The Great Santa Debate

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Yes, you guessed it, I have uncovered yet another article that has led me to a blog posting that I really think almost any of my Every Woman blogger cohorts could write. Even if you don’t have kids, you have an opinion about whether little kids should believe in Santa Claus or not.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even remember how old I was when I realized that Santa Claus’ boots were really filled by my mom and dad. There was the year that I got a bicycle: I remember sneaking to the den only to find the doors closed and voices coming from behind. I think that “Santa” was probably saying some choice words over that Strawberry Shortcake bicycle that night! As we got older, my brother and I would actually go on hunts to find our Christmas gifts after we knew our parents had gone shopping. Instead of disappointment, it almost became a game; to see if we could find them, and to (secretly) make fun of their lame hiding places. The big, huge, flat box under my parent’s bed was a dead giveaway that a ping pong table would be standing beside the Christmas tree. There were the oddly shaped items covered with quilts in my parent’s closet. Surely, they didn’t think that we honestly believed that the quilts and afghans stood up by themselves. Then there was the year I asked for a telephone for my bedroom. Ah, yes, then came the day my mom asked me to clean up the living room where she had been wrapping Christmas gifts. And there, on the floor, was the receipt for a telephone, and we certainly didn’t have any new ones in the house at that point. The gig was definitely up at that point. When questioned, my mama said I shouldn’t have been so nosey. Really? She left the receipt on the floor!

Those are actually fond, fun memories for me- not earth shattering news that has me in therapy in my mid-thirties! It actually meant the world to me that my parents always paid attention to what I truly wanted and that most of the time it was there, under the tree. Although, I’m still a little scarred over never having gotten that pony. In all seriousness, I learned some valuable lessons watching my parents on those Christmas mornings of my childhood. My dad, who is the least outright affectionate man on the earth, always, gave my mom some beautiful piece of jewelry or beautiful outfits that he knew she would love. And it went beyond just the gift itself; often the fun part was watching her receive the gift. There was the year he wrapped a ring in a microwave box (please remember this was the 80’s, so this box was enormous), and there were magazines and even a brick or two inside the box. There were multiple wrapped boxes inside each other until she got down to the tiny ring box. From those early Christmas mornings, I learned to pay attention to what people liked and disliked and I learned how special it made them feel to receive something that so much careful consideration had been given to.

My point in writing this is that there are so many who think that allowing children to believe in Santa Claus is harmful, in some way, to them. I wholeheartedly disagree. I will not take the credit for the following, as it was something I found on Pinterest, that fully echoes the sentiment of those of us who truly believe that children can learn valuable lessons from Santa, not just selfishness and greed.

“Dear Ryan, You asked a really good question, “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer, and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say. The answer is No. We are not Santa. There is no single Santa. We are the people who fill you stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree – just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you will do for your kids someday. This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the Spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts – not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they cannot see or touch. Throughout your life you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in God.”

This explains perfectly why the belief in Santa is not necessarily bad and why my children will continue to believe for a while yet, I do hope anyway. I am not ready to see an end to the magic.

The New Year Is Soon Upon Us

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I hope this post finds everyone fat, happy and still experiencing the spirit of this holiday season. The ornaments and lights have twinkled and lit up our homes. The stockings were hung and delightfully filled. Church services have been attended and filled up our hearts. And then of course, there’s the food…

All of the baking is done, given to friends and probably all eaten. The hams and turkeys have been baked, feasted on and made into sandwiches yesterday. Many sweet potatoes, green beans, biscuits, butter beans, various casseroles, cakes and pies have been happily consumed. Families gathered around tables to share a meal, share their time, and make memories with each other.

And then there’s the New Year. I think New Year’s Eve kind of gets ripped off. I love wine as much as the next gourmand, but I feel sorry for New Year’s Eve. All anyone (in America, at least) seems to focus on in celebration of the New Year’s arrival is alcohol. Nobody plans a New Year’s Eve dinner party. There’s not an “official” New Year’s Eve food (Thanksgiving corners the market on turkey, Christmas and Easter get ham, Hanukkah is filled with challah and latkes, July 4th is busting at the seams with barbeque and Halloween has a monopoly on candy.) But, poor old New Year’s Eve has nothing (food-wise). Champagne, martinis, fine wine and craft beers are great, but without good food, well, you know what can happen.

Personally, I am not a New Year’s Eve fan. What I mean is that I have no desire to go out on this night. Being crammed into a bar with a zillion strangers pressed up against me, spilling stuff, yelling in my ears and then toasting with a plastic glass of Asti Spumante is not at all my idea of a good time. I’d much rather celebrate in my home with good friends, good drink and good food. In fact, what I’d like is a true, authentic reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre.

