6 weeks of Festivities or Panic?

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I must confess, I love Christmas! I love everything about it. The decorations, spending time with family, doing Advent activities, and family meals. One of my favorite memories is dancing around the house decorating with my son while we sang Christmas carols.

For years we made all the gifts and cards for family and loved ones. My son and I would spend hours carefully deciding what cards and gifts were perfect for each person, then we would hand deliver them where possible.

I didn’t want the stress and chaos to ruin the Christmas spirit. So we would start making our gifts early so that we could spend more time relaxing and doing Advent activities. Each year we would bring out our two Advent books, and I would go online or check out the PWDRF calendars to see what activities they recommended.

We would have my niece and nephews over for tobogganing or skating so my sister could shop in peace. Sometimes we would do crafts or make gingerbread houses. I still have some of the Christmas tree ornaments that we made.

I usually wait for December 1st to decorate but this year I will pull them out early. My son is 22 now and in his last year at University, and I don’t live near my family to have fun with their children. But we need the Christmas spirit to come early this year, so my husband and I will start new Christmas traditions. Who knows maybe he will join me for a song or two while we decorate?

How do you spend the weeks before Christmas?

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Remembering Grandpa

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My Grandfather passed away 22 years ago this past August. I was due to have my son in November. My family laughed at me when I walked into my Grandparent’s house because I looked like I had swallowed a beach ball. My Great Aunt made me stand sideways so she could get a picture!

I was so big I had trouble reaching the clutch in my car as I made the hour-long drive home to say good-bye. As we gathered together, we knew it was for the best. He had struggled with his war injuries for as long as I could remember and now had cancer.

Grandpa was never the same after the war. How could he be? He watched his entire platoon die, he watched my grandmother’s brother die. His injuries were extensive, but he survived to come home to his beautiful wife and two children.

He was one of the lucky ones.

My son never met my grandfather, but over the years I took every opportunity to use teachable moments to share with him about the true meaning of war and its consequences. I shared stories with him and impressed upon him the importance of Remembrance Day. We’ve talked about what it means to our family and what it means to our nation.

Grandpa followed the footsteps of his father and uncles when he joined the war and always impressed on me to stand up for what I believed in and never, ever to set aside my principles. He believed in what he had fought for and never regretted the sacrifices that he made.

I’ve watched documentaries with my son over the years, and we are always shocked by how young the soldiers were. That took courage. As a mother of a young man eligible for the draft, if we had one, I couldn’t imagine what those mothers went through!

I am not ashamed of the tears I cry every Remembrance Day during the 2 minutes of silence. I am proud of the sacrifice my grandfather made so that we can live in freedom. I weep for the soldiers who never made it home. I cry for the parents who answered their door to receive the news that their loved one wouldn’t be coming home. I grieve for the widows and their children who will never know them. I cry for the victims of war, for the innocent children who suffer.

I am not ashamed of the tears I cry.

We have a family tradition where we thank a vet or an active duty soldier for their sacrifices and service. If we see one at a restaurant, we will buy them their meal. It’s the least we can do for all that they do for us!

Thank you Grandpa, I love you

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Surviving nightmares

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Halloween may be over, but nightmares can strike at any time and any age. According to the sleep experts, the reason our loved ones wake us up as we’ve settled into a nice deep sleep is that nightmares happen during REM when the brain is active.

Our dreams and nightmares are our brain’s way of processing thoughts and emotional situations that we have faced during the course of our day. Nightmares may be more frequent during times of stress or when dealing with change or events that have been unsettling. They can be a reaction to real life trauma, reading a scary book or watching a television show that has aroused an emotional response.

Nightmares are hard to deal with, no matter how old the inflicted person is. Emotions are real, and when you’re woken from a nightmare, the feelings are fresh and raw. Little ones may not understand the difference between a nightmare and real life due to how real the emotional response is.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them deal with nightmares. Be sure to check them out!

So how do we help our little ones go back to sleep after a nightmare?

