Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Forget "Hinting Season"! My NO-FAIL Strategy For Gift Giving (And Getting) This Holiday Season

I see that “Hinting Season” is trending on Twitter today and I'm assuming this is where you hint about what you want for the holidays. The problem is:

Hints may not be strong enough for someone who's oblivious (albeit well-intending) because no matter how much you hint, you may still not get what you want. 

This is what I got when I hinted for a Valentine's Day Gift - SO UNROMANTIC!


I learned this years ago when I hinted to my new husband that I wanted something cute, practical, and unique for Valentine's Day. I don't remember what I was after, but I know what I got: a set of 3 canisters in the shape of geese. Yeah, hold off ladies – he's mine. It was probably the most unromantic gift anyone had ever given me but, in his mind, it fit the bill. They were cute, it was practical, and the set was certainly unique. Granted, I also wanted to throw them at his head at the time. 

That was when I came up with this shamelessly brilliant way for someone to get the gifts they want. Now, everyone in the family uses it. Here's how it works:

1.  Have the person you're giving to make a list of the 7 or so things that they want, kind of like a gift registry. If I'm the receiver and see those things in the stores, I take pictures and IM them to him along with the store name, location in the store (very important!), price, item number (if possible), etc. If they're in a catalog or sales circular, I give my husband the catalog/circular with all of the data circled. If our budget is tight, I make sure that some items are far cheaper than others; this also helps for when the kids want to buy stuff with their own money. Tip: keep a back-up of all this stuff, if possible. Oblivious or super-busy people tend to lose things. 

2.  The receiver MUST give as much information on those items as possible!   This HAS to be  fool-proof; otherwise, the receiver cannot blame the giver for not trying.  

The brilliance comes in the fact that the receiver does, indeed, want every item on that list even though they know they're not going to get them all. But there's absolutely no guessing involved on the part of the giver!   Short of taking his hand and leading him to the merchandise, there's nothing he has to do but fetch. And, since I, as the receiver, don't know which items I'm getting, it's still a surprise to me. It's sort of like Santa's list but far more precise. 

This is great, too, for when hubby takes the kids shopping with him. All he has to do is show a item to my daughter and, like the budding shop-a-holic she is, she finds it (of course, at her age, it's impossible for her to keep it a secret).

Do I, as the receiver, care that I know how much something costs? No! Does this rob the giver finding someone “the perfect gift”? Yes, but personally, I'd rather get someone what they want than risk spending my time and creative juices on something they're going to hate and have to take back. Is this concept too bold, too nervy? Possibly, but not if you ask the givers (and receivers) what they think about the concept ahead of time. I mean, I'd never presume someone was going to get me a gift. 

It's been a successful method for us for the last 15 years or so and, like a gift registry, it makes sure that we get what we want, don't waste money on items that are unappreciated, and makes shopping far easier and less of a wild goose chase. 

Discuss it with your loved ones, give it a shot and see if this strategy works for you. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Thanksgiving Movies For Kids Of All Ages

The Macy's Parade is over, the last football player has been knocked to the ground, dinner has been cooked and eaten, and your time with the relatives is, um, wearing thin.  

Thanksgiving movies can be enjoyed by everyone!

What do you do next??!  Why not watch a movie?  

Here are my top 10 picks for relatively kid-friendly Thanksgiving movies. And remember: before you spend money renting them, try borrowing them from your local library for FREE!

  1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – Nobody does the holidays better than the Peanuts gang! In case you haven't see this Emmy-award winning classic, Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving. Can poor Chuck rise challenge? This film is full of warmth – I mean, how can you resist a dinner with popcorn on the menu? The DVD also includes "The Mayflower Voyagers" special, a Peanuts rendition of the Mayflower Voyage and the first Thanksgiving. 

    Find the REAL meaning of Thanksgiving in this movie.

