Dec 6, 2014

The Great Santa Debate

The Great Santa Debate
Resolving Santa in 5 simple steps

I love Santa, and our family celebrates Christmas with Santa as a central figure, but not THE central figure of Christmas.

Trends in parenting come and go, and when I had my children many a moon ago, the current “parental discussion” about Santa was that parents should not lie to their children, even if it is about Santa.  Many parents at the time decided that the trend of “truth in parenting” should include Santa. Some Christian families I am friends with have also asked how I resolve “Santa” in our home, feeling that Santa is a secular symbol of Christmas.

Christmas is centuries old and full of different traditions and celebrations, and each family has traditions that are unique to them. I grew up with the tradition of Santa and also happen to love the tradition of Santa.  The wonder, the magic, the awe and  imagination.  But most of all, with three young toddlers, I was NOT and I mean NOT giving up the good and naughty list.

BUT, it did give me pause and cause me to think and ask “How would I raise my children with regards to believing in Santa?”

You see, I did not want to lie to them but I also did not want to take away the childhood wonder and magic of Santa.  But, upon reflection I realized that what I truly wanted to GIVE them was something they could hold onto for their whole lives.  I wanted to give them the JOY and LOVE of Christmas.  I wanted to teach them what Christmas really meant to me, in my heart, and how to carry that love all year long and NOT just at Christmas time.  I wanted to give them a smooth transition from the Santa of childhood to the Santa of adulthood and what that all means.

So I launched project St. Nicholas.  I researched and read about St. Nicholas and decided that this would be my transition, my reason for Santa in our home.

St. Nicholas, (and this is brief) was a man who dedicated his life to living in honor of Jesus.  He was orphaned at a young age, and gave his inheritance to those in need.  His generosity and love of children is what inspired him to be the first “Santa Claus”.  

This way I am not lying to my children, they are learning history, generosity, acts of service and why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and why St. Nicholas honored Jesus by giving gifts to the poor.

Here is how I did it in 5 simple steps.

  1. Santa is a nickname for St. Nicholas:  pretty simple right?  Kids get nicknames and love nicknames.  They have a million nicknames for each other and can relate very quickly. This is easy.

  1. Who is St. Nicholas:   This one is fun because when the kids were little we kept it simple.  St. Nicholas was a man who lived a LONG time ago who loved Jesus and children so much he wanted to help people and gave them gifts in secret.   Kind of like “Secret Santa”.  Most kids get that really quick, so be warned this can lead to giggles, little knocks, running footsteps and opening your bedroom door many, many, many times to toys wrapped in blankets.

  1. Acts of St. Nicholas:  Many families during the holiday season adopt a family or do acts of charity for others.  We started participating in these types of charities.  We would go shopping for toys-for-tots or adopt-a-family drives.  When we were shopping, I would explain we were acting as St. Nicholas would and buying gifts for those in need in “secret”.  This has been a tradition we have been able to carry forward each year.

  1. Beyond the Magic of St. Nicholas:  As the children became older we moved to the fact that St. Nicholas was a real person who lived over a thousand years ago. Now, we as living examples of Christ and need to carry on his St. Nicholas' love of Jesus by acting as “Santa” for other people and giving them the “Magic” of Christmas.

  1. St. Nicholas through the whole year:  What we learned when I researched St. Nicholas is that he celebrated Christ’s birthday by giving gifts to poor children, but also he celebrated Christ’s love and lessons on a regular basis through daily acts of kindness and charity.  

I thought what a great way to extend the Joy of the Christmas all year long.  As a family, we give and talk about the secret gifts we can give others beyond Christmas.  These can be as simple as opening a door for someone or donating food for a food bank.  But, these are “gifts” we give all year long.  

So Santa, aka St. Nicholas, is big in our house. Santa is Big for the little ones, and he is BIG for the adults and as a way to “Believe” because to be a person of Magic and Love for Others, is the greatest gift of all.

Happy St. Nicholas day!
For further information on St. Nicholas below is a great website:

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Oct 10, 2014

Finding Grace in Exhaustion

So I would be lying if I were to say it hasn't been a long week.  I. Am. Exhausted.  

But tonight at dinner I asked, after grace, for each of us to share something we are grateful for in our day.

I started with I am grateful I had an easy dinner and that they, the children, helped get it on the table.

The next child said “I am grateful we have a house and Daddy has a job.”

