Holiday Traditions and Rituals


Holiday Traditions and Rituals

Laura Standefer, Senior Holiday Correspondent

December 9, 2019

You may have holiday traditions and rituals that are passed down from your childhood or you may be looking to start new ones with your own family. The holidays are an amazing time to spend time with family and friends, and traditions and rituals make this season even more memorable. My son just turned five and I started realizing that we should implement our own customs to make the holidays special each year. We family are considering starting Elf on a Shelf, but I’m worried I’ll regret it. Therefore, I asked a group of local moms about their holiday traditions and rituals and here is what they had to say!

“We put out our shoes the night before December 6th, since that is St. Nicholas’ feast day, and we put our Christmas lists in the shoes. Santa takes the lists and leaves a couple treats. Traditionally, he leaves us a chocolate orange.” -Cat K.

“Does drinking to survive my in-laws count?!” -Melaina W.

“The kids each get an advent calendar which I fill with some candy and little gifts, but also activities we will do during the Advent season.” -Julia M.

“We open one gift on Christmas Eve and it’s usually pajamas and a Christmas book or movie. We also make cookies on Christmas Eve for Santa. Then, during the holidays in general we watch Polar Express.” – Nichole R.

“I have a collection of Christmas/holiday books that I keep put away all year. When we are getting ready for bed Thanksgiving night, I pull out the bin and we read 2-3 Christmas books each night ending with T’was the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.” -Lindsay E.

“We have Christmas Crackers and table prizes on the table Christmas Eve – and on Christmas Day we make brunch, open presents and play games.” -Christine S.

“Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown, Die Hard and a Christmas Story movies are watched while we trim the tree. Every. Single. Year. After they’ve been watched, it’s on to listening to Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey while the rest of the house gets decorated. On Christmas eve (sometimes a day or two earlier) we leave out carrots and oats for Santa’s reindeer, open gifts from family members, eat tamales and bake cookies for Santa […]” -Laura L.

Growing up, I spent every Christmas with my extended family in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is known to have a Christmas longer than any other place in the world. We would spend it in the mountains and we would eat slow roasted pork with rice and fried plantains. We would also sing traditional Puerto Rican songs and run around in the 75 degree whether chasing our cousins. That being said, learning about other customs such as the Christmas Pickle, or spending the holidays in the actual snow is absolutely fascinating to me. While, unfortunately, I won’t be able to spend my Christmases in Puerto Rico now that I have a child of my own, and one on the way, I wonder which customs I should implement in my own home. Feel free to share your holiday traditions and rituals in the comments below! 

Finding the Best Educational Fit for Your Child


Finding the Best Educational Fit for Your Child 

HappiFamli, Senior Education Correspondent

December 02, 2019

There are lots of good public, private and charter schools to choose from, but which one is right for your child depends on what your child needs, what your family needs, and what is important to you. Well before your child enters the school system, you need to start asking questions and gathering information.  The first step is to look inward and think about your child’s individual needs and the needs of your family.  The following questions can help you explore those needs.

Step One: Consider Your Child and Family

  • Does your child have any special language or educational needs?
  • In addition to the fundamentals, what do you want your child to learn, i.e. learning a second language as a core part of the curriculum, obtaining an education through a religious lens, a focus on social/emotional learning?
  • How does your child learn best?
  • Does he/she need more structured environment or less structure?
  • Is the location of the school important to you?  How far are you willing to have your child bused?  How far are you willing to drive your child to school? 
  • Does your family need before and after school care?
  • Can you afford to pay tuition for private school?

Step Two:  Gather School Data

The second step is to search outward, gain information about possible school options and discover your child’s school match. There are several ways to gather information and address your questions. School websites are often full of information about the school and give you a good feel for the school’s values and level of  parent/family engagement.  Talking with current and past students and parents is helpful. Students and parents can speak to the quality of education offered at a school, parent involvement and how responsive teachers, staff and administration are to needs and concerns. Taking a scheduled tour of school during school hours is also valuable.  This experience can give you a feel for the culture of the school; you can see first hand how students behave, how the front office staff treats parents and gage the helpfulness and attitude of teachers. Good schools will also make time for prospective parents to meet with the principal or assistant principal and be forthcoming with information about the school’s strengths and areas for growth. Lastly, attending a PTA meeting is an excellent way to gain information, assess how parents and the school work together and learn about the school communities’ priorities.  PTA meetings are usually available to all parents at the school, as well as the general public, so a prospective parent’s’ presence should be welcome. 

