Getting Ready for Christmas

Over the past couple of weeks I have started to get ready for Christmas, decorating the house, baking, and creating Christmas lists. It is a great time of year as I start right after Halloween, breaking out the Christmas music and Christmas movies and start transforming the house.

I clean as I go, so the house gets a thorough clean, even if it is only once a year (ha ha! -seriously I do clean a little more often). But often this is the time when I get into some of those nooks and crannies that get missed in the regular cleaning. It gives the house such a nice fresh, warm, cozy feeling.

Gingerbread House

I always wonder why the house feels so nice around Christmas time, all decorated and warm, I can just sit there for hours and gaze at the lights or watch the fire. I don’t know if its the anticipation of the coming holiday and events, or if it is simply a cleaner, less cluttered house (as I put away a lot of the extra things that are around); or simply the feeling of love and acceptance that permeates the world at this time of year. I often wonder, as I am sure many of us do, why cannot we not experience this feeling throughout the whole year?

One of the things that is the most fun about Christmas is watching the kids reactions to things, especially the little ones. This year Luke and Chloe being almost 3, are very aware of what’s going on and are constantly expressing their excitement and delight in what’s going on. So each day when I put up something new, Luke and Chloe are there oohing and awing. Because for them it is like they are experiencing it for the first time. Even though they have had 2 Christmases already they don’t really remember or get what it was about.

And it makes it so fun for me to introduce something new and make it special. When I put up the garland in the living room, I made sure the lights were plugged in the next morning so that they could see it when they came downstairs. “Oh Mommy look lights!” they run to tell me in delight; and then we had to leave the lights on all day.

When I put up the snowman shower curtain in the bathroom they started jumping up and down and clapping “Oh look snowman! Penguins!” Then they wanted to touch it and look at it and hang out in the bathroom for awhile.

Snowman & Penguin Shower Curtain

Chloe helped me one day take out some of the Christmas Party Lite candle holders I had. Her eyes lit up each time I brought out a new box and she delicately helped me open and unwrap them. She put snowflakes in the bathroom, and thoroughly examined the gingerbread house.

Both Luke and Chloe love the outdoor lights on everyone’s houses, especially the snowman across the street, that Luke diligently goes and checks on after supper each night. They love the nutcracker on top of the tv and talk about Santa Claus every day, not because he brings them presents but because they know and recognize him, but that he is a part of Christmas. Even when we are shopping in the store, Chloe is oohing and awing and pointing out the Christmas decorations.

It is going to be a wonderful Christmas this year as I continue to watch Luke and Chloe discover it. Everything is new, everything is exciting, a wonder and delight to look at and discover. Matthew enjoys and gets excited for Christmas as well but now that he is older it is for different reasons and some of the wonder and delight he experienced as a young child is not as present as it used to be. It makes me a little bit sad to realize this, not only for him, but for us adults as well. Why not experience the pure joy and delight of the season not only this year, but every year. What if we were to approach it as if it was our first Christmas, something to delight in and discover, share the joy and excitement? Imagine what Christmas would be like for all of us, experiencing the joy of a Christmas decoration, seeing things through the eyes of a child. What a magical, wonderful season it would be for us all, each and every year. If we allow ourselves to enjoy the little things, the joy in the lights and decorations, regardless of the amount of presents under the tree, our hearts will be full and the magic of the season will truly be upon us.

Party Lite Snowflake Candle Holders

And why not apply this throughout the entire year? Find the joy and excitement in everything in our lives, big and small, especially small, because sometimes even the smallest things bring us the greatest joy. Many of us say that it would be nice if the feeling of Christmas lasted all year, well it can, we just need to be grateful and appreciate what we see and do each day. Because there is love and beauty in everything and if we approach each day like a 3 year old with the attitude of what delights am I going to discover today, jump up and down and clap our hands, ooh and awe, what a delightful existence and world we will have!

