Christmas Magic

Snuggled in a fuzzy blanket, your hand around a cup of hot chocolate, lying on the couch to watch Christmas movies is a popular holiday tradition. Have you seen any good Christmas movies lately?

‘Tis the season for Christmas movies. I’ve watched movies on Lifetime and Hallmark for weeks.

After viewing countless movies, I unscientifically identified six Christmas movie categories. Do you recognize these?

Hometown Love. A young person returns to her hometown and falls in love with a childhood sweetheart or a local she didn’t notice when she was young.

Workaholic Changes. The workaholic who misses Christmas. Either circumstances or a unique person changes his or her view. Reminder: there’s more to life than work.

Caring Communities. A community comes together to help others in need or save a beloved town or business.

Pain of Christmas Past. Ignoring Christmas is easier than facing the sadness of Christmas past. That is until an individual reminds them of wonderful Christmas memories and encourages them to celebrate Christmas once again.

Rescue Christmas. Helping Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves, and/or angels save Christmas or teach others about the magic of Christmas.

Eclectic. A hodge-podge of miscellaneous movies: blended family’s first Christmas together; winning a contest becomes a love story; or falling for a Good Samaritan.

No matter what category the movies fit into, there’s one theme. The magic of Christmas. The “magic” may be angels, Santa Claus, a miracle, a love story, healing relationships, or restoring the meaning of Christmas. During the movie, a character usually says something like, “Christmas is magical. Anything can happen at Christmas.”

Chris Lite captures Christmas Hallmark movies in his article for The Week. “Hallmark gives us a parallel world, in which fate and goodness are looking out for you, and your best life is just around the corner, if you only just believe.” 1

And believe we do. We believe in romance. We believe in love. We believe in family. We believe in hope. We believe in goodwill towards humanity. We believe in magical Christmases. These beliefs are reflected in countless movies. It’s the reason millions of people, just like me, spend hours watching them with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts.

Huntington Post’s guest blogger Cathy Sikorski shares why she’s drawn to Hallmark’s holiday staples. 2 Some of her reasons may be similar to yours. Romance, a connection to humanity, living an uncomplicated life, a chance to drink wine and shed a tear, see a special kiss, encourage others, not watch anything “bad,” and feel Christmas all over again.

Sikorski adds, “I wanted to believe…even just for a minute…believe. You never leave a Hallmark movie without believing in Santa, Christmas miracles, love, mended and blended families, decisions with no regrets and that all is and can be right with the world. What could ever be wrong with that in just 90 minutes?” 1

What could be wrong with this Christmas magic? While millions of viewers cherish the “magic” of Christmas, the real magic of Christmas seems left out. Although some movies include families attending church, singing traditional Christmas carols, observing a nativity, or mention God or prayer, something’s missing. The true meaning of Christmas is forgotten.

Over two thousand years ago, God sent his son, Jesus, as a gift to each of us. The real magic, actually the real miracle of Christmas is this greatest of gifts and with it the potential for new life. We just have to decide if we will accept God’s gift or not.

As I watch these delightful and sometimes predictable movies and the magic they offer, it certainly touches my heart. But I must never forget to keep my focus on God’s real gift, the real Christmas “magic” of a Holy baby, being born in a manger.

Here’s the biblical account of the true magic of Christmas – Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke, chapter 2. 3

 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Sources:

  1. Chris Lites. The sheer brilliance of Hallmark’s corny Christmas movies by. December 17, 2015. http://theweek.com/articles/591033/sheer-brilliance-hallmarks-corny-christmas-movies. Accessed 12/22/2015.
  2. Cathy Sikorski, Humorist, Author, Lawyer. “11 Reasons to Watch Hallmark Christmas Movies.” The Huffington Post, December 21, 2015. 3.   https://www.biblegateway.com/ Luke 2:4-20.
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cathy-sikorski/11-reasons-to-watch-hallmark-christmas-movies_b_8851380.html. Accessed 12/22/20015.
  4. Image. Christmasmagic [Google Images] Hallmark Original Movie, 2011.

 

 

Christmas Books for Children

Are you looking for Christmas books for your children or grandchildren that tell the real meaning of Christmas? I enjoy creating a Christmas Book List for my readers.Last year I only found a few new books I liked.