The second child said “I am grateful that our neighbor bought cookie dough for our school fundraiser”

The last kid who had a REALLY long day today said: "I am grateful I am tired".

Wow.  My world stopped.  Just stopped.  Talk about perspective shift.  I started to tear up.  Mostly, because right there and then I   Was   Exhausted.  

Lets be honest, most evenings and nights I am exhausted for a wide variety of reasons. 

Quite frankly they are not exciting reasons, like I was hanging out the opening of a hip new bar exhausted.
Or we just flew in from Bali, Hawaii, or Manhattan exhausted. 

NOPE, my reasons for being exhausted are probably the same as most mothers.  A child was up last night with nightmares, or I have to drop kids off at 3 different places at the same time across town, or the loads of laundry which may or may not be clean, or the dinner that still isn’t defrosted, the “MOOOMMMM! Hurry I stepped in DOOOOGGGG PPPOOOOOO” style emergencies that never seem to end.  Now, I acknowledge these are average little everyday things that just tend to add up.  But that is the point.  

NEVER in all my life have I ever equated being tired with something to be grateful for, rather it was something to be complained about, bemoaned, and begrudged.  But, certainly NOT thankful!

Well, at dinner’s grace out from the mouth of my child comes “thanks” for being tired.  Because, that means they had worked hard that day.  They packed a lot in and it was a good day.  

Talk about mind blown, perspective change and shift.

It truly made my life flash before my eyes of all the reasons I am tired.

I am tired because I have 3 great kids.

I am tired because we are fortunate enough for my husband to have a job that he loves so the hard work and long hours he puts in is "fun" for him.

I am tired because of our laundry, food, and dirty dishes after having dinner together as a family.

I am tired because I am pursuing intellectual challenges outside the home, such as professional designations and licenses, as well as, trying to be actively engaged in my children’s lives so that when they want to whisper a problem in my ear I truly try to listen.

I am tired, because I am BLESSED to have a full day.

Thank you child, I am grateful to be tired.

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Aug 18, 2014

What a computer virus taught me about Grace in Marriage

I was faced with buying new Anti-Virus Protection again this year and was deciding between McAfee and Norton.  McAfee was significantly less expensive.  So knowing they are a major competitor to Norton, I thought they were just trying to gain market share, so I read the online reviews and thought GREAT!  My husband, "Computer Guy", just looked at me with raised brow and said "OK, but I like Norton".  Well little Miss Independent that I am, I decided to save the dollars and purchase McAfee.

To Computer Guy’s Credit, he let me spread my digital wings.

To Norton: I will NEVER, EVER stray again.  I am so sorry, and thank you for graciously accepting me home despite the error of my ways and for cleaning up my mess.  

GROAN, big GROAN....

Then came this:

McAfee total found in scan before Norton: 0 

Norton total: 72, YES 72 at risk items.
OF WHICH, 8 yes 8, were HIGH RISK items, ie:  back door trojan programs, spybots, and other various virus concoctions.

And I was actually wondering why I was getting email Spam to contact Russian Mail Order Brides?

TRIPLE GROAN to infinity and beyond.

Hours spent working as tech support in my own home:
This crash:  7+ hours
Previous crash 1: 4 hours
Previous crash 2: 5 hours
Total hours it has taken me to fix my computer this summer: 16 hours of sheer unwelcome summer “stuck in house fun” as Mommy tries to fix the computer.

So thanks to Norton, my computer is now back up and running with improved performance because no ugly little virus’s are using it in the back ground.  I am grateful my old-on-its-last-legs laptop has lived to see another day.   Do yourself a favor, get decent virus software, of course I am now recommending Norton and not McAfee!

Also, if you are suddenly getting spam ads in your emails for things you would never want, like Russian “Brides”, (that is the G version for family friendly blogs mind you!) Please make sure your device is up to date on virus protection from a good company, or as Computer Guy graciously put it last night...

"Well, at least you are back to Norton, now go change all our passwords"

So what did I learn from all of this?  And where is the Grace you ask?

1) Not once did Computer Guy deride me or demean me for my decision to switch Anti-Virus software, despite this being his expertise and his domain.  He let me research, learn and make my own decision.

2)  When that decision went horribly wrong, he stood by my side and encouraged me to learn to fix it ON MY OWN.  He did not do it for me, but rather encouraged me on my journey of learning.  For this I am grateful.

