Let’s Talk about Organization

One of the things that a lot of people do in the beginning of the year is get organized! The new year is a great time to evaluate what you’ve got and how what you got over the holidays works in with all of that.  It’s a great time to donate what you don’t use anymore and throw out what isn’t good anymore, donating to some of the needy communities who can really benefit from it during the winter months.

It’s also a great time to get organized and help your kids get organized.  Teaching your kids about organization at a young age is important because it helps them start thinking in ways of organization, which will benefit them in many ways throughout their adulthood. Organization also helps to keep the clutter down and make cleanup easier because everything has a home.

So how do you organize?  When you’re organizing think about what works for the people who are using it. Don’t forget to make lots of storage available at kid level for the kid’s daily use, and higher for more permanent/seasonal storage. Don’t force your partner into a storage system that doesn’t work for them (there are lots of storage options out there than can easily be changed around to accommodate lots of different needs and styles).

There are tons of great companies that have come up with lots of products that make it easier for us to be organized, but if you’re just looking for something simple that is versatile, just start with putting up shelves, shelves that can have their height adjusted so that they grow and move with all of you.

It doesn’t have to be a new year’s resolution, but I would encourage you to take the time to get organized this year because it will make your life easier and make everyone happier.

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The Legacy You’re Creating

The new year is here!   Are you looking forward to the year ahead?  This year I’ve got some great topics planned to support you, your significant other and your family.  Today I thought we’d start the year off by talking about the topic of legacy.

We each leave a legacy when we leave this world and the legacy we create leaves an impact on those who personally knew us as well as everyone else directly or indirectly who are influenced by the choices we made, which comes down to basically everyone.  Each day the choices we make add to or take away from that legacy.  Our choices influence the choices others make too, especially when it comes to those we’re in relationship with or are considered to be our family.  Tina Turner said:

“My legacy is that I stayed on course… from the beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me.”  

Will you choose to make this the year that you stand up for yourself, your partner, your kids or other family members and finish what you’ve started?  Or will you let another year go by without making the decisions that need to be made and taking the actions that are needed to free you from the baggage holding you back?  I encourage you to choose to start and finish this year stronger than you ever have before.

A Family Christmas

One of the things I love most about this time of year is how much we focus on family, whether you define family as those who share the same blood as you, those who you’ve known your whole life, or those you’ve met along your life journey that have become as or more important to you than those who you share blood with. Something about Christmas brings out the need to be with family in all of us. We desire to spend time with those who are important to us, we enjoy giving them gifts and showing them small tokens of our appreciation for being in our lives, and we talk about memories of those we love.

The stories of Christmas are also all about family, both by birth and by choice. Santa and the elves are a family by choice, they work together at the North Pole and are often thought of as a package deal. The Bible stories surrounding Christmas are all about family, both by birth (Mary and Elizabeth) as well as through marriage (Joseph and Mary). Even the story of Scrooge talks about family by birth (nephew Fred) and by choice (the Cratchit family).

Family should be the people that you want to spend the special occasions with, that you want to create lasting memories with, that you want to build a future with. They should be the people that you would miss if you never saw them again, think of when you want to share something with someone, and can do big activities as well as absolutely nothing with. Family are the people who see you through thick and thin, who you can rely on to give you an honest but loving opinion, and who will support you through the changes and challenges of life. Those are lots of great reasons to celebrate family this Christmas.

So whomever you’re gathering with in the coming days, I encourage you to make it merry and celebrate the people who matter most in your life.  Learn from the stories of Scrooge, Santa, Mary and Joseph, and put family first this Christmas.

Christmas Traditions

What do countless holiday movies, my own family and many years of Christmas past have in common (besides Christmas of course)? Tradition! From the lights to the trees to the gifts to the cookies to the Church services, there are traditions and memories all around. One of the things I love about the holidays is that we can each have our own traditions but find lots in common with others as well. For example many families have a Christmas tree, but some decorate with simple tonal balls, some decorate with stars, some decorate with handmade decorations, some like white lights and some make a big production out of the decorating. So I may not decorate my tree like yours, but we can all talk about and enjoy the trees we all decorate.

