Saturday, December 20, 2014


I ADORE The Polar Express ever since my second grade teacher read it to my class I was head over heals. It's a beautiful story. When I was fresh out of college and living in New York I got to see the movie in 3D Imax, it was a huge deal back then. The snow, the train careening across the ice, it was all breath taking. I worked for Santa at Macy's 34th street that holiday season and they played The Polar Express soundtrack pretty often. I loved that music and it became forever tied to those wonderful weeks working for Santa, in my memory.

Needless to say, when my father-in-law acquired the Polar Express train and invited us over to play with it and watch the movie I was super excited. My kiddos grow up into between each visit to the rails.


It was more for Isaac's benefit back then, but Riley liked the light and movement.

Excited Boy with Train Isaac Train
Roo & Grandpa


By this year Riley was 18 months old and had the most adorable indignation about the train. She chased it and yelling and gesturing. I think this was the year Grandpa let Isaac drive the train too. So much growing up that year.

Both Kids


We took a year off from the trains for a trip to Ice & Snow! My amazing father-in-law invited us to an amazing adventure with snow, ice sculptures and ice slides! We had a blast. Isn't Roo's tiny (s)no(w)man adorable?

Kids in Snow Mike, Katie & Shrek


By 2012 it was my turn to grow up or at least that's how it felt. This was the year they brought the polar express to our house. I put out appetizers in my Christmas apron, Mike made the grown ups chicken bryan and the kids wore jammies. It felt so grown up to host my in-laws. This was the first year Riley remembered the previous train night. We enjoyed Polar Express in 3D, talk about warm fuzzy memories! Isaac was a much...more careful engineer too.

Kids in Jammies Riley Tunnel


This was the year Isaac got his own train! Here's the story of Isaac's train, it's a good one. It was the second year in a row Roo informed me which pajamas she was saving for train night because by now it was an important event in her life. The train was beautiful all set up around our tree. I love the idea of all the happy childhood memories a passed down toy has already been a part of before we start making our own. Can you tell I cry after all the Toy Story movies?

Both Kids
Isaac's Train Engineer Isaac
Roo & Grandpa


This year we were back at Grandpa's for train night. He remarked how Isaac has matured and is a lot more trustworthy on the train controls. I think Riley will be ready to try her hand by next year. On the flip side Isaac was far to cool to observe the traditional Hot Chocolate song dance break. What can you do? They just keep growing.

Riley Tunnel Engineer Isaac
Big Kid Both Kids

Friday, December 19, 2014

This Year's Christmas Cards

At some point last year I was watching a Psych Christmas episode in which Shawn is in the office and the Grinch walks past the widow behind him. Pardon me while I Google that episode name for you..."Polarizing Express" from season five (you're welcome). I decided holiday photo bombs was the way to go for our next Christmas card. Mike agreed and soon we were seeking out cheesy family photos to imitate in our post card style pictures. Oh and did I mention Mike talked me into to doing FOUR of them? In the end it was really fun that everybody had something different, but next year we'll go back to a single card for sure.

Here they are! Top to bottom: Bumble (abominable snowman from Rudolph) putting the star on a tree, Heat Miser (Year Without a Santa Claus) riding on a geyser, The Grinch stealing Christmas and Santa peeing into the ocean.

Dashing Through the Snow YeeHaw
Green & Bright Christmas Island

Which one is your favorite?

All family photos by Mad Clix Photography

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Hanukkah!

Place Setting

Things we learned:

  1. The first day of Hanukkah and the first night of Hanukkah are not the same thing. This year the first night was 12/16, but we celebrated the first day 12/17.
  2. Proper dreidel spinning technique
  3. That Mommy likes latkes, but Riley is not a fan
  4. That there are several different verses in the dreidel song
  5. One of the acceptable spellings of Hanukkah
  6. The candle used to light the other candles is called the shamash
  7. You light the candle at night then blow it out and relight it the next night
  8. Hanukkah being way less commercialized than Christmas is part of what makes it fun!
  9. The first female rabbi was ordained in East Berlin in 1935, but female rabbis have only been ordained since 1972 in the US

Chag Urim Sameach!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What Exactly is Your Persuasion on the Big Man?

The Official One

I was absolutely correct about last year being my last chance for a picture of both kids with Santa. I was prepared so I didn't even flinch when Isaac opted out this year. I know the magic isn't completely gone for him, but it's not cool to take Santa photos when you're a twelve year old boy. He still fretted about being on the nice list when his yearly video message from Santa arrived. He was still up for almost all our Christmas traditions. The boy lives for Norad tracks Santa.

Last year Isaac started gently questioning Santa. I told him he was free to believe whatever he chooses, but I reminded him it sure is a lot more fun when you believe. I also told him that no matter what he believes he has no right to take it away from anyone else. That was all I needed to say, he never questioned me again. I've always told my kids that anyone who dresses as Santa is doing it to not to trick anyone, but to make children happy. Santa's busy and a lot of kind people give him a hand during the holidays.

