Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Tale for Moms

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas…Mom Style

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the abode
Only one creature was stirring & she was cleaning the commode.
The children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
while visions of X-Box & Barbie flipped through their heads.
Yes, and dad was snoring in front of the TV,
with a half constructed bicycle propped on his knee.
So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
which made her sigh, “Now what is the matter?”
With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.
He was covered with ashes & soot, which fell with a shrug,
“Oh great,” muttered the mom, “Now I have to clean the rug.”
“Ho Ho Ho!” cried Santa, I’m glad you’re awake.”
“Your gift was especially difficult to make.”
“Thanks, Santa, but all I want is time alone.”
“Exactly!” he chuckled, “So, I’ve made you a clone.”
“A clone?” she muttered, “What good is that?”
“Run along, Santa, I’ve no time for chit chat.”
Then out walked the clone – The mother’s twin,
Same hair, same eyes, same double chin.
“She’ll cook, she’ll dust, and she’ll mop every mess.
You’ll relax, take it easy, watch TV and rest.
“Fantastic!” the mom cheered. “My dream has come true!”
“I’ll shop, I’ll read, I’ll sleep a night through!
“From the room above, the youngest did fret.
“Mommy?! Come quickly, I’m scared and I’m wet.
“The clone replied, “I’m coming, sweetheart.”
“Hey,” the mom smiled, “She sure knows her part.
“The clone changed the child and hummed her a tune,
as she bundled the small one in a blanket cocoon.
“You’re the best mommy ever. I really love you.
“The clone smiled and sighed, “And I love you too.
“The mom frowned and said, “Sorry, Santa, no deal.
That’s my child’s LOVE she is going to steal.
“Smiling wisely, Santa said: “To me it is clear,
Only one loving mother is needed here.
“The mom kissed her child and tucked her in bed.
“Thank You, Santa, for clearing my head.
Sometimes I forget, it won’t be very long,
before they’ll be too old for my cradle and song.
“The clock on the mantle began to chime.
Santa whispered to the clone, “It works every time.
“With the clone by his side, Santa said: “Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, dear Mom, you’ll be all right.”
As a mom it’s easy to get discouraged and there are days that you want to sit down and throw a temper tantrum. On the days when you wished for a clone, take some time for yourself and remember the joys of being a mom. Please have a happy holiday with friends and family. I wish for you all of the joy and peace of the season. Merry Christmas Moms from mom-stuff.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Give Meaningful Gifts of Self this Christmas

Studio 5 contributor and licensed therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW shares meaningful gifts of self to give your spouse this Christmas.

The most meaningful Christmas gifts don’t require much money, but do require thought, time, and awareness. Though it’s fun to shop and wrap gifts, we ultimately all wish for the same emotional gifts from our spouse — things that can’t be purchased – gifts of self. We all long for reassurance that we are loved and cherished, for comfort when we are sad or hurt or scared, and for validation that our experience matters to the person we love the most. Even if your husband doesn’t have the words to express these wishes, he longs for the same emotional gifts too. Here are some ideas to get you started thinking less about gifts you can buy and more about gifts you can offer from your heart.
1. Gift of Emotions
Tell your emotional truth
Too often, in an effort not to hurt your spouse’s feelings, you may have stopped expressing the full range of emotions – your hurts, your fears, your anger and your joys, and dreams. “I don’t want to be a nag” or “I ‘m supposed to be nice and happy all of the time” are common phrases I hear in my therapy office as reasons women stop expressing themselves. It’s helpful to consider that intimacy means “into-me-see” or see into me. True intimacy requires a deep level of emotional honesty and the tender expression of a full range of emotions, not just the good, happy, nice ones. Your thoughts, your feelings, and your expression of them are what make you uniquely you.
Ask for what you really want
Sending clear signals about what you need emotionally from your spouse can be difficult. It requires an internal awareness and a willingness to ask deeper questions that go below the surface. Behind every complaint and criticism you have for your spouse is an emotional plea for closeness. Practice going below the complaint and expressing the emotional need directly. Instead of saying, “You always work so much! Are you going to be working until 8PM forever? I’m sick of eating dinner alone.” try saying, “I want to spend more time with you. I’m afraid that I’m not important to you. Can we plan a date night for this weekend?” Trust me. Being direct with your emotional needs is a gift to him.
More gifts of emotion:
Write a handwritten love letter describing in detail what you love your spouse and what they mean to you.
Write an apology of letter or forgiveness for past hurts.
Share your “Bucket List” with your spouse.
2. Gift of Attention
Push the pause button
When is the last time you really listened to your spouse? Do often find that you’re so busy with children, household chores, or other commitments that you rarely look your spouse in the eye and talk? If your conversations with your hubby are while you’re multitasking – unloading the dishwasher or texting or watching TV, you may want to practice “pushing the pause button”. If you’re focused on other things, you’ll miss the meaning behind what your hubby is trying to tell you. Too often couples I see in my practice are so distracted by other activities or so busy reacting from their own intense emotions that they completely bypass the emotional meaning of their spouse’s expression.
Here’s an example of how this might play out in a therapy session. In an effort to reach out to his wife John says, “I really miss you. You’ve been so preoccupied since our son was born. Let’s spend some alone time together.”
Megan responds defensively, “I’m trying to be a good mother. You know this is all new for me. I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to be there for you – can’t you see that? Megan, flooded by her own emotions missed John’s main message of, “I miss you. I need you” and she heard some version of “You’re not good enough.”
If Megan had “paused” her emotions response and slowed down her reaction enough to hear his emotional message she might have said something like, “Oh, John, you really miss me and want to spend time together. Thank you for reassuring me of that.” Then once John is heard, Megan can share with John how she is feeling about the transition to motherhood. Putting your emotions temporarily on hold and really hearing your spouse is truly a gift.
Learn to speak his love language
Ask your hubby how he feels most loved and learn to be more proficient in his “language”. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, identified distinct categories of how people experience love: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Couples often give love in their own language instead of in their partner’s language. For example, if your husband’s primary love language is acts of service then make a special home cooked meal, or surprise him by doing all of his household chores. If his language is physical touch, actively approach him for a hug and kiss, hold his hand, sit by him, initiate physical intimacy more often. Offering love in his language will help him feel deeply loved by you.
More gifts of attention:
Ask him about the times he feels most loved and cherished. Take notes and do something from his list every day for a week.
Plan a candlelight dinner, turn off all electronics, and talk.
Plan a playful night of physical intimacy with your spouse.
3. Gift of Memories
Keep track of the good stuff
Do you keep a mental note of your spouse’s failings, or of past hurts or offenses? This year try write your hubby a Christmas letter recounting all of the good times, family milestones, and positive relationship moments. I knew a couple who did this for a few decades now enjoy a beautiful book containing years of personal expressions celebrating their memories of each year, significant family events, and the evolution of their love. To reflect on tender feelings and focus on the positive memories created through the years will validated that your husband is indeed cherished and loved.
Revisit the romance
Often I hear couples complain that they feel more like roommates than lovers.
After the initial infatuation of new relationships has faded, reclaiming and rekindling those romantic feelings takes…effort.
When is the last time you talked with your spouse about early romantic feelings that brought you together, browsed through your wedding photo book, or looked through photos of your favorite vacations? You don’t have to take a trip to the location of your honeymoon or first date to rekindle romance, just take a trip with your hubby down memory lane.
More gifts of memories:
Create a photo book of your favorite memories.
Create a relationship soundtrack CD with a mix of songs that have special meaning to you.
Plan a date to revisit a visiting a romantic location that has special meaning to you as a couple.

