Jafta spent his 14th birthday on a plane en route to Tokyo and it was the shortest birthday of his life . . . because of the time change and travel time, it was only his birthday for about 6 hours. Hopefully the fun we had in Tokyo made up for it, but his actual birthday was kind of a dud. So I promised him we would do something fun when we got back.
I think there is no one harder to throw a party for than teenage boys. They are difficult to impress and finicky and even amongst a friend group, they all like to do different things. Jafta wanted to do a skate party tour but I knew that some of his friends would not enjoy that as much, so I planned a day of fun games and competitions for him, ending at the skate park so that the kids who don’t skate could end early.
Jafta’s great birthday adventure started at Arrowtag OC. They had a blast shooting arrows and teaming up against each other. A great teen party option though I might have to come back with friends …
I decided to rent a limo to shuttle the boys around. I couldn’t fit them all in my car and it was a reasonable option that made it feel really special for the boys. I ended up renting the limo through Angel Limousines, based on their stellar yelp reviews. I got to know the owner a bit as we were chatting about the party and it definitely felt like one of those unique connections. John also has a 14-year-old boy, but he is terminally ill. John has dedicated his business to other kids with chronic illnesses and volunteers driving for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Our second stop was at PlayLIVE Nation, which is a gaming center full of both video and board game options, from Fortnite to Magic to Smash Brothers. The boys decided to play Fortnite. And while it’s a game many of them play at home, they had a blast playing Fortnite all in the same room. So much smack-talk. And I especially appreciate the enthusiasm of the staff took in making “happy birthday” as embarrassing as possible. We did cupcakes and pizza in their party room before heading to the last stop.
I went to a Christmas Eve service with my kids and ex-husband today. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Christmas Eve service, for a variety of reasons, least of which is the fact that Mark and I try to spend that day together for the kids and there is nothing more awkward than going to church where that act of walking in the door together springs into action a number of people excited to pastor us back into marriage, rather than accepting us as we are – a divorced couple not needing to be saved by any meaning of that word. I’ve also ambivalent about church in general for some time. I think, like many of us, I’ve been hurt by both the people of the church and the behavior of The Church of late. I’ve been angry about how the church had responded equality, to sexual abuse, to women’s issues, to politics. I’ve felt out of place and disenfranchised. And yes, I know. #notallchristians. But it’s sometimes hard to identify with the ways that our faith can be used to hurt others.
Tonight I drove by a mega-church with giant expensive road signs and greeters in Santa hats trying to convince people to turn in. I was part of a church like that for many years. I played parts in the Christmas productions. I sang the solos. I passed out the rave cards to neighbors. I never imagined I would one day be a person without a church, who would drive by the enthusiastic greeters and wince.
We went to a progressive church tonight where we know the pastor but the liturgical style is not familiar to me. I miss the charismatic worship of my old church history but I don’t miss the judgment. During “pass the peace” I didn’t know what to do, and the lady in front of me didn’t either and said so. And then she cried through all of the songs. I don’t know her story except that I could see there was some church baggage. I wondered how many of us felt that today.I don’t have a bow to wrap this story with. This season is hard for a lot of us. I still wonder and marvel at the person of Jesus. I sang Silent Night with my family and in a room full of people and felt a sense of community and corporate peace that I haven’t in while. I miss church and I don’t. I’m okay with it and I’m not.
The kids and I had a great holiday season full of many of our favorite traditions. It’s funny how much my kids have come to love traditions – I think they appreciate that while our family has changed, our holiday rhythms have not.
We started by going to Winter Fest OC – a holiday extravaganza at the fairgrounds of Orange County. This was our third year going and we always have so much fun. There is sledding, fair rides, holiday lights and food . . . but my kids love the tents of snow play most of all.
We went with friends and these SoCal kids spent a lot of time throwing snowballs at each other. We also let them split off from us and ride all of the gut-punch roller coasters, which I was happy to skip. We had some hot chocolate and some fair food, and went home tired but happy.
