Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ten Ways to Rejuvenate When You're Stressed Out

We're just entering the winter months, and we have more sun here in the Florida panhandle than some of you do in your part of the country. But by time February rolls around, most of us are feeling the effects of winter--and being inside with children more than usual. 

Sometimes the issue is more complicated, for instance if you suffer from SAD, you might need one of the special lights you can buy or may even need medical help. 

Not only is there the winter thing, but parenting is a demanding job. If you are a single or temporarily single parent, this is even more true -- both for moms and dads. 

During this holiday season, it's easy to get stressed out and fail to enjoy the festivities or even to wish you didn't have to get out of bed.

Here are ten ways to help rejuvenate your energy and deal with the demands of parenting.
     1.  Hire a baby-sitter. Everyone needs time away from the children other than time spent at work. Don’t feel guilty about leaving the children with a baby sitter occasionally while you go to the gym or attend an adult activity. An alternative would be to have an older neighborhood child take the children outside to play while you spend time in the house doing what you wish to do.

    2.  Have fun. True, you have many responsibilities and it seems you will never get caught up. You still need time for fun either alone or as a family. This may be as simple as making popcorn and watching a movie, playing a board game or going to McDonald’s once a week. Turn the children loose in the play area while you have a cup of coffee. 

     3.  Have an emergency kit. Stock up on interesting items from the dollar store. Keep them in a special box under your bed and pull them out when the children are bored and irritable. Use them for rainy days and sick days.

     4.  Form or join support group. Look around for Mothers of Preschoolers (sorry, no dads), parent and tot groups, exercise groups, support groups adoptive parents or whatever you need. Don’t ignore your needs. As you meet your own needs, you will be more able to meet the needs of your children.
     5.  Let your children help. Don’t come home from work, try to fix supper, run a load of laundry, feed the dog, start the dish washer and gather dirty laundry and dishes from around the house. Delegate! Even the smallest children can help. Send one child to gather dirty clothes and dishes. Have another set the table. Older children can start the laundry and do dishes. Having a rule of no television before the work is done is great motivation for most children. A weekly allowance also spurs motivation.
     6.  Exercise. Perhaps you feel you don’t have enough energy left to exercise, but it will actually give you more energy and help you stay fit. If you are a working parent, use your lunch hour to walk with a friend or play racquetball with the guys. Use your breaks to stretch, walk around the building or up and down steps. If you are an at home parent, take your child for a fast-paced stroll around the neighborhood or work out with an aerobics DVD.

     7.  Practice good nutrition. We make our children eat healthy food but sometimes we don’t do the same. It’s easy to drop some change into the snack machine and get a Coke and Doritoes, but that’s not the healthiest choice. Sugar may boost your energy level quickly but good nutrition will pay off in the long run.
     8.  Keep a sense of humor. Sometimes you have to laugh or cry. Choose laughter. Studies have shown that it has many benefits to your emotional state and your well being. Look for the humor in even the most annoying situations, or look back later and laugh.
     9.  Learn something new. Don’t become a dull, lifeless person. If you don’t have a challenging job that keeps you sharp and learning, find a hobby that does. Take a community class in sign language, Chinese cooking or speaking German. It will make you a more interesting person.

    10.  Spend time alone with someone special. Go out to eat with your husband. Go to a movie with a friend. Go shopping with a sister. Do something fun or meaningful with someone you can share the memories with later. Everyone needs a break from children. You'll come back refreshed and ready to tackle parenting issues.

You can't do everything, so pick one thing from the above list and do it this week.

What do you do to rejuvenate?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Baby Names

Jessica's doctor asked her what she was going to name her baby. When she said River, the doctor said, "She's going to get made fun of with a name like that" or something along that line. He was very abrupt about it, but he was just speaking his mind. I don't think he meant to be unkind, although it came across that way.

I said something like, "Well, she's going to be a really cool kid, so no one will think of making fun of her name." I also told him the obvious--ever since River Song on Dr. Who (don't watch it but Jessica is a fan), the name has become much more popular.