I’ve loved cats since I was four-years-old so its no surprise I was drawn to The Stable Cat’s Christmas. This Christmas story is written from the stable cat’s perspective. A number of books feature animals sharing the birth of Jesus from their view but I particularly like this one because it’s a kitty. You can’t go wrong with that.

You can access the list of Christmas books that features the book’s cover, information about the book as well as a brief description of the book. I know you’ll enjoy the list with over 35 Christmas books for children.

You can access the list here. http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Childrens-Christmas-Books-Updated-Nov-30-2017.pdf

A Glimmer of Hope at Thanksgiving

I recently flew home after spending a special week in Missouri with my daughter, son-in-law, and two oldest grands, Parker and Khloe. I will see them again for Christmas so that made leaving a little easier.

In my Facebook posts, I’ve been asking for prayer for my brain function for several months. On my trip home I experienced a glimmer of hope. Here are a few snippets.

In the TSA line I talk with a fellow traveler about waiting in lines. He says, “I threw everything in my luggage. I hope nothing falls out.”

“Are you traveling unexpectedly?” I ask.

“No. I was running late with errands and lost track of time. I barely got packed in time to leave.”

As I walk to the United gate at the Tulsa Oklahoma airport, I chat with a family traveling to Washington. The dad says, “Our three-year-old daughter is going to meet her sister today.”

“That’s really special. How old is she?” I ask.

“She’s 18 months. We’ve been waiting for years.”

“What a wonderful Thanksgiving gift. Blessings and have a Happy Thanksgiving,” I say.

On the plane I chitchat with a young lady in the window seat. “Where’s Oral Roberts University? I can’t remember.”

“In Tulsa. I’m flying to Colorado Springs for Thanksgiving. I transferred from a community college and now I’m a junior majoring in English. I plan to become a high school teacher.”

“That’s great. We need excellent Christian teachers.” Just as we land I ask, “Is your fiancé picking you up?”

“No, he has to work. My parents are picking me up.”

Bummer, I think. Waiting until January 2020 to get married must be hard. When I leave the plane I say, “Blessings on your wedding and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

These may seem like meaningless conversations, but to me they represent a glimmer of hope. When my brain functions poorly I move into introvert mode to automatically conserve brain energy. That means no unnecessary conversations. Whether I’m in public waiting in a grocery store line, in an airport, or at home, I don’t voluntarily speak. It’s the most challenging aspect of my disability. When my brain function is the worst, I can go weeks without carrying on conversations. I don’t even talk to my Cali kitty.

After living for eight years with my brain disabiity I still I don’t recognize myself. My God-given personality is an extrovert. I talk and talk and then talk some more. There are no strangers in my extrovert world. I’ve been talking since I was a toddler. My mom told me, “The other pre-school moms loved to talk to you. Your language was fascinating to them.”

On my trip home I’m thankful. God gave me a glimpse of my former self.

The flight attendant hands me a Diet Coke and cup with ice. “Have you been super busy?” I ask.

He sighs. His face says it all. “I get to be home for Thanksgiving.”

“Where’s home?”

“In Denver. I fly right back here from SFO and then I’m off.”

“Enjoy your family. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve initiated conversations with strangers. I don’t know if I’ll have another good day tomorrow, but I’m thankful for the blessings of today. They offer me a glimmer of hope.

 

Create Bonds: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

Create Bonds

Another tip to help reduce peer pressure is to create strong bonds with your children long before the adolescent years. With adolescence right around the corner, the school age years are a perfect time for strengthening the bonds you established in early childhood.

“The strength of a child’s relationship with his or her family will directly impact on whether peer pressure will be a productive or destructive influence in the child’s life.” 1

Family Night

Having a regular family night is one way to spend special time with your children. Let them take turns choosing a fast-food restaurant for dinner or take-out and then play games at home or watch a special movie. If you can’t afford to eat dinner out, make a special treat, like caramel popcorn or hot chocolate.

