The Spirit of Christmas

As little children we are told of Santa Claus and get excited each year to think he is watching and we try our very best to be good little boys and girls.  Seeing a child’s excitement Christmas morning when presents appear under the tree and the cookies they left out the night before are eaten and milk has vanished.  Somewhere along the way as we grow into young adults, the mystery of Santa disappears and we stop believing.  Why is this?  Why do we let this magic of Christmas disappear?  

I was speaking to my Grandson recently and learned he no longer believes in Santa and I was crushed.  What about the Spirit of Christmas?  He looked at me confused.  We talked for a while about what Christmas means and why we give gifts.  In our family, we believe in Jesus Christ and we celebrate his birth on December 25th. (Christmas!).  This my grandson is clear about, but the spirit of Christmas is the magic that as kids, Santa brings.  As adults, there is so much more to it.  This is where “Santa” transitions into the “Spirit of Christmas”.  This young time in our lives and into our adult years is when we learn,  and many times we forget, what all of the little traditions at Christmas are really for.  Why do we do all the things we do this time of year?  Santa is a great way to start telling small children about all of the traditions of Christmas, but let’s not forget to transition this wonderful belief to a more adult understanding as our kids grow.  Don’t let them lose the Spirit of Christmas, instead help them develop it into a magical feeling that they can lean on year round.  

The Colors Red and Green

The color red is used at Christmas to represent the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross.  Green is another popular color at Christmastime signifying everlasting light and life. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year, and the fir tree symbolized life during the winter. There is also a legend that when Jesus was born in the dead of winter all the trees around the world shook off the snow to reveal new shoots of green.

The Bell

Bells are rung during Christmas to proclaim the arrival of the season and to announce the birth of Christ.

The Candy Cane

This treat represents the shape of a shepherd’s crook. Jesus, often referred to as the Good Shepherd, was born on Christmas. His birth was God’s way to bring lost lambs back to the fold. The red stripe represents blood, Christ’s sacrifice, and the white stands for his purity.

The Wreath

The wreath is a circular, never-ending symbol of eternal love and rebirth. Holly also stands for immortality and cedar for strength. Today the wreath symbolizes generosity, giving, and the gathering of family.

Gifts and a Bow

The men who brought their gifts to honor the birth of Jesus inspired the concept of giving gifts during the holiday.   A ribbon is tied around a gift to represent how we should all be tied together in bonds of unity and goodwill during the holiday season.

The Christmas Tree

Regarding the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of John records, “Light has come into the world.” Jesus himself said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” Surely, it is appropriate that our Christmas celebration be filled with light as we celebrate Jesus, the “light of the world.”

And what about Santa Claus himself?  here did the idea of “Santa” come from? 

A Brief history of Santa Claus

Santa Claus was a real man. He lived about 400 years after Jesus. He was the Bishop of a church. He loved Jesus. Bishop Nicholas had a friend that had 3 daughters, but they could not get married because their father did not have the money for their dowries.So late one night, in secret, Bishop Nicholas threw 3 bags of gold into their living room. The bags landed in socks that were drying by the fireplace(thus the tradition of stocking hung by the fireplace). Later the Catholic Church made him a Saint, thus Saint Nicholas. The Santa Claus that we know today in America is a result of Clement Moore’s poem, The Night Before Christmas, written in the mid 1800’s.

Positive reinforcement, Structure and Smiles

I am a huge fan of positive thoughts and positive vibes and if you know me, than you know this to be very very true.  It is so very easy to let our heads lead us to negative self-talk and we can let ourselves get down in the dumps, we don’t need help from anyone else.  I wanted to take a minute to talk about Positive reinforcement and then follow it up with the importance of structure for the little people in our lives.    When we are little this is when we are finding our identities and building our self-esteem and figuring out who we are.  We learn how to dress, how to match our clothes, how to get ready in the morning , how to do our chores, learn that we need to go to school, and how to be responsible for ourselves, for our pets, and eventually for others.  These are all very important lessons.  If we as adults are constantly speaking in negative tones or punishing kids rather than building them up, how are we helping them?  Of course there are consequences and of course we need to teach the concept of consequences, but we also need to teach the concept of rewards.  If you go to work, you get a paycheck.  If you work harder and faster, you get bonuses, earn promotions, and get ahead in life.  Why should we not teach our children this part of life in addition to teaching them that if they do not follow thru on their responsibilities, they will not reach their goals (not earn their paychecks i.e., play time).

