December 20, 2013

Memories of a Christmas Past

Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I grew up in a small house with a large family where my mother made the holidays a time of happiness and wonder. We didn't have much in the way of money or things when I was a child, but like the "Whos of Whoville" we always had Christmas joy in our
hearts and home no matter what we got from Santa.

I distinctly remember one Christmas when I was about eight years old. My family had those big old-fashion outdoor lights in many different colors. I was always so excited when my dad put them up, the earlier in December the better! For me they were a sign of the joy of the days to come. That particular year we actually got some cold weather, and in Florida that's a rare occurrence. That night we all went outside to see the lights when Dad turned them on for the first time. Oh, the wonder! We were giddy with excitement, so much so that my mother had to find a way to calm us so we could settle down for bed.

She brought out blankets and hot cocoa and had us sit up on the hood of our family station wagon so we could get a better view of the decorations. It was so cold we could see our breath and we shivered as she got us bundled up together. She started singing Christmas carols with us and before long her favorite song, Silent Night, finally quieted us down. I can remember squinting my eyes to make the lights turn into stars of bright joyous colors and thinking I could never be happier than I was at that moment. This fond memory of our family traditions stays with me to this day and instills a wonder of the simple things I have shared with my own children throughout the years.

This post is part of the Unwrap Your Memories Campaign for Destiny USA. Check them out here:

Ten Things Parents of Adults Wish They Did When Their Children Were Young

My children are all grown now and sometimes I find myself looking back and wishing I had received a child rearing manual when they were born. I did a LOT of these things and thankfully my kids turned out pretty well with some ups and downs and a few frantic moments. And, yes, I wish I had done a better job on some things. Hindsight is 20/20, so my gift to you parents of all ages, especially the ones just starting this little adventure, is this collection of thoughts and advice I wish someone had given me when I had babies. 

1. Hold them more. Yes, you cuddled your babies and kissed the littles when you dropped them at day care or school.  As they grow up they tend to want their own space and eventually you are suffering from empty-arms-syndrome, because as adults they don't think their mommy or daddy need hugs and kisses any more. Trust me, this happens faster than you could ever imagine. One day they are all over you vying for your attention (which sometimes is focused on other things you deemed much more important back then) and the next they are running out the door with their friends, leaving for college or tending to their own families. 

2. Teach them to play well with others. I grew up in a large family so I had no choice but to learn this lesson early on.  When you have three sisters and three brothers in a small house you either play nice or bedlam ensues, which it did on a regular basis, but we grew up respecting the space and objects belonging to our siblings. That extended to our friends and the rest of the world. When a child grows up expecting everything to be served to them on a silver platter and that the world owes them a living life can get really hard really fast as an adult.

3. Be consistent. Sound easy? Not so much. We naturally want to protect our kids, even from themselves. If they get into trouble they need to learn there are consequences for their actions. Their actions and those consequences can become more severe as they get older. If they learn from you that there is a hard fast line they can't cross over it is more likely they won't have to worry about the scary things that can happen to them if they don't. Letting them get by on seemingly little things over and over gives them the idea that you, and everyone else, will always be lenient and forgiving. The world typically does not work that way. 

4. Keep them focused on what's going to be important later in life. Children need to have fun, play and dream a lot, but interjecting reality into their world will help them function as adults. Teaching them the importance of education, a good work ethic, loyalty and trust will help the rest of the world love your children as much as you do.

5. Teach them to respect their elders and authority. This used to be a given. Not everyone did, but for the most part when I was a kid I feared stepping out of line because I respected the fact that my mother would not tolerate bad behavior. I have seen first-hand the results of children that do not have that fear and respect wind up in a world of trouble because eventually someone will step in and set them straight and it will likely not be as gentle as you might have been.

6. Show them the world. Exposing your children to different foods, places and people will round out their education. If they stay in the same place, eat the same foods and never venture too far out of their comfort zones they will miss out on a lot of things that will open their eyes and minds to the rest of the world and the people in it. 

7. Turn off the TV. Turn off the video games. Turn off the computer, cell phone and iPad. Immerse yourself in your children's world every chance you get. Play with them, read with them and above all, listen to them. They need to know you will give them your undivided attention even for the little things. That way when there is a big thing they will be more likely to confide in you knowing that you will listen with an open mind. You can always turn the devices back on when they go to sleep.

8. Take more photos and/or video of your children as they grow up. It's is easier and more affordable to do this now than it was when my children were little. While living in the moment is really important, remembering through photos can keep those memories more vivid.  I learned a hard lesson when one of my children suddenly died at age three. I always thought I would have infinite time to capture her cuteness, sweetness and even her naughtiness on film to look at when she was grown. It doesn't always work that way. I cherish the few photos and videos I have of her, but wish that I had been more vigilant. You'd better believe I have thousands of photos of my other children, but I still have to remind myself to pull out the camera every time I get the chance. Cell phone cameras make this a no-brainer. As a side note, have them take photos and videos of you too even if you loathe having your picture being taken. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and they will want those to remember you by when you're gone.

9. Teach them to be independent. They will one day not only have to be responsible for their own welfare, but likely that of their own family. Children who grow up knowing that they will need to provide for themselves will not find the fact that they have to pay rent, buy food and pay for their car, insurance and medical expenses such a shocking revelation.

 10. Last, but not least, make sure they know you love them, faults, failures and all. Don’t just assume they know. Tell them. Use the words and do so in a way that they know you mean them. Growing up in a loving, compassionate environment where they are treated with respect and a guiding hand goes a long way toward them growing up to be the responsible, caring adults we want them to be.

December 16, 2013

Happy Holidays from Bidwell Botanicals

Traditions. Our holidays are full to the brim with them. We grew up with our family traditions and now pass them onto our children and our children's children. We create new traditions and blend them when we marry or meet new friends. The memories of days gone by surge to the surface and envelope us in warm feelings of joy, love and happiness. Even the most simple gestures like decorating the Christmas tree, making holiday treats with our children, lighting the Advent candles or listening to holiday music evoke strong memories of the loved ones we made them with. These traditions are an important part of our holidays. They strengthen the bond between family and friends. They make this time of year one of carefree happiness. Even those of us that have hardships, illness or stress can put our cares on the shelf if even for a brief period of time. 

We wish for you a tradition filled holiday season. One of sweet holiday memories of making merry with your families and friends. We hope you feel the warmth and joy this season offers and that it remains with you the whole year through. 

Happy Holidays from Bidwell Botanicals