Is This A Long Week, Or Is It Just Me?

One of the best parts of the holiday season is having plenty of time off work. Hubs & I are fortunate to have this week off to spend with the kids.  But is it just me, or does it seem that the days between Christmas and New Year’s seem to totally drag and last about a year?!

I didn’t always feel this way. In the good old days, when I was a carefree single gal or even when I was half of a DINK couple-Dual Income No Kids, I rolled out of bed, got dressed and went for brunch – the day was already half over. It seemed that I never had enough time to do all the things that I wanted to do.  That certainly changed when we had the kidlets and it seems that we never have enough activities to do.

When our son arrived and started going to daycare, we eased into a pretty set school/work schedule in our family.  Our son (and later, daughter) would hit the hay at sundown then get up literally at the crack of dawn with the roosters and be totally rearing to go, play and eat.  It wasn’t so bad during the week and even on weekends Hubs & I would take turns getting up with the kidlets while the other one got a few more hours of precious sleep. But during holiday time, we had, literally, rude awakening.

Since school/daycare is closed during the week between Christmas & New Years, it was up to Hubs and I to take the reigns.   We quickly discovered that we knew very little about what it took to amuse a baby/toddler for ten hours a day for at least a week. Especially at a time of year when it’s usually too cold to go outside most days (we live in NJ), and many places that cater to kids are shut down. We went online, scoured the local papers, and planned fun kid things to do as best we could.

We quickly learned that all activities, and you have to have plenty of them, could not last more than 20 minutes since anything longer than that gets boring. And we didn’t want to just plant them in front of the idiot box all day.  So by about 9 AM we’d be fresh out of ideas and head out to the mall, not to buy anything, but to people watch and window shop, which hopefully would be amusing enough until at least lunchtime. No matter how much we planned, it seemed like we never had enough activities to fill the day.  We often kept one eye on the clock hoping that bedtime would soon be upon us.

However, things have definitely gotten easier as the kids have grown up a bit. Best of all, in the past two weeks the kidlets’ sleep switches finally started working. They’re now getting up at 6:30 am instead of with the roosters, which is a luxury to Hubs and  me.   Plus now the kidlets are old enough to have actual playdates with their friends, take them to children’s museums and paint their own pottery. Our kidlets can now ride bikes, scooters, play with PlayDoh and now have the ability to sit through an entire Disney film from start to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, Hubs & I still have to plan lots of things to keep the kidlets amused and keep ourselves from going totally bonkers, but it is getting easier. Finally!

What is your favorite go-to activity with your kids during the long holiday season?

Mommy’s Christmas List – What I Really Want This Year!

Santa may make a list and check it twice, but I swear my four-year old son checks his Christmas list several times a day! Every time we are in a store he’ll point at something –usually a truck of some type — and ask, “Can I put that on my list?”

The other day we were driving home and he was again telling me about his Christmas list, as if I had no idea what was on it. I said, “Well, you know, Santa can’t always bring you everything on your list and he might even give you a few things you didn’t ask for, but you will probably like them anyway.”  My son took a minute to register and then asked me, “What’s on your Christmas list for Santa?”  I told him that I hadn’t written one yet to which my son replied, “You better do it fast, all the good stuff is probably already taken!”

I chuckled to myself, but it got me thinking, maybe I should write a Christmas list of my own. Now, I haven’t written a wish list since I was about 9 or 10 years old. Of course by then I knew there was no Santa, but why not tell mom & dad exactly what I so desperately wanted!? Obviously, my list as an adult would be different from one that of a child…or would it?? Here goes:

Dear Santa,

I know it’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, but I really don’t “write” letters anymore – I email, text, Facebook and Tweet. Last I heard, you were still using pen & paper along with a rotary phone since I imagine wireless and Internet service is still pretty limited up at the North Pole. I know you’ve heard from both my kidlets with their wish lists and I hope that our “Elf On The Shelf,” Jelfie has been giving you good reports so we’ll see lots of presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

Anyway, I know it’s getting kinda late in the season, but with a few days left I figured I could still get my wish list in under the wire. Yes, I of course wish for peace, love and happiness for our family, friends and the world, but there are a few more things this holiday that I’m hoping you can help me out with:

1) Please send the Kardashians far, far away – I don’t look at this as solely a gift for me, but one for the entire world. I would have a very happy life if all the personal details of Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Karisma, Koala, Kukla and all those other K named kids were no longer crammed down my throat every where I turned. I don’t care about their weddings, divorces, baby plans, or fragrances. The only information I’d be interested in about them would be that they are retreating permanently from public life and are moving to Idaho to start a potato farm.

