Fun Indoor Activities for the Winter Months

If you are reading this, that probably means you are recovering from all the outdoor fun that was discussed in last week’s article.  Even with all the fun you had in the cold outdoors, it feels nice to get inside in the warmth for a bit. Besides, the fun can continue indoors, as there are many great winter activities that can be done inside the house!  Here are a few:

1.    Scavenger Hunt. Hide objects around the house that your little ones can find.  Give them each the same number of items to find and put a time limit on the hunt.  Whoever comes back with all his items first, wins! For single child families, time your child while he searches for the items. When the time is up, have him come to you with any items he has retrieved.

2.    Make Snowflakes. We have all seen those snowflake decorations with the intricate designs on paper.  Have your children help you make some as all children love crafts!

There are hundreds of tutorials across several online platforms with step by step instructions for these and other winter decorations.  They do not have to be difficult either.

You will be amazed at the creations your children come up with. The whole family could get so occupied in all the fun you are having that the inside of the house ends up looking like the outside, covered in snow!

3.    Cook. This may not be a winter specific activity, but it is a great way to warm up and pass the time together. The best thing about this is that it gives the parents and children so many choices. You can choose a dish that takes 15 minutes to cook or one that takes a few hours.  It is all completely up to you. Children love helping out, so make these meal preparations fun and enjoyable for them.

What they do not know is that cooking also assists them with reading and comprehension skills.

If you want to give the experience that extra winter touch, you can make winter themed treats like snowman pancakes or gingerbread cookies. Delicious!

4.    Build a fort. There is nothing quite like the memory of building a fort to bring back the nostalgia of childhood for adults. Bring out your inner child and help build a fort big enough for the whole family. All you need is a large bed sheet, a few pieces of furniture to place it on, and some pillows to make it a little more comfortable to lay on the floor.

Try to remember that this is an activity for your children to take the lead on. It is easy to get caught up in the wistfulness of it all and take over. Try not to do that.

Once the fort is built, everyone can get in and tell stories, watch a movie, or simply relax and bask in each other’s company.

Not only are these activities wonderful fun for the family, but they also require lots of energy and you know what that means … sleepy kids!  After a day of fun, all your children will want to do is go through their bedtime routine and then sleep.

Fun Outdoor Activities for the Winter Months

Snow and cold temperatures have come again and do you know what that means? The entire family is inside, huddled around the fire waiting for the temperature to rise. Just because snow is covering the ground does not mean that fun cannot be had. Here are a few enjoyable and affordable outdoor activities in which the whole family can join this winter:

  1. Play Capture the Snow flag! If you are familiar with the original “capture the flag” game, you are going to have to unfamiliarize yourself because this is nothing like that. In this game, it is important to keep your eyes peeled because a white flag is to be tied to a wooden spoon and placed in the snow so that only the cloth is showing. Spotting a white cloth among a sea of snow is as difficult as it sounds and it is a fun way to enhance a child’s visual and recognition skills.

    Try to hide it well because whoever is able to hide his ‘flag’ for the longest period of time is the victor!
     
  2. Make ice bubbles! This one is pretty simple. Take an ordinary bottle of bubble solution and blow only hard enough that a bubble forms but does not leave the wand, then watch the magic happen. Watching the bubble freeze before a child’s eyes can be so exciting, and you can give him/her a little lesson about the freezing point of water in the process.

    To make this activity feel more like an experiment, look at the differences between bubbles formed by blowing with the mouth versus bubbles formed by waving the wand in the air.

    It is important to note, though, that this will only work in temperatures of 19-Fahrenheit and below.  Burr!!
     
  3. Make a winter bonfire.  Who ever said that s’mores were just for the summer has never had a winter bonfire.  The crisp, cold air matched with the warmth of the fire is a delightful combination.

    It is winter so outdoor camping is probably not an option right now.  Try instead to set up the fire in your backyard.  Ask your children (if old enough) to help you build the fire. You will not believe the sense of fulfillment they will feel having helped you out.

    You can even make this a big affair by inviting family and friends to participate. Bonfires often provide memorable bonding experiences, so why not share it with everyone you love?

There are so many amusing and inventive ways to enjoy being outside this winter.  You can also come up with your own ideas or use these and other activities that can be found online. So what are you waiting for? The outdoors is calling!

You can find more outdoor activities by CLICKING HERE.

Happy New Year, 2018!

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"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."
Bill Vaughan

As you enter into the new year of 2018 and leave the old year behind, are you an optimist or a pessimist? As Christians, our hope is in God and we must be optimists!  Philippians 4:8 states: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (New Living Translation).

As we focus our thoughts on all that this verse says we should, we hold firm to the promise that all will be well with us, not because of who we are ourselves, but who we have our faith and confidence in. Our lives are not our own – we were bought with a price.  Have confidence that God continues to order our steps.  “I know, LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” Jeremiah 10:23 (New Living Translation).

