Blog, Holiday, Uncategorized

Pick One Thing

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I am one of those SUPER ANNOYING people who is hyper organized when it comes to Christmas.  I am a complete mess when it comes to organizing my closets, my car or other important things but I’ve got it together when it comes to Christmas.

I use the month of November to shop, decorate, wrap and complete my holiday cards.  The theory is that if I get the work done in November, I will be all calm and relaxed in December.  The vision of being curled up by a fire, watching Hallmark channel while snuggling with my family, helps me to get through my CRAZY November. The truth is that my December never looks like the vision I have in my head (my family hates Hallmark ;)).  I ALWAYS find more to do and cram our schedule so full that there is little time to breathe.

Last year was a perfect example of this.  I scheduled so many service opportunities for my family, that we were left EXHAUSTED by the time Christmas came around.  I thought that if I shared the idea on my Kids in Service website, then I should be out there doing it!  We practically took on a part time job at the Salvation Army ringing bells once a week for a two hour shift, we volunteered twice at the Food Bank, served lunch to the homeless in the park, shopped for children in need, did the Reverse Advent Calendar, delivered our Christmas jar, baked cookies for the postal employees, visited a woman’s rehabilitation home, gave out a dozen seeds of kindness, Jingled 8 families (EIGHT?!?!), visited the local nursing home and tried to complete EVERY DAY on our Kindness Calendar.  It was a rollercoaster of a month with so many emotions.  We were TIRED, INSPIRED, STRESSED OUT, JOYFUL and by the end my kids started to resent it all and would groan when it was time to go.

One morning, as I sternly told my children to SMILE while we were ringing bells in the frigid cold, I had an out of body experience.  What was I doing?  Was I being as kind to my children as I was to the strangers who put change in the red bucket?  Was this manic pace of helping others, hurting us?  We were running from one project to the next, all while trying to fit in homeschool, chores, making homemade gifts and Christmas fun.  That is when I admitted to myself it was too much.

This December already looks a lot different in our house.  We decided on a few favorite service projects (many of them simple) to complete over the course of the month and have had to say no to many others.  We have also cut way back on our homemade gifts.  Instead we are playing daily board games, reading holiday stories together and trying to save some whitespace in our crazy calendar.

Why am I sharing this story?  I want to encourage YOU (or anyone who is still reading at this point) to pick only ONE act of kindness to do as a family this holiday.  Pick just one!  I know there are so many options this time of year but our calendars are also way more hectic.  Save those service projects for other times of year when you have more time and space to devote to them.  The food bank needs help ALL year long and the nursing home residents need cheering up more in March than they do now with all of the carol groups coming through.

Pick ONE thing and it can be a simple thing.  Maybe you buy some $5 gift cards to a local coffee shop to spread them around to people who could use a little cheer.  Or pick one tag off of the giving tree, bake cookies for a neighbor or pick one of our other holiday kindness ideas.  Whatever you pick, talk it over as a family and make sure that the activity does not add any more stress to the season.  It is important to remember self-care for EVERYONE in your home this holiday.  If you are not taking care of yourselves, then you will not be able take care of others.

The only way you can be a LIGHT this holiday season is to take care of yourself.

 

 

 

Holiday, Service Projects for Families

10 Kindness Projects for the Holidays

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1. “Jingle” People

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Once again we will be working on some good deeds for friends and family members and leaving a note that they’ve been “Jingled by the Kindness Elves”.  My kids love leaving some treats on the doorstep of the people we care about without them knowing.  It is hard to be stealth and last year all but one of the recipients ended up finding out it was us.  This year the kids are working on ways to be sneakier!

2. Kindness Calendar

This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness in December.  My kids and I have used this for the last two years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season.  We do NOT do every task, December is too busy for that.  We merely read the prompt for the day and if it something that we can easily accomplish in the next few days, we will do so.  This calendar is meant to be fun and not cause extra stress!

