What is Santa doing to your child’s self esteem?

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Let me preface this by saying that I don’t have a problem with kids believing in Santa. I think it’s fun, sweet, innocent, and embraces the spirit of giving.  So, I’m not saying you should give that up at all.  I would, however, like you to consider HOW you use Santa in your home.

Imagine this…

You are a young child and you work hard to please your parents & your teachers.  All year long you hear “You better be good, or else Santa won’t bring you any toys”.  So you do your best, but you make mistakes.  Just like we all do.  You have good days, and bad days.  You have days that are harder to obey than others.  But you try, you really do.

You’ve learned that your parents love you no matter what.  Even on the days you get in trouble, you have no doubt they love you.

As it gets closer to Christmas time, you hear it more often…I’ve heard it so many times in the last week that I’ve lost count.

”You better be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents!”

“You be good or you’ll get nothing for Christmas!”

So  you try.  You really do.  You feel awful when you make mistakes because you really really want to get that new toy, and you are scared, worried and anxious.  What if you get nothing?

Then, Christmas arrives, and you receive whatever your parents could afford to get you.  A new soccer ball, a Barbie, some new clothes, a Lego set…whatever it may be.  You are excited!  Maybe Santa didn’t get everything on your list, or maybe it wasn’t exactly what you had chosen, but it was for you and that made you happy.

Until you talked to your friends or the other kids at school.

Why did Betsy-the Bully get more presents than you did from Santa? Why did she get the whole dream house while you got just one doll?  Why did that mean ol’ Bobby get a fancy battery powered ride-in car, and you got Hot Wheels?

There is only one explanation if you believe in Santa.

You just weren’t good enough.

Your best wasn’t good enough.  Not only are you not good enough, you are WORSE than that bully.

Now, how do you feel?

No one ever explains to this children that we all come from different income levels.  A fancy toy in one house, might be nothing in another.

Parents do this to children every single year, and it breaks my heart!

I just really have a problem with the “Be good or you’ll get nothing!” threats.   My issue with it is this, either you are 1) setting your child up to be seriously disappointed & to feel worthless when this Santa they believe in doesn’t bring them any toys, or 2) You are throwing out an empty threat you have no intention of following through on.

Now, that said, I have no problem with a child who has been having discipline problems being told that they would not receive certain presents if certain behaviors didn’t change.  But those presents should be the ones given by the PARENTS – not Santa!

I thought about this and wondered how this would affect the children we’ve had from foster care.  I actually think this would be harder on the kids who are used to someone loving them.  Kids who come from tough family situations are so used to not feeling worthy, that Santa wouldn’t be any different.  They are used to having nothing, so to them *anything* is amazing.

But for a child who is growing up and still learning, still exploring, making mistakes and learning from them…why in the world would we want then to base their self-worth on what some mythical person thinks?  Yes, St. Nick was a real person, but today’s “Santa Claus” isn’t.  St. Nick never based his gifts on how good or bad the person was anyway.  He gave because he loved and wanted to help.

This is real, people. I’ve actually talked to several people recently who went through this as a child.  Believing that they were never good enough for Santa because their parents couldn’t afford to buy fancy toys.  They were told their behavior dictated their presents.  Then they got the best their parents had to offer, but it didn’t even compare with the gifts the other kids at school got.  So, they thought it was because they weren’t good enough.  They don’t even think about their parents’ income having anything to do with it…after all, this was from Santa, not Mom & Dad, right?

Parents, please just think about it.  Think about the message you are giving your children.  Let them believe in Santa, fine, but get rid of the “good or bad” stuff.  Peer pressure and comparing ourselves to others is hard enough.  Let them know that we give gifts at Christmas because we love.  Tell them Santa brought them exactly what he thought would be perfect for them.

If you are a Christian, then go a step further.  We give, because Christ gave to us.  He gave to us not based on our behavior, but based on his love for us.

