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How to be a holiday mom

How to be a holiday mom


FEB 27, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

I knew I wanted to be a holiday mom before either Pinterest or my kids came into being. Long before people were creating virtual alternate realities, I was clipping ideas and recipes for fun things to do with the kids I hoped to have someday.

Clear back in high school, I was going to post-holiday sales to spend my babysitting proceeds buying napkins, cookie cutters and little decorations for my someday life. In fact, I packed that stuff around all through college and many years after.

When one of my best friends got married, my shower gift to her was a collection of such holiday items to pave the path for her future celebrations. We were both first-generation Americans, our parents having come over from The Old Country together, and I thought Old World parents didn’t really celebrate American holidays the way they should.

Imagine my surprise to realize, decades later, that my most cherished decorations each holiday would be the ones from my Old World mom. They include a hand-painted Russian bell my dad smuggled back with some good cheese and sausage.

I actually have the same Christmas tablecloth and napkins my mom used when I was growing up, and quite a few things from childhood. And I also have a collection of items she has sent in the mail for holiday use.

I don’t honestly know how I missed the fact that what I wanted was right under my nose. Now, I make sure she knows I appreciate her myriad thoughtful gestures as I’m creating my own traditions with my boys.

Now I know that even if they don’t seem to get it, they might someday.

And really, it’s not all about them. A lot of what I do is simply because I love to do it.

Other parents get down on the floor and make silly voices to delight their kids. Or they play on the slides at the park. Or they make a hot breakfast every morning. We all have our strengths.

A friend, hilarious writer Beth Woolsey, recently addressed Pinterest moms on her blog, “Five Kids is a Lot of Kids.” She summed them up perfectly when she said:

“You know the ones, right? They’re mamas who make heart-shaped bacon for Valentine’s Day? The ones who tape balloons outside their kids’ bedrooms while the kids sleep so they’ll awaken to discover a Balloon Avalanche when they emerge on their birthdays? The ones who hand-stamp thank you cards and actually send them with personal, hand-written notes, sometimes for no good reason at all except they’re grateful and say so with words? The ones who make every teeny, tiny holiday into a GIANT EVENT with banners and party favors? The ones who, technically speaking, make the rest of us look like lazy slugs who don’t have our crap together?

“Those moms?

“Yeah, well. Here’s the thing about those moms: Many of them are doing all that because … wait for it … it makes them happy.”

But don’t let things like Pinterest fool you. You can nail it as a holiday mom even if not a single thing turns out the way you imagined.

Allow me to explain how this works.

If you are even considering taking on the role of holiday mom, I encourage you to begin by setting the bar low — very low. Keep reading for instructions on how to accomplish that. 

Despite all those clippings and good intentions, let me tell you about how Valentine’s Day went down recently for this self-professed holiday mom. As of Valentine’s morning, nothing was decorated yet.

I planned to do it before the kids woke up to surprise them. But I overslept.

I awoke to the sound of them making breakfast. At their ages, 7 and 5, that included bread, peanut butter, raisins and baking chocolate.

But there had to be some heart-shaped pancakes, I thought. So I hurried downstairs and started making them.

Unfortunately, I burned them as I was looking for some heart-shaped cookie cutters. So I used icing to make hearts and filled them with sprinkles.

They ended up looking kind of weird and gross, though.

“Mom, is that supposed to be a heart?” asked the oldest. “Yeah, it doesn’t really look like a heart,” the youngest responded. And with that, they both commenced eating.

“Tastes good, though, Mom,” said the oldest. “Yeah, it does. Happy Valentimbes Day,” said the youngest, always including a stray ‘b’ sound.

While they were getting dressed, I made a whirlwind effort to get our heart towels up in the bathroom, along with some fun decorations I’ve collected over the years. I put some heart-shaped window clings around the house and decorated the table with a few valentine-themed books.


