Turkey Leftovers

I hate wasting food, don’t you?  To me, throwing away food is just awful.  To start with, I might as well just take my hard-earned paycheck and put it in the garbage disposal along with the shriveled tomato, wilted lettuce, or moldy cucumbers.

I remember hearing my mother say that I had to eat everything on my plate because there were children in the world who were starving.  This typically invoked a response from me that included some well-known preteen eyeball rolling.  But, like so many other things in my life, as an adult, I view things differently and have to admit that I agree. How dare I waste food when there are mothers all over the world watching their children waste away from starvation?

If I lived alone, I would live life as a vegetarian; it really bothers me that animals have to perish in order for me to eat a meal.  I resolve my emotional conflict over this issue by making absolutely certain that I never waste meat. Before I purchase meat, I have a plan in place for how I will use it all.

Thanksgiving turkey is a perfect example. Like everyone, we eat leftovers. I always have a menu planner on my iPad and once the turkey is consumed my planner has a

img_0353lot of turkey items lined up. We make hot leftover turkey plates, hot or cold turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, and finally turkey soup. The turkey soup is important to me because I eke out every bit of nourishment from the turkey.

Today is turkey soup day and it makes me happy to make this big pot of comfort food for my family.  Paired with a fresh, warm loaf of homemade bread, nothing seems better.  This afternoon as I simmered the turkey with carrots, onions, celery, and a bundle of fresh herbs, I took a moment to feel thankfulness and gratitude for my ability to provide nourishing food for my family.

So, for me and my family, the true message of Thanksgiving is not wasted, nor is any turkey.  And so, I say, “For the creatures of this Earth, I give thanks.”

While sitting in the dark…

In spite of my age, I am a person who has fully embraced the technology available to me.  Yes, I confess, I love my digital life and I believe it has made my life so much easier!  Here’s how:

  • I love to read, but I no longer read paper books.  My over-stuffed, sagging bookshelves have been replaced with digital copies of all my favorite books safely housed in the “cloud”.  I can read them again and again, the pages are not dog-eared, the paper doesn’t yellow or get brittle.  I can enlarge the print size if my eyes are tired, and adjust the brightness of the screen so that it is just perfect.  
  • I enjoy magazines.  I used to subscribe to so many and my coffee table always had a cluttered stack of half-read magazines with articles dog-eared for me to read next.  No more! All of my magazines are digital and I download them and can read them without the clutter.
  • Light switches are a thing in my past; my lights are controlled digitally and come on and off at preset times, dim to set the mood, or brighten slowly so not to startle me awake in the morning.
  • As much as I love to read, I love listening to music even more. I recently donated about 200 CDs to a local charity. This doesn’t mean I don’t listen to music, it means that I can stream all my music off the internet.  Again, no more cluttered shelves, searching for the CD, worrying that CDs will become obsolete like vinyl or 8 tracks, and I don’t have to spend time alphabetizing!
  • Movies? Television? No more VCR, no more VHS tapes, no more DVDs, no more Friday night trips to the DVD rental store or the big red movie dispenser. It is all living in the “cloud” and waiting for me to control with one of my devices.
  • Just like you, l’m busy.  I have lots of things to keep up with.  My entire life is now neatly crammed into a digital planner. I have to confess, I don’t miss the cute kitten or puppy calendar thumbtacked to the kitchen wall.  I don’t miss the large and unwieldy paper planner that I lugged around with me everywhere I went.  No, today I have a digital planner that lives on all my devices.  I can get to it on my phone when I am at the nail salon, look at a date on my tablet when I plan a visit with a friend, get a digital reminder on my smart watch, and have it displayed on my laptop screen while I sit typing this post. 
  • I love that I have a car with digital capabilities.  I stink with maps; my husband used to say that I could get lost trying to find my way out of a paper bag!  No more. Now, I just tell my car where I want to go, and it talks to me the whole way!  No more missed phone calls!  I can take calls (or ignore them!) In my car.  My car just alerted me that it was time for service and sent an email to the dealership.  I can talk to my digital assistant and select the music of my choice.  My car does not even have a CD player, by the way. While driving, my digital assistant can read and send text messages or emails, check my planner, and tell me a joke. NOTE: be aware that distracted driving is never okay!
  • Today, there is an app for everything.  My gym has an app; I can sign up for a class from my phone. My weight loss program is online and I can manage everything I need right from there.  Once I decide what I want to eat, it will gather up all the recipes and generate my shopping list. I can shop from my phone, order groceries, clothes, and movies.  Too busy to go to the store? It will notify the grocery store and my groceries will be delivered. No more trips to the bank, that is all done online through any one of my devices. No more searching for a calculator, math is at my fingertips.  I confess, I hate to vacuum, but I have resisted the urge to buy the little scoot-around-by-itself vacuum device. However, it may be in my future, just saying. 
  • Bored? No worries!  I can play games on all of my devices, watch television or movies, catch up on the news, and I have a playlist full of podcasts that make me think and examine my life. There are multiple social media apps on all of my devices, so I am easily able to stay in touch with friends all over the world.  