2) Can you please bring my kidlets toys that use less than 33 batteries each? And while you’re at it, can you please permanently eliminate all the weird batteries that come in toys today like LR44…please just stick to A, AA, AAA, C & D battery operated toys! I’m weary from scouring the hearing aid battery sections at my local drugstores in a desperate attempt to buy $20 worth of weird batteries to power a $10 toy.

3) Please find a weekly TV series for Dean Winters. I so do enjoy him in those Allstate “Mayhem” commercials, but this guy has range. He’s done drama (“Oz” and “Rescue Me”), as well as comedy (“Sex And The City” and “30 Rock”). I’d faithfully tune in to a TV series if he were in it. Okay, I know, it also doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome with a smirky, sexy kinda smile!

4) Ban all car manufacturers from making those silly and totally annoying cars as Christmas gift commercials. I’ve been around now for almost 40 years and know lots of people and NONE of them have ever gotten a $40,000 car as a Christmas gift. Every time I hear the music for one of those ads I can’t help but say out loud “Yeah, right!” Like I don’t stress out enough about what kind of present to give my husband, now I have to worry that if I really was a good wife, I would have bought him the Mini Cooper he’s been coveting for years and with one of those crazy big red bows on top.

See Santa, I’m not asking for a lot – just a few key things. If you could even find a way to make just one of these wish list items come true, I’d be eternally grateful.  However, if you’re feeling especially generous, I’m still waiting for a few toys you never seemed to bring me when I was a kid.  Maybe you’d reconsider if I promise to share with my kidlets:

I Took A Lickin’ From a Chicken – Playin’ Tic Tac Toe….Come on, it’s a chicken, it’s funny!

Barbie’s Dreamhouse - I guess now it would be Barbie’s retirement home….

Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine – You put ice cubes in and you get a sno-cone out!Shaun Cassidy Phonograph Player – No additional explanation needed!

XO -

Debra AKA The Harried Mom

PS – let me know if you still prefer the old standby of cookies & milk or if you’d like a hot toddy and some vodka laced chocolates instead. I know you’re in for a LONG night on Christmas!

If you were writing a Christmas list to Santa, what would you ask for?

Wordless Wednesday – A Santa Nightmare

Like any little kidlet, my daughter just loves Santa. She always points him out to me in books, on TV, on our neighbors’ lawns (those big Santa inflatables). However, sitting on his lap for a photo is her holiday nightmare.  Santa’s fine, as long as he keeps his distance.  I couldn’t get her – or my 4 yr old son – to go have a formal picture at the mall…but somehow I managed this at the local supermarket this past weekend:

Which is a lot better than last year’s attempt:

What’s For Breakfast? A Nice Bowl Of….Sugar??

For the original “Supernanny,” Mary Poppins, a “spoonful of sugar” may help the medicine go down, but are your kids inhaling an entire bowlful of the stuff every morning before they march off to school?

Last week I read a story on parenting.com about The Worst Cereals for Kids from something called the Environmental Working Group, a group which I had never heard of before, but apparently their mission is to “use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment”.  In other words, scare parents into buying healthier eating options for their children.  Anyway, they studied the nutritional content of 84 popular cereals and ranked them according to sugar content.

Topping the list was Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, ironically, they used to be called “Sugar Smacks” when I was little…so much for the attempt to re-brand them as healthier.

One cup of Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp or General Mills Wheaties Fuel all pack more sugar, or sometimes its more notorious variant, high fructose corn syrup, than eating one Hostess Twinkie.  One cup of Honey Nut Cheerios, Apple Jacks or Cap’n Crunch contains more sugar than eating 3 Chips Ahoy! Cookies.  Well, at least I don’t feel so guilty about having scarfed down some cookies for breakfast the other day, since they are apparently as nutritious as some cereals…but seriously, is this surprising to ANYONE?

When I was growing up, I ate cereal every day – and I mean EVERY DAY.   Cereal was a quick option for us in our morning rush and easy for mom to prepare – open cabinet, take out box and pour into bowl.  No muss, no fuss — amazingly, this is now my exact routine for feeding our dog.  The cereal options in my house were always the same – and still pretty much to this day:  Cheerios, Raisin Bran and plain old Shredded Wheat-not very sexy.  My mom wouldn’t allow any of those sugar-y cereals to be in her cupboards, no matter how much my sister and I pleaded that we just HAD TO HAVE the Saturday morning marketed cereal-du-jour.  Smiling, talking animals may have enticed us to desire those artificially colored, artificially fruit flavored bowls of sugar, but our mom wasn’t buying it. Literally.

