How do family members show
their care for one another on Valentines Day and beyond......
A few Family Year folks
talked about this question and here is what we found was a common denominator
for us all. Expressing care is really about doing little things for one
another, without being asked- love in the form of unsolicited acts of kindness.
In the family, it might mean a spontaneous foot or shoulder rub,
playing a game with the kids while waiting for dinner, or offering to put
things away for someone who has had a long day.
In the classroom, it could be sharpening someone's pencil or
cleaning out someone's desk or locker.
At work, it might be bringing someone a fresh cup of coffee or
making a co-worker a handmade lunch.
Paying attention to other people and what they might need and doing
it, if you possibly can, is love in action. Things that we do without an
expectation of being seen or acknowledged are an expression of an overflowing
heart. Kindness can change the day for
someone and can collectively change the world.
We parents, as models for our children, need to be thoughtful and
considerate, and eventually our children will be, too.
On Valentine's Day and whenever you remember, take time to tell
family members and friends that you love them, even though your actions will
already have spoken loudly!
Making your own Valentines
The new moon on January 23rd, marked the start of
"Chinese New Year": a time of presents,
and feasting, and celebration with family and-wait a minute, didn't we just do
After cooking, cleaning, and hosting from Thanksgiving
through January 1st, fulfilling Chinese New Year traditions
always seemed like too much work: the
spotless house, the long life noodles, the lucky dumplings, the sticky rice
cake, the red envelopes filled with cash.
Combine all that work with its emphasis on money, and
Chinese New Year was definitely one of my least favorite holidays. Where Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and
Christmas is about giving, Chinese New Year is unabashedly about money, money,
Still I grew up with this holiday. At this time of year, the urge to clean
underneath my refrigerator feels as automatic and inevitable as carving a
pumpkin at Halloween or having mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
To make it easier, I spread the work out over two weeks
(traditionally, Chinese New Year runs from new moon to full moon). That's about how long it takes me to make a
few of the special foods my mother used to pull off in one spectacular
And the cleaning?
Instead of trying to sweep out all the bad luck at once and clean my
entire house, I limit myself do one odious job each year-this year it's the
dryer vent. Maybe next year I'll get
under the refrigerator....
But there's still that money issue. Early on, my kids parroted the traditional
greeting "Luck, happiness, success and money!" without realizing what they were
saying. The red envelopes of cash were
As our children grew, we needed answers. So we took a long
hard look at this ancient holiday. Could
we make it meaningful for our lives while still honoring the heritage it
Like most things that we really think about, it became a
lesson in values. When the kids asked
"Isn't money bad?" we could clarify:
"Greed is bad. Money is just
something to use-- for good or bad.
Centuries of desperate poverty lead the Chinese to focus on money. Our family has enough money, and we're just
wishing for others to have enough too."
Balancing who you are, with where you came from, is the work
of a lifetime. Traditions should tie us
to memories we want to keep, not tie us up.
Anyway, it's something to think about as I clean that dryer vent. Happy Year of the Dragon!
For several weeks I heard
talk at home about fantastic looking heart-shaped cookies that my daughter
wanted to make. She had taken a children's cookbook out of the library with the
word "Princess" somewhere in the title and the book, with it's bright pink
cover, became a fixture on our breakfast bar. With each passing day more and
more pages were flagged with pastel-colored sticky notes, identifying the many
recipes she wished to try.
A call home earlier today
gave away the secret that the cookies were in production. I say production
because what I learned on that call is that these were no ordinary,
kid-friendly (read: easy to make) cookies that could be whipped up after
school. While a quick read of the recipe and it's mention of ‘shortbread
cookies' made my partner think they would be a breeze to make, the reality had
been a bit more complicated. To achieve the results of the alluring photo in
the princess cookbook would take time and dedication. And dinner would be
either leftovers or late.
When I got home from work my
daughter couldn't wait to show me the cookies. She was so proud of all the work
she had done to create them and had to explain their provenance.
