Blog Archives

How to Make Clementine Granita

December 23, 2014

How to Make Clementine Granitas | MothersCircle.netMaking clementine granita has become a Christmas tradition in our house. I first made it a few years ago for a fresh, festive, and light Christmas Eve dessert. Served with platters of rich Christmas cookies, clementine granita is the perfect balance.

Everyone loves it and now Anna requests and expects it as part of our Christmas preparations. She’s really the one who has made this a holiday staple, and she does much of the work to make these delicious and pretty desserts.

Here’s how to make clementine granita with pictures to guide you. We use Martha Stewart’s Clementine Granita Recipe.

12 clementines, plus 12 more for juicing
1/2 cup sugar
1 slice (1/2 inch) peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cut the tops off of twelve clementines, you’ll need to juice the insides of these as well as another twelve. You can use orange juice for the extra if you prefer.

cut oranges tangerines mandarins

More Christmas Elf Ideas

December 11, 2014

Christmas Elf Ideas, Add your Christmas elf ideas, Elf hanging in treeThere are the families who Elf and the families who Don’t. I’m staying out of the strange new fray between the two camps, though we fall into the “those-who-elf” group. Our elves have brought so much magic and joy and a whole new layer of fun to our Christmas celebration and preparation. Click here for my last post on Christmas elves.

So if you’re an elf family, enjoy this round up of Christmas elf ideas. If not, go ahead, click on another post in my side bar – enjoy – it’s okay to not want to get involved in the “Elf thing.” I’ve had to apologize more than once when moms have called me in desperation after one of my kids shared that all you have to do is put out crackers and water and – shazam! – You get an elf! Oops – sorry – and here’s the website. (I think these elves are cuter than the Elf-on-the-Shelf and you can get different genders and hair colors to make them more personal to your family).

We started happily with one elf for our whole family which lasted for years. Then, after my son saw that a friend’s family had an elf for each child, he came home and wrote a secret letter to Santa asking for two more girl elves for his sisters. What a Elves in dishwasher, elf on shelf ideas, creative ideas with elvesgenerous, loving request. He was acting selflessly and thoughtfully at 7 years old.

Since this was two days before Christmas, Santa responded that he was too busy and needed the elves. He told Michael that he would consider his request after Christmas. Just before the new year, Zibby and Jilly showed up to join Crispin and have been a part of our family ever since. Since they’ve arrived, the mischief has escalated!

Though I love our elves, after years of their Decembers with us, I need more ideas!

They’ve made terrible messes of the very things I needed to clean out – the pantry, the spice cabinet, under the sink – so I got a job done as I picked up after them.

They’ve done creative things like a floor-full of snowflakes, “decorating” our bathroom with toilet paper, and carving messages into bananas so that by morning they show up to be read by the kids. And they’ve hid. And hid and hid.

So as one elf family to another, here are some photo Christmas elf ideas and some links to others. Happy Elfing!

Here’s my round up of Christmas elf ideas:

#GivingTuesday 2014

December 1, 2014

#GivingTuesday Roundup |MothersCircle.netTo me, #GivingTuesday is one of the best commercialized ways to spot light giving and service over self. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving and the Christmas and holiday season are all about?

In our family, kindness is most important. It makes me far prouder to hear that my child invited a left out child to sit with him at lunch than to have him get a perfect spelling test grade. Seriously, what’s really important?

After a big turkey dinner and time with family, after dabbling in Black Friday weekend sales, I love the idea of kicking off the season with #GivingTuesday.

How do you make giving and service a tradition in your family? What ways do you help your kids prioritize serving? What will you give during this season of giving – time, money, blood, food?

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle

November 26, 2014

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle | MotherCircle.net Do you live in the Gratitude Circle?

It can be tough sometimes but it’s so worth it when I get there. I find that the more I give thanks, the more I have to be thankful for. The Gratitude Circle builds gratefulness from gratefulness. The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you have to count.

Looking actively for things to be thankful for multiplies those very things. By seeing them, we automatically increase them. I have a 5-year gratitude journal that I love, it’s a quick way to remind myself every day of all I have in my life and it helps to make gratitude a habit. Create a structure for yourself that builds thankfulness into your day.

6 Birthday Ideas for Teen Girls

August 20, 2014

teens birthdays, half birthday, cooking party, camping party, balloons in skyI am proud to be a contributor on FamilyShare.

Please click to read my article, 6 Birthday Ideas for Teen Girls.

Once the pink frills and princess themes are outgrown, how can you make a teen girl’s birthday special? Much of her enjoyment comes as she plans her party herself, down to the littlest details, so ask your daughter how she wants to celebrate and get her involved. My oldest daughter loves planning her birthdays. She even likes to bake and decorate her own cake with gobs of colors, swirls and sprinkles.

Read More

Song Lyrics for the 4th of July

July 4, 2014

4th of July songs, country song lyrics about America, American songs, Independence Day songs, Happy Independence Day!

Last year I posted the meaning of Independence Day including the entirety of the Declaration of Independence. This year, I’m celebrating this great day with song lyrics for the 4th of July.

After years of resisting, and fighting my dear friend, Dana’s, attempts to make me listen, in the last eight years, I have become a country music fan. I get teary-eyed listening to the stories or laugh along with the songs with a sense of humor.

I love Zac Brown Band (I took my daughter for a one-on-one mother daughter weekend to see them perform and have written about his Camp Southern Ground) and get a little choked up still at the patriotic part in Chicken Fried. At our local elementary school, the kids sing Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American and I swear I cannot keep it together hearing those sweet little voices sing those incredible lyrics.

