Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Looking for some fun ideas to do with the family around Thanksgiving? Our family has three Holiday traditions that we look forward to every year. I hope sharing them inspires you to start some of your own Thanksgiving family traditions and start racking up those fun memories.

Giving Back

With Thanksgiving coming up, a lot of talk at our dinner table has centered around helping others and being grateful for what we have. My husband and I frequently talk to the kids about giving back but we wanted to find ways to get the kids more involved in activities that help others. So we have started a Pre-Thanksgiving tradition where we do one activity as a family to help others.

In the past we have helped various local charities through my son’s Boy Scout troop or through the YMCA. This year we are going to spend a few hours hand-packing meals at Feed My Starving Children, a charity that provides meals specifically formulated for malnourished children to nearly 70 countries around the world. This is a great activity to do as a family because even young kids can pitch in and help. Here are more ideas on how to give back as a family.

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Tags: Holiday Traditions · Thanksgiving

5 Life Lessons I Learned from my Dad

My Dad has a milestone birthday coming up and in trying to think of a meaningful gift for him, I thought I’d write about him and how his values have shaped my life.

So, to honor my Dad on his special birthday, I’m going to share the 5 most important life lessons he taught me, that I hope to pass along to my kids.

1. If you want it, work for it. Growing up, our family wanted for nothing. We always had a nice house, went on vacations, had air conditioning, and we definitely had plenty of toys. However, despite being lucky like that, my Dad did teach me that if you really want something, work for it. If there was something I wanted that my parents didn’t feel like just giving me, he told me to go work for the money and buy it myself. So, I would vacuum the house to get extra allowance. I’d bake cookies and sell them to friends to make extra cash. I would babysit (even though I HATED that) and I got a job in high school as soon as I could. So while I’m not the person who squirrels away money for a rainy day, I also NEVER spend more than I have because of Dad’s lesson. Want something? Work for it. Then enjoy. Even though I spoil MY kids, I am working on passing this lesson along to them, as well.

2. Go for the gusto and savor life. My Dad wants to enjoy life, so he does. He works hard and then he indulges in the things that make him happy. Pursuing enjoyment is a noble calling. He taught me to eat great food, travel the world and go to exciting places. Seek out fun so you can laugh heartily. Go to the movies often and be entertained. Dance. He still likes to dance with my Mom. I’ve learned by watching him. Life is too short to sit back and wait. So, start savoring.

3. Don’t be afraid to try it. While I remember sitting at the kitchen table for hours refusing to eat vegetables and not being allowed to leave until I had, I did eventually grow up and come to appreciate trying different things. You never know where your new favorite food, movie, book, city, restaurant, exercise class, or idea is going to come from if you don’t experiment and explore. (Except for the Octopus Ice Cream I ate in Mexico once. That was a very bad decision.)

I was very upset when I was 10-years-old and my Dad came home to tell us we were moving to a place where they didn’t speak English. It was unfair! It was inhumane! It would interfere with my budding 10-year-old social life! Dad said “Try it, you’ll like it.” Once we moved to Puerto Rico and then Mexico, I did love it. I learned Spanish. Ate weird food. Met new friends from around the world with different perspectives. I saw true poverty. I came to appreciate what I have. Some of the fondest memories in my life occurred after I got over the fear of the unknown. I wish I could offer the experience of temporarily living in another country to my kids. While we don’t have the opportunity to move overseas, I can encourage them to try new things and explore the world.

4. Loyalty. To my Dad, loyalty and doing your duty means everything. He’s very loyal to family, he was loyal to his employer for so long, and he’s definitely loyal to friends. Sure, there may be disagreements. There may be minor arguments. But that’s what family and friends do. Despite that, you know you can count on him to be there when and if you need help. There’s strength and comfort in knowing that.

5. Dress to impress. As a surly teen, I HATED it when my Dad would make us kids dress up when we were invited along on his business dinners or went out to eat in nice restaurants. (Since we lived overseas, my Dad often took the family along when he was entertaining business people from the States who had come to visit.) Of course, his idea of dressing to impress and a kid’s idea of dressing to impress were completely different. “What do you mean I can’t wear this ripped surfer T-shirt to dinner?” I hated the dress pants he made me wear that made my butt look flat. Now, I would kill for pants that made my butt look flat but then, it was hardly cool. However, it did teach me the important lesson for later in life that if you want to be perceived as successful, you must put your best face forward … or your flat butt, if you have one.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad! Enjoy your day. You’ve deserved it. Love,


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Tags: Parenting Tips · Traditions

How to Plan the Perfect Father’s Day

Mother’s Day is so much easier to plan than Father’s Day. I’m not just saying that because I’m a Mom and I think it’s incredibly easy to figure out what I like.