I pray that you will receive your heart’s desires this year as you put Him first and foremost in your life.  Dream big and grow in faith because He is a God of big dreams!  Happy new year!

This Christmas - Allow God’s Light to Shine Through You in Everything You Do

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”
Matthew 5:14

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus, it’s important to remember that He was the light of this world.   When Jesus was born, the wise men saw His bright star and followed it from the east to find Him.  Matthew 2:2.  Then, when they were in Bethlehem, they continued to follow the star and it led them directly to the house were Jesus lived.  Matthew 2:9. God is light and as His children, He passed that light down to us.  God does not want us to hide the light He gave us - He wants it to shine brightly, as a star, in and through us. He wants us to display His light in ways that are pleasing unto Him.

Consider using your gifts to serve the Lord and shine brightly.  God has blessed each one of us with our own unique talents and abilities, but it is up to us to choose how we use them.  There is no better way to be a light to this world than to use your gifts to honor Him.  If your talent is singing, join a church choir or sing songs that give glory to the Lord.  If you are a writer, write creative and informative books or stories or other written works based on biblical themes, characters and histories. There is so much that you can do!

Being a light in the world also involves volunteering to assist those who are less fortunate, and I have written about that before.  1 Peter 4:10 states, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Our gifts were bestowed upon us to be a blessing to others in the same way that God has blessed us.

Passing on His graces and mercies is the ultimate expression of His love for us and what He continues to do in and for us. God’s light is life and we should use the life He gave us to light up the world - as He intended it.  And, just as the wise men followed that bright star to find Jesus, others will follow us to Him.

Should My Children Have A Pet?

Parents are thinking about purchasing those ubiquitous Christmas gifts and often high on the list is a pet for their children.  Of course, children love the idea of owning a pet.  Who would not want small, fluffy (or scaly) creatures to show them unconditional love at all times? But pets can be much more than that.  In fact, studies have shown that pets can be catalysts for your children’s increased well-being.

Whether a dog, cat, lizard or bird, pets can provide their owners with countless benefits - especially children.  Here are a few great things that these wonderful creatures bring into our lives.

1.    They Teach Companionship. I think philosopher Martin Buber put it best when he said, "an animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language."  Though they do not speak the same language or have the same mannerisms that we do, our furry friends somehow understand us enough to show us love when we want it and comfort when we need it.

In addition, they teach responsibility. They show children that to love something also means to take care of it - to feed and nurture it. From a large dog to a small fish, taking care of pets requires a lot of work. Exposing children to caretaking at a young age develops many critical skills for the future.

2.    Bye-Bye Allergies! Studies have shown that children who grow up with cats and dogs are less like to be sick compared to other children their age, and they are also less likely to develop pet-related allergies. Being exposed to pet dander at an early age reduces their chances of developing these allergies by 33%, according to a study by pediatrician James E. Gern, as it strengthens their immune systems. Before you rush to get a pet though, talk with your pediatrician because it is still possible for your children to acquire allergies.

3.    They Promote Activity. Animals, like dogs, need to be taken out for walks everyday - sometimes more than once a day.  Doing a couple of laps around the neighborhood is nice, but you and your children can use this task as an opportunity to explore so much more and become increasingly active.  Walk to the dog park and meet new people; go hiking with your pet; or have a run on the beach.  Keeping active is essential for both children and adults.

4.    They Make Life a Little Brighter. There is just something about the company of a pet that makes most children and adults happy. It is said that when we interact with animals, our dopamine and serotonin levels increase. In other words, the happy hormones in our brains are released!

5.    They are Learning Companions! Parents oftentimes find their children doing homework with or reading to their pets.  This is because there is no judgement with pets.  The comfort that they provide creates a safe space for children when doing academic tasks (or any task they may not be confident in).

Above all these benefits, the best thing a pet has been known to provide is the strengthened bond between family members.  They bring out the spirits of love and cooperation in people.  So, if your children ever ask for a pet this Christmas, please keep these points in mind when making your decision. Hopefully, it ends in adding a new member to the family under the Christmas tree!

When Should Your Child Have a Smartphone?

When Should Child Have Cell Smart Phone Soraya Coffelt

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, parents are busily looking for gifts for their children.  One such gift is a smartphone.  Parents, though, are often hesitant about purchasing cellphones for their children for a myriad of reasons, the most important being its negative effects on social skills.  While this is a genuine concern to have, smartphones can be great tools in assisting your children with the many challenges they may face.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide whether to purchase one, and if you do decide to purchase one, to determine what parameters should be established for its use:

1.    What age should your children be?  Generally, around the age of 14 is a good, practical age, but it all depends on the maturity levels of your children.  Are they responsible?  Cell phones are costly and children are prone to lose things.  Will your children abide by rules that you set for their use?