First step: shortbread dough
rolled out and cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. While those were cooling,
another batch was made but these were cut twice: once with the same cookie
cutter and then a second time with a smaller, heart-shaped cookie cutter to
pull out an inside heart. During all this baking, cutting and cooling the white
chocolate needed to be melted and cooled. It would be spread on the bottom
shortbread and while still sticky, the heart-shaped frame would be positioned
on top. When the white chocolate was dried the finishing flair was raspberry
preserves which filled the inside heart.
The end results were
beautiful and delicious, perfect in every way and worth the effort.
our first year of Waldorf kindergarten, I remember our teacher mandating
homemade valentines. No candy or
other sweets please.
from a more conventional school experience, this demand seemed both burdensome
and a bit mean-spirited. How were
we going to make 24 handmade valentines in the next four weeks? And what's wrong with a little candy on
what's wrong with a little candy is the math. In a classroom of 24 children, one little piece of candy can multiply to 48 or 72 pieces and a
stomachache. So fine, no
candy. But what about this
Although daunting at first, 24 handmade valentines really
don't need to take over your life (unless you let them). Requiring Martha Stewart perfection
from a five year old (or a 45 year old) is asking for trouble. But the simplest red paper heart pasted
on a doily can be absolutely charming.
Keep it simple. And make
sure everyone is well-fed and well-rested.
with any craft project, you help your child break down the task into manageable
pieces. Definitely hold him
accountable for clean up-but let his aesthetics rule, and let him do the work. That way he'll have the sense of accomplishment
that comes from working on a project and completing it.
kindergartener chose to make Swedish hearts-an overly ambitious project I'd NOT
recommend before Grade 2 or 3, but she was adamant. So we split the work.
I cut the paper, and she wove the hearts, and we had scrambled eggs for
dinner three nights in a row. But
I learned a lot about my determined, nimble-fingered little girl on those
nights. And when the valentines
were finally done, she GLOWED with pride. (So did I!)
my children know to set aside time for making valentines. Believe me, when your tween sets aside
time to craft with you, you will bless the kindergarten teacher who so sweetly
required homemade valentines all those years ago.
or not you live in a snowy climate, the tug of outdoor fun in a winter
wonderland has strong appeal. Images of sledding, snowball fights, and watching
snowflakes fall from the sky while making snow-angels all can make us smile and
long for cold weather games. Who doesn't love the feeling of bundling up for
time in the outdoors followed by hot chocolate and cookies by a blazing fire?
are many ways for a family to enjoy outdoor time in the winter. For those who
enjoy the views from up high in the mountains and the rush of speed there's
always alpine skiing and snowboarding. However, except for the few who live
near the slopes a ski outing is an all-day affair.
the snow is calling and time and money are a consideration a great option is a
more leisurely outing such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. It's often
easy to get out for a few hours and children as young as five are able to
participate. My daughter loves to tear it up on the alpine slopes but also
appreciates the solitude and quiet beauty of Nordic skiing, and is never in a
rush when we're out on the trails. With young children it's a good idea to
limit the hills and keep the distance to a minimum as the energy they expend to
move forward on flat terrain is considerable and they'll tire easily. Bring
along high-energy snacks and water and be sure your children know that cookies
and hot chocolate await them at the end of the outing!
skating and sledding are other enjoyable options for short winter activities.
Even those just learning to skate will have fun for an hour on a frozen pond,
especially if they have a more experienced skater to hold hands with as they
make their way around the ice. For an older kid sledding has more appeal on
adrenaline-inducing hills in the mountains, while younger children are content
on small hills that provide just the right amount of rush. Don't underestimate
the value of a hour's worth of runs down what might seem like a short slope:
kids just love going down and walking back up over and over again.
few inches of snow is enough to make everything white and fresh looking and
merit a family walk in the woods or even just through town. Snowball fights are
bound to spontaneously occur and the cold air adds much to an invigorating
walk. That few inches of snow is also enough for a snowman, and oftentimes
children will want to head outdoors with the first flakes and will make their
snowmen before the ground is covered. Of course, when there's ample
accumulation there's the opportunity to spend hours building elaborate snowmen
and snow forts, plus a snow woman or two.