After all, what woman doesn’t appreciate a pretty bouquet of flowers, an assortment of gourmet chocolate, a spa appointment or breakfast in bed? But when it comes to the men in our lives, it can be a lot trickier to plan that perfect day. There is no tradition around Father’s Day like Mother’s Day Brunch, which makes it easy to plan. Every Dad has different interests. I remember as a kid, whenever I would ask my Dad what he wanted for Father’s Day his answer was always “Peace and Quiet.” Well, you can’t just pick that up at the store, so we had to be more creative.

So, how to plan the perfect Father’s Day? Dad deserves a day that’s all about him. That means no obligations, no stress, and a whole lot of fun! While some Dads may want to spend the day away from their families to relax, we say, “No Way!” Let’s have fun together. (You can certainly give Dad a day off to go golfing, fishing, etc. as a gift, but if the kids want to lavish Dad with love on his special Day, definitely do things as a family.)

If you’re scratching your head planning Father’s Day activities, ask yourself what does Dad like to do? Cook, golf, play sports, watch sports, watch movies, or go on adventures? Once you narrow down his interests, think about a way the whole family can do it together. If he likes to golf, take the family to the driving range to hit some balls. If he likes to cook, plan a meal that takes all day to cook like ribs, paella, or homemade pasta. Everyone can help. If he likes adventures, take the family to see that cool new Museum exhibit or go on a long bike ride in a different part of town. If he has been dying to try that restaurant featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, go out to eat.

Here are some ideas to help you plan the perfect Father’s Day.

For creative ideas on how to have fun with Dad, check out 6 Last Minute Father’s Day Ideas.

For cute gift ideas that the kids can make, see my post on Cute Homemade Father’s Day Cards to Make with the Kids, Fabulous Father’s Day Gifts to Make with the Kids, and my Father’s Day Ideas board on Pinterest.

For some fun Father’s Day inspired treats, see the Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons blog.

Finally, for a great round-up of unique Father’s Day traditions, check out I love the Father vs. Kids competition idea.

Most importantly, I’d love to hear from you. Dads, what do you want most for Father’s Day? Moms, what do you have planned for Dad’s special day?

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Traditions

Throw a Kid-Friendly New Years Eve Party

New Year's Eve party

Christmas is over but are you still in the mood to party? Looking to ring in 2012 with some fun for your family? Personally, I prefer to go to bed early and sleep in on New Year’s Day to recover from the Holiday season. My kids however, like the idea of celebrating the arrival of the new year. So, we will PARTY. Since I’m usually running on empty, I’ve put together some fun but easy ideas for staying home and celebrating in your family room with the kids.


    Keep it low-key.
    You don’t need to go crazy cleaning the house, buying party favors, and cooking to have a fun New Year’s celebration. Keep the party ideas simple. Even if you just end up watching the countdown shows on TV with the kids, they’ll appreciate it.

    Make it a party.
    Definitely invite neighbors, family and friends with kids about the same age over to help celebrate. This keeps everyone off of the road, you can all watch the kids together, everyone can ooh and aah over your Christmas decorations one more time, and it saves on babysitter money. To keep it casual and easy, have everyone bring a dish to share. Start the party later so you don’t need to cook dinner, just have snacks and desserts. Invite the kids to come over in their pajamas so it’s casual, and parents won’t have to change their kids’ clothes if they fall asleep before going home.

    Time is all relative.
    Even if you have small children, you can still ring in the new year together. Here’s a trick. If you have small children who might not make it to midnight, change the clocks in the house so that “midnight” hits around 9 or 10 p.m. The kids will feel like they got to stay up and celebrate and you will still be able to put them to bed at a decent time. Or have the kids at the party bring sleeping bags so they can go to sleep while the parents still stay up and party a little more.(/ul>


      Pop in the Fun
      Kids love to make noise and New Year’s Eve is all about loud noise. Grab some inexpensive noise makers at your local Dollar Store or buy a roll of large bubble wrap. Give each kid a piece and let them “Pop it Up” at midnight while the adults pop open the champagne. Skip any confetti or streamers unless you want to spend the next day cleaning. Remember, we said keep it simple.

      Balloon Drop
      Another fun idea is to blow up balloons and “drop” them at midnight. Rig up a net in a corner of the basement or drop them over the balcony stairs. Kids will have fun popping the balloons and chasing them around.

      Re-Decorate Your Christmas Tree
      I loved this idea from a Mom who wrote in to a few years ago. She had her children help her take the ornaments off the Christmas tree so that they could make a “New Year’s Tree.” They took all of the Christmas ornaments off of the tree but left the lights on. They then added curled ribbon, party horns, balloons — basically everything needed for a New Year’s Eve party for the children. What a fun and festive idea and you get a second use out of your Christmas tree! If you are planning on having people over to help celebrate New Year’s Eve, this is a perfect idea on how to decorate.


    It’s easier to plan a party if you have a theme. Here are 3 easy themes and activities to keep the family occupied and laughing while you wait for midnight.

