Why Santa Will Never Lose His Magic in Our Household

Why Santa Will Never Lose His Magic in Our Household (Photo: Photo of a traditional-looking Santa Claus, tipping his hood)

“Do you want to go see Santa?” I asked my kids, standing outside the mall Christmas display. My one-and-a-half year old shook his head vigorously, while my four-year-old (nicknamed Sprout) just said, “No” in the same tone he gives me at bedtime. But that doesn’t mean they dislike Santa – just the mall version. And that’s just fine with me. Instead of forcing my kids to sit on some dude’s lap, we’re finding deeper ways to maintain Santa’s beauty and magic.

In our household, Santa is a complicated person.

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Using An Annoyance to Spark a Powerful Conversation with My Child

This singing Christmas tree is the bane of our holiday existence. But good things – even deep insights – can come from the most annoying of situations.

While some people can’t stand non-stop carols or mall parking lots during the holiday season, this tree bugs us the entire month of December. My mother-in-law bought it for my older son (nicknamed Sprout) a few years ago. Since then, he has played it as many times as we would possibly let him. First thing in the morning. Last thing before bedtime. Random times during the day until my husband finally gets sick of it and puts it away. While the song is cute the first time, it’s grating the 60th time. But I just don’t have the heart to get rid of it.

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Guest Post: How to Use the Power of Stories to Connect and Teach

What are your favorite stories from childhood? While I have many beloved fictional stories, I also hold the family stories my parents hold me close to my heart. Now, we share those stories and others with our kids as part of a long tradition.

I wrote about the power of sharing stories over at A Fine Parent with the article “How to Use the Power of Stories to Connect and Teach.

How to Use the Power of Stories to Connect and Teach (Photo: Boy and older woman sitting on a couch, smiling at each other)

Gathered around a fire, a mother and child talk in quiet voices.

The flames leap as the mother tells the child stories of ancestors, far-away lands, and fantastic situations. Drowsy, the child falls asleep, her head on her mother’s lap.

This could be a scene from 10,000 years ago or 10 days ago.

Storytelling is a core part of what makes us human.

Read the rest over at A Fine Parent! 

Our Creative Alternative to the Thanksgiving Myth

Our Creative Alternative to the Thanksgiving Myth (Photo: Table set with a variety of food for Thanksgiving)

“They’re not dressing up as Native Americans, are they?” I said, wrinkling my nose. After reading about how cultures aren’t costumes around Halloween and how the whitewashed version of the Thanksgiving story is painfully inaccurate, I hope that my son’s preschool isn’t re-enacting the famous version of the Thanksgiving narrative. Regardless of their curriculum, I know we won’t be repeating it in our household. So we have to come up with an alternative.

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How to Help the Environment While Making the Most of Your Time

Do you want to do what you can to help the environment but can’t find the time? Here are eight ways you can do both!

How to Help the Environment While Making the Most of Your Time (Photo: A photo of a green tree in a field with a clock superimposed over it)

“I don’t have enough time!” I lament to my husband, as I stay up too late washing the dishes yet again. I’m certainly not alone in this cry, as anyone who raises small children knows. The days may be long, but it still feels as if there are never enough hours. But despite all that, our family still lives in as environmentally-friendly a manner as we can. As many “green” activities take more time than conventional ones – I’m looking at you, dish rags that we need to wash – how do we find the time to help the environment?

Some of it is reorganizing our priorities. But in many cases, I’ve found some shortcuts to save time and still help the environment.

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The Absolutely Best Ways to Donate to a Food Drive

Want to give effectively to a food drive to a local food bank?

The Absolutely Best Ways to Donate to a Food Drive. We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So (Photo: Cans of food stacked in very large piles)

You rarely have the opportunity to decide how to spend your co-workers’ hard-earned money. But as the one responsible for running our yearly food drive, I wanted both them and the food bank to get the best bang for their buck. Just randomly picking out whatever I felt like at the grocery store wasn’t going to cut it. But how could I donate in the most effective way possible?

I’m not the only one who struggles with this question. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the “food drive holidays,” where everyone from churches to Boy Scouts troops are collecting cans to donate to food banks. Unfortunately, the donations to these drives aren’t as helpful as they could be because people just aren’t aware of the most effective ways to give.

Between my experiences running the food drives and reading up on the subject, I’ve found some really handy rules to guide your food drive giving.

