Traditions to bring People Together

After watching Oprah’s BELIEF series I am filled with awe and wonder of the many different places, traditions, religions, beliefs, and the many ways people strive to connect. It was so interesting, fascinating and I walked away from the week more aware, inspired, awe struck and wanting to do more to connect with those around me.

SO, I thought I would put together a list of ideas that could bring families closer together with the upcoming holiday seasons ahead.

I am going to list out celebration ideas (primarily from Belief) and from around the world and then put my own twist on them and how you could do them with your families.

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Holi: *is a Spring festival in india, also knows as the festival of colors or the festival of love. The night before the celebrations there is a Holika bonfire where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water. This festival typically comes in March or February. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter and a day to meet others, play, laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships *taken from wikpedia

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My ideas: For a winter fest you could invite friends and family over while it is light out, invite them to bring food and then have everyone share tubes of food coloring and color the snow around the yard or take it to the mountains. Have everyone write words, make hearts, just color the snow & then when everyone is done turn it into a big, colorful snow ball fight. Then make a big bonfire and have everyone warm up around the fire.

You could also do the same idea in the Spring, but use chalk dust and a picnic setting.

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Mandala: In the movie Belief there was a beautiful part of the series where a group of Monks created a gorgeous mandala out of sand. They took hours to perfect every detail and it was a beautiful work of art. But, to them the piece was not complete until it was swept into an urn and dumped into a river to complete its circle. *Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.  The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.*taken from mandalaproject

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My ideas: You could gather family or friends together and create a group mandala project—One year I had my family at a beach and we gathered up a huge number of rocks and made a giant heart on the beach. It was a very fun and unifying experience. I have also gathered family around and handed out coloring pages of various mandala drawings. We all sat for hours chatting and coloring like little children. It is very calming to the mind.  *Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.”

You could also take fall or winter items (pine cones, leaves, needles, grasses, etc) and make your own natural pattern with the items from a forest floor.

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A Pilgrimage: In the movie Belief there were many different people from different religions who would do personal pilgrimages—some were to holy lands, others were 500 miles walks, while another was a personal 3 day quest of fast and faith.  I was moved by all the stories, but one stands out in my mind–the 65 year old man who did not love himself, was broken hearted and seeking peace on a 500 mile personal pilgrimage. I thought to myself, “could I do that? How could I do something like that closer to home?”

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My ideas: Maybe you pick a mountain near your home you could climb together as a family or alone to find some meaning. Maybe you find a walking trail that goes for miles and miles and commit to a distance that will bring you closer to…God, your family, yourself. I do think walking is one of the best types of meditation, so why not take a day, a week, a week end to get quiet, to go within or to experience with those closest to you.     I remember one of my only memories of going to the mountains with my family as a child, we arrived at the base of a small mountain. My Dad told all of us kids that we were going to climb to the top. As kids, we whined and looked at this mountain as the toughest challenge we had ever faced. We walked and walked and finally all made it up the mountain together. When we were at the top, we each found a special rock and we made our own family, rock monument. We were so proud that we made it to the top together. It will be a forever memory.

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History: There was an Aboriginal man in the Australian outback that was leaving his grandson with ancient songs and a trek that told stories about their ancestors. The stories and songs were part of the oldest religion in the world, so the grandfather felt a huge responsibility to pass these along to his grandson, so the stories will continue to live on.

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My ideas: We each have stories that we are told, lullabies that are sung, pieces that have been woven from years and years of history, people, family, places…In such a digital age, we have abundant resources to find stories from the past, to write our own stories down, to encourage our children to write their stories for those who follow.  For my daughter’s 12 year Thanksgiving gift, I have created pages for her to write her own story, to share her own feelings of where she is at, to share her future dreams, to connect with who she is and wants to become. I gave my daughter a journal when she was 8 filled with questions. I am giving my husband a journal to write down his story that is filled with prompts and questions so that his daughter and generations after will hear his stories.   I write a letter to my daughter every 6 months & will give them all to her when she is 18.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make a photo book and gift it to our daughter with a special letter and images from the previous year—Giving Thanks that she was part of our life.

Just last night my husbands mother had laid out a small shrine of items that were her fathers. She had them neatly organized with special belt buckles that were treasured, a tin of matches, old pictures, a soap dish, a coin purse, a shaving bowl, bolo tie…treasures that she had been keeping to pass on to her children. Items that reminded everyone of this man who had passed on, but seemed to bring up a treasured past of memories. My husband was like a little kid remembering his beloved grandpa. He slowly looked at each item being taken back to a different time. The things that live on are truly the memories, the stories, the songs, the little details.

Well, Stay tuned. I think I am going to continue this week with more traditions and ideas inspired from the movie, Belief. I have done previous posts on traditions, so check them out too.  I will do another post later this week with more ideas.

Have a beautiful day. -H

A Golden Pause

IMG_1604I recently found this great, brass bell from a Polynesian Island, at a garage sale. I immediately remembered something I had read from Richard Carlson about “A Golden Pause.” I knew I had to have it to remind myself to take moments and pause.

I ring it and listen to the ding and something soothing does happen. It not only makes me smile, but stopping to pause and listen to a ding, a simple ring, makes you take a moment.

Here is Richard Carlson’s take on “A Golden Pause” 

excerpt from EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Kris and I attended a life changing weekend meditation seminar a few years ago in Oakland, California. The highlight of the seminar was a series of short, unannounced breaks the organizers called “Golden Pauses.”

These pauses, which took place approximately every hour and a half or so, lasted five or ten minutes and were wonderfully received by everyone in the room. First, a pleasant little bell would ring, signaling the beginning of the break. All at once, everyone in the room — hundreds of us — became suddenly calm.  We ceased all conversation and dropped everything we were doing.  We were instructed to sit in comfortable positions and to simply relax.  It was a time to be still, quiet and calm–a time just to appreciate about the fact that we were alive.  Our only remaining instructions were to breathe and to focus on the beauty of the breath.

Whenever Kris and I go to a workshop, we try to take something with us that will hopefully stay with us forever. The idea of Golden Pauses has stuck like Velcro! We have found that Golden Pauses have the power to make the most impossible day manageable, giving us the perspective we need to get through it. Many times, I have been angry or irritated at someone on returning home from a long plane trip or just feeling beat up and tired and Kris will smile at me and say that it’s time for a Golden Pause. We “pause” for just a few minutes, but this little break invariably interrupts my negative thinking and readjusts my mental attitude. It’s such a simple, yet powerful way to change the course of a day.

A Golden Pause takes any day you feel tired or irritated day and infuses it with positive energy. For me, it’s a plane trip that can put me in a bad mood, for others I know it’s a long commute, or a hard day at the office. A five-minute Golden Pause (or even a two-minute pause if that’s all the time you have) usually reverses all of that negativity and then some.