3.  Donate Food and Hygiene Items

Food banks and shelters depend on people’s generosity at this time of year and hope for lots of donations to fill their shelves.  Make sure all of the food that you donate is non-perishable and has not expired.  They are always in need of hygiene items too (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, diapers, toothpaste etc.) . This Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher is a hands-on way for kids to be mindful about donating food this holiday season.

4.  Feast for the Animals
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One of our favorite traditions this time of year is to decorate an outdoor tree with edible treats for the birds, squirrels, deer and chipmunks that live in and around our backyard.  We usually do this on Winter Solstice and read the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting before we head out to decorate.  Some years we have taken a lot of time with this project and made our own suet and bird seed ornaments.  Other years we buy suet, sunflower seeds and hang an extra bird feeder.  This is also a great opportunity to clean out your vegetable drawer.  Bring out old carrots, celery and other greens for the animals to enjoy.

5. Make Holiday Cards for those in Need

Grab the paper, markers and other art supplies for this family project.  Work together as a family to make holiday cards that you can pass on to people who need a little bit of cheer and encouragement this season.  Do you know someone who lost a loved one or someone who is battling an illness?  I am sure they would appreciate a homemade card from your family.  Send the cards to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to be passed out to their guests.  Cheer up seniors at the nursing home or a send the cards to Meals on Wheels.

6.  Spread Seeds of Kindness–Holiday Edition
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This has to be our family’s FAVORITE way to spread kindness during the holidays (and all year long) and it is soooo EASY.  We go out and buy a bunch of $1 scratch tickets or $5 gift cards (for coffee shops or fast food restaurants) and hand then out throughout the holiday season.  Was the cashier extra friendly at checkout?  Hand them a gift card and say “Happy Holidays and thanks for being YOU!”  You can spread seeds of kindness to the person working at the tollbooth (we still have people who work the tolls in New England), the person who works at your transfer station, your dry cleaner, the mom who looks stressed in the store, a homeless person…anybody is game for a little kindness this holiday.  A nice touch is wrapping the gift card or scratch tickets in a drawing from your children.  Click HERE for more information about Seeds of Kindness.

7.  Donate Toys and Gifts

There are lots of worthy charities that will accept brand new toy and gift donations at this time of year.  Our library has a giving tree where you can take a mitten off the tree and buy a present for a boy or girl in need.  Contact your local school nurse or guidance counselor to see if there is a family who needs help during the holidays.  Contact the local Foster Child Agency and see if they are in need of toys for the children they serve.

8.  Volunteer Time

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Do you have some free time this month to volunteer?  Our family likes to spend one Saturday morning in December volunteering in the Food Bank.  We dress in festive clothing, sing carols on our way and go out to breakfast when we are all finished.  It is a nice tradition that we look forward to each year.  If you have time to volunteer, contact your local food bank, pet shelter, hospice house, soup kitchen, nursing home or homeless shelter to see if they are looking for volunteers this season.  The Salvation Army is always in need of volunteers for their Red Kettle drive during November and December.  Many places will accept the help of younger children (ages 5 and up) if there is an adult present.

9.  Go Caroling at a Nursing Home

Make some simple song books (most holiday lyrics can be found on the internet), gather together some family and friends and schedule a time to visit your local nursing home.  Dress in festive clothing and wander the halls singing carols for all to hear.  Perhaps you might bring along some holiday cards or homemade ornaments to pass out to the seniors as you wander.  This activity will be one that you will always remember.

10.  Start a Christmas Jar

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Click HERE to learn more about this special holiday tradition!

 

Holiday

Celebrating and Learning About Hanukkah

We use December as a way to learn about and honor all of the winter holidays celebrated around the world.  We have good friends who are Jewish and we are blessed to have spent many nights of Hanukkah with them over the years.  The latkes they make are fantastic (both sweet and white potato) and watching them light the candles while saying the blessing is so beautiful.

A former student gave me a menorah for my classroom and it is the menorah I still have today. My children and I read a Hanukkah story during each of the eight nights, discuss the symbolism of the candles play dreidel and pray for our family and friends on earth and in heaven.