7 Ways to Make your Own Luck

March 11, 2014

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck.

Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” since we don’t have a lick of Irish between us! It’s a recipe to make your own luck!

Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

1. It all begins with attitude.

Attitude is everything in life. How you view the world and your corner of it, is up to you. No one says it better than Charles Swindoll in his Attitude poem. Every moment of every day provides you with a choice. How will you approach it? Will you embrace it, run from it, complain about it, greet it with joy? You can bemoan your lot in life or you can do something about it. That takes me to tip number 2.

2. Do the work.

Even when it seems like things come easy to some people, they’re working for it. Sure we all have our talents and skills that make certain things more pleasurable or easier for us. Even when using our gifts and strengths, making our own luck takes forethought, planning, effort, and a go-for-it spirit. Dreaming alone doesn’t do it, it’s the action that gets you to your goal.

It takes work – hard work – to be the parent we want to be. Thinking about it, reading about it, hoping for it won’t do it – they’re tools and can help – but we need the action. It can take a lot of work to reevaluate what we’re doing that’s not working or to reflect on why we keep getting the same unwanted behaviors from our kids.

Floating Wishes – Fun Activity for Kids and Adults

February 20, 2014

floating wishes, flying dreams, fun family activities, fun youth group activities, activity for churches, sunday school activities, blessingways, activities for families, family rituals, traditionsFloating wishes has become a tradition for Valentine’s Day in our family but could be used for birthdays, New Year’s goals, Blessingways, or to mark any special celebration or ordinary day.

How to Make Floating Wishes:

1. Cut squares out of any color tissue paper you like.

Match the color to the theme of your event or celebration. Cut the squares about 3″ x 3″ with very even edges to help them stand up later.

2. Pass out the tissue paper squares and pencils and write on the squares.

Distribute the papers to your guests or family and ask them to write their wish, dream, prayer, gently with the pencil on the tissue paper.

You may provide different directions to your participants depending on the occasion. For example, this Valentine’s Day, Anna handed out three pieces of hot pink tissue paper to each family member and told us that one was for a wish, one was for a dream and one was a thought for the world.

If you used this for a church retreat or youth activity, perhaps you’d have everyone write a prayer in general or for a specific person or cause. As a part of a Blessingway for moms-to-be, you might have everyone write a special thought for the new mother, the new baby and her family.

http://youtu.be/bkZUEIkosNI

3. Roll the paper up around a pencil.

Use the pencil and roll the tissue paper into a tight tube around the pencil. When you take it off it will loosen, that’s okay, but you want it to be able to stand up on one side like a toilet paper tube.

2014 Reasons to be Grateful

January 1, 2014

2014, 2014 reasons to be grateful, list of blessings, get happy, feel grateful, thankfulness list,One thing I know for sure is that GRATITUDE is the key to happiness. Being able to see the good around us, taking note of the blessings in our lives, even when things are in chaos, is not always easy, but within it lies happiness and contentment.

I had the idea to list 2014 reasons to be grateful, so here goes, I’m challenging myself to find that many.

1 Amazing husband
3 Incredible children
2 Supportive parents
2 Caring in-laws
2 Kind-hearted sisters
1 Fun brother
3 Precious nephews
10 Fingers to work, type, touch, cook, live, DO
1 Healthy heart
1 Mouth for kissing, smiling and talking
2 Arms to hug my family, to play tennis, do yoga, and do a million other things
7500 Body Parts: Okay, so before I list every body part, the American Association of Anatomists has 7,500 listed parts and that’s 7500 reasons to be grateful – even if I can’t pronounce them all. But let’s keep going, I allow for 25 parts that I can easily be thankful for: my eyes, arms, hands, lungs, ears, legs, heart, mouth, fingers, and brain.
100 = 25 Healthy body parts on my three kids and husband
250 = 25 Healthy body parts on my parents, in-laws, sister, brother and nephews

So we are up to 378 reasons to be grateful – let’s keep going! This will be harder than I thought but it’s making me happy just counting my blessings.

I’m thankful for:
Friends
The 500 kids of the Destiny Africa Choir and at the Kampala Children’s Centre
Our church and the people thereDestiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in uganda
Newtown, my hometown
Books – I’m sure I have over 2014 books to be thankful for!

My Christmas Binder

December 20, 2013

Thank you to my friend, Danielle, an inspiring Mom and a believer in the importance of family traditions and rituals. I aspire to be as organized as she is, read here about her brilliant Christmas binder idea.
Danielle is the voice behind Festival Fete’s blog, Festival Fete and her own blog, Rock-Paper-Snips.

Guest Post by Danielle Salisbury, Find Danielle on Facebook

christmas crafts, Christmas baking ideas, Christmas activities for kids, organizing for Christmas, Christmas organization,  Christmas traditionsI admit it. I am one of those super-organized people who I think drive other people crazy. When confronted with a mess, after the initial rush of panic, I actually get joy from creating order out of chaos. I also love a celebration, and with the holidays, I tend to go a little over board and end up feeling overwhelmed. So, finally a few years ago I discovered my own little holiday tradition that keeps me in check (so I don’t go too overboard) and helps me keep a bit of order in the chaos of holiday planning. It’s my Christmas Binder.