All of this is amazing and wonderful until something happens to the power!  Two weeks ago, my digital assistant’s voice loudly announced that the weather app was alerting us that we were under a hurricane watch. And as always, sure enough, we lost power.  There I sat surrounded by technology; my laptop, my tablet, and my smart phone were all in arm’s reach. Yet, I had nothing to read, no music to listen to, no access to anything. I had nothing to do but stare into the darkness, oh yes, and sweat.  It is HOT here in the deep South in September! 

As I sat here sweating, I had time to think about all the things I wanted to do that I couldn’t because they were dependent upon staying charged. At one point I ended up sitting in my car with the motor running. Yes, the garage door was up; just say “no” to carbon monoxide poisoning! I was out there so that I could charge my tablet.   

Having a power outage sheds a whole new light on things…no pun intended!  Before I picked up my tablet I needed to ask if what I was going to do was critical.  Pretty much, nothing was; I don’t NEED to read, browse magazines, or listen to music. I certainly can’t justify draining the battery to play any of my online games. I began to worry about when the power would return. 

We were lucky this time, our power was only down about three hours.  During the last hurricane, we lost power for five days! At that moment, I decided I definitely need a hobby that is not dependent upon having power in the house.  Perhaps I will take up knitting or crocheting, because my online crossword puzzle was not available! 

Seeking Gratitude

I live in south Georgia in a county with coastal waters; the Governor has declared our county in a State of Emergency ahead of Hurricane Dorian.  Hurricanes are not unfamiliar, we have faced Matthew and Irma in the last few years, but no matter how often, I always feel anxious.  

Today we are praying and preparing as Dorian heads our way.  The “cone of uncertainty” is so frustrating and seems designed to add to my stress…Should we evacuate? Should we stockpile water and ice? Should we believe it is going to miss us?  We have no answers, and I hate feeling out of control.

So, within this stress, I try to tap into my gratitude.  Today, I realized I was grateful for so many things I take for granted:

  • Having a husband who is my partner.
  • My son and his wife, who live just a few minutes away.
  • My freezer is full of food and I worry about losing the food in the freezer if the power goes out. How can I not feel blessed to have “extra” food to keep in a freezer? 
  • Being forced to clean out the refrigerator and the pantry; if we lose power, there will be fewer things to spoil.  As I do so, I think about families who go to bed hungry at night worrying about finding the next meal.
  • Water!  I am busy stockpiling water. Staying hydrated is one of my daily health challenges.  Today, my gratitude is great; so many people in the world do not have access to clean, safe drinking water and here I am stacking up a tower of bottled water.
  • Transportation…We always have “Clean the garage” on the To Do list; now we have to do it to make room for our cars. This reminds me that I am so grateful to have two cars that need to be moved into the garage! 
  • I am dreading the possible loss of power; it gets HOT here in the deep South.  Yet, today I realize I must be grateful that I have air conditioning to lose! 
  • Seeing the good in people; when faced with adversity, people step up to help neighbors. So many friends and family have already reached out to offer us shelter if needed. I am richly blessed.
  • Our first responders and linemen are already cueing up to help anyone in need. They leave their families to help others under the worst conditions.  

Yes indeed, I am richly blessed. There are so many things that aren’t on this list, but it is a good start. One thing I know for sure is that keeping a grateful mindset attracts joy!  So for today I choose gratitude. What are you feeling grateful for today? 

