let them know in advance what day or times that you’re planning them and that attendance is non-negotiable. Based on your family’s likes and schedule, plan something special, like dinner at a favorite restaurant or show tickets or a family game night.

Don’t overwhelm them with plans

Understand that, while you’ve missed them, they have missed everything about home. They miss their friends, their pets, even just sleeping in their own beds. It’s not that they don’t want to be with you, it’s that they have limited time at home and many people they want to see. Try not to be smothering or overwhelm them. Making family plans for every minute will just lead to stress and disappointment.

Do allow for down time

After months of sharing a room with roommate(s), they might just want to spend some time alone. Don’t worry if they aren’t overly social or feel like spending some time just watching TV or catching up on sleep. Time at home is a good way to re-charge and get a rest from college late nights.

Don’t get insulted

Many college students walk in the house, drop their bags (filled with dirty laundry), and immediately head out the door. Thanksgiving is a prime opportunity to re-connect with friends from high school. If you feel like your kids haven’t spent any time at home, suggest they invite friends over instead of going out.

Do set some rules in advance

They’ve been living on their own for a while now. They aren’t used to asking to borrow the car or having a curfew. Communicate your expectations to your young adult. You may need to loosen the rules you enforced when your child was in high school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set some boundaries regarding underage drinking, car use, etc.

Don’t stress the mess

Having your college kid home means more stuff. More laundry, more shoes at the door, and messy rooms. Remember this mess is temporary. Try not to battle about messy rooms and just close the door. If it truly gets out of hand, let them know in a calm manner.

Do stock the fridge

Nothing says welcome home like a fridge stocked with your child’s favorite foods. Many college dining halls to not have the most appetizing choices. Your kids may have been surviving on Ramen, peanut butter, and take out pizza, so make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on hand, as well as some homemade treats. Let them pick the dinner menu for their time home.

Don’t ask too many questions

Of course you’re curious about their life at college, but don’t bombard them with questions the minute they walk in the door. While it’s natural to want to hear lots of details about your child’s new life, it’s more important not to make them feel interrogated or judged. Let your young adult take the lead in conversations. You may want to hear about their classes and grades, but they may be more interested in discussing fraternity life or roommate issues. Don’t press. They are adults and may want some privacy.

Do savor this time

From sibling banter to hearing their footsteps come down the stairs for breakfast (or lunch), embrace the sounds and laughter of having your child home again. Make time for simple activities you enjoy doing together, like going to the movies or the mall or just hanging out on the couch watching reality television. Take cues for your young adult. If it seems like they feel like talking, take a break from whatever else you are doing and really listen.

Don’t forget, they will be back again

It can be hard to say goodbye, but try not to focus on the fact that they’ll be leaving soon. Remember that your kids will be back again for other holidays, and summer break. It’s not the same as when they lived at home full time, but this next phase of parenting can be wonderful, too. 

Debate Club: Can a New Year’s Resolution Actually Make a Difference?

Why I’m making a New Year’s resolution this year

by Kristina Johnson

I guess you could say I’m an eternal optimist. I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions my entire adult life, despite being among the vast majority of people who rarely stick with them. Every year when December 31st rolls around, I’ve found myself gearing up to start fresh in the year ahead with a totally cliché list of goals to achieve. Eat healthier. Get my caffeine habit under control. Start working out more (or, to be honest, at all).

Last year, however, was a little different. I rang in 2016 in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital where I’d given birth to my daughter the day before. With a due date in late January, I’d laughed it off whenever people had joked that I might have a New Year’s baby (convinced as I was that I was would be pregnant literally forever). To my great surprise, I did indeed begin the year as a brand new mother.

There’s nothing like being handed a mini human to care for 24/7 to give you a sense of perspective. Suddenly the idea of resolving to live a healthier lifestyle was more important than ever – I’m someone’s mom! I can’t have the dietary habits of a 7th grader anymore! But as so often happens to those of us who begin each new year with grand plans, life simply got in the way. My dreams of eating well and exercising more became hazier and hazier as my baby consumed more and more of my time.

I was ultimately much too busy to stand a chance at sticking to any sort of resolution for 2016, but as this year winds down I find myself thinking ahead to 2017 and the type of woman and mother I want to be in the new year.

Before I quit my job earlier this past summer to become a stay-at-home mom, I’d have to fill out a self-evaluation as part of my annual performance review. I would have to rate myself on how well I’d done my job. Was I “exceeding expectations”? Did I “need improvement”? Did I “achieve my goals”?

I was never too shy to give myself a glowing review. I knew I worked hard, had the respect of my peers, and always got the job done. I started each new work year proud of my accomplishments and confident that I’d learn more, earn more, and keep climbing the corporate ladder.

There was no official performance review for my first year as a mother, however. No one’s logged the countless hours I spent comforting and cuddling, and no one’s going to hand me a raise and a promotion for all my efforts. I certainly worked my butt off in 2016 to be a great mom. It was hands down the best year of my life, but it was also one filled with challenges and self-doubt and too many mistakes to count.

