Posts By: Guest Blogger

New Year’s resolutions for families

The great thing about New Year’s resolutions is that you can make them even after the clock has struck midnight and the silly hats have been put away.

I find that it takes a few days after the hubbub of the winter holidays has passed to reflect and allow priorities for the coming year to crystallize. Luckily, there’s no one checking our homework to ensure our New Year’s resolutions are dutifully recorded, or standing there with a stopwatch to make sure we’re getting to the gym, teaching our kids Mandarin or cleaning closets January 1. If you haven’t yet quite figured out what you’d like 2014 to hold for your family, don’t sweat it! You can gently move in the direction of your goals as you catch your breath.

Here’s how I like to approach New Year’s resolutions, both for myself and my family:

Keep it simple: This isn’t your bucket list. If your resolutions fill an entire page single-spaced, you’re complicating it too much. The point is not to catalogue your vision of the perfect life with everything you’d hope to accomplish from perfectly tidy kids’ rooms to learning to play the guitar. There are many virtuous pursuits to undertake as the various seasons of our lives allow. Go easy on yourself and zero in on what really matters to you and yours in 2014.

Accelerate slowly: Whatever your goals are, choose metrics that are realistic. If, like so many others, your goal is to exercise more, don’t make your resolution “Go to the gym five times a week.” It’s January. It’s cold. New routines take a while to establish. Instead, consider articulating your fitness goal with something like “Improve endurance and strength.” This way you’ll be making progress even if all you’ve committed to for today is one weekly yoga class and more brisk evening walks. Once you’ve got a little momentum, ramp up.

Make resolutions about the important stuff: Yes, it would be nice if every closet were perfectly organized. As the owner of what I like to refer to as “The Garage of Doom” and “Attic of Shame,” I know what I’m talking about. But as much as it would be nice to address these overflowing storage spaces, I’m not sure that getting organized for that garage sale we keep talking about is really a priority for us this year.

I like how Leslee Mason, Canadian Family senior editor and mom of four, is approaching resolutions at her house in 2014. Her family has pledged to go screen-free one day a week. “We’re going to start small with a weekday but then work up to a Saturday or Sunday spent playing boardgames,” she says. It’s a goal that emphasizes quality family time, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes! You can learn more about what Leslee and other families are pledging to do in 2014 in our special New Year’s resolutions package in the Winter issue of Canadian Family, which is on newsstands now, and find more inspiration in this great list of 101 goals to accomplish over 1001 days

Involve the kids: Sometimes family resolutions are going to be the inspiration of Mom and Dad, but your kids probably have some great ideas about how they’d like to spend time as a family or what they’d like to prioritize. Ask. Sure, they might say they want to go on a Disney cruise, but they might also simply request more family taco nights.

Celebrate growth: While it’s great to keep resolutions about family fun, the changing of the calendar year does provide a tidy excuse to gently nudge your child toward simple goals that will benefit him and the family as a whole. The key is to frame these in a positive light: “Wow, now that you’re nine and getting so much more responsible, I think this may just be the year you can learn to write things down in your school agenda. What do you think about that as a potential New Year’s resolution?” Ditto taking out the recycling containers, remembering to make their own beds in the morning or picking up Duplo.

This is a bit of an unusual year for me in New Year’s resolutions. About a year ago I decided that I would endeavor to complete the Pentathlon des Neiges in Quebec City as a way to mark my 40th birthday. The event is on February 22nd, so getting through the last weeks of training is my only New Year’s goal. It’s a biggie, so I’m not complicating life with anything else right now. My eldest son, Cameron, 10, says his goal is to help me, which is pretty sweet. We decided that one of the ways he could do this is by making dinner once a week, something he was doing for a while until soccer disrupted his cooking night. Until now we just haven’t managed to reestablish the routine. He told his brother to, “Get ready for grilled cheese sandwiches and simple pulled pork!” (his two specialties).

