Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving & Gratitude for Kids

November is about gratitude. The harvest is in, we honor our Veterans and their families, Christmas is weeks away, and Thanksgiving is upon us. If you have young kids, it's likely they'll be doing some sort of Pilgrim/Indian dress up thing at school this week. I don't know that I would actually tell children not to participate because it may not be politically correct... I do think it's an opportunity to teach them more about Native Americans, and to reaffirm the concept of gratitude.

November is also Native American Heritage Month. Here are some of my suggestions for teaching your children a little more about Indians than that they had a picnic with the Pilgrims. I'd love to hear what you do with your kids for Thanksgiving!

Do an Internet search to see if there are any related events in your area. Many museums, libraries and schools are having rug weaving, basket weaving, jewelry making, beading, cooking or dancing demonstrations - you might even luck out and find a Pow Wow nearby!

You could read the 2010 Presidential Proclamation with older kids and explain what it means. The National Park Service has a great web page with lots of information on American Indian historic sites you could visit or learn about. You might listen to Native American Radio Online (AIRO). Here's AIRO's schedule.

Here are two great children's books I like that feature American Indian culture:
The Butterfly Dance (Tales of the People series) by Gerald Dawavendewa, and Coyote in Love With a Star by Marty Kreipe De Montano.

These beautiful books are part of the Tales of the People series created by Indian artists and writers with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

The stories and illustrations are charming and spot on accurate in their portrayal of Indian culture. They each even have a separate section of photos and info and a glossary of words in different Indian languages.

Another book I like is The Goat in the Rug by Geraldine the goat (as told to Charles L. Blood and Martin Link), in which Geraldine supervises her wool being woven into a traditional Navajo rug. All of these books are perfect picture books to read to little ones and have a reading level of 4 to 8 years. Maybe you could find them in your local bookstore or library.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to remind children (and ourselves) of just how much we have to be grateful for. Even if you're not religious, a big Thanksgiving dinner begs for sentiments of appreciation.

Before eating, everyone could say out loud, briefly, what they feel especially thankful for. If someone doesn't want to participate - is too shy or too cool ; ) - that's fine. Ask them to just think about it. You're still setting a good example and a tradition. If it's been a particularly difficult day/month/year, you can still be thankful for running water, food, a roof over your head. As trite it sounds, "It could always be worse."

Help your kids understand all the ways that they're blessed, and all they ways they can bless others:
  • Gather things to give away just before or after Thanksgiving, explaining that we have so much, and things that are cluttering our homes, that we're just tired of, or that we've outgrown could mean the world to someone else.
  • Have them go online with you and look at different charities to which you could make a donation - even a small amount. Talk about the different charities and causes.
  • Many families have a tradition of volunteering to help serve at homeless shelters' Thanksgiving meals.
  • Visit relatives who are close enough and telephone those who aren't, and have the children talk to them. Remember the happy times you've all had together, or share your own good memories if they haven't met. Teach them to appreciate family.
I was just reminded of the North American Indian tradition of the "giveaway," wherein the act of giving humbly is a very important part of their culture and considered spiritual. To express gratitude for an important event - a birth, a soldier returning from war, a graduation - a giveaway and/or a "feed" is offered in thanks for good fortune. 

Thank you, lovely readers! I'm honored that you spent your valuable time with me. I hope you'll follow my blog, and that you'll participate by sharing your feedback, ideas, photos, and suggestions for future topics.

    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    Boho Parents: You're cool. You have cool kids. Now what??

    OK, so this is the thing. There are a lot of cool people out there who have cool kids. The thing is, they don't necessarily know all the basic and/or cool stuff they're supposed to do now they they have these awesome kids.

    First bookmark this site and put it on your bookmarks toolbar so you don't lose it.

    Let's jump right in and start with BIRTHDAYS and HOLIDAYS...

    You're a great parent, you do fun stuff with your kids, give them lots of attention, show them you love them - but maybe you're just a little flaky when it comes to holidays and customs.

    Even if you didn't celebrate most holidays growing up - do it! You'll all have fun, and you'll be building family traditions. This is the stuff kids love and that they'll always remember. There's always something coming up to look forward to and it doesn't have to cost you much, if anything.