But you don’t have to be tired or irritated to benefit. A Golden Pause can even make a day that’s already wonderful even more glorious! Often, Kris and I are having a completely peaceful day already yet one of us will suggest a Golden Pause just to “remember” and appreciate the joy we are feeling. The pause reinforces and deepens feelings we are already having.

I once mentioned the concept of Golden Pauses during a lecture on the East Coast. Several months later, I met a man at another lecture in Las Vegas who had been in the East Coast audience that day. Steve came up to say hello after my speaking engagement in Las Vegas and shared with me the following story.

Steve referred to himself as having been an “over-reactive hot head.” During a particularly stressful period of time in his business, someone took advantage of the lack of business experience on the part of one of Steve’s employees. He said that when this happened, he was about to “lose it.” I asked him what “losing it” was likely to mean for him. Steve explained that it may have meant a physical fight, a lawsuit, or a very least, a huge embarrassing scene in front of lots of people.

But in that moment of great stress, he said, some part of him suddenly remembered the notion of the “Golden Pause.” Why he chose this instant to give it a try, we’ll never know, but he did! Instead of losing it that day, Steve imagined a tiny bell ringing, signaling the beginning of a Golden Pause.

He sat down comfortably and began paying attention to all that he had to be grateful for. His mind became clear of negativity. His body relaxed and he felt calmer. He started to breathe in and out several times and to appreciate the gift of breath. According to Steve, the entire Golden Pause went on for about 5 minutes, at which time he imagined a bell ringing again to signal the end of the break.

When it was over, he said, his body language was entirely different. He was relaxed and calm. The furthest thing from his mind was to fight with or sue someone.

I often practice a Golden Pause several times a day, usually when the day seems to be speeding up too quickly or when life seems to be wired too tightly, but often when things are going just fine, too. Golden Pauses have a way of transforming my relationship to the world. Once the pause is over, I see the world and everyone in it quite differently. It’s like stepping into a temporary place of euphoria where everything is more peaceful. When you step out, much of the benefit stays with you.

A Golden Pause might take only a few minutes of your time — five to ten minutes at absolute tops — but the change in you will be substantial, quantifiable and lasting.

So give the Golden Pause technique a try. It’s easy to implement, very relaxing, and can be done virtually anywhere. They only take a few minutes, yet Golden Pauses alter your entire perspective on life, teaching you the value and wisdom of a calm, quiet mind. Golden Pauses are one of the highlights of my day. I hope they will become so for you as well. In fact, why not begin right now? Ding!

So, when you find a little golden bell–buy it & create a special space to invite “A Golden Pause” moment.

Peace to you. -H

Let it Snow Traditions

Over the weekend I watched the hallmark movie, Let it Snow. It was a sweet show about a family resort that celebrated Advent and had various traditions from around the world. I thought it would be fun to do a post about traditions around the world, ideas to make your holidays even more special and memorable.

joyAROUND THE WORLD: Here are some ideas from around the world.

Eastern Orient: In this part of the world children make paper lanterns for their tree, which is called ‘the tree of light and Santa is known as ‘Dun Che Lao Ren’ which means ‘Christmas Old Ma’ They do fireworks as part of the celebrations. Fun Tradition for your family: have a fun lantern you light and send up into the sky or if permitting, light off a few fireworks. Here is a great link to 10 ideas to make your own lanterns http://ingspirations.com/2013/09/07/10-lantern-making-ideas/

Norway: In this part of the world the people celebrate this time of Solstice. Everyone bathes, puts on new clothes for a special dinner of rice pudding that has a hidden lucky almond. They put a large sheaf of grain that they hang out for the birds. Norway is where the Yule Log originated. Fun tradition for your family: Make special pine cones or throw bird seed out for the birds. Here is a link to a recipe to make your own bird feeder with pine cones http://www.mykidsadventures.com/pinecone-bird-feeder/

Swiss: In this part of the world gifts are brought by the ‘ChristKind’ or St. Nicholas or even Father Christmas. THe week before Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small gifts. Bell ringing and mass is followed by family gatherings where huge homemade doughnuts, called ringli and hot cocoa are shared. Here is a fun tradition you could invite your family to join in…Saint Lucia’s Day, December 13, in the first light of dawn the oldest daughter dresses in a white robe and wakes the rest of the family to serve them breakfast. 

Russia: In this part of the world St. Nicholas is especially popular. The Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important part of the meal is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheat berries, which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success and untroubled rest. Fun Tradition: Try a meatless dinner that you make together as a family OR do something special with poppy seeds in your breads.

Scotland: In this part of the world the people celebrate this time of year with big bonfires and dance around them while playing bagpipes. Bannock cakes made of oatmeal are traditionally eaten at Christmas. They decorate their homes with holy wreathes, candles and tinsel and the tree is decorated with baubles. Fun Tradition: Decorate with baubles. Here is a idea link http://www.workingberlinmum.com/2013/11/handmade-christmas-make-your-own.html

Australia: In this part of the world the holiday is in the middle of the summer, so it is usually enjoyed going to the beach and having a family picnic. They decorate Christmas bushes, hang wreaths and have contests for the best light displays. When Santa arrives to Australia he gives the reindeer a rest and uses six white ‘boomers’ (kangaroos) and changes his clothes so he is not so hot!! The main Christmas meal is eaten at lunch time and is usually a bbq or fish. Fun Tradition: Have a fun Christmas bbq during the holidays.

France: Santa is known as Pere Noel. They have a special dinner at midnight on December 24th called Le Reveillon. Fun Tradition: having a special dinner on Christmas Eve, but I also like the idea that there is a special place (shoes/stocking) where a special gift can be left to remind us of the baby Jesus.

gift-wrap-4OTHER FUN TRADITIONS you could include in your holiday season this year:  

From Germany: Put out wooden shoes (or you can put shoes or boots near the fireplace) out on December 6th. Have everyone in the family buy a tiny present to put in the shoes for one another OR you could have each person write something nice about the other members of your family. A few years ago I found some wooden clogs on a local classified post & we cut strips of paper & write kind things & then we share them over dinner.

From England: English Crackers, colorful paper tubes with small toys and candy inside. When pulled apart, the traditional crackers make a loud snapping noise, giving the crackers their name.

Make these at home from toilet paper tubes. Stick tiny story books, hard candy, chocolates and small toys inside each tube and stuff some tissue paper in after them to keep them from falling out. Wrap each tube in wrapping paper, gathering the ends of the wrapping paper and tying them closed with ribbon. The next day, your children can each grip the end of a cracker and pull them apart. They won’t make noise, but you can sprinkle glitter or confetti on the inside of the wrapping paper for an extra surprise.

From China: Include a paper chain on your Christmas tree. At our home we invite all our guests to write something they are grateful for on a strip of wrapping paper and then we chain them together.

From Denmark: make homemade tree decorations and then gather around the tree and sing hymns.

