Christmas

Mom Confessions: Holiday Edition

Mom Confessions: Holiday Edition

We're starting a new series here at TMC entitled, "Mom Confessions". Basically, it's a fun, informal way for us all to gain some solidarity in this motherhood journey, because we all know there are days we could use some! In this, our first installment, we share some holiday-themed confessions, provided by some of the leadership team, past and present.

Thriving on a Low-Budget Christmas

Christmas stockings

Happy December, Readers! Too often this month can become a frantic checklist of holiday planning, last minute shopping (or crafting), readying the house for guests, packing for travel, stressful eating and general busyness. Let's be honest, that is not a recipe for a calm and happy parent. This month we asked our writers to share some of their holiday plans, their reflections on the past year and their thoughts and goals for 2013. As 2012 closes, we are so thankful for the wonderful things that have happened at The Motherhood Collective over the past months. We wish you all a very happy and fulfilling end to your year. ~TMC-- This has been a rather challenging year for our family financially and as Christmas neared, I realized with sadness that we would not be able to spend virtually any money on gifts. We’re not a particularly materialistic family, but there is joy in watching others open your gifts and seeing how happy you’ve made them. Fortunately, the children were the least of my concern as the oldest is just 2 and the youngest only 6 months, too young to correlate Christmas with gift giving. However, we had hoped to watch Osias, our 2 year old, open something from us. He is, after all, old enough to at least open the presents and get excited about them. So this year we have decided to re-define “Re-Gifting”.

For the kids: Avia, our 6 month old, will not be receiving anything from us this year. Fortunately for us, she wouldn’t know one way or another anyway and I feel confident she’ll forgive us when she’s older and finds out her stocking was empty this year. For Osias, we’re using an old trick. About a month before Christmas, we packed away a bunch of fun toys that he loves and we’ll fill his stocking with them. I can’t wait to watch him pull each thing out of his stocking and see that adorable look of excitement (and recognition) at finding toys he hasn’t played with in so long! Whatever won’t fit in his stocking will be wrapped and placed under the tree (okay, on the floor since we’re skipping the tree this year).

For our parents and siblings: I love Pinterest, don’t you? I stumbled upon a DIY pin that instructed you how to make…well, let’s just say it’s a simple but useful gender neutral item that I can easily afford the material for (just in case any of our family are reading this, let’s keep it a surprise). So, for almost no money and just a few hours of my time, we are able to give to our parents and siblings as well this year. Aren’t homemade gifts often the best kind? I sure hope so for their sakes!

For each other: The idea for the kids, in addition to an article I read in an old December issue of Real Simple magazine (Susan Dominus. “Honey, guess what I got you for Christmas?” Real Simple December 2009: 254-255.), helped pave the way for what my husband and I would be doing for each other for Christmas. This year, in place of gifts, we’ve decided to write each other “Gift Certificates” for tasks that we know each other would appreciate. Doing chores, give a massage, etc. How nice is it to think, “I’d love to get out of cooking dinner tonight” and then realize that you have a gift certificate for that very thing! In addition to the gift certificates, we will also be stuffing each other’s stockings with items already in our home. Sounds lame, right? Actually it has been quite the fun and exciting experience to wander our house and come across little lost or forgotten items that I know he enjoys, or would make him laugh, or even bring back a fond memory. We happen to move frequently (especially in the past few years) and so much of our belongings have remained in boxes that we keep storing away. Let me tell you, that has been a gold mine for gifts! So far, I have found the little black jewelry box from Zales that I gave him his 2nd wedding ring in (he lost his first in a waterfall of all places), a mini Maglite that has been missing for-ev-er, his old broken Blackberry that got lost in the move and still has all his photos on it, and some pictures I found of us from high school! Ha! I also plan to throw a piece of fruit in there along with one of my homemade sweet potato biscuits that he loves (wrapped of course). I feel confident that his stocking will be filled to the brim with thoughtfully selected gifts that will bring him laughter, gratitude, warm memories, and more. And all at no cost to our faltering budget.

To tell you the truth, I am really excited about how we will be spending (or not) Christmas this year! I expect these gifts to be just as fun if not more than in previous years! Who says you have to break the bank for Christmas?

To a Healthier Holiday

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  Staying healthy over the holidays can be tricky...especially if you’re not the one doing the cooking! While I don’t want to be a party pooper, I have found that I have to be a little more hands-on when it comes to holiday meals. This has meant a lot of thinking ahead, preparing for possible awkward conversations, learning to "let go" and practicing graciousness.  While you may only have control over one or two dishes, there are a few things you can do to limit the chemicals and carbs in your holiday diet.

