Sunday, 27 December 2015

Bored - 6 Cheap or Free things to do over the holidays that beat boredom

We are so thankful that we had a fantastic Christmas with the minions.  All of the wrapping is off of the presents and new sharp and pointy toys are scattered all over the floor for adults to step on (usually in bare feet)  The excitement of the holiday season is slowly wearing down and there are now an additional seven days with the kids off of school.

There isn't any snow on the ground yet in the City of Toronto, so tobogganing is out of the question for now.  Here are six fun, cheap, family focused activities to help keep everyone engaged during the holiday season that will hopefully prevent those dreaded "I'm BORED!" chants from popping up over the next several days and also create some nice holiday memories.

Christmas Tree Craft by Miss Molly

Holiday Lights
Go for a walk, or a drive, on a street or a neighbourhood that you know is packed with a lot of holiday lights and decorations.  Talk about which ones you like the best and why as well as voting on the family favourite.  Be warned though, this led to extensive questioning about why we don't have outdoor lights and Chris has now promised that next December he'll put up lights along the front of our house. Both kids are saying this is one of the best things we've done so far this holiday season.

Baking or Cooking a meal together
Maybe you've had enough sweets already, but that doesn't mean you can't create something tasty and healthy together....making salads, soups, smoothies, or frozen fruit treats can be a fun way to get some vitamins in together.

Storytime Day
We are lucky enough that friends and family have supplied us with a ton of new books over the holidays.  Put on the kettle for some tea or hot cocoa, and everyone can curl up for some great reading.  Didn't get any books?  Visit your local library or thrift store to get some great books you can enjoy together.

Dance Party
Dance parties started in our house, in the master bedroom as a way to keep Molly and Jack dancing around the bed while the adults folded laundry.  Dance parties also happen in our living room where we all dance and sing together.  Favourite tunes of Molly and Jack's include: Song 2 by Blur, Dr. Jones and Barbie Girl by Aqua, Tub Thumping by Chumbawamba.

Green Houses
Maybe it's cold outside but a visit to a local green house is a great way to see bright colours and warm up.  Many still have festive displays still going well into January.  In Toronto you can visit Allen Gardens or Centennial Park green houses almost every day of the year.

PJ Day
On the last day of school before the holidays Molly's class had a pyjama day where everyone wore their pjs all day.  They spent a good portion of the day watching movies, playing games, and hanging out.  This can be a great way for everyone to unwind after the stress of the holiday season.

What free or cheap activities do you have planned to keep everyone entertained over the holiday break?

 To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

I Am Santa Claus

We expected it last year, but four seems to be the age where all things Christmas has really clicked in for the minions.  They are bursting with excitement (and possibly fruit flavour from all of the candy they've been eating) as they ask on a daily basis: How soon is Christmas?  When can I open my presents?  When is Santa coming?

This means a few things: getting them to bed on Christmas Eve, getting them to sleep on Christmas Eve, and any chance of getting up after 8AM on Christmas morning are pretty much finished.  It also means that Molly and Jack are super aware of everything Santa and he has become a pretty big deal here.  They each wrote him a letter with Molly's containing a lot of questions about his food preferences to see if he felt the same way about tomatoes as she does, while Jack's was more direct and asked him whether or not he had any children.  Oh yeah, and they contained specific gift requests: an Ariel doll, a Belle Doll for Molly and a shockingly realistic toy vacuum cleaner for Jack who is afraid of the noises vacuums make (this gift could go terribly awry).

Jack enjoys some silver bells (and Cheerios) - 2012

Growing-up at my house Santa gifts came in stockings and unwrapped and were set out on display in our living room with no packages, wrapping or boxes...completely ready to play with.  Chris grew up in a house where Santa gifts were always wrapped and placed (presumably with care) under the tree. After a recent conversation with my older sister, I discovered that Santa gifts used to come wrapped in our household until at six years old she realized that mom and dad had the same wrapping paper in their closet as Santa had used.  She interrogated our parents about this at great lengths, then suddenly, the following year the wrapping miraculously disappeared from our Santa gifts.

Another parent told me about a close call where their six year old daughter came downstairs into the kitchen where mom and dad were putting together a toy at around midnight on Christmas Eve. Luckily dad was quick on his feet and mentioned that Santa was running late this year and had asked them to put together the toy for him.