3) After 7 hours of process, when I finally received the green light to restart my computer from Norton, my beautiful laptop would not restart.  In near tears, I looked at Computer Guy.  And his answer is “give it time”.

3)  After the computer did restart and reload Computer Guy said “Okay let me double check” and he came over to double check the logs and teach me more on what to read and how to do it.
 After which he recommended that after all the work I did, to make sure all the virus definitions were up to date and to run another scan overnight to get a clean scan with no “fixes” in the logs double check my laptop is up and running for the mornings work.  Of course I said YES Please.  If someone offers help in their area of expertise do not be so stubborn or independent not to accept.  Even more so if it is your spouse.

4) He stood by my side even with making a mistake in his area of expertise, so that I could learn something new, and then helped me learn to fix the problem with no “I told you so’s”

5) I said “Thank you for your help” and listened.  Sometimes we need to be humble and gracious and accept help, even when we don't feel like it.

It is okay to be independent and learn new things in life and in a Marriage, it is how we grow as human beings.  But we need to give each other space to learn, space to grow and then be there for each other as we grow and learn.  Computer Guy did not sigh, or roll his eyes, nor did I get a “lecture” of I told you so.  Rather, I received encouragement, and a gentle guide to help me.  It took time, a lot of time out of my summer.  The biggest lesson in this debacle?  I learned that Computer Guy respects me enough to help me learn new things, and stood by my side to help me undo my mistakes.  The least I can do is repay the favor to him and our children as they approach teen years.

Disclaimer: this is a true life experience and I have not been paid by or received any sort of compensation be it monetary or in the form of free products from any company mentioned.  

Aug 17, 2014

Paper or Plastic? 3 GOOD Reasons to use Re-Usable Bags

 This morning I went grocery shopping and as usual I carried along my pile of reusable shopping bags.  {I have been using reusable shopping bags for my weekly grocery shopping for more than nine years.}   To read more about my tree-hugging ways and why I believe in climate change you can read this archived post.

Back to this morning.  As the checker painstakingly prepared each of my bags to receive food on her little bag turnstile, she rolled her eyes and asked me frankly "I've been noticing a lot of people seem to dislike plastic bags, I wonder what the big deal is?"  I smiled at her and said "Oh, I am sure there are a lot of really good reasons."  She looked genuinely confused, "A LOT?  Why do YOU use these re-usable bags?"  So I told her.  And I'm telling you.
1. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Did you know that there are several large patches of plastic waste floating in the oceans of the world? By large, I mean the size of the state of Texas.  The generally held belief is that if we were to stop using so many plastic bags and just throwing them in our dumps, the large island of trash (also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) might start to shrink, and may even eventually disappear.   Why should we care about this?  Because it is beginning to impact our environment in a serious way.  To read more about it, you can check out this post from the National Geographic website.

2. Less trash, less guilt, JUST LESS.
Without hundreds of plastic bags taking up space in my garage (before I went to re-usable bags I saved my plastic bags to be "re-used"), I have more space to store the stuff I want to keep.  Honestly, I have never needed a plastic bag and been unable to find one, there are enough plastic bags that come home from trips to other stores, or those times I don't remember my bags, I STILL have never run out.

I have also cut down on the amount of guilt I feel for not being a better steward of the Earth.  Every time I throw away a plastic bottle or a dirty plastic bag I felt awful, like I WAS A PART OF THE PROBLEM AND NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION.  I need to "be the change I want to see in the world."  Now, my kids embarrass me regularly by asking the parents of friends if they are "planning on recycling that" when they see adults throwing recyclables in the trash.  {Though my pride might be stronger than my embarrassment}.

3. Living "Green" is important.
It shouldn't just be important to organic eating, composting, farmers market visiting, natural cleaner using people.  Especially if you consider yourself a Christian.  The Earth needs our help.  We are meant to be stewards of our natural resources, of our environment, of our planet.  Living your life in a "green" way doesn't make you a "hippy", it makes you a responsible citizen.   If remembering to bring re-usable bags to the grocery store decreases my carbon footprint or helps in even a small way, I am HAPPY to help!!

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Aug 9, 2014

3 tips for an ADHD friendly home.

More than a year ago I wrote a post talking about our decision to not medicate our son who was diagnosed with ADHD.  Now, 18 months later, the struggle continues.  As he enters middle school in two days (as a 6th grader), the symptoms don't seem to be getting any better, and I am not so sure he will "grow out of it" like some children diagnosed with ADHD can.

