April 17, 2006

Family Traditions: The Dog’s Breakfast

When Momma K, Queen of Petroville was kind enough to name my post about the Catholic Church a “Perfect Post” I was honored. The best part, however, was getting a chance to see a lot of great blogs that I had not visited before. Someone had nominated Panther Girl at The Dog’s Breakfast for her touching post about her son and dealing with the death of his father. I have some experience in this area since I lost my father at a young age and, as a result, Panther Girl and I bonded.

So, I’m happy to have her as my first non-holiday family tradition. Please welcome Panther Girl and go on over and say hi.


I’ve never been a big “tradition” person. My family growing up did certain things over and over, but I’d define them more as habits than traditions. Sundays alternated between my father’s mother and my mother’s mother cooking ginormous meals, enslaving the women before and after while the men unbuckled their swollen bellies in front of the tube. (I would usually sneak downstairs, in feminist defiance against the almighty dishtowel.) Even the holidays held very little tradition. We’d usually open our Christmas gifts alone while my mother clanged the coffee pot around in the kitchen. Easter brought out the patent leather shoes and spongy coats that made us look like peeps. The most festive holiday around our place was Halloween, but I think that’s only because it allowed my parents to flex their racist muscles by dressing us up as Aunt Jemima and Buckwheat.

When I had my first child, my daughter, there was a part of me that wanted to create some family traditions but I just didn’t know how. Luckily, it just happened. The night before her first birthday, my husband and I were reminiscing about the previous year…how we had gone out to dinner and ate soft shell crab while I experienced some weak contractions every 20 minutes or so. We went home, went to sleep and the next morning I was in full-blown labor.

We thought it would be cute to eat softshell crab again as our daughter was turning one, and from that year on we continued the “tradition”. Three divorces and one kid later, I continue to eat the early labor meal each year on my kids’ birthdays…. softshell crab for Emma, and chicken fajitas for Lucas. They think it’s really fun, and it inevitably leads to a walk down memory lane about the day they were born. Kids love that stuff.

You can read more of Panther Girl at http://www.thedogsbreakfast.blogspot.com

April 11, 2006

Family Traditions: The Series Continues

If you were a reader of this blog prior to the past holiday season you may remember the series of guest bloggers who were kind enough to expound on their favorite family holiday traditions. The purpose of this, as you may recall, is that Andrea and I couldn’t really name too many traditions that we had ourselves and we’d been discussing things we’d like to introduce in the future. It got me to thinking that it would be great to hear what other families are doing in this respect and I invited a bunch of cool folks to participate.

So, now that we’re safely away from the holiday season, I imagine there are many non-holiday traditions that families participate in. So, I’d like to reintroduce this conversation and I’ve done so by asking more bloggers out there to contribute. You’ll be hearing from the likes of Friday Playdate, Bite My Cookie, Two Pink Lines, Deanna’s Corner, The Dog’s Breakfast, Better Butter and I’m sure I can persuade some Dads as well.

To get this started, Andrea and I have come up with a few things that would be fun for us to do as the kids get a bit older. In no particular order, here they are…

1) One-on-One Dates. Being a parent of twins (and I imagine more than one child, period) makes it hard to spend quality one-on-one time with each child. Therefore, Andrea and would like to have regularly scheduled “Dates” with our children. One month it might be TheMonk and me going to a football game and Swee’Pea and Andrea going bike riding along the beach and the next it might be Swee’Pea and Daddy going to see a concert while Mommy and TheMonk go to dinner and a movie. I am already looking forward to these moments where we can really get to know each of our children – and they can get to know us.

2) Family Awards Night. I stole this idea from the local morning Deejays that keep me company on my commute to work each day. Each year his family has an Awards Night complete with tuxedos and gowns, nominees and acceptance speeches. My favorite category was “Best House Cat.” This seems like it would be fun and is right up my alley with being silly and loving at the same time.

3) The Red Plate. When we got married almost six years ago, we were given a Red Plate with the inscription You are special today as a wedding gift. It comes with a permanent pen to write important dates and events on the back. We have yet to use it ourselves but I think it will be great to reward each other’s accomplishments with getting to use the Red Plate at dinner time.

4) Johnny Walker Celebration Night. This is where we all pass around a liter bottle of Johnny Walker, taking sips, until one of us passes out. At that point the rest of us will decorate the passed out one’s face with the permanent marker from the Red Plate.*

5) Family Nights. I mentioned in my last Family Traditions post, but I think it bears repeating. I want to make sure that our family doesn’t get so busy that we stop being a family. I want us to spend some regularly scheduled quality time together that doesn’t include fast-food meals on the way to soccer practice. So, we’re planning on designating a night a week where no one will have activities. Instead, we’ll have dinner and watch movies or play games or play the Johnny Walker game – as long as we’re doing things together.

Well, that’s what I have so far. I’m looking forward to seeing what our guest bloggers out there have to say. As always, feel free to leave your family traditions in the comment section.

