Walking the Walk

Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 3


Don’t feel guilty about not buying the toys being glorified by advertisements. The purpose of giving is about conveying love. Advertising narrows our perception about what conveys that love, and creates inappropriate guilt in us for not showing love the way they want us to show love. 

Forget them! Find a way to show your love your way! (That’s called “reframing your perspective.”) 

However, you will have to teach your family to speak this new language of love and appreciation so they’ll recognize it when they see it. Conversation is the key.

First, plan out your holiday using suggestions from this series, or researching ideas online. As you picture conducting the activities, and the excitement on your children’s faces because of them, you will get excited and your enthusiasm will grow. That’s when you take your ideas to the family and share your excitement for creating your new traditions that are uniquely yours.

Say this: “This year is going to be the best holiday ever! Everything is changing in the world, and we’re not going to let it change without us. We’re going to create a whole new set of holiday traditions. We’ll do them every year, and you’ll do them with your kids. You’re going to absolutely love what I have in store for you!”

This is the finale, Part 3 of a 3-part series, designed to help you create an incredible holiday season with a new set of uniquely-you traditions for your entire family. 

  • For ideas on how to put a positive spin on this year’s nontraditional holiday, read Part 1. 
  • If December 2020 finds you low on funds for holiday fun, ideas abound in Part 2 for what to do when We Have No Spare Money For Holiday Activities.

Now, let’s get down to how to deal with handling Holiday Gifting when you don’t have holiday money to spend.

Problem: We Can’t Afford Christmas Gifts

New Tradition:  Gift Your Time.

In our rapid-paced world, our time is a valuable and desirable commodity. Craft homemade gift certificates for your gift, or download and print them from your computer. Figure out what would be the best use of your time that would benefit the intended. Decorate your gift certificates and wrap them up. Put them under the trees, or use them as stocking stuffers. 

Here are some ideas to put on your gift certificates:

  • Babysit for a neighbor
  • Schedule girl time with your besties
  • Prepare a meal
  • Do laundry for a week
  • Organize the garage
  • Keep a clean room for a week
  • Babysit younger siblings while mom takes a bubble bath
  • Interior refrigerator cleaning
  • Private hour-long walk with just the two of you
  • A virtual sleepover with their friends
  • Alone time with me
  • Family Book Club (pick a book that everyone reads, and then discuss it)
  • Snail mail homemade cards to grandparents and relatives

New Tradition:  Make homemade gifts

Nothing says “love” like a homemade gift that you devoted time to creating. 

  • Gather pinecones from a local park and make decorations and wreaths. 
  • Get spice recipes and put them in decorated glass jars for gifts. (I have tons of reusable jars around just for this purpose.) 
  • Make a week’s menu comprised of your loved one’s favorite meals and flavors. 
  • Knit scarves. 
  • Sew memorable T-shirts into a blanket/quilt. 
  • Take family pictures in front of public holiday displays and send to loved ones. 

Simple pleasures are the best. The people who care about you, the ones deserving of your love and time, will be touched by these demonstration of love. Enjoy your new holiday traditions! 

For more New Traditions, see Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 1 and Part 2

Awesome Moms

Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 2

Welcome to the Season of Mixed Blessings! A time when the relief of not having a full house for the holidays is mixed with missing the love and energy family brings. A time when the reduction of income because of the pandemic is offset by not being able to go shopping for gifts anyway.

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series designed to help you create a fabulous holiday season with magnificent new traditions for the whole family. For ideas on how to put a positive spin on this year’s nontraditional holiday, read Part 1. If you have some problems getting the celebration off the ground, I have solutions, and lots of them! Part 3 deals with how to handle Holiday Gifting when you don’t have holiday money to spend.

As I see it, you have three choices:

  1. Worry about what the pandemic will bring
  2. Wallow in disappointment and misery because you can’t uphold family celebration traditions as in years gone by
  3. Revamp this year’s holiday season with brand new traditions and fun

(Spoiler Alert: I vote for #3)

Instead of living in the past with regret and depression, or ramping up your anxiety with futuristic what-ifs, it’s time to plant yourself firmly into the now moment. Give your family the gift of staying in the moment, or should I say, give them the present of staying in the present. (Is that why it’s called the present?)

