It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived at the last month of 2010. This has been a busy, exciting year. I have met so many wonderful people and learned more than I ever thought I would!
If you’re looking for gift ideas this holiday season, you’ve come to the right place! Be sure to read Melissa Tuttle’s article on page 28 for gift ideas for teachers, Lisa Harkins’ article on page 14 about healthy gift ideas, and definitely check out our special section for unique, local gift ideas on pages 20-21! Many of our writers offer great ideas about giving this month.
It’s difficult to teach children that this month is not all about making lists, shopping, and buying - especially in the midst of all the excitement of list-making, shopping, and buying. Recently I made a huge parenting mistake. My father generously offered to take me shopping to stock up on staples for the upcoming holidays. My five-year-old knew, thanks to a repetitive commercial during her favorite show, that this particular mega-store carried the toy she wanted most for Christmas. Not thinking much about it, I told her we could look for the toy and then tell Santa exactly what it is and where we saw it. Upon our arrival, we sought after this toy. Once it was found, we examined all its “wonderful” features. Then I told her it was time to continue shopping with Grandpa. No, that was not to be. After a 20-minute mega-tantrum, we left the store with nothing. I had tried to reiterate that we were going to tell Santa about the toy and put all the specifics on her list, and that if she continued to act that way Santa would not put her on the ‘nice’ list. Nothing worked. “Christmas is too long to wait,” she sobbed in a gremlin voice. I was mad at her for acting this way, but I had not specifically said (ahead of time), “We are not buying it.” And, even if I had, showing her the dream toy and then making her wait the eternity until Christmas is just not nice. I don’t really remember being five, but I do remember that Christmas was always so far away. So we came home and after she finished crying, she brought me a peace offering of an orange Play-Doh heart, which melted mine, and we talked about the incident. Therefore, I have some probably obvious advice for you: Don’t take your children shopping during December if you can at all avoid it, and definitely steer clear of the toy aisles. In fact, don’t let them watch television with commercials if you can avoid it, or else they too might absolutely have to have a $60 penguin robot.
There are plenty of other activities to do together as a family this month that will help you focus on your family and the true meaning of the holidays. As I think about my favorite parts of the holiday season, I realize, not surprisingly, the traditions that stand out the most cost very little. Here are some of my favorites:
• When we decorate our house, we hang sparkly wire around the dining room so that we can hang the “presents” we receive in our mailbox almost every day. I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. It’s so nice to be in touch with people you may not get to see as often as you’d like, and now my children enjoy helping to decide what we will put on our Christmas card and looking at all the cards we receive.
• We set aside at least one day during December to bake and decorate (and eat) many different kinds of cookies with family and friends. It’s usually a busy, messy, fun day.
• When it comes to Christmas lights, I say more is more. They don’t have to flash or be set to music; I just love lights in the dark cold nights. We usually drive around just to look at lights a few nights during December, usually in pajamas.
• On Christmas, when dinner and all the excitement is over, I always suggest (maybe demand?) a game of Christmas charades. I have a bag with holiday-related themes, and when my family sees it, they always groan, but we usually wind up laughing hysterically.
• Instead of everyone reading separately before bed as we do the other 11 months of the year, we sit and read a Christmas story together each night. It is a relaxing way to end a busy season’s day.

I hope that you enjoy your family’s traditions, and maybe make some new ones, and I definitely hope you can avoid causing, witnessing, and having mega-tantrums this month. Happy holidays!

Laura Kucharik, Editor

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