2.    How will it be purchased?  Many parents require that their children do chores at home to earn at least a portion of the purchase price of a cell phone. That builds in the child the importance of earning money and using money wisely.  If the cell phone device itself is a gift, consider having your child earn the money to pay for the monthly charges.

3.    What rules will be established for its use? The rules are completely up to you and what you, as the parent, determine is most important.  Use of the device during family times and meal times should be off limits, though.  Will you require a shut off time at night? If so, what hour? What about your free access to the phone to monitor goings on?  That should be made clear to your child from before the phone is purchased.

As with everything else, you cannot use the “do as I say, not as I do” method. Children learn best from observing their parents and if they see you contradicting yourself, it will only confuse them and cause them to rebel. If you tell them to put their phones away during meals, but you are busy calling and texting during dinner times, there will be problems.  

4.    What type of services or apps should be on a cellphone? You will need to monitor your children’s cell phones closely to ensure that they do not download any unacceptable apps.  In fact, one rule of use should be that they do not download anything without your knowledge and permission.  Be vigilant in monitoring their phones as there are a huge variety of apps out there.

One highly recommended service for a cell phone is called location services. It is very helpful because you can keep track of your children’s locations.  There are various apps that provide these services at the app store, but parents can include family locator services in their cell phone plan (usually for an additional price) as well. The already embedded GPS in cellphones is very beneficial in the event that your children are at unfamiliar areas and need to find their way to a specific destination or back home.

Getting their first cell phone can be an exciting time for your children.  Parents should, however, spend time preparing and planning for one.

Keeping Children Occupied During Airplane Travel

Soraya Coffelt Airplane Travel

During the holidays, families frequently travel on airlines.  For some of us, it is just a short one or two hour trip, but for others, it can be for many hours.   When traveling with children, there are numerous things to consider regarding how your children spend their time and how they behave toward other passengers.  No person wants to be a victim of a child kicking the airplane seat from behind out of pure boredom or a lack of manners (I have been the victim of this many times) or having to deal with a cranky, restless child.  Parents are encouraged to be prepared.  Here are a few fun-filled activities to keep your children occupied during flights:

1.    Reading. Bring some of your children’s favorite books on board. You can read them to your children or let them read the books themselves. If your child is a fast (or indecisive) reader, it may be best to have a digital version of several books on a tablet or E-reader so they have options from which to choose.  Pop up books are especially entertaining for toddlers, but for smaller children, hard back books and pages are better!

2.    Crafts. Crafts can get fairly messy and many are not appropriate for planes, but one that has garnered a lot of popularity is sticker art. All you will need is a book of stickers and another book with blank paper.  Or, there are books with both stickers and blank sheets of paper together- how convenient! Your children will definitely enjoy making their own creations with the stickers.  In fact, you can encourage them to even leave a little decorative art piece for the crew.

3.    Movies. This is one of the easiest and hassle-free ways to pass the time. Watching their favorite movie - or a brand new one - will keep your little ones entertained for an hour or two.  There are children’s portable DVD players as well as small laptops that can be accompanied with headphones.  You can also search beforehand for episodes of their favorite TV shows and download them.  My sons would often watch the same shows over and over again.

4.    Doodling.  A nice alternative to a bunch of crayons is an Etch-A-Sketch.  It allows your children to create several drawings without dropping (and having to search for) a single crayon.

Bringing along their favorite snacks and drinks is also very important, as it satisfies their hunger and thirst and further prevents their ears from popping during takeoff and landing.  Often, it does not matter if they ate before they get on board a plane, as children always seem to be hungry or thirsty. 

All parts of family travel should be enjoyable experiences for you and others.  The key is to prepare beforehand.   Happy travels!

Dress Modestly According to God’s Will

“… I want women to adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and discreetly in proper clothing ….”
1 Timothy 2:9 (AMP)

During this festive holiday season, it is the perfect time to dress up and have fun going to family and friends’ gatherings and parties.  In dressing up, please pay attention to modesty.  Yes … it is a subject that is often misconstrued but is of importance to Christians.  Importantly, it is not meant to shame young women and girls for their God-given bodies or even for appreciating the way they look.  Instead, it shows exactly who and what should be most important in our lives and who we represent - Jesus.  

The following is taken from an article about modesty and I could not say it any better.  It describes very well what modesty for a Christian is all about:

Modesty in the way we dress is not just for church; it is to be the standard for all Christians at all times. The key to understanding what constitutes modesty in dress is to examine the attitudes and intents of the heart. Those whose hearts are inclined toward God will make every effort to dress modestly, decently, and appropriately. Those whose hearts are inclined toward self will dress in a manner designed to draw attention to themselves with little or no regard for the consequences to themselves or others.