Meals

Eating meals together is one of the best strategies for building relationships. The older children get, the more challenging this becomes. Make it a priority to eat a certain number of meals together each week. It doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be a combination of breakfast, lunch and/or dinner times. You may need to juggle schedules and meal times, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. Implementing this tip gets parents on track for helping their school age children reduce negative peer pressure.

Sources:

  1. Adolescent Rebellion Can be Quelled, www.kidsgrowth.com/resources/articledetail
  2. Image: Together_(4739023417) [commons.wikimedia.org]

Teach Your Children: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure

When parents consider school-age peer pressure, perhaps they imagine the ways the child himself must resist the pressure. Although we’ll look at the child’s role in a later blog, there are parental roles that help reduce negative peer pressure for their school age children.

Teach Your Children

A great principal for reducing negative peer pressure for school age children is to teach your children. When do you teach them? I think of it as “way of life” teaching. As you go through each day, as you walk through life, you are using every day opportunities and examples to teach your children about life and what is important.

Principle

In the book in the Bible called Deuteronomy, there’s a verse I use to support this concept. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs, “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” 1

When Do You Teach?

Basically, you are teaching your children when you’re at home, while you’re out and about, when they go to bed, and after they get up. If you take advantage of these various times, you’ll discover many opportunities for teaching your children. You can teach them as you drive them to and from activities or attending church, school, and community events together as a family while you’re participating in community service projects.

Helping Others

As you share your time, talents, and resources with non-profit organizations that address social issues, you’re teaching your children about helping others, the value of community service, and giving.

Role Modeling

You are also teaching them by your example. Do your words encourage and build others up or for gossiping and criticism? Can your children repeat your language or do you use swear words and tell them only adults can use these words? How do you treat your friends, the pregnant teenager, the elderly, those who have less than you do, and the homeless woman on the street corner? Do you instruct them not to use drugs while you drink and smoke? Be mindful that little ones are watching your examples.

 

Sources:

  • New American Standard Bible
  • Image: Children_marbles [en.wikipedia.org]

 

 

Peer Pressure: 5 to 8 Year Olds

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“Be who you are and say what you feel,

because those who mind don’t matter

and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss

Since school age children are experiencing peer pressure, what does it look like? You may hear a child say, “If you’re my friend, you’ll play this game with me,” or “I’m mad at _______, so don’t talk to her.” Peers may pressure a child to ride their bikes too far from home or play with a gun. They may think it is funny to cut people out of the group or make fun of someone for any number of reasons. (1)

Positive Peer Pressure But peer pressure isn’t all negative. Dr. Melanie Killen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland found, “The emergence of peer groups in elementary school also aids children’s development by providing positive friendships, relationships, and social support.” (2)

Pleasing Others Children ages 5 to 8 make a concerted effort to please their friends, classmates, and playmates, which is one reason this age can be so enjoyable. A positive aspect of peer pressure is that they can encourage each other to strive to do better in school, sports and creative activities. On the other hand, if the child acts in a way that is not natural for the child, this can be negative peer pressure. (3)

Why Children Give In The reasons school-age children give in to peer pressure aren’t much different than the reasons adolescents or even adults fall into peer pressure. They want to be liked and fit in. And who doesn’t want that? They worry that others kids may make fun of them. Perhaps the child is simply curious and wants to try something new.

Experimenting The common saying, “Everyone’s doing it,” influences some kids to ignore their better judgment or their common sense. (3) The child may be trying to figure out who he is by experimenting with his identity. (4) Parents may observe their child changing hair styles or hair color and wearing different clothing styles.

Be aware It is important for parents to be aware of what peer pressure looks like for school age children and remember that peer pressure can have many positive aspects. As you help your child develop socially, remember the reasons that they may fall into peer pressure.

Sources:

1. Peer Proofing Your Child-Teen, Part 5, By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, 2006, www.familiesonlinemagazne.com/peerpressure/peerproofing5.html. Accessed 10/2/2013.

2. Younger Than You Think: Peer Pressure Begins in Elementary School, Rick Nauert, Ph.D., June 6, 2013, www.psychcentral.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

3. Children’s Health: Peer Pressure, www.healthofchildren.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

4. The Influence of Peer Pressure: Help Your Child Navigate Through Peer Pressure, Gwen Morrison, family.go.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

Preschoolers and Choices

As a college professor, I chose what committees I happily wanted to serve on. If the college dictated which committees I must be on, I wouldn’t have been happy.