Golden Globes + Black Dress = Big Deal?

I have been reading and seeing on the news that several high powered Hollywood actresses, the movers and shakers, are planning to wear black dresses to awards events such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Their purpose is to draw attention to the ME TOO movement that is sweeping the nation. Keep reading to find out why I think the black dress protest is definitely NOT a big deal.

The Facts:

  1.  I definitely want the men and women of Hollywood to use their fame in positive ways that support needed social and environmental changes. Today, an important issue is that of female empowerment!
  2. I am a 69 year old female, a retired teacher, and certainly not an expert on life in Hollywood.
  3. I was a young woman who fought for women’s rights throughout the 1960s.  During summer breaks from college I worked as an office temp; I remember the “girls” at my first office job had to threaten a walk-out to be allowed to wear a PANTS SUIT to work!
  4. I support the “ME TOO” initiative; no one should be forced to compromise her/his dignity in order to get or keep a job.

The Problem:

The women of Hollywood are beautiful.  We all love seeing them close up on the big screen; they are who many young girls aspire to become.  Female empowerment is a serious issue, not just for women of Hollywood, but across our country. Serious issues need serious solutions.  Now is the perfect time to take a stand for this issue, while it is in the public eye.

My Questions:

Many of us watch the pre-show and the Awards ceremony because we want to see what everyone is wearing.  The  iconic Red Carpet question is always: “Who are you wearing?” Does it matter that the gorgeous, incredibly expensive dress being worn is black instead of red or blue? Is wearing a black dress to a glamorous awards ceremony a SERIOUS SOLUTION?

My Answer:  No!

My Solution:  

As I said, Hollywood actresses are beautiful!  They would be beautiful if they showed up in a burlap sack.  So, instead of wearing a $75,000 black dress to the ceremony, wear a $1,000 dress and donate the other $74,000 to a program that supports women’s shelters.  When asked “Who are you wearing?”, I would love the answer to be Kohl’s or Belk’s, or any average department store in the area.

OR, how about wearing the same dress you wore last year and donate the entire $75,000 you would have spent to women’s shelters. We need to make it less frightening for women and their children to escape from abusive situations.

Not interested in women’s shelters?  There are plenty of single mothers and their children living in homeless shelters or on the streets.  All I am saying is that women need to stand up for women in a meaningful way. Change is a possibility that resides within each of us.

 

Rose Parade: Is it really “Making a Difference”?

imagesIt is that time of year, so I am posting my annual ROSE BOWL PARADE REFLECTION…

Now don’t get me wrong…I live in Georgia and I am so excited that our team is competing this year in the Rose Bowl.  My issue has nothing at all to do with the actual Rose Bowl game; my problem is with the Rose Bowl Parade associated with the game.

This year the theme of the parade is “Making a Difference”; I find that quite interesting since I think there are better ways to make a difference than a parade. Here’s why…

MY CONCERN:

  1. The estimated base cost to a corporation for one of the big floats is $250,000; there will be 44 floats this year. According to the official Rose Parade website, “float building is a multi-million dollar business.”
  2. Calculate the cost of transporting the marching bands. There will be 21 bands in this year’s parade. I know that the students are so excited to have a chance to march in this parade, but the money the school system will spend on transportation, meals, and lodging really adds up.
  3. Can you imagine how much it costs to outfit and transport the 20 equestrian units?
  4. The official cost of a ticket ranges from $60.00 to $180.00; however, scalping of tickets has raised the average price of a ticket this year to $480.00! YIKES!!!!  They expect 1,000,000 attendees to line the streets for the 2018 parade.
  5. Now figure in the cost to sponsors for advertising during the televised parade.
  6. Let’s not forget the huge cost of security…even higher in light of the terrorist attacks around the world.
  7. Then when it is all over, we have to add in the cost of post-parade clean-up.  That will be hefty.

Add this up…it is ASTRONOMICAL!

MY QUESTION:

How many homeless and hungry children could we feed and clothe with the money spent on flowers that will be wilted in the trash the next day?