This year Hanukkah begins on December 22nd and the last night is Monday, December 30th.  Coffee and Carpool has some great kindness activities for Hanukkah on her blog.  Here are some of our favorite Hanukkah books to read during the eight nights.

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This is our FAVORITE Hanukkah story but it can be a bit frightening for young children.  This is a story about a traveler who comes upon a small village where they are not celebrating Hanukkah because goblins have taken over the synagogue.  The traveler sets out to defeat the goblins using his wit.  A wonderful story about staying strong, being brave and standing up for what you believe in.  I think this book is wonderful for children ages 6 and up.  Maybe younger if your child is okay with the ideas of monsters.

 

 

Every year I find a new holiday book that touches my heart and for 2019, it was Gracie’s Night.  This is so much more than a book about Hanukkah.  This is a book about kindness, love, giving and thinking of others.  I LOVED this book and feel EVERY child (person for that matter) should hear it.  I recommend it for ages 4 and up. From the Publisher: “THERE’S LOTS OF LOVE in Gracie’s and Papa’s lives, but not much money. Gracie finds a resourceful way to buy Papa some well-deserved Hanukkah gifts, but an encounter on a bitterly cold night opens her eyes and alters her plans. When we are brave enough to reach out instead of looking away, each of us can bring someone a miracle.”

 

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My kids love this Hanukkah story and it is one we own and read year after year.  From the Publisher: “Sadie and her four little brothers are very poor and always hungry. On the first night of Chanukah, Sadie performs a generous act, and in turn receives a frying pan that cooks up sizzling hot, golden latkes on command. Sadie tells her brothers never to use the magic pan, but when she goes out one afternoon, the mischievous boys can’t resist. They remember the words to start the pan cooking . . . but what were the words to make it stop?”

 

From the publisher: “A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world. This is a heartwarming, timeless picture book.”

 

This is a great book to teach the story of Hanukkah and why it is celebrated.  Children as young as 4 can hear this story and learn about the miracle long ago that is celebrated during Hanukkah.  From the Publisher: “Hanukkah is a wonderful time filled with games, food, family, and fun. It’s also the celebration of an ancient miracle, and retelling and remembering the story of that miracle is an essential part of the holiday, for young and old. The story of the courageous Maccabees is retold in simple yet dramatic text, accompanied by vibrant paintings of the battle, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the oil which miraculously burned for eight long nights.”

Holiday, Kindness

Counting Down to Christmas

Advent is a season of waiting.  This season can be so much more meaningful for families when you focus on kindness, love and the true meaning of Christmas.  I wanted to share with you a few ideas/resources that we have put into place for over the years during Advent and would love to hear any ideas or traditions that you may have as well.