There is debate amongst parents as to whether or not to push Santa on their kids.  Chris and I both have fond memories of Santa and the excitement around it, so we've decided to embrace Saint Nick in our house.  I also know that the minions would likely ruin Christmas for every other kid in their respective kindergarten class and circle of friends if we were to lay some truth bombs on them this year.

Miss Molly opening up some gifts - Christmas 2012

Here are 6 Tips on Keeping Santa "Real" in your home

  1. If you are going to wrap gifts, purchase "Santa" paper or gift bags away from the eyes of little kidsKeep wrapping and paper well hidden and dispose of it like you would of a dead body. (I'm not saying go dump it in a river bank, but just give it to another friend or recycle it and get it out of your house).
  2. Your kids recognize your handwriting, so do something about it
    There are companies that offer customized Santa tags that you can purchase or print.  You can get free ones here.  Make sure the labels you use aren't the same ones you use for other gifts.  In our house "Santa" brought a set of gift labels unlike any others in our house into his office to have an "elf" (aka co-worker) with neat printing help write out for each minion.
  3. Get the letters sent out to Santa early to avoid disappointment and set realistic expectationsThis way items won't run out at stores, Santa gets better prices and it also means that it becomes slightly more difficult for mind changing about the latest "must-have toy" by your child(ren) at the 11th hour.  I equate the grown-up version of this as orderer's regret at a restaurant.
  4. Find a good hiding place
    This goes for stocking items, gifts and gift receipts.  Growing up, my mom was the only person allowed into the attic because "you could only step in certain places and beams without causing damage to the ceiling of the living room".  This threat kept all of us from entering her favourite hiding place.
  5. Keep Santa SimpleLast year I read this heartwarming letter from a mother asking parents to spend less on gifts from "Father Christmas" and more on gifts from mom and dad.  I know there are some people who may disagree, but by keeping Santa gifts modest we can avoid kids comparing how one child received a new playstation from Santa, with six video games, while another, equally awesome kid, received a new hat and mitts from Santa. 
  6. Focus on sharing quality time together
    If Santa is the main, and only, attraction at Christmas, supreme disappointment is bound to occur down the road, like this angry letter from a little girl who just found out her parents were lying to her.  Set non-Santa/consumerist traditions to enjoy together as a family, like board games, a walk to enjoy holiday lights, singing carols, volunteering, collecting items for a foodbank, baking or cooking a special meal together.

 To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Thursday, 17 December 2015

It's Cliched to Be Cynical at Christmas - Holiday Movies for Grown-ups

We've spent a lot of time watching Christmas movies with the minions this year.  Don't get me wrong, Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (yeah it's actually called that) is a refreshing movie because it doesn't push the Santa agenda, but by 9PM I want to watch something a little less G Rated.

There are a number of movies that Chris and I enjoy watching, and try to enjoy almost every year, to get us into the holiday spirit, that are less appropriate for little eyes and ears.  These movies are often watched in the evening, with a glass of festive spirits in hand, while we write out Christmas cards, wrap gifts, or perform other Christmas elf-like activities.

Image courtesy of Tribeca Film

6 of the Best Non-Kid Holiday Un-Classics to Watch with Spiked Eggnog

For the Holiday Romantic

  1. Love Actually
    Is there anything more Rom-Com than a Christmas movie set in December with Hugh Grant as a romantic lead?  Didn't think so.
  2. Serendipity
    A movie about a couple who meet at Christmas time and the ways their lives intersect over the years.  A beautiful portrait of pre-911 New York and a last glimpse of why we all used to love John Cusak as romantic lead.  I LOVE YOU Lloyd Dobbler!

    For a Twist on a Classic
  3. Scrooged
    Bill Murray at his best, in a 1980's consumerist version of the classic Christmas Story.

    For the Kid at Heart
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
    Some kids will enjoy this tale, but this is still too scary for my little ones.  Jack Skellington and his Halloween friends discover Christmas Town and seek to understand the true meaning of Christmas.

    For the Grinch/Horror Movie Fan
  5. Gremlins
    Gremlins takes place during the Christmas season.  Don't believe me, watch it, and laugh out loud over Phoebe Cates monologue about why she hates Christmas.