  2. Mouse On The Mayflower – A charming story told by William, it's about a little mouse whose big idea saves the pilgrims during a perilous storm as they travel to the New World. This cartoon originally aired on television in 1968 and also traces the story of the struggles of those first settlers as they learn to plant crops during Spring and celebrate in Autumn with the first Thanksgiving. 

  3. It's A Wonderful Life – Before you start complaining that this is a classic Christmas movie, which it is, I would argue that the message of being grateful for the life you have as well as for family and friends is perfectly suited for Thanksgiving viewing as well. 

  4. Alvin And The Chipmunks: Alvin's Thanksgiving Celebration – This Thanksgiving-themed DVD contains four Alvin episodes including "A Chipmunk Celebration," "Food for Thought," "Cookie Chomper III," and "Dave's Getting Married.” This rodent knows the meaning of Turkey Day!

  5. Avalon – A PG rated film which was released 1990, it traces fictional Sam Krichinsky's family as they pursue the American dream. Much of the story takes place as the family gathers for Thanksgiving dinners and some of the themes explored include the effects of affluence, introduction of television, and attitudes towards the elderly. 

  6. Holiday Inn – Ok, so it's pretty thin on plot, but this 1942 musical which features Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby has amazing songs by Irving Berlin and is perfect for watching with older family members (who probably know the songs by heart). A toe-tapping good time!

  7. Grumpy Old Men – Another PG rated film, this wonderful comedy focuses on a lifelong feud between two neighbors which only gets worse when a new female neighbor moves across the street. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon proved that you don't have to be young to be hysterically funny.

  8. Home For The Holidays – Rated PG-13, the story of poor Claudia Larson who, after suffering some really bad luck, has to face spending the holiday with her family will resonate with those of us who have, shall we say, less than Norman Rockwell-type tribes. 

  9. Garfield's Thanksgiving – Garfield's owner, Jon, needs to take the reluctant feline to the vet on the day before Thanksgiving. Will the good doctor force Garfield to follow a (gasp!) diet before his favorite day of gluttony? Like most of us facing dietary challenges, it could make for one cranky Turkey Day!

  10. Miracle On 34th Street – Remember the good old days when Christmas season began AFTER Thanksgiving? While this movie isn't a Thanksgiving movie per se, it is a seasonal favorite that includes a touch of the holiday as it features it tells the story of the trial of the Santa who appears in Macy's parade. If you haven't seen it yet, now is the time. 


Saturday, November 22, 2014

10 Tips For Helping Kids Enjoy Thanksgiving

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving meant schlepping to the house of a distant geriatric relative, having my cheeks pinched, sitting for hours listening to them complain about life, watching them chain smoke, then eating, and schlepping home while my parents told me how I hadn't sat quietly enough or tried some gross dish like Aunt Rose's succotash pudding. EVERYTHING about this day was out of my control, full of “musts” and “should haves.” It was not my favorite holiday.

Thanksgiving can be tough for kids - help them enjoy it!

When I had my own kids, I was determined that they would not suffer on Turkey Day as I had. Since our family has shrunk to only two elderly family members, the schlepping is no longer a factor because our house is the default location for all celebrations. Sure, the main event still centers around eating, but I've found ways to give the kids a voice, and thus some control, in the day's festivities.

Here are 10 of my favorite activities and strategies for helping kids enjoy this day:

  • Challenge the kids to find new ways to express gratitude. Sure, you can go around the table and give thanks. But why not ask the kids, ahead of time, to draw a picture or make a collage of what they're grateful for? This is also a great way to keep the smaller ones busy while you're cooking. Older ones can take a photo on their phones and then pass it around just before dinner or they can compile a slide show to show before or after the meal.

  • Get the kids involved planning and cooking the meal. Yeah, I know every website is recommending this, but getting children involved also increases the chance that they'll eat something on the menu (my daughter has been known to ignore the turkey and ask for mac and cheese for the Feast).   Kids can also tear lettuce, help bake dinner rolls, or pull grapes to put in a fruit salad. My son took Family Consumer Science (formerly Home Ec) and some of his recipes are amazing!

