How to Create Your Own Family Holiday

We were cruising through some Mom blog sites and found this fun posting on Creating Your Own Family Holiday. The ladies over at RookieMoms.com have challenged and inspired us to make up some special days that mean something to our family.

Think about it. Creating your own Holiday! How fun is that!?! And, what a great opportunity to use your imagination and creativity. Here’s our take on the idea – Why not let each person in the family come up with an idea and you can vote on it. Or, put the ideas in a hat each January 1st and draw one idea to be celebrated that year. If you love celebrations and silliness, why not let each person in the family get their own Holiday?

If all of your family birthdays seem to come at the same time of year, this is a perfect opportunity to spread out your family celebrations. Here are some of my ideas for a family Holiday:

1. Enchanted Fairy or Troll Day. On the first really nice day in Spring, declare it Fairy or Troll day. Then the whole family can spend the day outside building a fairy or troll house so that the little creatures have a place to stay at your house all summer. Your kids will love building the houses out of sticks, leaves, and any other creative materials. You can put out Fairy food for them (I heard they love pink sprinkles) or Troll food (black licorice ropes and reeses peanut butter cups.) Don’t ask me why they eat that. I asked my kids and that’s what they said they eat. Everyone in the family can write a letter to the creatures asking for good luck for the season. Then before bed, read your favorite fairy or troll books.

2. Family Movie Festival. In the fall on a yucky Saturday or Sunday, pick a day for a family movie festival. Everyone in the family get to pick their favorite movie to watch. Lounge the day away in your pajamas and watch these classic movies with plenty of snacks. End the day by watching some of your favorite home movies or ask Grandma and Grandpa to come over with movies of you when you were a kid. The kids will love it!

3. Curl Up With a Good Book Day. I love to read and there is nothing greater than finding a good book that you can’t put down. However, I always feel guilty when I sit down and just read during the middle of the day. I always feel like I should be doing something else. So, I would love a day where everyone gets a book, finds a comfy nook, and spends the day reading. We love to encourage our kids to read so this would help them discover the joy of reading. At the end of the day we can each talk about what we read.

4. Eat the Salsa in the Refrigerator Day. OK, this one is hardly worthy of a Holiday but I was going through the fridge last week and found 5 open jars of salsa in the fridge. How does this happen? Wouldn’t it be great if one day we just ate salsa all day and FREED UP SPACE IN THE FRIDGE? Sigh. A Mom can dream can’t she?

What are some of your ideas for a Holiday? I hope they involve Chocolate. We’d love to hear them so please share!

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Traditions · Ideas for family projects

5 Easter Family Traditions to Start This Year

Family traditions are so important and Easter is a great time of year to celebrate and have fun with loved ones. But Easter can mean more than just a ham dinner and an Easter Egg Hunt. Here are 5 ideas to start a fun, family Easter tradition this year.

1. Color Easter Eggs – Well, duh! This is easy right, we all know you color Easter eggs at this time of year. But, why not add to the Easter Egg coloring experience? Every year, color the eggs in a different way. Family Fun magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Celebrations.com provide you with ideas on how to decorate Easter Eggs. Start a tradition where every year you take turns deciding how you are going to decorate the eggs that year – stickers, decopage, tie dye, googly eyes, themes, etc. Or, start a tradition where you take some of the decorated eggs to a nearby nursing home. They would love to see your artwork. Another idea is to paint wooden eggs. Every year, everyone in the family gets to decorate one wooden egg. Put their name and the date on the bottom, save them and you have some artwork to look back on.

2. Hunting for Practical Jokes. Funny-up the Easter Egg Hunt by putting weird items in the plastic eggs. Our family has put in everything from grass, dog food, candy wrappers, dirt, shaving cream, and lego guys in the eggs. The kids look forward to opening the eggs and finding weird stuff in them. Lots of giggles.

3. Feed the Bunny. You leave cookies and milk for Santa, right? Well, what about the Bunny? He has to travel all night and he has to hop it! He doesn’t get a cool sleigh ride. I’m sure he’s hungry. Leave out a plate of carrots and a bowl of water for the Easter Bunny. (Maybe leave a can of Red Bull. I think he’s going to need the extra energy.) It’s up to your kids if they also want to leave some “white dip.” This forces Mom and Dad to eat a healthy snack before dinner, as well. Take it a step further and have the kids create a special plate and bowl just for the Easter Bunny.