A godly woman endeavors to do everything with a “God-ward” perspective. She knows that God wants His people to be concerned for His glory and the spiritual state of their brothers and sisters in Christ. If a woman professes to be a Christian yet she dresses in a way that will unduly draw attention to her body, she is a poor witness of the One who bought her soul by dying for her on the cross. She is forgetting that her body has been redeemed by Christ and is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (
1 Corinthians 6:19–20). She is telling the world that she determines her own worth on a purely physical basis and that her attractiveness depends on how much of her body she reveals to them. Further, by dressing in an immodest fashion, displaying her body for men to lust after, she causes her brothers in Christ to sin, something condemned by God (Matthew 5:27–29). Proverbs 7:10 mentions a woman “dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent”—here, the woman’s heart condition is displayed by her manner of dress.

The Scripture says that we are to dress modestly, but what exactly does that mean in modern society? Does a woman have to be covered from head to toe? There are cults and religions in the world that demand this of women. But is that the biblical meaning of modesty? Again, we have to go back to the matter of the attitudes of the heart. If a woman’s heart is inclined toward godliness, she will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing in public, clothing that does not reflect negatively upon her personal testimony as a child of God. Everyone else in her circle may be dressing immodestly, but she resists the temptation to go along with the crowd. She avoids clothing designed to draw attention to her body and cause men to lust, for she is wise enough to know that type of attention only cheapens her. The idea of causing men to sin against God because of her dress is abhorrent to her because she seeks to love and honor God and wants others to do the same.

Modesty in dress reveals a modesty and godliness of the heart, attitudes that should be the desire of all women (and men) who live to please and honor God.


https://www.gotquestions.org/dress-modestly.html

Recommended Resource: A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

Adding “Thanks” Back into Thanksgiving Day

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day this Thursday in America.  It’s a national holiday set aside for us to remember all that we are thankful for.  However, as the child says in this cartoon, God has blessed us immensely so one day a year is certainly not adequate to give thanks!  In this week’s blog, instead of writing about the history of Thanksgiving Day or a similar topic (which you can find in my previous blogs), I have chosen to focus on some Bible scriptures instructing us on giving thanks regularly.  As you enjoy the day with family and friends, I encourage each of you to spend some time reading and practicing these verses as a family:

1 Chronicles 16:24 – “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever”

Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”

Psalm 95:2 - “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms”

Psalm 100:4 - “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name”

Psalm 107:1, 8-9 - “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever… Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”

Phil. 4:6 - “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God

Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful

There are many other Bible verses, but these are extra special to me.  Don’t let this Thanksgiving Day be one filled with just eating, drinking and watching sports.  Spend time thanking the great I Am for all He has blessed you and your family with and then remember to do it again and again each day thereafter!

Helping Children Enjoy Church

"Our kids can learn to enjoy church when they watch how much we enjoy worshiping the Lord and caring about the body of Christ."
Christy Fitzwater

For adults, attending church is an experience like no other.  We assemble together, a group of people of different ages and from varying backgrounds,  to learn more about God, to sing praises to Him, and to fellowship with others.  As fulfilling as these services may be for adults, children oftentimes view attending church as a once a week obligation that they would rather avoid.  It can be hard for them to sit or stand and listen for an extended period of time, and that can make church extremely boring for them. Their outlook on church does not have to be this way, however, and parents should do all that they can to assist their children in having enjoyable church experiences.

Start with your attitude about going to church.  Do you and your spouse enjoy attending church or is it just another duty that you both reluctantly do?  Do you allow any excuse to prevent you and your family from attending? As a parent, your attitude toward church will rub off on your children. 

Spend time at home reading the Bible as a family together and praying together.  Also, incorporate singing and worshiping God into your everyday life. There are many Christian children’s songs.  Purchase some cds or download songs on your computer or smart phone.  When your children arrive at church, all that is done at church will already be a part of their experiences at home. 

It is important is to find out if your church has a children’s ministry that is geared for your children’s ages.  Children’s ministries are developed to teach them the Word of God in fun-filled ways.  I served as a lay children’s minister for many years and can tell you that a children’s ministry is not all games and laughter, though it may appear that way.  In fact, I attended several children’s ministry training conferences just to learn more about making our children’s ministry better.  Ministers and volunteers spend a lot of time planning out what will keep the children’s attention and at the same time help them learn the Word and develop a deep love for Christ.  From lessons to songs to puppet skits to games – everything is centered on God. 

If your church does not have a children’s ministry, there are many things that you can do to help your children have enjoyable experiences, especially because of their short attention spans.  First, put together what is called a “worship bag”, which is a backpack with coloring sheets, crayons, cute stickers and many other items that will keep your children busy while the adult sermon is being preached.  Contact your church’s office beforehand to find out what subject or scripture verse will be in Sunday’s message and gather items that are on that specific topic.  Include a few simple snacks too as little ones have appetites.