Tradition is one of the ways we create memories, the ways we make the holidays special for our kids, it’s also a big part of the magic of the holidays, what makes us love them so much. Without the traditions and loved ones to spend the holidays with, it’s just not as magical or special. Yes, sometimes it can seem like a lot to pull together or do, but it’s always worth it when you go back to think about the memories and time spent with those you love.

The good thing about traditions is that you can keep traditions you’ve had going, and/or you can start new ones. Maybe you don’t enjoy those you had as a child, or you’ve got new joys and celebrations in your life now that you want to incorporate and keep going forward. Whatever you choose isn’t important, as long as you make the effort to celebrate those traditions for your family and for your own holiday spirit.

Traditions are a gift we pass on to the next generation and share with each other.  It’s something we enjoy doing and sharing each year, being part of and incorporating into our remembrance and celebration of Christmas.  What traditions will you be sharing this year?

The Love of Christmas

This time of year is really about love. It’s in Jesus’ story, it’s in Santa’s story, it’s in countless stories recorded by Hollywood, and there’s many a couple that will tell you they fell in love over the Christmas season. Love is many things: it’s giving, it’s forgiving, it’s endearing, it’s celebratory, it’s rewarding, it’s difficult, it’s educational, it’s life giving, it’s challenging, it’s attractive, it’s exciting, it’s work, it’s fulfilling, and that’s just for starters.

Love has highs and lows, but I believe if we’re talking true love (regardless of whether you’re talking romantic, family or friends), the highs and rewards far outweigh the challenges and difficulties and hold true to the statement ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than not loved at all.’ The challenge of the journey doesn’t make you love them any less, and you can work through just about everything that is thrown at you as long as you do it together.

Christmas isn’t the time to be discouraged about the love in your life, it’s time to celebrate it and commit to being more loving from here going forward. Even though it’s a story that’s grown over the years, why would Santa deliver presents around the world if not for love? It’s a lot more factual that Jesus came to earth some 2000 years ago as a baby, and it’s been said many times and in many ways that it was because of love. Why would we give gifts each holiday season if not for love?

So be encouraged that love is really all around. Will you welcome love into your life and heart this holiday season?

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

Celebrating the Tastes of Autumn

One of the things I love most about the change of seasons are the different foods that come into season.  Yes, we’re lucky enough in our world that we can have an ingredient at any point in time, not just when it’s technically in season, but most fruits and vegetables are better when they’re officially in season.  So today I thought I’d share a list of in season vegetables and some recipes that are kid (and picky adult) friendly.

Beets:

Beet and carrot latkes

Beet and chocolate muffins

Beet hummus

Beet, banana and raspberry smoothie

Beet chips

Crunchy beet and carrot slaw

Brussels Sprouts:

Lemon honey shredded Brussels sprouts

Caramelized Brussels sprouts with maple orange glaze

Brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins

Crispy Brussels sprouts chips

Squash:

Butternut squash mac and cheese

Butternut squash bread

Butternut squash fries

Bacon and Parmesan fritters with spaghetti squash 

Spaghetti squash fritters

Sweet Potato:

Sweet potato, black bean and kale enchiladas

Sweet potato cottage pie

Sweet potato tots

Sweet potato corn cakes

Bacon and sweet potato slice

Cauliflower:

Twice baked cauliflower

Creamy cauliflower capellini

Broccoli and cauliflower bites

Cauliflower pizza crust

Cauliflower buffalo wings

Parsnip:

Parsnip muffins

Parsnip fries

Sweet potato and parsnip mash

Parsnip chips

What are your favorite recipes to make with fall vegetables?

Halloween Lessons

Halloween is Wednesday so today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on lessons you can share with your kids for Halloween, and you might find they apply to you too.

Tricks: sometimes life sends you tricks. Yes, sometimes you can choose if you want the trick or the treat, but often you don’t get a choice, life chooses for you.  It’s really a question of how well you’re going to deal with the trick you’ve received, the attitude you’ll work through it with and what you’ll do after you’ve survived.