Children who have ADHD typically struggle with executive function: the ability to think and plan ahead, organize, control impulses, and complete tasks.  This means that you have to take over as the executive for your little one, while intentionally creating an environment that trains your child to acquire those skills.

Living with a small person who has ADHD can be exasperating.   One day over the summer I spent the better part of the day alternating between nagging my son and following him around; closing doors he opened, picking up socks he dropped, putting away milk he got out, during off televisions, lights and radios he left on and generally feeling overwhelmed by his inability to follow through on ANYTHING.

At the end of that very long day, I was venting to my husband about the hopelessness I felt and he gently reminded me that I had gotten really lax on our schedule over the summer.  Suddenly I realized that I carried some of the responsibility for my son's distracted mind.  The house was cluttered, our schedule nearly non-existent and my son was on a "see"-food diet, he saw the food, and he ate it. {So much junk!}

If you are looking for a way to deal with your child's ADHD, with or without medication, Cognitive Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might work for you.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a simple way to create new patterns of behavior or "systems" for daily tasks that allow children to learn executive skills with success.  In simpler terms, it is providing a "frame-work" for independent success for your child.  To read some more about this, check out this article from "Additude Mag". Here are 3 tips to create an ADHD friendly home.

1. Create a healthy culture in your home

Evidence shows that eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can help manage the symptoms of ADHD.   If everyone in your family are eating healthy foods (fiber and protein are really important) and exercising together, it will make a huge difference!  Healthy foods and regular exercise both help your mood, so you may be less inclined to get furious at your child.

Exercise can make the difference for your child with ADHD.  Taking a bike ride or walk as a family may give you an opportunity to have fun together and more relaxed interactions, which is important when your child is frequently being nagged for their negative behavior.  

2. Establish structure and stick with it
We want our children to be successful.  A child with ADHD is more likely to succeed in completing tasks when the tasks occur in predictable patterns.  Creating structure in your home is the most important job you have, so your child knows what to expect and what they are expected to do.

Plan - Establish simple and predictable patterns for every aspect of their day.  Morning, meals, homework and bedtime should happen at the same time every day in the same way.  Bedtime is especially important.  Children with ADHD can struggle with sleep and bedtime, but they desperately need adequate sleep to cope with their symptoms during the day.  Stay away from stimulating activities like television and video games 2 hours prior to bedtime to help your child begin to wind down for bed.

As an adult with ADHD, I did this naturally as a way to cope with my distracted brain.  It is somewhat counter-culture to have an established schedule, but it is worth it!  My son's structured schedule (which I started with him as an infant) kept him off of medication.

Time - Teach your children how to read a digital clock early on and make sure there are clocks in every room of your house.  Following a routine is easier when you know what you are supposed to be doing.  Timers are helpful for short-term tasks; like cleaning a mess up or doing an assignment.  Kids are more likely to stay focused if they know they only have to focus for 15 minutes at a time.

Peace - Keep your home clutter-free and organized.  It isn't easy, but the more cluttered and disorganized your child's environment, the more difficult it will be for them to focus on what is really important.  Create a clutter free and quiet space for them to do homework, preferably without a television or window in their line of sight.

Simplify- A child with too many after-school activities is more likely to be distracted and "wound up" than if they have protected "down-time" to enjoy their routine.  You may need to remove one or two activities from your child's schedule if those things are keeping your up late and destroying your ability to maintain a structured routine.

3. Set clear expectations and rules
Consistency is key to every parenting dilemma, but is doubly important when dealing with your child who has ADHD.  Spell out family rules and expectations in advance and post them where your child can see them.  The use of Chore Charts, Behavior Contracts and Behavior Charts can be especially effective.  I posted our family rules, the descriptive list of chores and our chore chart here for an example.

Accountability is extremely important for children with ADHD.  Providing clear expectations and the rewards and consequences of his behavior has helped my son immeasurably with follow-through on tasks.   With this comes the incredible opportunity to "catch your child being good" and praising them as regularly as you can.  If they are school-age, they may spend their day being reprimanded for their behavior, make sure you take the opportunity to love your kids with praise.

It is a thin line you walk, as a parent of a child with ADHD.  You don't want to allow them to use the diagnosis as an excuse for irresponsible behavior, and at the same time you are trying to figure out how high you can set your expectations for them.  Parenting is a game of trial and error.  Something not working?  Try something else.  Just don't give up on your zany, busy, creative little people, they have so much potential!!

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