1) Limit the rolls or go whole wheat. I won’t hide it. I love bread! I would never be able to skip the rolls. I do limit myself to one roll but I also found this delicious whole-wheat roll recipe last year and I felt better about eating them throughout the weekend. http://realmomkitchen.com/1617/no-knead-whole-wheat-rolls/

Please keep in mind that most packaged yeast includes MSG. It is very easy to buy yeast, in bulk, from a health food store. For those of you who do not know how to recognize MSG, it’s listed, typically near the bottom of the list, as monosodium glutamate.

2) Make what you can from scratch. My father-in-law makes delicious pot pies with leftover turkey meat, but he uses canned soup. While I am thankful that he’s leaving me with 3 plus dinners in the freezer I'm not thrilled with the thought of all the MSG we, and especially my 1-year-old son, would be consuming.  I kindly asked if I could make the soup for him to use, and he didn’t mind. Here is the recipe I used. It was really simple to make, obviously, not as simple as popping the lid off the can but definitely worth the minimal extra effort. http://www.grouprecipes.com/70195/make-it-yourself--condensed-cream-of-soups.html

3) Halve the sugar! *According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar a year! It sounds crazy, but start checking the ingredients list. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. If you eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, you’ve most likely already hit the recommended consumption of sugar for the day (six teaspoons) and it’s not even 9am. So, when it comes to baking that yummy pie, consider halving the sugar and even using a healthier substitute rather than white sugar. Honey, raw sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup or stevia are all great substitutes and there are many more.

4) Choose wisely and use common sense. If you’re given the option, a homemade dessert is going to be “healthier” for you than a store bought dessert. Also, remember you don’t have to eat everything. I am a people-pleaser so choosing one aunt’s dessert or dish over the other can be tough for me. I have to remind myself that others will eat it and no one will get their feelings hurt. You have the right to choose your calories. If you don’t care for mashed potatoes, don’t have any and eat more dessert!  I’m not a huge fan of pie so I double up on the sweet potato casserole. To each his own!

5) Pick your battles and practice flexibility. I mentioned the canned soup above. I know my father-in-law. That was a situation where I knew I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes. Now, if I had tried to suggest I make the piecrust, from scratch, for his famous Thanksgiving pies, my husband probably wouldn’t have spoken to me until January. Some things just are not worth it. Though the holidays seem to revolve around food, it’s really about being with your family and the people you love, among other things. If you can keep that as your focus and take a deep breath, those few extra chemicals, carbs or calories won’t seem to matter as much.

*http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/jodi-sawyer-rn/sugar-sour-side-effects

Whose Traditions?

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With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC Can I share a secret with you? As self-centered as it sounds, I never really gave much thought to how my children would experience the holidays. I just assumed they would celebrate the same way I did. Yet as Halloween ushers in the holiday season, I am aware of just how different Miss E's experiences are going to be than mine. One of the reasons is: I didn't take into account my husband and his traditions.

Of course I started thinking about holiday traditions while we were dating. His family does Christmas differently than mine, not to mention Thanksgiving.

Yet it really wasn't until Halloween last year that I realized just how different our experiences were. Growing up, my family was very religious; church on Sunday, as well as, Tuesday, Thursday and any other day special services were held. Our church was very strict compared to some of the churches I've visited today. Women didn't wear pants. Jewelry, make-up, dancing and movie theater-attendance weren’t allowed. And Halloween, well Halloween was definitely a holiday we did not celebrate. I remember last year, I was pregnant and in between trick-or-treaters, my husband talked about what his family did. He talked about carving pumpkins with Miss E and what we would do for her first trick-or-treating. I usually have a plan, but in this I had no clue. I explained to J-man we didn't do Halloween in my house. I explained I only went trick-or-treating once as a child. Most of my childhood Halloweens were spent in church.

At first I was a little saddened by the thought that Miss wouldn’t get to celebrate her first holidays the same way I did. I remember Thanksgivings spent at the homes of family filled with lots of noise and even more food. Our big Christmas celebrations were held on Christmas Eve, with carols being sung and filled with family fun. Christmas mornings were filled with visits from my Abuelo and my cousins who lived upstairs, and the evenings spent at church watching, or participating in, the Christmas play. I think even though there are many things from my childhood I want to share with Miss E, I know that they aren’t all possible. Things like getting together with family for the holidays is not going to be as easy as it was for me growing up. Both our families live out of state. As I get a melancholy feeling at the holiday celebrations Miss E will not know, I remember that as my cousins, sister and I grew up, my family’s traditions changed. Their holidays are no longer spent the same way they were when I was young.

As I typed that last sentence I realized the important thing is that we, J-man, Miss E and I, are starting our own holiday traditions as a family. So this year, with Halloween quickly approaching, I can’t help but think how Miss E’s Halloweens will be filled with jack o’lanterns and costumes, and you know what I’m quite okay with the difference. I was even excited when my husband and I bought her first pumpkin carving set, since I'm sure pumpkin carving will become one of our family traditions. Are there traditions you followed as a child that you haven't carried on with your own children? Do you miss those traditions or are you happier with your new ones?