1.  Reverse Advent Calendar

We participated in the Reverse Advent Calendar, from  Passionate Penny Pincher, last December for the first time.  The idea is simple and a great visual for young kids.  Find a big box and each day of advent put in the assigned food item.  Once your box is filled with 24 items, donate them that to your local food bank.  Food banks receive so much help in November and December and often struggle in January and February.  This will box will be a much needed donation and something you can drop off as a family.
My kids each had a box last year and took a lot of time and care decorating their cardboard boxes.  We shopped as a family for the entire list before December 1st and stored all of the food in the basement.  Each day the kids would head to the basement and “shop” for the item of the day.  They were so excited when the boxes were filled and we took them to the local food bank.  This is a wonderful way to help your kids focus on others this holiday season.
Click HERE for your copy of the Reverse Advent Calendar.
This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness.  My kids and I have used this for the last two years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season.
This is my FAVORITE gift of Christmas and makes my December mornings so special.  You can read about the sweet Advent Calendar I request from my children each year HERE.
4.  Book Count Down
This was one of my favorite ways to count down to Christmas when my children were little.  For this countdown, you wrap up 24 holiday books and place them in a basket.  These books can be books you own mixed in with library books and maybe a new book here or there.  Label each book with a number and then each day, your kids open up a book and you read it together as a family.
I know 24 books can seem daunting but you can add in Winter books, Hanukkah books or anything that would be fun to read during the holidays.  If you are wrapping library books, make sure you put those early in the count so that you don’t get into trouble with overdo fines!
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I wish these little guys were around when my oldest was young.  If your children are planning to ask Santa for some elves to visit you this Holiday Season, you may want to consider these cuties.  The Kindness Elves spread joy and happiness and leave your children daily notes with suggestions of Acts of Kindness that they can partake in.  Such a sweet way to encourage your children to spend the Advent Season doing kind deeds.
6.  Sparkle Stories Audio Advent Calendar
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We have been a sparkle family since the beginning in 2010.  David Sewell McCann has a tremendous gift for story telling and the Sparkle Stories are WONDERFUL for children ages 3 and up (although my daughter has been listening since she was one).  They have stories for every season, stories that teach valuable lessons, stories for grief….they are an incredible resource.
 The holiday season is a very special time at Sparkle Stories and they now have 3 audio Advent Calendars.  We LOVE the Martin and Sylvia Advent Calendar that follow a brother and sister through the 24 days leading up to Christmas and their search for yellow Advent Cards.  The Junkyard Advent is a precious story about a community of animals that live in a junkyard trying to make a wonderful Christmas for the Warden of the junkyard.  This year they have a new Advent Audio Calendar called Libby and Dish’s Good-Deed-a-Day Club and we are soooooo excited.
I highly recommend you check out the magic that is Sparkle Stories.  You can sign up for a 7 day trial to try them out for FREE (this is not an ad, we just love Sparkle Stories that much). It is fun to listen to them in the car as you are driving around or you can snuggle up on the couch and listen together.  Sparkle stories are a great way to remember to slow down for 20 minutes each day and listen to a beautiful and inspirational story together.
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I wish this had been around when my kids were little.  I do know other families that do a version of this without this kit.  The kit is adorable and a great visual for younger children to watch their kind deeds build up a sweet bed for Baby Jesus.  It is a nice way to help younger children focus on the spirit of giving, kindness, love and the meaning of the season.
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I did this for a few years with my children when they were small and we LOVED it.  It was a great way to teach the story of the birth of Jesus in language that is easy for children to understand.  There is a simple craft to make for each day or you can get the printable ornaments to color instead.   I recommend it for children 3-6 but older children would enjoy doing it along with their younger siblings.  It is another great Advent resource for little ears to get them ready for the coming of the baby Jesus.
What are your Advent Traditions?  Please share in the comments below.
Holiday, Making a Difference, Quick Service Projects, Seasonal

Halloween Candy Switch

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For the past 10 years, my children have traded their Halloween Candy for a $10-$12 toy of their choice.  I know what you are thinking, “You take ALL of their candy, you are so cruel!”  To be clear I don’t TAKE anything, it is a TRADE that they agree to make.  I also allow them to eat some candy on Halloween and save 5 pieces for consumption the week after Halloween.  This has worked well for us and their dentist approves!

The candy the kids trade in is sent to work with my husband.  His employees LOVE the variety and it is usually all gone in 1-2 days!

Last year, while packing Thanksgiving food baskets at our local food bank, I was surprised to see that Halloween candy was one of the items included.  “We like to put in a little fun for the kids,” the organizer told me.  I knew right then that next years Halloween candy would go to the food bank for the Thanksgiving baskets.

There are many great places to donate Halloween Candy, a quick internet search will bring up many options in your area.  I am asking you to consider your local food bank, call them and see if they would like a donation for their Thanksgiving baskets.  Happy Halloween!!

 

Book Corner, Holiday, Kindness, Uncategorized

Black History Month

“Even though we may have the different skin color, we’re still the same type of people, no matter what.” -Simsola 6th Grade–Global Citizen Video

February is a month of KINDNESS here at Kids in Service and also a time to celebrate our differences.  As part of this celebration we wanted to take a moment and recognize Black History Month.  So many people have dedicated their lives to making sure that all people in our country have a voice.  They have fought (and continue to fight) for a world where everyone is respected and treated with kindness no matter their beliefs, the color of their skin, their gender, or their place in society.