            

Okay, I totally got that she was doing her job as a mom – making sure we ate something “healthy” for breakfast.   Plus, our parents were spending a fortune on orthodontists so there was no way their daughters’ shiny, straight teeth were going to be sacrificed for a morning sugar rush.  So, I usually opted for the Cheerios – not my favorite, but the best out of the bunch to me.  Even in milk, it just tasted like cardboard with no flavor at all.   When my mom would turn her back or leave the room, I would scoot over to the counter and quickly dump in a few teaspoons of sugar to make it somewhat tolerable and tasty to eat.

Every year at vacation time, we got a reprieve.  For one glorious week my mom would allow my sister and me to get whatever box of cereal we wanted.   I was “koo-koo” for Cocoa Puffs – and never deviated from that selection.  Hey, it was chocolate  — or at least “cocoa” — and there was no other way to get away with eating that for breakfast (well, until I discovered Nutella).  My sister was much more adventurous –she’d try old standbys like Cap’n Crunch or Fruit Loops, or experiment with trendy upstarts like Pac Man or Donkey Kong .  For some reason, video games spawned popular cereal brands in the 80s.  I might even swipe a handful of her cereal for an added sugar burst.   For that week I was in cereal nirvana – finally eating what I really wanted. But soon enough, it was back home and back to a bowl of cardboard.

                

So, you might think I’d let my kidlets eat the cereal they want to eat, right?  WRONG! Although they do occasionally get a little Dixie cup full of Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms at school. My kidlets have two options -Cascadian Farms Clifford Crunch Cereal or Paul Newman Vanilla Almond Cereal.  Okay, so I guess technically they both use mascots to push the stuff-some things never change. The kids already love Clifford, but when we tried to explain that the handsome smiling gentleman on the other box was the voice of Doc Hudson in “Cars,” they were too busy chewing to care. A cup of either of these two cereals is under 110 calories and under 7 grams of sugar, and it IS sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, so they are healthier options than most of the mass-marketed stuff.  My kidlets also enjoy yogurt and whole grain waffles with low-sugar strawberry jam for breakfast, so their cereal eating is every few days at best.

Fortunately, PBS Kids doesn’t feature cereal advertising, but even on Nick or Disney I don’t really recall seeing the endless stream of cereal commercials that ran on TV when I was growing up.  I guess that’s a good thing…that only leaves me to say no to my kidlets about a million other things they see on TV for and want!

What was your favorite cereal growing up?  What cereal do you allow your kids to eat?

 

Christmas: A Time For Elf Reflection

They say “Christmas Is For Children” and as a parent, I’m finally learning what that really means.  While we are working hard to teach them it’s a time to think of others less fortunate, inevitably my kidlets are now hip to what a big part of the holidays is. Getting presents. Luckily, they are also starting to understand that if they don’t behave, they just might wind up with a lump of coal in their stockings. And this change literally happened “overnight.”  Let me explain…

This year, all my four-year-old son can talk about is his Christmas list.  When he sees something on TV, or if we’re out at the store, he wants to make sure Santa knows it’s on his “wish list”. I always tell him yes, that he can put anything on his list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Santa will bring it.  I’m not sure he gets that, but fortunately he’s found so many things to add to his list that there is no way he could ever remember them all. He’s your typical boy; all he wants is cars, trucks, more cars and more trucks!

Now, I’ve been warning my kidlets since the middle of July they better behave because “Santa is watching.”   Let me point out, my kids are not “bad” by any stretch-they have their moments, of course, but I feel very lucky that they are both so sweet and (generally) well-behaved. My son is four and as most parents find out, four-year-olds are well, INSANE!  He has way too much energy, way too much to say and is constantly testing his boundaries.   So by the time the middle of November rolled around, my “Santa is watching” line was totally played out and falling on deaf ears.

That’s when I started reading on Twitter about Elf on the Shelf. I had heard of it, but really had no idea what it was.  After I found out, a lightbulb went off over my head.  Elf on the Shelf was sure to be my answer to having angel-like behavior between Thanksgiving & Christmas…at least I hoped!

My hubs picked up our Elf on The Shelf not at the North Pole, but rather at Target, where I suspect a lot of Santa’s presents actually come from.

My son was super-excited by the box, a new book and the strange-looking doll inside, whom we named “Jelfie.” We then explained Jelfie would be here all day to watch them, and when they went to sleep at night, he would zoom back to the North Pole and report to Santa on whether they were “naughty” or “nice” that day, and they would see him hiding in a new place the next morning when they woke up.

Once Jelfie’s true mission was revealed, our son’s expression went from excitement to well, frankly, a look of horror. He clearly wanted no part of Jelfie and certainly did not want this strange intruder in his room, spying on his every move.  After 15 minutes of improvised child psychology, my hubs and I reassured our son that Jelfie was cool and nothing to be scared of.  In fact, having Jelfie here as Santa’s eyes and ears was actually a good thing-provided he behaved, of course!