From Mexico: Celebrate with a pinnate or luminaries. Make your own paper luminaries. They also enjoy Lilies and evergreens. Maybe share a christmas lilly with those you love. Here is a sweet luminary jar you could make http://diyandcrafts.com/pin/2139/

 

UnknownFrom the Movie Let it Snow

St. Thomas Night: (This was in the movie Let it Snow) In Austria, legend says that unmarried girls can see their future on St. Thomas Night, if they climb into bed over a stool and throw their shoes toward the door, the toes of the shoes pointing downward. If they sleep with their heads at the foot of the bead, the dreams will reveal visions of their future husbands. Also, if a single woman on St. Thomas Day can pick out a young rooster from among a brood of sleeping chicks, she will soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams. Celebrated December 21st

Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Building Gingerbread houses: It is widely known that monasteries were one of the first places to sell gingerbread. It wasn’t until gingerbread found its way to Britain that it started being painted. It was displayed in shop windows and became the popular holiday treat we now know today.

Special Ornaments for the Tree: It is often a favorite tradition for families to purchase a new ornament to symbolize the new year or the previous memories from the year. Many ornaments are also purchased to symbolize firsts.

Lighting of the Christmas tree: This is a great and in-depth article of the origins of lighting of the christmas trees. http://gizmodo.com/5425395/christmas-lights-the-brief-and-strangely-interesting-history-of    This is a beautiful tradition that lights up the holiday season, during one of the darkest periods of the year. Thank heavens for light!

ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS:

ornament_gorgeousHistory of the Christmas Ornament:  

Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in the United States until the 1800s, however, because of the Puritans’ influence. As a result, decorated trees did not become widely popular until people saw the ornaments brought to America by families emigrating from Germany and England in the 1840s.

Ornaments became a big hit. F.W. Woolworth of five-and-dime fame had reluctantly stocked his stores with German-made ornaments in 1880. By 1890, he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices.

The ornaments available at that time primarily were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. As time passed, the ornaments became more elaborate – and expensive. Silk and wool thread, chenille and tinsel embellished many of them. Stiff spun glass appeared as angel and butterfly wings; tinsel was used on fancy flower baskets, vases, air balloons and egg zeppelins.

Germany faced virtually no competition until 1925. Then Japan began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to this country. Czechoslovakia also entered the field with many fancy ornaments. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.  (Hallmark.com)

Beautiful glass ball ornament that you create yourselfhttp://ayellowbicycle.blogspot.com/2011/11/pinterest-challenge-painted-ornaments.html

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The Legend of the Candy Cane

Many years ago, a candymaker wanted to make a candy at Christmas time that would serve as a witness to his Christian faith. He wanted to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.
He began with a stick of pure white hard candy. The white symbolized the virgin birth and the sinless life of Jesus.
He made the candy hard to symbolize the that Jesus is the solid rock and the foundation of the church. The firmness also represents the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. He thought it could also represent the staff of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
The candy maker then added red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could be forgiven and have the promise of eternal life.
The flavor of mint is similar to hyssop. In Old Testament times, hyssop was associated with purification and sacrifice.

nikolaus-St-Nicholas-christmas-32966025-406-639St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek[5] Bishop of Myra(Demre, part of modern-day Turkey)[6] in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker . He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series ofelisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints. (wikpedia)

According to biography.com
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who provided for the poor and sick, and is the basis for the popular character of Santa Claus.
Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280, St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who helped the needy. After his death, the legend of his gift-giving grew. St. Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.Early Life: St. Nicholas was born sometime circa 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre.

Reputation: There are many legends about St. Nicholas of Myra. One story tells how he helped three poor sisters. Their father did not have enough money to pay their dowries and thought of selling them into servitude. Three times, St. Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and put a bag of money inside. The man used the money so that one of his daughters could marry. On the third visit, the man saw St. Nicholas and thanked him for his kindness. He also reportedly saved three men who were falsely imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Death and Legacy: Several sources state St. Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, 343. Over the years, stories of his miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving. He was a popular saint in Europe until the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints. St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland.
The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname Sinter Klaas, and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.In America, St. Nicholas went through many transformations and eventually Sinter Klaas became Santa Claus. Instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. In the 1820 poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the St. Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, St. Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today.

I hope these ideas have got you thinking of your holiday season and making them even more memorable. Traditions make memories. The holidays are a wonderful time to bring everyone together. Remember the word HOLIDAY is derived from HOLY DAY. Begin today to make each of the upcoming holidays HOLY. Best wishes to you in all you do.

THOUGHTFUL Holiday Seasons

I don’t know about you, but sometimes getting around family brings out the need to find things to talk about with family you haven’t seen in awhile. I thought today I would put together some fun ideas to do with family during the holidays, turkey talk conversation starters, etc. Here you go!!

ImageGET THE CONVERSATION ROLLING:  I have a hard time listening to my father-in-law bark out orders to his wife, it can get a little awkward, so I decided to order the Thanksgiving and Christmas version of Melissa and Doug’s conversation cards. I think this will be a good way to get people talking and not barking!! They are around $9.99, but I can’t give you any great details because I haven’t received them yet.  They have good reviews on Amazon, so they should be worth the bucks. Here is a link to a bunch of different ones they have. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_23?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=melissa+and+doug+conversation+starters&sprefix=melissa+and+doug+conver%2Caps%2C257

Here is another link to 101 conversation starters http://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm

ImagePLAY: Many families take on the traditional turkey bowl for Thanksgiving, but you could also pull out board games, play tag with the kids or how about Charades. Everyone loves a good game of charades for any holiday. Here are a couple of links I came across with some charade word list ideas—http://www.greatgroupgames.com/thanksgiving-charades.htm   OR  http://www.purpletrail.com/partytrail/holiday_parties/thanksgiving/printable-game-thanksgiving-themed-pictionary   Other family play ideas could include a fun family game of just dance or karaoke, name that tune, relay races, pictionary, video games, etc.

ImageSHARE: Most families go around the table and share something they are grateful for, but you can even take it one step further and have people share highlights from the year—The Best thing that happened to them this year, a favorite trip memory, the funniest moments from the year, best moments of giving to someone else (Random acts of kindness), etc.  Then have the kids share one thing they love about their family or something they are grateful for. Don’t forget to get the kids involved in this!! Kids truly can say the greatest things.

ImageTALENT SHOW: Our family for the holidays does a funny talent show–We have had my sister strap on the electric guitar, a funny wig & jammed to her favorite 80’s band, one family dressed up like a crazy music video and danced the crazy moves like in the video, kids have made up dances, performed their latest recital piece…etc. have the kids share a talent or make a funny family skit. The holidays are about family, so join in the festivities & share your crazy!! —Dan in Real Life (the movie–above pic) has a cute family talent show scene.

ImageFUN FAMILY PHOTOS: We have all heard the photo booth image ideas, so that is always a possibility, but you could also put a fun family spin—whenever I have cousins over for a fun, themed party I always have them throw on a silly hat, a wig, hold a heart, pose with a pink flamingo, etc. So for the holidays you could put your own spin on the idea—have everyone where a feather headband and take individual shots or family shots, what about crazy aprons, chef hats, silly sweaters, Crazy hats, Santa hats, etc.—for Christmas my Mom always had everyone get “mug Shots” where we hold up a sign that says “Christmas year” and we pose like we are getting a mug shot.