*Just kidding. (I just wanted to make sure you’re paying attention)

December 26, 2005

BIYF on Family Traditions

BIYF is possibly one of the coolest dads out there. And I’m not just saying that because he runs golf tournaments for a good cause and jets off to Vegas to throw celebrity poker tournaments. I can vouch for his coolness because he is, to date, the only blogger* I have actually spoken to on the phone. He actually sounds pretty normal – not something you’d expect after reading his blog. Anyway, I was thrilled when he said he’d be happy to write about his family traditions. So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. On December 24th, at 3:57 p.m., I got the following email. Next year, I’m asking him in July.



I suppose it fitting that I should send you this long after the Elves have pulled the Sleigh out of mothballs to shine it up for the night. Hell, Santa and the Reindeer will have likely made it across several time zones before I finish typing it. You see, my biggest Holiday Tradition is to wait until the last possible moment to do anything. I am the Nation of Procrasti, the Ruler of Later, the God of Get-Around-To-It, the Pontiff of Putting It Off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t write my entry about Holiday Traditions. Oh, I would have regaled you and the internets with tales of Griswald-like decorations, kidnapped Santas, farting at midnight mass and of course presents, glorious presents. Had I only gotten my act together sooner. Hey, maybe if you make a tradition of asking other bloggers to provide their holiday traditions, I’ll get another shot at it.

Until then, I will leave you with this one little Holiday Tradition I have…. I actually call it Christmas.

You can visit Because I’m Your Father at http://becauseimyourfather.com

*[UPDATE: In my post-Christmas meal daze, I inexplicably forgot about all the phone calls to Eric at More Diapers regarding the building of this site. He answered every call too. My apologies for this brain freeze.]

Mr. & Mrs. Big Dubya on Family Traditions

Early on, as I was introducing myself to the Daddy Blogger genre, I ran across Mr. Big Dubya and his tales of Lil Dubya and immediately felt like we’d be buds if we lived near each other. Since our kids are about 2 weeks apart in age, I’m sure we’d end up hanging out watching the kids terrorize each other and playing fantasy football in the fall (I’d kick his ass, of course). Then, I started reading his wife’s blog and I was certain the wives would get along great as well. We’d be such good friends, that I could give them crap about getting me their Christmas Family Traditions post on December 24th. So, even though it is the day after Christmas, I give you The Dubya’s and their family traditions.


Mr. Big Dubya

Growing up, Christmas was, as it is for most children, an exciting and wonderful time and certain things could be counted on from year to year. However, we had “traditions” in the broadest sense of the word. Other than one aspect (which I’ll get into later) none of them have really been carried on, at least with Mrs. Big Dubya and I.

Things really got rolling a week or two after Thanksgiving. My father would head out to the garage, set up the ladder and retrieve several boxes stored in the rafters. One contained the artificial Christmas tree and the others were filled with sundry decorations. Even this part was magical as each box retained some pine-scented aroma from Christmases past, even though there wasn’t a live bit of pine anywhere to be found. Artificial=unscented. The boxes were carried to the living room where the furniture had been rearranged to accommodate the tree. Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby could be heard from the stereo console, the spindle of which was filled with six LPs.

First, the tree was unpacked and the inside post of the tree was assembled and placed in the stand. While my father did that, my brothers and I would separate the color-coded branches into piles to find them easier. Everything was done in order—God help you if you went and inserted the dark-green branch into the lowest portion of the tree while everyone else was working on the upper, pink-colored ones. Once everything was together, my father would then string the lights. (Back in the 1970s, the lights we had were multi-colored and resembled floodlights in your backyard.) Did I mention that during all this, my mother was busy elsewhere? Her job was ornaments and decorations…just ornaments and decorations. (I think she had tired of my father telling us about their first Christmas together and the search for a tree stand—it involves my mother standing in their living room, holding up the tree while my father was out. Maybe it’s just me, but it is pretty funny.)

Ornaments are then placed on the tree with an exact precision—Mrs. Big Dubya knows that I come by a lot of my neuroses honestly. Each son also placed his own ornaments on the tree—we each had several with our names on them and some were ones that we had made in school. In fact, we have an ornament on our tree in the Dubya household which was fashioned from an old Christmas card that has written on the back: “Warren 1972.” Once everything is in place, the tree was moved into the corner and the rest of the decorating was finished up: ceramic trees, plastic reindeer and, the piece de resistance, a Hummel creche (a nativity set from my grandmother) were placed in their usual spots.

After all that, things pretty much quieted down until Christmas Eve. My grandparents would usually arrive that afternoon. (They were separated so one might get there before the other.) We would then head off to the evening mass and return home for Chinese food. This is the one tradition that has carried over since Mrs. Big Dubya’s family did the same and we continue to do it now.

The highlight of the evening was an early visit from Santa Claus. For over 40 years now, the neighborhood I grew up in has celebrated the holiday with a Santa that would go from house to house where children are and drop off presents which were dropped off by parents weeks in advance. He arrives on the back of a pick-up truck decorated to look like a sleigh, complete with reindeer and Christmas music. I was lucky enough to be Santa one year—I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a good gig. I made $150 in tips and came home with six bottles of liquor.