What about you? Do you serve well if you have choices or have choices made for you?

Our preschoolers are no different. They too like to have control. Giving them the power to choose encourages autonomy (independence) while minimizing conflict.

Choices Can Begin Early

Choices can actually begin when babies become toddlers. Simply asking, “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt today?” as you hold up the items provides a choice. A toddler can point which empowers them.

This or That?

Limiting choices helps preschoolers select. Many restaurant menus offer innumerable choices that sometimes overwhelm adults. Instead of asking your preschoolers, “What do you want?” ask, “Would you like chicken bites or a grilled cheese sandwich? Do you want milk or juice?” If the preschoolers are verbal, have the children order their own food.

More Choices Examples

Here are some more ways to give children choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want to take a nap?” (Why do parents ask this?) Inquire, “Do you want to nap with your teddy bear blanket or your doggie blanket?” When it’s cold outside, don’t ask, “Do you want to wear your jacket?” ask, “Do you want to put your shoes on first or your jacket?” After preschoolers make decisions based on two choices, gradually increase the number of choices. For example, “Do you want raisins, a granola bar, or yogurt for snack?”

You’ll discover that your preschoolers do better with choices just like we do.

Image Source: Stick_figure_choice [wikimediacommons.org]

What is Bullying?

How would you describe bullying? Has your child been bullied? Have you? When I taught a workshop at the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC) in Pasadena for adults working with children in the primary grades. 

Over 50 educators actively participated in my workshop: Bullying 101: Helping the Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: How Educators Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence.

The two months I spent preparing for this workshop were emotionally challenging. It was difficult to read books, research, and view videos about what’s happening on elementary campuses. As I read about bullying definitions, I often thought of the squabbles I observe weekly between five-year olds.

When a peer doesn’t do what their friend wants, I hear, “You’re not going to be my friend anymore,” or, “You’re not invited to my birthday party.” If they are really upset, they might say both sentences together. So is this bullying?

Bullying Definition. Although there are numerous bullying definitions, I chose this one because it contains multiple aspects. Three criteria distinguish bullying from other misbehaviors or isolated cases of aggression.

1. “It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm doing.

2. It is carried out repeatedly and over time.

3. It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.” 1, p. 232

Are the squabbling five-year olds bullying? Their behavior is not always aggressive but they are saying these things to express frustration. Most likely, it is the meanest thing they know so say. The words are intentional, although very short lived. Later, they are once again friends and get re-invited to the party.

Yes, it is carried out repeatedly over time, but by different children. It isn’t only one or two children who make these threats against certain children. It seems to be a regular part of their interactions as they learn more appropriate social skills. Is it acceptable? To me, it is not. I’d like the teacher to intervene and explain how that hurts others’ feelings and how to state their frustration in a more specific way. “I don’t like it when you take my cars.”

Finally, is there an imbalance in power? An imbalance of power could be by size, age, or abilities. Although the children are all different, I don’t observe an imbalance of power. In this situation, I’d say that the children are not bullying, but learning how to express themselves; however, they need more adult guidance. What do you think? Are the children being bullied?

Source:

1. Hirsch, Lee & Lowen, Cynthia with Santorelli, Dina (Editors). Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis. [Companion to the Acclaimed Film Bully] New York: Weinstein Books, 2012, p. 232. 2. Image Source: bully-oppression [Pixabay.com]

Pretend and Imaginative Play

My three-year-old grandson, Parker, gravitates towards playthings with push buttons while we stroll down the toy aisle. He hopes the buttons will make sounds and “talk” to him. As a child development specialist, I’m not too thrilled with his fascination because these toys don’t leave much to the imagination.

“Grams, this one doesn’t make any noise,” he comments rather confused.

“You’re right Parker, it doesn’t. You have to use your imagination. You can pretend and make the stuffed dog say anything you want.” I’ve given an interesting concept to a child living in a computer-generated world where imagination is virtually untapped.