    For the Action Loving Tough Guy
  6. Die Hard
    What would you do if you were taken hostage at a Christmas party.  Even better what would John McClane do?
What grown-up holiday movies are on your "must see" list?

Want to see my top holiday movie selections to watch with the kids, click here

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

I Think We're (Home) Alone Now

Now that the minions are a little bit older we've been able to go a little more full throttle on the variety of Christmas movies and shows we're watching this year. Each time we finish watching a holiday special Molly jumps off the couch and announces, "That was the best Christmas movie ever!" I don't foresee a profession reviewing movies from the detailed "critiques" she's provided so far, but they both seem to be enjoying our selections.

On Sunday I worried that they'd be scared of The Ghost of Christmas Future in Mickey's Christmas Carol.  Thanks to some creative edits to ensure maximum ad space by CBC, and Molly and Jack's exposure to the character of Pete on the show Mickey Mouse Club House they barely blinked at the scene where Pete (AKA the Grim Reaper) pushed Scrooge McDuck into his own grave.  This scene terrified me as a child on a level comparable to The Legend of Sleepy HollowIs anyone else willing to admit with me that Disney used to be scary?  Twice now, since the viewing of the movie, Molly has reminded me that Pete was showing Scrooge why he should be good.  Apparently the holiday message gleaned here is simple comeuppance.

Then there's the boy child.  Jack loves slapstick comedy and it somehow seemed fitting for us to view  Home Alone  together on the 25th Anniversary of the movie.  He liked it so much that we've since watched Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, twice, and are now the proud owners of both movies on DVD.  Listening to him giggle makes it almost worth it.  Here's the other thing, Molly isn't really a fan of slapstick.  For most of the movie she'll sit there, tilt her head sideways with an expression that says, "I know this is supposed to be funny, but I just don't get it."  Watching the two very different, yet understandable reactions simultaneously is just amazing.

Home Alone Movie Poster
Image courtesy of Loft Cinema

Should you decide to go down the Home Alone rabbit hole like we did here are some fun facts about the movie to look for while you watch.  Parents be warned: you may be watching again, and again and again. I'm sorry.

10 Interesting Items of Trivia About Home Alone....AHHHHHHHHH!

  1. Home Alone is the most successful Christmas themed movie ever.  The film is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest grossing live action comedy, ever.  It earned $285, 761, 243 in theatres and remained on the big screen well past Christmas.
  2. The drawing of Kevin's plan to thwart the robbers was actually drawn by actor Macaulay Culkin.
  3. Bad guy robber, played by Daniel Stern, isn't actually screaming when the tarantula is on his face.  He had to mime the scream, so as not to freak out the spider.
  4. The gangster movie, Angels with Filthy Souls, doesn't really exist.  It was created for the movie, although it was requested for rentals at video stores a lot in the 1990's because of the success of Home Alone.
  5. The "other Culkin", Kieran Culkin, is in the movie and plays Kevin's bed-wetting cousin Fuller.
  6. The movie was written for Culkin and inspired by a scene (and his performance) in the movie Uncle Buck.
  7. Scenes in the flooded out basements, caused by The Wet Bandits, were filmed in a local Chicago high school's swimming pool.
  8. Actor Jon Lovitz reportedly turned down the role of burglar Harry (as played by Joe Pesci).  But he doesn't have any regrets...right?
  9. Macaulay Culkin has a scar on his finger from Joe Pesci actually biting him during one of the final scenes of the movie.
  10. When Kevin's dad (arguably the most useless character in the entire movie series) is cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, you momentarily see Kevin's plane ticket in the garbage.

What holiday movie do you want to rediscover with your kids this year?

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Crow on my Shoulder

I often write about my grandmother, Alice, partially because she's the grandparent I knew the longest, but also because she was quite the character in a pretty amazing and very sassy way.  In later years she'd spend a lot of her time betting with us on reality TV, talking about how handsome Benjamin Bratt is, or clipping interesting newspaper articles for her children and grandchildren to read.

This week I saw an article that I would have clipped for her because of a very fond memory I have from my childhood.  One time my grandmother told me about a special crow, named Sammy, who would trade small shiny objects for other shiny objects.  At my grandmother's instruction I placed a shiny black button in my backyard, and a few days later found it replaced by a coin.   The following week I put out a paper clip and found a glass marble a few days later, and so on.  Turns out my grandmother had given my mom a giant bag of shiny objects (random junk from around her house that could conceivably fit into a crow's beak) and had my mom play the role of Sammy, the Geocaching Crow.