    This took all of 5 minutes to make!
  • Ask the kids if they'll help craft decorations. Diva and I whipped up this sweet little candle holder
    (battery-operated candles only) in about 10 minutes this weekend using a water jug, scissors, and crayons. It will welcome our guests when they arrive. You can find more free, printable Thanksgiving decorations here at Freebies.About.Com.

  • Kids love knowing things adults don't!! Guide the kids toward Thanksgiving trivia they can share with the family during dinner. has a fascinating online trivia quiz and Celebration Ideas Online offers a free printable trivia quiz.

  • Enlist an older child to interview and record an older family member. Have them come up with questions to ask the senior. This could become a family heirloom!

  • Give the kids an opportunity to choose some during-dinner music.  Just retain the power to veto any rowdy tunes.

  • Invite the wee folk to come up with a list of topics and questions for dinner conversation. 

Don't forget to let the kids help clean up after Thanksgiving dinner!

  • Allow the kids to have input into after-dinner activities. Little ones may enjoy putting on a show or playing a musical instrument. Perhaps an older child can show Grandma what video games she's playing. Or have the kids select a few movies for the family to watch.

  • Have a younger child pick out a few books for a guest to read to them. Better yet, pick out a few books they might want to read TO the guest!

  • Make post-guest clean-up a competition. Whoever can put away 10 items in a minute gets first crack at leftovers later.

Again, giving children choices empowers them, reducing frustration and allowing them to have some control over the day's festivities.  It also helps them enjoy the holiday more.  In my house, anyone who chooses not to help out automatically forfeits any right to complain later and is invited to spend the day in their room sans electronics.

Also, don't forget to say “please” and “thank you” to your children! What you model is what they'll pass along.

Please note that this a re-posting of something I wrote about the same time last year.  Just thought you should know...  

Friday, November 21, 2014

10 Stocking Stuffers For Your Teenage Boy That He'll LOVE

Every year I rack my brain trying to figure out what to put in the Teen's stocking!  Now that the simple days of Hot Wheels are over, it's much harder anticipating what might please him.  Sure, I could give Junior candy, but he gets enough sweets in the course of a day.  So after much thought, here's my list 10 things my teenage boy will probably find in his stocking come Christmas morning:

What can you put in a teenage boy's stocking that won't make him roll his eyes?

  • A $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card. The DD is walkable from school and home. As my son becomes more independent, he likes to go with his friends for a hot chocolate and/or a doughnut every once in a while. And I like the fact that the cards are refillable, so HE can add money when it runs out.

  • Deodorant and body wash. This is a hint as well as a gift. Teen boys smell...funky. Axe seems to be the brand that all the kids in the locker room are wearing and I have actually smelled it on the boy, so I feel confident he'll actually use it. 

    Smelling like Axe is better than smelling like sweat.

  •  A phone charger. For some reason, these disappear around my house, especially now that Little Sister has an iPod Touch. Junior could use another charger that he can hide in his room away from Lily.    

  • Socks. Sounds lame, right? Except that in my house, NO ONE wants to match socks, so these are somewhat of a commodity around here. White socks are apparently too confusing to match (the tops are different, the lengths are different, etc.). Some novelty socks will be appreciated and are EASY to match. Maybe then he'll stop stealing his little sister's “Hello Kitty” socks (I kid you not)!

  • Dove Dark Chocolate. If I'm going to give him a little candy, it's going to be the antioxidant-rich dark chocolate he loves. 

    Research says dark chocolate is healthy.  Who am I to argue?
  • Post-It Notes. Now that he's in high school, the teen goes through these sticky notes like they're water. Giving him his own stash will eliminate a lot of “MOM! WHERE ARE MY POST-IT NOTES?” yelling.

  • Texting Gloves. He knows he's going to lose at least 5 pair of gloves; I know it's more likely going to be 10. A few of these from our local Dollar Store will go a long way. The trick is to buy them in in the same color so when he loses one, it's no big deal. Again, it should save us some pain this winter.