4. Hunting for Fun. Why do the kids get all the fun on Easter Day at the Easter Egg Hunt? My husband has a huge family and every Easter the adults have fun hiding the eggs for the kids. The eggs get hid in some weird places and you get points for hiding the egg that doesn’t get found until Labor Day. Bonus points if you find out the egg was run over with the lawn mower. One year when the kids were done hunting and the adults were standing around wondering what to do next, we decided to have an adult hunt. One year we hid beer cans (soda would work, too). Another year, it was twinkies. We have hid pieces of paper with jokes on them and it’s pretty fun to read them all aloud later. Be creative, but have fun by having a second Easter Hunt.

5. Try Something New. Traditions are all about doing the same thing so you can look forward to the event, right? Well, make a tradition of doing something different for Easter. In our family, Easter means Ham, Cheesy Potatoes, Deviled Eggs, and some kind of Cream Pie. However, why not make it a tradition to try a different meal combination every year or a different recipe for ham, cheesey potatoes, etc? Cook an Easter meal from another country each year. Or, if you are like me, you clip these great recipes out of the food magazines only to store them somewhere and never use them. Use this family gathering as an excuse to try a new ham recipe or do the potatoes a little different. Just wait for the comments. “Ooh, she used apricot jelly on the ham this year.” “Goat cheese in the potatoes? Brilliant!” Here’s another tradition – invite non-family members to Easter dinner. If you have a small family or find yourself not traveling on Easter, start a tradition of inviting non-family to the family dinner. We have plenty of friends who celebrate Easter at home by themselves. Why not invite them over? You’re going to cook anyway.

We hope these ideas have spurred you on to start a new Family Tradition this year. Leave a comment and tell us your Easter Family Traditions.

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Traditions

Start a Family Holiday Tradition – Adopt an Elf

Family traditions are so important, especially around the Holidays. Traditions help to bring the Holiday season alive for our family. They help us laugh and smile when things get a little hectic. So, let me share a cool product with you that will help you create a Family Holiday Tradition. We discovered the Elf on the Shelf Book a few years ago and it is a huge hit at our house.

If you’ve never heard of Elf on the Shelf, let me share. With the kit, you get a retro-designed Elf doll and a book. The Elf has a job to do, as the book explains. He sits in your house during the day and then at night, he flies back to Santa to report on who has been naughty and who has been nice. (Parents, that includes you too.) A spy in the house! Why would kids like that? But, here’s the fun part. When the Elf comes back in the morning, he sits in a different part of the house. It is the ultimate hide and seek game. Our kids wake up every morning and run around the house trying to be the first to find the Elf.
Christy and Elf on the Shelf

To help you make this into a tradition, your family will adopt and name this special Elf. Ours is named Jack. (I wanted Cornelius but the kids overruled me.) The book includes a page where you can write in the Elf’s name and date he was adopted into your family so it becomes a family keepsake. We love this particular Elf because it reminds my husband and I of the ones our Grandmothers used to have in their houses. The Elf has a bendable body so that he can sit around the house in all kinds of cool places. Even if your kids no longer believe in Santa, they will still love the hide and seek game. Your kids can even take turns hiding the Elf to see who is the master hider in the house.

A word of warning to parents. If you forget to move the Elf one night, you had better come up with a pretty good reason why he is still in the same spot. The first time you forget to move him you can always claim that he was trying to be tricky and fool the kids by not moving. After that, you had better be creative. I have to write myself a sticky note to remember to move the Elf at night because last year I forgot two nights in a row. My daughter was distraut! She thought that the Elf had lost his magic and how was Santa going to know she was good. Oh, the drama! My bad, bad, bad! So, I had my daughter write a letter to Santa asking him to give Jack his magic back. We went to the post office and “mailed” it. It worked, and Christmas was saved. Whew! (That should be a Christmas TV special.)

You can really have fun with your Elf. We put ours out the morning after Thanksgiving, even though the kids start asking for him in August. You can have him create some mischief around the house – move presents, decorations, etc. Or we put crumbs around him one night so that it looks like he ate some Christmas cookies. Put some fake snow on him in the morning to show how he rushed home from the North Pole.

If you have an Elf on the Shelf, I’d love to hear what your family named him. Tell us also what excuses you’ve used it he forgot to move and what else you do to have fun with the Elf.