We also hosted our annual Buddy the Elf Spaghetti Bar. This has become another favorite. I make tons of spaghetii and then let the kids and their friends top it with candy and syrup just like Buddy does in the movie. (I also make marinara and meatballs for the less brave adults.)
I also went to my (former) inlaws to open gifts with them. I’m thankful for inlaws who have remained family despite our divorce.
Our neighbor hosted a pretty epic white elephant exchange, to which I brought my enneagram 3 A-game, and I think India went home the winner.
We had our Christmas Eve brunch with the same friends we’ve had brunch with for 18 years running. Such a treasured tradition.
And Christmas morning, we did our usual routine of opening stockings followed by a slow breakfast, and then opening presents.
To quote @markhowerton: “Yes, matching pj’s. We’re divorced, not barbarians.” 😂
And then we spend the afternoon cleaning up and packing for our trip to Tokyo the day after Christmas. I can’t wait to share those photos with you!
There are so many great options for holiday photo cards, but I’m a big fan of Minted because their cards are sourced from a global community of independent graphic designers. Their cardstock is thick and includes a recycled option, and their designs are fresh and modern. But a huge draw for me is that they will print your recipient’s address on the envelope at no additional charge. You can upload a file with your addresses and they save it to your account so year after year, you no longer have to address your cards by hand.
We used Minted for our cards last year and I’ve used them again this here. Here is the card we went with:
I talk a bit about my love for holiday cards, and show the rose-gold foil-press in it’s full glory, in this video:
MIinted has my lasting devotion for the fact that they include FREE address printing right on the envelope. Game changer. I’ve got my cards addressed and ready to go the first week of December, which means one more holiday stressor checked off the list.
A huge thanks to Erin from Lovisa Photo for capturing our holiday card photo! And just remember . . . behind every beautiful family photo on a holiday card is a mom who went full “no more wire hangers” meltdown mode while getting her kids dressed about an hour prior to that shot.
Navigating what medications to administer at home can be stressful. Most parents want to have their medicine cabinet stocked appropriately, but knowing the right products is not always as easy. I talked with Dr. Rei Tosu, a pediatrician from CHOC Children’s, to hear an expert opinion on what parents should have on hand in their family medicine cabinet.
My first question was about thermometers, as the technology and variety of thermometers seems to have changed so much in the past decade. I was curious if some of these new-fangled external ones actually work. Dr. Tosu believes the most reliable is the traditional old-school thermometer that can be used in the mouth, under the arm, or in the bottom, as they give the most accurate numeric read. These are especially recommended for babies that are younger than three months old when getting an accurate read is really important. “Ear thermometers are pretty good and can be a substitute to have for older kids” she says. “The other external types, like those that go on the forehead, are a little more variable. But that being said, if you have a thermometer at home that you consistently use, you can get an idea as to whether or not the temperature is elevated. As kids get older, the actual temperature becomes less important than just knowing if they have a fever or not.
I also asked about what pain relievers and fever reducers she recommends. How do we know whether to reach for Tylenol or Advil or Aspirin? Dr. Tosu says that Aspirin is never recommended in kids. She says that Tylenol (Acetaminophen) and Advil/Motrin (Ibuprofen) are both fine, but a little bit different. “Tylenol is a little bit easier on the stomach, so if your child has any stomach issues at all with an illness, I would stick with the Tylenol versus the Motrin,” she says. “If they’re sick and they’re not eating at all, and their appetite is really low, so they don’t have much in their stomach or they have a stomach virus with a fever, I would not do Ibuprofen. I’d stick with Acetaminophen. But on the other hand if it is more of an injury, joint pain, or a muscular pain things, Ibuprofen has an anti-inflammatory effect, so it takes care of the pain while it also reduces the inflammation. In this case, Ibuprofen is a much better choice than the Acetaminophen.”