MY SUGGESTION:

Corporations, Universities, and Schools donate the money they would have spent on the parade to a charity of their choice in exchange for a huge, positive promotional campaign of their product, service, or school. Companies will still have lots of positive publicity and children will be fed. I would be much more willing to spend money with a company who is actively contributing to helping hungry and homeless people during these cold winter months than I am to a company who spends $500,000 on a float.

So, no, I will not be watching the parade again this year. #sixtieschick #stillprotesting

Santa Claus is Coming: Please Consider This!

dec10_button1This is a letter to parents of young children who are so excited that Santa is coming to visit.  Santa is just amazing, isn’t he?.  He allows us to focus on the spirit of Christmas: kindness, giving, and some old fashioned magic.  But, this is a letter to parents asking that we look at Santa through different eyes.

This is such a busy time of year, I hate to even suggest that you think of one more thing. However, this is important to me and has been weighing on my heart.  I just want to join my teacher friends in raising awareness and sensitivity.  Every community and every school, no matter how affluent or how poor, has children living in homes from a variety of financial levels.

I live and work in a community where about 75% of children live in poverty.  However, that leaves 25% who are not living in poverty.  Now, I want you to think about this scenario: Johnny, Luis, and Latricia are in the same class.  They all celebrate Christmas and Santa visits each of their homes.

Luis is an only child; his family has a lovely, decorated tree. Under the tree there are lots of presents from family and extended family.  Santa will come to the house, and as is their tradition, Santa will leave just one gift.  Santa has an iPadPro and an Apple Pencil (cost = around $1000) for Luis this year.

Latricia is one of three children. Her mom and dad both work, but money is always tight.  Nevertheless, there are presents under the tree for all of the children. Under the tree, there are lots of little presents for the children from mom and dad (pajamas, books, dolls, crayons, action figures).  This year, the three children will have a visit from Santa and he will leave an expensive gaming system for them to share along with some games (cost = $550.00).

Johnny is our third student. He is one of four children living with a single mom who is out of work and depends on welfare and occasional part time work to make ends meet.  They have a small tree and a few presents.  Santa is coming to Johnny’s house too. However, Johnny will find a new pair of much needed sneakers from Santa (cost = $20.00).

Now, travel forward with me to January 4, 2018.  The children are back at school and excited to share about what they got from Santa. There is a big difference between what Luis got and what Johnny got.  My fear is that Johnny is left wondering why Santa likes Luis so much more than he likes him.  He worries that he was not a good boy or that his is not smart enough or didn’t do a good enough job helping his mom around the house. How sad!  We know that Santa loves all children equally.

So, here is my request.  Please think about all the Johnnys in your child’s school.  When it is time to put out the cookies and milk for Santa, please leave a note asking him to leave small gifts for your child.  This will not diminish your Christmas morning at all since you can proudly put your name on the big ticket items for your child. I promise that Santa will appreciate how you are helping him look out for the happiness of all his boys and girls.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

Choose Kindness

When children are “given”, it can create a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn.

This activity works for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; actually it works any month of the year! Here is my proposal: Give your child a blank calendar page. This simple page becomes a journal or record of kindnesses. Each night at bedtime, ask your child to record an intentional kindness they performed that day. This few moments allows your child to savor joy in the kindness they performed. It also allows you a moment to look your child in the eyes and genuinely say, “I am proud of you!”

That moment when you really look at your child and tell him or her you are proud is powerful and profound…this is a message that helps forge a strong, resilient, loving, lifelong bond.

Here are a few ideas to get you and your child started on this journey of giving:

  1. Do a chore for a family member.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Pick up litter.
  5. Feed the birds.
  6. Give someone a compliment.
  7. Let someone get in front of you in line.
  8. Set the table.
  9. Send a Thank You note to a service member or first responder.
  10. Say, “I love you!” first.
  11. Read to your little brother or sister.
  12. Play with someone new on the playground.
  13. Write a Thank You note to your teacher.
  14. Help make dinner.
  15. Donate a toy so a less fortunate child can receive a gift.
  16. Bake cookies for a nursing home.
  17. Clear the table after dinner.
  18. Load the dishwasher or wash the dishes.
  19. Clean your room without being asked.
  20. Give a compliment.
  21. Offer to play with your little brother or sister.
  22. Write a Thank You note to your postal worker and leave it in the mailbox.
  23. Share a toy with your brother or sister.
  24. Help carry in groceries and put them away.
  25. Fold the laundry.
  26. Help your little brother or sister with homework.
  27. Share your umbrella space.
  28. Listen to your little brother or sister read out loud.
  29. Get a haircut for Locks of Love.
  30. Use sidewalk chalk to leave a positive message for others.
  31. Smile!!

