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Summer good and summer bad

Tessa and Reed, help me write this article. What are the best things about summer?

  • We get to play with our best friends.
  • We get to sleep in.
  • We get to

True Holiday Confessions: I Only Pretend to Like Holiday Decorations

There. I said it. I don’t like holiday decorations.  Bah Humbug!  Not only that, I’ll take it a step further. I can’t stand holiday decorations. Would “hate” be too strong a word? I’m probably not going to make very many friends with this post today, but today’s post is about confessions, and this is a timely one.

(I took this photo last year, but it’s not a self-portrait.  However, the resemblance is uncanny, no?)

I don’t like holiday decorations in my own house.
You can do what you want in yours.
Yes, your decorations look lovely.

Luckily, my husband doesn’t like decorations either, so for years, we lived in a decoration-less house, and it was awesome. For years, we’d say, “We have kitties! We can’t have all those decorations out!” or “We travel for the holidays, so what’s the point?”

Those were true statements, but they were all just excuses we had for not having a tree and for not being so “festive.” And, we loved every minute of it.

I have a box of ornaments from my childhood, and I’ve experienced the magical glow of a lighted tree…but I just don’t want to decorate. I hate getting everything out. I hate putting it all up. I hate taking it all down and putting it all away.

So, we didn’t.

Then we had a child and decided not to travel anymore for the holidays, inviting all our relatives here, so we had to pretend we actually like decorations.

I’m very good at pretending to like all this, so some people who read this will be shocked. I try to keep my feelings to myself, and my husband is the only one who gets to hear my grumbling and muttering when it’s time to drag out all the decorations. Lucky him.

I was tortured with surrounded by holiday decorations as a child. My mom would decorate every square inch of our house, starting the day after Thanksgiving and they would stay up until January. I’m not kidding.

My mother-in-law also takes great pride in her decorations and her tree.

Sometimes I feel like I’m all alone in my feelings. I like the way our house is decorated now. We’re rather minimalistic as it is, but it’s exactly the way we want it. I don’t want to change it, just because there’s one holiday or another right around the corner.

All this being said, if I have to decorate, I’ll admit that I do have a fondness for snowmen. People have given me various snowmen artifacts and paraphernalia, and they are cute and festive. I begrudgingly dig them out, dust them off and display them. I spend a month trying to keep them clean, straight, and unbroken. Then I dust them off, pack them up and try to fit them back into the space we have allotted for them in the storage closet with all the other decorations. And for what? Because decorations make people happy?

I guess decorations do make me happy…when they’re all packed away for another year.

So, what about you?  What do you REALLY think about Holiday Decorations?  And, while we’re at it, do you have any other True Holiday Confessions?

Travel Tips: Flying With Kids

Although I would never call myself a travel “expert,” with family on both coasts I can assure you that we’ve done our fair share of traveling with kids. With distances over thousands of miles, airplane has become our main mode of travel. It’s not cheap. It’s not easy. But it is fast. If you’re planning air travel with kids, saying that you have to be prepared is an understatement. You really need to be OVER-prepared.

Remember that air travel probably means getting a meal at the airport, maneuvering airplane bathroom stalls (these bathrooms are NOT made for two people even if one of them is little – I don’t know what these “mile high club” people are thinking), schleping through security and fenagling suitcases at baggage claim.

Drinks will be spilled, feelings will be hurt, tears will be shed, expectations will go unmet… all in the name of air travel. Not that traveling on wheels is easy. We’ve done that too and it can be just as much torture, uh, I mean fun. If you’ve traveled with kids, you know what I’m talking about. Which is why half of the battle is planning ahead to minimize the craziness. And keep this one thing in mind: you can pack the newest issue of your favorite magazine that you’ve been dying to read, just don’t expect you’ll get to read it.

Some of the tips below may seem like overkill, but if it’s been a while (or maybe never) since you’ve traveled with kids I think you’ll be glad you at least considered them.

  • If you’ve already purchased tickets, double-check

Bookalachi: Where parents can get the 411 on content in kids books!

You know when your kid hands you a book and asks, “Can I read this?” and you have no idea what the book is about? You flip through it, hoping to find an age-range or anything that will tell you if the content is right for your child.

Yeah, that’s where I was one day when my (then) 8 year-old came staggering toward me with a pile of books taller than she was—books I knew nothing about. Knowing how sensitive she is to some scary stuff, I just didn’t know if she should read them. And she was reading them faster then I was.