Problem: We Have No Spare Money For Holiday Activities

New Tradition:  Holiday Interviews

After we got married, every New Year’s Eve my husband and I began making annual videos. We shared our lives, discussed our marriage, dreamed about the future, and basically captured who we were as a couple at that particular moment in time. Once the cherub was born, she was included. As she grew, we added her take on her best friends, her teacher, and her favorite things. She’d play a song on the piano and talk about her family. 

Now that she’s grown, she can listen to her parents back when they were the age she is now, and see them as they saw themselves. I appreciate how much she values this gift, especially since all I have of my folks as young parents is a couple of silent movies. This year, record your first Annual Holiday Keepsake.

New Tradition:  Write Holiday Letters  

Write a Holiday Recap to send to family and friends. It’s an excellent way to stay in touch. Nowadays, when I go back and reread the ones we wrote as newlyweds, it provides a thread of continuity in our lives that can be celebrated and re-celebrated over time.

New Tradition:  Find Free Fun 

One of my favorite middle-school-age memories is joining in on the Hallelujah Chorus on Constitution Plaza in Hartford, CT. They passed out the lyrics so we attendees could sing along with the performing choir. I don’t remember if there were musicians or piped in music, but I definitely remember the vibration of the music surrounding me as this group of total strangers sang… and that momentous experience was free.

When I was growing up, we lived paycheck to paycheck, but my mother scoured the newspaper looking for free opportunities. Free activities, both local and online, abound. Check your local library and newspaper for events. I grew up listening to classical music in a variety of parks, attending art shows, holiday sing-a-longs, and plays, all for free, and all outdoors. 

The opportunities are out there. All you have to do is find them.

New Tradition:  Write A Story Together  

Download free coloring sheets and use the images to generate a holiday story. Everyone colors the pictures, and signs and dates their own. If you need more story inspiration, binge holiday movies, or Marvel/DC Comics movies, or whatever your family is in to. Type up the story, add the colored pictures, and label it “Volume 1.” Or, if your family is blessed with a techie mind, scan the pictures, narrate the story, and create a mini-movie. 

Next year you can produce the sequel. 

New Tradition:  The Gift of Volunteering

Helping your kids volunteer is a wonderful gift that keeps on giving. Research has shown that helping others physically triggers the happy hormones in your body. Once they feel that rush, your kids will want to volunteer again.

  • Volunteering makes people feel less helpless because they are out there actively doing good. 
  • It puts your present woes into perspective.
  • Helping a fellow person takes the focus off of your situation and shifts it to easing the problems of someone less fortunate.

There are so many things you can do!

  • Bake for a homeless shelter, or first responders. 
  • Send cards to deployed soldiers (the military may help you with postage). 
  • Babysit for free. 
  • Read to an elderly neighbor. 
  • Help out at an animal shelter. 
  • Work at a Soup Kitchen.
  • Assist a local house of worship packing donation boxes. 

Invite your kids to research opportunities to volunteer, then you decide when and where, because you need to make sure they can handle the situation (some situations may be too emotionally heavy for your more empathic children). This tradition is one of the most powerful gifts you can give you children.

For more New Traditions, see Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 1and Part 3. 

Walking the Walk

Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 1

Happy Holidays!!! Be of Good Cheer! In this year of drastic changes, here’s how to pivot your holiday for the better. Be proactive, and your family will follow.

Start by alleviating your children’s fears during these unsettling times. 

Say this: “Things are changing, and we’re going to change right along with them. We’re no strangers to change, right? Every year you start school, there’s a big change. We don’t freak out about it. We adjust, just like I had to adjust when you learned to crawl, and when you learned to walk. If they change the way school is taught again, we’ll adjust. If you need help, I’ll help you, and if I don’t know what to do, I’ll find someone who does. I got your back.”

Have the conversation every day. Give them space to express how they feel without judgment, and don’t be afraid that you won’t be able to be strong for them. If their conversation makes you sad, be transparent and tell them you’re sad, and that it’s okay.