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FAMILY GRATITUDE: JOURNAL: Begin a yearly Thanksgiving gratitude journal. When everyone gets together have them write down some things they were grateful for this past year. Don’t forget to date it! GRATITUDE JAR: Have all the family members write down 5 things they are grateful for from the year & put them into a big jar. Each year add to the jar. TREE: Have a small (or large–some people already put up their tree) and have guests to your home write down something they are grateful for on a slip of paper & then make them into a chain OR you could have pre-cut paper ornaments they can write on & you then add them to your tree.

ImagePHOTO BOOK: You could make a fun, family photo book from the previous year & gift it to your parents, so everyone at the festivities can enjoy all the fun moments. You could also make one tailored to your family & write a note about all the fun memories and moments together. I do this for my daughter Kate every year & gift it to her on Thanksgiving day & we express our gratitude for her in our life. Photos always make everything better.

ImageAdditional FUN IDEAS: DUCKIES–Over a fall weekend my family went to a cabin that had a hot tub. I purchased some plastic duckies & put a little symbol (heart, square, diamond–whtever you want) on a few of the ducks. We had all the kids in the hot tub & threw the ducks into the middle & the kids grabbed them. Those with the ducks that had a symbol got a prize. It was so fun!! & then for added entertainment the kids suctioned them all over their bodies—it was quite the picture event!! Imagine 8 little kiddos in the hot tub with little ducks stuck on their face, arms, chest—all posing crazy!! Priceless memories.  Here is a link to some Thanksgiving duckies http://www.amazon.com/Dozen-Rubber-Duckie-THANKSGIVING-favors/dp/B000V65CUQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384874892&sr=8-1&keywords=Thanksgiving+duckies  OR Christmas duckies  http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Holiday-Rubber-Ducky-Count/dp/B000E8S9WO/ref=pd_bxgy_t_text_y  OR LEAVES–If there are still leaves to rake, have all the kids pile them up & make a big bird nest & take fun family photos in the middle of it, or a leaf fight.

Whatever you do—make it memorable. Happy Holidays!!

1 Act of Random Kindness makes a difference

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Hello and hope all is well in your world!! Today I wanted to share one of my favorite weeks in the whole year…RAK (Random Acts of Kindness week). Each year the organization randomactsofkindness.org has a week that inspires people to break away from the norm and share kindness in the world. It is usually a week in February (the month of love–fitting). This year it is FEBRUARY 11th through the 17th!! So I wanted to share some ideas and getting you thinking and planning to do this with those you love. Make it a fun event—plan for it & share it with friends & family, get out and make a difference in your community, your neighborhood, your family, your world!

I was lovingly reminded that this RAK week was coming up as I was watching the sweet movie “Evan Almighty” with my little daughter. It reminded me as Morgan Freeman spelled out the words ARK…1 ACT of RANDOM KINDNESS will make a difference.

So, in the spirit of LOVE, HAPPINESS and making a DIFFERENCE, here are some thought and ideas to enjoy your RAK week…

If you have read my blog you know I have a nine-year-old daughter who is an only child and one of my greatest fears is that she is going to grow up and be selfish!! Especially after reading an article about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who was an only child and personally admitted how selfish he had been. Every red flag went up, Am I doing enough to help this little person think of others??? 

Ever since she was little we have done random acts of kindness…made brownies for the fire department, created hand made valentines for a local old folks home, handed out teddy bears to crossing guards, bought cookies for the McDonald’s employees…

I am always trying to think of ways to get our little family out of ourselves and doing something for someone else. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction, it is an ongoing, loving lesson for our lives. When we think of others, the world is better for it! Our family is better for it!

This last year (during RAK week ) was especially fun because we got others to celebrate RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) with some neighbor girls.  We made a 15 foot banner filled with kindness ideas kids could do & we hung it at their school. In the true spirit of RAK week I made a flyer and sent it to a large local email list in hopes that people would feel the giving spirit & it worked! I received a call from one of my neighbors (that I did not know very well) and she was filled with enthusiasm at the idea of RAK week!

She expressed how her 38th birthday was this particular week and that she decided she was going to take her family and do 38 random acts of kindness in celebration of her birthday!!.

Outstanding idea!

I saw her the next week at a school function and she lit up!! It was soo wonderful to see someone so excited to share in their experience. She told me how they handed out quarters to kids at a local hamburger restaurant so they could use the candy machines. They bought food for the people behind them in the drive-thru, they took a bunch of water bottles and handed them out at a local rec center…the enthusiasm was infectious. I loved it!! Then she got really quiet and she said, “but the best part of it all was that my son (who I struggle with) truly got in the spirit of giving. He is kinder today, he was writing notes to our family, he was moved more than anyone by this experience.”

That was the best part! She even said that he wanted to do the same thing for his birthday!

What a beautiful thing!!

If we can do one thing for our kids…it is to be an example of love, get out and do something random for someone else. Teach them to write thank you cards, help them each week think of some way to serve someone else. Make a dinner for someone in need, take a batch of brownies to someone you don’t know, say thank you to EVERYONE! It is truly the little things that make a big difference.

Here are some additional ideas from the RAK website and other sources:  Clean up graffiti, Donate used books to a library, Give care packs to the homeless (or a blanket), Share your talent of music with the elderly, Help someone with yard work or snow removal, Let someone go in line in front of you, Write a note of appreciation to a teacher, Mentor a child who needs a friend, Pay for a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks, Return shopping carts, Thank your police or fire department with a fun note or treat, Write a letter or email to someone who made a difference in your life, Visit an animal shelter, Take a bag of dog or cat food to your local shelter, pick up trash at the beach or nearby nature trail or neighborhood, Send a nice note thanking a soldier, Be a designated driver, Give someone flowers, Visit someone who is sick, Collect canned food and give it to your local food bank, Donate $1 to your child’s favorite charity, Start a charity day at your work & give the money to a good cause, Help someone with their groceries, Give hugs, Leave a nice note for your local mail carrier, Thank your child’s bus driver or crossing guard, Plant a tree, Give compliments, Send something inspiring to those you have on your email list, Be a nice driver on the road, Take shorter showers this week, SMILE, Start a piggy bank for a cause, Share something yummy with coworkers, Say thank you to your school principal and office help, Tell your parents (or send a letter or email) how much you appreciate them & everything they’ve done for you, Let your staff leave a little early from work & thank them for all they do, give flowers to be delivered with meal delivery programs, Make valentine hearts for the elderly home, Give someone a “heart attack” on their door (bunch of paper hearts that say nice things), Invite someone new in the neighborhood over for dinner, Have your child take a bunch of fun stickers or suckers and hand them out when the final bell rings & remind everyone that it is RAK week, genuinely thank your waitress for doing such a good job, make and share kindness bookmarks or give them to the school library to give away, Leave a $20 in an envelope and leave it for someone in need, give freely, spread LOVE everywhere you can…

-Spread Love, Heather

–not sure who to credit the picture, but thank you.

