Ready for Responsibility?

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of responsibility. It’s something to think about as important for both kids and adults. As adults we’re supposed to be responsible and we have to teach the next generation about responsibility as well. Some people never learn the responsiblity concept, others learn it after a wake up call like a serious car accident or health scare, and some people seem born with responsibility in there genes.

As adults sometimes I think we are sometimes so involved in doing life that we don’t think about it in terms of being responsible, or about all that we’re doing as part of being responsible. For instance, you pay your bills and go to work because that’s what you do each day/week/month, you don’t do it so you can check the “be responsible” line on your daily to-do list. You make sure your kids are clothed and fed because that’s what you do as a parent, you don’t typically do it to be a “responsible parent.” Sometimes I think we get so focused on getting it all done that we don’t always take time to consider what’s really best or most responsible in that situation.

As a parent or role model for the next generation you’ve got a lot of boxes you’re trying to cross off. You’re trying to get them educated, to be culture smart, to be able to dress themselves, to be able to tie shoes, to have some idea of right and wrong, to develop personal values and morals, to have a can-do attitude, to plan for the future, to have confidence and to be able to navigate the challenges of relationships with others, just to name a few. You teach them lessons about responsibility with putting books and papers back in their backpacks after doing homework rather than leaving them everywhere, putting dirty clothes in laundry baskets instead of on the floor, earning an allowance to learn good saving and spending habits, cleaning up dishes after eating, and even in time outs or other types of punishments for poor behavior and attitudes.

If we really want the next generation to be better leaders and people we need to make sure they understand the importance of responsibility and learn how to be responsible not only for themselves but also for the people in their care and the world we all share. There’s also time for most of the people of the world to choose to be more responsible as well, it’s not just something we leave for the next generation. Does your life need a responsibility check or do you need to work more on teaching responsibility to your kids? If you need a responsibility update, I encourage you to make time to make some of those changes this week.

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How to Live

Do you know what one of the most important things is to teach your kids?  It’s how to live. So many people waste their lives on stuff that doesn’t matter or worry endlessly about things they can’t do anything about and forget that the real purpose of living is to live!  Life isn’t meant to be lived as a spectator, we’re supposed to be actively involved in our lives.

What are you teaching your kids with how you live your life? What does your partner believe about you or believe you believe about your life?  Do you show that you not only appreciate the life you have but also are doing your best to make your life and the lives of those you interact with better? Are you respecting the body and gifts you’ve been giving or are you letting them waste away?

It’s important to teach your kids the value of life, and how to work through the challenges you face.  Yes, there will be stresses and problems in your life, and your kids need to learn how to handle them in such a way that they don’t get taken over by them or that the challenges ruin their lives.

Teach your kids the technical skills, manner and attitude they need to know to make it through the challenges they will face.  No, you won’t be able to completely prepare them as things do change, but you’ll give them the foundation they need to know how to work through challenges, and the importance of remembering that it’s all for a reason: living and even thriving for as many years as you’re blessed with.

We are frightfully concerned with our own deaths, sometimes so much so that we forget the real purpose of our lives.”  Brian L. Weiss

Easter Egg-Citement

Today is the official celebration of Easter. You’ve probably seen the ads and your kids have probably begged you for Easter candy, even if you don’t celebrate for religious reasons. Growing up one of my favorite activities was the Easter egg hunt. Yes, we were a religious family, but there’s something special about looking for hidden eggs, just like there is about Santa at Christmas. Why have an Easter egg hunt with your kids?

For one, it’s fun your kids will want to do more than once. You’ll be filling and hiding, or at the very least hiding, eggs for the next few months. It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving. If you don’t want to fill individual eggs you can give the child with the most eggs found a prize.

If you’ve got slightly older kids who get easily bored or don’t have the same interest as younger kids in looking for eggs, just hide a few, maybe even some of the same color, around the house. It will be a bigger challenge for them and keep them interested for longer.

I do have a vote for the religious aspect, even if you’re not very religious. Giving your kids the knowledge, or letting them choose whether to believe or not, is empowering for both you and them. It’s great to be able to say to your kids “because [God] made it that way” when they ask you a particularly tricky question that you just don’t have an answer to. It also helps kids understand why things don’t always go their way and why not everything makes logical sense. Knowing there is something bigger, stronger and loving out there can help allay fears and provide reassurance of answers when there don’t seem to be any.

Finally, I love the whole concept of eggs. You’re looking for something, you’re discovering what’s inside and you’re celebrating that discovery. Just like kids learn, discover and grow as they get older, these steps are important for them to be aware of, especially in this instant age. Sometimes the good stuff is wrapped in a little mystery, surrounded by a little work, but no matter how you get there, it’s important to celebrate what you learn.

This Easter and this week ahead, hide some eggs with your kids, and discover the fun you can have together.

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Looking at the Good Things

Every relationship, every family, and every person has things they can work on. No one is perfect and that’s just the way it is, we’re all works in progress. It’s important to work on those issues because the issues and imperfections we’ve got can get in our way to achieving success and becoming the best person we can be for ourselves and others.