In the binder, I have photos, recipes, menus, Christmas “To Do” list, Christmas card list, gift ideas, crafts, table settings, decorating ideas and a gift and tip list. I love being able to reference back to see what we gave the babysitter last year and how much we gave in tips!

organized Christmas, red binder, Martha Stewart Christmas, going overboard for Christmas, limoncello, homemade Christmas gifts, cooking for Christmas, menus for holiday dinner, Probably the the most useful part of the book is my personal notes on menus and what we cooked. For example, the year that I made seafood risotto on Christmas Eve (thinking I would satisfy the Italian tradition of seven fishes in one big dish) we didn’t sit down to eat until 10:00 pm and unfortunately we hardly remember the dish because of all the wine that we were sharing with the risotto during the three hours of cooking! Now I can refer to my notes to see that I shouldn’t start shucking lobster and shellfish an hour before you expect to eat it.

One of my favorite things about this binder is that it is a place where I can put a great idea and say to myself, “someday…I WILL do/make/cook that.” And eventually, some of those inspirations become a reality.

I usually try to come up with one handmade gift item each year, (usually something for eating or drinking) such as a jam, Limoncello liquor, truffles, etc. This year, paging through my binder I found a recipe for cranberry vinegar and decided that would be my foodie gift. The recipe was from Coastal Living Magazine in 2000. So even though it took me 12 years to finally make this – it did happen eventually!

Christmas Tree Trunks

December 16, 2013

what to do with Christmas tree trunks, fresh cut on tree, fresh cut christmas tree, traditions with Christmas tree, christmas tree memories, ideas for christmas tree trunksWe began collecting a fresh cut from our Christmas tree trunks the year Ali, our first daughter, was born. This is one of my very favorite Christmas traditions each year. I save the tree trunk disk until after Christmas when I write something special about that year’s holiday celebration.

The dates of each of my children’s and nephews’ first Christmases and the years of my grandparent’s last ones are marked on the tree trunks. The year it snowed two feet and the years we moved and were expecting babies are noted on others. One tree trunk slice commemorates the Christmas Eve that we were visited by the Fire Department. (It was just broiled asparagus but those guys tore themselves away from “A Christmas Story” to check it out and we enjoyed a cheerful visit.)

tree trunk tradition, writing on Christmas trees, scrooge Christmases past, ideas for Christmas traditions, new baby Christmas tradition, live christmas trees, allergic to Christmas treesSome tree trunk pieces are skinny, others so wide I could write a long story on it. Every year, as we unpack the decorations, the basket that holds our Christmas tree trunks is always poured over and cherished. The kids lay them out, read each one and fondly remember Christmases past, where we were, and highlighted moments.

The first year we moved to Rhode Island, I had the fantastic idea of cutting down a pine tree from our yard, it was too large for it’s spot against the patio. It was not only efficient, the tree had to come down, but also sentimental. I thought how special it would be to have our first Christmas tree in our new home be from our own yard, and besides, then it’s disposal will be taken care of by the town’s tree removal in January – a perfect and practical plan!

[caption id="attachment_1032" align="alignleft" width="300"]elves with tree stumps, tree stump tradition, Christmas tree cuttings, elfmagic.com, silly elves, crispin, Elves playing with the tree trunk cuttings[/caption]

Nick assured me the tree was way too big to be our tree and wanted to cut just the top off, I hemmed and hawed and insisted and finally, in the tree went. It was way too big.

Christmas Elves

December 9, 2013

tips tricks ideas for elves, Christmas elf ideas, elf on shelf ideas, ideas for Elf on Shelf, naughty elves, Santa's elves, Elf Magic, Crispin, Jilly and Zibby are our own personal Christmas elves. These mischievous Santa’s helpers are called from the North Pole with crackers (to remind them of the crunching snow) and water (melted snow); they visit for the weeks before Christmas, hiding, making messes and bringing joy until they return to Santa’s village on Christmas Eve with Santa.

I’ve always loved everything about Christmas and I am still overcome with the love, generosity and magic of the season. I see the deeper meaning of Christmas even within seemingly commercial, non-spiritual activities. I love the sheer excitement and amazement in my children’s eyes elves in popcorn, elves making a mess, hiding elves, Christmas elf tradition, ideas for elves, Jilly, Zibby, Crispin, elfmagic.com, when the elves are discovered in the morning in a pile of homemade snowflakes and all the scraps that go with it or creating music at the piano among music strewn about.

When we moved to Rhode Island nearly eight years ago, some friends introduced me to elf-magic.com, instead of getting an elf per child as some families did, I chose to introduce just one elf. Crispin was our first little boy elf. Over the years the kids attributed magic to the elf beyond the intention.

elf ideas, visiting elves, how to do elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf, ideas for Christmas elves, traditions for Christmas, girl in Indian hat, One morning, they could not find Crispin anywhere, it was hilarious to me because they passed by him over and over. He was in the downstairs bathroom where the silly elf had unrolled several rolls of toilet paper and hidden in the tube of one in the middle of the huge mess of paper. The kids walked back and forth searching and never saw the paper. Finally, my son said, “Wait, maybe we need to get ready for school and do what we’re supposed to do first, then we’ll be able to find him!” So they scurried off to get dressed. Right after that, they somehow did see the toilet paper explosion, with faces filled with wonder, and as a bonus, it reinforced doing the right thing!

Tips For Safe Christmas Decorating

December 5, 2013

tips for safe holiday decorating, tips for safe Christmas lights, safe Christmas decorating, tips for electrical safety, ESFI, electrical safety foundation international,It’s magical when the house is decorated for Christmas, but I have often wondered how safe some of our lighting hook-ups have been. I love the white candles in all of the windows, the wreaths on the doors and my favorites are the trees and our basket of Christmas tree trunks marking our past celebrations. But I do care that we’re being safe as we deck the halls.

Here are some important tips for safe Christmas decorating from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

“ESFI is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to providing unbiased information regarding electrical safety.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year an estimated average of 160 reported home fires are caused by decorative lights, and Christmas trees account for another 230 fires each year. Combined, these resulted in an average of 13 deaths and $26.3 million in property damage per year.