So this Christmas (and after that as well) as you prepare for the season, decorating and doing all the things you usually do, pretend you are like a young child experiencing it for the first time, seeing life through their eyes, where every day is a discovery, an adventure, a wonderment of looking around the corner to find out what’s new. You’ll discover very quickly what a wonderful space this is to be in and it will become easier and easier to do so. Like anything it may take practice as some of us adults can be pretty stubborn and set in our ways, but the results of this shift will make such a difference in our life and the world. How can you resist such a wonderful and easy solution? If we live from our hearts with love we can never go wrong, just like a child, watch the world of wonder unfold around us.

Gratitude Activities for Kids

In yesterday’s post I talked about how being grateful for what we have in our lives increases the good that comes to us; and how important it is for us to teach gratitude to our children.

We are all very good at teaching them to say please and thank you but I believe that there is more to it. A deeper meaning that we can convey; so this morning I set out in search of activities that you can do with kids to teach them not only to be grateful but the value of being grateful. Kids love hands on stuff, games and activities. Not only do these things help them develop their motor skills, but it a great way for them to learn and helps the concept you are teaching stick. And presented in a variety of ways makes it fun for them and for you.

Gratitude Journal

I already mentioned creating a gratitude journal which works for both adults and children. But what I discovered today is to make it more interesting to the kids you can do a number of things. Let them decorate their journal either the cover or the first inside page. This allows them to be creative and to make it their own. For younger children, get them a binder or duotang to decorate. Then instead of writing what they are grateful for they can draw pictures and put them in their binder.

Gratitude Activities

The Best thing about..

Divide the kids into 2 teams. Pick a team to go first. Read a list of things or people, like Grandma or trees, and each person on the team has to say one good thing about that person or thing within 3 seconds. If everyone is successful then the team gets a point. If they are not then the other team gets a chance to answer about the same person or thing.

I Love

For each item kids have 3 seconds to complete the phrase “The thing I love about _____ is ______.” Use things like, dogs, birds, Mom, my brother, where I live, etc. Create your own list. You could have the kids create the list with you beforehand and then play the game.

Thank you Circle

Have all the children sit in a circle. Toss a bean bag to one of the children. They stand and list one of the things they are grateful for, then they toss the bean bag to someone else and they stand up and say what they are grateful for. Do this until everyone in the circle has had a chance to speak.

Gratitude Jar

Have children decorate the jar using buttons, ribbon, glitter, etc. Have little slips of paper prepared and each day have the children write down one thing they are grateful for and put it in the jar. Parents can help with writing for younger children. Set a deadline, such as one month later or a special event like Christmas. On that day have everyone sit down and read together all the things that everyone is grateful for from the jar.

Thank You Notes and Letters

Some may say that thank you notes are passe, but there is something to be said when someone takes the time to send you a card or a letter saying thank you. Encourage your kids to write thank you notes, not just for gifts they have received but for something they are grateful that someone did for them in the last 24 hours. Like “Thanks Mom for making my lunch”. This is important as it teaches children to not just be thankful for material things but for acts of service from others. And it teaches them to be grateful for all the little things in their lives as well, which in turn will create more good things for them.

Children can make their own thank you cards, there are a variety of simple ideas that they can do, either drawing, coloring or with glitter and glue. When writing the card encourage the child to explain how the person made them thankful. Then send the card to the recipient.

Older children may choose to write a letter, which may include a little more detail and description of the event. They can also add pictures or decorate it if they like.

Gratitude Crafts

There are many simple crafts that children can do to express gratitude. There is the Leaf Garland, where children write or draw what they are grateful for on a leaf and then hang it up. A similar concept is a thank you sunflower where they use the petals to write on. You can also do a gratitude tree or chain.

These crafts are simple, easy and colorful. With most of them only requiring some construction paper and a marker.

Gratitude Books

A really great way to teach children about being grateful is through books. Most children love to sit and listen to a story; so it is easy to pick books that incorporate this theme.

One of my favorites is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It is about a tree that gives and gives and gives to a little boy until the tree has nothing left but a stump, but even then has something to give.

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

Bear has come up with the perfect way to say thanks—a nice big dinner! When Bear decides to throw a feast, his friends show up one by one with different platters of delicious food to share. The playful text and charming illustrations bring to life this celebration of family and friendship. Children will love discovering the special gift Bear has to share.