If you would like to learn more about Public, Private and Charter Schools, please see our e-guide at: https://happifamli.com/product/choosing-the-best-school/

It has additional information including:

  • Overview of Public, Private & Charter Schools
  • A Comparison of Each Type of School: cost/funding, governance, teacher certification, special needs, state testing and enrollment
  • Twenty-Five Questions Designed to Help you Identify What if Important To You
  • What Makes a Good School
  • Timing on Applications

When a Family Outing Goes Wrong


When a Family Outing Goes Wrong

Laura Standefer, Senior Family Outing Correspondent

November 25, 2019

A few months ago, my husband had the day off and we decided to finally visit the botanical gardens near Zilker Park. We grew up in Austin and had visited as children, but we had never been with our kid. We hopped in the minivan and drove downtown, excited about getting out of the suburbs to explore and discover. Everything was going well…for the first thirty minutes. While we were crossing one of the ponds, my four year-old mistook a pile of brush for a stepping stone. In an instant, his entire body was submerged in pond water. My husband instantly reached in and pulled him out. My son was smelly and crying. People were staring. The three of us were too shocked to really decide what to do next. We could have left and called it a day, but we kept going and I’m so glad we did. Here are some tips to help you turn things around when a family outing goes wrong. 

Stay positive. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. You’re not instantly going to go from frustrated to Mary Poppins by just telling yourself to be positive. But, by intentionally looking for the positive in a frustrating situation, you could gradually improve your mood and influence those around you. When my son fell into the pond, we, of course, had brought no other change of clothes. We ended up having to buy him an outfit at the gift shop. Seeing him excited about picking out a “present” from the shop when we had intentionally not planned on buying him anything cheered all of us up a bit. This encouraged us to keep going on our adventure despite what had happened so far. 


Get creative.  After my son fell in the pond, we changed his clothes and proceeded with our outing. We live way up north so we were struggling with the idea of just giving up. We were starting to enjoy ourselves again, when the sunshine was slowly starting to disappear behind unprecedented dark clouds. Then, you guessed it, the skies opened and blessed us with a torrential downpour. When does this happen in Austin? (The answer is never). I was ready to call it quits, until I realized that my son was playing in the rain and excited because it was “just like the rainforest.” So we pretended like we were in the rainforest. My husband put on his very best Nigel Thornberry voice and began telling us about every plant and creature we encountered, even though he had no clue what he was talking about. We accepted the fact that we wouldn’t be wearing dry clothes that day and continued on with our wet and wild “rainforest adventure” in central Austin. 

Laugh. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep yourself from crying. If your outing is just a sequence of unfortunate events after another, why not try to find the humor in it? While wrapping up our day at the botanical gardens, I was walking behind my son and immediately started cracking up. Remember the “present” he was able to get from the gift shop? Well, it was a onesie that was way too small for him. When I looked closely, you could clearly see the outline of his little booty. I pointed it out to my husband, and we just laughed and laughed. Now we look back at our botanical garden adventure and consider it one of the most memorable family outings we’ve ever had. 

How to be Grateful for a Spirited Child


How to be Grateful for a Spirited Child

HappiFamli, Senior Parenting Correspondent

November 18, 2019

I noticed my child was “spirited” when he was ten days old. We had just gotten home from the hospital a few days prior and spent our days in my bedroom since I was recovering from a c-section. My son just cried and cried until I noticed that he would stop as soon as I left the room. “Could he really be bored at ten days old? Impossible.” I tested this theory over and over again and realized that yes, my newborn was sick and tired of being in my room and was ready to explore the outside world. I look back and realize that this observation makes sense with regards to my son’s personality. He is “spirited,” meaning he speaks his mind, will always fight to get his way, and tries to be the boss (or leader) in every situation. If you have a kid like this, you know that it can be challenging to say the least, but there are many benefits to having a spirited child.

