Rediscovering the Magic of Christmas!

Originally posted on A Hopeful Sign on December 23, 2011:

Colin and the elfFor the past week, my 5-year-old son has been sprinting into our bedroom right after he wakes up and announcing how many days there are left until Christmas. The wonder and excitement shining in his eyes is contagious. Boy do I wish that I could bottle that feeling for those of us whose stomachs are in knots over our to-do lists before Santa’s impending arrival! Rather than enjoying the merriment of the season, so many of us are feeling stressed and exhausted by thoughts of card sending, gift buying, and present wrapping, which loom like sugar plums over our heads.

When anxiety kicks in, I try my best to take a step back and remember the true spirit of the holiday. This year, it’s my children who have really been shedding light on how magical this time of year is, and reigniting the hyperactive joy that I felt when I was a kid.

From watching classic Christmas movies with my kids to driving around at night checking out our neighbors’ personal Winter Wonderlands, I can feel the magic of Christmas enveloping me. Our eyes are wide as we gaze upon the beautiful Christmas lights, and our spirits are jolly as we belt out the lyrics to Christmas carols, giggling through the words we don’t know.

While being whisked off to “The North Pole” on a holiday train ride, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my son ruminate over how Santa will get down our chimney and strategizing the  best place to put his cookies. My 2 ½ year-old daughter, on the other hand, is still deciding how she feels about the round man in the red and white suit who’s judging her every move, yet she repeats “Santa is my friend” like a mantra.

Their uncontained excitement over the holiday has inspired me to create new family traditions. Over the last few days, we’ve baked and decorated cookies with my cousin and her family and got crafty by designing our own foam Gingerbread boy and girl ornaments. I also bought ornaments that represent what my kids are going gaga over this year; a Cars 2 ornament for my son, and a Tinkerbell one for my daughter. I’ll do this every Christmas, and as the years progress, we’ll see how their interests have changed. It’ll be our own holiday-themed time capsule!

Another way that I’ve rediscovered the magic of Christmas is by watching my kids interact with Tinsel, our Elf on the Shelf. Christmas has also always been about being nicer to people—and not just because you want to avoid Santa’s “naughty list”.  Tinsel has been keeping the wee ones in check since they know he reports back to his big boss Santa about their behavior. Each morning, Tinsel appears in a different location in the house after he comes back from the North Pole. Today he showed up in our utensil holder on the kitchen counter!  My husband and I love listening to our kids ponder where he could possibly be as their little feet scamper through each room. I chuckle under my breath when I see them presenting their artwork or goodies to the elf or cracking silly jokes in an effort to win him over. And they would never dare touch him, because that know that if they do, he’ll lose his magic. It’s their belief in his magic—and the magic of the holiday—that has me looking at Christmas through my children’s trusting and untainted eyes.

During this festive time, we traditionally swap lots of recipes, especially for Christmas cookies. This year, however, I’d like to switch things up a bit and exchange recipes for rediscovering the magic of Christmas. Here’s mine, inspired by my children, and I’d love for you to share your ingredients as well.  Let’s keep our bellies and hearts full of wonder and belief during this special time of year!

Crankiness Crushing Magical Christmas Recipe


  • 2 heaping TBS of wonder
  • A stick of faith
  • A pint of ho-ho-hope
  • ¾ cup of dreams
  • 8 fluid ounces of love
  • 1 cup of generosity
  • A few shakes of sweetness
  • A few handfuls of hugs
  • A healthy dash of positivity
  • And some mistletoe leaves to encourage you to kiss someone you love.


Mix it all together and enjoy!


Got goals? Think of back-to-school time as back-to-YOU time!

Today’s crankiness crusher: I was thrilled to write another guest post for the magazine blog, A Hopeful Sign. AHS’s mission is to spread hope through living-learning-leading. If you have time, you should really check out all of the inspirational stories and photos on the site. And I’d LOVE it if you’d check out my latest piece about how you can put the back-to-school energy that’s in the air towards setting and accomplishing your own goals this school year. Life is short, make it count!

Originally posted on A Hopeful Sign on September 11, 2011:

Guest Post on A Hopeful Sign: How Mama Got Her Happy Groove Back.