The smiling face of my happy, sweet, and mischievous almost-one-year-old lets me know I must have done something right this year. But I also know I can be an even better mother, because there’s always room for improvement when you’re doing the absolute hardest job in the world.

In 2017, I resolve to be more patient. I resolve to play more and hover less. I resolve to teach my daughter new things and learn some more myself. And yeah, I resolve to eat healthier and kick the caffeine habit – because there’s a little set of eyes watching everything I do.

The data says I won’t always be able to stick to these resolutions. And that’s probably true. But having some filed away in my mind gives me something to work toward. And they remind me that as my daughter begins her second year of life in 2017, and I begin my second year of motherhood, I owe it to both of us to never stop striving to be the best me I can be.

debate club

Don’t make New Year’s resolutions

by Cheryl Maguire

It’s January 14, 2016. People are filtering into the cycle room at the YMCA. I’m adjusting the seat on my stationary bicycle when I realize the class is almost full 20 minutes before it even starts (which is unusual).

The woman next to me, who regularly attends the class, grumbles, “I hate this time of year when all the ‘ressies’ take over the gym.”

Since I’m also a regular, I know her term “ressies” is referring to all the people who newly signed up for a gym membership in hopes of fulfilling their New Year’s resolution of working out. Every January for the past 15 years that I’ve been a member of the gym, I’ve witnessed this phenomenon.

I turn to her and say, “Don’t worry. They’ll all be gone by March.”

She laughs and says, “That is so true.”

Even though I made light of the situation, I actually feel sad knowing all of these people will not achieve a goal they created. Richard Wiseman studied 3,000 people who made New Year’s resolutions. At the end of the year he found only 12 percent of them had achieved their goal.

Despite the high number of failed goals-reaching, about 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. According to psychology professor Peter Herman, people usually don’t achieve their New Year’s resolution goals because they create unrealistic goals. People also tend to underestimate the difficulty in achieving these goals.

I wasn’t always a fitness fanatic. In fact, I would liken my former self to more of a couch potato who avoided all forms of exercise. My transformation was a long and slow process (over the course of several years) and it never involved a New Year’s resolution of working out more.

I think creating a goal just because the calendar (or other people) are telling you to will only set you up for failure which could result in a decreased sense of self-worth. Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution because it’s a new year, create goals throughout the year in those areas of life where you want make changes.

Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions this year, consider the following questions:

  • What did I accomplish this past year?
  • How can I build upon those accomplishments next year?
  • What are some things I could have done differently this past year?
  • List some people who were supportive of me this past year.
  • How can I support other people next year?
  • When I think about this past year I feel happy to remember . . .
  • When I think about this past year I feel sad to remember . . .
  • What are some new skills or information I learned this year?
  • What are some new skills I’d like to learn in the future?
  • What steps do I need to take to acquire these new skills?

On My Birthday, Treat Me Like I Treat You on Super Bowl Sunday

Like the Super Bowl, my birthday, comes but once a year. And this year, I want my husband to work as hard for my birthday as I do for his Super Bowl party.

The Super Bowl comes but once a year, just like my birthday, and I’ve decided I want my husband to work as hard for my birthday as I do for his Super Bowl party.

Research Pinterest for weeks.

I want him on Pinterest, researching the most perfect meals for my big day. Which appetizers will thrill me? I made the guacamole football field with the sour cream yard lines topped with some pretzel stick field goals last year.

I’d like him to get creative. How about make me a wine and cheese plate in the shape of of my favorite flower or arrange the veggie platter into Ryan Gosling’s face. For the main course, he should roll sushi and grab some crab rangoon.

Finally, how cute can he possibly get the dessert? He should spend some time deciding if I’ll feel most like a brownie explosion or maybe cheesecake surprise.

Spend all weekend cooking and cleaning.

For a meal as important as my super birthday dinner, there needs to be prep work. It cannot be done in one day. He needs to prepare two days ahead of time, and check in hourly the day before.

The day of, I’d like that oven constantly going, but he should have thought ahead about when I’d be the most hungry. Mini-courses should already be established on a rotating basis via his mental and physical checklist, and everything should be crisp and clean. Including the bathrooms.  

I’m going to need that all set out before I descend the stairs to my woman cave for the evening to take in some movies with my girlfriends for at least six hours.

Dress up the kids and decorate my house in my favorite colors.

Much like every Super Bowl, I’m going to need to see some team loyalty. Since my kids are cheering me on in life, I would like them to smile all day. No matter what, when I look around, I’d like it to look like we are celebrating a magical event.

I need to know which team each person is on. My boys can be wearing nice jeans or khakis with the some coordinating polos. My daughter will wear an ensemble that we didn’t argue about first all in the name of “Team Mommy.”

Invite all of my closest friends to my house.