A beautiful gift to give

The holidays should not focus on the opening of the gifts, but opening our hearts to those we care about.

The process.

If you can give your child one gift…give the gift of your loving words, your prayers for their life, your belief in who they are and the beautiful potential you see in them. Writing a loving letter is a perfect way to express all these things. It is a gift they will cherish and have the rest of their lives. Write as often as you feel necessary (once a year, every six months, as a Christmas present, on their birthday, a special occasion, etc.) You choose the timeline that fits for you.

A few different style ideas:

1. You can just write a letter describing things you love about your child, special memories, their favorite toys, movies, songs, books at this particular age. Include funny things they say, activities they are participating in, how they are doing in school, events they have enjoyed attending, their friendships, their dreams, etc.

2. You can also put a scrapbook heart in the center and branch off of it specific details you love about your child and then write a letter below. Add small pictures to the page (you can have mini pictures 2×3 printed at Walgreens–probably anywhere) that would add to your letter. You can decorate the page in colorful markers, add favorite song lyrics, quotes, words, memories, etc.

Share the Love.

There is no question of the special bond that ties a child and mother, but these letters would be a beautiful gift to anyone. Write one to your spouse, a friend, mother, grandmother, Heavenly Father or to youself (you are important and need to feel loved—even by your own words)

Take the time to share feelings, life lessons, thoughts and inspiration, gratitude, gifts of this life. The people who are part of your life add the little details, the conversations, the heartache, the experiences…they are the witness to your life. Sharing with them the love you have within, makes living more valuable. It creates a full circle of love that continues to grow, sharing in love and leaving letters of remembrance. It is a beautiful gift.

Happy gift giving. Would LOVE to hear about the gift you love giving during the holiday season.

Traditions & Rituals for the Holidays

With the holiday season in the air  I thought I would do a special post to address the holidays. This is a time of hurry, mixed feelings of commercial vs meaning, creating memories and making it a special time of year for everyone.

Taking the time to create meaningful traditions at this special time of year will help ensure happiness for all!

Cheers to the holidays…

Holidays…means ”Holy Days”

Thanksgiving is filled with football games, turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, but you could also take pictures of all the guests and have them write down ‘five things they are grateful for’ and share them with the family around the dinner table—OR have a fabric tablecloth & have everyone write what they are thankful for & keep it for the next Thanksgiving feast. Another fun idea—make a hostess gift for the person who hosted the dinner & have a special apron that everyone signs in thanks. You could also pack a special dinner for a local fire/police department (or someone who doesn’t have family nearby) & have the family deliver it

Gratitude book of love to each child…go to Walmart, Snapfish…and create a 20 page picture book…include pictures from the year and some of your favorite artwork from the year…write a special note & give for Thanksgiving.

I AM GRATEFUL for you…love you…xoxo You can also give for birthday or Christmas or any holiday.

 Another idea I began last year, our ‘giving tree.’ My husband travels a lot during the month of November & December, so we put our Christmas tree up around the week of Thanksgiving. Since the tree is up I started to have every guest (for thanksgiving or any visit) write down something they are grateful for on a paper link. I then link them all together to create a chain that I hang on the Christmas tree.

Christmas

Birthday Cake Story: every christmas eve we go to grandmas house and she reads this story with a basket full of goat cheese, a candle and a birthday cake. It is a favorite tradition that we have done since I was young.

Christmas eve pajamas: have special pajamas that can be opened christmas eve

So many things to do…Read or watch Luke 2, make gifts to give to neighbors and friends, go to the salem pond lights and enjoy the carriage ride while singing Christmas tunes, participate in some sort of giving tree, make a turkey dinner for someone in need, download and share some of your favorite holiday tunes, putting out birdseed and bread crumbs & reading the book “Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” is a nice touch… Make a list of all the things you would like to include this holiday season. Is it making gingerbread houses, visiting a local old folks home to sing carols, visiting temple square, going to see a production of the Nutcracker, seeing holiday lights, drinking eggnogg by candlelight after a winter walk in the snow, making homemade gifts for family and friends, celebrating the advent, lighting luminaries and making wishes, sharing the story of the nativity on the eve of Christmas, watching the nativity, visiting a live nativity, visiting family Christmas day, making snow angels, making ornaments and garland for the tree, having a special tree for Jesus with adornments made with love, ice-skating at the park with homemade hot cocoa, playing games on Christmas day, a special story read the night before Christmas,talking about the history of Christmas and learning about the real St. Nicholas, cutting down your own tree, buying a a live tree and then planting it after the holidays, planting herbs to share as gifts, going to church services, lighting a special candle every day for the month of December, having the 12 days of Christmas, or giving the 12 days of Christmas, making homemade soup and bread bowls, serving dinner at a local shelter, go on a winter sleigh ride, make christmas birdseed balls for our feathered friends, etc. Choose activities that will be memorable for everyone. Have a good balance of personal family time with holiday activities.

12 days of Christmas books, stories or Movies: Pick your 12 favorite holiday books and put the titles on pieces of paper & place in a jar—draw one each evening. (Polar Express, Twas the Night before Christmas, God gave us Christmas, Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect, The Grinch who stole Christmas, Who is coming to our house?…create your own or check out Amazon.com and buy your first book and each year add to the collection)

Christmas guest: a little magic comes to visit to remind little children that they need to be on their best behavior—have a special elf, christmas bear…come with a special note, holiday book, holiday yummy… and have the little visitor watch over the family. If someone is not listening…the visitor leaves to report to the north pole. This little guest does help keep the peace & is something every child looks forward to.

Christmas games: Christmas morning have santa leave a special game created just for this special morning…dice game with stickers (make a giant dice out of cardboard or use a larger toy dice & have stickers on every side–the stickers match the presents), price is right, scavenger hunt, Christmas to do drawing (have someone choose a special thing to do before opening a present–yell ‘Merry Christmas’ out the front door, sing a christmas tune, say something you are grateful for, etc), Christmas around the world—(Its a small world song, bought a little wood globe with people from all over & shared a little trivia & info. before opening a present). Have a string run throughout the house that everyone has to follow to find the family gift.

Break up your day: Have a special holiday breakfast, open a few presents, then break at a specific time to make holiday treats to share with lonely neighbors or someone who needs some holiday cheer, then come back and open another present, have a nice lunch together…spread the fun and festivities throughout your day.

From Family Fun:

Inspired by Eve Bunting’s book Night Tree, the Watermans get together each year with friends and family and trek into the woods to decorate a tree for the animals. The evening begins at home, with the preparation of appropriate goodies: pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, popcorn and cranberry garlands, orange and apple slices suspended from pipe cleaners. Once the feast is complete, the assembled throng bundles up and heads out into the night. Tree-decking is followed by sharing hot chocolate, holiday cookies and Christmas carols.