    Texting gloves are great for a teenage boy!

  • A Game Stop gift card. Since the kid is living online these days, I know he's going to use this. They're available starting at $10 and I know he's got others left over from birthdays, so alone or put together, he should be able to buy something he wants.

  • A “League Of Legends” poster. He plays this with his friends, so I think it's time to take down some of the sports posters the kid hasn't looked at in a year (despite them adorning the walls of his room) and replace at least one with something relevant to him.

    Sometimes, I think he lives in a virtual world...

  • Hand Sanitizer. Another essential that gets lost  or (thankfully) used up, keychains of this stuff may allow us to dodge a sick day or two.

All of these items are fairly inexpensive, useful and won't clutter his room with stuff I have to dust or things he'll look at once and never pick up again. And if I buy enough of them, it may make my weekly shopping a little easier as well. 

Teens are notoriously capricious, but I think I may earn a smile from my Boy with these items. Santa is being practical this year, Kid! 


What's going in YOUR teen boy's stocking?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Ways You CAN Look Good When You've Got A Cold

I came down to breakfast this morning and my husband gasped in horror. “Your nose – it's bright red and bulbous,” he exclaimed. Yeah, love you, too, you moron. I knew I looked terrible. I felt terrible and had cringed when I looked in the mirror this morning, but I just cannot shake this cold. Still, I have a job interview today and need to look decent. 

It's easier than you think to look good when you've got a cold!

So, after doing a little research and a bit of experimenting, here are 6 ways I found to not only look human, but good, when you have a cold:

  • Combat puffy eyes with caffeinated tea bags. I look like I've been in a boxing ring, so I took two cold, wet teabags, placed them over my eyes, and laid down for about 15 minutes. The caffeine constricted the blood vessels and, combined with the coldness of the bags, reduced the puffiness. 

  • Use lubricating eye drops to cool your eyes, reduce redness, and get rid of that bloodshot look. Just plain eye drops – not antihistamines.  These felt WONDERFUL, too!

    My nose looked so bad that some kid starting singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed-Reindeer" when he saw me in the grocery store this morning.  :((

  • Play up your eyes. Make eyes look brighter by lining the inner corner of your eyes with white eye shadow or liner and use neutral shadows to play up your eyes. My goal was to take the viewer's attention off my Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer nose and emphasize my eyes. I used not only the white shadow and neutral tones (staying AWAY from anything remotely pink), but took out the eyelash curler to make my lashes look bigger. 

  • Use concealer on your nose. Sure, this is obvious. The harder part was really blending it in so that it covered the crimson but didn't look caked on. I also used a cream makeup, rather than powder which actually drew attention to my proboscis.  

  • Ditch the blush and opt for a bronzer. Blush only reinforced any redness on my face whereas bronzer gave me a bit of a glow so I looked healthier than I felt. 

    Looking good helps me feel a tad better when I have a cold.

  • Use lip gloss rather than  a colored lipstick. My lips were chapped as a result of my cold, so I used lip gloss to hydrate them and by not calling attention to my lips, the emphasis was, again, on my eyes. 

Lastly, I stuck a bottle of water in my purse because it's especially important to stay hydrated when you're sick. I'm glad I did, because the woman interviewing me was 20 minutes late and the waiting area was painfully dry. 

Outside of the tea bags, none of the above took more than a few minutes and they were easy to do.
I looked good on the interview and nailed it. Rather than being fixated on my nose, the hiring manager kept looking me in the eyes. And even though I realize I don't want this particular job, I learned that just because I'm sick doesn't mean I can't look attractive.

I really believe in the whole "fake it till you make it" mantra where you fake looking better in the hopes that it will make you feel better.  In this case, it worked because looking better helped me feel more confident during the interview.  

Give these tips a shot and tell me how they worked for you!  Thanks for visiting!