As part of Black History MonthKids in Service would like to celebrate the people who have fought for civil rights in this country.  We have a lot of resources below that you can share with your children.  These books and movies are meant to be a springboard to have a conversation with your children about acceptance, bravery, respect, celebrating our differences and KINDNESS.

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CLICK HERE for a FREE Printable Book list for the library or local bookstore.

Books

image.pngThe Ordinary People Change the World books by Brad Meltzer are well LOVED in our house.  I think my daughter has almost every one of them (she may be missing 2 or 3) and reads them daily.  I love them because they show that famous people who have changed the world are still people after all.  Most have have had to overcome a lot of adversity and challenges to make change happen.   Brad makes the world of biographies so much fun and the illustrations by Christoper Eliopoulos are wonderful.  They always hide the next famous person they are planning to write a biography for at the end of the book and it so much fun to hunt for them.  The Harriet Tubman book is my daughters favorite in the series.  She loved learning about how brave Harriet was and how many people she helped to escape slavery. This series also has books about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson for Black History Month.  Ages 5 and up

 

image.pngI use to read this book every February in my 2nd and 3rd grade class.  It is a wonderful story of Rosa Parks life and how her one courageous act started a civil rights movement.  This book would be great to share with children ages 6 and up.  There is a lot of information in this book and it is a great springboard to a rich conversation about segregation and prejudice.  I am a strong believer that a good picture book can be used for children in ANY grade (even high school) and I believe that this is one of them.

 

image.pngThis beautiful book tells the tale of Peg Leg Joe, an old white sailor, and the song he use to teach slaves about the Underground Railroad.  This book tells the tale of one family as they follow the words to Peg Leg Joe’s song and escape their life of slavery.    The Drinking Gourd is a gentle book about this difficult subject and would be great  for children ages 6 and up.

 

 

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This is another wonderful biography that I use to read to my 2nd and 3rd grade class every year.  Martin’s Big Words is the biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was written for children ages 5 and up.  This beautiful biography is easy for children to understand,  has beautiful illustrations and weaves Dr. King’s famous words throughout it.

 

 

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This book celebrates the lives of 40 African American women.  These brave and inspirational women have made a difference in our world. Each woman has a page long biography and a full page sweet illustration of them.  This is part of the Little Leaders and Dreamers series by Vashti Harrison.  This is a wonderful resource and would be great for ages 8 and up.

 

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Here’s a book for the little ones.  This board book is a younger version of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.  This shorter and simpler book celebrates the lives of 18 African American woman.  The sweet illustrations and language in this book make it a wonderful story to share with young children.  It is never to early to encourage children to be brave and follow their dreams.

 