Christmas day was like that of many other homes with children. Early wake ups and the quiet broken by shrieks and loads of “What did you get?” As Little Dub grows up, I look forward to Christmas mornings just like that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Mrs. Big Dubya

Growing up in our house, the Christmas tree always provided material for a good story.

Let us begin with some background — my parents’ house is old…. built in the 1800s…. Translation: It’s a big house with a lot of rooms…. a lot of teeny, tiny, little rooms – and our living room is no exception. Every year, for as long as I can remember, my Dad would try to convince us that our living room was too small and that we didn’t really need a tree – we could just pile the presents around a poinsettia or one of the holiday plants that the neighbors sent over — and my mother would set out to prove him wrong. A couple of years she opted to go off to the tree lot and attempt to buy the smallest, skinniest tree she could find – small and skinny enough to just tuck in the corner of our teeny tiny living room and be hardly noticed. Sadly, these skinny, scrawny trees tend to have some less than desirable features…. first and foremost they are bald on top….. essentially, they have a stick that sticks out of the top.

My mother tried to downplay this problem by “trimming” the top of the tree…. Actually she chopped off the stick that pokes out of the top of the tree, thinking that this would make it look less stark…. but, if you take the top off the tree…. it’s no longer tree shaped…. it looked more like a giant Christmas shrub. Picture us kids crouched down to take photos in front of the big round shrub in our living room….. the kids can’t be taller than the tree!

Another year, our cousins were heading back to the old sod for the holidays…. and they were leaving on Christmas Eve…. so they took their tree down just before heading out to the airport – My Dad decided that a good tree shouldn’t go to waste, so he brought home their giant tree and stuffed it into our teeny tiny little living room….. thoroughly delighted that he got a tree that already had tinsel and it was free….. it didn’t matter that it took up half the room.

During another Christmas season, our cousins in New York lost some of the pieces to their artificial tree….. my parents proudly put it together and it was the talk of the neighborhood…. So much so that most people stopped by the following year to see if they’d put it up again!

There was the year that we went out to buy our tree on Christmas Eve…. the man on the lot tried to charge my Dad $8 for the tree…. Dad, the shrewd bargainer offered him $5…. The guy said no, $8…. They went back and forth, back and forth…. Finally, Dad noticed Aunt P and I shivering and desperate to get home…. he begrudgingly paid the $8….. while we were loading our tree onto the truck a fellow stopped and said, “Hey buddy, how much did you pay for your tree”…. Dad just held up 5 fingers…. Aunt P and I still laugh about that.

Whether it’s around shrub-tree, a used tree, a fake tree with missing pieces or an $8 tree…… the memories of Christmases with my crazy Irish family are among my fondest!

You can visit Mr. Big Dubya at http://mrbigdubya.blogspot.com

You can visit Mrs. Big Dubya at http://mrsbigdubya.blogspot.com

December 4, 2005

Chocolate Makes It Better on Family Traditions

Who on earth doesn’t agree that Chocolate makes it better? No matter what IT is, chocolate, in its many forms will do you good my friend. And no one knows that better than my friend Peter. This bloke from Down Under is the most caring of fathers and I love reading his blog Chocolate Makes It Better with a strong Australian accent echoing in my head. Now, to top it off, he has joined the Great Eight over at DadCentric where you can catch him from time to time. I was thrilled when Peter agreed to share what an Australian Christmas was all about. So, break out the sunscreen, pull out a vegemite sandwhich and enjoy.


Christmas Down Under.

The haze of a summer hangs low on the horizon while white fluffy clouds meander past in a floating line. The smell of freshly cut grass infiltrates my senses. The sounds of children playing in the backyard fill my ears. It’s early and it’s already hot. The night before was sweltering and the storms the weatherman predicted didn’t happen, leaving a low muggy heat hanging in the air.

I look out my front window and see children riding new bikes, laughing and yelling in the morning heat. My wife is cutting up slices of icy cold watermelon for later in the day, humming her favorite song and smiling at our daughter who is shoving another slice of vegemite on toast into her mouth.

“Honey, what time are we going to our parents?”

“I told you last night, we have to pick up the seafood then get some petrol. After that we can go, so we should get there about 11.”

When we arrive it’s sweltering. We walk up the driveway with the sun beating down on us relentlessly. I’m starting to wish I didn’t leave my thongs in the car as my feet are starting to burn on the concrete.

“Hi, Mum” I say as I kiss my mother on the cheek. The smell of food wanders across my nose. Chicken, ham, nuts, chocolate, it all smells good. My wife walks through the door with a bag full of presents. “Hi Sue” she says as she happily offloads the heavy bag. “Hi Love, how are you? Would you like a cold drink?”
“Yes please, it’s so hot outside!”

“Muuuum” I call from the kitchen “Do you want a hand with anything?”

“Yes please love, can you pull apart that cold chook (chicken) and put it on the yellow platter.”

“OK, have you got any beer in the fridge?”

“Yeah, in the one in the garage.”