Recycle Toy Shop: have your kids pick a day to go through their old toys and fix them up to give away. There are many charities that need items, so clean-up old trucks, brush the dolls hair and spread some cheer.

Light a candle & share the joy to those not near: For family that is not close to home, send invites and have a special day and time where everyone across the country lights a candle, shares a poem, hot cocoa, special chrisstmas tunes and sends out special holiday wishes and cheer.

Surprise someone local: Firefighters, police officers and many other public servants give up their holidays to make sure that ours are safe and happy. Do something nice for someone local–take cookies, dinner…

Putting Christ back in to Christmas

Having a hard time balancing Santa Claus and Jesus?? Turn the holiday season into a season of giving.

Explain the reason for the Season (Jesus), but also include the story of Saint Nicholas and his giving heart.

Talk to your family about having a balance of holiday gifts (to represent the gifts Jesus was given)

and being ‘present’ with the giving heart and true meaning of the season.

Ask What Would Jesus like us to do to celebrate his birth?

Would he like us to have a ‘gimme.gimme. I want attitude’ or would he want us to be more like

Saint Nicholas and create an intentional giving holiday full of family, love, giving and gratitude.

Have a special tree for Jesus. Adorned with ornaments that symbolize Him and his birth.

Have a special manger that you fill with kind and loving deeds

Have a little stocking for the baby Jesus and each year write something you were grateful for or

something you would like to work on to be more Christ like for the coming year.

Celebrate daily with a advent (which means ‘coming’) calendar that is filled with a scripture

or a kind deed for the day, a spiritual activity or service idea for the family.

Candles (originally go with the advent wreath) to be lit every Sunday of the month of December

4 purple candles that symbolize HOPE we have in Christ LOVE God showed in sending His son PEACE that comes through knowing Jesus as our Savior JOY (pink candle) reminds us of the Joy of Jesus’ coming

Then one last white candle that is to be lit Christmas Eve and represents Jesus and His purity

You light a candle every Sunday.

All candles lit=the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming to be the light of the world.

You could light special luminaries as a family and create a special tradition that revolves

around His Light, the Light of the world, ways to be a light within your own life, etc.

30 Day Challenge (between Thanksgiving and Christmas)

Do 1 thing that sets your day with Spirit

(music, prayer, daily pages, quiet time, sweets for your fam,etc)

Give Sweets to your Family

(morning hot cocoa, dryer wamed blankets or coats, sweet notes of love)

Daily or Weekly act of love and kindness

(pass along something inspirational, story, music, affirmation)

Express your Love

(notes, hugs, Quality time, simple I love you, date night with each child, etc)

Notice the Ordinary Miracles within your life

(the warmth of a fire, the winter walks, making snow angels, the touch of those you love, candle glow, cozy sweaters, warm kisses, falling snow, your breath on a cold morning, making breakfast together…etc)

Create ‘Christ’mas meaning within your day

(embrace beautiful stories/songs of the Beloved, bring Christ into your Christmas season)

Share meaningful gifts during this beautiful time of giving

(give gifts that will be remembered and cherished: special photo/story, cd of music, special ornaments they can hang every year, personalized notecards, no matter what a personal card that says something you love and cherish about them)

I would LOVE  everyone to add additional traditions that you do for the holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays! 
Heather

A time for family rituals II

What gifts will you give that will make your family come together…rituals & traditions.

Yesterday I began with some family rituals and ideas to help connect your family on a daily, weekly, special occasion basis. I am following up today with some additional ideas to help bring everyone together. 

Alone time:

You can always set aside some personal time and journal, light a candle and listen to beautiful music, go on a walk all alone, etc. Society often makes us feel that it is not normal to want to have some alone time, but being alone is good for the soul. It helps you take the time to revitalize the body and connect with your spirit. Quiet time is quality time.

Bath:

At any point in your day you can stop, light some candles, add bubbles or bath salts, quiet your mind and float in a warm bath. Relax. play pretty music and enjoy the candlelight. When done…blow out the candles and say Thank you.  This is so wonderful for your children as well–helps them learn to appreciate self care.

My daughter did not enjoy bathing or showering, so I decided to make it a special occasion. I light a candle and tell her to relax and enjoy her time in the water. It definitely helps & she is always feeling better when she is done.

Birthdays:

Birthday book: have a photo of the child/adult on the front of the album—inside have everyone–friends, guests, relatives, children write something special within the album (they could bring a photo to add to the album, a poem, quote, memory, etc)

Every year I make a special book for my daughter with pictures from the whole year. I write a special letter inside and make it special. I also try to make a DVD of special videos from the year. It makes a fun gift!

Half birthdays: Some families may find joy in creating a half birthday–some because a child’s birthday is during the summer and can’t celebrate it during the school year or many just want a party every six months. ideas: The child selects ONE present of their choice and they get to go out to a family dinner of their choice. You could also honor them with a half birthday cake or royal treatment for half the day.

Siblings: have siblings create a special card for the birthday. Dollar store gift item that represents sibling.

Birthday letter: Each year write a personal letter to the birthday recipient. You could include special letters from mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, etc. Give the book of letters to them on their 18th birthday.

Story of the child’s birth: Type it up and share it with your child every birthday.

Little fun ideas: fill their room with two dozen balloons while they sleep, so this is the first thing they see. Have a special thing you add to their cake—Little doll each year, specialty gift, piece of jewelry in cake…

Yearly Picture: Have a special article of clothing, a blanket, a special spot (on grandma’s swing, childhood chair) and take a picture each year in the same place, shirt, blanket, etc.

Include: Favorite birthday breakfast, surprise decorations, no chores or responsibilities for the day, do something they have always wanted to do, special dessert, dinner, etc.

Special School Lunch: check the child out of school on their birthday for a special birthday lunch.

Other cultural birthday ideas: In Mexico Pinatas are always fun for any festivity, in Argentina children get pulls on their earlobes for their birthday, in the middle east there is a special chair decorated with flowers and fun & the child is then lifting and raising it once for each year of life – plus one more for good luck!

Coming of Age: Many other cultures have ways to celebrate womanhood or manhood…here are a few ideas. Quinceañera is a celebration within the latin culture—it is a special party when a young woman is 15. It could have a theme, but a sweet sentiment is the passing of flat shoes to heels.

Or a special daddy/daughter dance OR Mother/son

Changing from child to adult comes with responsibility…you may want to have a special dinner and have a special handing over of more responsibility, a savings account, additional chores (laundry)etc.

Teaching and educating them through this transition is key…helping them make good decisions about their free time, friendships, and personal values. This is when they begin to leave the nest.