Today’s crankiness crusher: I was honored to write a guest post about what motivated me to start my blog for an inspirational new magazine blog called A Hopeful Sign. Their mission is to spread hope through living-learning-leading and I’m thrilled to be a part of it!

Originally posted on A Hopeful Sign on June 26th, 2011:

Even when there's lots of icky stuff happening around you, there's always a reason to smile.

How Mama Got Her Happy Groove Back.

crank·y [krang-kee]–adjective, crank·i·er, crank·i·est. 1. ill-tempered; grouchy; cross: I’m always cranky when I don’t get enough sleep.

Yep, this definition pretty much sums up how I was feeling most of the time: Cross, grouchy, and in a semi-permanent state of aggravation. I grappled with these negative feelings, especially since I’m usually the person who people turn to when they need a pick-me-up! Always a people-pleaser, I didn’t want to let my friends down, so I became a somewhat “closeted grump”—meaning that I’d still smile brightly and say, “I’m doing great!” when others asked me how I was doing, but on the inside I felt uninspired, blah, and to be honest, kind of bitchy!

As a mom of two kids under 5, I was growing more and more exhausted by my overwhelming to-do list and the constant multi-tasking yet lack of productivity. I was trying to be the perfect stay-at-home mother, while also freelance writing from home, which meant that I was usually up to the wee hours of the night trying to finish assignments. The lack of sleep made me irritable, and I also felt bummed out that my career wasn’t going the way I’d hoped. Then I’d feel guilty for fretting about my professional status instead of being appreciative that I could stay at home with my kids, and the vicious crankiness cycle continued.

Luckily, something happened one Saturday morning in March that made me view life from a healthier perspective. I was driving my 4 ½-year-old to swim lessons, and as we crossed over the bridge into the next town, I pointed out how pretty the river looked with the sun reflecting off of it. My son agreed, but said that he likes it more when the sun sets “because it’s orange”. When I told my husband about our exchange, he replied, “Who doesn’t appreciate a good sunset?” And as I sipped my coffee, their combined comments got me thinking about happiness, and how refreshingly easy it is to feel a moment of joy when you look at or think about something you like. The key is to appreciate it while it’s happening and to embrace those feelings of hope and optimism, as well as the contentment it brings.

I used to write a monthly column for a national women’s magazine called “Time for You”, and on that page I’d list 5 things to be happy about. While it was sometimes challenging to come up with these cheery little nuggets, I always smiled while reviewing the final list each month. With that in mind, I decided to start a blog that would encourage me to feel the same way. I desperately needed to learn how to focus on the good in each day so that I could start chipping away at my alter ego who I comically refer to as the evil Dr. Crankenstein. Over the last four months I’ve been writing about something specific that crushed out my crankiness. Chronicling these experiences has been cathartic. As a writer, it satisfied my need to get things down. I’ve been able to reveal the rawest parts of myself and take my crankiness out of the closet, and hopefully help others deal with their own.

The Crankiness Crusher blog is not so much about maintaining a constant good mood, but more about remembering to look for and appreciate the happy in each day—even if it’s something small like a freshly-mowed lawn, your favorite summer song on the radio, or eating an ice cream cone with your family. When you’re encouraged to find at least one good thing that happens daily, that positive thought can make you feel saner, more balanced, and less blah.

Throughout my anti-crankiness journey, I’ve realized that when you’re not uber crabby, it’s much easier to deal with minor annoyances and issues. It’s also made me feel more generous, forgiving, and compassionate. As a mom, I’ve had more energy and the emotional balance to tackle things that would normally set me off (like the perpetual whininess in my household!). The truth is, when you’re happy, you’re empowered to be a better person. And who doesn’t strive for that? I hope you’ll consider joining me on this mission. Let’s crush the crank together!

Tara Rummell Berson is freelance writer who lives in Middletown, New Jersey with her husband, two kids, and dog. Not surprisingly, she’s always looking to find simple ways to be happy/grateful/not cranky on a daily basis. You can find her at, on Twitter at @crankycrusher, or you can join her anti-crankiness community on Facebook,


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