Second, encourage your children to participate during the service.  Allow them to hold the hymn book and put money into the offering basket.  This will make them feel included.  

Third, talk with your children after church to find out what they learned.  Ask questions.  This will generate their thought processes and help them develop their knowledge about the Bible more.  And, since children love sharing what they learned, these discussions will motivate them to pay close attention so they can do so.

The Bible instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  (Hebrews 10:25)  Adults and children attending church is important to God. By being engaged with your children in every step of their church experience, you will help them grow to enjoy church services and fellowship with other believers.

Talking to Your Children About Tragedies in the Age of the Internet

Soraya Coffelt Talking to Children about Tragedies

With growing numbers of online news outlets as well as constant chatter on social media, there has never been a time when tragedies have been displayed so vividly and frequently at the rate they are now.   There is a virtually unlimited amount of information available to everyone, young and old, on the internet.  As a result, children can see and hear about atrocities before they are mature enough to be able to emotionally and intellectually process them.   This forces parents to have difficult conversations with them far earlier than they had anticipated.  What can parents do?

Initially, you as a parent, must recognize that your children can have easy access to graphic details about mass killings, earthquakes, food and refugee crises, and so much more.  Be prepared to address these situations, because more and more tragedies are happening and at greater frequency.  Do not bury your head in the sand and believe that your children will not hear about them.

When discussing a specific situation, the best approach is to be honest, but that does not mean that you have to reveal or talk about every detail.  You alone are the judge as to how much information to share with your children, based on what you know is their maturity level.  Children are not ready for all the grisly details that come with widespread disasters, so giving them a vague recap should be enough to satisfy their curiosity.  Allowing them to ask questions is very important because they may have heard incorrect information from their peers or others.  Answer their questions in the most age appropriate language possible.  As they grow older, you can start expanding on some of the information you share with them. 

Importantly, remember that, no matter how much the sad news may be weighing on you, you should not  display extreme distress.  Your children are observing you as the person who is supposed to be their rock and provider.  Showing composure in expressing information about an event will build composure in your children.  Avoid frightening them.  Reassure them that they will never be left alone or be away from their family.

As a Christian parent, you can remind your children that they will be safe and secure, as they are continuously protected by God.  Reinforce God’s love and peace in the midst of a storm.   Pray with them for victims and about solutions to difficult issues.

Having sorrow for the tragedies of this world shows we are compassionate and loving people.  As adults, these tragedies are often difficult to comprehend.  Be proactive in conveying appropriate information to your children at their age levels.

Fight the Good Fight of Faith on Halloween

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"Fight the good fight of faith..." - 1 Tim. 6:12

Halloween is coming up on Tuesday, and as Christians, it is difficult for us to see people celebrating this day when they truly do not know the true history of it and what it commemorates.  As Christians, we are not hopeless as we can fight Halloween and all it represents by using our faith.

It has been reported that after Christmas, Halloween is the biggest holiday for retailers.  From early September, everything from lawn & house decorations, to costumes, to makeup and music are advertised openly in stores and online at many websites.  Of course, the designs are centered on evil and scary images.  How can Christians respond?  Here are some suggestions:

1.    Put Bible verses and phrases everywhere. On lawn posts, indoor and outdoor signs, candy, even carved into pumpkins, include Bible verses. The verses should be positive in nature and short. A verse such as 1 Peter 3:11 that says, “They must turn from evil and do good” is perfect as it is to the point.

You do not have to limit yourself to Bible verses, as Bible phrases are excellent and can be just as effective.   For example, you can decorate a makeshift tombstone in your yard with the phrase “He is Risen”.  A tombstone is very much in the theme of the day, but the message is about the resurrection of Christ rather than an evil purpose.

2.    Decorate wreathes with Christian symbols.  Wreaths are popular decorations for homes.  However, instead of filling your wreath with black cats and bats, fill it with crosses, doves, and olive branches.  All of these are symbols of Christianity that promote the message of Christ.

3.    Greet trick or treaters with Bible verses.  When children come to your door to trick-or-treat, plan on giving them something unique.  One recommendation is candy wrapped with a short Bible verse.  Again, there are many short verses that are effective:  

  • Psalms 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
  • Mark 10:14 “Let the children come to me.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.”

You can also look up more inspirational verses online and select the ones that you and children would like to share.

It is important that your children do not answer the door alone.  You should be there to greet everyone and your children can assist you with passing out candy and verses. 

By using our faith to fight Halloween, you and your children will have a lot of fun carving the pumpkins and making the decorations, all centered on the Word of God.  Importantly, they will not be missing out on the fun and will learn unique ways to spread the love of God.

***Update

Soraya lives in the U. S. Virgin Islands where Hurricane Irma struck on September 6.  The islands experienced widespread devastation and she is doing well but is unable to post her blogs via the internet until electricity and internet service is restored. Thank you for being a loyal follower. 

Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  It was established to honor children fighting cancer and support the development of treatments.  You do not have to know someone with childhood cancer to commemorate or contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause.

There are many ways that you and your children can show support for children affected by cancer, and here are a few:

Volunteer.  There is an abundance of volunteer opportunities to choose from and you should include your children too. If there are any children’s cancer centers or hospitals in your area,  donate your time to read to the patients.  Your children can bring toys to play and spend time with them too.  Consider baking cookies and other sweet treats to pass out to patients, doctors, nurses, and volunteers.  Showing you care by spending your time and having friendly interactions with the patients makes a loving and lasting impression on them.

Donate.  Consider making a monetary donation to a reputable charity, hospital or research lab that strives to benefit the lives of children with cancer. Whether you have $1 or $1,000,000, a donation is always valuable.  Additionally, talk with your children about making a donation too.  Emphasize the goal of the organization or hospital and explain how their donation will benefit it.  By using a portion of their allowance, they can contribute to the cause and help children in need. This teaches them to become more considerate and loving of others and it gives them a sense of accomplishment knowing that their generous deed benefitted someone else.

Another idea is to have a group fundraising event involving food or bake sales, car washes, or even yard sales.

Help a family. If you know a family affected by childhood cancer, there are many ways to assist them.  Consider calling or texting to check up on them and sending hand-written cards with friendly messages.  Make decorating and writing cards a fun family event.  A short message such as “Best wishes from our family to yours. We are always here if you need anything and will continue to pray for you,” can provide comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

Also, volunteering to do chores such as house sitting or lawn mowing can take a lot of extra pressure off adults in the family and give them more time to focus on their loved one in need.

There are so many ways and opportunities for you and your family to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  As Christians, we are called to show our love to others, and what better way than assisting children in need.

How Did Labor Day Start?

In the United States, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 4.  It is not just a day to pull out the barbecue grill one last time before autumn hits.  It is a very important federal holiday commemorating the Labor Movement of the 19th century that sought to end the poor and unfair treatment of American workers.   Take some time to learn about the history of this holiday and share it with your children because there is quite a lot to learn and commemorate.

In the late 1800s, during the period known as the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the majority of people worked in factories, mills, and mines under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for very little pay.  Children as young as 5 years old were working as well for less pay than adults.  There was no quality of life in the work place. The only way that workers believed their voices would be heard was through forming unions and taking part in strikes and organized marches.  

The first and arguably the most influential march was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City.  This was the same day that the union, Nobel Order of the Knights of Labor, was planning on meeting in the city, so it decided to invite other unions as well.  About 20,000 workers gave up an entire day’s pay to participate and the march soon turned into a parade.  This was the first parade of many to come.  Over a decade later, in 1896, President Grover Cleveland decided to make the day a national holiday while many states, such as Oregon, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts, had already recognized the day for several years.

There were some workers who were not allowed to participate in these marches or parades, such as African Americans.  While the Knights of Labor union was race inclusive, African American workers could not be members of the majority of white labor unions.  Despite the racism and aversion by the white workers towards them, African American workers were still able to band together and create unions of their own, one of which was the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU).  The Knights of Labor and the CNLU were some of the most powerful unions at the time.

The Knights of Labor union was almost fully responsible for the first Labor Day celebration and the CNLU was successful in arranging employee benefits and fair wages for its workers.  Unfortunately, the two unions would eventually die out before Labor Day was recognized as a national holiday.

It is important for our children to understand the history behind our national holidays, including this one.  Labor Day is not about barbecues and marking the end of summer- it is about ending the unfair treatment of workers and actually celebrating the innovation and creativity of American workers and the many contributions they have made. 

Celebrate National Women’s Equality Day on August 26

There has been a long history in this country of women fighting inequality, whether it be the start of the feminist movement in the mid-1800s or the women of today demanding equal treatment in the workplace and in politics.  Even with the strides that women have made since the banding together of the Suffragettes, there is still more work to be done.  Importantly, however, we must acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of many outstanding women, including the following:

1.    Ida B. Wells. This courageous woman played one of the most integral parts in the feminist and civil rights movements. As an African American woman born in 1862 Mississippi, she knew first-hand about discrimination. Her struggles inspired her to create an all-black publication titled The Free Speech, which exposed the inequalities and mistreatment that came with being black in the South. When given the choice to stop her publication or be killed, she did neither.  She moved to the North, and she never stopped production of The Free Speech.

Not only was she disliked by white men at the time, but also some women. When she marched in the 1913 suffrage parade, she was shunned by many of the women involved - some even refusing to march alongside her because she was a woman of color. Through it all, she stayed headstrong and continued to focus on issues that plagued the African American community.  She never gave up the fight. She truly was an exemplary woman and is still a role model for many today!