     One of your first decisions concerning your baby usually takes place before the child is ever born, and that is choosing a name. The name you choose is the one that he will live with for a lifetime, so the name should be chosen with care.
     How do parents choose names? Here are some considerations.
    Biblical names. From Moriah to Bethany to Micah to David to Jordan, some parents choose biblical mountains, rivers, cities and people after which to name their children.
     Family names. Some children are names after a favorite relative. Others carry their father’s names or have their father’s names as their middle names. Some are given their mother’s maiden name as a first or middle name.
     Ethnic names. Names such as Raul, Kelem, Jose and Sven are names used by different nationalities. Parents may select ethnic names to help their children have pride in their heritage.
     Meaning.  Some people still choose names according to meanings or may names their children Faith, Charity or Hope after character traits.
     Popular names. These change over the years. For example, compare the popular names from the year I was born with 2014.

Michael    Lisa
David      Mary
John       Susan
James     Karen
Robert    Linda
Mark      Patricia
William   Donna
Richard  Cynthia
Thomas  Deborah
Jeffrey    Sandra
 I knew several people with each of these names growing up.

Jackson  Sophia   
Aiden     Emma
Liam      Olivia
Lucas     Ava
Noah      Isabella
Mason    Mia
Ethan     Zoe
Caden    Lily
Jacob     Emily
Logan    Madelyn

What should you consider when choosing a name?

  • Will the name still fit the child when he or she is an adult?
  • How does the name sound with your last name? Does the whole name flow?
  • What are the initials? For instance, when we adopted our twins, we kept their Haitian names, Fredlin and Frednise, as their middle names. We matched their American first names Haitian style, Kaleb and Kayla (Unfortunately we realized too late that it's hard to tell those names apart when they're said. With one ending in an "a" and one with a "b" you wouldn't think that is a problem, but it is). That makes their initials KFC. Sharing initials with a fried chicken restaurant isn't too bad, but other combinations might be, so check the initials.
  • Do you like the name? Choose a name you like without pressure from others. Don’t feel pressured into naming your child Alfred Henry VII just because the name has been used for generations. Whoever chose the name for the first time liked it. That doesn’t mean that you favor the name. One way to avoid the problem is to say, “We’ve already picked the name, but we’re keeping it a secret until the baby is born.” 
  • Will the name be a problem for your child? Most children don't like to be different. Think back to when you were in school and the same was probably true. You wore (or wanted to wear) the same clothes, watch the same TV shows etc to fit in. Don't make the name so unusual that it singles the child out.

     The name you choose is your first gift to your baby. Choose the name with care.

What were the popular names when you were born? When your children were born? How did you chose the names for your children? 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do One Thing

Back when I started this blog a few weeks ago I mentioned the importance of just doing one thing. If you follow Pinterest or craft and homemaking blogs, you've seen they are flooded with elaborate decorations, gifts, food and crafts to make for the holidays. What I figure is that the people who have time to do all that either run full speed night and day, have no life or just aren't human. 

For me, if I can't buy it at the dollar store, I don't need it. Okay, not really. But close. The best part of holidays is shared memories and time together. If those two things involve making crafts, decorating or cooking and baking, fine. But if it's not fun, then why do it? If every project turns into a family feud, you probably need to re evaluate those projects.

Don't try to do it all. You don't really need to make wrapping paper when you can get it at the dollar store. The packages don't have to look professionally wrapped. Use a gift bag (dollar store again) and save stress. 

If you want to bake cookies from scratch, help yourself. But it's easier to buy the ready-to-bake cookies and let the kids decorate them.

Don't try to do it all. Do one thing and have fun at it.

Which one can you do this week?

  • Bake cookies and decorate them. Give half to someone else.
  • Read a Thanksgiving or Christmas picture book--even if your kids are older.
  • Build a nativity scene from graham crackers. (On my list to do)
  • Make turkeys from cupcakes for place settings for Thanksgiving (see my girls blog HERE)
  • Visit one elderly church or family member.
  • Take one tag from one tree from the many places that have them each year--Walmart, Salvation army, churches, Angel Tree OR pack one shoe box.
  • Attend one concert,  play or Christmas program (unless you have children in more than one).
  • Drive around the community and see who has Christmas lights up already.
  • Take a long walk in the crisp air or play outside. Last year we had Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Eve. So on Thanksgiving Day we grilled on the beach and played catch.