Positive reinforcement is defined as the process of encouraging or establishing a pattern of behavior by offering reward when the behavior is exhibited.  Rather than saying “If you don’t do “this”, than “this” will happen.  It is just as easier and a positive approach to say; “If you complete “this”, “this” will happen.  It is the exact same approach but rather than enforcing a fearful or negative approach to a child, you encourage a child to work hard to gain reward.  During their work process, they are happier and eager to please rather than scared and unfocused on the task at hand.

It is not always easy to take the higher road and be cheerful and positive.  We all get frustrated and at the end of the day we have all lost out temper.  I think the take away is to remember we are trying to raise little people to big people who will in turn one day  contribute to society.   Looking around in today’s society, there is a lot of negativity.  If we can contribute to the little people of today by enlightening them in a more positive manner to make this world a better place.  By helping hem to make good choices, to make calmer choices, to think things through and not always rule with an iron fist than we have all done our jobs.

When we were children, we did not have to worry about kids bringing guns to school, we were able to play outside safely and ride our bikes without helmets, drink from a garden hose without worry.  We ate dinner together as a family, we watched Saturday morning cartoons,  went on family trips together.  If you are a single mom, blended family, large family or mixed family of all ages, it doesn’t matter.  Love each other and do you very best.  You are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  Be a team.

First Aid Kits (Home, Travel, Office)

Do you have a first aid kit in your home or car?  When is the last time you opened it?  The aspirin may be expired and the liquid items may be out of date or worse, dried up.  Once a year you should make it a point to update your first aid kits, refresh them, and add any notes about medication changes.  (In Florida or the south, I would suggest doing this in June as that is the start of hurricane season.)

First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase one from the Red Cross Store or your local American Red Cross chapter. Your local drug store may sell them. You can also make your own. Some kits are designed for specific activities, such as hiking, camping or boating.I would suggest having a kit for your home, your office and your car.  You never know when or where an tiny emergency will pop up and you will need some sort of medical supply.  Below are some suggestions to customize your kit to your family or needs:

What a kit should include:

 

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket) 
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches) 
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Additional items to think about:  Include a list of current medications or allergies for each member of your family.  This should be updated annually.  Keep your first aid kit in a known location in your home and car.  Add any emergency equipment that may be required by your family (i.e., epi-pens, etc.)

First Aid Kit Review:

  1. Include personal items such as medications and emergency phone number or other items your doctor may suggest.
  2. Check your kit regularly
  3. Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date items.
  4. Store your kits in a place that is out of reach of children, but easily accessible by adults

Ouch! Paper-cut! Simple solutions for small boo-boos

It’s summer and many of us have kids (or grandkids) running around and getting into all sorts of things.  Little “boo-boos” happen all the time.  Here is a great list of home remedies for the little ones in your life.  Always first assess the situation of a boo-boo.  If your child has a cut or sever pain, medical attention from a professional may be required.

Sunburns – Use Aloe Vera to soothe sunburns. It contains compounds that reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s earned the name “burn plant” for being the perfect natural remedy for sunburn. Additionally, it’s a refreshing way to cool and moisturize skin during those hot summer days. SIDE NOTE: Get an ice cube tray from the dollar store and fill each cube with aloe vera gel.  When you need it, you will have the perfectly portion size for little hands.  It will melt and the coldness will help in addition to the aloe’s healing qualities. NOTE ABOUT BURNS IN GENERAL: Don’t apply butter or other oily substances to the burned area, and if blisters form, don’t break them- both of these things can cause further damage to the sensitive area. Encourage kids not to peel skin resulting from the burn to reduce scarring.