2.    Patsy Mink. Born in Hawaii in 1927, Patsy grew up to become a lawyer and then became the first Asian American elected to Congress. She was actually the first woman of color to serve in that position. In her time there, she co-authored Title IX, a federal law that prohibits any educational facility from discriminating against a person because of his/her gender.  

3.    Sylvia Mendez.  Sylvia’s father was a Mexican immigrant and her mother was from Puerto Rico.  In the 1940s, when she was a child, schools in California were segregated into “Whites only”, which had better books and curriculum, and “Hispanics”.  To fight this racism, her parents attempted to enroll her and her siblings in a “Whites only” school, but were denied.  They took the matter to court and eventually won.  As a result, the governor of California was forced to desegregate all schools and public places.  Her lawsuit paved the way and was a reference for similar cases, such as the famous Brown v. Board of Education, which brought desegregation to all schools. She is one of the primary reasons that we have integrated classrooms today.

4.    Wilma Mankiller.  Wilma gained notoriety after her very memorable protest at Alcatraz Island alongside other Native Americans who were reclaiming the land in 1969 since the federal government was not using the prison anymore.  She later began working for the Cherokee Nation government as a director of community development and was eventually able to climb up the political ladder and become the first female principle chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1985.

5.    Molly Dewson.  College educated, Molly began her foray into politics in her home state of Massachusetts, where she worked for an organization promoting women’s education, the rights of women in the workplace, and the social advancement of women.  Later, she joined Eleanor Roosevelt to motivate women to vote in the 1932 presidential election for Franklin D. Roosevelt. After his victory, she was instrumental in getting women to be appointed to high government positions, including Secretary of Labor.  

What women inspire you?  Talk with your children about those referred to in my blog and other famous women.

To find out more information about these and other phenomenal women, visit THIS PAGE or CLICK HERE.

Assisting Your Children in the Transition from Summer Vacation to a New School Year

We are now in the middle of August and children are about to begin  trading in their sandcastles for pens and paper, and family lunches will soon  be replaced by school lunches. It is back to school time and no matter how old your  children are, the transition never seems to get any easier for them.  Going from a few months of freedom to spending 7 hours or more in a classroom is not an easy feat, but here are a few tips to make the transition a little smoother:

  1. Approximately one week before school begins, create a schedule so that your children are going to sleep and waking up during the regular school sleep and wake-up times.  This will get them in the habit of going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up early, so when the first day of school arrives, they are ready.
     
  2. Some schools give summer assignments to their students. Whether it be reading or math or science, ensure that your children have been working on their assignments throughout the summer.  Now that school is about to start, check up on them to find out if the assignments have actually been completed.  Do not wait until the day before the first day of school to check though.  This can make for a very hectic and upsetting first day of school.
     
  3. Talk to your children about the positive aspects of the new school year.  These can include seeing old friends, making new friends, and playing a team sport.  Think about what they enjoyed in school last year, and encourage them with these same positive aspects for the new year.
     
  4. Have positive quotes to inspire and discuss with your children. Melissa Taylor, a writer and a mom, has compiled many such quotes.   You can visit her website and print them out too.  Select one a day or a week and talk with them about each quote.  Put them in their bedrooms or lunch boxes. CLICK HERE.
     
  5. Talk with our children about their plans for the new school year. What do they want to achieve? How do they plan to reach their goals? These and similar questions will not only give your children the opportunity to start planning for the upcoming school year, but will also give youinsight into their goals and the chance to start guiding them towardachieving them.

Change of any kind can be challenging, but applying these steps can assist in relieving any stress your children may be feeling about the start of a new school year.

Establishing Bedtime Routines for Children

For us parents, trying to get our children to go bed at a regular time can be challenging.  What has worked well though is establishing a nighttime routine that prepares children for bed, rather than one that has a strict time that everyone in the family must be in bed by.

A typical nighttime routine should include taking a bath, brushing teeth, and a calming family activity.  Children need to wind down before going to bed, so if you select 8 p.m., for example, as the time for your children to be in bed, and at 7:45 p.m. they are busy playing video games, their brains are still going to be wired by the time they need to be in bed.  It is important to set a time for them to start their routine, as this will begin the process to calming them down and ending the night peacefully.

As the time is nearing for the routine to begin, take a look around the house and make sure that everything that can be done that night is done.  Have them pick up and clean up after themselves.  Also, double check that they have all their homework, clothes, and other items they will need in the morning ready.   This will make getting out the door in the morning problem free.

Use the time while you bathe your younger children to talk to them.  Some subjects are the type of bedtime story they want to read or what can be expected during the next day.  When they are brushing their teeth, double check that they are doing it properly and not doing it in a mad rush to do something else.  Explain to them the importance of doing this routine every day.