      Game Night
      Get out those new board games you got for Christmas or Hanukkah, find your old favorites in the closet or fire up the Wii for a little family competition. Definitely grab prizes like big boxes of movie theater candy, large chocolate bars, or my favorite, win coupons to get out of household chores. Click here for more ideas on planning a Family Game Night. Here are a few of my family’s favorite games that you can get from our affiliate Amazon:



      Mexican Train Dominoes

      5 Second Rule

      Pajama Pizza Party

      Why not have fun cooking together and sharing some laughs in the kitchen by making homemade pizza? If you have a great pizza recipe and a pizza stone, you are good to go. If not, here’s my family’s killer homemade pizza recipe. To make the evening more unique, have everyone wear their pajamas all night. Invite another family over and make it a kids/adult slumber party. Or set up a tent in the living room and the kids can watch the ball drop from inside the tent in their sleeping bags. Here are some more ideas on how to host a fun Pizza Party.

      Fancy Schmancy New Years Eve Party

      Half the fun of New Year’s Eve is getting dressed up. Who loves dress up more than kids? It’s also fun to dance so why not combine these two into a Fancy Schmancy New Year’s Eve Party? Kids love watching their parents get dressed up for New Year’s Eve Parties, so let them share in the spotlight this year by dressing up in their fancy duds or their kooky dress-up clothes.

      You don’t have to go to a club to hear the latest bands and dance on New Years. Pick a theme and host a kid’s prom at home. Turn the New Year’s countdowns on the TV and let the kids dance along to the featured bands. Or set up an area in the house as a dance floor and spin the tunes. Create a playlist of the top dance hits of 2011 and groove those holiday feeding-frenzy calories away. Get your video camera out because the video of your kids dressed up and dancing will be worth it!

    Whatever you decide to do, have a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve with your family. We look forward to sharing more simple, creative and memorable Family Fun ideas with you next year, so we can all have more Chocolate Cake Moments.

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    Tags: Holiday Fun · Holiday Traditions

Unique Christmas Family Traditions

Don’t you just love Holiday family traditions? Everyone is excited, looking forward to the activity. It’s fun to get everything ready with the kids. And then it’s fun to make the memories.

However, every now and then I feel like some of our traditions are getting a little “stale” and we need to spice them up a bit. Maybe you just need to add a fun twist to an existing family tradition or maybe your kids are a little older now so they can do more things.

So I did a little investigating and I was amazed at some of the really unique and cool traditions that other families are doing for fun. So I flagged some traditions I found online and asked my readers about some of their unique Holiday Family Traditions. You might want to start some of these fun activities in your home.

Christmas Eve Traditions

There are a lot of fun activities that go on on Christmas Eve night. Some are more traditional like opening gifts from family members to going to midnight mass. Some read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and others have to sing a Christmas carol before you get to open gifts. (OK, that was my Mom’s rule.) However, some families kick it up a notch. I’ve seen online that some families wear matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. My Mother-in-law has a good family friends that hosts a talent show on Christmas Eve. Everyone no matter what age has to get up and provide entertainment for the whole family. If your family tends towards the “dramatic” it’s a nice tradition because cousins were working together on an act which brought them even closer together. Plus, it makes for great family videos.

The Family Memory Tablecloth

Amy over at has a unique family tradition where they make aFamily Tablecloth. Every year when her family gets together for the Holiday they add a saying, memory, hand print or other drawing in pencil onto the designated family tablecloth. Then her mother-in-law embroiders over the pencil marks during the year so that next Holiday you see your contribution permanently added in needlepoint. The tablecloth grows as the family does. How cool!

Tree Looking

My husband’s family lives in rural Iowa and for years they’ve had a tradition of “tree looking” where you drive around to your friends’ houses during the Holiday Season and drop in to look at their tree. I know my Mother-in-law always had to have some cookies or treats ready because you never know when someone will stop by. It’s casual, informal and a fun way to stay connected with friends or neighbors and get to check out all of the hard work people put into decorating their homes for Christmas. I only ever get to see my neighbors’ trees from the window. I love the idea of stopping by to admire and chat. I love seeing other people’s Christmas decorations too because there is usually a memory or story behind some of them that I love hearing.

Hide and Seek Traditions

This year, the Elf on the Shelf tradition has really taken off but many families have been hiding the Christmas Pickle for years. This is a German traditions where you have a glass pickle ornament that gets hidden on the tree and whoever finds it first on Christmas Eve wins a prize or small gift. Here’s how one of my readers does the Christmas Pickle tradition.'s Cookie Drop Tradition

The Cookie Drop

Over at, I found a cute post about a Cookie Drop tradition. Andi, the author from, makes up packages of homemade cookies, drops them at a friend or neighbor’s house, takes a photo of the package at their door and sends them an email telling them to check their front door for a surprise. Very cool!

Does your family have any unique holiday traditions? I’d love to hear about them so please leave me a comment.

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun · Holiday Traditions

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