A source for this article was,. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


My son is in love - with fish tacos!  He was in heaven with his first bite into the crispy, spicy dish and has savored them each time we've been in Southern California.  So, after playing with several recipes which proved to be too time-consuming and dissecting what, exactly, he loved about them (I'm not a fan), I came up with the winner below.  He ate 6 (yes, six) of them last night for dinner and just begged me for more when we walked through the door after school.


You could use this seasoning mix for the fish tacos, but any taco seasoning mix works well.

Ingredients:  10 ounces of breaded frozen fish fillets (Mrs. Pauls, VanDeKamps, etc.), 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of taco seasoning, 1 - 4.6 ounce package of taco shells and/or low-carb tortillas (my husband is on a low-carb diet), 2 cups of coleslaw from your deli, 1/2 cup of salsa

My family's FAVORITE salsa


1.  Sprinkle the fish with the chili powder and taco seasoning.  Bake as directed on the package.

2.  Take the fish out of the oven and cut it into bite-size pieces or strips.

3.  Spoon a teaspoon of coleslaw into each shell (if you're using a tortilla, halve the tortilla first and use each half), top with some fish, and a tablespoon or so of salsa. 


Variations:  You can add avocado, sour cream, cheese, sauteed red pepper strips, etc.  Make it your own. 


My son is getting all the benefits of fish with the cabbage from the slaw and tomatoes (which he won't touch otherwise) from the salsa.  This also makes a great "make it yourself" leftovers dish since once the fish is cooked, all he has to do is heat it up for about a minute before assembling the taco. 

Try it and tell me what you think of it!  And, as always, thanks for reading!  

Friday, November 14, 2014

5 Pumpkin Cockails To Make Your Thanksgiving Sparkle

It seemed like everything was Fall and pumpkin-inspired until just after Halloween. Now society has fast-forwarded to Christmas with nary a thought to Thanksgiving. 

I am taking Thanksgiving back with pumpkin cocktails!

Well, dear reader, I'm taking Thanksgiving back! My mother-in-law is coming for the Feast which means alcohol will be on the menu. Here are my favorite 5 pumpkin-inspired cocktails to help add a bit more spirit to your THANKSGIVING season:

Hot Buttered Pumpkin Spice Rum – I would imagine that this isn't the lowest-calorie drink because it has butter in it, but it's a great drink to warm you up. Sip it before a roaring fire or flickering candle for extra ambiance.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoon of butter (make sure they're at room temperature); 1 tablespoon of softened dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin-pie spice, 2 ounces of dark rum, and 12 ounces of HOT apple cider.

Directions: In a mixing bowl, use a whisk to whip the butter, brown sugar and pie spice together. Put it in the refrigerator and chill until it's firm. Then halve the mix and the mug and place in two mugs. Stir in the hot cider. Note: you could even top this with whipped cream and sprinkles and add a cinnamon stick to make it even more special.

This glass storage jar would be perfect to make pumpkin flavored vodka in.

Pumpkin Flavored Vodka – Okay, this is more time-intensive, so you might want to start now, but it yields a wonderful Fall take on vodka. Note that you'll need a large, sealable glass container for this, like a recycled glass juice bottle or glass storage jar.

Ingredients: 1-1/2 cups of pumpkin pie filling, vodka.

Directions: Place the pie filling in the container and fill the rest with vodka. Mix them both up and let the concoction sit in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Filter the mixture through a coffee filter which you've put in a kitchen strainer. TaDa!

This is out for a limited time only, so get it now!
Kahlua Pumpkin Martini - It doesn't get any easier than this!

Ingredients: Kahlua Pumpkin Spice, vodka

Directions: Mix equal parts of both together with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Add a bit of orange zest or a cinnamon stick to garnish.

Spiced Pumpkin Cider – Another warm drink you can sip while watching the leaves fall, it reminds me of the Spiced Rum recipe above, but with fewer calories. It also makes the house smell amazing!

Ingredients: 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 2-1/2 cups of apple cider, 1/3 cup of spiced rum, 1-1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, a cinnamon stick, a sprinkle or two of nutmeg.