Say this: “It’s okay if I’m sad. We all get sad sometimes, and we all get over it. Remember when you were sad last week, and how happy you were yesterday? That’s what it’s like for everybody, me included. I feel better with hugs, so if you ever worry about me being sad, you can hug me, and I’ll hug you. Let’s hug right now.”

Then, embrace the change. What do you say we skip the nonproductive, apologetic, guilt-ridden, depressing conversations about what you’re not going to have because of Covid, or lack of funds, or lack of access to relatives and friends? It’s time to reframe the holiday into creative ways to have fun and make special memories. 

Say this: “Let’s create some new holiday traditions. I’m not talking about making do through the quarantine this holiday. I’m talking about things we can do throughout the years, our new traditions.”

Have your family research unique ways you can sail through the holidays, and then gather them together to brainstorm. While you do that, I’m going to address some basic problems here and in Part 2.

Money Is Really Tight

Reach out for help. The pandemic has messed up the circumstances of millions of people, and there’s no shame in identifying yourself as one of them. 

Contact your Town Hall, and ask them, since you can’t afford holiday gifts, if they know of an organization that is providing them for families in need. Also, try:

  • your house of worship
  • Toys for Tots
  • Boys/Girls Clubs
  • the police department
  • the fire department. 

If there is something available, it’s well worth the effort. Plus, you’ll be giving the donors the gift of being able to give.

We Can’t Afford a Christmas Tree

New Tradition: Use An Outdoor Tree. 

  • Pick a publically decorated tree in town to be your very own personal Wishing Tree. 
  • Bundle up and jump in the car right after dinner every night for the next 2 weeks and visit your tree. 
  • Everybody makes their own wish for the betterment of someone else. 
  • Take a quick drive around the neighborhood to see the lights, and head home.

New Tradition: Make Your Own Christmas Tree

  • Start saving your newspapers to make Paper Mache Christmas trees to decorate, along with ornaments. Make a mess together. Clean up together. Record the fun for them to enjoy with their future kids. 
  • Have a zoom party where their friends/grandparents/neighbors/relatives are engaged in the same tree-making activity at the same time so they can share their creativity. 
  • Take photos of your creations! Put them into a 2020 photo album they can look through next year when they repeat this new tradition.

For more New Traditions, see Making Wonderful Holiday Memories During a Not-So-Wonderful Time- Part 2 and Part 3. If December 2020 finds you low on funds, ideas abound in Part 2 for what to do when We Have No Spare Money For Holiday Activities. Part 3 deals with how to handle Holiday Gifting when you don’t have holiday money to spend.

Awesome Moms

Are You Creating Panic With Pandemic Entertainment?

“A lot of TV shows and films shut down production in light of the coronavirus. Now that they’re following protocols and back on set, some narrative storylines in series like “This Is Us” and the upcoming season of “Grey’s Anatomy” are focused on what we’re all experiencing in 2020: mask-wearing, social distancing, quarantining, healthcare, the election, racial injustice. Do you think it’s a good or bad thing for audiences to relive what’s happened/what’s currently happening in our country?  Viewers are looking for an escape during these times, no? How do you think the pandemic will affect pop culture and the content we create/consume?”

Recently, a reporter asked me this, and it made me pause to consider whether pandemic-time entertainment should aim to boost morale. Here’s my opinion.

Too young to remember the 1938 War of the Worlds radio drama? Me too, but I still heard about the angry outcry it sparked when listeners believed the show to be a real broadcast about a real invasion.

I’m not too young to remember the 1983 movie “The Day After.” ABC’s hype had us all watching it, making it impossible for me to conduct class the next day. My joyous and energetic high school students returned the day after the movie subdued, scared and angry, hotly debating whether it was better to die before a bomb was dropped, or to die during the aftermath. Many of them could not shake the effects of the movie for months, continuously raising random questions throughout the rest of the school year. Too many asked my opinion about suicide, too frequently.

All this from a fictional movie about a situation we’ve never had to live through (only Japan has had that experience— at the hands of the USA). The hype may have died down, but the underlying anxiety persists. 

