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Why Sandra Bullock's kids are getting 'three small gifts' this Christmas

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Christmas is so fun and magical, but if we don't keep ourselves in check it can get really overwhelming.

Sandra Bullock is the latest high-profile mom to talk about toning down presents to make more room for what matters in her family's Christmas celebration.

Mom to Louis, 8, and Laila, 6, Bullock was on the Today show this week when she explained how over the years her Christmas celebrations snowballed until she felt like her family was missing the point.

"I overdo it, and then I panic that I didn't do enough. Then I get more—and then everyone else has overdone it," she explained, adding that this year, she just stopped overdoing it, and she's feeling a lot less stressed this Christmas season.

"We just stopped. Because there's so much happening in the world where people don't have anything. And we said, 'Why don't we just make this about other people?'" Bullock explained, adding that her kids were totally into the idea of giving instead of getting this year.

"They were amazing about it. So, Christmas is three small gifts," she told Today's Hoda Kotb.

Why three is the magic number of presents 

Bullock is hardly alone in toning down Christmas. Tons of parents are simplifying the holiday in order to focus on the more meaningful parts, in part because (as Motherly previously reported) giving your kids fewer toys at Christmas actually makes them happier!

Combine increased happiness with the modern desire for less cluttered, minimalist living and you have a trend. In fact, even the number of gifts Bullock is doing this season is trendy. Three gift Christmases are a thing.

Three is kind of a magic number when it comes to Christmas celebrations. There are enough presents to make the morning feel magical, but not so many that the kids are lost in a mountain of wrapping paper and materialism.

With three gifts, kids have an opportunity to feel gratitude instead of overwhelmed. They can truly appreciate their presents and parents can feel less overwhelmed as well, because it's way easier (and cheaper) to buy three presents than try to bring the whole toy aisle home.

Making Christmas about giving 

Research demonstrates that children whose parents talk to them about giving to others are 20% more likely to make charitable donations than kids whose parents did not have that talk. Simply by talking to Louis and Laila about giving to others, Bullock is building capacity for giving in her kids, and in this case, talking does more than modeling, researchers note.

Bullock has the resources to give both a huge charitable contribution and a massive Christmas to her own kids, but both society and her kids are probably better off with her new Christmas plan.

A 2013 study, a 2013 study conducted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that just having a parent who gives their money and time to charity isn't as impactful as having a parent who talks to you about why it's important to do so.

By having the conversation about making Christmas about others, Bullock is instilling her values in her kids in a lasting way.

Helping kids give 

Bullock didn't go into detail about exactly how she's helping her kids make Christmas about others, but there are a lot of ways that parents can do that.

You can help your children choose or make gifts for other important people in their lives, like grandparents, teachers and friends.

You can ask your children to help you choose toys to give to charities that help families who can't afford to buy their kids gifts this year.

You can take your kids with you to volunteer at an organization that's doing good in the world.

You can involve your kids in making a monetary donation to a worthy cause.

The important part is doing it together, and having conversations about why giving is so much more important and impactful than getting.

We're all trying to raise empathetic kids and keep our houses free of clutter, and it sounds like Bullock's plan could help with both those goals.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you've been overdoing the holidays, consider taking a tip from Bullock and giving yourself permission to just stop.

Christmas doesn't have to be overwhelming to be magical.

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A powerful and thought-provoking viral video is calling out the ridiculous expectations women everywhere deal with when it comes to beauty, their bodies and behavior.

It's called "Be a Lady They Said," and it's honestly pretty hard to watch without getting angry. The video—featuring actress and activist Cynthia Nixon narrating a piece from the writer Camille Rainville—calls out the impossible standards women are told to aspire to, and how often those standards contradict each other.

"Don't be too fat. Don't be too thin. Eat up. Slim down." Those words might feel chillingly familiar to any woman who's ever had to deal with unwanted comments about her figure (which is basically every woman, right?)

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The lines in the video prove that women are hit by competing messages constantly when it comes to personal appearance, sexuality, work and nearly every facet of life.

It is so similar to what mothers hear every day. We're often told to parent like we don't work, but show up at the office as if we aren't parents. We're told to exclusively breastfeed, but then denied the time and places in which to do it. We're told we should want to stay home with our kids full-time, but also criticized for not working. We're told to practice self-care, but also expected to do what amounts to a second shift after we get home from work.

The impossibility of womanhood is so clear in Nixon's viral video.

"Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don't you just eat? You look emaciated," Nixon says.

She continues: "Dress modestly. Don't be a temptress. Men can't control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don't be so provocative. You're asking for it...

Don't talk too loud. Don't talk too much. Don't take up space. Don't sit like that. Don't stand like that. Don't be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don't be a bitch. Don't be so bossy. Don't be assertive. Don't overact. Don't be so emotional. Don't cry. Don't yell. Don't swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don't complain. Let him down easy."

"Lift your face, lift your tummy, perk up your boobs. Look natural. You're trying too hard." Are you angry yet? Visceral images (some of the NSFW) flash by on the screen as each bit of "advice" is relayed—women bearing their bodies, undergoing cosmetic procedures, looking seductive, looking sweet. There are also flashes of men—like President Trump and Harvey Weinstein—who've become flashpoints in the #MeToo movement. While it may be women who are subjected to ever-shifting rules about how they should present themselves, the video reminds us that it's powerful men who have largely shaped those rules.