Today I’m up early to finish this blog post and squeeze in some time on the stationary bike before the kids get up (mercifully, they’re past the early-waking years during which I never needed an alarm clock). When the Pentathlon is past, I look forward to seeing what the rest of 2014 will hold. May it be a great one for you and yours!

What are your family’s New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the comments!

 

About the Author:

Brandie Weikle, Editor-In-Chief of Canadian Family

Brandie Weikle has been a parenting journalist for more than 13 years. She’s the Editor-In-Chief of Canadian Family magazine, has been parenting and relationships editor at the Toronto Star and held various roles at Today’s Parent. On the digital side, Brandie was the founding editor of the Toronto Star’s ParentCentral.ca and digital director of House & Home Media. She’s an avid user of social networks, especially Twitter, where she tweets as @bweikle. Raised in Alberta and B.C., she’s a winter sports enthusiast and the mother of two boys, Cameron, 10, and Alister, 6.

Holiday shopping: de-stressed. By Shefa Weinstein

Being Jewish is great until it comes to Chanukah. I have 8 days of presents to prepare for instead of just one. And did I mention I have 4 kids?

I’ll admit that I cheat a bit. One night goes to each set of grandparents, then we have internal gifts (kids to kids) and one night is dedicated to sitting together as a family and picking a charity that we want to support instead of getting presents.

That being said, I’m still the one helping everyone pick and coordinate their gifts. As the mom, I am the CPO (Chief Purchasing Officer) of the family and that comes with a lot of responsibility. I’m also a person who craves order and lists. I don’t like the crazy/hectic feeling that the holidays can bring. This is one of the reasons I founded my company, Shopetti, to help make shopping online easier.

Here are a few things I do to organize the entire family and keep the holidays in order.

The first thing I do is prepare. I set aside a hiding place (usually in my closet – don’t tell my kids) to hold the presents until we’re ready to give them. This helps keep the clutter to a minimum and keeps the kids from getting into them too early.

Next, I make a list. I keep track of each kid’s name and who they are getting presents from. It’s important to also put a budget per gift here. This helps me ensure that no one is double purchasing a gift and that a nice range of fun and educational presents are bought.  Shameless plug: Shopetti allows you to create a cart for each family member and track the presents and wait for sale alerts to make it all easier.

As I purchase presents, I like to wrap them on the spot. This way I’m never stuck wrapping piles of presents at the last minute. Also, if I run out of wrapping paper I have plenty of time to buy more. I usually keep a note on the present with the child’s name and a gift description so I can track it. (Tying Mabel’s Labels Stocking Stuffers for kids to your gifts with ribbon is also a great way to give a little something extra and keep track of the gifts, too!)

Lastly, I update the list. As presents are purchased I keep my list up to date to avoid purchasing too many things or forgetting anyone’s special gift.

Keeping it all organized means that I can make this very stressful time very doable.

How do you keep your holiday shopping organized? Leave a comment below with your best tip or trick for your chance to win a Stocking Stuffer Combo!

Happy shopping!

 

About the Author:

Shefa Weinstein is a mom of 4 and the founder of Shopetti. As a busy mom, Shefa wanted the fun of shopping online, but needed it to be easy and manageable. After searching for it and not finding it, she used her strong technology background to invent it – and Shopetti was born. Shopetti was accepted to the prestigious Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program and while still young, has quickly gained recognition by Babble magazine as one of the best shopping platforms out there. Check it out at www.shopetti.com.

Tips for Travelling with Kids from Globetrotting Mama, Heather Greenwood Davis

Family Travel is one of those rare things that can both fill a parent’s heart with excitement and dread at the same time. You’re about to have an incredible trip away from work and the stresses at home but you’ve somehow got to survive getting there with kids in tow. Insert shiver.

The truth is the dread is sometimes warranted. Testy fellow passengers on flights, kids who are still learning how to manage being in a confined space for several hours and the hectic nature of packing everything you’ll really need versus all the things you think you need can all add to the stress.

