It’s almost Christmas, and the excitement in my house is palpable. My big challenge this week is to write an elaborate scavenger hunt to lead my kids to their one Christmas Eve present. This is a holdover from my childhood, when “Swedish Santa” would bring a first present on Christmas Eve, echoing my mormor’s (grandmother’s) Swedish heritage. We’ve modified it to involve my hiding presents and then the kids finding them.

This is both a win, since it’s something the kids love and look forward to, and a woe, since the children expect much of the hunt to be in poetry form, and that’s not my forte. For your entertainment, here is one of last year’s clues…

Solve the puzzle and read the letters down for your next clue location:

First letter of Earth’s largest satellite ____

First letter of current dominant COVID variant ____

First letter of the opposite of less ____

First name of the voice assistant on Mom’s phone ____

First letter of Dad’s new University job ____

First letter of the opposite of closed ____

First letter of the largest land animal ____

First letter of Ivy & Bean’s ballet show roles ____

We’re taking next week off, but Wins and Woes will be back in the new year. Today we have three stories (including a great holiday hack) and a question from a reader who is unsure how to make parent friends in her new neighborhood. We’ve all been there!

Breaking cycles

—Mom vs. Mom

I am 21 weeks pregnant, and my mom is visiting. She and I have a difficult relationship, which we have been working on over the past few years. This trip hasn’t gone as well as we hoped and has opened up a whirlwind of emotions for me as I think about how I will be as a mother to our daughter. I feel confident that I will be a loving mother who does her best, but these interactions with my own mom send me into deep spirals of depression.

List bliss


Like any 3.5-year-old, my son wants all the things, but instead of constantly being asked, “Mommy, can we buy this?” he and I keep a running list year-round! I use an app on my phone — sometimes we even take pictures — and when he asks, “Mommy, can you add this to my list?” I can always say yes! It’s so much less pressure when we go out and helps set his expectations. (We went to Target the other day, and I told him we weren’t going to buy him anything but we could add things to his list.) Every once in a while, he asks to review the list with me, and he’ll tell me what he doesn’t want anymore. Bonus: Birthday and holiday shopping become very easy, especially when grandparents ask me what he wants.

Make it so

—Parenting Blerd-ily (Black Nerd)

I introduced my 5-year-old to the phrase “You have the comm” (when you’re in charge temporarily) from Star Trek. She asked, “If I’m in charge, why can’t I turn on the TV?” so then I explained that “having the comm” means you run things the way the captain would run things, not the way you want to run things. Then I left the room and came back to find her brushing her 3-year-old brother’s teeth! Since then, “You have the comm” has worked pretty consistently to supercharge her helpfulness.

This week’s reader question

My husband and I had a baby in March and moved to the suburbs soon after. I had all of these thoughts of great neighbors, new friends with babies, block parties… and that is not the case at all. Eight months later, and I’ve barely met anyone in the neighborhood — despite daily dog/baby walks. I’m at the point where I’ll notice which houses have diaper boxes at the curb on trash day and wonder how to befriend them. How do people make new parent friends without being totally awkward?

—Lonely in the Burbs

What do you think?

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