I love my partner but if I wanted I could find quite a few things to complain about regarding him, he’s not perfect, and if you asked him he would tell you I’m not perfect either. But I’m not with him because I think he’s going to become perfect or to fix him. He’s much more than the issues and imperfections, he’s a thoughtful, caring, smart, funny and loving guy.

Perfection isn’t possible, but what if we took more time to focus on what’s right than what’s wrong? I’m not saying we should ignore the bad or not good stuff, in fact something that my partner and I do ask each other from time to time is if we can do anything better or be better in some way for the other. So it’s not that we’re ignoring the issues that each other have, my partner and I are always trying to do and be better for each other, but we choose to celebrate the fact that we’re together and each day we’re able to share our lives together.

Yes, your kid may have gotten an F on a math test, but they did well on the other projects that they just wrapped up, and they’re excited about a chapter coming up in history. Yes, you may have made a less-than-perfect dinner tonight but you cleaned the house, changed the sheets, organized the toys, washed the clothes, caught up on the paperwork and bills and helped your sister pick out colors for their soon-to-arrive baby’s room. It’s not about getting everything right or being perfect, but taking the time to celebrate the good stuff. Just because your kid isn’t great at a subject in school doesn’t mean they’re destined to fail at life. Just because you can’t cook doesn’t mean you aren’t a good parent or partner. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you are good at many things.

What are you good at that you can celebrate today?

Love is Considerate

This month as we’ve talked and thought about love I was reflecting on what is really one of the central aspects to love and relationships, both romantic and other types: other people. I know it sounds really obvious and yes, it’s important to love yourself, but for a relationship, romantic or otherwise, to really be successful you have to love the other person. Maybe that love is the passionate-fairy-tale-love kind, maybe that love is more of a respectful love, maybe it’s more of a compassionate love, or maybe it’s a mutual love of a sports team or hobby that makes you love another person. There’s a lot more to love than just saying “I love you” or wanting someone else in your life so you’re not alone.

Relationships are about more than just us and what we want or get out of them, there’s a whole ‘nother person to consider, and without that other person there would be no relationship. So where do you stand on your relationships including your relationship with your significant other, your family members, your work colleagues and your friends? Do you really take time to consider them and their needs, capabilities and needs as part of your relationship with them?

I think one of the biggest secrets to showing love to others is just being considerate. There’s nothing fancy or complicated really about it, it’s just you taking the time to open your eyes, mind, and heart to the other person. Sometimes that consideration means being extra patient with them, sometimes it’s about showing them in dramatic form how much you care, sometimes it’s just a touch on the shoulder or text message to let them know you’re there and you support them, and sometimes it’s connecting them to a great opportunity or resource that you hear about.

Have you taken the time to dive into love this month and explore the relationships that are important in your life? Which relationships have you realized need work and which are you most committed to exploring and strengthening?

New Year, Simply Better Relationships

It’s the weekend! The weekend is a great time to spend together as a family and do something fun or important, or just to relax and catch up after the week. I was talking with my partner about a meeting they had the other day at one of the places he works and he was saying how poorly run the meeting was and what could have made it a much more constructive meeting. His thoughts got me thinking about two simple things we can do in our families and with our partners to have better relationships.

Ask more, tell less: we’ve gotten pretty good at telling others what to do, but how often do we really take the time to ask them or discuss it with them? If you tell them to do something you’re more likely to get resistance, but if you ask them about something you don’t truly know what the answer will be until you ask someone. Maybe they’re in a generous mood, maybe you’ll explain your issue differently this time, maybe they’ll be tired of listening to the complaints, or maybe they’ve realized that it’s time to step up. Yes, the answer may be the same as it’s been the other times you’ve asked, and maybe that’s an indication to you that you need to do or say something different.

Spend time together: maybe it’s going out for groceries, maybe it’s digging in the garden, maybe it’s reading a book, maybe it’s watching a movie, maybe it’s practicing sports or playing a video game, maybe it’s going out to eat, maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk, or maybe it’s taking a class, educational activity or seminar together, there are countless ways that you can spend time together. Some are things you can do with any free time you have, but others are things that have to get done that could be done better with another person, like food shopping, or are more fun with others like going out to eat. The important thing is making the effort to be together.

I know, these sound like really simple things, but making these two small tweaks in your life and theirs can make a big difference. What small but powerful effort can you give in your relationship and family this weekend?

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Christmas

We’ve all been there, the Christmas that we’ve all spent alternating time in the bathroom or unable to get out of bed. It’s not the way we want to spend the holidays, but between the sometimes dramatic weather changes, the foods we’re eating that we’re not used to eating and all the people we’re exposed to, it’s almost surprising that we’re not sick over the holiday season more often. I can remember a couple of Christmases that I spent sick or someone else in the family was sick, you probably can too. It’s annoying that the average ones don’t really come to memory, but the really good ones and the bad ones do.