Diaval, Diablo
Maleficent and her crow named Diaval or Diablo (depending on the movie) Courtesy of Fan Pop

This week I saw an article about a little girl who has been feeding and receiving gifts from a murder of crows and I immediately thought of Alice.  Gabi has been feeding crows since she was four (she's eight now) and they have been leaving her a number of gifts in return for some time now (to read more click here).  They also have followed her to school, and I assume made her their queen.

While it would be nice to start up a "Sammy" tradition, with the minions, I don't like birds (they freak me out) and I'm not sure how our neighbours would feel about a gang of crows hanging around our house.  I'm also not so sure that I am interested in raising the real life version of Daenerys Targaryen or Maleficent.  All the same it made me think of my grandmother, and smile.  Thank you Gabi for reminding me of my grandmother and Sammy the Crow.  Please don't send your army of birds out to attack me or poop on my car!

Game of thrones dragon
Image of Daenerys Targaryen courtesy of Wikipedia.

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Monday, 7 December 2015

Calendar Girl - Misadventures in the world of advent calendars

My parents never let us eat sugar cereal growing up, the only exception to this rule was when we were on vacation, so naturally when I moved out on my own I bought and sampled every type of sugar cereal imaginable.  This grew old pretty fast because I was sugar crashing in the morning at work due to the fact that I was essentially eating candy for breakfast.  I soon moved back towards the healthy breakfast fare I'd been raised on and haven't really looked back.

There a number of moments when, as a child and young adult, I've questioned the logic of my parents methods.  Now as an adult I find myself up to the same parenting shenanigans my mom and dad employed on me years ago.
Image Courtesy of Fan Pop

I am a pretty typical middle child.  In December every year my mother would purchase an advent calendar.  Stop and re-read that sentence.  One advent calendar....for three children.  During an already anticipation laden month we'd take turns and enjoy eight opportunities to open the little door and eat some chocolate.  As my sister got older, she determined she didn't like the "cardboardy" tasting chocolate from the calendar, so she'd give my brother and I an opportunity to vie for her piece of chocolate, so long as she got to be the one opening the little door when it was her turn.  I feel a need to mention that my sister, the eldest, would ensure on the years the calendar purchased had 25 doors instead of 24 that she received the coveted position of first pick so she would get nine turns to open the door, despite the fact that she wasn't even eating the freaking chocolate.  She was older, smarter, meaner, and clearly much better at math.

Many of my friends at school boasted that they had advent calendars all to themselves, day after day enjoying a bounty of truthfully pretty crummy chocolate.  I vowed that when I was a parent, my children would each have an advent calendar of their own, so they would never know the "trauma" I had experienced as a child in December. I recognize that my holiday experience is not as heartwarming as Tiny Tim.

chocolate advent calendar
Image Courtesy of

This year Grandma and Grandpa bought Molly and Jack a giant, gorgeous advent calendar filled with Lindt chocolate. This calendar is a far cry from the Bargain Harolds calendar my mom was buying us in the 1980s: my sister wouldn't have been sharing the chocolate from her turn with anyone cause this is some seriously awesome chocolate. The calendar sat on top of our fridge for around six weeks before the minions could begin to enjoy the bounty of this quality confection filled calendar and they asked about it almost daily.

Here's the thing, I have betrayed my 10 year old self.  Molly and Jack are alternating turns with the advent calendar and they don't seem to care.  The excitement surrounding the day that it's their turn to pick is like a mini Christmas morning each day after school.  They still both have a crap ton of Halloween candy left over, the chocolates in this calendar are gigantic, and there was no way any other calendar could compete with the chocolate giant from the grandparents.

So here it is, I'm just like my mother in December, only the chocolate is better, but I had absolutely nothing to do with that because I didn't buy the calendar.  If there are ever 25 days in an advent calendar I'm cutting that last piece of chocolate in half and they are going to smile and share it, and if they complain, I'll eat it myself.  Progress comes in baby steps.