 

KINDNESS CALENDAR

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Where have the toys gone?

Have you looked at your child’s holiday wish list? I talk to the kids here at school all the time and I have noticed that Santa’s lists have really changed!When I was a kid, I wanted a Barbie® or a Tiny Tears® doll. I wanted doll clothes, marbles, doll furniture, a paint by number set, Pick Up Sticks®, and a Chinese Checkers® game, wooden puzzles, and a bike. When my son came along, he wanted HeMan/Masters of the Universe® action figures, Match Box® cars, most anything Star Wars®, model trains, a painting/drawing set, Silly Putty®, a cowboy outfit, Legos®, and a bike.

The thing that amazes me is that kids don’t want toys anymore! Technology is really changing our world. Our kids want iPads, Nintendo®, Xbox®, cell phones, Blu-ray players, robots, drones, droids, and virtual reality systems. Yikes! What is a parent to do?

First of all, set your budget and stick to your limits. It is okay to tell your child/ren that something is too expensive. Even Santa is feeling the recession these days and teaching your child about the value of things is actually a GOOD THING! I try to focus on buying just one electronic gift and then giving lots of little things, even some that don’t cost money. For example, homemade gift coupons can be lots of fun. “What can I give my kids coupons for?” you ask. Well, how about a coupon to have a friend spend the night. Coupons for a free pass out of chores for a night is always popular. Coupons to rent a movie or to stay up an extra half hour are also big hits. Kids like coupons to get to pick the dinner menu for a night. My son once got a coupon to have a night off from vegetables. He especially did not like spinach. Even Popeye himself couldn’t convince him to swallow the spinach!

I also like to give inexpensive things that encourage creativity. Clay, scissors, crayons, colored pencils, markers, drawing paper, finger paint. Add some sparkle to art projects with glitter, ribbon, lace, and buttons. Old fashioned floor blocks are terrific for encouraging problem solving and creativity. Some of your old clothes, shoes, and hats can be cleaned and boxed; they make wonderful dress up and make believe items. Older children love having a diary where they can record their hopes and dreams. Finally, there are books. Make sure that the books you pick spark your child’s interest and tap into their imagination.

One thing that adds to the fun is putting things together to create a “kit”. For example, a few blank books, some colored pencils, a pretty fountain pen, erasers, and even notebook paper can be put together in a festive box as a Future Author or Future Poet kit. Those cleaned and polished dress-up items can be put together with an kid-friendly camera to become a Dream It ~ Believe It ~ Be It kit. Canvases, paints, a sketch pad, crayons, colored pencils, fun craft-edged scissors make a perfect gift kit for your artist. Do you have a budding chef? A quick trip to the grocery store will yield lots of treasures for a Cheftastic kit.

So, get creative. You can think of lots of things to give your children that don’t leave you with a stack of bills once the holidays have passed. Share your ideas by leaving a comment here on the blog. Happy Holidays!

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part IV

x1_elf2So by now you may be asking, “How do I know when I’ve had enough?” and “What can I do about it?”  Hmmm…Stress.  We all have stress. They say that feeling overwhelmed or depressed is an important sign of stress.  Well, the holidays seem to ramp up that feeling of being overwhelmed  astronomically.  The expectations are enormous, and holiday stress begins, thanks to our big retail chains, around October 15th.  This year, the Christmas sales began before Halloween here where I live.  And, if you are a parent, you know what happens…the holiday season of over-the-top, too excited kids begins and continues all the way to Christmas. Then, the post Christmas morning let-down ensues.

Yup…stress.  There are so many layers of it at this time of year.  For example, there is the baking expectation for the kids’ holiday parties at school, the cookie swap, and after school snacks.  Let’s see, what else?  Parties to attend…what will I wear and will it fit in with what everyone else is wearing?  Shopping for food, for gifts, and for decorations.