As I crack open my first of many cold beers for Christmas day, I hear my daughter playing in the lounge-room while my wife tries to keep her away form the Christmas-tree and the presents that lie enticingly underneath

After helping prepare lunch I say enthusiastically “Should we open our presents?”

“But it’s almost lunchtime.” My mother says, knowing that this won’t make any difference.

“C’mon mum, you’re up first”

We sit in the lounge-room and hand out brightly wrapped presents to each other, all laughing and smiling. All of us are sharing the half melted chocolates and lollies we open, knowing that once Christmas is over we will need to start exercising again. Everyone gets a present each and opens it with great enthusiasm. I let my daughter sit on my lap and help rip open the wrapping of all my presents as she squeals with glee and delight.

Once the presents are all opened we make our way to the table for lunch. Ham, chicken, prawns, crabs, Moreton Bay bugs, salad, bread rolls, butter, potato salad, nuts, curried eggs, coleslaw, corn, asparagus, beetroot, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, cold beer, fresh lemonade, lots of napkins, chatter and full bellies – All cold, all fresh and delicious.

We talk about family and tell funny stories. Drink too much and laugh too hard. It’s a time we all come together to share and enjoy each other’s company on a very hot day with a big lunch.

This is Christmas in Australia.

You can read more of Peter’s work at http://chocolatemakesitbetter.blogspot.com

December 2, 2005

Mary P. on Family Traditions

Back in my blogspot days I didn’t have a whole lot of readers. Even fewer people commented on what I wrote (some things never change!). Then, one day, I started getting comments from a lady named Mary P. I quickly learned that Mary’s blog, It’s not all Mary Poppins, chronicled the childcare experiences of the kids at Mary’s in-home daycare business. It quickly became a favorite of mine. Following the exploits of 3 year olds like Harry, George and Darcy is a fun reminder of what being a little kid is all about (apparently it’s often about the word “poo”). I love my daily fix of Mary P. and I hope you’ll stop by and check her out. I’m very grateful she has agreed to share her family traditions with you all. Please welcome Mary P.


My Christmas starts in January, when I begin to buy stocking stuffers. I kid you not. Between us, my partner and I have eight children. Eight of the fearsomely expensive little darlings. Were I to wait till December or even November to begin shopping, they’d each receive a sock. A pair of socks if it had been an especially good year. Thankfully, I LOVE gift shopping, and delight in finding things each month for one person or another. With eight kids, each pile isn’t that big, but each gift was chosen with love. (We each shop primarily for our own children, though we each get the other’s children one gift apiece.)

Furthermore, my eldest child was born on December 7. I promised her before she was born that her birthday would never be submerged by the Christmas going on all round it. My way of doing that was to decide that I would have all the Christmas shopping done by December first. I’ve done so every year since then. She’ll be twenty this year. That decision has been the single best one I’ve ever made regarding Christmas. For me, December is a relaxing month, agreeably punctuated by parties on weekends, but mostly spent cocooning with my family.

Two weeks before Christmas, we get out the creche, carefully chosen so as to be child-friendly. The kids have always been allowed to play with it, and several times a week, we play out the Christmas story with the figures. As the kids have gotten older and smarter, Mary has had some strong words to say about riding that damned donkey those ninety miles or so when moments from giving birth! But it ends happily, as we all know.

The family traditions had to be overhauled about ten-ish years ago, with my divorce. Our tradition before that had been a long wild swoop of the province, bouncing from his family to mine, and a few cousins in between, starting Christmas morning as soon as the gifts were opened. With the divorce, though, that had to change. I was thrilled to be able to make a Christmas happen in my very own home. I’d never liked the driving, and besides, I no longer had a car. I certainly wasn’t welcome at my former in-laws (because goodness knows it must’ve been my fault that their son kept messing around on me) and I couldn’t get to my family, so…

New traditions were called for. Now, given that I get the kids first most years, I could’ve scooped my in-laws on the big turkey extravaganza. This would’ve really bugged them. Ha! I could say. The kids will get their turkey with me first – that’ll teach your boy to mess around on me, oh yeah. Except I really don’t like cooking a whole lot, and a meal cooked for vengeance probably wouldn’t taste all that great, anyway. Not exactly the Christmas spirit, either. More pain than gain in that scenario. So, no. Anyway, because we had always been at someone else’s house for Christmas dinner, I had yet to cook a whole turkey dinner. Ever. I saw no reason to start at the ripe old age of 32.

Sooo… The kids and I sat down and talked turkey about turkey, and came up with our brilliant new Christmas food tradition. Christmas Eve, about four in the afternoon, we begin our preparations for our all-out Christmas Eve feast: we dial out for Chinese. This is a big treat for us. On our budget, Chinese for four – five, now – isn’t cheap!! It’s eaten, with chopsticks, on blankets on the living room floor, in front of a blazing fire. This is Tradition. It continues to be Tradition, even though we now live in a house without a functional fire place. So now we sit on blankets on the floor in front of the foot stool that nestles in the not-for-fires fire place.