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, licensed therapist and owner & director of Wasatch Family Therapy specializes in women’s emotional health and couples counseling. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.comfor individual, couple, family, & group counseling and education designed to strengthen you and your family. For additional self-improvement & relationship resources connect with me atwww.juliehanks.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

Entertaining with Ease this Christmas

This holiday season as you have guests drop by make your entertaining easy and fun. Studio 5 Contributor Terri Cook shares simple rules and recipes that will guarantee the guests have a good time…and you do to!

Prepare Ahead

Many delicious and impressive items can easily be prepared ahead of your event, hours or often even days. These bacon wrapped dates can easily be rolled and secured with toothpicks a day or two in advance if you have room in your refrigerator for storage. They can even all be placed in a zipper bag once you have them prepared. About an hour before your event (and before you get dressed in your wicked, knock-out, killer party clothes) bake them and set aside to cool. Recipe below.
Get your guests involved.
Most people arrive at an event and are looking for an opportunity to break the ice or get involved in the action. A good host will be able to identify those early arrivals or individuals that are seeking conversation and pull them into the kitchen and give them a simple but important assignment. Even as easy as “Will you please carry this out to the table for me?” offers that person an opportunity to help out as well as break into the party…They will be very popular when they emerge from the kitchen with delicious treats! This involvement can go as far as asking them to keep an eye on an item in the oven and let you know when the edges get golden brown or even get it out of the oven at a certain point. An example of this could be these VERY easy yet impressive sweet potato fries. (You will want to hide the package in your outdoor trashcan because they are delish and you can just smile and say “Thank you” when they are the hit of the party.)
Sweet Potato Fries
Shhhhh! Buy this bag in the freezer section of your grocery store and bake according to directions on a cookie sheet then sprinkle with sea salt.
A fun way to serve them is in cones made of fun scrapbooking paper or parchment paper tied with a ribbon and secured with hot glue or stapled into an easy hand-held carrier that requires nothing but a napkin.

Have some things on hand.

There are certain things I use in my everyday cooking that have become the “go-to” item for quick help when guest suddenly stop by. One of those items is Good Seasons Italian dressing. This dressing stays good in your refrigerator for a long time so make some up and have it on hand for everything from a great marinade for chicken to traditional dressing for a salad to a dip for a crusty bread with grated parmesan cheese, OR, when entertaining, try these great little items:
(I do have a twist for this. Make it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil rather than the traditional recipe on the box. )

Let People Serve Themselves

Your guests generally don’t expect you to wait on them. They came to visit you, right? I love to have a bag of ice in my outdoor freezer (this time of year that means my deck!). It’s easy to grab a variety of drinks, fill an ice bucket with drinks and ice and set it out for your guests to help themselves. They will feel more at home this way and they can get refills as desired. When beverages are handled this way, cups or glasses are optional but if you are having them I recommend an ice bucket full of ice separate from the drink bucket.
A little secret I’ve learned about arranging drinks in a bucket is to use some crumpled cellophane in the bottom, place the drinks where you want them then add the ice all around the drinks.
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Pitted Dates
Center Cut Bacon
Cut uncooked bacon into strips just long enough to wrap around the center of each date.
Wrap the bacon around the date and hold in place with a toothpick.
Bake at 450 degrees on the center rack of oven turning one time after 5 minutes.
Watch closely so they don’t burn.
Should be nice crispy bacon after 7-10 minutes.
Caprice Appetizer
Short skewers
Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh Grape Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese in Water
Italian Seasons Salad Dressing (mixed according to directions but substituting balsamic vinegar and olive oil for the vinegar and oil portions.)
Snip basil into strips
Load skewer with alternating tomato basil and cheese until desired amount is achieved then drizzle with balsamic-based Italian Seasons Dressing.
Serve Chilled