Cold remedies can be really confusing for parents, because there are so many combinations, with varying ingredients. I asked Dr. Tosu what we want to reach for when our child has a common cold, and what we want to avoid. She cautioned against buying multiple medications with multiple ingredients, some of which may overlap because you could inadvertently overdose your child. “You really want to think about the symptoms they have and target it,” she said. “There are some medications that are single ingredient only, like Benadryl or Diphenhydramine. If it’s mainly a runny nose or post-nasal drip, Benadryl is a single ingredient so it just takes care of that. There are cough medicines that are single ingredient also, that’s just as a cough suppressant without any decongestants or fever reducers. Typically, the best bet is to get single ingredient cold medicines so you’re targeting the specific symptoms and you won’t end up overdosing on any single ingredients.” She also urges parents to look at all of the active ingredients in any medication to avoid doubling up. I also asked about knowing when to use a cough suppressant, and she explained that you don’t want to suppress a cough all the time. “Sometimes it’s part of an illness. If the cough is persistent, and you get no relief during the day or you can’t get to sleep at night because you’re coughing so much, those are the times you want to consider using a cough suppressant.”
Moving along to wound care, I asked Dr. Tosu her advice on what to use to clean scrapes and cuts.sheadvised that the first step is to physically clean if it’s dirty. “It could be water, it could be saline,” she said. “If you’re at the park and you don’t have access to any medications, even just water from your water bottle could work. If you have your hands on an antiseptic wash, even better.” In terms of the best ointment for wound care, Dr. Tosu recommends an antibiotic ointment for preventing an infection. “It’s probably not infected from the injury but because there’s a break in the skin, you’re more prone to getting an infection. Typically, even if you have a cut, the child is still going to be playing outside and going to school. In that case, I would put a band-aid on a wound just to avoid getting another injury and getting that already open wound dirty again. But at night, at home when they’re resting and not outside, it’s fine to keep it open.”
In regards to what to administer when our kids have diarrhea, Dr. Tosu cautions against overuse of anti-diarrheal medicines. While they stop the body from having diarrhea, you are also stopping the body from trying to get a virus out. “By trying to stop it, you’re counteracting what the body is doing. The body’s trying to go, the medicine’s trying to stop it. They’re working opposite from one each other. You don’t have to go to the bathroom as often and you won’t have as much diarrhea, but you’ll end up with more cramps.” She says to use sparingly, for example when you are in a situation where you can’t be running to the bathroom every 20 minutes. “But typically for kids, if they have significant diarrhea, they’re at home, and they have access to the bathroom, for the most part I would avoid anti-diarrhea medicines.”She does suggest probiotics as a way to help with the discomfort and healing of diarrhea.
I was curious to get her thoughts on brand names, because there are generics of just about every medication on the market. Dr. Tosu believes it does not matter… If the active ingredient is the same and the amount of active ingredient is the same, it will have the same effect.
In regards to skin issues . . . when a child has an itchy rash or itchy skin, Dr. Tosu addressed when to reach for a Benadryl cream versus a hydrocortisone cream. Dr. Tosu explained that Benadryl is an anti-histamine, which can take down the itching, whereas hydrocortisone is a steroid cream, which acts as an anti-inflammatory. They both work to decrease the itching and decrease the inflammation, but hydrocortisone would be more appropriate for eczema or other rash conditions versus Benadryl which would be better for bug bites or other irritations that are not chronic.
I inquired about the myriad of homeopathic medicines and treatments out there, and Dr. Tosu is of the opinion that some are great and some are not. “The thing with homeopathic alternative medicine is that a lot of them have not gone through studies, so it’s hard for us to say how it works and why we recommend it,” she says. “Now having said that, there are very safe things that people have used for generations that probably have some benefit and definitely don’t have adverse effects. So that is fine to use in place of or in addition to medicines. For example: using honey to suppress a cough.” In regards to essential oils, Dr. Tosu does not recommend any in particular and cautions that kids metabolize things differently. “You can’t just half a dose and give it to a child. And with essential oils, it’s relatively new, with not a lot of studies to support the use or look at the side effects, so I would be very careful.”
Her last tip for the medicine cabinet? Old school vaseline. “Petroleum based ointments, are good to have around. They are non-medicated obviously, but great for really dry skin and lips, cuts, and skin irritations.”