And Treats: Halloween is a bit of a catch for those who watch their sugar, because it’s really a celebration of treats and sweets. It’s a reminder that sometimes life is short and treats should be eaten and enjoyed, especially in moderation.

Costumes: the other big thing about Halloween is everyone dresses up. Yes, sometimes its good to try new things and see if they could be the right direction for us, after all, if we don’t try new things we can’t know if they would be right for us. Sometimes it’s just fun to be someone else for a little while, even though we’re satisfied with our lives.

Community: the whole concept is based around going from house to house around your neighborhood, and expecting those homes to open up and share candy or other treats. It’s not something we do with any other holiday, only Halloween.

What has Halloween taught you?

Planning for Disaster

This past week another hurricane hit the US and caused a lot of devastation across many states. I hate that people are going through this again and that more people are facing the monumental task of recovery. I haven’t been in anything nearly as severe as the recent hurricanes and it took quite a while for me to wrap my head around all the destruction, it just didn’t seem real! One day things were there and the next things were completely different. Places I went were flooded out and never reopened, families sold their houses and moved, and just about everyone lost their refrigerated or frozen food (this was before generators were really owned by tons of people).

One statement that you hear when these things happen I heard again in response to this most recent hurricane: “it’s just stuff.” While I agree with that statement, and things can be replaced, the loss can’t be denied. Kids won’t have the mementos, photos or history that get destroyed by these storms, often things that can’t be easily put into a car because they’re too large and not food, water, clothing, pets or people, to share with their kids. While kids are resilient and sometimes better able to deal with change than we adults are, the loss of things that mean a lot to them, the things that are “normal” to them can be a devastating blow, one that they’ll be sad about for possibly the rest of their lives.

So what’s the answer? Consider investing in waterproof, sturdy boxes (military or survivalist types) that can store some of these valuables if you can’t take them with you if you need to move to safety. Make sure to label them with your information on the exterior and interior so that they can be returned to you should they float away. Also take photos of all of your valuables so that at least you’ve got the picture to look at. Make sure that all of your pictures are either uploaded to the cloud and/or on a device or devices that are stored at all times in those waterproof boxes. Take time to record the stories that go along with each item or photo so that your kids are never without the stories, because those can be as treasured as the items. Also, with the increasing frequency that storms like these have been happening, it’s a good idea to consider where you live or are moving to and how vulnerable it may be to things like flooding and tree damage, as well as have really good insurance (money can’t replace the past but it can recover some of the items from your present).

And above all make sure that you take time to be with the people you love and make happy memories together so that even if a natural disaster does happen you all have lots of good memories to hold onto.  How will you prepare for your future today?

Fun and Fears

October is often the month known for all things scary, although for those who are true horror film or paranormal buffs, there’s never a bad time to check out a new scary movie or location. Whether you enjoy watching those types of movies and shows or visiting those types of locations, and whether or not you believe in the paranormal, just about everyone has fears about something during their lives. Sometimes these are fears like something/someone being under the bed or in the closet that are 99.9% of the time not based in reality, but they did come from somewhere, regardless of however rare the reality of them occurring is.

Sometimes we get over our fears in large part, but some of us are never able to break free. And to an extent it is healthy to have fears, or at least have a healthy respect for things that can harm us like heights and cliff edges and deep water and violent people. Our fears become an issue when they prevent us from living life as fully as we would like.

As adults we have to find a between balance being honest with the next generation about some of the not so awesome things and people in the world, and helping them have a healthy attitude towards life and the fun that can be had, including with all things scary. We shouldn’t judge them for their fears or being asked to check for monsters, instead we should help them learn the many different faces of fear; from reality to potential to imagined to fun and make believe.

So go ahead and have a little spooky fun with your kids this month, but make sure you know if their definition of spooky is visiting a haunted attraction, watching a slightly scary movie or carving a scary face on a pumpkin.