They are more likely to speak up for themselves. I tend to be a push-over (I prefer the term obliger) myself. I was always a follower and I prefer to go with the flow as long as it keeps others happy. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this, but there are times where I regret not speaking up for myself or voicing my opinion. However, I don’t think my son will ever have that problem. He has no problem telling his peers and adults what he does or doesn’t like; if another child tries to boss him around, he has no problem telling them to back off. 

They’re more likely to be inquisitive. Okay, hear me out! I know that having a super inquisitive child isn’t easy. Just today, I was trying to enjoy one of our few days of perfect weather by driving around with my windows rolled down, my music turned up…and my child constantly interrupting to ask my obscure questions with no real answers. However, the more they ask, the more they learn. Curiosity really is an excellent trait for children to possess. 

They are more likely to be confident in themselves. Confidence is one thing that I wish I had instilled in me as a child. You can get good grades and stay out of trouble, yet still struggle with personal growth if you lack confidence. I look at my son and he is the polar opposite of me as a child. I love how fearless he his, how he can talk to anyone, and how sure of himself he is.  I never thought that I would say that I look up to my five year-old, but I do.


“The more they ask, the more they learn.

They are more likely to be successful. Spirited children tend to be leaders among their peers and eventually, more successful in school and in the workplace. Their persistence and confidence in their abilities may be a power struggle now, but these are admirable traits that are necessary in a career and for healthy growth as they enter adulthood. 

Having a spirited child can be so hard, especially if you’re like me and are a parent with a drastically different personality. However, his determination, curiosity, and passion is so admirable that he’s even inspired me to come out of my shell a bit.  I am constantly being challenged and questioned and there is hardly ever a moment of rest when my son is awake, but that’s just who my son is, who he always will be…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Four Tips for Blended Families During the Holidays


Four Tips for Blended Families During the Holidays

Katherine Granberry, Guest Blogger

November 11, 2019

As a child psychotherapist and as a child of a large blended family, I am aware of how important it is to thoughtfully plan the holidays when arranging time spent between two parents and often extended family as well. My childhood, from age two onward, involved holiday time with both parents, multiple sets of grandparents, and aunts, uncles, and friends. I was fortunate to have parents and step-parents that arranged holidays in an amicable, seamless way. Years of holiday seasons that could have been unpredictable and chaotic instead evolved into expected traditions. Here are a few tips to help other blended families make the holidays positive and enjoyable for all.

  1. Come up with as much of a plan as possible, and do the planning behind the scenes. As a therapist, I cannot stress enough how important it is to protect children from witnessing any stress and tension between parents. Holiday planning can be very stressful, and that stress can be magnified when trying to determine how to share time with each other and other family and friends. If parents can work out an equitable balance of time, perhaps that alternates each year, then children can know what to expect, and they will feel a sense of balance and structure.

  1. Do not contrast, compare and grill for information about the other parent. Allow children to enjoy the holiday time without having to ‘report back’ on their experiences. Every holiday set up is going to be very different. If one parent heads to fast food instead of cooking, it is important to allow that to be ok. If children come home reporting those type of differences, allow them to vent, but also make sure that they know that you are ok with those differences. Sometimes children report back because they think the other parent needs or wants to hear the information based on past conflicts. It is important to allow them to be freed of that responsibility and to be able to relax and enjoy holiday time no matter what it looks like. 

If parents can work out an equitable balance of time, perhaps that alternates each year, then children can know what to expect, and they will feel a sense of balance and structure.

