Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a pretty plate of sweet treats—it’s my go-to gift of the season.
And a busy season it’s shaping up to be. So far, we’ve accepted invitations to an open house, a Hanukkah dinner, a cocktail party and a birthday buffet; on each occasion, I’ll be presenting my hosts a platter of homemade holiday goodies. I’ll also be putting together tins for teachers, neighbors and, of course, my family as they descend to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Before my children came along, holiday baking was a simple, if labor-intensive, affair. I just barricaded myself in the kitchen for a weekend, didn’t emerge until I was done. With three kids and their demanding schedules—basketball, band, gymnastics—that’s not always option. Over the years, I’ve enlisted their help, but after the first five batches, even the most dedicated young chefs can lose interest.
That’s why I’ve developed a few kid- and mom-friendly moves that make holiday baking a treat:
The days grow shorter, the morning air nips, and my three children prepare to head back to school. Signs of Autumn? Absolutely. But before we settle to fleeces and apple picking, we first have to navigate that tricky time of year I call “check-writing season.”
Launching two middle schoolers and a third grader into the academic year has turned me into a human cash machine. Almost daily, I’m shelling out for sports, activities, instrument rentals, PTA memberships and fundraisers. Not to mention school supplies, clothes and the sequined sneakers my daughter absolutely needs.
Luckily, with a few simple strategies, I’ve stemmed the September cash leak to a manageable trickle. (more…)
It was great while it lasted.
My kids have floated through the past six weeks in a haze. Baseball…camp…lazy afternoons at the beach…meandering bike rides…sleepovers… day trips. It’s been an idyllic summer.
But today, the party is just a tiny bit over. I’m not talking about heading back to school; we’ve still got a couple weeks to go for that. This bright sunny morning they are being made miserable by nothing other than their summer math packets.
Along with suggested reading lists, our school district provides grade-appropriate worksheets to sharpen students’ math skills over the summer. This helps stem “summer slide,” where even good students lose academic ground, particularly in math. Unlike summer reading—which is a beloved tradition in our house—summer math often leaves me feeling like a taskmaster. One year I actually scrapped the packets altogether and spent the summer teaching them card games. Yes, my boys learned their addition facts playing Black Jack. (more…)
When I was a child, December was the longest month of the year. The weeks following Thanksgiving stretched on forever…as every night we opened a tiny door on the Advent calendar to mark yet another day of inching toward Christmas.
How things have changed! Today we’re barely up from our post-turkey naps when everybody’s back in the crazy swing of their busy lives. In this house, Thanksgiving weekend brought a road race, two football games, a baseball clinic and six play dates.
It was time to slow down. I wanted my family together in one place, decking our halls, writing Christmas cards and — yes! — even asking me over and over if Christmas was ever going to come. My kids deserved to share the delicious anticipation I had as a child, and the careful preparations that meant Christmas was on the way.
One of the wonders of the holiday season, however you celebrate it, is the set of traditions you share with family and friends. Whether they’re drawn from your heritage; your cultural and religious beliefs; or your community, these rituals are as unique and varied as you. They help make you who you are today, and build the memories you’ll cherish for years to come. (more…)