  • Reassure them that you’re there for them.
  • Label it as a nightmare.
  • Offer them comfort and love.
  • Check places that they are afraid of, i.e., under the bed, the closet or behind the door.
  • Provide a nightlight or flashlight.
  • Help them settle back in with a comfort item, i.e., dream catcher, soft music, stuffy.
  • Talk about the dream they might like to have.
  • Give them a kiss to hold while they sleep.

* Most important be a good listener and if need be in the morning help them process by talking, drawing or writing about it.

How can we help prevent or limit nightmares?

  • Help them relax and unwind before bedtime.
  • Try to establish a routine and schedule.

These help children to feel safe and secure!

  • Try to avoid scary triggers before bedtime.
  • Try to provide space to talk about their day openly and honestly with you.
  • Children’s bedrooms should be a safe place. It should be a place of comfort and peace. Never use their rooms as a place of punishment.

* Most nightmares are not a cause for concern, however, if the nightmares present with other emotional or behavioral trouble seek professional guidance.

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Friends treasure or vice

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Over the years working with young people, I have had many discussions on the topic of good friends and bad ones. True friends are our most treasured gifts and can have a significant impact on our success and happiness, where a bad apple (or lousy friend) can infect a group of friends or ruin a young person in many ways.

Unfortunately, most of us have had to learn the hard way that someone wasn’t a true friend, so how do we help our young children to learn the difference?

By using their television and book heroes to open conversations, and by role modeling the characteristics we want them to cultivate we can assist young people in learning to identify and nurture the key character traits that make good friends. As parents, we need to be starting conversations early with our children on what makes good friends. Young people watch us like a hawk, and this means that we must put into practice, in our everyday lives what we say. Actions speak louder than words.

Good friends motivate, encourage, inspire, and support us to be the best we can. They help us to celebrate our achievements and help us to feel valued. Our bad friends do the complete opposite. They are jealous of accomplishments, offer little support or encouragement and are often bitter and resentful.

Everyone needs friends who listen and share without distractions or interrupting. These friends understand that friendship is a two-way street. There is also a difference between active listening and distracted listening. Active listening is engaging with the speaker to clarify, and validate, while distracted listening interjects an occasional “uh huh” to sound like they’re listening.

Listening has become harder with the introduction of cell phones and social media. Cell phones are a distraction for everyone (from senior citizens to children as young as 7 years of age have phones) these days. I often challenge parents to put their phones away and be present for their children no matter what their child’s age is. If a friend is always distracted or disinterested in hearing what you have to say, then it is time to evaluate your friendship.

Young people are generally good at seeking advice from people they trust, however, sometimes they have a hard time understanding what secrets are okay to keep and what secrets they need to share with a trusted adult. But everyone, not just young people, needs someone they trust to share with, and a true friend would not gossip. If you have a friend who talks about someone else when they aren’t there, then you can be sure that they will be talking about you when you aren’t there.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them learn what a good friend is. It’s never too early to cultivate good friend character traits. Be sure to check them out!

Five key traits:

1)   Trustworthiness

2)     Honesty

3)     Dependability

4)     Loyalty

5)   Stands up for you when you are being hurt, emotionally or physically.

all 3 books

Want to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled?

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Want to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled? Consider volunteering!

I bet your reply is: Given that our lives are already so crazy busy how are we to even consider volunteering? Or something along these lines, am I right?

Wait, hear me out, the benefits of volunteering are tremendous for both the community and our families. Did you know that as a person you WILL reap far more benefits from your volunteering than you sow?

Yes, volunteering offers vital help to people and animals in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but volunteering also helps you as an individual. You will benefit by connecting to others, making new friends, broadening your support network, boost your social skills, and helping others can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide you with a sense of purpose and bring fulfillment to your life.

There are so many benefits for families who volunteer together. Children watch everything parents do. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of giving back to the community. Volunteering shows our children firsthand how to make a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help start a conversation about helping others. Be sure to check them out!