Why, I can’t tell you how many friends I have this year who are stressed out about finding the most creative, innovative, exciting ways to position that famous shelf-sitting elf!  If you start with the elf on December 1st, that’s 25 days of stress right there.  I was laughing over one mom that got so stressed about the elf that she wrapped his leg in a fake cast and stuck him on the bookcase with a note that said “Skippy had an accident and can’t move around until his leg heals.”  BWAHAHAHA!

And let’s just talk about gift wrapping for a moment…am I the only one that thinks this is a huge chore? I spend hours cutting, folding, taping, coordinating bows, finding cute gift bags, and worrying about whether or not Santa has all the wrapping paper he and the elves need for their gifts.  Then, those hours of careful wrapping translate to a pile of shredded mess in the middle of the living room floor in no time at all.  Sounds like stress to me!

So, how do we know if we are stressed?  If all of the above hasn’t convinced you, there are some signs of stress, and we all need to be aware of them. You’ll know you’re stressed when you begin losing sleep. If you’re lying awake at night worrying about all the stuff that isn’t done yet…that’s stress. Loss of sleep makes you irritable. If you find yourself snapping at your children, your boyfriend, your husband, your mom, or your boss…that’s stress. If you have lost your appetite and are losing weight… that’s stress. Now another sign of stress is a sudden weight gain, but I don’t know how reliable that would be around the holidays when everywhere you turn someone has something yummy and fattening for you to try!

Are you having aches and pains? What about muscle aches? If your neck hurts, back hurts, or you just ache all over…that could be a symptom of stress. When you’re stressed, you’re tense, and all that tension can make your muscles think they’ve had a real workout. They get sore.  Or, if you are taking aspirin for frequent headaches…that could be from stress too.

Well, now that we’ve talked about what stress is, the next question is, “What can I do about it?” First, eliminate some of the things around you that make you stressed out and add some much needed time for you. For example, you might want to take a quick bath before bed to try to unwind. Pamper yourself with bath salts, a candle or two. You may even want to put on some music to help you relax, or you may need to shut the music off if that reindeer has been running over grandma all day, or if Santa’s Coming to Town has been blaring non-stop at work. Make sure you eat…real food. Don’t skip meals or try to live on snacks and half stale Christmas cookies. Feed your body.

You can try to cut down on the amount of things you do. One of the things that makes us feel stressed is that we try to create holiday moments for our families that are just perfect, like the families you see laughing and smiling in their beautifully decorated homes. The problem is, they are all in commercials or made-for-TV movies. I confess, I have a holiday movie addiction; it is a love/hate relationship. I love that they always have a happy ending, they always have beautiful decorations, and there is always snow. I live in the Deep South where there is never snow, so it’s a treat.  However, I get depressed when I look around my home and every inch of it isn’t festively twinkling with holiday decorations. So I have to limit my viewing so I don’t get too stressed!

I need to remind myself that they aren’t real families who have cats shedding, dogs chewing the baseboards, kids fighting and crying, a batch of burnt cookies, a Gingerbread House with no roof because it is lying half-eaten  in the toddler’s room,  or a Christmas tree that just got knocked over. That sounds more like real life to me. So set realistic expectations. Santa will still come to your house if the cookies are a bit burnt around the edges, if the tree is crooked, or if there are a few dust bunnies in the corner. Pinky swear!

So, take a moment, breathe, and relax. Ask yourself what will be important when twenty years have flown by and your children have children of their own. Do you want them to remember you being stressed, tense, cranky, and frantic?  Probably not. When your children are grown and they talk about their Christmas memories, they will not remember that the floor was perfectly waxed. They will remember how special they felt when you spent with them.