The more the merrier at this life event, so get on the phone early – like two months early – and confirm some party people at our house. These need to be my closest friends, and I’d love for them to have a great time.

If you haven’t organized a babysitter this far in advance, please set up kid-friendly activities upstairs so the kids are simultaneously happy and quiet. We are most likely watching The Notebook or some trash TV, so I don’t want them downstairs for my precious six hours. Make sure to keep them occupied.

Give me the TV for six straight hours.

No matter what I feel like watching for that period of time, I’m going to need you to not interrupt it at all. Please make sure to keep the electricity flowing, and the throw pillows in reach. A disruption to our wi-fi will kill our mood. Put your cell phone on silent, because this day is important to me, and I cannot be interrupted.

Finally, for my birthday, if you were to treat me like I treat you on Super Bowl Sunday, you’ll be rewarded with another happy year, and very likely, a happy life.

Remember the golden rule, and let’s party!

How to Avoid Ruining My Holiday Party

I want to be a gracious host. And I want you to have a fun time at my holiday party. But I’m going to have to make a few requests.

‘Tis the season for guests to spill eggnog on the floor.

You know, the one I mopped specifically to impress them after weeks of ignoring my kids’ leaky sippy-cup milk puddles. Yup, it’s the holidays, and I usually end up hosting at least one party. We have a lot of space, and I have an over-developed sense of obligation.

Also, I actually think it will be grand fun until the night before, when I realize people are going to come into my house expecting food, drink, and basic cleanliness.

I will most likely continue to plan parties every year until I drop dead from a stress-related condition. The truth is, planning activities that bring people together gives me a thrill right up until the moment they start arriving, at which point I transform into an anxious, introverted mess.

If you or your family want to continue coming to these parties (as in, if you want me to live to plan the next one), here are seven things to avoid:

1 | Don’t show up early.

Please don’t show up 15 minutes early and ask me what you can do to help. I know you have good intentions, but there is virtually nothing you can do to help at this point, except turn around, go back to your car, and pretend you didn’t see me mopping the floor, braless, in yoga pants.

I need every shred of time to be ready for this event, and if you come traipsing in early, you are going to disturb the illusion that I actually have things somewhat together. If you absolutely must do something to check off your service advent calendar, take my kids to see Santa hours before the party starts.

2 | Don’t ask me for a house tour.

Behind all these closed doors and baby gates are the toys I didn’t have time to clean up and the laundry I didn’t have time to wash. Getting a couple of rooms acceptable for public viewing proved a herculean feat. I can’t work that magic everywhere.

You don’t want to see my house. And I really don’t want you to see it.

3 | Don’t ignore your kids.

I know. You’re at a party. You want to relax. All the good babysitters are off kissing their cute college sweethearts under the mistletoe at this time of year, and a night off sounds wonderful. But if you bring your kid to my house, I need you to stop them from destroying everything in their path.

Please make sure that they haven’t stashed the green bean casserole you made them try under a couch cushion. Please don’t let them through the baby gate to the great unknown of the Rooms That Are Not Appropriate for Public Consumption. And please, please watch them near the oven and stairs.

I’m too busy making sure my own kids aren’t murdering each other and that the ice hasn’t run out to watch yours.

4 | Don’t give me unsolicited advice about the food.

I cooked for you! You are eating a thing that you didn’t have to pay for or prepare yourself! Therefore, I don’t want to hear about how your sister makes something similar, but even better, or how, if I substitute the butter with applesauce, I can halve the calories.

If you can do it better, bring the dish yourself. Except don’t. I already have an inferiority complex. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it (I don’t, and I won’t).

5 | Don’t give my kids any cookies.

Or candy. Or sips of your adult beverage. They know when I’ll tell them no, and they know who doesn’t know any better. They will come up to you with their big blue eyes and cherubic golden hair and ask you in their sweet baby speech for 10 cookies, and you will be hypnotized by their matching red sweaters, and hand over the goods.

And then they will turn into psychotic demons and wreak more havoc than a bevy of freshman frat boys at their first kegger.

6 | Don’t do the dishes.

I know many consider dish-washing the hallmark of a good guest, but all it will do is stress me out. I’m slightly neurotic about the process (which, I’m sure, will surprise you). When you load the dishes haphazardly, I just wait for you to leave so I can fix them.

Also, I arrange my rainbow-colored Fiestaware ROYGBIV-style, so if you put the orange next to the green, I’ll have an aneurysm. (Yes, I’m aware they have pills for that.) Also, I’ll feel guilty if you spend your party time doing housework, and it won’t give me a break, because I will hover over you the entire time, begging you to go sit on the couch with everyone else. 

7 | Don’t forget that I actually love you.

I know I’m a stress case. But it’s really important to me that you have a good time and preserve the illusion that I have my life somewhat together.

If you follow these steps, I won’t try to kill you with my eyes, and I’ll let you bring the leftover cheese ball home.