Directions: In a large pot, whisk together the puree, cider, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon stick. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain it to get rid of any lumps and the cinnamon stick. Add rum and sprinkle with a bit of nutmeg. Serve it
warm. Yummmmmm!

Pumpkin Pie Martini – I've been watching quite a bit of Love It Or List It lately and at the end of each episode, the winner buys the loser a martini, so martinis have been on my mind lately. Here's a great one to celebrate with:

Ingredients: 4 ounces of vodka, pumpkin pie spice, 1 ounce of vanilla vodka

Directions: Pour both vodkas into a shaker of ice and, well, shake. Strain into two glasses and add a dash of pumpkin pie spice. 

Oh, and if you want something to go with your drinks, I just discovered these yesterday at Costco:

These go great with pumpkin cocktails!

Sconza Pumpkin Pie Almonds

As the package says, they're roasted almonds wrapped in the creamiest white chocolate with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. I don't want to admit how many of these I've eaten since I bought them last night. 

Despite the fact that the media and marketers have pushed us from Halloween into Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is such a meaningful holiday. Giving thanks is essential in my life and it's something I'm trying to instill in my children. We should be grateful that we have what we have. Enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with the cocktails above. 

Now excuse me. MUST...GET...HAND...OUT...OF...THOSE...ALMONDS!

I'm THANKFUL that you're here!  Please come again! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10 No-Fail Holiday Gifts For Families Expecting An Adopted Child

As the mom of a luminous daughter who was born in China, I remember, during the adoption process, friends asking me what I needed for the baby. Lily was my second child, so I already had all the baby essentials (granted, in blue, because of my son), but I had the biggies: crib, car seat, stroller, etc.  I received some wonderful gifts, but in hindsight, there are things I didn't get that I really could have used.

One of these sweet girls is my own daughter, Lily!

So, in honor of National Adoption Month, here's my list of 10 items I wished I'd gotten when my precious, 11-month bundle of joy finally arrived home. 

Some are targeted toward Chinese adoption, but plenty are not, so scroll down and have fun!

  1. “Miracle” Necklace – Sure, you can have your kid's name and birthdate inscribed on a necklace, but adoption is such a miracle, why not be reminded of that fact? This necklace has the word written in English and Chinese. Lovely! Available here

    Just a reminder that adoption is a miracle!

  2. A Gift Card To A Grocery Store That Delivers – When my daughter first came home and was adapting to her new world, it was sometimes hard to take her grocery shopping. I WISH I'd had a gift card to Peapod or some other grocery store that delivers, especially during the harsh Winter months when I had to schlep her outside. 

  3. “We Don't Have To Look Alike To Be A Forever Family” Sweatshirt for kids – Sure, the new arrival could wear this, but what a wonderful present for an older sibling! This would have been perfect for my son who received questions from his friends like, “How can she be your sister when she doesn't look like you?” Available here.   
    Adoption brings a family together forever!

  4. “Adoption Brings Love” Travel Mug – Perfect for any parent and/or grandparent and a reminder of what a blessing adoption is, this mug is practical as well as lovely. Available here

  5. Serious Offers To Babysit And/Or Babysitting Coupons – Let me explain. I was SOOO tired when my daughter came home. We have no extended family and I had no support. How I wish I'd had offers to babysit! Sure, I could have asked my friends, but it would have been wonderful to receive these babysitting coupons. And they're free to print! 

    Yes I am!

  6. “Yes, I Am Her Real Mother” Tote Bag – Over the years, I've gotten plenty of questions from adults and children alike about who my daughter's “real” mother is. Yes, she has a birth mother, but I am her real mother – the one who waited three years for her and thought of her every one of those days, the one who takes care of her and who loves her unconditionally. This tote bag not only answers the aforementioned question, but could spark discussions about what a “real” mother is to anyone. It's also a great reminder that one does not need to give birth to be a true mother. Find it here.  