I spent the fall semester of 1988 living with a French family in a suburb of Rennes, France. One of the coolest things I experienced was the reveillon. This is a New Year’s Eve festivity to welcome and celebrate the “reawakening,” a new year with a Midnight repast. This was one awesome party/celebration/meal. Probably the best one ever. My sister had flown over to spend Christmas with me and my French family. My host family’s friends down the street planned this reveillon, which was an event that my French teachers never really talked about.

Here’s how it went: We all got together around dusk. We gathered at the table and had aperitifs (kir, Pastis & water, wine) and cheese with fruit. Then, we got up, some of us worked in the kitchen preparing for the next course, drank, danced, listened to music, drank. Then, we all sat down again for the next course, which this night was raclette. I’m sure somewhere in America you can find this appliance, but I’ve never seen one. It’s basically like a table-top salamander. Each person has their own individual, shallow tray on which you place a slab of your favorite cheese.

You place it in the salamander (broiler) until the cheese melts and bubbles. Then, you pour this melty deliciousness over cold boiled potatoes, carrot sticks, bread, crackers, whatever you like. At this juncture, we opened the first bottle of champagne. The first of about 4 cases of champagne. After the raclette, we all got up, moved around, stretched, danced some more, etc. I was finally catching on. We drink, drink, toast, drink, toast, sit, eat, toast and drink, take a break and then we come back to the table and do it again. Now that all the champagne is flowing, I may mix up the order of some of the dishes, but you’ll get the idea.

Over the course of the evening, we had Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops), giant langoustines, filet mignon, a myriad of cheeses (which, in France, is truly a culinary journey). Then, midnight came. This is when it really got going. More champagne corks flew, and then we were on the move. That’s right…down the street we all went. We went to everyone’s house on the cul-de-sac and marched on in to wish everyone a Bonne Année. It was like a New Year’s Eve congo line. We literally filed through all these houses giving everyone the good ol’ French double cheek air kiss, wishing each other “bonne année.” After all of this, we returned to our homebase and popped more champagne. Now, at this point, I can’t even remember what we ate next, but we continued to snack, drink, snack, drink until the sun came up.

Eventually, my French family, my sister and I made our way back down the road to our home. It’s funny when you wake up in the morning, eat, drink and party all night and then don’t go to bed again until the next morning. Takes a couple days to get your circadian rhythms back in order. The reveillon is something that my sister and I have talked about every year since we experienced it. It was a fun, festive evening unlike any we’d had here at home and we both loved it. We’ve often discussed why people here don’t celebrate this way. And, we’ve talked about hosting our own, of course. What we learned is that if you stretch good food and good wine throughout the evening, everyone can maintain his/her composure, keep up the stamina and have one heck of a New Year’s Eve!

Oh yeah, I learned one other valuable little tidbit. If you have a bottle of champagne that you can’t finish (I know, this rarely happens!) there’s no way to recork it, as you know. However, there IS a way to keep it in the fridge without losing the bubbles. You probably think I’ve lost my mind, but I’ve been doing this since 1988 when Nicole and Agnes taught me this trick: place a spoon, stem end down into the bottle. The spoon part will keep it from falling into the bottle. Put it in the fridge and tomorrow, you will still have bubbles. I have no idea how or why it works. I only know that it works. Try it.

Elizabeth writes the blog, Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef). Please follow it and “like” it. And comment. She loves comments!

Why?

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

I felt his presence before I saw him. Even though my children and I were safely locked in our car, I knew he was there. The county deputy was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of my children’s school.

Without question, I knew why he was there. It was the Monday following the tragedy that had befallen Newtown, CT and our school was sending the quiet message that the safety of our school’s faculty, staff and, most importantly, children was of the utmost importance, and that we would do anything we needed to in order to protect our quiet corner of the state.

But, I cannot lie; the deputy’s presence unnerved me. It rocked me to my core because it meant that we all had to accept that something like the tragedy in Connecticut could happen in rural South Carolina. It forced us all to admit that while that disturbed young man was stealing the lives of all of those innocent children and adults, he was also attempting to steal the perceived safety that many of us have had each and every day when we send our children off to school.

To try and make sense of the violence is futile; here can be no true rhyme or reason. Even if we get some answer, what difference does it truly make? None, for no other reason than no answer and no reason will EVER bring those innocent lives back. And there is no reason under the sun that can explain away those lives. Still, we want to ask “why?”

