Reflections

With only the glow of the tree lights to brighten the room, I sit sipping my hot chocolate.  With the muted strains of glad tidings in the background, this is my time! No noise, no hustle or bustle, no pressure to get anything done. I am alone but not really as my family sleeps upstairs. It is the perfect time to reflect on all the changes that have happened this past year.

At times these changes seemed:

  • chaotic – anything that could go wrong did go wrong
  • welcome – about time
  • selfish – all about my needs
  • bitter sweet – sad, but knowing it was for the best
  • joyful – opening new doors and adventures
  • scary –  venturing into unknown territory

What made these changes more bearable was that I didn’t need to face them alone. I had my family to share them with. And when I look at whom I call family, this too has changed over time. I belong to a number of families – those I am related to, those I choose, those I work with and those who will always be a part of my life even after they have left it. I think this could be the case for many of the people whose paths have crossed mine.

For many, gone are the days of spending your whole life in one place surrounded by people you have known all your life. Today it seems many people move about (for work or by choice), grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren through video feeds, brothers and sisters live continents apart but get together with the touch of a button, and the number of childless families seems on the rise. I don’t think there is a standard definition of family that fits all. Family is what we make it on an individual basis, defined in a way that makes sense to us. I often wonder how others define family.

Oh dear, I have contemplated too long – my hot chocolate is now cold, there is no longer any music to be heard, and I am ready to go to sleep myself. Before I turn out the lights and head upstairs, please let me say, from my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you peace and joy and may all the changes you face in the coming year be met with a sense of wonder.

Keeping Kids Occupied in the Car

Are we there yet?” “She’s touching me!” “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”

Vacation time often means time spent in the car going from here to there. Whether it’s a quick drive to Grandma’s house or a grueling two-day road trip, keeping your passengers occupied while keeping your sanity can seem like a feat in itself!

Who remembers playing the License Plate Game as a child – or even as an adult? Why not try these simple variations or another one of these other games while on the road? All you need is a clipboard, some markers, stickers, a book of stamps, a hairbrush, and a little imagination and pre-planning, and you are on your way!

  1. The Name Game Watch for the letters in everyone’s names. They could come from license plates, billboards, roadside signs, or ads on the trucks whizzing by. First one to find all the letters in their names gets to choose a treat from the Goodie Bag they helped you pack before you headed out on your adventure (this is where the pre-planning comes in!).
  2. Boggle® Auto Style Using the letters from license plates, see how many three-letter (or four- or five-letter depending on their spelling ability) words they can come up with. Give them either a distance or time limit. Now go!
  3. Age Game How about the numbers? Perhaps they can try to write down the ages of all the occupants in the car. For mom and dad they may have to do some adding up of numbers.
  4. I Got it Game Randomly call out numbers and the first person to find it on a license plate gets a point. First to 15 gets to hit the Goodie Bag.
  5. Backseat Bingo Using pre-printed Bingo cards (there’s that pre-planning again) and stickers, be the first one to cover all the numbers on your sheet and shout BINGO! Or change it up and use some road signs they see along the way (construction, speed limit, animals on the road, etc).
  6. Post Office When you stop for gas or a snack along the way, let them pick out a post card. Help them address the card and write a message and then find the nearest post office and mail them (pre-planning, you already have the stamps). When they return home from holidays, they will have pictures of where they have been to add to their Summer Fun Photo Journal.
  7. Radio Roundup Sometimes radio reception isn’t all that great along the way. Or perhaps you just need a break from the scratchy all-talk radio or the blaring pop station. Why not try singing some rhymes or other little ditties and take turns interviewing (here’s where the hairbrush comes in) the Itsy Bitsy Spider or ask The Driver on the Bus why the babies were crying. Imagine the tales they have to tell!

Games can make the time spent in the car seem to go more quickly and everybody has some fun. Just don’t tell them that they have been learning at the same time!

Summer Reading Club

I have always thought that summer meant reading all the books that I didn’t have time for during the school year – ones that I wanted to read just because. One summer I got a box of books from a family friend who was closing their bookstore. I devoured 45 paperbacks while waiting for my next bunch of swimmers to show up for class or sitting in the truck waiting out a thunderstorm. I read everything in that box from autobiographies to how to guides, quick romances to epics, history to self-improvement. I even used a bunch of comic books for my Bronze Medallion class to read aloud while they swam on their backs and practiced their legs-only kicks.

When my girls were young, summer meant joining the summer reading club at our local library. Even before they were able to read on their own, we would go to the library once a week to take part in the games, crafts, and activities that were part of the program. Can’t forget about borrowing the books! My girls couldn’t wait to choose their books and get their game card stamped. Each week we would try and get at least one book that related to the theme for the summer.

This year’s theme is GO! I suggest you go to your local library and sign up now or head to the TD Summer Reading Club 2013 website http://tdsummerreadingclub.ca to check out all the book lists, games, and activities posted there that will challenge and inspire you. You might even get a surprise or two!

There is still plenty of time to join before heading back to school. Who knows, you might find a new favourite author or read a book that you would never have thought you would like. Take some time to read – you’ll be surprised where a book can take you.

Everywhere You Look…

Open a newspaper, check out a magazine stand, turn on the TV, watch the news, catch a conversation in the lunch room and chances are you are hearing about the absolute devastation that is the result of the rains and flooding in Southern Alberta. If it hasn’t affected you personally, you know someone whose life has been changed forever in some shape or form or know someone who knows someone. I see the pictures, hear the stories and my heart goes out to all of them. My daughter came into the room one night as I sat watching the coverage with more than a tear in my eye and said “Mom, turn it off if it makes you so sad!”

As an adult, I can follow up and read more about the way those affected are coping, see all the wonderful volunteers helping complete strangers without hesitation, understand the reasons why the flood victims aren’t allowed in their homes and rationalize that the pets sometimes can go a few days without food or water. The ones I worry more about are the children. They see the pictures and wonder why everything is garbage and why all the toys are being thrown away, see the people being rescued by boats and are scared because not everybody knows how to swim and how will they be saved, hear the big people around them say “it could happen to any of us” and be terrified the next time it rains.  They may only hear snippets of conversations, see their parent cry over the losses of strangers or watch the TV and not have anyone there to talk them through it.  How do we explain these kinds of disasters without scaring them? They hear things and take them literally, see the pictures and imagine all these things happening to them.

I remember the tornado here in Edmonton back in 1985 and how so many of the little people I knew were scared every time the wind picked up or the sky turned a funny colour. I didn’t know how to talk to them or reassure them that everything would be all right.

I was looking for ways to help little ones I know deal with the emotions these recent events have brought to the surface. I was fortunate that I got some really good resources sent to me and I would like to share them with you. Here are a couple of links that might be helpful to parents/caregivers who are looking for ways to talk about this with their children. Perhaps you have some others that could be shared here or words of wisdom on how you have dealt a traumatic event like the flooding.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Little Listeners in an Uncertain World

There are so many unseen casualties from the flooding. Wishing all our friends, neighbours, and fellow Albertans the strength to get through the rebuild and hope for tomorrow. With time all the material things can be replaced, it is the emotional wounds that will take much longer to heal.