Special ritual: have friends and family sit in a circle (represents the flow of life, the never-ending circle of growth)–Have the mother and child hold hands (or joined with a ribbon) enter the circle and the mother says something like this.. “I brought you into this world and our spirits will be forever joined. However, up until this time, I have led you through life and you have listened to everything I said. If you are ready, then today our relationship changes, and I offer my guidance and ever lasting love, but know that you have started down your own path, and may not always listen. I do hope that our new relationship is one of trust, honesty and warmth. You can cut away our old relationship today, but I will always be here for you.”–break the hand holding chain to a loving hug or cut the ribbon as a symbol of change followed by a loving hug.

This might be a nice time for the song to be played or sang, or a prayer said, then the leader can invite everyone to come forward, take a flower from a vase and give it to the teen (who you have seated by now), and tell them what they wish for their future and adulthood.

Adoption:

I like this idea for Foster Kids as well.

Special Ritual: Invite friends and family (if you want). sit in a family circle. Light a pink candle to symbolize the groups love for the child. Begin by thanking the child for coming into this family. Go around the circle (starting with the parents) and have everyone talk about how important it is to have this child in the family and the community. Add feelings (change, worth, new beginnings, etc). Have everyone share something about themself to allow connection and have the new child share (if they want) something about them and their likes…

Appreciation Box: (for parents or child) Have a special box or basket on a specific day “Parents Day” or “Gotcha Day”—-the day a child arrives or a specific day of the year–celebrate with gifts of appreciation and love. The box or basket is placed outside the recipients door and everyone places gifts of love (put cookies, drawings, a letter, object of love, etc) into the box or basket throughout the day. A little twist: you could place the box outside the door in the early morning & everyone has to fill it before breakfast, then the recipient brings the basket into their room to look through & this clues everyone else to bring in breakfast in bed.

 
Dealing with Anger:

Anger Sticks, drum: (make them at family night)

When anger comes–encourage the feelings to be released–pound a pillow, cry, shout (not at others), beat the drum or stick…eventually the anger will fade. Then write down a list of what made your child, your spouse angry. Then together burn the list and release the anger.

Anger corner: Have an anger corner within your home with lots of pillows

Anger actions: Have your child do a special action when they are angry—Volcano, count to 10, etc. This worked really well when my daughter was a toddler and couldn’t express herself very well. I would have her shoot her arms into the air like a volcano and change her pattern of anger. It was great to see her switch from anger and focus on releasing it with her little actions.

Express through drawings: have your child draw or write a story about a person who gets mad and what makes them angry—this will help you understand what is upsetting your child.

Healing a fight:

Have a safe place in the home (fireplace mantel, specific shelf, a room, etc)

Make peace doves as a family–1 per person (paper, clay, magazine cut-out, ornament, etc) & put name on it.

After a fight or argument each person (on their own time) goes to the safe place and writes a letter or tape records their feelings–I feel angry because….. NOT “you’re mean. I hate you”

Then each person will turn their dove with their name facing out to symbolize that they wish to make peace (or you could have a small help sign next to the dove–to symbolize wanting to make peace)

The other person(s) involved can come and read the letter or listen to the recording and write their own.

They turn their dove over–which is a symbol that both with to make peace.

They make a time to talk and to make peace. Forgive and hug.

“Contemporary American families are entropic, meaning they drift toward falling apart,” says William Doherty, head of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota. “Rituals combat that entropy and help hold families together. Whenever you do a ritual, you are saying `No’ to other activities or people, and becoming what I call an intentional family. Most of us just drift into habits, doing what is most convenient. But ritualizing means to take a hold of activities and ask: does this meet the needs of our family? If it’s something like sitting in front of a TV night after night for dinner, then the answer is `No.’”

 
First Times:

First day of school, first time driving, first job, new school, first sleep over, first speech….

Power Shirt: create a special power shirt that says “courage” or “confidence”–can be worn under clothes.

First day of school: give the ‘courage’ shirt with a stuffed lion and tell your little one “this shirt will help you feel courage and protect you”

New job: the ‘confidence” shirt will give power and confidence

New School Year: end of summer (or new year) light sparklers together as a family and do a special cheer to new friends, new school year—remind them of the special light  within…shine on and be a light to all those they meet.

Have a special family blessing to bless each child as they enter their new year of school. You can have a special blessing chair or give them a special token of best wishes for their first day.

Sweet 16: Special dinner date with Dad/Mom(parents). Give a special piece of jewelry to symbolize letting go of childhood and growing toward becoming a adult.

Decorate their car with cans, signs, balloons in congrats to getting a license.

Cheers to you: Any successes, good grades, making the team, new job. Have a special dinner in honor of the accomplishment. GO around the table and have each person give a cheer of something positive, complimentary, nice about the person, the event, the achievement. Cheers to you!!

Family Tapestry/Project: Create a family tapestry, mosaic table, stone wall (each fabric tile, stone, piece of glass) represents a milestone in the family and is decorated and added to the family project.

 

Well, that is all I am going to leave you with today. I will continue with the family ritual ideas tomorrow. I will include great holiday ideas to share, so make sure you read my part III.

fyi: many of the ideas I share in the family rituals are taken from a variety of places like Barbara Bizou, Real Simple, Family Fun…I just hope a collection of these ideas will get you creating rituals and traditions with your family.

Happy day. Heather

 

A time for family rituals

The very word RITUAL is derived from an Indo-Eurpoean root, means “to fit together”

Family therapist Ron Taffel asked kids (nursery school -sixth grade) “What is your favorite thing to do?” 80 percent–four out of five–cited everyday rituals with their parents.

By using rituals, we help ourselves and our children make better sense of the world. They begin to regard even the mundane—a bath or a family dinner–as sacred moments of connection and togetherness. -Family Rituals by Barbara Biziou

A December 2002 review of 32 studies affirms that family routines (such as bedtime, chores, and dinner time) and family rituals (such as birthdays, Christmas celebrations, and family reunions) are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, academic achievement, children’s health, and stronger family relationships. From About.comUpdated: November 24, 2003

 
November and December are big months for bringing family together, so I am going to take a few days to share some ideas to bring rituals into your family life.
Take some time to create rituals as a family.

EVERYDAY RITUALS

Make sure everyone is included on creating the rituals and traditions used within your home. The more invested each member is on the planning and creating, the more meaningful it will become. You may go to the soccer games, the dance lessons…but the quality time is within the home. Make the time, plan the memories…its a family thing. Family should come first!

Mealtime Blessings:

“We all know that sharing food is the ultimate symbol of nurturing and togetherness.”

Decorating the table: make the table beautiful—candles, flowers, thought…You may have a special item (goblets, candlesticks, china, decor) that is only used when you eat together as a family.

Prayer: You may want to hold hands while praying, or have a special prayer that you share together.

Breakfast–Use breakfast as a time for a early morning break. Encourage the family to quiet their mind, enjoy the meal before a busy day.

Weekly Family Dinner: Have a specific time each week (at least) to share a family dinner. Give everyone an opportunity to plan the whole meal, the decor, the theme, the job assignments, etc.