50% of home fires caused by Christmas trees happened during the 15 days between December 22 and January 5. – National Fire Protection Association

Water Your Christmas Tree

I like to have two trees, one that sits in the front window and looks so pretty from both outside and in. A few years ago, I finally gave in to a fake tree for this one and it’s so much more practical, but I love the smell and tradition (damn the allergies) of the live one we put up in the family room in the back of the house. We decorate (well, I decorate and the kids load) the live one with garland, baubles and ornaments the kids have made and collected. As part of our tree decorating tradition, I buy them each a new ornament every year. My box of favorite ornaments is full of dated frames with photos of the kids through the years.

To keep your tree safe, water it daily to keep it well hydrated. It’s a joke in our family that Nick regularly, annually, always puts the tree up and forgets to water it. One year he was so proud that he remembered and as he was bragging to me, the tree tumbled forward spilling the water all over the wood floor. We had a good laugh as we sopped up the water, erected the tree, tied it to the wall with fishing line and refilled the water! Good thing he remembered the water!

christmas tree safety, christmas tree light safety, Christmas tree cautions, electrical foundation tips, tips for decorating, tips for Christmas lights

Use Light Strings and Extensions Cords With Care

The ESFI says to use one extension cord that is long enough to do the job, do not connect an extension cord to an extension cord. Don’t nail or staple light strings or extension cords or use anything that could damage the wire insulation and never run an extension cord under a rug or where it could be pinched under furniture.

I think of this all the time with cords and wires throughout the year, not just for safe Christmas decorating. Years ago when we lived in New Jersey, a family we knew in town had a house fire. It was devastating and scary and was caused by a wire (that wasn’t even plugged in) that had been under the foot of a dining room hutch. I think of them often and am constantly aware of not letting anything rest on top of any cords or wires.

GivingTuesday

December 3, 2013

#GivingTuesday is all about putting giving first.
When we give with a full heart we can change the world.
How will you participate in #GivingTuesday?

#givingtuesday, charities to give to, best charities, places to give, giving tuesday, what is giving tuesdayWhile avoiding all crazy lines, (we turned right around if there was anything ridiculous), I did my share of weekend gift shopping. My favorite moment was when Ali and I were leaving a store, both of us with bags in our hands. With a big grin, she turned to me and said, “I love this feeling. These are gifts I bought with my own money.” Giving in itself gives the giver a boost of happiness. Of course, that’s not why we give, but it’s a wonderful side effect.

On this #GivingTuesday, here are a few of my favorite organizations:

The Children’s Center for Hope and Wellness

In October, three beautiful girls and a pastor from Uganda moved into our home for a week and into our hearts for a lifetime.

Just like every other host family and all the people who see these kids perform across New England as a part of Destiny Africa Children’s Choir, these kids touch people to their core. Their needs in Uganda are great. While the choir was here touring, back home, a young girl died from a preventable illness. Martine would still be alive today with proper medical care and her story brings a greater urgency to the need to build The Hope Centre.

Destiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in ugandaLast night, I hosted a group of women who are joining together in a huge fundraising effort to build a much needed medical center for the orphans who live at the Kampala Children’s Centre, for the over 300 local children who attend school there and for people in the community at large.

Help us build The Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness and make an incredible impact. They can start building with just $20,000 and for only $70,000, it will be built and functioning – what Destiny Africa, Kampala Children's Center, hosting a family from Ugandawould that take in the U.S.? This project is dear to my heart and we are determined to make this happen!

Please consider giving to save precious lives. The website for the Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness will be up in a week or so, in the meantime, you can contribute by PayPal at the Kampala Children’s Center, mark your donation for the medical center. Every single dollar matters. THANK YOU!

Clean Birth.Org

CleanBirth.org is an organization that speaks to me, both in my work as a doula and birth educator and because of clean birth logo, cleanbirth.org, cleanbirth kits, birth in laos, my affection for Southeast Asia.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Mother’s Circle Wishing you a restful day surrounded by your family, friends, and loved ones. I am thankful for so much, and on my gratitude list is you, my readers. Many blessings to you today and throughout the year! xo Leah Related posts: How to Live in the Gratitude Circle Growing a […]

Chanukah, However You Spell It

November 26, 2013

Hanukkah (that’s my preferred spelling!) starts at sundown this Thursday. My thanks to Melissa for writing about The Festival of Lights and her family traditions.

Guest Post by Melissa Chernick

chanukah traditions, how do you spell hanukah, spelling hanukah, latkes, Allie's donuts RI, festival of lights traditions, family holiday traditionsChanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Cahnukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka, Hannukka, Channukkah, Chanuqa. One holiday with 18 ways to spell it! Which ever way you choose it has the same meaning and significance. It is a celebration of the victory of the Jews and the miracle that occurred when the menorah was lit with enough oil to last only 1 day but it lasted eight!

Growing up in New York I was exposed to all races and religions. In my experience, every family went to church or temple, had their own holiday traditions and all the kids met up and played in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood was a mix of Italians, Irish Catholics and Jews. It was always fun to compare Christmas/Chanukah presents with the neighborhood kids.family in window, grandparents celebrate hanukkah, celebrating Hanukkah, festival of lights, kids in blue window, blue window panes,

In our house, Chanukah was a fun holiday typically celebrated with just my immediate family. We had so much family nearby who we saw on a regular basis that this little holiday was our own! My brothers and I anxiously awaited our father’s return home from work each night, lit the candles and ripped open presents, hoping for something special. To me, Chanukah means spending time with family, lighting candles and reflecting about what it means to be Jewish. It’s our time to be together, just enjoy ourselves and create memories.

