Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Own Polar Express

This is a reprint of an article originally written for The Natural Parents Network.
Every year I get in the holiday spirit by throwing a holiday party based on the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg — for even longer than I have had kids! I plan it to be fun, engaging, and relaxing. It isn’t even that intensive to create.

I used a simple email invitation this year. In the past I have handed out train tickets with party information printed on them, as well as inviting guests to come in pajamas.

Along with an array of snacks, one thing that cannot be left out is the hot chocolate! With younger children, I would stick to slightly sweetened milk, light on the chocolate. The older kids get the Hot Chocolate Bar: a station filled with sprinkles, marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint sticks, syrups, candied orange peels, and such. They usually put more time into this activity than any of the others!

Read the book!
When everyone is ready with their snacks and hot chocolate, it is time to get on the train and delve into the Polar Express world. Setting up chairs or blankets on the floor, and punching tickets for those seated, have been a good way to get children to transition to the reading. The pictures are engaging enough to create some great conversations during the story, so don’t be shy about stopping to discuss and enjoy!

Sleigh Bell Necklaces
Take a string of leather, ribbon, or other cord to string on their ticket, sleigh bell, beads, and any other nifty paraphernalia you have.

Make Christmas Cards
With supplies of cardstock, scissors, markers, and stickers, allow each child to make a holiday card or letter to Santa.

Watch the Movie
I generally save this for the last activity for two reasons: 1) To allow families that do not wish to watch the movie a chance to participate before leaving and 2) to allow us some down time to end the event. The movie does have some intense scenes that are not depicted in the book, so I would suggest making sure parents know the movie before allowing their child to watch.

My biggest goal of the party is to create a warm, peaceful environment for the kids to enjoy while giving parents a chance to relax and savor some of the holiday spirit many of us work so hard to provide, but sometimes miss out on ourselves.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday: December 17th, 2012

Glazed Delicata Squash with Lentils

Pot Roast

French Onion Soup

Quinoa O's

Fish Tacos

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Learning to trust the Fuzz

Welcome to the Body: AMAZING Carnival!

This post was written as a part of the Body: AMAZING Carnival co-hosted by Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy and Amy of Anktangle. Carnival participants were invited to write about how we learn to appreciate the ways our bodies grow and change. Our posts explain some incredible ways our bodies impress and amaze us.

Please read to the bottom to find a list of submissions from all of today's carnival participants.

It happened every winter. The cold. The chill. The long pants. It was so easy to hide. Why take up my precious shower time to shave what can't be seen? I already stopped using shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis and seen positive results.

I never did like all the work, dry skin, ingrown hairs. And I had been working on accepting my body. Trusting that my body works the way it does for a reason. So, why wouldn't that apply to body hair? Also, who decided that hair is ok on men, but unhygienic on women? The very idea that women could not be sexy with body hair bothered me. Women are meant to have body hair. When we reach puberty it starts developing along with our other changes. It is an outward sign of our maturity. Removing seemed to point toward a drive at sexualizing the prepubescent hairlessness of young girls. That was really the place that lead me to the decision to stop removing my leg, armpit, and pubic hair. When my daughter was grown, how would I explain this to her?

I feel relieved to not have to worry about this grooming practice anymore. I still wear skirts and shorts when the occasion or weather call for it. Only rarely do I make an effort to cover what is not an unnoticeable amount of hair. I feel it is just part of who I am. My shower time can now be a focus on caring for who I am, almost meditative as the hot water runs over me, rejuvenating and relaxing me. This is my time. No worry to what the rest of the world expects of me. I am soft and fuzzy all over. That is just how my body works and part of who I am.

More to read and love about honoring our bodies at these other blogs. Please visit them all and leave some comment love!

Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy is moved to trust her body, even the fuzzy parts. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Anktangle writes about living with chronic pain and how she appreciates the ways her body functions in spite of its challenges. You can also find Amy on Facebook and Twitter.

Mari from Honey on the Bum talks a little bit about how her body has changed and how she loves it and what it does for her. You can also find Mari on Twitter.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about why she's not worried about how her body looks, because it has a much more important job right now.

Joella from Fine and Fair discusses her love and respect for her body as it grows and changes during pregnancy over. Hear more from Joella on Twitter and Facebook.

Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow on how Paganism taught her to accept reality and by extension herself and her body. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares about her love/hate relationship with a nose that she saw as ugly . . . until she started to learn to love it. Amy W. can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Destany at They Are All of Me writes about releasing the negative notions she was taught about her period, and embracing it instead.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children talks about how she had to push through her pre-conditioned comfort level and found herself in a position to naturally be open and honest with her children. More great stuff from Mandy on Facebook.

Lauren at Hobo Mama is not a runner . . . but she proved herself wrong by completing a race. Keep up with Lauren's adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The New Santa Claus

We tend to shy away from the norm in our family, and holidays are no different. When a story doesn't resonate with us, we change it.

Before my husband and I even had children, we discussed many of the decisions we would have to make as parents. Even then we knew that, though we LOVE Christmas time and all that comes with it, not being truthful with our children did not sit well with us. (Also: we are selfish and want all the gift-giving credit for ourselves.) So, we looked to the history of Santa Claus to decide how to tell his story to our future children. It wasn't very hard to see that the origins were as simple as a man (saint or god) who was generous and giving. Caring for the poor and children. So, this is the story we tell.

Santa is real. He is the spirit of giving for all those in need. But, we are blessed to have the means to create our own Christmas. So, it is our charge to collect items that we no longer use: clothes, books, and toys. Then Santa Claus comes to collect our donations on (or around) December 5th to redistribute to those in need on Christmas. We make it clear that he does not bring us presents. Our family is full of uncles, aunts, grandmas, papas, and more that enjoy showing some of their love through gifts this time of year. So we are happy to help Santa provide for others (save the elves some work and Santa some time on his Christmas Eve adventure.) When we write letters to Santa, it is to thank him for the work he does.

What do we hope to achieve with the alteration of common cultural beliefs? We don't do "Naughty or Nice" in our home, instead choosing to do our best to honor that a child is HAVING a problem, not BEING a problem. We strive to reduce a consumerist "I want, I want!" ideal by including them in taking responsibility for caring for others. No need to look to a stranger to fulfill wants or needs, our family is there for us. All the while keeping with the magic of Santa.

I know everyone does the holidays a little different, how do you or do you even do Santa?