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?

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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.

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Taking Time To Remember

Today in the USA is one of the days during the year that we take time to remember. Today 9/11, we take time to remember the 4 attacks on September 11, 2001, 2 in NYC, one in Pennsylvania, and one at the Pentagon in Washington DC. We stop to remember the 2,977 people who died as a result of the actions of men and women who hated us. Although it’s been 17 years, for many of us it feels like just yesterday. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For countless people around the world we have a personal connection to someone who died that day.

We hear the stories from those who were in and around NYC or the Pentagon and helped rescue countless others. We also hear the stories of the people they knew intimately who died while saving lives or just living their lives. We don’t hear the stories from the people in Pennsylvania because they didn’t survive but instead gave their lives to save many others, in some ways making them the biggest heroes of that tragedy.

It’s not fun to remember 9/11 or the days that followed as we came to understand the seriousness of what happened, but it is important. The US was forever changed by the actions of those who hated us that day, in ways that it hadn’t been touched previously. We remember those 2,977 people because they made a sacrifice that day most didn’t plan on or agree to make. We remember their families so they know they aren’t forgotten. We remember in hopes of creating a tomorrow someday that doesn’t include the fear of similar events happening and families don’t have to go through similar pain.

I encourage you to take time to remember today. Remember those you’ve lost and remember those who have touched your life but aren’t part of it anymore, and take time to give thanks for them and the life you have today.

In Sickness and In Health

For the past couple of days I’ve been dealing with a headache that just doesn’t seem to want to give up. Fortunately I’ve got things planned so that my partner always has food options for when I don’t have the ability to cook for us and I try to be on top of things around the house so that if I can’t for a day or two the world won’t end. What happens when you need some extra time or help, either you’re sick or someone in the family is? Today I’ve got a couple of suggestions for these occasional days or sets of days for making sure your kids are cared for when you can’t give them the full attention you usually do.

Let’s start with food. Most weeks I make a trip to 2-3 grocery stores, including a fresh food market, so there’s never a lack of fresh foods or healthy foods readily available, some that don’t require more of my attention than throwing them in the oven for an hour to bake or take a couple minutes to wash up. Have extras of the kids favorite snacks on hand, don’t make it a practice of running out, as well as key staples in the cereal and grain departments (keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer is a great idea). Finally, always have stored away a couple special treats, whether they’re frozen bars, special snacks or frozen dinners that the kids ask for but aren’t things you like to give them on a regular basis that you can treat them with during challenging days.

What about keeping them busy? As always it’s great if you’ve got another family close to yours that you can switch off kids if there’s a need in either of your homes, or if you can hire a sitter to come in for a few hours. But if your kids are old enough and responsible enough to be entertain themselves for a couple of hours while you’re sleeping or just resting, having a selection of movies and TV show DVDs or On Demand that they don’t watch frequently but enjoy on those occasions is a good option for these times. It’s also a good idea to have some new activity books/boxes, new toys, new coloring books and new books hidden away for these times too, it gives them something new and special to work on individually or together.

What are your tips for caring for kids when you’re not feeling 100%?

Dog Days of Summer

I’m a big dog lover, having a dog growing up was one of the best experiences. I think it’s important for all kids to be either raised with or regularly exposed to pets so that they can have a healthy, not fearful, relationship with them, should they ever come into contact with them as a kid or adult. One of the families I work with recently got a dog and being with them and the dog has me thinking about pets, and about the phrase ‘dog days of summer.’

Some say the ‘dog days’ originally referred to the dog star Sirius appearing which could happen in late July. Now we refer to them during the days of summer when the day is so hot it just makes you want to lie around and do nothing, except pant with your dog of course.

I loved having a dog growing up and I look forward to having a dog again soon. But having a dog, or any kind of pet, is a big responsibility and not something that everyone can do full time. If that’s the case for you there are lots of organizations around the country that welcome visitors to be pet petters, some organizations have volunteers who take in pets for short periods of time before they find a full time home, and you can also pet sit for neighbors and friends.

Why do I encourage regular interaction with pets? Because just like many other things in life kids need to learn how to interact with them so they can respect them, know how to interact with them, know how to react to many different behaviors and feel comfortable and confident when they’re around. Pets are much better than people at picking up on how someone is feeling, so they react strongly to fears and anger, and unfortunately often react in ways that reinforce that anger and fear.

Pets are treasured members of many families around the world, and with more awareness, education and interaction I believe we can turn the tide for many dogs, pets and kids of the future.