    You don't have to observe them all, but do make an effort to do some of them - especially the two that require preparation on your part so your kids aren't uncomfortable at school: Valentines Day and St. Patrick's Day.

    You're busy. You have a lot on your mind. You forget to buy valentine cards for your child to take to school. Maybe you didn't even remember that you used to do that, but the look on the teacher's face and her Marge Simpson disapproving "mmmm" when you dropped your child off at kindergarten without any valentine cards left little doubt that you'd screwed up.

    It wasn't a huge thing, but it was a thing, and your little boy or girl was the only one who didn't have cards for the other kids. Awkward...

    I live in Los Angeles and don't know about a lot of the customs and holidays in other countries, so I'm concentrating on U.S. holidays, but you'll get the idea. Just be creative and adapt the general 'go for it!' attitude to your own holidays. If you don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, read about it anyway - maybe you'll want to, or maybe you can get some ideas to incorporate into other celebrations, birthday parties, etc.

    So here we go!

    First, you need to get a big calendar and use it - a real one, not on your computer. Not just for tax day, doctor appointments and the season opener of True Blood, but for BIRTHDAYS and HOLIDAYS.

    It's easy to forget the holidays you don't pay much attention to as an adult and birthdays always fly by. Let the kids help you pick out the calendar.
    Hang it up where you and they can see it, so you don't forget things and so they can see what's coming up.

    Once you have your calendar, get a bright pen and fill in everyone's birthdays: The immediate family, close friends - yours and the kids', close relatives - the ones you want to call or send a card or e-card to on their birthday (or to have the kids call).

    Then mark all the holidays. If holidays are already indicated on your calendar, make sure they're ALL on there.

    It's March. What's in March?

    St. Patrick's Day is March 17th! For your kids, that doesn't mean drinking green beer at that awesome Irish pub you always want to go to, but never do because the only time you think of it is on St. Patrick's Day and you know it will be too crowded.

    For kids, St. Patrick's Day means what? WEARING GREEN! If you do only one thing on St. Patrick's Day, make sure your child is very obviously wearing something very green.

    The day before St. Patrick's Day, ask your kids to pick something green out of their closet so the don't spend the whole next day getting pinched because they didn't wear green and hate you until they have kids.

    (Note: Don't go crazy and dress them completely in green either - don't make them a joke. One green thing is perfect. A green shirt, pants, shoes, sweater, bow, or a green clover pin on their shirt would be great.)

    If for some crazy reason there's no green in your child's wardrobe, make a clover and pin it to their shirt. Make it out of a green piece of felt, cloth, construction paper, pick one up at Target or Hallmark - or throw some green Mardi Gras beads around their neck. You wear something green, too. Even the dog or the cat can get a green ribbon.

    Just make sure you send them to school with something green that's not socks or underwear or a belt that will be covered or a jacket they'll take off.

    If you want to do more:
    • Have some kind of Irish or green themed side dish or dessert. Green jello - awesome. Green Kool Aid, cupcakes with green frosting or green jelly beans on top, clover shaped cookies with green sugar sprinkles, or go all out and make corned beef with cabbage, Irish stew or colcannon.
    • Invite friends over and have a party!
    • Get funny green hats, tiaras, buttons, or decorations from the party store.
    • Get a couple green balloons or some green flowers.
    • Watch an Irish movie
    • Play some Irish music, dance a few jigs! You could download some music from itunes or amazon or make a playlist on blip.fm or playlist.com with Irish bands: The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Great Big Sea, The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Exiles, even U2...
    • Hide a leprachaun's 'pot of gold' filled with gold chocolate coins in the backyard for the kids to hunt for or hide candy shamrocks around the house. See's Candies makes really good holiday candies.
    • Take the kids to a Faery Hunt if there is one in your area.
    • Go to a St. Patrick's Day Parade - wearing lots of green!!
    • If you're Irish, you might want to order ahead some custom 'Kiss Me I'm an O'Callahan' (or whatever your name is) t-shirts, buttons, etc., or make your own.
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