  • Give everyone five slips of paper and have them write one thing they are thankful for on each one. Read them at Thanksgiving.
  • Play a game.

  • Light sparklers after dark and talk about how Jesus is the light of the world and how your family can share that light.

Starting and maintaining holiday traditions and having holiday spirit is good. But only when it draws you closer together as a family and benefits others.

What traditions do you have? What ones do you want to start?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Importance of Christmas Traditions

Sharing this article I had in a magazine for parents of teens a couple of years ago because I think there are some good ideas in it. If you have some favorite traditions of your own, please share them in the comment section.

The Importance of Christmas Traditions

     When you remember your childhood Christmases, what comes to mind? A traditional family dinner? A gift exchange with cousins? Caroling and cookie baking? Christmas traditions are an important part of family life and can be used to show teens the real meaning of Christmas.

     Traditions show what is most important.
     While many traditions revolve around church—like attending the Christmas Eve services or special programs, or reading the Christmas story from the Bible each year, not all meaningful Christmas traditions take place in church.
     For the DeAngulo family, sharing with others is one of their most meaningful traditions. "One thing we do every year is help a family who is feeling a financial hurt," says Jeanne DeAngelo. "We do the twelve days of Christmas. We type up a poem that rhymes with the item we have for the family. Example: On the first day of Christmas someone gave to me a box of my favorite tea! Then we put a box of seasonal tea bags in a gift bag with the poem attached to the outside."
     The family waits until dark and delivers the gift without being seen.
     The next night a gift is added. "On the second day of Christmas some friends gave to me two free oil changes and a box of my favorite tea." The DeAngelo family then leaves two gift certificates for oil changes. This continues for twelve days with the same family receiving a new gift each night.
    "On Christmas Eve we give the final package and make it something really like $100 gift certificate to Walmart and a dozen donuts. We never reveal who we are. There are fun times and lots of memories!" says Jeanne who feels the tradition takes the emphasis off of themselves and lets them focus on others.

Traditions define the family.
     Traditions that are passed down through the generations provide a sense of family. These unique happenings may center on a family's cultural heritage, beliefs, or lifestyle.
     Jean Wise says, "My parents had three sets of tiny wooden shoes they put on the tree each year. One my dad brought back from Holland in the 30s, and the other two were from vacations. We added a small set for each child and had their names engraved. As they marry we give a pair to the spouse. When my first grandchild was born earlier this month, my daughter said, 'We need a new set of shoes for the tree.'" They are now the fourth generation to carry on this tradition."

Traditions ensure time spent together.
     Holidays are a time for togetherness whether spent with immediate family decorating the tree or by having a large gathering of extended family members.
     Bill and Christina Wyatt spend part of the holiday with both their families. Bill's family comes over for Christmas Eve dinner and opens presents. Then the Wyatts and their four children go to Christina's mother's home where they stay up late wrapping presents and watching A Christmas Story.
     "There are children in every room," Christina says.  "On Christmas morning the kids are allowed to eat whatever they wish and we have a present opening frenzy just after they get into their stockings."

Traditions give a sense of family or belonging.
     Special Christmas activities are another way of bringing everyone close. Sometimes traditions develop among certain family members as with Eva Marie Everson and her daughter who hosted a Mother-Daughter Christmas tea for several moms and teens when the daughter was a teen. "It meant we had to work together on a project that was just as important to her as to me. We decorated the house together, prepared the menu together, came up with fun mother/daughter games. Every one dressed up, gifts were exchanged and the Christmas Story was read. It's a special mother/daughter memory during an often tumultuous time that will forever be remembered. Now, I have a 12 year old in my home and I'm thinking, 'Maybe we should do that again!"