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

School Days, Part 2 - Gifting for Teachers and Caregivers

This is part two of  my posting on gifting for teachers and caregivers.  Last month I reached out to my social network of caregivers including: Teachers (both elementary and secondary school), Early Childhood Educators, Nannies, Babysitters and Special Education Workers to find out more about the good, the bad and the ugly about gifts they've received over their careers and thought I'd share part 2 of the results.  To view part 1 click here

Image courtesy of Image Basket.

What is the most useful gift you've received?  

Without question gift cards reigned as the clear leader in this category with coffee shop gift cards being the number one type of gift card to receive.

"A gift card for Dollarama or other stores where teachers regularly shop would be appreciated.  We end up buying a lot of supplies for our classes out of our own pocket for our classes, not that this is a complaint, but gift cards for those stores would go to good use." said SB, primary school teacher.

"Something the child has worked really hard on, like a drawing or poem that is easy to tuck away and doesn't take up space at home is always on the top of my list." said, AL.

Have you ever refused a gift from a student/client? Explain why and how it went.

"I have refused gifts that weren't really theirs to give or were given to them from their parents.  I had a little girl a few years back try to give me a very special necklace her mother had given her because she loved me so much.  Although I was touched by the gesture, it would never be appropriate to accept that, and her mother would be unhappy about it!  I told her I knew why she was giving it to me, and that my heart felt very happy at the fact she thought so much about me, but some presents are too special to give away.  I then asked her if I could wear it while I was at her house instead, and she agreed happily." said The Stretch for Something Beautiful, nanny and babysitter.

"Since I usually teach adults, I have been offered some pretty strange gifts.  I have been offered personal massages, home cooked meals, and even a sample of medicine from a hospital. I always refuse these types of gifts." said UJ.

"Sometimes kids buy new markers or notepads and get overly excited about it and want to share their new purchases with their teachers.  In situations like this I tell them I'd rather they keep their new set complete. It's their stuff and they should use it and enjoy it!" said SB, primary school teacher.

"Thankfully I have never received anything that I have had to refuse!" said JF, an elementary school teacher.

"I have never refused a gift, I would feel too mean." said MP, middle school/high school teacher.

Do you have any advice, stories, or lessons learned on teaching children about what a generous heart/ giving spirit means that would be helpful to parents and guardians?

"When I was in elementary school I went to a before and after-school program and by the time I hit grade five I really hated it.  I felt like I lived at school, was sick of most of my teachers and found everyone's involvement in my life really invasive and annoying.  When Christmas arrived my mother wanted me to bring gifts to all of my teachers and leaders, but they weren't the people I wanted to give to.  I had been able to get to know the custodian at my school pretty well.  She was a wonderful woman who was always smiling and very positive from morning to night.  I made sure that the biggest and best present I gave out that year was for her.  When I gave her the present she began to cry and told me it was the first time she had received a gift from a student.  To this day I don't remember a lot of my teachers, but I will never forget that one woman's positivity and warmth.  Custodians are there everyday cleaning up nosebleeds, spilled lunches, washroom floors and making sure that paths are shovelled of snow and salted so kids won't slip.  I never had a bus driver, but I'm certain they also have to put up with a lot of crap too....Try giving thanks to those who rarely get it, but often deserve it." said UJ.

"My son went to a friend's birthday party recently and she asked for donations to the Food Bank as her gift.  I thought that was truly awesome.  Kids have too much stuff already and get a ridiculous number of gifts sometimes." said MP, middle school/high school teacher.

"I personally dislike receiving gifts in front of other students as it can make kids feel like they should have bought me something.  I teach students that kindness is free and that it's more powerful to give than to receive, so I really try to model this message.  I also really love students giving to a charity like World Vision in lieu of gifts from students, staff at my school felt that they already have so much and it was important for students to see how good it feels to help others, we are all very proud of what we as a collective can give to those in need." said JF, elementary school teacher.

"Sometimes we get caught up with the notion that being generous means giving things, whether it be donating new/used toys or donating money to charities.  It's important to teach your child how to be generous with their words, giving other people compliments or focusing on and celebrating a person's strengths and talents rather than pointing out weaknesses.  Words can go a long way and the generosity and love shown through your words often reflects on your own character and personality." said SB, primary school teacher.

To read about gift ideas for the pregnant friend or family member in your life click here

To get access to the newest posts from Multiple Momstrosity and more on Facebook click here and follow today!

Follow Multiple Momstrosity on Twitter @Sarabethbug