In some ways this is a reminder of our humanity, that as much as we try to make things perfect or be perfect, it’s just not possible all the time. Of course there are things you can do like making sure you’ve planned things in advance, you’re getting plenty of sleep, and eating well whenever possible. It’s also a reminder that as much as we want this time of year to be special, life is still moving on and part of life are the challenges.

Maybe this holiday season you’re feeling like it’s just not going your way. Maybe you’re without a job and can’t get gifts like you usually do. Maybe a family member is very ill or going to die soon, or a friend or family member died recently. Maybe you’ve gone through some major life changes like a divorce or big move to a new country. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this isn’t going to be your favorite holiday season and that you’d rather stay low-key than go all out. Maybe you’re even going to keep the food in the freezer for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  Sometimes the best ways to celebrate are the quiet ones.  Maybe this won’t be one of the best Christmases, but it’s still early enough for you to decide how it’s going to end up, or at the very least the attitude you’re going to have about how it goes.  What are your most memorable Christmases?

Christmas Around the World

One of the things I love about Christmas is that it’s a very universal holiday, there are more people around the world that celebrate it than any other holiday, and we do it all on the same day.  To celebrate that unity today I thought we’d take a look at some Christmas traditions and how to say Merry Christmas in 25 languages! It’s a great opportunity to get in a little education and try some new things with the kids, too.

Traditions:

Germany: Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas eve, the first child to discover it in the morning receives a small gift.  They also leave a shoe outside the house on December 5th, which is filled with sweets over night if they’ve been good or a tree branch if they’re not.

Columbia: Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards.

Argentina: Their celebrations typically include the boots of Father Christmas, red and white flowers (the poinsettia), and putting cotton on Christmas trees to simulate snow. But most family gatherings take place on Christmas Eve, with huge feasts, gifts exchanged at midnight, and children going to sleep to the sound of fireworks.

Iceland: Christmas is often celebrated by exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.

Egypt: fruitcake is believed to have originated here, as a necessary item for the afterlife (some say that it may last that long as well.

Greece: the tradition of mistletoe is said to have started here, as an unspoken promise to marry the one you’ve committed to.

Brazil: children receive gifts from the Magi on Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, as well as from Papai Noel on Christmas Eve. However, rather than a chimney, Papai Noel enters through the front door and travels by helicopter.

England: the tradition of sending cards was made popular by John Calcott Horsley in the late 1830’s, which quickly traveled to the US.  Caroling also was popularized in England, started by wandering musicians who visited the rich, hoping for a little Christmas gift.

France: one of the big traditions in France is the burning of the Yule Log, which occurs from Christmas to New Year’s Day, following what ancient farmers did in hopes of having a prosperous next year.

Merry Christmas:

Armenian – Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand

Basque – Zorionak eta Urte Berri On

Croatian – Sretan Bozic

Choctaw – Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito

Dutch – Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Feline – Mew Mew Meow

Filipino – Maligayang Pasko

Finnish – Hyvaa joulua

French – Joyeux Noël

German – Fröhliche Weihnachten

Greek – Kala Christouyenna

Haitian – (Creole) Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri’cho o Rish D’Shato Brichto

Hawaiian – Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Icelandic – Gledileg Jol

Irish – Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Indonesian – Selamat Hari Natal

Italian – Buon Natale

Japanese – Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto

Latin – Natale hilare et Annum Faustum

Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Russian – Pozdravlyenie s Rozjdyestvom i s Novym Godom

Swedish – God Jul

Spanish – Feliz Navidad

Thai – Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas

Yoruba – E ku odun, e ku iye’dun

Welsh – Nadolig Llawen

You can see a video with many of them here.

What are your Christmas traditions?

Memories of Holiday Stories

The holidays are officially here! One of the things I’m thinking about this month is making memories. So today I thought I would share about one of my favorite memories from my childhood: holiday books. If you’re looking for a new story to read with your kids, here are some of my childhood favorites as well as some new holiday favorites (all the links are Amazon links for convenience, none are affiliate links).

The Mitten, Jan Brett

Annie and the Wild Animals, Jan Brett

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Jan Brett

The Legend of the Poinsettia, Tommy dePaola

The Night of Las Posadas, Tommy dePaola

The Friendly Beasts, Tommy dePaola

Night Tree, Eve Bunting

Christmas Tapestry, Patricia Polacco

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

Ox Cart Man, Donald Hall

Brave Irene, William Steig

Winter Story, Jill Barklem

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, Alice Schertle

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving Paperback, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree, Jan and‎ Mike Berenstain 

The Christmas Wish, Lori Evert

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, Mercer Meyer

Tacky’s Christmas, Helen Lester

Biscuit’s Christmas Storybook Collection, Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Cranberry Christmas, Wende Devlin

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Karma Wilson

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas, Madeline L’Engle

One Wintry Night, Ruth Bell Graham

Clifford’s Christmas, Norman Bridwell

Fisher-Price Little People Christmastime is Here

Llama Llama Holiday Drama, Anna Dewdney

Best Christmas Book Ever, Richard Scarry

Christmas Mice, Richard Scarry

What are your favorite holiday stories?