Traditions give a sense of security, continuity and comfort.
     Traditions that are observed year after year give a sense of stability whether it's making the same kind of Christmas cookies or choosing a name from an Angel Tree. No matter what changes take place as children grow up or things within the family and economy change, these traditions remain.
     The Christmas tree in Tim and Teresa Cleary’s house is decorated with photo ornaments for each year of their children’s lives. “My children enjoyed watching themselves grow up as each new ornament was added,” said Teresa Cleary, mother of three. “When I started running out of room on my tree, I decided that high school graduation would be the cut off point for new photo ornaments. It was a sad decision, but each child knows that those ornaments will be theirs when they have families of their own.”  

Starting a New Tradition
    Don't have many traditions? It's not too late to start. The best traditions are ones that everyone can take part in and that are enjoyable for all.
     The traditions can start with when and how Christmas decorations are put up and last through Christmas day or even beyond. Traditions may include special church services or programs or community events such as a Christmas parade or meal at the homeless shelter during the holidays.
     When starting a new tradition, ask yourself:
What would help my family focus on the parts of Christmas that are most important to us?
What activities would allow us to serve others?
What tradition would reinforce our family's uniqueness?
What is meaningful to each family member?
What would allow us to spend quality time together?
What traditions would be simple enough that we could do them yearly with little stress?
     Ask your teens for their input. Something that might seem trivial or too young to you might appeal to them. Our family's tradition was that each child received a Christmas book on Thanksgiving. Recently the children decided they were too old for this and we decided to build gingerbread houses instead. It's something that each child from elementary age to teen could take part in, with the boys building one and the girls another. Everyone enjoyed the challenge of keeping the walls standing and decorating the houses with individuality.
     Traditions are an important part of Christmas. If you don't already have a favorite one, start a new one this year.

     If you think teens don't care about traditions, just try changing one. They enjoy traditions more than they might let on. Here are some favorites from teens.
     Putting the tree up together as a family and baking and decorating tons of Christmas cookies with my mom and big sister. Elyssa, 13
     My favorite tradition is a sibling gift exchange. We draw the names on Thanksgiving and try to keep it a secret who we are buying for. Jessica, 17
     My favorite tradition is the Christmas Eve gathering at our house with my mom’s side of the family. She’s one of seven children so when everyone gets together it’s a crowd. We have “cousin time” in the basement while the adults are upstairs. Steven, 19
      On Thanksgiving Day we take a family picture that we use for our Christmas card. It's fun trying to get the perfect picture. Sarah, 16

     Need a new tradition? Here are some simple ones you can start this year.
  • Donate time to a charity. Serve at the homeless shelter or deliver food baskets.
  • Make your own holiday cards—everyone takes part.
  • Take a Christmas picture each year in the same location so you can see how much each child or teen grows.
  • Deliver baked goods to friends or shut ins as a family.
  • Burn a CD of your favorite Christmas songs. Play it each year as you open gifts.
  • Give a turkey or ham to a needy family.
  • Invite a local military family or group of college students to watch a holiday movie.
  • Drive around town and try to find the most extravagant light display and the most meaningful light display. Or have a Christmas display scavenger hunt.
What are some traditions that have been fun and meaningful for your family?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Christmas Music Playing, Air Conditioner Blasting

It's November 6th. Yesterday it was 84 degrees and we had the a/c blasting. Partly because it was hot out and partly because my pregnant daughter overheats easily. 

Each day brings Christmas a day closer and the birth of our granddaughter a day closer. Due date is January 1.

With Christmas less than two months away, I'm going to post some of the Christmas articles I've written over the years.

Here are some really simple ideas on how to take the stress out of the holidays.

     We want the holidays to meaningful for our families, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed-- and over committed. The many meaningful activities make it hard to say “no.” There’s the food drive for the needy, the toy drive for children of inmates or foster children, the children’s musical the school parties to bake for, the office party…
     Here are some steps to help you organize and take the stress out of your holidays.
     Keep a calendar. Start right now! Write down expected activities. Include shopping trips, time to wrap presents and address Christmas cards.
     Tiffany Wilhemen, mother of four says, “I write down all the activities on a calendar. If an activity comes up and one is already written on the calendar we sit down and talk about which one to do. We limit ourselves to one activity a day and no more than three events in a week. Writing them down helps us prioritize our Christmas activities.”