I got online to find a resource for parents that would give me the scoop on children’s books. Not just a Cliff Notes description of the synopsis or a review, but one that would warn me that the Junie B. Jones books use the word “stupid” a lot. They’re really funny books, I just would’ve liked to have known that before I read them to my 4 year-old. Or that the content of many Young Adult books is pretty mature–sometimes shockingly so. Even if you have a precocious reader, you may not want them reading Twilight at age 10, just sayin’.

Even after a lot of clicking, I couldn’t find a website that had parent reviews of children’s books that had the info I wanted. I figured that other parents might be looking for the same info, and Bookalachi was born. Well, after many long nights, piles of toys/laundry/dishes ignored, trips to the library, and conversations with lots of parents. And yay! for frozen pizza.

Oh, and I do have a special category of books that aren’t a good pick right before bedtime, since I am pro-sleep.

Bookalachi–pronounced just like it’s spelled: book-ah-LA-chee

Melissa Caddell is the co-founder of Bookalachi.com. A writer who loves (quality) coffee, she has been known to hide in the closet to get work done. She lives in the Denver area with her daughters (ages 10, 7, and 3) and her husband, Casey. Click on over to melisscaddell.com

Getting Started On Your School Search

Tis’ the season folks – yes, it’s that time of year again, the holiday season, but it’s also the season to start making informed decisions about where your child will attend elementary school. You may be in the midst of completing applications for January. Some of you may be getting an early start on your research in preparation for next year. Then there are those of you who are scratching your heads and thinking, where do I even begin? Wherever you are in the school process, there is much to do and learn.

(Stock photo by nosheep)

scooptooFINAL(sm)There are resources to help with your research including your friends, neighbors, and online sites – some more comprehensive than others. Most of you will end up on a similar whirlwind tour to the one we took. Our educational blog, ScoopToo was created to help Denver parents get a grip on this process and all the school options available for your little ones. Whether you choose a private school for your child or a traditional public school that’s a bit more cutting edge, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into the search of finding the school that is the perfect fit for your child. When we researched schools a few years ago for our children, we wished there had been more resources available to assist us. We envisioned a one-stop-shop where parents could go and learn more about navigating the elementary school phase of their children’s education. And that’s what we did. We’re two moms that became passionate about this topic and wanted to help other parents make sense of it all.

Since this is the time for making a list (and checking it twice) that’s exactly what we did for you. If you are frantic or just unsure about where, when, and how to get started in your school search, please take a look below at this Top Ten List we created. We hope it will provide you with some sort of direction, along with helpful tips and advice while getting you on the right track to acquiring the information needed for your educational journey. To learn further about some of the tips provided below, you might find our Getting Started post on ScoopToo helpful.

Here’s a top ten list to get you started:

The Un-Soccer Kid

Declan was born two months premature and while he never qualified for services, he always lagged behind a bit – especially physically. Especially in his gross motor skills. Especially in not falling over at every possible occasion. Now, trust me, at 7 years old, he is a totally normal kid – and I am thinking his lack of coordination has more to do with clumsy genes than any lasting effects from his birth.

Except when it comes to soccer.

If you haven’t noticed, Denver is a soccer town. Huge leagues take over nearly every park downtown when the weather is ripe, and children of all ages pour on to the fields to chase that black and white ball around.

We tried it.

It just wasn’t for us.

Now, trust me (again), we had a great team and a great coach. No screaming parents, no demanding mentors expecting little Pelés. A really great group of boys who ran circles around the field while my son sat there bored as dirt. Or scared. Some of those OTHER teams have Pelés and Beckhams and and and… OK, I am not enough of a soccer mom to think of another huge soccer example, but you get my drift.

In fact, after one weekend where I wasn’t proud of *my* behavior – I yelled at him to move his ass (OK, not my exact words), I decided to take a more passive approach and follow his lead. If *he* wanted to do this thing all his friends were doing *he* needed to step up to the plate. Or goal. As it were.

He didn’t.

So, we decided no more soccer, at least for now.

Instead?

Gymnastics.

He is being physical, but others are not being physically domineering around him – which I was clearly part of the problem. Even as a toddler Declan was bothered when other kids whizzed around him in daycare, knocking him off balance. And while I still don’t think Declan will every be the next Mitch Gaylord (and who would want to be? Did you SEE American Anthem???) – at least I am not dragging him out of the house to go to gym class.

Big improvement.