But the fact that my family traveled around the world with one bag each and survived, should fill you with hope. It can not only be done, it should be done and it is so worth it.

Keep these tips in mind to help make the trips easier:

Babies and/or Toddlers:

  1. Keep it Separate: You’re going to need to feed, entertain and change the baby in a confined space (back seat on the road; tiny airplane washroom). Pack several large Ziploc bags with only the things you need for one change (one diaper, a disposable mat…) in each. Keep one of those along with a small makeup bag with wipes, ointment, and a distraction toy in the seat pocket in front of you. It’ll make it easy to grab and go.
  2. Bring extras: It is a guarantee that the day you only pack 2 diapers for the flight will be the day your child proves to you that they can do better. Bring an extra of the things (pacifier, bottle nipples, baby biscuits…) that you won’t be able to get easily on the road or in the air.

Pre- School/ Early School Age travel:

  1. Keep them entertained:  The day you assume you’re getting on the plane with in-seat entertainment is the day they switch your plane. Be ready by bringing along your own entertainment for the kids. Choose wisely though: Things that either have no volume or good volume control are best bets or you’ll risk annoying everyone around you and minimize your own chances of getting a break. Things with small pieces or that will require your interaction to be enjoyed should also be avoided.
  2. Bring your own headphones. Even if they do hand out buds on the plane they are often the wrong fit for little ears. And you do need to keep an eye on what they’re watching: Often there’s adult content you may not want them to see in the airplane movie. Bringing your own devices along with a DVD you can slip into your laptop or pre-downloaded movies you can pull up on your iPad can keep their eyes where they should be.
  3.  Bathroom Breaks: Whether it’s on the plane or on a road trip, you’ll want to be prepared for bathroom stops that aren’t as clean and sanitary as your kids might be used to. We used to travel with our own portable potty seat for those situations. A small bottle of hand sanitizer is a great idea too You can also bring a small pack of antibacterial wipes for trays and armrests as well as a roll of toilet paper.

School Age Kids:

1. Put them to work:  Choosing the right luggage in terms of handle height, bag size and weight will make your life a lot easier. Kids like being responsible and with a little supervision kids as young as 4 can help you pack that bag too. “They pack it, they carry it” is a rule in my house and it worked as we traveled for a year. Let them walk you through what they’re packing and you can gently nudge them towards including a few less transformers and a few more pairs of underwear.  I sometimes hand mine a checklist and they can simply pick what they like to fill that list.

2.  Travelling with more than one child? Bring a few small items that they can go between to entertain themselves.  Include games that allow siblings to work together and self-entertain (deck of cards); books they can read solo and have been waiting for (latest Wimpy Kid); travel versions of games they have at home (magnetic sorry; uno). Also, these toys are great ice breakers if there happens to be another kid across the aisle and then their parents will love you too.

3. Keep them comfortable: That goes for clothing and food.  For the plane dress in layers for the cooler air and have them wear easy-off shoes for security. And don’t even think about not bringing snacks with you. My two boys are now 8 and 11 and they’ve hit that age when they just want to eat all the time.  There’s nothing worse than a child continuously telling you how hungry they are when there isn’t food handy and the food cart is nowhere in sight.  Remember you can’t bring bottles of liquid through security and I’ve even had fruit cups taken away for that reason. Stick to solids and pick up a bottle of water for each of you once you’re passed security.

 

About the Author:

Heather Greenwood Davis © CL Buchanan Photography

Heather Greenwood Davis
© CL Buchanan Photography

Heather Greenwood Davis is the Globetrotting Mama. Her family of four traveled around the world for a year stopping in 29 countries on six continents. Their trip earned them the inaugural Travelers of the Year designation by National Geographic Traveler Magazine and they were recently featured in the June issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.  You can read more about their travel adventures and tips at www.globetrottingmama.com .

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