The silver lining is that Santa pictures are now a girls' tradition. There'a nothing like quality time with my little girl. She wrote her own list this year. Santa read all four items with a huge grin on his face. She was a bit star struck, but they had a lovely visit. It's nice now that she can remember a few Christmases. I look forward to all the Christmas magic ahead of her.

Snow and Presents

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Memories

It's funny how the best memories come at unexpected times. When I was living in Los Angeles, it eventually happened that I couldn't go home for Christmas. There were two consecutive years that ended up being my absolute BEST Christmas memories (pre-family of my own, of course). I remember work gift exchanges, coming home to piles of packages on the doorstep, bribing my room mate to help me put up my first real tree, driving around looking for a Christmas Eve service (and scoring big time), friends that were like family and driving to work through beautiful neighborhoods with amazing lights. I found so much magic in those years. I never felt sad or lonely like you'd expect to feel. I was grateful for my job and holiday pay. I loved the Christmas Eve shift because it was quiet and co-workers were laid back. Every gift I received from friends or in packages from family was extremely appreciated. Christmas was everywhere even in a big anonymous city.

I even remember a neighbor of mine who I would frequently see and exchange pleasantries with in the mornings, but never actually introduced myself to. He left a Christmas card for me under my wind shield wiper. If that isn't the Christmas spirit, I don't know what is. What a great way to learn someone's name.

The radio switching to Christmas music made my commutes more pleasant, the lights filled me with childish wonder. I recall it being the best time of year to get lost because of the Christmas lights. I had my first Christmas tree and my one and only tree decorating party. Those memories are treasures. I still own the ornaments people brought to the party and I can still tell you where each one came from. I was so blessed for those Christmases where I didn't take a single bite of food or kindness from someone for granted.

I think those Christmases were on my mind because we were hit so hard by all the illnesses this year that I lost the reigns. I just couldn't do all of the things I normally do for my family and friends at this time of year. I tried, but ended up feeling sad and discouraged. That's when I realized maybe this year was another one of those tricky blessings. It looked like a curse, but I was in a position to scale back and in doing less, spend my time in a calmer state. My less-wound-up state allowed for feeling completely overwhelmed with gratitude for things as simple as the day to day health of my family. So while two months of compromised health for one or more members of the family wasn't pleasant it was a perspective adjustment.

Happy Holidays, do less (trust me, it'll be better).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Riley's school kicked off December with "Mitzot Week" aka Good Deed Week! I love this theme and Miss Roo ran with it, big time. She did genuinely try to go out of her way every day to be extra kind and helpful. In previous years her brother's school had the same theme and he'd come home hard pressed to tell me his good deed for the day so I was pleasantly surprised by Miss Roo's commitment.

School Mitzvohs

I took Riley to a "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" story time event at the book store after school the first day of mitzvoh week. It couldn't have come at a better time. After the story they explained how December 1st was the beginning of the "Grow Your Heart" program. Kids do three good deeds and then mail in their card and the publisher donates a new book to a kid in need. The good deeds are things kids can easily do like play with someone at school who is by themselves, help mom make dinner, say something kind, etc. Amazing right? It didn't take Miss Roo long at all and she was so proud! Happy reading underprivileged girl in our community. Good Work Random House!

She Did It Cuteness

Every year I ask the kids to clean out their toys before Christmas. Up until now I have sorted Riley's by myself. I talked to my kids, like I always do, about giving the toys that haven't been played with to other kids who will be happy to have them. Color me surprised when Riley then volunteered to donate toys to a younger friend and younger class at her school. She's so sweet. She helped me collect all the pieces, wipe everything down and she even volunteered to take batteries out of other toys so we could replace the ones in the toys we were donating.

Airport Zoo

It is so important to remind kids to be grateful, generous and kind in our instant gratification world. It's always a struggle and even I forget that there's no kindness to small. It does my heart good to think of all the kids growing their heart three sizes by offering kindness to others in their own small way. I wish everyone a month full of random acts of kindness given and received.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nice List


The sticker chart prevailed! Well, not on its own mind you. I kept thinking "it takes twenty one days to break a habit." For the first two weeks we were fit free about every other day. I think what finally penetrated was when I told her to think about Cinderella, The Stepsisters were selfish and mean and had a fit tearing her dress to shreds! No happy ending for them. Cinderella was kind and generous. That's why she deserved the magic that took her to the ball. Honestly, that was the one I saw register. I guess I shouldn't be to surprised, it would have had an impact on five-year-old me.

Sticker charts, Cinderella and identifying a serious growth spurt were what she needed. With Disney princesses cheering her on and a jam packed lunch box we soon had a perfect week! The next one was even better she earned smiley faces every day. She even had a day with the elusive gold star! Her teacher and I were so proud! We still check her chart every day before we leave school, but it's been a long time since we had a fit. I can honestly say I can't remember the last one. Thank Goodness!

She was beaming when her video message from Santa revealed her nice list status. She's a superstar! Don't get me wrong every now and then we have a bedtime fit or some mean words, but for the most part my Riley is back. Take heed parents, light at the end of the tunnel. I've heard the odd years are rougher for kids. The beginning of 3 and 5 certainly were for Miss Roo. Gold stars for both of us!