Today we find ourselves in the middle of another global pandemic. Our children are frightened, despite being soothed by scared parents. No one knows what the future holds. Many are waiting for things to return to normal. 

Is this the time for a movie like Songbird? If they don’t make that movie, someone else will make the first one, so the answer is, whatever

Let’s be real. Once you watch a pandemic movie in the middle of a pandemic crisis, you can’t un-watch it. If it generates emotions and fears in you, there’s no escape from that.

The masses will watch in horrified fascination, unable to look away. They will leave the viewing reevaluating their lives and their children’s future. Their hope will be dented. Depression and fear will skyrocket with the next news broadcast. Children who are too young to watch will sense the heightened fear in the air.

My suggestion is to leave reality programming for reality, and instead, fill your entertainment time with the kind that soothes and replenishes the soul. If you don’t do it when you’re relaxing, then when are you going to do it? 

Science has shown that we can deliberately reprogram our brain along a positive path. Conversely, watching the ever-breaking news on the pandemic passively reprograms your brain with fear and anxiety, until it becomes your new normal. 

I prefer the former. You may not be able to plan for the next turn the pandemic takes, but you certainly can anticipate pandemic topics portrayed for your viewing pleasure. Every time you replace a pandemic episode with an upbeat substitute, it will fortify you in some small measure. Let that deliberate positive path you build become your new normal. You’ll be better equipped to handle whatever life dishes out.

Read the HuffPost article here:

Read more parenting tips in my new book, “How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door.”

Awesome Moms Tell Your Tweens + Teens

Taming the Holiday Tantrum – Part 2

Our daughter’s tantrums push our buttons, no doubt about it. However, if you reframe your perspective on what’s actually happening, you can keep your own emotions from joining the door-slamming party.

Last post I responded to some questions on navigating tantrums (including handling yourself). These questions were generated from another post I wrote a while back. 

Question #1 Last post: Why would a meltdown by an 18-year-old be a tantrum? Does that mean that people of all ages can have one?

Question #2 Last post: Is a tantrum in teenagers just a meltdown by any other name?

Question #3: How do you differentiate tantrums from other sorts of angry or frustrated moments?

Question #4: I assume dealing with a young adult (or adult) tantrum requires different tactics than with younger kids. Any suggestions?

Today I’m addressing Question #3 & #4.


Question #3

How do you differentiate tantrums from other sorts of angry or frustrated moments?

Imagine a continuum of angry emotions. Frustration and anger live at one end, and at the other end you find full-blown, earth-shaking tantrums. On any given day, at any given moment, the world around you can suddenly slam you into that continuum, ruining your day and interfering with your life… if you let it. We all have negative reactions when those situations arise, but you can choose how you respond to it. 

Choice is your underused superpower. Choose how you want to respond to negative situations ahead of time, instead of reacting when they arise. You don’t want your emotions jerked around like a marionette on a string. 

The better we understand the people and circumstances around us, the more equipped we become to minimize their negative impact. In the process, we learn even more about ourselves. 

Those who learn quickly appear more even-keeled to the world. Everyone else, including your children, react with anger, frustration, or tantrums. They haven’t yet learned how to choose to not react in kind. 

Whether it’s tantrums, frustration or anger, approach it in the same manner. Mirror back their emotions by telling them what you see. (“I see your head hanging down like this and your eyebrows are scrunched up. It looks like you’re feeling upset. I understand. I feel that way sometimes when something disappoints me, but I recover. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I love you and I’m here for you.”)


Question #4

I assume dealing with a young adult (or adult) tantrum requires different tactics than with younger kids. Any suggestions?

In general, tantrums are born from fear, fear of failure, fear of being mocked, fear of not fitting in, fear of being exposed as an imposter, etc. Before you can deal with the underlying issue, you have to calm down the emotional level. The best way to do that is to start early.

Find a calm, neutral time when you can sit down and converse. Tell your walking volcano, “When you come to me with a problem and you blow up, I get so distracted by your anger, I can’t really hear your message. I love you too much to leave things the way they are. From now on, when you get that upset, I’m going to step away for a moment, and when you feel better, we can discuss your situation. I love you enough to wait through your anger. When you have a problem, I want to help you, and if I don’t know how, I will find someone who does.”