Benefits. Pretend play helps children gain developmental benefits including creativity, imagination, self-confidence, mastering new concepts, and communication skills. So how can parents encourage pretend and imaginative play in a technological world? Provide open-ended toys and materials, dramatic play items, games, and interactions that facilitate children’s play.

Open-Ended Toys. Choose “open-ended” toys and materials. This means toys that offer different ways children can play with them. Examples of open-ended play items are blocks, cardboard boxes, wooden train sets, dress-up clothes, play dough, and art materials. Items children can build and create anything they dream of are ideal for imagination, such as: Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega Blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day a child builds a zoo while another time he/she constructs a ferry.

Dramatic Play. Another way parents can enhance children’s imaginations is through dramatic play. Building forts, houses, hospitals, and stores using common household items provides infinite creativity and pretending. Sheets, blankets, pillows, cardboard boxes, large appliance boxes, stools, chairs, and boards are great materials.

Children can also imitate real-life events to advance pretend play. For example, if the dog goes to the vet, children can invent a pet hospital at home. Set up a dentist’s office, doctor’s office, grocery store, classroom, hair salon, pet store, or auto shop. The possibilities are endless.

Dress-up Clothes. Children also enjoy dress up clothes in adult sizes that you can discover at used clothing stores, such as Goodwill. Choose items that represent both genders as well as clothes from different cultures. You’ll enjoy watching your children try “adult” roles as they express themselves in pretend play.

Games. Games provide another way for expressing imagination. Once children learn rules to traditional board games ask them to create a new game with different rules. You can also provide children with common game items and ask them to create a new game. “What kind of game can we play with a Frisbee and a ball?” You’ll be amazed at how much fun they’ll cultivate for your family

Benefits. Finally, talking to children while they play not only promotes children’s vocabulary, communication skills, and storytelling, but helps children’s imaginations. Suggestions like, “What else can you build?” or “How can you make your store higher?” stretches children’s problem solving abilities and the beginnings of abstract thinking. Puppets are another great way to facilitate pretend play and vocabulary. A chair with a towel over it becomes a puppet stage.

Encouraging your children to use their imaginations by providing a wide variety of play items and interactions will build skills that will last a lifetime.

 

“Feeling Inadequate? Watch Children” Hope Street: My Journey

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Parker’s First Attempt at Caber Toss in Modesto 2014

Do you ever feel inadequate? Some days everything seems difficult. Simple things like opening a sealed bag or putting on my necklace are challenging because my coordination is poor. Other times I can’t find the right word or can’t even express a sentence when my brain is off. Yes, me, Chatty Cathy.

I read a book that has many thought provoking statements. Hatch! Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer by C. Mc Nair Wilson. He did in fact work for Disney as an Imagineer.

“If you feel in adequate, watch children. They are highly unskilled at pretty much everything they try. But they try everything. They don’t listen to maturity’s hot air about being responsible, careful, or correct. Instead they fill their lives with hot dreams and imagination and fly to the stars…They roll down grassy slopes, basking in the moon-glow and starlight of endless possibilities.” (p. 68)

What a great description of childhood. It is one reason I love being around them. After I was unable to work at Merced College, I missed watching children every day as they came and went from the Child Development Center. So I began volunteering in my grandson Parker’s preschool class six years ago. What a delight to be with him and his friends. They are constantly trying something new.

On Saturday my husband participated as an athlete in the Modesto Highland Games. One event is the caber. My daughter calls it, “Man in skirt with telephone pole.” Six to twelve year olds could sign up to learn. Parker is not quite six, so they let him “practice” two times after the older kids were done.

He’d never turned a caber before. He may have seen it on a video. His Papa hadn’t yet done that event. But he wanted to try. And try he did. He was able to turn it on the first toss. He was so proud of himself. I was proud of him too. Not so much that he turned it, but because he was willing to try even in front of a large group.

If they offered adults to try and turn the caber, I’m guessing there would be few volunteers. Why? McNair summaries the answer best, “…we do not live our dreams because we’re too busy living out our fears.” (p. 66) Parker was not even remotely afraid. He didn’t wonder what others would think. He didn’t hold back in case he couldn’t do it. He didn’t doubt himself. He just went for it. What’s the “caber” in your life you’d like to try? Maybe you can try it today.

(Village Books, 2012)