Ex: Mom may love a flower theme (flowers, china, manners, dressing up, classical music, etc),

Brother may want a soccer theme (soccer ball center piece, BBQ, game plan for place mats, etc), Sister may want a tea party (tea cups, little sandwiches, dolls & stuffed animals as guests, etc), Dad may want a mustang theme (model cars for the center piece, BBQ ribs, Mustang fun facts for table, 60’s music, etc). Have fun with the planning and the whole idea of family connection.

DInner fun: You can have a family dinner fun…have a jar with random questions or buy the family dinner games Family Time Fun Dinner Games and Activities by FamilyTime Fun–there are even conversation cards.

Family Unity:

Hold a family meeting once a week–schedule the time to be together as a family to talk, to listen, to be with one another. Everyone is free to discuss whatever is on their mind. Report weekly events.

Plan upcoming holidays, activities, ideas that will help connect the family.

You may want to incorporate a talking stick—get together to make the family stick and talk about how  it will be used during family weekly meetings. The idea…whoever is holding the stick has the right to speak. No one is allowed to interrupt or criticize the speaker. Have the family paint their names, decorate it, make it your own. Before incorporating the talking stick into family meetings make sure everyone understands how it is used. This stick is to allow anyone and everyone to share whatever is on their mind (frustrations, good things, or anything they would like to get off their chest) Stress that no one will be criticized or punished for any wrongdoing and that using the stick is not a time to “get” someone else. It is to help share feelings without interruption, to heal hurts and bring connection through emotions and the feeling of safety within the home.

This is also a good way to stop daily arguments or fights—simply tell the children…I do not want to hear about this right now, it sounds like something that should be brought up during our family meeting.

Family Vision Board: have everyone select pictures that are meaningful to them on a personal level (ie: soccer, ballet, new job, a home, a garden, thoughts, quotes, family connection, etc) pick your favorites and create a family vision board that is put somewhere for everyone to see, to think about.

Share history: help your children to know and understand what it was like when you were growing up–what you did and didn’t do, activities you participated in..your history. Kids love to hear stories about you & them!!

Also share the meaning(s) behind symbols within holidays—the symbols of a christmas tree, why eggs are used at easter, candy-canes, etc. The history of different meanings within the holidays.

Weekly Chores and Pizza–have a specific time each week to do family chores together and then order pizza. You could also incorporate daily chores into the overall weekly goal…they do their chores every day and on Saturday night they get pizza.

Play Day–have a weekly ‘play’ activity with the family. Try to make it the same day and time each week and rotate who chooses the activity. Ex: Friday Night Fishing Night—pretend fishing game with fun goodies attached.

OR this could also be a day you keep your kids home from school and play hooky (maybe do this once every six months) and spend the day playing games, eating in bed, doing whatever you want as a family. I call these special days “Mommy/Missy Days” (since I have a young daughter) but you could have a special name for them too.

Date night–This goes for mom & dad–at least once a week, BUT you also need to schedule some “Daddy/Daughter” or “Mommy/Missy” or “Father & Son” “Mommy & Me” dates. Try to take each child on a special date at least once a month—it doesn’t have to be anything huge…a special trip to get ice cream, to go to the mall to window shop, an evening walk…something that just gets the two of you connecting.

Little things–Saturday morning cartoons & a big pancake breakfast, Dad takes the kids to buy donuts on Saturday morning while mom sleeps in, after the dentist/doctor go play skeeball at Chucky Cheese or go for ice cream, a monthly breakfast to IHOP for crepes, create a FAMILY playlist of songs that play in the car (a little something everyone will enjoy), warming up coats in the dryer on a cold morning, or the simple act of throwing a towel or robe in the dryer before someone gets out of the bath/shower, writing love notes on napkins that are going in lunches or a simple “I LOVE YOU” in lipstick on a bathroom mirror at the beginning of the week. Helping your kids with responsibility—chores and allowance.

Quiet time: every evening before bed…homework done, nice music playing, alone time, everyone is quiet…journaling, relaxing, unwinding from the day.

Weekly service: Choose someone who needs a little cheer and make them cookies or take an elderly neighbor their favorite fast food sandwich and shake, take an inspiring note or story to a special teacher or friend.

Shake up your family night: Have a camp-in where you bring in the tent, sleeping bags and light a fire, have smores, tell stories….or make a huge tent in your living room out of blankets and have pizza…OR do something you would not ordinarily do, like go to the symphony or an art museum or see a prof. sporting event.

Play Genie: Grant three small wishes to each family member on starred calendar days. (Be prepared to have quesadillas for breakfast or go to the movies on a school night.)* Real Simple

Bedtime:

Nightime– Saying prayers, reading a book, singing a song or simply relaxing helps ease into bedtime.

Create a ritual to sing a special goodnight song. Give your child a special foot massage while talking to them about the ‘highlights’ of their day. Is there a special story to share or special back scratches.

Special Bedtime Buddy: have a special buddy to help create security and safety through the night.

Highlights of the day: talk about the highlights of the day while unwinding into bed.

Dream Pillow: Make a special dream pillow–you can spray a scent like lavender to help with sleep. This pillow is to help with sweet dreams–if your child talks about fears or concerns with their day, express that sleep will take them away and the dream pillow will bring good dreams.

Nightly Ritual: special foot massage or back scratches

Goodnight prayer.

For adults or older children:

To release the day…No clutter or work in your bedroom. Cover any television or computer screen with a beautiful cloth and begin to quiet your mind.

Have a special journal or notebook to write down any worries or concerns from the day.

Self-love journal: I created a self-love journal for my daughter, a friend and a niece. I wrote questions throughout that would help them reflect on their day, their thoughts, their dreams, their personal ideas, etc. It is a fun gift to give for many occasions. Take the time to write questions they can answer. It will be a gift to themselves.

Breathe in and out. Write your worries. Rip the worries out of your notebook, crumble and burn or toss.

Light a candle and write down everything you accompished throughout your day–things you are grateful for, special highlights…the good things within your day.

You will end up with a beautiful notebook of good things within your life.

Say a prayer of thanks and blow out the candle to let go of the stress and sleep in bliss.

Well, that is all for today. I will continue with more ideas tomorrow.

Happy creating! Heather

 

 

Give the gift of gratitude

Imagine…One evening you gather your family around the dinner table and celebrate life with a little cake. Not just any cake, a gratitude cake.

This cake is going to help your family remember the wonderful things within your lives. You will put the cake in the center of the table and light a candle in the middle of the cake. As the candle burns everyone will take a turn sharing something they are grateful for within their life…a highlight from the day, friends they appreciate, stories of kindness, little things they love, moments with family, etc. Then after everyone has shared in the gift of gratitude, the candle has melted down and the wick is out, end with a little piece of cake.

This will be a beautiful gift to bring your family together. Enjoy your time together.

Give Thanks during the month of thanksgiving.