Should You Let Your Kids Watch Scary Movies?

October 30, 2013

Many thanks to Kate Oliver of www.help4yourfamily.com for this guest post on scary movies and gauging your child’s developmental readiness for viewing them.

By Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

scary tv shows, kids and scary movies, kid with bowl of popcorn, what age is it ok for kids to watch scary movies, when can kids see scary moviesIn my house, Halloween is second only to Christmas. My children are still at an age where they want to dress up and trick or treat. They are eight and ten and they love to get a little bit scared sometimes as well. It is all part of the Halloween fun. Many holidays have special movies attached to them as well. Unlike Christmas, with, tales of Santa Claus and reindeer, and Easter, where we learn about a sweet bunny that brings treats, Halloween has movies of a different sort.

Sure there is Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, but then there are the other movies…the scary movies.
In my work as a child therapist one issue I help kids overcome is sleep problems including nightmares. It is interesting to me that many times when children have nightmares, they are linked to watching scary movies, or even just the news. During this season of scary movies, let’s be especially mindful of the impact of what we decide to let our children watch.

teens and movies, teen nightmares, TV and teens, teens eating popcorn, boy in striped shirtI am certain my husband and I are not the only ones who have thought back to a movie we watched as kids, looked it up on Netflix and excitedly introduced it to our children only to be surprised at just how many four letter words were in say, ET and The Karate Kid. I certainly do not remember, as a kid, taking note of the language that was flying through those movies. I think many times when parents watch a scary movie with their children; they do so because they remember that excited and scared feeling they had watching the same movie.

The Meaning of Independence Day

July 4, 2013

meaning of Independence day, watercolor flag, painted flag, declaration of independence in full text, proud to be an American, American independence, teaching kids American historyToday, reflect for a moment on the meaning of Independence Day. Think about the reasons we can luxuriate at picnics, beaches and parades today and throughout the years; the reasons we can share our thoughts freely, speak out against our own government, and practice any religion we choose.

I’m a patriot, I love our country and deeply believe it’s the best place to be in the world! I believe in teaching my children, and America’s children, about our founding and guiding documents, these are what make us The United States of America.

So along with watermelon and hotdogs, this year we’ll be reading and listening to The Declaration of Independence in our family as the beginning of a 4th of July tradition.

The meaning of Independence day starts here, with The Declaration of Independence. Click here to listen to celebrity reading of The Declaration of Independence. I am proud to be an American and hearing this is moving and powerful.

Today, I wish you a “Happy Fourth of July!” and I’m remembering what it really means.

The Meaning of Independence Day – The Declaration of Independence

A Special Thank You to My Dad

June 15, 2013

My Dad is a loyal Mother’s Circle reader, another example of how he supports me.
So I’m delivering a special thank you to my dad for Father’s Day right here.

special thank you for my dad, personal note to dad, thanking fathers, letter from adult daughter to father, thank you note to fathers, acknowledging dads, adult daughter's letter to father,Dear Dad,

I’ve always told you that I love you and I still shower you generously with “I love yous.” I hope you really know what is behind those words and how very much I love you.

Growing up, you could always make me feel special. You would ask me to go for a ride and we’d talk in the car, you’d take me out to breakfasts where you’d check in on my life and I still cherish the memory of those times alone together, just the two of us. I even recall with a smile the breakfast on that family vacation after the night I got in big trouble; I was worried when we sat down, but left knowing I was loved despite questionable judgement.

[caption id="attachment_2816" align="alignright" width="245"]me and my dad, 1989, 1980s haircut, growing up with dad, letter to dad from adult daughter, Me and my Dad in 1989 – my haircut shows it.
We’re outside of Newtown High School.[/caption]

As a teenager, when I was still creating my self image and figuring out boys and emotions, I felt happy when you’d pay me a compliment. You did it sparingly so I knew it was always genuine. All dressed up to go out with friends, you’d say, “Hey, you look cute!” and I would leave the house feeling confident because of those words, because my Dad noticed me and was proud of me.

Even today, I glow inside when you tell me you’re proud of me. It still means everything to have your approval and I glow in your praise. It matters to me that you see me as a good mom and wife, it matters to me that you care about and take an interest in the things I do and the work I pursue.

A Thank You Note to Dads

June 14, 2013

thank you note to dads, note to fathers, fathers day notes, fathers day thank you, thank you letter to dads, letter to father, hand written notes, importance of hand written letters, handwriting,One of my more popular posts is A Thank You Notes to Moms. So for Father’s Day, here is A Thank You Note to Dads, but this thank you note has a twist, it’s not from the kiddos, it’s from Mom.

Dads, one day years from now, perhaps you can imagine your children being grateful, sincerely grateful, for all you do for them. One day they may write their own thank you note to you, but this is a thank you note to dads from us, your loving wives and partners in parenting. A note you can appreciate now before you take a nap, go golfing or crack open a beer for Father’s Day. Yeah, go ahead, you deserve it!

We Moms admit, that far too often we take you for granted; we’re too quick to huff or point out something you haven’t done or something you’ve done “wrong.”

In the hectic pace of the days, the blur of weeks and the racing into months, we forget to slow down and recognize all the things you have done. We can forget to acknowledge all the many things you do right and well. So here is a big thank you for all you do for us and our families.

Fly Your Flag for Memorial Day

May 27, 2013

fly your flag for memorial day, patriots, half staff flag, what is memorial day, why do we celebrate memorial day, remembering fallen soldiers, red poppies for memorial dayToday fly your flag for Memorial Day in memory and gratitude for those who have lost their lives or served our country.