Our other traditions are bits and pieces of my childhood traditions changed to accommodate my kids and my own inclinations. As a kid, my brother, sister and I got up early Christmas morning, as all children will do, really early, pre-dawn early – about 3:30, as I recall. We’d haul our stockings from the end of our bed and dragged them to our mother’s room. It’s not surprising that we’d try this out, but what’s truly astonishing that she actually let us wake her at this hour! When we’d opened our stockings, we were sent back to our rooms to play with the contents, so mum could finish her night’s sleep, thank you very much, before we were allowed to open any more gifts.

This is NOT a tradition I have maintained. In our house, Christmas starts no sooner than six in the morning. Last year I was quite astonished when they managed it – at 19, 15, and 11, I expected at least a little sleeping in. Lord knows it’s hard enough to haul their butts out of bed any other day of the year. Then don’t I find out the little wretches set an alarm clock for six! This year there’s a corollary to that rule: six by natural means or not at all.

As kids, we would wait till Mum would finally get out of bed at the unbelievably slack hour of, oh, 6:12 a.m., and we would all wander over to the other side of the semi, where we kids would wake my grandparents. Then we’d have to wait -again!!!- and waitandwaitandwaitandwait,wait, wait, wait, until my grandparents and my mum made themselves a cup of tea, if you can believe it. Where were their PRIORITIES??? When the tea was finally steeped and everyone had been given a cup – sometimes I would take gran and grandad’s tea to them as they settled in on the couch, which was viewed as a very kindly and grownup thing for me to do, when in fact I was only trying to get some speed happenin’ here.

We still do that. Only my kids actually have to eat something nutritious before the grand chocolate-and-peppermint feast to follow. And my eldest makes me my cup of tea – some traditions must be genetic!

After the presents, there are quiet Christmas activities – the annual jigsaw puzzle dominates the dining room for the remainder of the holidays, there are the Christmas books to be read. Later in the day the children go to their dads from whence their annual sweep of the province Christmas driving commences the next day, and my sweetie and I settle in to a couple of blissfully child-free days before his kids descend, and we get Christmas all over again.

With a different set of traditions. But that’s another post.

You can visit Mary P. at http://daycaredaze.blogspot.com

November 29, 2005

Morphing Into Mama on Family Traditions

I can’t now remember how I found Morphing Into Mama’s blog but I’m so glad I did. I am regularly awed by her wit and her ability to put parenting into perspective. She says things that I wish I had the nerve to say and I’m never disappointed when I visit. MIM is studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist – I’m picturing a cross between Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil – and I’m sure she’ll make a fine therapist. While I would love it, I’m sure the APA would frown upon her blogging about her clients. (Now there would be some great stories!) Oh well. We’ll just have to settle for her blogging about her family – and, trust me, that is plenty enough. I’m so excited that she has agreed to share her family traditions. So, before this gets too long and I gush any further, please welcome MIM to Childsplayx2. And when you’re done reading, go over and visit her – just don’t mention you’re parenting without a license.


Holiday Traditions Made From Scratch

Because my parents divorced when I was three, I had the unique experience of growing up in two very different households, each with its own set of holiday traditions. When I lived with my mother, holidays were usually spent at my grandmother’s house. Twenty of us would show up at her single-wide at noon sharp, eat with very little talking, clean up, and leave no later than 2 p.m. – sharp. By 1:45, Grandma was looking at the clock, instructing us to wash the dishes faster so she could get to her 2:15 card game at the Clubhouse. Everyone was always happy to oblige since Grandma never served liquor at family gatherings. Not that she didn’t drink it, she just didn’t believe in drinking before 7 p.m. – sharp. So, we were always home by 2:30 p.m., and the holiday was finished.

Our two-hour holiday family gatherings were an implied tradition, along with the coleslaw my mother brought and still continues to bring to dinner to this day. Every night before Thanksgiving and Christmas, my stepfather stops at the KFC drive-thru and purchases two quarts of coleslaw and, voila! My mother’s holiday cooking is complete.

Another important unspoken tradition was the television, which had to be on 24 hours a day – even if no one was watching it. Rather than listen to Perry Como, the television provided us with Christmas jingles used to sell beer, toys, and toilet paper. In fact, one Christmas at Grandma’s house we arrived to find the television sitting at the head of the table. Grandpa gladly took his seat to the side since nothing reigned higher than the television. Sigh. Memories.

At my father’s house, you knew the holidays were close when we’d make our annual trip to Liquor Barn to drop $500 on wine, scotch, cognac, port, and more wine. The decanters and brandy sniffers were brought out and cleaned. The cigar box was stocked. And the chessboard became a fixture on our coffee table for the next six weeks. My aunts and uncles would arrive and the festivities would begin. Marathon chess games were played, the television was completely ignored, and the record player only stopped spinning long enough to put on another jazz tune.

