Care Packages for your College Kid

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You’ve just brought your college student to school either for the first time or as a return student.  The tears have finally dried on Mom’s face, as she leaves her baby behind; and the tears are nearly dried on Dad’s face, as the sting of the tuition bill becomes a fading memory. 

Especially if your child is away for the first time, they’re going to want to know that they’re loved, thought about and missed. Plus, they’re going to be hungry and homesick at least part of the time.  Care packages are a great way to remedy both of those things!

When our oldest daughter, Brighid, went to college for the first time, we tried to send monthly packages.  As soon as we dropped her off, we went home and put together a package of things we thought she’d miss from home.  We’re just outside of Philadelphia, so Brighid’s package included things like Tastykakes, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, some Termini’s bakery Italian cookies, and a fuzzy warm Flyers sweatshirt. You can send your child a bedtime kiss – a care package containing a pair of comfy pajamas, the latest on the best seller list, and a box of hot chocolate.  If your child loves your homemade cookies (my kids don’t have a mom that bakes or cooks, so my kids will never miss home cooked stuff!), bake a batch and send them. 

Holidays were great opportunities for care packages.  For each holiday my daughter was away from home, we filled a box with holiday themed paper plates, napkins, cups, and a few decorations for her room.  We’d throw in holiday boxed cake mixes and frosting, holiday themed candies or snacks, and a holiday coffee mug or candy dish.  It not only helped her get a taste of home, but it allowed her to invite friends over to celebrate with her.  Don’t forget to include a gift card for Domino’s to complete the party!

Seasonal care packages were always welcome. When the summer breezes finally give way to a fall chill, pack a box with some Ginger Snap cookies and a selection of tea bags.  Winter can be a great time to send your college student some new gloves, a hat, and a scarf – maybe in school colors.  When the spring thaw comes, send a bouquet of beautiful spring flowers.

Care packages are a great place to put gift cards your college kid might need.  WalMart gift cards allow them to pick up toiletries, some groceries, or cleaning supplies (stop laughing).  Also appreciated are gift cards for special treats – Starbucks, Applebee’s (or other chain restaurants), or the movie theater.  Oh, and don’t forget those cram for exam care packages – fill those with coffee, chocolate, snacks, and maybe some energy drinks!

We found that care packages eased the pain of separation anxiety – for both us and our college kid.  It makes Mom and Dad feel like they’re still needed, and it makes your college kid feel like they are still part of the family (even though their younger sisters have redecorated their room in Sponge Bob posters and claimed it as their own).  It’s like getting a big hug from home.  And who doesn’t  need a big hug now and then?

Can I take my baby to Walt Disney World for Christmas?

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Its the holiday season and you are thinking of racing off to Walt Disney World to get the second most wonderful picture of a baby with Satna Claus ever.

Of course the first is this one –

Best Santa Claus baby picture every

In my husband’s humble opinion that is.

But now back to the topic – can you take a baby to Walt Disney World at Christmas?

It’s crowded.

Yep, it’s crowded.  Christmas is the busiest time of year at Walt Disney World.  But guess what?  It’s crowded everywhere at Christmas time!  Have you been to the grocery store?  The mall?  Target?  Packed – all of them.  Unless you have a medically fragile child who should not be exposed to more than a few people, don’t let the crowds stop you!

It’s cold.  No, it’s hot.  No, it’s snowing!

Believe it or not, weather can be a concern in Orlando during the holidays.  December is a very unpredictable month.  One day, you may have temperatures soar into the 80s.  The next day, you may be lucky to get out of the 60s.  And there are even some days in Orlando in December where reaching 50 was a struggle!  Average temperatures are in the low 70s, but if you prepare for cool mornings and cold nights, the baby should be fine.  I always plan for a nice fall day when I visit Orlando in December – wear layers, so when the midday sun warms you up, you can wrap your sweater or sweatshirt around your waist.  For a baby, bring a lighter weight blanket and a heavier one.

It’s almost impossible to get dining reservations!

Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance, and many people planning to be at Walt Disney World for the holidays are on the phone or online as soon as that window opens.  But a baby doesn’t care where they eat!  There is a really good variety of counter service meals available at Walt Disney World – from the theme parks to the hotel food courts.  You will find something to eat.  You may not get a window table at the California Grill during the Magic Kingdom fireworks, but you may even luck into a last minute sit down meal.  Browse the online tool at www.disneyworld.com to see what may be left for your last minute trip.  If you can’t find anything, fear not.  I’ve made more than a few holiday meals out of a turkey leg!

Now that I’ve gotten rid of all the big excuses, why not?  I’ve got way more happy memories of my babies at Walt Disney World than stressful ones.  And as if Walt Disney World isn’t magical enough the entire rest of the year, the holidays at Disney will simply take your breath away!  Everything from the decorations and the gingerbread to the Candlelight Processional and the carolers will instill the holiday spirit in your heart and cement it there throughout the season.

Would I take my baby to Walt Disney World for Christmas?  A thousand times, yes.

Family holiday portraits

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Skamarakas and Zemitis 1920's family gathering 2nd and Fernon South Philly Philadelphia, PA

The Skamarakas Family

Speaking of family portraits – now is the time to get them lined up.  I always hate having them taken, but I love having them to look back on through the years.

Make sure you clearly mark them in some way so you’ll always know who’s in them!  I have no idea who is in the above photo, except that one of the children is Jim’s father.

This year gather up the kids, grandparents and Cousin Zeek and get a holiday family portrait taken. You will remember the love long after you forget the frustration

Skamarakas Family portrait December 2002

Its Jim’s idea whenever you see us all dressed alike.

Skamarakas family portrait 2008

I had obviously lost weight to allow not only my photo to be taken at all, but to be taken wearing white!!

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix – Fun Things for Kids

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Each year, my girls and I make this Thanksgiving Blessing Mix for their friends at school.  Our school makes a big deal out of Thanksgiving, with the kindergarten having their own in-class feast, and the older kids having a full fledge turkey dinner for lunch the week before the holiday, celebrated with their classmates and teachers.  It’s a wonderful way to appreciate and be thankful for being surrounded by friends, family, love, and the blessings from God.

The mix is simple, so it’s great fun for the children to do.  You can put it in any type of container to deliver it to school.  They sell adorable fall and Thanksgiving print cellophane bags (the goody bag type of bag), and you can even find Chinese take away boxes in fall patterns.

This is what you’ll need:

Thanksgiving Blessing Mix Recipe:

2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks
2 cups small pretzels (not the stick kind)
1 cup candy corn
1 cup dried fruit bits or raisins
1 cup peanuts or sunflower seeds
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup Hershey’s Kissables candy

Gently mix all ingredients together. Place about 1 cup mix into small cellophane bags. Close bag with twist tie.

Attach the following printed explanation of what the mix symbolizes:

It is so simple, and so much fun for the kids.  Make some extra, because they’ll enjoy snacking on it as much as they will enjoy handing it out to their friends!