Movies

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  1. Garretts Gift--This 17 minute movie can be found FREE on Netflix.  The movie tells the story of African American inventor Garrett Morgan’s life.  Garrett Morgan is responsible for inventing the traffic signal, the gas mask, chemical hair straightening solution and many other things. This movie teaches that we all have gifts to share with this world.  All we need is a little support, encouragement and the right tools.  The story is told by Queen Latifah and the animation is simple but fun and would be great for ages 4 and up.
  2. Dancing in the Light the story of Janet Collins–This 17 minute movie can be found on NETFLIX.  It is the story of Janet Collins an African American ballerina in the 1930s.  She was the first African American to dance at the Metropolitan Opera house but dealt with a lot of racism in her career (the Ballet Rouse asked her to paint her face white in order to perform).  This uplifting story is narrated by Chris Rock and is great for ages 4 and up.
  3. Follow the Drinking Gourd–My kids and I rented this 26 minute movie on Amazon.  Morgan Freeman narrates the story of the Drinking Gourd by Bernardine Connelly while the beautiful illustrations from Yvonne Buchanan are shown on the screen.  We really enjoyed this historical fiction tale and learned a lot about Peg Leg Joe, the Drinking Gourd and the Underground Railroad. This movie is listed for ages 6 and up but I would think it would be better for 7 and up.
  4. Ruby Bridges–This Disney move is not rated and unfortunately not reviewed on Common Sense Media.  It is on our list of movies to watch this month as we continue our study of the Civil Rights Movement.  From what I have read, people recommend it to children ages 7 and up.
  5. Remember the Titans–I LOVE sports films and this is one of my favorites.  This movie is the based on a true story of two high schools integrating after segregation has ended. The story follows the integration of the football team and is a powerful story of racism, acceptance, respect and teamwork.   This movie is rated PG and recommended for ages 10 and up.
  6. Hidden Figures–This was one case where I loved the movie as much as the book (that rarely happens).  This is the true story of the unsung heroes behind the mathematics of the space program.  The story follows the lives of three strong and brilliant African American women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) and their struggle to find acceptance and respect at NASA while they work to put John Glenn into orbit.  This movie is rated PG and recommended for ages 10 and up.

 

Book Corner, Holiday, Holiday Books, Kindness, Seasonal

Chinese New Year

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Happy New Year: 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)

This year Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) begins on January 25th.  Chinese New Year is the beginning of the Chinese calendar and is also known as the Spring Festival.   2020 is the Year of the Rat and rats symbolize wealth and surplus in China.

This 15 day festival can be a great time for your family to learn about the Chinese culture, the traditions associated with this festival and have a little bit of fun.  Here are some fun things you and your family can do to learn about and celebrate Chinese New Year.

  1.  CLICK Here to find out what your Chinese Zodiac symbol is (we are snakes, a dog and ox over here)
  2. CLICK HERE for ideas for a craft projects for Chinese New Year.  You can make some fun decorations together and plan a Chinese New Year Feast.  Red is the color of Chinese New Year and it is thought to bring luck.
  3. Make Chinese food together or order take-out from your favorite restaurant.  Dumplings are eaten every day during the festival.
  4. Find a local Chinese New Year celebration.  People from all over the world celebrate this festival and there are many events here in the USA.  Check out your local art museum or go to your closest China Town.  We went to a dragon dance a few years ago at our local art museum and it was beautiful.

Books for Chinese New Year

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From the publisher: “When her Chinese grandmother comes to visit, a young Chinese-American girl learns of and participates in the customs and beliefs celebrating an authentic Chinese New Year.”

 

 

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From the publisher: “In this picture book celebrating Chinese New Year, animals from the Chinese zodiac help a little girl deliver a gift to her grandmother.Ruby has a special card to give to her grandmother for Chinese New Year. But who will help her get to grandmother’s house to deliver it? Will it be clever Rat, strong Ox, or cautious Rabbit? Ruby meets each of the twelve zodiac animals on her journey. This picture book includes back matter with a focus on the animals of the Chinese zodiac.”

 

unknown-2From the publisher: “When a boy goes to the market to buy food and comes home with an old wok instead, his parents wonder what they’ll eat for dinner. But then the wok rolls out of the poor family’s house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the rich man’s home with a feast in tow! With spirited text and lively illustrations, this story reminds readers about the importance of generosity.”

 

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the image of the books above you will be taken to Amazon.  20% of all profits made through this site will be donated to our charity of the season.  You can see the current charity on our Book Corner page.  Thank you for supporting our site and a very noble charity.)  

 

Holiday, Holiday Books, Kindness, Seasonal

Candlemas

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Candlemas, February 2nd, is known by many names: Groundhog Day, Imblog and St. Bridgids Day.  Candlemas is a beautiful and long forgotten winter holiday that marks the half way point until spring.  Throughout history people would gather and celebrate light, hope and renewal.