For food, we’d nibble on cheese and crackers all day since my step-mother, while an excellent cook, had no concept of time let alone time management. The day of Thanksgiving and Christmas she’d wake up and write her to-do list, which included things such as calling every single relative she had, painting the bathroom before the guests arrived, polishing all the silver, ironing all the linens, cooking a five course gourmet meal with only fresh ingredients she hadn’t yet purchased, and, oh, what the hell, writing the all-American novel, you know, in case she had an extra fifteen minutes. By five o’clock in the afternoon half our guests were passed out from trying to fill up on booze, and the other half of us would be wandering aimlessly throughout the house trying to remember where we were.

Dinner was finally served around nine o’clock. We’d eat the first three courses like savages throwing as much food in our mouths as possible with one hand while the other hand guarded our plates with a threatening fork or knife. Conversation would finally begin around the fourth course, and by dessert, everyone would be laughing, having forgotten their earlier plans to stick an apple in my step-mother’s mouth and roast her for dinner. Aw, the memories.

When Husband and I had our own children, I began thinking about holiday traditions. I asked Husband if his family had any, and his reply was a quick, “No.” So, we decided that we were going to have to make some from scratch. I wasn’t about to eat KFC with the television blaring, nor did I want all of us starving to the point of wanting to kill each other. Thus, we’ve decided on a few traditions of our own. First, no television. Second, stress will be minimized as much as possible with proper planning. Third, since we cut corners on dinners all year round, a gourmet meal with fresh food is a must. This year for Thanksgiving, for instance, I prepared a butternut squash soup with a red pepper mousse, apple and cranberry chutney, green beans with hazelnut butter, a fresh turkey stuffed with chestnut and sausage dressing, and gravy made from turkey stock prepared the day before. Husband made mashed potatoes and two pies: sweet potato with a three-nut topping, and pumpkin served with freshly whipped cream. Fourth, dinner will always be served promptly at five. Fifth, since we’re not religious, instead of grace, we will take time during dinner to talk about the things for which we’re thankful.

I’m sure we’ll add more to this list over the years, but the point really is that we want to create warm, happy memories for our children. We want them to remember the smell of spices, the sound of laughter, warm bonding moments, and the love of family. If any of you have any additional ingredients to add to this recipe, I’d love to hear them.

You can visit Morphing Into Mama at http://morphingintomama.typepad.com

November 18, 2005

Baby Lauren’s Mom on Family Traditions

Our next guest blogger goes by the pseudonym “Ieatcrayonz”. Anyone who wants to publicize the fact that they chew brightly colored wax is either really fun, or crazy (Okay, it’s both but here’s proof on the crazy part). She is the terrific mother of Baby Lauren and when they say a picture says a thousand words, they must have been thinking of Baby Lauren’s tantrums (posted every week on Tantrum Thursdays). Every time I visit her site, I leave with a smile. There’s so much to see, including her two weiner dogs that she somehow has morphed into one dog for the purpose of blogging. And, finally, you gotta love a woman who manages to snag free baby shoes through blogging. I am thrilled that she agreed to share her family traditions here at Childsplayx2. Please welcome Baby Lauren’s mom!


I have to admit, when Matthew asked me to come up with something for a guest blog on family traditions, I felt a whole lotta performance anxiety.

Family traditions? Growing up, our nearest relatives were 700 miles away (on purpose if you ask me). It was my mom, dad, and older butthead of a brother every stinkin’ holiday. No grandmas or aunties to pinch my cheeks and shower me with presents of knitted underwear and hard peppermint candies stolen from the podiatrist’s office candy dish. I had no uncles or cousins to rough house with and send me to the emergency room on Christmas morning in need of ten or so stitches.

My side of the family has a terrible tradition of opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. It’s like some awful inside joke my parent’s have pulled on me since I was a kid. I never understood it. I’d spend all day anticipating the magic time my parents decided upon to open gifts that evening. And for every minute on the minute until that time came, I’d beg and plead and whine, “Mom, is it time yet?!?!” One time my parents waited until 11 pm to open gifts. I was so tired, I don’t even think I enjoyed it. Like I said, TERRIBLE TRADITION.

I married into a family that is now fifteen strong. Be careful what you wish for.

Our family traditions now consist of a feast cooked by my mother-in-law that requires at least two or three scheduled rounds of speed eating at her small dining room table. First the kids, then the ones that forgot to eat breakfast, and finally those that tided themselves over by snacking on the plate of deviled eggs when they should have been helping prepare the food.

Christmas day is the day we’ve designated for the carnage that has become six grandchildren opening up various superhero gifts. It’s a flash of torn paper, shredded cardboard, and cries of “Did anyone buy extra batteries?!” But it’s fun, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve decided that we need to start our own tradition. That tradition has become going to the tree farm and picking out an overpriced tree with branches that aren’t able to hold any ornaments except those made of paper. In the interest of economy and my secret fear of pine needles, I suggested that we purchase a pre-lit tree from Target this year. From the look on my husband’s face, you’d have thought that I spit in the deviled eggs. “NAH! It’s got to be real. It won’t be Christmas without a real tree!”

Believe me, honey, it will still be Christmas. When we see that little girl’s bright cheery face on Christmas morning, we’ll know our real Christmas gift has arrived.