3. Stick to the plan as much as possible each year. Plans can change, and some people are better at structure than others. If one parent tends to be more spontaneous, make attempts to discuss the value of structure and consistency with that parent (perhaps with the help of a third party). Ideally, that parent will learn the importance of planning and sticking to it for the sake of the children. In the meantime, the more reliable parent can work to set boundaries to protect the children from instability and disappointment. Let the children know the predictable plans and allow the other plans to be more open-ended. For example, do not tell the children the other parent is going to take them ice skating if the other parent often changes plans last minute. Instead, let them know that parent likes to decide things closer to the scheduled time, and that you will help them get ready appropriately when you know the plans.

4. Finally, engage in self-care. The holidays can be exhausting. Make sure to relax and enjoy them too. Self-care may look like sitting by a fire with a book and a cup of tea, or it may mean letting something go like not cooking one night or not going to every party. It is important to find ways to refuel and recharge in order to operate from your best self and to be the parent and co-parent that you want to be. 

Katherine Granberry, MA, LPC


Tips for Hiring a New Nanny


Tips for Hiring a New Nanny

HappiFamli, Senior Nanny Investigator 

November 4, 2019

Today, parents are struggling to balance their careers while making sure that their children are safe, happy, and being well taken care of. Finding a nanny may be the right choice for your family, but it can be overwhelming to find someone that will fit your family’s specific needs. It’s important to remember that this person will not only become a part of your family’s life, but your family will become a part of theirs. HappiFamli has excellent tips and knowledgeable advice to help the nanny hiring process to go smoothly and to help you find an ideal match. Here is some helpful information from HappiFamli’s “Nanny Know How” ebook.

Before the Interview:

  • Prepare a general list of questions you want to ask each nanny
  • Review the nanny’s application and references well and create a list of questions based off this information
  • Print a copy of the job description you posted 

During the Interview:

  • Know the nanny may be nervous.  Help put them at ease.  
  • Have a general outline of what you want to get from the interview

○ Introductions & tour of your home if you would like
○ Describe the job, your family and your children
○ Definitely go over any special situations (any health concerns/allergies, joint custody, relatives staying at house, parents working from home, etc.)
○ Discuss your general parenting style and family values (moral or religious beliefs, how you discipline, etc)
○ Describe how you see a typical day going and what your expectations of the nanny are

  • Have nanny give some information on themselves & ask your nanny-specific questions
  • Ask your general questions
  • Ask nanny if they have any questions
  • Thank the nanny for their time & let them know what your next steps will be – when can they expect to hear from you, are you still interviewing, will you be doing a trial day, etc.


  • Be yourself!!!  This is the time to let the nanny know the real you so you can make sure it is a good fit.
  • Make sure you are listening as much, if not more than, you are talking.  You want to make sure you are getting a good sense of the nannies experience and personality to see if they will be a good fit. 

Sample Questions:

  • What made you choose working with children?
  • Tell me about a child care position that is similar to this one?
  • What type of a job are you looking for right now and what are your plans moving forward (1yr, 3yrs, 5yrs)?
  • What drew you to this specific position?
  • What types of things do you like doing with children my child(ren)s age?
  • How would you handle the situation if my child did ……… (give some examples of things your child might do)
  • What is the best part of working with children?
  • What is the thing you struggle with most in working with children and how do you address that?
  • What role do you see yourself playing in our family?
  • How do you like to communicate with a family?
  • Tell me about a time when you had an issue in a childcare position and how you handled it.
  • What questions do you have about this position or our family?

If you would like to learn more about how to hire a nanny, please see our e-guide at: bit.ly/HappiNanny 

It has additional information including:

Topics Included:

  • Outlining The Types Of In-Home Caregivers
  • Is Hiring A Nanny Right For Your Family?
  • All About Nanny Share
  • Timeline For Nanny
  • A Sample Nanny Job Posting
  • How To Interview Your Nanny
  • Questions For Your Nanny Candidates
  • Questions To Ask Your Nanny’s References
  • Nanny Taxes 
  • Nanny Contract
  • Nanny Training Guide
  • Easing Separation Anxiety
  • Ongoing Nanny Communication
  • Performance Review Template

Helpful Interactive Forms:

  • Medical Consent Form
  • Nanny Emergency Contacts
  • Nanny Daily Log