Candlemas-Day Verse

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

Today on February 2nd most people focus on a small furry mammal named Phil, in the little town of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania.  The world holds its breath as the poor little groundhog is removed from his cozy slumber to look for his shadow (if he doesn’t find it that means an early spring).  I admit I am one of those people who LOVE that silly tradition and I watch it live on the internet.  My kids and I also watch Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie every February 2nd, we LOVE that ridiculous movie.

I invite you and your family to take some time to pause on February 2nd and reflect upon your own hopes and dreams for the year.  Maybe you light some candles to mark the fact that we are half way to the spring equinox or try one of the other ideas below.

Happy Candlemas!

Here are some ideas to celebrate Candlemas:

  1. Make candles as a family (this kit is a favorite of ours)
  2. Have a candlelit dinner and talk about everyone’s hopes and dreams
  3. Call someone who may be lonely and provide a little light in their lives
  4. Plant a seed or bulb and watch it grow as the days get closer to spring
  5. Make Valentine’s Day cards to send out to the older folks in your life.  They will love a little handwritten note from you.

Here are some of our favorite books to read on February 2nd.

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A fun book about a groundhog who has trouble hibernating.  He wakes up for all of the fall/winter holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) and sees what he has been missing all these years.  This is such a cute book and is great for ages 3 and up.

 

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This book is not only funny but filled with lots of facts about weather, the history of Groundhog Day and other groundhogs around the world.  My kids and I read this book every year and it still makes us laugh.   This book is great for kids 5 and up.

 

 

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This is an ancient Irish story that celebrates St. Brigid.  In this beautiful story you hear about how Brigid’s got her famous blue cloak and the first of the miracles that it performed.  St. Brigid is a patron saint of Ireland and a wonderful role model for kindness.  She set up convents all over Ireland that catered to the poor and hungry.  This book would be great for children ages 5 and up.

 

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the image of the books above you will be taken to Amazon.  20% of all profits made through this site will be donated to our charity of the season.  You can see the current charity on our Book Corner page.  Thank you for supporting our site and a very noble charity.)  

featured, Holiday

Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas

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“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” I won’t torture you with the entire song but I will encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas.  We started celebrating them a few years ago and it has stopped the “After Christmas Blues” from coming to town.  Each night we add a candle to our window sill until there are 12 candles lit for Twelfth Night.  It is beautiful.

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One of our favorite parts of the 12 Day Celebration is listening to a new Tullyport Story each day.  Sparkle Stories puts out this LOVELY audio series for the 12 days of Christmas.  Throughout the series Martin and Sylvia (siblings) “explore what it means to celebrate the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ inspired by twelve delightful stories from 18th century Maine.” (Sparkle Stories Website).  You can CLICK HERE to learn more.  If you are short on time each day, they also have a series with the just the 18th Century Stories from Tullyport Maine (a fictional coastal town).  These stories are truly magical, CLICK HERE for that series.

We have been a Sparkle family since they began and this is our FAVORITE series.  You can get a free 10 day trial which would get you through most of the 12 days of Christmas and you’d be able to see all that Sparkle Stories has to offer.  This is not an advertisement, I am just a true fan.

What else do we love to do during the 12 days of Christmas??  Here is a little glimpse into all we have planned this year.

Day 1–Christmas Day-This will be a quiet day for us this year.  We plan to stay in our jammies all day, hang by the tree and enjoy a wonderful dinner made by dad.

Day 2–Boxing Day (Kwanzaa Day 1)–We will be having a family Christmas party this day.

Day 3–Hibernation Day–This is the day we do NOTHING.  We play games, read books and just chill.  I love to hibernate and this is one of my favorite days of the week.

Day 4–The Forgotten Gift–Every year one of the gifts gets “forgotten” under the tree.  The kids open it on this day.  It is usually a book to share or a board game to play.  They love having this fun surprise.