You can visit Baby Lauren’s Mom at http://babylaurenmiller.blogspot.com

November 14, 2005

Busy Mom on Family Traditions

Busy Mom is someone with whom I can really relate. She’s a Starbucks-loving, drum-playing, football-watching, mini-van driving (okay, so I can’t relate to that), very funny woman. I somehow stumbled across her blog (who could resist clicking on a link that says “BusyMom”?) and have been hooked ever since (besides, you gotta love someone who only writes 84 things about themselves on the “100 things about me list.”). I am thrilled that she has agreed to share her family traditions here at Childsplayx2. I’m already thinking of stealing some of them. So without further ado, I give you Busy Mom.


I come from a small family. As a matter of fact, I’m an only child, so was my mother and my grandmother. So, therefore, holiday traditions were all about me when I was growing up. For the longest time, I thought the various things we did were traditions etched in stone somewhere and handed down through the generations. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized many of the things we did enabled the adults to start cocktail hour on time and in peace and quiet. Seriously, though, I had a wonderful upbringing and the holidays were always festive and full of memories.

Until I was out of college, we spent every Thanksgiving in a small town about 45 minutes from here. My grandmother grew up there, and, her cousin, who was raised with her, and was like a sister, had everyone over to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’d get up on Thanksgiving morning and I’d be so excited about watching the Macy’s parade because the Snoopy float was my favorite. After the parade, we’d leave and drive the country highways to Columbia, where Cassie would greet us at the door. The house already smelled of cooking turkey since she had been up before the sun to get it started. The table would be set with delicate china, shiny silverware and a lace tablecloth, the signs of something special. She would always save a couple of tasks for me to do even when I know it would have been much more efficient for her to do it herself. My favorite thing to do was to use the red handled spreader to stuff the celery (I sure wish I had remembered to ask for that after she died. The spreader, not the celery.), and she let me even though I ate most of it before it ever got to the table. Since I was the only child there, little odds and ends, probably unremarkable to the adults, formed my memories and made everything seem like a grand tradition. As I got older, I groused about having to get up early, hoped we wouldn’t have to stay very long so I could catch up with my friends that evening and I was peeved that we couldn’t go on some exotic trip or skiing like other people. Looking back on it, I now realize Thanksgiving for me was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and that’s how the holiday should be, even for surly teenagers.

However, Thanksgiving is a little different for my kids. Busy Dad comes from a large family and, since they live out of town, we go down there to keep them from coming here at Christmas celebrate with a gathering of extended family and friends. His cousin who owns a barbecue restaurant hosts the gathering at the restaurant and it is filled with a large buffet of items contributed by all the guests. People come and go all day, much football is watched and, since parts of the family are, um, quite “mountainous”, you may even get to see a dead deer in a truck in the parking lot. It’s a festive chaos that contrasts with the quiet, traditional holiday we celebrated when I was growing up. However, I do make the kids watch the parade with me before we leave on the 2 hour trip, even though they don’t quite get the attraction. Neither way is better than the other, I’m glad my kids get to run around and play with cousins and other family they don’t get to see much. However, we do celebrate Thanksgiving The Sequel with my parents the following Saturday so that we can get the china out and Busy Girl can prepare the stuffed celery. I, however, am still the one who eats it before it gets to the table.

Christmas was a little different than Thanksgiving in our family. It was spent with immediate family which meant me, my parents and my mother’s parents. I can remember eagerly awaiting my grandparent’s arrival, carefully arranging and rearranging the presents under the tree, hoping carolers would come to the door, listening to the Jim Neighbors Christmas album (yes, that is the Gomer Pyle guy, but he can sing. Shut. Up. If you’re too young to remember Gomer Pyle, I don’t want to hear it.) and wondering what Santa would bring. We’d each open one gift on Christmas Eve. I once thought that was a tradition, but then I realized that it must have been started to shut me up on Christmas Eve. After I had left Santa cookies and a beer on the dining room table (yes, I really did leave a Busch for him and it took many years for me to connect that’s what my dad drank, too), I’d go to bed for a restless sleep. I’d wake up the next morning to see what Santa had brought. Santa gifts were always unwrapped and left on the hearth in front of the fireplace, stocking were filled and he’d always leave a chocolate chip cookie for me in a small knit stocking I hung on the doorknob of my room. We’d go to church, come home and open gifts. I’d very carefully hand one round of gifts to each person and we’d each open them before moving onto the next round (thus beginning my control issues at an early age) and we’d open until there were no more.