I’m Thankful for Each Day by P. K. Hallinan

This story combines a child’s delight in the physical world and his thankfulness to God for the pleasure of each day – for summer days, autumn’s orange pumpkin haze, for the breezes, for peace, and for life itself.

Teaching children to be grateful is easy and fun. Being grateful is a wonderful thing, it lightens your mood and brings many wonders into your life. Regardless of your age, gratitude improves the quality of life by focusing on what you have. Counting your blessings is easy to do each day and is easily shared with children. Teaching them to be grateful at a young age will create a life long perspective of gratitude. If we teach them to be grateful not only will they be happier in their lives but they will help create a beautiful world where we will all experience the peace and happiness we desire.

The Art of Gratitude

Many of us spent this past weekend celebrating Thanksgiving. Spending time with family and friends sharing a savory meal of turkey, veggies and pie. It is a time when many of us recognize and acknowledge the blessings in our lives and give thanks.

It’s great. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling just thinking about it. But it makes me wonder, if it feels so good and makes us happy, why do so many of us wait until the holidays to express our gratitude? Wonderful things happen everyday, in every moment that we should be grateful for.

Oprah Winfrey

Studies have shown that the more grateful you are for things in your life, the happier you are and the more good things will come to you. Leaders and prominent figures in the world are leading the way by talking about gratitude and it’s effects on their lives. Sixteen years ago, Oprah Winfrey started a gratitude journal, in which she writes down 5 things everyday that she is grateful for. She believes that this is one of the best things she has ever done in her life.

Being grateful is easy. If you appreciate and love what you have you will receive more. Even the simplest things, like someone holding the door open for you, or bringing you flowers, smiling. We often forget how some of the simplier things in life can bring us such joy and beauty. When we take note of them, they increase. We become more alive and receptive to the goodness that is in our lives and it keeps us living in the present moment.

I know there are many challenges in life and there are days when you wonder how you can be grateful for anything. On those days especially it is important to identify things that you are grateful for. If the kids have been screaming and you have been going crazy, then all of a sudden you have 5 minutes of silence and the kids playing happily, be grateful! Say thank you – you’ll get more!

Being grateful changes your state of being, brings a sense of peace, contentment and more overall happiness in your life. If you practice being grateful everyday, then everyday will be beautiful and wonderful, no matter if it seems like the world is falling down around you.

The key thing is to write down the things you are grateful for. Writing them down creates more power in your words; and your hands are a direct connection to your heart, so writing them down strengthens this connection. Creates more love and genuine appreciation.

I know you may be sitting there grumbling that this is all mumbo jumbo, so if you don’t believe it do an experiment. Start a gratitude journal and write down 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for. Do this for a week and notice what happens, notice how you feel, notice what has come to you. Then do it for another week and notice again. You may find that things not only are improving in your life but that your overall sense of well being has improved.

And it is easy to teach this to your kids. Most families are very diligent about teaching our children to say please and thank you, but if we can teach them to do a bit more then this will open them up to such beauty in their lives.

Yesterday when Luke and Chloe came home they noticed the snowsuit and snowpants that I had brought up. They had not seen these before so to them they were new. As soon as they saw them they were both saying, “Oh! thank you Mommy!” like they were the best things in the world. They immediately were trying them on, oohing and awing. It was a totally simple thing but they were showing gratitude. No one prompted them, no said they had too. They just did. I feel that if we can all nuture this in each of our children we will create a very different world.

With young children you can ask them at the end of each day before they go to bed what they are grateful for. With older children you can have them tell you but also write them down in their own journal. I believe that if we share what we are grateful for it increases, spreads out like the ripple effect. And doing it before bed is a wonderful time to do so because ending your day with things you are grateful for and make you feel good, happy; you are more likely to wake up in the morning feeling the same way. And isn’t that a great way to start your days? for you and the kids?

Gratitude is not a new thing and there are many ways to express it. But it is important that we do, everyday, not just on holidays or special occasions. It’s all part of creating what we want in our lives, focus on what is good and you will create more good. And I am guessing that we would all like more of the good things in our lives.