Great, I thought instead of starting a Christmas tradition, I started a holiday horror story for my kid.  But the hubs & I decided to stick with it and placed Jelfie on the fireplace mantle, front and center in the living room and hoped for the best.

For the first few days, there was zero reaction from the kidlets. They didn’t care where he was, or who he was watching.  Perhaps they figured if they ignored him, he might go spy on some other unsuspecting kids.  Jelfie was turning out to be a total bust and was taking it hard himself – see photo here.  Maybe my kids were too young and we should try again next year.

The hubs & I then cooked up a new Elf On The Shelf strategy.  When Jelfie saw that the kidlets were on their best behavior, the next day he’d leave them a little treat. Nothing big – a piece of Santa chocolate, a holiday sticker or little wind up trinket.


Low and behold – Jelfie suddenly became a superstar in our household.  Now he wasn’t the enemy, watching for bad behavior and putting them on Santa’s naughty list.  He was there to celebrate all the good things they did each day. Success!

Now every morning it’s a game for my two-year-old daughter to come downstairs and find Jelfie and his latest hiding place.  She squeals with delight every time she finds him!  Maybe I’m biased (duh!), but I think it’s adorable!

Jelfie’s hidden on the kitchen towel rack, been awkwardly crammed into the poinsettias, balanced on the small Christmas tree on the kidlets play table, even precariously perched from the folds of the drapes and, of course, placed on a shelf – after all, he is the Elf on the Shelf.

     

My son now can’t wait to tell Jelfie what a great day he had-how he helped someone at school or did something around the house….sure, I know he really wants to score a piece of chocolate, but if it gets him to be on his best behavior, I won’t say no.

What will I do once the Christmas holidays are over?  Is there a “Cupid on The Shelf”– that will bring chocolate for Valentine’s Day in exchange for good behavior?!

Do you have an Elf On the Shelf?  What’s your Elf’s name and who named him?

Putting Out My Shingle As The Harried Mom….Boy Am I Nervous!

Stop the presses, scrap all your media headlines, have I got a scoop for you….The Harried Mom is finally here!

Gee, I hope someone will come & read……and comment.

I’ve been around on Twitter for a while and dipped my little toe into the blogosphere with a Facebook fan page this September, and have now officially taken the “all in” plunge with this blog.

Do I have any idea what I’m doing?

Well, somewhat. I like sharing my ideas and notions about being a mom/wife/career woman and hearing from other mommies, daddies and folks with the great tips and advice they may have to offer as well. What I don’t know is all this tech/website/coding stuff – I’m a newbie at all this, so I don’t have a lot of bells & whistles on this blog, but…but hopefully you’ll find some funny stories and maybe sometimes informative information.  You can find out more about who I am here.

I want to give a big shout out to my hubs for helping me get this blog going. There were many nights over the past few weeks where I threw my hands up in frustration and he was able to talk me off the ledge and figure things out. He is and has always been my biggest supporter and a great daddy to boot. He also moonlights as my editor – see hubs is a fantastic writer, he knows how to say it, say it concisely and with just the right sense of humor. His comments, edits, ideas and suggestions for my posts are always appreciated!

I’d also like to thank my brother-in-law, yes you read that right, my BIL. He’s a graphic designer and he took one little image and made me The Harried Mom. It’s his handiwork in the header of this blog. You probably have seen his handiwork before (“The Electric Company,” “The Al Franken Show,” “The Chris Rock Show” and “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn”, among others) and didn’t even know it. If you are ever in need of a redesign or refresher let me know and I’ll put you in touch with him. I can tell you he’d be reasonable ;)

Of course my kidlets, whom all these stories and snippets of life emanate from. They are the two most important things that I’ve ever created in my life. On a daily basis they inspire me, show me how to live with abandon and want to be the best mommy in the world for them. The also know how to get under my skin, push my buttons and have taught me the meaning behind “Calgon, take me away!” But I wouldn’t change the chaos and happiness that comes from my family, not even for a second!

Okay, this now starting to sound like an acceptance speech for some major award or something….really, it’s just a blog launch message…..but I have one more big thank you to say and that’s to YOU – thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy, crazy, hectic day to visit with me here and share a little slice of life. I hope that you will continue to come over for a visit and that we can talk about things, share ideas and help each other make it through this thing called parenthood!

So please take a look or read around, I’ve posted some of my recent posts from FB that you may have not seen before.

I will be adding a Blog Roll – so if you’re a fan, let me know and I’ll include you on that!

Debra AKA The Harried Mom