Three years after the Civil War ended, Memorial Day was made official on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. He made it official on May 5, but the first observance was on May 30, 1868 and continued the tradition of laying flowers and American flags on the graves and memorials of our country’s fallen soldiers. It was a day of remembrance and thankfulness for their service.

Memorial Day was known first as Decoration Day because of all the flowers and flags respectfully placed to honor our servicemen. Students and employees were given the day off to go to cemeteries, attend memorial services and to otherwise express their gratitude. Throughout the morning, flags flew half staff and then 3:00 pm was the National Moment of Remembrance when there was a national moment of silence with Taps playing.

So while you cut the watermelon and pack up to attend a neighborhood picnic, while you spend the day doing yard work, also take a moment to be thankful to those who died for our great country. Fly your flag for Memorial Day, remember yourself and talk to your children about why they have the day off from school. Attend a Memorial Day parade and wear one of those red poppy flowers in remembrance. Click here for the history behind the poppies.

Our history is peppered with conflicts and wars, and it continues today. We have men and women who have given their lives for the United States, men and women who sacrifice to keep America free, men and women who miss Christmases, birthdays, concerts and ball games to protect us. Remember them, and the families who care for them today.

Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

Themed Cakes and Cupcakes

May 21, 2013

themed cakes and cupcakes, pink flower cupcakes, decorating cakes with marshmallows, marshmallow flowers, pink cupcake ideas, pretty cupcakes, I love to decorate themed cakes and cupcakes for a party. Years ago when I was making all sorts of pretty cupcakes, before the big cupcake trendy boom. I love entertaining with a theme and baking to match. Kids birthday parties are central to our decorating endeavors.

There have been rocket ship cakes for space parties, Jell-O that glowed from beneath for a glow in the dark party and cute froggy cupcakes for a Princess party (for the Frog Prince story.) We also have made lipstick shaped cakes for a girly spa party, blue patch worked cake for my son’s “Blue Party,” and Dinosaurs have marched across cakes and crystalized snow flakes have glittered upon them.

For my grandmother’s 90th birthday, my Mom handed me a ripped out magazine picture of an outrageous cake complete with a water body and beach. I took on the challenge and painstakingly, for my grandma, iced bikinis on Teddy Grahams. For the upteen hours of labor, I enjoyed a sweet moment of praise as everyone oohed and aahed at the cake before cutting in.

beach cake, themed cakes and cupcakes, teddy graham cake, jell-o in cake, blue pool in a cake, pool cake, seaside cake theme,

One of my favorites was the bumblebee and lady bug party:

lady bug cupcakes, lady bug party, bumble bee cupcakes, bumble bee party theme, bug party, bug birthday party, themed cakes and cupcakes

 

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, daffodils on red ground, flowers for mother's day, mothers day flowers, daffodils for moms, cream daffodils, spring flowers in vase, Happy Mother’s Day! I love the idea of slowing down to think about motherhood in both directions: about my own Mom and about what it means to have my children in my life.

Since I’ve become a Mom, I’ve thanked my mother for all the unseen sacrifices and her unending love, support, guidance and cheer leading throughout my life. I’ve apologized to my Mom for my fresh back talk, for saying hurtful things in angry bouts and for taking her for granted.

My Mom was and is always there for me. When I got home from school after holding in tears all day, when I had a teen drama at the dance and couldn’t wait to be home, when my babies were born and I needed mothering, when I need advice on how to manage these slippery night sweats that have crept into my life.

My Mom was a good Mom and raised me with loving discipline; I always knew I was loved. As an adult, she is my friend, and I’m so deeply grateful for that.

With my kiddos, I’m still in the active parenting stage and not yet at the best friend phase. Though, I recently realized with shock that we are on “the flip side.” We have fewer years left with kids in our house (only nine short years) than years we’ve had kids in our house (over fourteen years). Our children are part of us, entrusted to us to love, nurture, teach and cherish and it feels like not enough time left with them in our home. (Okay, yes, I know they often come back, but we’re brainwashing them with the expectation of getting a job and their own apartment after college, I’ll let you know how that goes.)

Spending Mother’s Day in the ER

May 7, 2013

mother's day in the ER, emergency room on mothers day, spending mothers day in hospital, hospital for mothers day, broken toe, er for broken toe

This was originally posted in May 2012 when we spent Mother’s Day in the ER and found some unexpected joy. Nick promises this year we’ll have a little more traditional Mother’s Day!

It certainly wasn’t how we’d planned to spend a preciously sunny Mother’s Day, but it was a day that tested me to live what I believe, a day that reminded me that I already know the value of gratitude.

I was reading a book in the hammock, feeling the warmth on my skin, listening to the kids take their first splashes in the pool (we finally figured out that opening it early makes a difference to a short Rhode Island pool season). My husband was tinkering around as he kept an eye on the kids; to give them access to the towel hooks, he moved the grill three inches to the left.Mothers day in the ER, gratitude on Mother's Day, mother's day lessons, being together on mothers day

Those three inches cost us eight hours in the emergency room. A heavy, cast iron grilling pan slipped off the side shelf and landed squarely on my husband’s right big toe.

Though he hopped around swearing beneath his breath and blood dripped, dotting everywhere he hopped, we didn’t think it would be so dramatic. At the advice of our nurse and doctor neighbors, we went to the hospital for a look and a tetanus shot.

The kids rallied, threw on cover ups, grabbed iPods (thank goodness) and off we headed, with Nick’s toe still bleeding all over.