  7. Adoption Picture & Poetry Photo Gift Frame – We took plenty of photos of my daughter when she arrived, I made a scrapbook of her journey, framed her adoption announcement, etc., but this 8”x10” frame is unique. The poem by Joyce Boyce (“We waited so long for this special day...”) will speak to any adoptive parent and reminds your child how much they were wanted!  See it here

    What a great way to celebrate adoption!

  8. “Adoption Is A Miracle” Ornament – Okay, so it's a Christmas ornament (and what a fantastic way to add the adoption element to your holiday tree), but really, this beautiful reminder of the miracle of adoption can be hung anyway. My daughter is proud to be adopted, but I'm thinking of ordering this just as a daily reminder of how truly blessed we have been by adoption. Find it here.

    Hang is from a chandelier, lamp or anywhere!

  9. Adoption Memory Book Set – I made a scrapbook of my daughter's journey, from the moment we signed the “Intent To Adopt” document through her first six months home. It was perfect because when our social worker came for the routine follow-up visit and asked how Lily had been doing, I just whipped out the book and showed her. How nice it would have been, however, to have a book like this. I love the fact that you can use whichever pages you want (you don't have to use them all), the fact that you can order it for Domestic or International Adoption, and some of the pages which include: homeland facts, travel itineraries, trip details, etc. You can also customize the cover. Beautiful!

    A sweet reminder of how far your child came to find you!

  10. Gotcha Day Cinch Sack – A parent or child can use this lovely reminder that an internationally adopted child spans two countries. Wonderful for Gotcha Day or any day! Find it here.

Yes, these would make great holiday gifts, but what's to stop you from buying them any time?  I wish I'd had this stuff!  

To read our adoption story, visit these two posts:

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Fantastic Children's Books For Veterans Day

(In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in a spot on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and city of Washington. This location became the country's primary destination for the veneration of America's veterans. Similar ceremonies took place in England and France on that same date, November 11th, and the three focused attention on the ending of the fighting in World War I at 11am on November 11th, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The date became known as “Armistice Day” and was later changed to honor all who have served in American Wars. We now recognize it as Veterans Day.*)

A warm book, perfect for Veteran's Day

Sure, your kids are probably learning about it in school, but if, like me, you have relatives who fought for our country and you'd like to reinforce the importance of Veteran's Day, here are three great books you can share with your kids: 

Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin – In this story, narrated by a little boy, he explains that, “My dad is a superhero.” No, he doesn't wear a cape or carry a laser gun, but he does wear fatigues and carries a rifle. The son explains many of the day-to-day actions soldiers perform like driving a tank, jumping out of an airplane, and working long hours far away from his family. Aimed at kindergarteners and younger, the book contains bright, simple illustrations that show what the father is doing while he's away from his much-missed son. I love the tone of Hero Dad – you can feel the love and pride the boy has for his dad. This is a treasure for a child with a parent deployed because they'll be able to picture, in their minds, what their missing parent is doing and may help them feel closer to that parent while they're far away.

Another surefire Veteran's Day classic!

The Wall by Eve Bunting – A young father takes his son to the Vietnam War Memorial where they look to find the name of the boy's grandfather who died in the conflict. They search seemingly endless rows and rows of names before finally finding Grandpa's. This is a solemn book, yet it's not heavy-handed at all. You get a sense of loss, but there's love and honor here, too. The dad tells his son that, “I'm proud that your grandfather's name is on this wall” while the son agrees, but innocently adds that “I'd rather have my grandpa here.” The Wall is the perfect catalyst for parents and grandparents to discuss family members and friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It's for kids in preschool through perhaps first or second grade. 

Why IS the poppy the symbol of veterans?

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael And Her Tribute To Veterans by Barbara Walsh – Ever wonder why the Veterans give out red poppies at events and outside supermarkets? I did, too, until I read this book which tells the story of a schoolteacher from Georgia who was deeply affected when some of her students and friends became soldiers in World War I. Moina worked tirelessly to make the red poppy (seen by soldiers popping up amid the trenches, craters, and otherwise barren battlefields) as the symbol to remember and honor soldiers. honor the war veterans. This book is targeted toward kids in grades three through five and a portion of the book's proceeds supports the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple®, which benefits children of the U.S. military. 