I cannot imagine the pain and feelings of loss that those parents and loved ones feel. My oldest son recently turned 7 years old, the same age as many of the victims. As I sit here less than a week before Christmas, my life is filled with questions about what the boys are getting for Christmas. What is Santa bringing them? What have they asked for? I smile when I give the answers, thinking already of the smiles and laughter that will come on Christmas morning when my boys see what all Santa has brought. The Newtown parents, I am quite sure, have been planning the same. Now, instead of laughter and smiles and plans of setting out those special toys on Christmas Eve, they are planning funerals.

Again, I cannot imagine. I don’t want to imagine. And even though I know that there is no good answer and no good reason, I just want to ask “why?” Why, especially, target the precious faces and smiles of young children? And, again, I know that there is no answer sufficient.

So, last night, as in each of the nights before, I have allowed my boys to sleep with me. If nothing else, it gives me a sense of security in knowing that we are all together and maybe I can protect them. It reminds me to be thankful, each day, of these beautiful little blessings God has bestowed upon me.

In closing, I leave you with the beautiful words and voice of Josh Groban singing “Thankful.”

How to Instantly Feel Better in Your Bod

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Whether you’re a few pounds heavier than you’d hoped or feeling less than svelte in a particular outfit, we all have those days that we hate the way we look. Mine came last night when I was trying on clothes at a local department store. Faced with the harsh lights of the dressing room and a very revealing three-way mirror, it seemed like every pair of jeans instantly turned me into the Goodyear blimp.

Up more than a few pounds from my recent personal best, I was particularly hard on myself. I actually made the following comments to my sister, who was shopping with me:

“Oh my gosh, I look worse than I did before I lost all of that weight.”
“I am huge!”
“I look horrible!”

Thankfully, my sister was quite supportive and reminded me that while I may have gained some weight from my recent low, I am still in a far better place that I was seventy-five to eighty pounds ago. She also told me that I was “looking a little gaunt” at that low weight, which I don’t agree with, but was nice to hear nonetheless.

For those days that you don’t have a supportive friend like Sister with you, I recommend that you read and bookmark LMSW Glenda Gleissner’s: ‘I Feel Fat’: How to Feel Instantly Better in Your Body. In this post, Gleissner features ten tools to boost your mood when you’re having body image issues. Last night, I made use of several of the tools Gleissner mentions:

Support: Gleissner says that connecting with others can actually help squash some of the perfectionism and criticism tied to body dissatisfaction. I’m thankful that Sister was with me last night to help put things into perspective.

Appreciate: I reminded myself that while my weight is up a little, my body has been on an incredible journey in the last two years. And as a result, I am stronger and healthier: my blood pressure is down and my endurance is up.

There are also a couple of tools Gleissner mentions that I need to use:

Stop Comparing: In the very dressing room I derided myself in, I also compared myself to both my sister and my thinner self. While making comparisons is easy to do, we are neither better than nor less than anyone on this earth, we are just us. I need to learn to celebrate that.

Have Compassion: Gleissner asserts that when we have a body image issue, we are often feeling bad about something else; beating up our body is simply a go-to negative coping mechanism. She recommends doing something nice for yourself instead of beating yourself up.

In closing, I’m curious what kind of body image issues you might have and how you deal with them. Anything in Gleissner’s post that you either use or will try to use? Thoughts on body image in general?

Perks & Pitfalls of a Rewarded Life

By: Roshanda Pratt

Who doesn’t like getting a pat on the back or hearing a job well done?  As a mom, it seems like I spend a great deal of time applauding my children for their good deeds.  I do not mind because I firmly believe a child with a high self-esteem and self-worth translates into an adult who is a benefit to their friends, family and community. However, I have recently been wondering if we give too many “rewards” for the sake of making sure children feel appreciated? And is this practice really damaging?

Here is my case: I have a 2 year-old boy, a 5 year-old girl and a 6 year-old girl. All three attend school. Yes, even the 2 year-old goes three days a week.  All three are rewarded and recognized for “good” behavior at the end of the week. For example, when the 6 year-old keeps all her M&M’s at the end of the week she can make a trip to the treasure box.  I understand it is a way to teach the benefit of following the classroom rules and being a good citizen in school.  I believe that in those early years with our children we should teach them about both the good and bad consequences of their decisions. However, here is my quandary:  When are rewards just too much?  I have found lately that my children want a “treat,” as they call it, for everything.

Rewards“Mommy, I cleaned up my room. Can I get a treat?”

“Mommy, I kept all my M&M’s. Can I get a treat?”

“Mommy, I just shared with my brother. Can I get a treat?”