Dying Easter Eggs Creatively

March 29, 2013

dying Easter eggs, creative easter eggs, Easter traditions, Easter kids activities, Easter activities, how to dye Easter eggs, pretty Easter eggsDying Easter eggs is one of our favorite Easter traditions. We boil four dozen eggs, one dozen per kid and oneDarth Vader egg, Star Wars Easter eggs, Daddy's egg, creative Easter eggs dozen for me and Nick to share if he’s home to participate. This year, he made one Darth Vader egg and went off to work.

The fun starts when the kids divide up the PAAS coloring tablets and before we each drop a tablet into the vinegar, we have to guess what color we think it will be. Year in and year out, we ooh and ahh with amazement as the tablet that looks orange turns yellow and the one that looks purple turns green.

All the cups full of colors make me happy!

cups of color, egg dyes, colors for dying eggs, Easter egg dyes, PAAS egg dye, pretty color mugs, rainbow mugs, rainbow liquidsThen we get creative, Ali tried scotch tape this year with partial success. We use kosher salt to absorb some of kosher salt on egg, egg dying tips, egg dying ideas, creative ideas for Easter eggs, green Easter eggthe dye and add interesting effects and we wrap eggs in elastic bands before coloring them to create stripy effects. rubber bands on egg, elastic bands on egg, ideas for easter eggs, interesting egg ideas,

The kids use drops of dye and blow the colors across the eggs for a tie-dyed look and use paint brushes for more exacting work. This year, Ali drew shapes all over her solid colored eggs with a black Sharpie for a really interesting and pretty look.

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

March 15, 2013

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck. Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” it’s a recipe to make your own luck! Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

Bunny in the Basket

March 9, 2013

bunny in basket, stuffed animal bunny, bunny book, Easter books, Easter giftsI recently learned that my dear friend, Kelly Connaghan Dengler, wrote a children’s book, Bunny in the Basket, that comes with a plush bunny in the basket that your child can name. The simple story explains to children (and parents) how the bunny works, it’s similar to the Christmas elf idea for Easter time.

Through the bunny, Kelly tries to give parents that extra set of eyes and gives kids a little motivation to exhibit good behavior since the bunny is watching and reporting back to Peter Cottontail.

When our package arrived, I wasn’t sure how it was presented so even though Anna was dying to open the newly delivered box, I waited until she went to school to check it out. I didn’t need to worry, it was child-friendly and packaged with the book and bunny together peeking out through the box. I read the book and left it, with the pale blue bunny in the basket, for my daughter at her place at the dinner table.

The Meaning of Valentines

February 14, 2013

stack of hearts, paper hearts, homemade valentines, valentine hearts, craft hearts, make your own valentines, colorful hearts“What was Valentine’s Day originally for? For sharing love?”

That’s what our third-grader asked as she glued hearts onto her shoebox Valentine mailbox for school. She had just finished gleefully and proudly writing out Valentines for her classmates. She’s the third child so she gets store-bought Valentines now. I found cute ones that she loves, but I laugh and shrug at one more thing that I’ve let go of as the years pass: Homemade Valentines.

When the kids were younger, they created exuberantly, sitting among construction paper hearts, white lacy doilies (with all the little teeny flakes that fall out as you pull them apart) and scraps of pink, red and white. They rubber stamped cupids and hearts and Valentine’s Day wishes, they decorated rectangles into book marks and glued and glued and glued.

I drew the line at glitter. Have you ever tried to clean up a glitter spill? It will never ever actually completely go away, you will still see glitter at Christmas and in time for the next Valentine’s Day.

As my Mom did growing up, each Valentine’s Day, our tradition is to have a special family dinner. I’ll set the table homemade valentines, making valentines, what do valentines mean?, why do we send valentines?, valentine mailbox, doilies, valentine doilies, in the dining room with linen napkins, candles, Valentines and a small package at each place, a new book for each kid. I don’t make my own cards either, I buy my Valentine’s, too. (I’m a Hallmark girl – I love buying and sending cards!)

I savor selecting the perfect cards. For Nick, I often choose several. This year, I mailed a funny one to his office and he’ll have another waiting at dinner. I’ll find Valentines at my seat, too. Those poems and pictures lovingly made at school that warm my heart and the one that makes my heart flutter as I catch my husband’s eye across the table.

Our Valentine’s Day is about all of my sweethearts: the man I married and the three I birthed. We don’t need February 14th to ourselves, other evenings, Nick and I will have our date nights. But tonight, we’ll reminisce about our first Valentine’s Day together 20 years ago and we’ll enjoy our kiddos and family time.

valentine love letter, love letters, sealed with love, wax seal on letter, hand written letters, red wax seal, sealed envelope, romantic letter, While the old-fashioned, nostalgic fun of making your own Valentines has perhaps seen it’s day in our house, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Valentine’s Day is about the intention and the thought. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating our friendships and relationships.

At eight, Anna said it perfectly: Valentine’s Day is all about sharing love, however you do that.

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a grateful spirit , a smiling

heart and joy-filled days in the new year!

teens in a circle, teen girls shouting, teen girls group, group of teens, circle of teens, circle of girls, Happy New Year wishes,

May you be encircled in love and laughter in 2013!

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2012

family in front of Christmas tree, Christmas Eve family picture, Christmas prayers, Christmas poems, cookies for SantaI wish you and your family a wonderfully Merry Christmas. Snuggle up with your kids, relish the sparkle and savor their pure and youthful joy.