Veterans Day offers us the priceless chance to share some of the history and sacrifices men, women, and their families have made for this country. Reading with them gives kids the chance to ask questions and explore the topic of war within the safe reaches of the people they love most. Don't miss this opportunity to share Veteran' Day with your kids!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

10 Things All Parents Of Teenage Boys Think

I remember the moment I became cognizant that my son was transforming into a teen. He was 12 years old and we were talking just before he went to bed. “Mom,” he said, “why do I sometimes feel like crying?” My heart jumped, both because I was honored I was that he could confide in me and because I knew that puberty was changing him even as we spoke. We talked about the hormones that were not only altering his body but causing the mood swings that he was already having. “Hormones are a bitch, huh?” he said. You have no idea, Kid. 

Hair on his legs? Where did this teen come from and where's my baby?

In the two years since that conversation, many things have changed for both him, and me, as the mother of a teenage boy. In sharing my reflections with other parents, we all seem to agree that at some point we've thought:

Boy! Does he smell! - Teen boys have a decidedly musky odor that parents of teens immediately recognize.  Get a bunch of them together, for a party or sleepover, and you may as well resign yourself to the fact that you're going to have to bring out the Lysol when they leave.

When did he get so hairy? - The leg hair, the armpit hair, and now the shade of a mustache he's growing. Where did this come from?!  Who is this teen?

When did my little “helper” become so lazy? - This child, who used to live to help me take care of his little sister, shovel snow, and was eager to take out the garbage now screams in terror at the thought of emptying out the dishwasher or bringing up the laundry.  I had heard that teens could be a bit inactive, but I've seen plants grow faster than this kid moves.

Is messy the new neat? - He was never a budding Felix Unger, but lately, I have to sort through three layers of sweatpants and t-shirts to find my teen's floor to vacuum it. Add to that literally dozens of empty seltzer bottles (he lives on the stuff) and he may as well be living in a pig sty. 

How is it that he's so much smarter than I ever was at this age? - I stopped helping him with math in 3rd grade when the first hint that Mom was an idiot crept up. I stared at the symbols on his homework and they may as well have been Sumarian. Junior is incredibly intelligent and so computer savvy that I now go to him for tech support.

Man! Does he have an active social life! - Thanks to computers, the teen plays online, with his friends every night. Thanks to texting, he meets up with them after school at the drop of a hat. And thanks to his taxi (me), he's able to go places I was never able to because my family only had one car and my dad used it. Teenagers' opportunities for socialization are endless!

Could he be schizophrenic? - In a matter of a minute, I swear he switches through personalities (nice, cranky, apologetic, baby) like I change television channels.  I swear he channels Sybil Dorsett. 

When did he become so argumentative? The mild-mannnered kid who never challenged us, now does so constantly. Now that he's a teen, he butts heads with his dad nightly, something he NEVER did before. And if you look at him the wrong way, watch out!  He leads with an argument.

I am NOT looking forward to him becoming interested in girls. - If life is dramatic now, I can't even think about what it will be like when females come into the picture. When my teen starts showering on a regular basis, then I'll know it's happened.

Right now the teenage boy thinks girls are expensive and trouble.  I'm holding on to that.

Why is he growing up so fast and how can I make him stop? This weekend he's away for the first time. I'm not worried about him, I just miss him more than I ever imagined. I blinked and my baby is now a teenager. Life is going by waay too fast!

Still, as challenging as it is being the parent of a teen, adolescence is incredible to watch. My former baby is getting more and more independent every day and periodically demonstrates a maturity I still don't have. Similarly, I find myself digging down and finding the strength I never knew I had, but realize I NEED to muster, to gradually let go. Every day I am aware that he's slipping through my fingers and finding his own way. And now I am the one who sometimes feels like crying.


I appreciate you visiting me!  Please come again!