     Start early.  Do what you can now before the Christmas rush begins. Address Christmas cards and set them aside. Shop clearance racks for gifts, wrap them and set them aside.
     Valerie Miller, mother of two school age children says, “I start shopping in July and I do a lot of home made stuff so I have the whole year to do it. I have a box that’s just for Christmas presents. When I buy a gift I put the person’s name on it and put it in the box. I always buy my Christmas cards after Christmas  a year ahead when they are 75% off. I never pay more than $2.00 a box.”

     Keep activities age appropriate. As much as you want to introduce your children to special activities, a five year old will not sit still for The Nutcracker and your ten year old won’t appreciate a full performance of The Messiah no matter how well it’s performed. Choose the library story hour or rent a children’s Christmas classic instead. Hire a favorite baby-sitter and rent a favorite movie for the children when you are attending adult activities unsuitable for children. You’ll enjoy the party more and your children won’t have to act like miniature adults.

     Be selective in your social activities. There are a multitude of family gatherings, office parties, church get togethers and other events during the holiday season. Consult your calendar and schedule only parties that won’t overload your schedule. It’s stressful trying to attend the office party after attending your child’s school concert. What usually happens is that everyone is in such a hurry that arguments break out and no one has a good time.
     “Christmas has become kind of a selfish time in our family,” says Teresa Cleary, writer and mother of three. “We used to throw lots of big parties, go to friends’ houses and so on. It was too taxing emotionally and physically -- too much rich food and late meals. We have scaled our Christmas back in the last two years. We accept few invitations, hold no big parties and generally try to make Christmas time a family time.”

     Avoid over commitment. Again, this is where the calendar is handy. Baking cookies for school, making angel ornaments for the church cantata, sewing a shepherd’s costume and collecting canned goods all take time. Each activity seems easy in itself but added together they require a large time commitment. Only say yes to what you have time for. Schedule a day to do each project and don’t feel guilty about saying no.  As worthy as each project is, your first priority is your family.
     Julie Bradbury, mother of three, often finds herself over committed because her husband’s job carries a lot of responsibility. “If there are school activities, we choose them over the office obligations,” Julie says. “The kids know that we support them. They see us go to their activities so when we do have to go to a office function instead of one of their activities they understand and they’ve never complained.”
     “When things become hectic the kids help out. They’re involved in the planning and it makes them feel important and part of what goes on,” Julie says.

     Cut back on the extras. Don’t let tradition dictate your activities. Instead of preparing a whole meal for your extended family, ask each person to bring something such as pie, rolls, cranberries and so on. Put up a few less decorations this year or cut back on the baking. Your children will remember the fun time they spent on your lap hearing Christmas stories read more than they’ll remember the dress you spent hours sewing or the fancy nativity on the lawn.

     Schedule special family times. Leave plenty of free evenings for popping popcorn and watching Christmas reruns. Ask your children to suggest some special things they’d like to do during the holiday season. Be sensitive to the needs of your children and try to plan meaningful activities for each of them. If you do have extra baking you need to do, plan extra time and let your children help.
     “Even in the busiest part of the holidays I make sure we spend at least three or four nights home just doing the fun stuff together -- making Christmas cookies, popping popcorn and watching Frosty the Snowman, playing games or reading books,” says Tiffany Wilhemen. “What fun is Christmas if my children get lost in the shuffle?”

     Keep sleep and eating habits as normal as possible. This is especially important for younger children. With so many parties and social events, it’s easy for them to fill up on sugary treats. This can make them irritable or over-active. Monitor sleeping time. A child with too many sugary treats and too little sleep will not function well or enjoy the holidays fully. Keep an infant’s schedule as normal as possible.
     “I’m a fanatic about nutrition,” says Julie Bradbury. “When we are going to a party at night we eat ahead. We have a nutritious meal before going. The kids eat at the party but they make good choices.”

     Keep the meaning of Christmas central. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters while rushing to parties, baking, and shopping. Plan activities or quiet times for reflection. Focus on what's really important.
     Start planning now to have a fun, organized holiday season.

What stresses you the most about the holidays?
What is one thing you could remove that would make your holiday more stress free?