Once they head toward the bedroom, your children’s anticipation of reading a good book will be peaked.  Not only will they be anticipating an interesting story, but they will also be eager to spend quiet, loving time with you.   The books you and your children choose can range from simple bedtime stories that can be read at one sitting or more lengthy books which can be read one chapter at a time. And, reading is not exclusive to younger children as it can be a relaxing experience at any age. There are actually many benefits to reading to older children  and I discussed them in a previous blog. No matter how old a child is, reading time will always be special.

Be sure to set aside time after reading to pray with your children.  Praying together is an important opportunity to talk to God together.  Be sure to include in your prayers a lot of “thank yous” to God, as instilling gratitude in your children will make them more appreciative of what they have.  There is no better way to end the day!

Having a good, full night’s sleep is just as important for the health and development of your children as eating properly or being active.  Creating these routines will develop good habits that continue into their adult lives.

Choosing the Right Babysitter

As working parents, it can be very difficult to juggle your home, professional and social lives - after all there are only 24 hours in the day.  Parents need to be able to spend time together.  Sometimes, assistance with the children is a necessity and you must seek a babysitter.  Finding the right babysitter is important for both you and your children.  Here are several factors to take into consideration.

Is the person able to work within the rules and boundaries that you set? With a new babysitter in your home, it is critical to set rules and boundaries from the beginning.   What do you want your children to be doing and when?  For example, what time do you want each child to take a bath?  Set out a list of times with corresponding activities, such as reading, homework, having dinner, bath time and sleep time.  If the person balks at following your rules and boundaries, that person will not make a good babysitter.

Does the person understand children and want to spend time with them? Take into consideration the personality types of your children.  Does the person understand that each child has his/her own personality and likes and dislikes? Will the person accommodate them?  Try giving the person tips on how to go about dealing with each child.  Does the person seem willing to accept your suggestions?  What does the person want to do with each child while you are away? 

What is your budget for paying a babysitter?  Typically, parents hire a high school or college-aged student as a babysitter.  These students are usually just looking to earn some extra money for the remainder of the school year. Even so, there can be a risk of underpayment. While there are no strict rules about how much to pay a babysitter, you should do some research on average wages in your area and ask friends and work colleagues.  This information will be helpful in setting a comfortable budget for the both of you.

How do you know if this person is dependable?  Again, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations as to who to hire and who to avoid.  Keep your rules in mind when posing your inquiries. Parents should be very protective of their children, so consulting one who has similar values can be a huge assistance in your search for the right person.

Ask your children about their time with the babysitter.  Parents typically talk with their children about school or social activities, and they should also do so about their children’s time with babysitters.  You are hiring and entrusting that person to watch over your most precious possessions and to follow your guidelines.  Asking your children about their experience will encourage them to cooperate while you are away.  Also, children are notorious truth tellers. Just give them the opportunity to talk and they will let you know everything - from playing games with their babysitter to watching their sitter take a nap while no one was supposedly looking.

The health and happiness of your children should always be your top priorities, whether they are in your presence or not.  The search process for a good babysitter can get tedious, and sometimes feel never ending, but the comfort in knowing and trusting the person who has your children in his/her hands will definitely be worth it.

Explore Your Own Town or City: Have a Summer Family “Staycation”

I have written previously about taking family vacations during the summer.  However, it may be that you are on a tight budget and a family trip may have moved down the list of priorities this summer.  But, you can still have a vacation with your family without breaking the bank or crossing state lines.

“Staycations” are the perfect alternative to expensive out of town trips.  You might think that you have seen everything in your area, but there are possibly  many hidden gems still waiting to be found and this is the perfect opportunity for you and your family to do just that.  In addition, there usually are a variety of local discounts available from museums, historic sites, and other ‘tourist attractions’.

If you want to leave your home, you could stay at an inexpensive hotel to have the full “vacation experience”.  Many hotels give local residents discounts during the summer.  However, there are plenty of ways to have the luxury feel of a hotel in your own home.  For example, one of the best parts of any good hotel stay is the breakfast spread.  Plan on cooking a big breakfast (the kids can join too!), similar to that of most hotels, and serve it buffet style. Set the table with white tablecloths and a simple centerpiece and enjoy your private, yummy breakfast with the family.

After breakfast, select one or more popular tourist attractions to visit.  Try something new and different.  It may seem silly to be a tourist in your own home, but it can be fun and educational.  One of the main advantages is that you do not have to worry about the cost of transportation because you can drive to each destination in your own vehicle!  Try visiting museums, having a picnic in the park, going backyard camping, or just taking a stroll through the city or town.  In the evening, consider talking the family to a drive-in theater.

You can make a day or a weekend out of it. The schedule is completely up to you because transportation, location and the struggle that comes with being in a new place will not be an issue.  By the end of it all, you and your family will have seen, done, and learned so much about your own community that you never imagined you could.  Who knows? It might even become a family tradition.