Treasure the perfect moments of Christmas Eve: the candles at church, the love overflowing, the cookies and milk on the hearth and reading the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” My children began a tradition on Christmas Eve several years ago, they received cozy blankets from their grandparents and laid them out in front of the fire and coined the term, “Fire-bathing.” Every Christmas Eve now, they spread their blankets and fire bathe, it makes me smile every time!

Cherish the magical moments of Christmas morning: snuggling in bed waiting, the kids poised on the stairs to sprint to their stockings, the shrieks of joyful face Christmas morning, siblings on Christmas, tradition of stockings, why we light candles in church, cookies for santa, Christmas traditions, childbirth at Christmas,amazement, wide eyes of wonder at witnessing the spirit of Christmas. My heart bursts on Christmas, the unending love for these sweet babies of mine, catching my husband’s eye, and the wide grin that won’t leave my face. I am grateful and hold my family close.

As I wish you a Merry Christmas, I remember the families in Newtown and my friends who have lost parents this year (thinking of you, Scott, Jody, Debra, Beverly, Jimmy). I know that Christmas won’t be the same, there will be a hole, a presence of an absence, an ache that I cannot know. I pray for you, all.

Blessings this Christmas and throughout the new year.

This poem by Henry Scott Holland has brought comfort after a loss.
stockings hung on fireplace, fire before Santa arrives, decorating Christmas hearth, Christmas prayer, poem on death, Henry Scott Holland poem,

 

 

Pause. Smile. Breathe.

December 20, 2012

woman in red, smiling wrapping gifts, how to wrap a gift, importance of smiles, breathing to relax, Christmas gifts by the fire, gold and red gift, enjoying Christmas, carpe diem ChristmasPause. Smile. Breathe.

Take a moment to pause, breathe, savor the now. This very minute, this exact place and time. Are you rushing around? Is your list a scribbled mess that keeps growing as Christmas nears?

Take this moment to pause, smile, slow your breathing and think of one thing that makes you feel grateful. Hold on to that.

It’s such a busy time of year, busier than our normal hurriedness. We have excited children, family visiting, traveling to do, cooking, baking, entertaining, wrapping, shopping, more wrapping, finishing off the cards and and and …

It’s all too fast, too busy, it takes effort to slow down and to soak in the joy of Christmas.

I’m trying to make that effort. I love this time of year, I love the music, finding the perfect gift, I enjoy wrapping packages up pretty and having candles in all the windows. I love my friend’s annual cookie swap, the Christmas Pageant at church, the festive celebrations, baking with the kids and especially spending time with family and friends. It does get busy but I choose to savor the preparations and anticipation of the Advent season. smiling woman in glasses, smile to relax, benefits of smiling, the key to happiness, gratitude at Christmas, how to be grateful, how to host a cookie swap, baking with kids

Hold onto that which makes you thankful. Amidst life’s pains and tragedies, finding something to cherish, finding gratitude, really living in the here and now, that is the key to happiness.

Merry Christmas and Happy Getting Ready!

Christmas Tree Trunks

December 10, 2012

We began collecting a fresh cut from our Christmas tree trunk the year our first daughter was born. This is one of my very favorite Christmas traditions each year. I save the tree trunk disk until after Christmas when I write something special about that year’s holiday celebration. The dates of each of my children’s and […]

Chanukah, However You Spell It

December 7, 2012

Hanukkah (that’s my preferred spelling!) starts at sundown this Saturday. My thanks to Melissa for writing about The Festival of Lights and her family’s traditions. Guest Post by Melissa Chernick Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Cahnukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka, Hannukka, Channukkah, Chanuqa.  One holiday with 18 ways to spell it!  […]

Christmas Elves

December 5, 2012

Crispin, Jilly and Zibby are our own personal Christmas elves. These mischievous Santa’s helpers are called from the North Pole with crackers (to remind them of the crunching snow) and water (melted snow); they visit for the weeks before Christmas, hiding, making messes and bringing joy until they return to Santa’s village on Christmas Eve […]

Christmas Birthdays

December 3, 2012

My first two babies were born on either side of Christmas, early December and late January. Over the years, I tried to separate their birthday celebrations a bit by moving parties into late November or early February, but like Kate’s experience in her guest post below, my daughter actually likes doing Christmasy stuff on or […]

My Christmas Binder

December 1, 2012

Thank you to my friend, Danielle, an inspiring Mom and a believer in the importance of family traditions and rituals. Danielle is the voice behind Festival Fete’s blog, going on this weekend in Rhode Island. Festival Fete Guest Post by Danielle Salisbury, Find Danielle on Facebook I admit it; I am one of those super-organized […]

Growing a Thanksgiving Tradition

November 20, 2012

Guest Post by Elizabeth Atalay, Documama.org The seeds for my ideal Thanksgivings were planted in other peoples’ homes.  That is not to say that my childhood Thanksgivings were unpleasant. My most prominent memory is my brother and I, the two children, retreating to the den of my aunts’ delicately decorated house to watch Chitty Chitty […]

Traditions of Gratitude

November 15, 2012

I try to live gratefully every day. It’s an active process, one that takes regular reminding and effort, but it’s gratitude, I believe, that is the key to happiness. My whole life, my grandmother’s mantra was, “Count your blessings,” she embodied this philosophy and truly lived with gratitude. As Thanksgiving approaches, (can you even believe […]

Skipping Halloween

October 29, 2012

Here on the east coast, we may actually be skipping Halloween, and it won’t really bother me. With this hurricane-noreaster-monster storm coming and lurking around, we may have a rain-out for Halloween night. The kids costumes are ready (well, almost) and have been selected and changed myriad times since last October 31st. So what happens […]

p-_j53ayb9sRH9s