The video has wracked up more than four and a half million views since it hit Vimeo just a few days ago. While it's certainly a difficult watch, it's an important one, well worth the roughly three minute time investment. "Just be a lady they said," it ends—after showing us the utter impossibility of following that direction.

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As coronavirus ( COVID-19) continues to spread, health officials are driving home the importance of hand washing, but sometimes it is hard for parents to convince kids that washing their hands is important. After all, they can't see the germs, so it is hard to understand why this matters so much.

That's why we love how some creative teachers have used bread to show kids just how germy their hands can get.

"We took fresh bread and touched it. We did one slice untouched. One with unwashed hands. One with hand sanitizer. One with washed hands with warm water and soap. Then we decided to rub a piece on all our classroom Chromebooks," teacher Jaralee Annice Metcalf writes in a now-viral Facebook post.

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When the bread was left in sealed plastic bags the slices that had been exposed to more bacteria via laptops and unwashed hands grew the most mold.



The bread that had been rubbed on those Chromebooks might be the grossest piece of bread we've ever seen, and really underscores Jaralee's point: "As somebody who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands! And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands!"

The CDC agrees with this elementary school teacher: Handwashing reduces the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses (like COVID-19) so it's a good idea to teach kids to do it properly and often.

Jaralee isn't the first teacher to go viral for incorporating this experiment into her classroom and she probably won't be the last. Full instructions for this project are listed on the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital website and are easy to replicate at home.

Her Facebook post has been criticized by people questioning the conditions of her experiment, but as she notes on her Facebook page, they're kind of missing the point: "We are an elementary school. Not a fancy CDC lab, so relax a little and WASH YOUR HANDS."

It's good advice from a caring teacher and a reminder to wash our hands (and sanitize our laptops!)

[A version of this post was originally published December 13, 2019.]

News

If you've turned on the news this week you know that Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is making headlines around the clock. The situation is constantly changing and it's hard to know what to expect.

Reports that a Coronavirus patient in California wasn't tested for the virus for days and that the same state is monitoring 84,000 people for possible cases have many parents alarmed, but as we said earlier this week, now is not the time to panic—it's the time to prepare.

As the possible first case of "community spread" coronavirus in the U.S. is investigated, the first impulse on hearing the news is to run out and buy as many face masks as you can, but according to the CDC that's not what we should be doing. Instead of panic-buying random supplies, be strategic in how you are stocking your home and your pantry, and how you are preparing your children for potential interruptions to daily life.

On Thursday the director-general of the World Health Organization said, "This is not a time for fear. This is the time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives now."

Now is the time for action, not anxiety, Here's what you can do, mama.

1. Prepare your home for coronavirus outbreaks

Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University told NPR that the best place to start is with general emergency planning. This "means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family," says Katz.

If an outbreak happens, you won't want to be running to Target for toilet paper and might not be able to order food. If you have prepared for a hurricane or another natural disaster, this won't be much different. It's like Disaster Planning 101, but instead of planning to evacuate our homes we're planning to stay indoors for a significant amount of time.

2. "Store a two week supply of water and food" 

how to prepare for coronavirus

www.fema.gov

There's no reason to panic, but you might want to do a Costco run soon and stock up on non-perishables.

FEMA and other agencies recommend packing emergency preparedness kits to make possible outbreaks of COVID-19 safer and less stressful for your family.

Here is what FEMA recommends parents do to prepare for a pandemic:

  • "Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic health records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home."

Check with your insurance: You might have to get approval extended supplies of medication from your insurance provider, so make those calls sooner rather than later.

3. Make a childcare plan

The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, wants parents to prepare for the possibility that schools could be closed.

Having school close would be very disruptive for many families, but we can start getting ahead of it by doing the following:

  • Talk to your school and childcare providers about their plan for a possible outbreak or closure.
  • Talk to your employer about whether telecommuting or remote work is an option for you.
  • Discuss contingency plans with your partner or co-parent if you have one and how you will divide parenting duties if schools close but your workplaces remain open.

4. Be wary of scams

The snake-oil sellers are using the pandemic to fleece consumers, says the Federal Trade Commission. "They're setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information," notes the FTC's Consumer Education Specialist, Colleen Tressler.

"The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments," she explains.

Some scam emails are claiming to be from the CDC, but parents should know that the most up-to-date information is actually on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

5. Don't panic

The Coronavirus an be very serious, especially for elderly individuals, but "there is no evidence that children are more susceptible," according to the CDC.

"In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults," the CDC notes.

The CDC just wants people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that might occur If there is a case in a community. When the virus is spreading the best way to stop it will be to close schools and businesses, even though that will most certainly be inconvenient.

In short, the experts aren't telling us to be ready for the apocalypse, they just want us to be ready to stay home for as long as a couple of weeks. Stocking up on supplies now isn't an over reaction, it's just good emergency planning.

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