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Traditions · Reading with the Kids

How to Teach Your Kids About Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is one of my favorite Holidays. Huh? How did a suburban Chicagoland girl like me hear about Day of the Dead? Well, I lived in Mexico City for a number of years. For me, Day of the Dead is a fun day where you remember your loved ones who have died, and you share stories about the Chocolate Cake Moments you had together. I wanted to share this love with my kids so I went on a search to find ways to teach my kids about the Holiday. I always think it’s fun to learn about another culture’s traditions. Here are some resources that I have used to teach my kids and I hope they help you too.

If you live in the Chicagoland area or are going to visit anytime from Sept. 26 – Dec. 14th, plan a trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art. They have a really nice Day of the Dead exhibit. Artists from all over the US and Mexico come to the museum to build elaborate ofrendas or altars in the museum and display Day of the Dead themed artwork. They have artists on hand making sugar skulls that can be personalized with your kid’s name. Best yet, the museum store has all of the decorations you need to build an altar at home, books for kids on Day of the Dead, and the traditional papel picado, or tissue paper flag, decorations. Visit their website to plan your trip. My kids really enjoy this exhibit.

There are some really good books written for kids that explain Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter is a good one. Felipa and the Day of the Dead by Birte Muller is another one of our favorites. Finally, a book that doesn’t talk directly about Day of the Dead but is a great kids counting story that features Day of the Dead inspired art, is Just A Minute by Yuyi Morales. Read my review.

There are some nice websites that offer coloring pages of the Calaveras (skeletons), sugar skull kits, and instructions on how to make an altar in your home.

How to make an altar

Day of the Dead Crafts

Education Packet for Teachers & Students

I recently found a new craft online to make a Day of the Dead necklace at the Alpha Mom site.

I’m sure there are plenty more websites, locations, and books that are just as good. Leave a post and let me know what I’m missing.

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Traditions

Why I love Day of the Dead

I think the Day of the Dead Holiday is a great Holiday to share with kids. What? Why would I want to teach my kids about death and skeletons? November 1st, Day of the Dead, is a great opportunity to talk about death in a positive way about how our loved ones who may be gone but are still with us in spirit. As a family, we use the day to share the Chocolate Cake Moments that we had with someone special who we miss. And, of course, decorate with fabulous bright colors, candy skulls, and have a party where you eat, eat, eat. Let’s not forget that. But let me explain why I love the Day of the Dead Holiday.

I spent part of my childhood in Mexico City. My father worked for Motorola and we lived in Mexico for four years while he was building a factory for the company. (I wish I could offer my kids the opportunity to live overseas for awhile, but that’s another subject.) So, I went to middle and high school in Mexico City at the American School. Not only did I get to learn Spanish fluently but I really enjoyed some of the cultural traditions. During my first October in Mexico City, I got to see a transformation in the city. All of sudden every little store and street vendor had candy skulls out, which I thought were cool. The paper stores started displaying the colorful papel picado – or cut out tissue paper “flags” that show elaborately dressed skeletons enjoying various daily scenes of life. The fresh flower stalls suddenly had more yellow marigolds in stock and elaborate floral arrangements on display. Stores had little Day of the Dead shrines or altars set up to show you how to build your own. The shrines are just a physical way to put out things that remind you of your loved one. For us, it gets the family talking about how Grandpa loved this or that.

So, I loved all of the color and pageantry and funny skeleton art, but when I saw what people did on Day of the Dead, I came to appreciate what the day is about. On November 1st, Day of the Dead, people would either head to the cemeteries or have a party in their homes that was all about celebrating their dead loved ones. Sounds odd, right? But here’s the thing. The Mexican culture embraces death as just another aspect of life. It is not to be feared. And when you are gone, you are not truly gone. Here in the US, we tend to silently mourn for our dead loved ones. Once the funeral is over, the grieving and remembrance becomes a private affair. On Day of the Dead in Mexico, you throw one heck of a party for your loved ones. You serve their favorite food, maybe play their favorite music. Your Day of the Dead shrine has pictures of your loved ones, you leave out some of their favorite food, or other objects that represent what they loved or meant to you in life. It is a way to remember and celebrate their life. It is thought that the spirits of your dead loved ones come and share in this party. Whether you believe that or not, Day of the Dead is a great way to remember the Chocolate Cake Moments you had with someone special who is gone. I want someone to throw me a party when I am gone.

Does your family celebrate Day of the Dead? Tell me how.

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Tags: Family Celebrations · Holiday Traditions

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