When faced with the next volatile interaction, remind your child that you said you were going to step away. Say something like, “I’m too distracted by your anger to focus on your words. I love you so much, so I’m stepping away so this conversation can reset. We’ll handle whatever it is when you feel better. I’ll be waiting.”

Now that you have a general strategy, let’s be more specific.

Dealing With the Young Adult Manipulator:

This youngster has learned that in order to triumph, throwing a tantrum works every time. Nevertheless, underlying it all is the fear of failing to get his/her way.

Step 1:  Pick a calm time to talk to your teen. Explain that you love them too much to let things continue the way they are. Tell them that when they are upset, you can’t hear the message because the voice, gestures and body language are too distracting. And, unfortunately, if you can’t hear the message, you can’t help solve the problem. 

Step 2:  Instead, you are going to try something new. From now on, when they are too upset to have a conversation, you are going to wait until they are back in control of their emotions, and then resume talking. Try to tell your kids this ahead of time. Otherwise, unexpected changes in your behavior may be interpreted as you rejecting them.

Step 3:  The next time she starts to escalate the conversation, remind her of your new policy. Ask whether she’s able take back control of her emotions, or should you wait until she can. If she calms down, continue the discussion. If she blows up, tell her you’re willing to wait because you love her, and want to work this out with a clear head.

Step 4:  If your teen heads down a negative path, it’s time to step away, but do it with love! He needs your love no matter what, so don’t step away as a punishment. That’s emotional blackmail. Your teens need to know your love for them is unconditional… no matter what.

Step 5:  Firmly tell your teen that you are going into the other room so he can collect himself. Tell him you love him, and you will be waiting so the two of you can attack the problem together when he feels better.

Step 6:  When your teen reappears, drop what you are doing, and sit with her. You’ll be showing your child that the tantrum was not worth the effort, and reinforcing that gathering her emotions, and approaching you calmly may get better results.

Dealing With the Young Adult Eruptor: 

This youngster is a victim of emotions, and flat out needs to be rescued by you. Feelings are out of control and need to be reined in.

1.    Pick a calm time to talk together. Explain that you love them too much to let things continue the way they are. Tell him when he’s that upset, you can’t sort out the problem because his behavior is too distracting. You need to understand what the problem is, so you can help them solve it. 

The Eruptor needs reassurance that you will hang in there until the problem is handled. If you discuss this ahead of time, the change will still be unexpected, but you can remind your teen that this was your plan to help.

2.    The next time she erupts, remind her that you love her, and you are there for her. If you don’t have a solution, you will find someone who does. You got her back.

Ask your teen if she can explain what the problem is now, or if you should come back when she feels better. If she calms down, start the discussion without judgment (It doesn’t matter if you think the issue is important or not. It’s her opinion, and she’s entitled to it). If she blows up, tell your teen you are willing to wait because you love her, and together you can fix whatever it is, as soon as she is ready to deal with it.

3.    If you have to step away, remember…do it with love! Tell your teen you’ll be back in a little bit to check on him. He needs to know he’s not being abandoned. It’s important your teen understands your love is unconditional, even when he erupts.

4.    If your teen doesn’t reappear in a few, pop your head in and ask how she’s doing. You’ll be teaching your teen that a tantrum slows down problem-solving, and controlling her emotions will get faster results.


Everything takes time, but the good news is that every time you choose to respond in a way to steer the situation, you will:

  • build consistency
  • lay down new neuro pathways in your brain
  • lay down new neuro pathways in your child’s brain
  • model the behavior you’d like your child to master
  • make it easier for your child to cope in a future situation
  • see a decrease in tantrum intensity
  • diffuse the tantrum more quickly each time
  • create a sense of empowerment in yourself
  • reduce the fear in your child

Remember to take care of you first. You are the strongest link in the parent-child relationship, so it’s important to keep yourself vibrant and healthy.

For more info on handling tantrums, see the Taming the Holiday Tantrum – Part 1 and get my books, “How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door” and “How To Get Your Happy On.”