They came downstairs oohing and ahhing at how “amazing” and “fast” I had decorated. Then we snuggled under blankets to read some books. I thought it was pretty much perfect, despite the insipid or even non-existent plot lines in some of them. 

About that collection of decorations I mentioned? Nearly all things my mother has sent me over the years.

The boys spent the rest of the day making “valentimbes” for us and each other.

At bedtime, Sam, the elder of the two, seemed sad. He asked, “Mama, how come we didn’t get a valentine from you?”

Oops. And there have been other merry meltdowns on holidays past.

We once tried to make Christmas cookies in the shapes of snowmen, angels, reindeer and the like. But by the time they came out of the oven, they had morphed into ugly, misshaped blobs, producing a flood of tears.

“But they taste good at least,” they said, munching through hiccupy sniffles. So there’s that.

We’ve made it an annual tradition. We’ve learned to make a game out of guessing which blob is supposed to be what.

I like to think all these merry-making mishaps are helping set a foundation for being resilient people who know it’s OK to be a beginner, it’s OK to fail and, most importantly, you can’t let those things hamper seeing happiness in the little things that at the end of our lives might end up seeming like pretty big things.

I have memories of spending an hour before work trying to make shamrocks out of pretzels and chocolate.

“Mom, what is that supposed to be exactly?” Well, it was supposed to be a shamrock, see? And I showed them the picture.

“It doesn’t look like that,” they said, “but it tastes good.” After all, no matter how it’s shaped, chocolate is still chocolate.

Then they sipped their green shamrock smoothies through a fun straw. They went on to marvel at the Leprechaun tinkle in the toilet.

I love food coloring everywhere but in my kids’ food. And I even let some of that slip through over the holidays, because, you know, colors and sprinkles make everything more fun.

If you’re with me on setting a low bar and having fun with your kids, odds are you will not be featured on Pinterest. Nor will you grace any Awesome Mom blogs.

But you’ll enjoy the likes of National Grilled Cheese Day. Put a candle at the top of a pile of sandwiches, and voila.

Then there’s National S’mores Day. If you have a microwave or an oven, this requires no explanation.

A simple Google search will reveal all kinds of other simple, random and fun days to celebrate as well, with suggestions. You might try baking half a cake to celebrate half-birthdays, for example.

Why?  Well, why not?

Childhood is the shortest of all seasons. Cherish it. Better yet, delight in it.

And if your kids are all grown now? Well, who wouldn’t love getting a bag of chips in the mail on March 14, in celebration of National Potato Chip Day.

While you have your calendars out, National Columnists Day rolls around on April 18. Now you know. 

The best way I can think of to create an extraordinary life is to treat the ordinary as the gift that it is. 

Happy celebrating!

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They said there would be bon-bons,” which is available at local bookstores or online. To contact her, visit



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At this moment I am …

drinking  a chai tea with honey and almond milk. And water. A lot of water.

appreciating having two kids in school for a few hours. And amazed at the debris and aftermath of getting them there fed, dressed and on time.

watching the clock and obsessively refreshing my email. This is the most stress I’ve been under in … awhile.

laughing about it when I’m not crying or barfing from the stress.

eating today. Completed my first fast without complaining. Or dying. So that’s a plus.

willing to have faith. But have to keep reminding myself that’s the plan.

waiting to see if other people do what they are supposed to do. See plan above.  

prepping for maybe doing a 5K. The kind where you can walk or run. And still just maybe.  

opening to new possibilities.

sleeping poorly and not ever enough. I hear people talk about feeling rested. I have no idea what that feels like.  This may or may not be reflected in my current coping skills.

remembering less than I’d like. See above.

brainstorming new column ideas. Need to get a move on since they are due next week.

wearing ripped pajamas. Maybe time for a new pair.

considering how ironic it is I’m afraid to get hurt working out, since I’m so out of shape. As if not working out isn’t hurting me.

making potato leek soup in the pressure cooker today. After several dinner fails this month I have a plan b in mind.