Insect Bites – A baking soda paste can soothe the pain from bee stings and itchiness from insect bites. Baking soda neutralizes the acidic venom from the sting. Mix up a baking soda paste by using baking soda and water. Remove the stinger and leave the paste on the sting or bite for at least 15 minutes. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub toothpaste onto your child’s bug bites to stop the itching

Bee Sting – chop up a white onion and rub one of the raw pieces on the sting site for 5 minutes. This will help to prevent infection, while also reducing pain, as it draws the poison away from the sting.

Bumps and Bruises – Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a home remedy for all sorts of minor muscle and skin pains. Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and relieves the pain from bruises.  Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a bowl of warm water. Soak a clean towel in the water and wring it out so there is no dripping. Place the warm, moist towel on your child’s sore area. To maintain its warmth, place a hot water bottle on top of the towel. The warmth boosts the magnesium content in the body which leads to a reduction in swelling. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub some vanilla extract onto a bump and your child should stay bruise-free.

Cuts and Scrapes – Apple cider vinegar contains proteins, enzymes, and germ-killing bacteria that can help fight infection. To help heal and soothe your kid’s minor cuts and scrapes, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath. It’s also good for rashes that your kid may be prone to during the hot summer months. They may not be happy about the smell, but they’ll be happy to feel some relief.

Hives, Eczema, or just itchy skin – give your child an oatmeal bath. Grind oatmeal into a fine powder and pour into the warm running water as it fills up a bath. Let your child soak in the tub to alleviate the itching associated with these skin afflictions.

As always, have a happy day.  Stay safe this summer and have fun!

 

Find your tribe, love them hard

I am a huge fan of “Family” quotes.  I wanted to take a moment and share some with you.  To me, family is everything.  It is the foundation that built me, the love that has shaped me and the rock on which I can always fall back on.  Throughout my life I have watched my family evolve into what is the most precious thing I have to date.

  • Family – Where life begins and love never ends
  • The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing
  • Family – We may not have it all together, but we have it all
  • Family is not about blood, it is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most
  • Family is family, whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.

I suggest you take a moment and draw your family tree.  You may be surprised to see the list of parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. that are there.  If your family is small, try adding leaves to your tree that include your complete tribe.  Do you have a family friend that has been like a sister or aunt to you?  Do you have a best friend that has helped you raise your children?  They are all leaves on our trees.

When you get a moment, send a note to your tribe and let them know what they mean to you.  Here are my little notes:

To my parents: “Thank you for teaching me to eat with a fork, to wipe my own butt, to get up when I fell down and to laugh so hard my belly hurts.  Thank you for teaching me that this life is a beautiful gift and then telling me to go live it”

To my sons: “You may not have the same eyes or smile as me, but from the very first moment, you had my heart.”

To my grandchildren: “Trying to explain how much I love my Grandkids is like trying to count the stars”

To my cousins: “God made us all cousins because he knew our parents couldn’t handle us as siblings.”   Thank you for being my first playmates and now my greatest friends.

To my extended family: “Family is much more than a word – It’s a feeling of warmth and love that neither time nor distance can change.”  Thank you for always being on the other end of the phone, a text, or an e-mail.

To my husband: “You are my forever and always”.  God knew what he was doing when our paths crossed.  There is no one more patient, loving, understanding, strong, or crazy than you.

To my friends (Both near and far): “Friends go like waves on the ocean, but the true ones stay like an octopus on your face”  Hahahaha…  and this is why we are friends!

 

Digital memory books (AKA E-mail)

Have a child in your home or one you are responsible for or assist in raising?  Create a digital memory book for them.  You can do this at any time in your child’s life (as a newborn, school age, heading off to college or the military, or as they have children of their own).

Create an e-mail account for them.  (I suggest doing this with a service that is tried and true, dependable).  I am not supporting one outlet over the other, but I prefer g-mail becuase I’m pretty sure Google will be around for a while.