My husband has never been a huge fan of this practice because it creates an expectation that they MUST be rewarded or celebrated for everything they do, even if what they do should be expected. At first when the girls started school, I bought into this practice of rewarding their behavior for every activity. I can remember when it started.  It started with potty training.  We adopted the Dora the Explorer attitude.  “Yay, You Did It!” I encouraged with words of affirmation and gifts of celebration.  Now, fast forward to the present. After years of rewards, we are teaching our children that the best reward is the knowledge that you did the right thing.  As you can imagine this does not go over well with the 5 year-old who is particular to celebration.  I guess old habits die hard.

I really started thinking about this in terms to our world.  How many times this week did you receive a pat on the back? Or receive a “reward” for a job well done? My pastor recently said something that really resonated with me.  He said we are parenting mini adults.  What we set up now will be what they live out as an adult. That is a sobering thought.  Recently, while my 5 year-old practiced writing her letters, she started crying and really needed some reinforcement.  I encouraged her but I realized quickly she wanted me to say that if she did the work she would receive a reward.  My husband picked up on this too and told her she is not always going to be celebrated or given a reward to do what she needs to do.  Isn’t that life? Our job as parents is to prepare our children for life.  In life you may be picked last for the dodge ball game, in life you will get an “A” on a project but your teacher may not give you an additional reward, and in life, when you take care of responsibilities like cleaning the kitchen or paying your bills, you may not get a reward each and every time.

Here is the bottom line:  I have learned how to prioritize the reward system.  I have often reminded the girls that sometimes the best reward is being proud for making a good decision.  Rewards like candy, a little toy or gold stars are all good, but the best reward is when you know in your “knower” you have done the right thing and that is reward enough!

What do you think? Do you reward your children every time they do something well? Do you think the “rewards” system is setting our children up for failure?

Ro 🙂

EdVenture Excitement

By: Shannon Shull

Those of us who live in South Carolina are incredibly lucky to have a wonderful local children’s museum. Back in the late 90s, before I had moved to California, I worked in public relations for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. While there, I was present when EdVenture was proposed to the leaders of the city. To see this great vision become a reality is truly spectacular!  EdVenture’s mission is to inspire children, youth and the adults who care about them to experience the joy of learning. Their vision is to create new generations of lifelong learners. For every child who visits EdVenture, seeing will be believing and doing will mean remembering. All exhibits at EdVenture are hands-on and experiential. Being a supporter and teacher of arts integration, I personally love this form of hands-on education and love to see children of all ages interacting with the exhibits.

My Aunt Susan recently treated my kids and me to a fun visit to this impressive place. I thought I’d share some of the fun from our recent visit! If you have not yet checked out the excitement of Edventure, I encourage you to take advantage of this interactive, educational adventure.

Me & My Aunt Susie feeling like kids again! 

Our visit to the North Pole

Inside the Arctic Blizzard!

Running around Eddie, the World's Largest Child!

My girl Mina grocery shopping at the Edventure Grocery Store

Gingerbread Cake

By: Brady Evans

This past weekend my husband and I attended a wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I think we both had the most fun the following night at a karaoke bar with the bride and groom, the rest of the bridal party and close family and friends.

Now, my husband is nothing like me when it comes to singing. I’m an embarrassment to mankind while he’s quite a pleasure to listen to. He’s played music professionally for years now, writes original music, has copyrights in the Library of Congress, and has opened for the Indigo Girls (remember them?). You would think he’d be thrilled to do karaoke.

He was hiding his talent like I hid the deliciousness of this gingerbread cake on Thanksgiving Day. It was a new recipe and a foreign concept to me – gingerbread CAKE (not cookies). I wasted more than a few breaths making excuses: I might have overbaked it; it’s a new recipe; I messed with the original ingredients.
By the time we all took our first bite, however, it was obvious that no excuse needed to be made; it was a darn good cake.

Gingerbread Cake

I’ll make it again very soon- possibly for Christmas morning because the leftovers were especially delicious with coffee. Oh, and by the way, my husband finally braved the stage and did exceptional (as expected) renditions of “No Woman, No Cry,” “Thunderroad,” and “Rocketman.”

Gingerbread Cake (adapted from So Tasty, So Yummy)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

Orange Glaze

  • powdered sugar
  • juice from one orange
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Instructions

  • Gingerbread CakePreheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch round pan.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
  • In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture molasses mixture. Stir in the hot water completely. Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake 30-33 minutes in the preheated oven or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • Make orange glaze by combining enough powdered sugar (2-3 cups) with the juice from one orange to make a pourable glaze. Sprinkle in orange zest and pour over cake.