feeling excited about my book signing for Newberg’s First Friday ARTWalk. Also a tiny bit nervous.

getting frustrated with trying to keep a seven-year-old still. Stupid broken arms.

loving how creative the kids are getting with artwork. The new thing around here is those perler beads … which are now everywhere. Note: stepping on them is not unlike stepping on Legos. *Clearly I need the ironing part is tricky for me. This burned smell was lovely. And resulted in a trip to IKEA to replace the boards. This turned out to be a bit of a cluster. Moving on …


In case it’s not immediately obvious (it wasn’t for me either and I’m the mom) the first one says “Steve” which means something to Minecraft aficionados and the second spells … Minecraft.

listening to the clicking sound of the boys playing Minecraft right now. Love hearing their conversation as they work together on … whatever it is they’re doing.  

acknowledging some seasons are tougher than others and this too shall pass.

flipping out when I forget the keep the faith plan. I am pretty committed to that though so it’s happening less and less and I keep thinking something is wrong since I’m not freaking out and I should  be doing something. And I am dealing with several things that have a huge impact on me, though I have no control of it. So that’s fun. And a perfect exercise in choosing faith over fear.

enjoying a new habit of gathering with school friends right after school to run around and play before going home and easing into the evening routine. Broken arms aside.


reading The Chronicles of Narnia with the boys. Now we’re at The Silver Chair. It is so cool having them ask for “just one more chapter because it’s getting so exciting!” They also earn extra chapters during the day instead of just bed time. Because we are book nerds.

thankful for another chance to celebrate being born next week.


Nathalie’s Notes: I’m surprised I’ve only done this type of post a few times because I like reading them on other blogs so much. Reading the few I did I’m glad for just that much because of the simple snap shot it offers.

Which is always the way with personal writing. People think more is better, mandatory even. But please believe me when I say some is better than none. One diary entry a week, or even a year still leaves a record of what mattered, especially if you let yourself believe today’s minutia makes for tomorrow’s marvels.

If you want to try it yourself, you and don’t have a blog or journal (I’d love to help you reconsider that!) post your answers in the comments or email me. It’s fun! These two links have a few different prompts than I used today. I wanted to make the answers quick and move to the next, which I encourage you to do as well. This isn’t homework, there are no wrong answers. It’s not all of the things you are doing currently, just whatever pops into your mind.

October 2012 and March 2013. And, now July 2014. (Note to self: I totally messed this up and saved over one of my old "currently" entries. Wish I'd actually backed these posts up another way because it is lost and there were a couple little written polariods I wish I could remember!)

Thank you to Ali Edwards and Elsie Blaha who inspired this list of reflections in my life right now.

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Recalibrating Normal


I met with my therapist yesterday (don’t worry, I won’t judge you for not having one).

She mentioned it’s been two months since my last appointment.

Maybe that explains the barfing from stress yesterday?

(Oh, no. That was probably actually the stress. Or, how I process it rather.)

So far this year has given me opportunity after overlapping opportunity to face my fear of conflict.

In retrospect, and you guys know I am all about owning my own part, and sometimes the parts that don’t belong to me—why yes, this does come up in therapy—I am reasonably certain that the only thing I did to “cause” these issues was be myself unapologetically.

I’m not being dramatic either, there were issues coming to a head with family, with staff at my son’s school, with some friends, within my role as an admin in a community forum—I even got featured mentioned by name as a resident fascist on the Lars Larson show. And a few more things I’m not able to mention at the moment for legal reasons.

Good times, y’all. Good. Times.

Oh, and my sweet Sam broke his proximal humerus. In kind of a spectacular fashion, as is his way. Monkey bar accident. On my watch. Except my back was turned. Because of course it was.

All that is to say … this being a grown up thing? I don’t know … I thought there would be more jumping on the bed or something.