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How to Prevent Raising An Entitled Kid

How to Prevent Raising an Entitled Kid. Want to raise a respectful kid who doesn't think they deserve everything? Try these seven things our family is doing! (Picture: Victorian illustration of a little girl asleep on the floor, clutching a box of chocolates with a dog next to her)

“Why did he think he was better than everyone else?” my four year old asked as we were reading the picture book Little Blue Truck. In the story, a huge construction truck comes barreling through a farm, proclaiming, “I’ve got important things to do!” As a consequence of his pride, he slides into a mud puddle and his huge tires get stuck. In the world of trucks, he’s a bit of an entitled brat.

Answering my son’s question was tough. Why do some people think they’re better than others? Why do some people think they deserve more or better than other people do? As challenging it is to answer these, they’re essential questions to figure out if we’re going to raise kids who respect and value other people. In other words, to prevent raising entitled kids.

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What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability? Sustainability is about a lot more than what we buy - it's about community. (Photo: A tree with red berries)

Pushing my son on the biggest tree swing I’ve ever seen, he declared, “This is fun!” As I half-listened to a talk on medicinal plants, I had to agree. We were at the second annual Paw Paw Festival at Long Creek Homestead, the home of a local family who grows much of their own food based on ecological principles. While we go to these events because they’re fun, it’s much more than that. I bring my family to these events so we can have a little glimpse into a possible potential, beautiful future. That’s because these kind of community events embody social and environmental sustainability to me.

Sustainability has become such a buzzword it’s easy to lose the true meaning. Companies sell us “green living” via labels on products that promise they will be safer for your family. (Never mind anyone else’s family.) But to create a just world that offers opportunities to all people in a way that’s environmentally sound, we have to go deeper.

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How to Talk to People Who Disagree With Your Parenting or Lifestyle Choices

How to Talk to People Who Disagree with Your Parenting or Lifestyle Choices. Have family & neighbors questioning what you're choosing for your family? Try these science-based tips to help reduce conflict while still stating your mind. (Photo: A set Thanksgiving table.)

Sitting around the Thanksgiving table, I struggled to describe my job to my conservative aunt and her even more conservative neighbor. I wasn’t in the mood at the moment for a throw-down on climate change. More importantly, I wanted them to see my job – telling people about fuel-efficient and electric cars – as a good thing.  I finally settled on the energy security angle.

“I tell people about how they can use less oil in their cars. Eventually it’s going to run out, so it’s best if we can use as little as possible,” I explained.

“Well, you know, some of those old oil things, they go back to and there’s more there,” the neighbor responded.

As I stared at her and my husband tried to explain that away, she continued, “Oil has to build up faster than scientists say it does to get the amount we have, since the world’s only 8,000 years old.” I was so surprised that I had nothing to say. To put it lightly, that’s a very rare situation for me.

While this conversation was about science and my job, it could have easily been about parenting choices, green living, or politically progressive points of view. Eating a vegetarian diet, choosing not to use time-outs on your stubborn or strong-willed kid, or attending a climate change rally with your family are even more likely to draw unwanted commentary. It’s easy to want to avoid people who hold radically different perspectives, but that’s not always possible. Plus, if a topic is near and dear to your heart, you may want to try to change their mind on a topic, even if you have to talk people who disagree on it.

Here’s some tips for talking to people who disagree with your parenting, lifestyle or just point of view. Most of this is from the social science literature, so I’ve tried to link to good summaries of that literature when possible. Just as a warning – this may not be relevant for all situations. There may be times when you want to straight-up call someone out, like if they tell a racist or sexist joke.

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The 10 Things Parents Must Teach Gifted Children

The 10 Things Parents Must Teach Gifted Children. Are you the parent of a gifted child and wondering what they need to know? Here's 10 things that you need to teach them to be successful. (Photo: A boy with a blue backpack walking away down a road.)

Sitting in the private school’s admissions office, my mom faced a choice about her gifted daughter’s education. The admissions officer told her how much smaller the classes were than public school, how girls felt less pressure when they didn’t compete for boys’ attention, and how much more they could meet her needs.

But the tuition was as expensive as you would expect for a private school. We were a solidly upper-middle-class family, but a salesman’s and teacher’s salaries added together meant we weren’t exactly rolling in the dough. Private school meant no new house. No vacations for years. Hardly any luxuries at all.

But wasn’t her daughter’s education worth it? Wasn’t public school going to hold her back? Would she be able to fulfill her potential?

As the daughter in question, I now know my mom made the right decision. With more hoopla these days than ever about the beauty and struggles of raising “gifted” kids, it feels odd to me. Wasn’t this stuff we should have figured out 20 years ago?

As a “gifted” kid who had lots of gifted friends growing up and is now an adult, I’ve thought a lot about what society does and doesn’t do well in terms of how we treat “smart” kids. From my experience and reading, here’s what parents must teach gifted children:

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