Day 5–Family Goal Setting(Click HERE to learn more)

Day 6–Homemade Christmas (Click HERE to learn more)

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Day 7–New Years Eve-This year we have plans for a family game night out with friends.  New Years Eve is usually very low key for us and we like to celebrate at home.  We usually make a nice dinner and do an 8 o’midnight celebration with the kids with a live ball drop from our upstairs.  Having 8 o’midnight means we are always in bed by 10, which I LOVE.  We will see how leaving the house works for us this year 😉

Day 8–New Year’s Day–Every year we have a BIG New Years Day fancy breakfast.  After the meal, we complete our New Years Day Interviews.  You can read all about the Interviews and get your own copy by clicking HERE.  We’ve been doing these interviews for years and it is always fun to go back and see how we have grown and changed.

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Day 9–Plan out Service Projects for the Year--This year during the 12 days I want to have a family meeting where we map out the organizations that we would like to volunteer with this year.  2018 was a big year of service for us but we were flying by the seat of our pants and it felt like we were saying “YES” to everything.  This year I want to be more intentional about our volunteer hours and the money we donate.

Day 10–Family Game Night–On the 10th night we are hoping to break out the new games the kids got for Christmas and a few old favorites and have a big family game night.

Day 11–Family Movie Night–We are hoping to pop the popcorn and find one last holiday movie to watch.  There are a bunch we have not watched yet this year, so I am sure there will be lots to choose from.

Day 12–Family Twelfth Night Celebration--This year Twelfth Night falls on a weekend night and so we can do more than our traditional candlelit dinner.  We are hoping to do a bonfire with s’mores, write some wishes on pieces of paper and send them into the new year by burning them in the fire.  We will also bake a Kings Cake and the person who finds the bean will be the wish keeper for the celebration.  They will hold everyones wishes for the new year in their heart.

Epiphany or Three Kings Day–3 Little presents arrive on this day.  One for each child and one to share.  They are not big presents, just a small item of fun to open and my kids are sooooo excited for this day EVERY Year.  This is also the day we pack away our Christmas decorations and give thanks for all of the fun and magic we had throughout the season.

I loved this graphic from the Art of Simple.  You may incorporate some of these things into your 12 days.  They have a great post about the tradition and history of the 12 days that you can find HERE.

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Growth Mindset, Holiday

The New Year–Dreaming with Kids

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I LOVE the cleansing feeling of a new year.  I love new calendars to fill in, new goals to set, creating a vision board and picking my Word of the Year.  This past year my word was Mindful and in the past I have used Balance, Gratitude and this year my word is Discipline. Here is a great site to help you pick a word for the year.  I have encouraged my children and husband to pick words too.  It was a fun process and I found a quote to go along with each of their words.

I always spend the week between Christmas and New Years dreaming, planning, goal setting and creating my personal vision board (which I then make the wallpaper of my computer).  This year I want to bring my kids into this process and help guide them to create vision boards and set some personal goals for themselves.  As homeschoolers we do some academic goals at the beginning of the school year but I want to go bigger with them this year.

2On New Years Day our favorite tradition is our New Year’s Day Interviews that we do over a big family breakfast.  We started these in 2010 and we love to see how we have each grown and changed over the years.  If you’d like to see our simple interview, you can CLICK HERE.  This year after the interviews, we are going to break out old magazines, big chart paper and markers and work on creating our own vision boards for 2019.  We will then set some family goals for 2019, I can’t wait!!

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One of my favorite resources for helping my kids to DREAM BIG and to set goals is our Big Life Journals.  We have had our Big Life Journals since the very beginning when they launched as a Kick Starter Campaign.

The Big Life Journal is a journal your child fills out with an older buddy.  My son picked myself as his buddy and my daughter picked my husband.  Kids can pick ANYONE and have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly Skype or phone calls with their buddy.  The idea is that the buddy and the child read the journal together and the buddy helps the child to respond to the prompts. Just this year they came out with a version for teens and I am so excited to get our copy for my son.

The Big Life Journal website also have lots of resources (many FREE) about helping your kids to develop their growth mindset, set goals and build self-esteem.

How do you mark the New Year with your children?  

 

This is not an advertisement for Big Life Journals. I just wanted to share this amazing resource.