Don’t give them the password for this account until you are ready to share with them the contents.  The purpose of the e-mail is to provide them with bits of advice, stories about themselves or their heritage, and other funny things that happen throughout their lifetime.  Keep this e-mail address to yourself or share it with your family and friends.

Anytime you experience a situation where words of wisdom have helped you, send an e-mail to this new account.  Family recipes, photos, etc. are all great things to share.  So many times we wait until we are older to ask our parents for stories of our childhood or of our heritage.  There will come a day when we leave this world and leave our children behind, this is a great way to create a memory book of sorts for them that they can rely on for years to follow.

Have you personally lost a parent or close relative or friend and later wanted to give them a call to ask a question or are sure that if they were here they would know the solution to a situation?  Take this “digital memory book” and use it to alleviate the pain of not being able to call years down the road.

I have lost my grandparents and a few other friends and relatives.  I wish they were here now to share all of their wisdom and wit with me.  Take advantage of your resources in today’s age and pass on some history wrapped up in love and good intentions.  Your child will cherish it later in life.

SIDE NOTE: Share the password with them at a turning point in their life.  When there are no words at the moment, but so many thoughts have come and gone.  A child heading off to college, or preparing for their own child are perfect times.

 

Chore Charts – They work wonders!

I grew up with two sisters in my mother’s home.  We were all close in age and all very very different.  There were rules to follow of course, but my mom gave us chore charts.  She did this when I was little and again when my sisters and I were teens.  They were very different as they were age appropriate, but looking back they taught us to do our fair share and to take responsibility for ourselves.

As a little girl, my chore chart had the days of the week (I was learning those), and the chores that I was responsible for and capable of doing. (i.e., making my bed, picking up my room, putting my clothes in the dirty laundry hamper, etc.)  My sister and I shared the responsibility of laundry, cleaning our bathroom, dusting and vacuuming as we got older.  The chore chart faded away as the things we did became a habit and generally just expected.

As a teen, the chart came back into effect for dividing up chores and keeping us each accountable as individuals.  We had a calendar hanging in the kitchen with our initials on the days and order.  1, 2, 3, and repeat.  This was our dishes calendar.  If our name fell on the day, then we were responsible for doing dishes that night. (no question or hassle, it was there in black and white). NOTE: If our name fell on a day where we had a pre-planned social activity that kept us away at dinner time, the task of dishes fell to my mom, so she had her fair share of dishes nights too.)

As a young child, there were rewards for accomplishing all of my chores and doing them well.  Gold stars placed on my chart, a prize at the end of the week (this was either being able to stay up 30 minutes past my bedtime, or maybe watching a movie of my choice, or being able to have a friend over).  The consequences for not doing my chores were just as clear (i.e., no TV, no friends coming over, etc.)

These chores taught me to keep my home clean, to respect my property and that of others,  to be responsible for myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I did not have a difficult or challenging childhood, but my parents had rules and they had good reason for them.  Looking back I am so grateful they did.  I am the woman I am today because of them.  Things like washing the towels and sheets on your bed, vacuuming AND dusting, cleaning out your closet occasionally, are all random things we take for granted as an adult but should thank our parents for teaching them to us when we were young.  After all, they taught us to use a spoon, wipe our own tushes, and hopefully to take care of ourselves overall as were grew into successful independent adults.

If you have a little kiddo in your home, I hope you are teaching them to grow into fabulous independent adults.  The joy is equal in succeeding as an individual as it is to watching your child succeed, knowing you did a good job.

SIDE NOTE: I was an argumentative child at times.  I hated to be told no.  I would accept a choice or a reason, but the word “no” sent me through the roof many times.  These chore charts outlined exactly what was expected of me and decreased the arguments over all.  As I grew older I appreciated conversations with reasons and purpose rather than being “told what to do”.  Today as a result, I have a pretty solid foundation and open line of communication between myself and all of my parents.  (As I mentioned before, I have two step-parents that also raised me and I respect them as much as I respect my biological parents.)

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