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Please don't start singing that song by The Village People.
Please don't start singing that song by The Village People.

Should I spring for a Y membership?

I am considering buying a YMCA membership for my family. The Y lowered their rates earlier this year, and it seems like a pretty good deal. However, even at $65 a month, I want to make sure my family and I will use it.

I worked at the Y for 10 years -- as a membership director and then as a Spinning instructor -- so I was spoiled by the free membership. My husband suggested I start teaching Spinning again to regain the employment perk, but that feels like too much responsibility right now. And way too much pony tail perkiness.

When I worked at the Y, I found it humorous how many people join every January to fulfill their New Year's resolution. These good-intentioned folks are diligent about working out until March, and then many of them fall off the face of the gym. I really don't want to land in this category, so I continue to ask myself whether or not I am ready for deeply committed Y membership or should just stick with my no-strings-attached home workouts.

The residents of Candy Cane Lane must have wicked energy bills for December.
The residents of Candy Cane Lane must have wicked energy bills for December.

Living on Candy Cane Lane: Festive or frightening?

Earlier this week, I drove my kids through the South Side neighborhood dubbed Candy Cane Lane this time of year, and I had my usual thoughts. Mostly, I wondered what it would be like to live in the four-block radius during the month of December.

Would it be exciting to see parades of cars rolling down my street night after night or would it become annoying? What if these people want to go somewhere after dark? It must take 10 minutes just to get off their street.

If I lived on Candy Cane Lane, would I decorate the bejeezus out of my house, or would I be one of the dark, Scroogely looking places stuck between blinking, twinkling, inflatable wonderlands?

I noticed a few places were up for sale in the neighborhood. Do realtors use Candy Cane Lane as a selling point, or consider it a selling deterrent?

I think it’s great that Candy Cane Lane raises so much money every year for the MACC Fund, and I’ll certainly drive through as long as my kids are into it. But to live there? Well, that’s another story.

The spirit of the holidays gets buried under a pile of crunched-up wrapping paper.
The spirit of the holidays gets buried under a pile of crunched-up wrapping paper.

How do you teach young kids about giving?

My kids are 5 and 6, and at this point, the holidays are about one thing: ripping open presents. They wholeheartedly still believe in Santa (along with a Jewish gift-giver we made up named "The Chanukah Man"), and although they asked for a reasonable number of gifts, they only understand one side of the holiday coin: the receiving side.

To introduce the concept of giving, I took them holiday shopping a few times, and mentioned how fun it is to buy gifts for other people. However, I’m not sure how much that message got through. I wondered if they sensed my internal nervousness over spending more money than I really have, or the fact I was more annoyed by the crowds than enjoying the present-shopping experience.

So, I am wondering what else I can do to stress the importance of giving at the holidays. When they are older, I will consider volunteering for a meal program, but I think they’re a little young for that now. But surely there are ways to demonstrate giving to little kids, right?

"Honey, how about a set of Legos instead?"
"Honey, how about a set of Legos instead?"

My kid wants something illegal for Christmas

A couple weeks ago, I asked my 6-year-old kid what he wanted for Christmas. I thought he would say the "Wall-E" movie, or more slot cars or maybe a video game system of some kind. I wasn’t prepared for his answer.

"I want to drive the car," he said.

Unfortunately, I started to laugh, which made him mad, and he stomped away. I asked him again a few days later and, again, he said he really wanted to drive the car. This time, he tried to bargain with me, "Just in the alley?"

I told him he was too short to drive the car, and that his feet wouldn’t touch the pedals. I expected him to suggest he could sit on my lap and drive, but he didn’t. Instead, he looked at me in silence for a few seconds, blinking slowly and clearly processing what I had said.

"OK," he said. "Can I get a cell phone?"