I hope that your feet are up and that you are sipping a nice warm cup of hot chocolate while you read this.  Remember, the time you spend together with your children snuggling, reading a bedtime story, or building a snowman will become their best, most treasured memories. You, just you, are the best gift of all, so be present in your own life and theirs. Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part III

dec10_button1Holidays can be expensive, and most of us have to be cautious about what we spend. I know I’m not the only person out there who is bothered by the commercialism of Christmas. My goodness, the Christmas “season” is in stores before Halloween and “Black Friday” has become “Black Week” followed by “Cyber Monday”, which is now followed by “Green Monday”.  Yes indeed, corporate America is encouraging us to spend, spend, spend. Our children are watching endless toy commercials on TV, the radio, and social media.  Greed is running rampant; how many times have you been in a store and witnessed a child crying and having a melt down because, “I want…”. You can fill in the blank.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to cut corners financially while keeping the true meaning of the Holidays front and center for my family. In my mind, the truth behind Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa is all the same: Faith ~ Family ~ Friends ~ Fun. When my children become adults, I want them to look back on their childhood Christmases and remember these core values

I spend time each year thinking about how to balance giving and getting. My belief is that when children “get”, they learn entitlement; when children “give”, they learn generosity. One of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that the greatest, most precious gifts come to us when we GIVE. The story of Christ begins with an act of  giving; we are taught that God gave us the gift of his Son. Soon after His birth, the Wise Men came bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Indeed, the joy of giving is a life lesson that we can begin teaching even our youngest children.

So many of us are busy working moms and dads. As a result, one of the most precious things we can give is our TIME.  Time spent together is what creates the memories we carry with us for a lifetime.  I promise that twenty years from now, your children will not look back on the 2017 holiday season and remember that the tree skirt matched the color theme of the room perfectly. And even though they have begged for it endlessly since October, they probably won’t remember that they got that Star Wars toy either.

They will remember that they had fun spending time in the kitchen baking cookies, snuggled on the couch reading with you, making homemade cards, secretly delivering batches of cookies to the neighbors or caroling at a nursing home.  Take a moment and think back on your own memories.  What stands out? See, I’m right…you remember TIME too, don’t you?  Anyway, I have decided to focus on giving and I’m doing that by spending TIME on the traditions that don’t cost a lot.  Here are some suggestions:

~ spend a quiet afternoon baking and decorating Christmas cookies with your child/ren.  Even your youngest toddlers can help in small ways.

~ make some homemade gift wrap; again, let kids use markers, crayons, colored pencils, or even paint and potato stamps to decorate plain paper.  Will you have the most elegant tree on the block?  Probably not, but your child/ren will have a wonderful memory to store away.  Remember, Beautiful House magazine is not coming to take pictures at your house.

~ ask your child/ren to spend an afternoon going through the toys and outgrown clothes.  You may find things to donate to a woman’s shelter, a foster program, or a church that supports needy families.  Focus on the joy that comes from giving.

~ get together with friends and neighbors.  Plan an evening of Christmas caroling.  Take the carolers to a nursing home, the local hospital, or just around the neighborhood.

~ remember, it is okay to tell your child/ren that something is too expensive.  Even Santa is feeling the recession and learning about the value of things is actually a GOOD THING!  Managing finances responsibly is an important life lesson we must teach our children.

~ if you live where it snows, build a snowman; if you live at the beach, build a snowman out of sand!

~ visit the local library to check out some Christmas books; bedtime stories are such a positive bonding activity for you and your child/ren.

~ let your child/ren decorate some pretty stationary and then write a thank you letter to a soldier or first responder.

~ make homemade ornaments to decorate the tree, string popcorn, cranberries, make paper chains.  All of these are fun and keep little hands busy.

~ make homemade Christmas cards for grandparents; they will treasure them!

~ snuggle up with the book or movie, The Polar Express.  When you finish the story,  go to the kitchen for some hot chocolate and have a jingle bell waiting there with a pretty red bow.

~ cut paper snowflakes to decorate the home, porch, windows.

~ watch a favorite holiday film as a family.  We love Elf. Which is your favorite?

~ plan snacks for Santa, the elves, and the reindeer.  What will they eat? Where should the snacks be placed?

~ make photo props for the family to use in pictures this holiday season. Use words like JOY, FAMILY, HO HO HO, MERRY…

~ pile the whole family into the car and drive around the neighborhood enjoying all the festive Christmas lights.

You get the idea…Each of these ideas means TIME spent with your child.  TIME is one of the most precious gifts of all.  Trust me, childhood goes by so quickly.  You and your child will treasure these memories of simple fun.

These are just a few ideas.  I know you will have some of your own. I’d love for you to send along a comment letting me know some traditions you and your family share.  MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!