When I got married, I worried that the little traditions, no matter how insignificant they seemed to anyone but me, would go by the wayside. But, I worried for nothing. New traditions were opened up to me with Busy Dad’s family, and, though they mostly involved too much champagne, I found that I enjoyed celebrating Christmas with lots of people in the house and opening presents was a free-for-all. When we had children, it was a dilemma when and where to spend Christmas, but we promised to always wake up at our own house on Christmas morning. Granted, we may have just returned from the open road a few hours before, but Santa comes here. Just like he did for me, he leaves his unwrapped gifts by the fireplace and fills the stockings. However, he finds cookies and milk for a snack. Times have changed and I suppose Santa should “just say ‘no’” to drinking and driving. We go to Mass, eat a turkey dinner and open gifts (free for all style, but I’m getting used to it). But, we have traditions that are “new” as well. Busy Dad’s mother gives each child an ornament engraved with their name and the year, we read “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve and we always watch a movie on Christmas afternoon. Sometimes it’s amazing to think that we are responsible for creating/facilitating our kids’ holiday memories. It sounds like something a “real” adult is supposed to do, but, we look around and, though we sometimes feel like impostors, we realize we are the card carrying adults around here and it’s up to us. However, I do think my adult license must be conditional since Santa still leaves a chocolate chip cookie in the stocking on my bedroom door.

You can visit Busy Mom at Busymom.net

November 8, 2005

Not-For-Profit-Dad on Family Traditions

Not-for-profit-dad and I have a lot in common. We both work in the non-profit field, we both have boy/girl twins, we’re both baseball fans, and we both blog about our kids. I am very grateful that he decided to share his family traditions – particularly how they center around his Jewish faith. If you are not familiar with his blog, please read him. He’s funny and articulate and a must on your blogroll.



There is a weekly tradition we have in our house of observing Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Now, I would say that the MOWA and I don’t fit into any particular “flavor” of Judaism, but it would be accurate to say that the synagogue that we have not attended for the past year is a conservative synagogue. At different times in our lives we have held different levels of observance — the MOWA used to hang-out at Chabad House and at another time she regularly attended an orthodox Sephardic synagogue. I have at various times been a regular attendee at synagogue and at other times been the guy eating the cheeseburger at the McDonalds in the Tel Aviv bus station. We keep kosher in our house, although I do eat non-kosher meat outside the home, I avoid mixing milk and meat and completely avoid meat that would not be kosher under any circumstance (shellfish, pork, catfish – with the occasional exception of eel at sushi restaurants). The MOWA in-part because she is a vegetarian but more because she’s a better Jew than me, is kosher 24/7/365. We use electricity on shabbat and drive and do other things that distinctly place us in the “other-than-orthodox-camp.” All of that is really just to set-up the unique way we observe Shabbat with the kids every Friday night.

Traditionally, Shabbat begins at sundown. In our house it begins about 15 minutes before the twins’ bathtime. The MOWA lights the two candles and says the prayer, letting Girl Twin know she should be saying it with her as it is traditionally the woman’s job to light the candles. After we light the candles everyone gets a kiss and a greeting of “shabbat shalom.” This is a tradition I grew up with and we make sure that everyone gives everyone a kiss — all the combinations and permutations possible.

Then we say kiddush, the prayer over the wine (in this case grape juice). This is the twins’ favorite part because they know the whole thing ends with them getting to drink grape juice. We use a special “kiddush cup” that the MOWA made at a paint-your-own pottery store, it is very colorful and whenever the kids see the cup they get very excited (which can be a problem at all other non-Shabbat times). The cup is also special to the MOWA and myself because when we were going through infertility we incorporated a ritual into our Shabbat observance that included making a special prayer in-honor of the famously infertile matriarchs of the bible over the same kiddush cup filled with pomegranite juice. Now we use the same cup to make kiddush with our kids every friday night as a reminder of what we overcame and of how blessed we are. At the end of the prayer, the MOWA and I drink from the kiddush cup. Now the kids get their own sippy cups of grape juice, but before they were old enough for that we used to give them grape juice in an eye dropper. It’s great to see how excited they get for the sweet grape juice, which I hope they will always associate with the sweetness of shabbat and the joy of being together with family.

Finally we say the motzi — which is a prayer over the challah bread, although we frequently substitute Cheerios. This is for two reasons. 1) I frequently fail in my task of picking up a challah on Friday afternoon. 2) Challah is made with an egg wash and in their first year of life we avoided exposing the kids to eggs because apparently that increases their odds of escaping food allergies. Since the kids have been able to eat eggs we’ve continued using Cheerios — now it is sort of our tradition and for all intents and purposes and may persist into the future. When we actually do have a challah we all place our hands on it and say the prayer together. With Cheerios it’s a little harder to achieve that effect, so generally we give them the Cheerios and try and say the prayer before they’ve shoved them down their throats.

We finish-up with another round of kisses and shabbat shalom’s and sometimes sing a shabbat song like “Shalom Aleichem” or “Put the Chicken in the Pot.”

Sometimes, when I have to work late on Friday, the MOWA does shabbat with the kids while I’m on speaker-phone. It sucks to miss it, but I’m glad that it is something that happens every week for the kids. What do I hope my children get out of this? That it is a way of marking the end of the week, of taking time for family and setting aside a sacred space in a unique Jewish way. I hope that it instills in them a love of Judaism not because they have no choice (the reality in America is that they do have a choice whether I like it or not), but because they find meaning in the rituals, the traditions and moral code it stands for. Most important I hope it reinforces that Judaism has a place in their life every day and every week — not just three times a year and at Chanukah.

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