As I write this I periodically look up to survey the wreckage of a week month year   extended period of unexpected events needing immediate attention and taking us out of our normal routine, I am starting to suspect that normal is utterly an illusion. That it’s not a thing.

That maybe life is about recalibrating normal as we learn to deal with the breaks we get, so to speak.

And that it’s really all just fine even when it feels like a totally different word that also start with ‘f.’

The best way to parent is your own way

Parenting on purpose


The best way to parent is your own way

JAN 30, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Breaking news for parents: The gig is more fun if you do it intentionally.

Please don’t confuse that with becoming a parent on purpose, rather than serendipitously. Sometimes blessings come as a surprise, welcome or otherwise.

But once you find yourself responsible for another human being, there you are. And suddenly, it seems there is so much to know.

A Google search on any parenting-related subject will quickly suggest there are so many wrong ways to go. There are experts on everything.

Then there are the experts who disagree with those experts. Then there are the commentators who point you to the One Right Way in all caps.

So I thought I’d take a moment to tell you there’s no such thing. Contrary to what some might say, or shout, there is no One Right Way.

I’d put that in bold, all caps, if my editor would let me. But there are style rules for newspapers and all caps is not an option, you’re welcome! 

I consider myself a bit of an expert on talking about feelings — yours, mine and the stranger’s on the sidewalk. Seriously.

I know, it’s not everyone’s favorite thing. But, alas, I’m a fan. And whether we like talking about them or not, we all have them. They ripple into all of our interactions, factor into all of our decision making and affect all of our connections with friends, relatives and colleagues — even strangers on the street. 

I mention this because the way we feel about ourselves as parents, and how we evaluate ourselves in that role, colors the way we interact with our children, which plays a significant role in shaping how they view the world, and themselves in relation to it. 

That seems like kind of a big deal. Isn’t there enough to consume our thoughts between the diapers and the diplomas without this kind of existential pondering?

Well, sure. But at the end of the day, how we feel about our contribution to family and community is the measure by which we seem to view their successes.

Of the following, I am certain: Success as a parent doesn’t mean having done all things right all the time. It doesn’t mean raising children who face no problems, challenges or failures. Success in this role, I think, is less about the outcome of our offspring and more about our willingness to love them through, and despite, their difficulties.

The metrics of being a good parent actually come down to some pretty simple things, which is not to say “easy.” It is hard to be loving in the face of opposition and defiance. It is hard to be loving when our kids mortify us. It is hard to be loving when we feel disappointed and angry. 

Being a good parent is not the absence of this entire range of feelings. It is continuing to love our children, and to show up for them, without becoming enablers. It is being relentless in helping them grow into their best selves, no matter how far away that looks today.

You know how I know all of that? Because I went straight to the source. I asked kids of all ages.

I even had friends ask their kids, ages 10 months to 30 years, “What makes someone a good mom? What is a good dad, exactly? What makes you feel loved?”

Their answers overwhelmingly came back like this: Love me anyway. Be there for me. Listen. Notice.

And you know what else? They notice what we do for them. Even when you don’t think that could possibly be true.

My 7-year-old recently told me he wanted to keep forever our copies of “Chronicles of Narnia” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “By the Shores of Silver Lake.” He wants to read them to his kids, like his dad and I do for him and his brother. 

Then, he said he likes it when I come up for “talking time” and snuggling after I’m done “doing all the things no one notices.” Except, I’m going to go ahead and count that as someone noticing.


Try this at home:

If you’re playing along at home, here’s the first column in this series: A manifesto of one’s own.

Here’s my mind map – essentially a brain dump of all the things that came to mind as I considered which moments I feel most connected to the kind of mom I want to be. Since I started it, I keep adding things as they come up. Turns out it’s a lot of ordinary stuff.

Mind Map Parenting on Purpose


**I made a little reminder poster for you guys. You should be able to download it and print it out on an 8.5 x 11 paper. In theory. Let me know if you try it? **

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