Some important questions to ask yourself before looking to volunteer:

Would you like to work with seniors, children, intergenerational groups, or animals?

Do you prefer to work alone or are you a team person?

Are you better at working behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role in events?

How much time are you willing and able to commit?

What causes are important to you?

Tips for getting started (from the World Volunteer Web)

First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.

For example, do I want…
…to make it better around where I live
…to meet people who are different from me
…to try something new
…to do something with my spare time
…to see a different way of life and new places
…to have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job
…to do more with my interests and hobbies
…to do something I’m good at

The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.

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Fear of the Unknown

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I was talking to my mom the other day, and she shared with me that my great niece was terrified of a toy, so much so that even seeing it on the counter made her cry and scream in terror. Unfortunately, her slightly older brother loves the toy. It’s not unusual for toddlers to be afraid of loud noise or sudden movements and this toy does both, without warning.

There are times where fear is useful! It can protect us from jumping headlong into trouble, and some fear is evolutionary. Children naturally grow out of evolutionary fear as they grow and develop their anxiety landscape changes.

Evolutionary fear can be:
· Separation anxiety in toddlers,
· Fear of the dark or masks in preschoolers,
· Storms, spiders, or needles for school children,
· Rejection and failure for teens.

Parents make a huge difference in how well children can adapt and handle fear. When a toddler or preschooler are experiencing strong emotions, the situation is real for them no matter what a parent says, therefore, it will take small steps to help them over time realize that that dark closet isn’t something to be afraid of. It will also take a parent who the child trusts to help them overcome their fear.

One of the ways I helped my son overcome his fears was with positive, fun, and sometimes goofy games. When he was afraid of the dark, we played games by flashlight and read books by flashlight. We made forts and sang songs by candlelight (replacing the campfire).

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them deal with fears. Be sure to check them out!

Many experts suggest approaching fears in steps.
* There is a balance between overprotecting and belittling.
*Be age appropriate in your methods!
* Always approach with respect and love, never assume you know the precise source or reason for their fears!
1) Don’t try to talk them out of being afraid.
2) Stay calm and confident. How you speak to them about their fears is as important as what you say.
3) When helping your child to confront their fears find out what feels comfortable. Don’t force your child to do more than that. However, don’t give your child a total out. Complete avoidance isn’t the answer for anxiety. Practice coping response in a variety of ways. Teach and provide relaxation tools.
4) Reward efforts both big and small.

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Children and pets

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I always joke that I don’t understand people who don’t like pets, but there is a hint of truth there. How we treat animals says a great deal about our character. We don’t have to love animals to treat them with respect and decency. Children watch how we interact with all creatures from the tiniest bug to a massive elephant.

Pets are amazing, and I can’t imagine my life without my cat and dog. I am somewhat biased having grown up in a house full of pets though. One year we had two dogs, two kittens, a canary named yellow eagle, an aquarium full of fish, two teddy bear hamsters, and some newts. There was never a dull moment or a lack of chores that’s for sure.

I always encourage people to let their children have an age-appropriate and family appropriate pet. The family will need to decide what classes as age suitable or family appropriate, but there are so many benefits to owning a pet that it’s worth talking about.

Last week I read an article that reviewed 22 different studies on the benefits of owning a pet. The conclusion was that children who grow up with pets have higher self-esteem, higher cognitive development, and higher social skills. All the studies discussed the general health benefits which are: lower stress, lower blood pressure, increased mood, and that pets help to prevent strokes in older people.

But did you know that according to the studies that children who have pets tend to be more obedient, physically active, are less moody, and have fewer behavioral problems?

Pets teach children to give unconditional love, and that taking their fear and anger out on others is inappropriate. Pets help children learn empathy, confidence, and responsibility. Children with pets learn to socialize and have increased verbal skills.

Be sure to check out Kaylee’s adventures with her kitty Sir Thomas and Thomas’ Adventures with his puppy Melissa.