While we’re at it, let me jump on one more soapbox! I’ve also heard this a few times lately and it makes me cringe. Please don’t threaten your kids with “I’ll call the cops if you don’t behave!” or anything along those lines.  The Police are our friends and they are here to help.  Please don’t make your children afraid to approach a Police Officer should they ever actually be in need of one.

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect

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“Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect” by Richard H. Schneider is a sweet tale of generosity, compassion, selflessness, and love.

I recently picked up this book from our church library.  The title caught my eye because my 6 year old daughter is a perfectionist and I’m always looking for ways to relate to her that no one except God is perfect, and that she doesn’t have to be.

This is a beautiful story!  All of the trees in the evergreen forest want to be the perfect tree in order to have the honor of being chosen by the Queen.  They need to have the best shape, perfect branches, and no gaps.  One small pine wants the same of course, and had worked hard to be the best it could be, but ends up sacrifices its perfect shape and the possibility to earn a place of prestige in order to help others.

Small Pine provided a hiding place for a rabbit being chased by wild dogs, cover for a mother bird lost in the storm,  and nourishment for a hungry young fawn separated from his mother.  In return, the pine received drooping and ragged branches with gaps in between.

Feeling that it had no hope of being chosen by the Queen, the young pine was surprised when the Queen recognized its flaws and knew the sacrifice that had been made, so she choose that tree to take home.

To be sure, it is an example of putting others before ourselves, but it is also a lesson that God uses the things we consider flaws to provide blessings to others.  I love that this story teaches that kindness to others is better than trying to gain glory for ourselves.  Putting others first is something that we know God wants us to do, but can also be hard to life out practically.  This teaches children that they will be rewarded for putting others first, just as we know we will be rewarded in Heaven for our love of others on Earth.

My eyes teared up as I read the last page of the book where it says, “For, as have many of us, the trees have learned that living for the sake of others makes us most beautiful in the eyes of God.”

I will absolutely be purchasing our own copy of this book and I look forward to reading it to my daughter for years and years to come!  This is definitely a keeper for generations to come.

You can purchase this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ChristianBooks.com

Silent Night, Holy Night

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” ~ Luke 2:6-7

Last night I was sitting on the sofa, enjoying the lights on the Christmas tree and listening to Christmas music.  “Silent Night” came on, and I sat there listening…and thinking.  That special night, over 2000 years ago, the most precious baby in the world was born.  Our Savior came on that silent night, a very holy night.  Jesus came into this world in a quiet stable in a little town.  No pomp and circumstance.  He could have had musicians playing, feasts prepared, and the best linens for his bed.  Instead, He chose to come into this world simply.  He was surrounded by farm animals and the smells of a stable, but He had warmth and love.  Why then, do we feel that we need more than that to celebrate His birth?

Allow yourself to relax this week as you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Find that time to soak in the Reason for this season, and give yourself grace if the decorations aren’t all out, or the menu gets changed because something was forgotten at the store.  Put your “To Do” list aside, and just sit with a loved one, or help a friend.

Keep it simple, just as He did.

The ADVENTure of Christmas

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I was so excited to see The ADVENTure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in our Holiday Traditions by Lisa Whelchel on the shelf at my church library! I love Lisa Whelchel’s books and this was no exception!  For those of you thinking, “I’ve heard that name before….” – YES! She played Blair on the Facts of Life in the 80′s!

This is a book that you should pack with your Thanksgiving decorations so you make sure to get it out on time!  For each of the 24 days before Christmas, she gives us a fun way to learn the significance behind our favorite Christmas traditions.  For each of these customs, she provides historical information written in a kid-friendly, easy to understand manner, along with a craft or recipe to help make the point.  Your family will love learning the traditions behind the Christmas Tree, The Candy Cane, Christmas Cards, Angels, Caroling, and more.

When learning about the tradition of putting Lights On The Tree, you can follow her recipe to make a Christmas Tree Cake with Flaming Stars. Doesn’t that sound fun? You get to light sugar cubes on fire!  Or you can do a Candy Cane Science Experiment as you learn the tradition behind this yummy candy.  As she talks about Angels, she tells you how to make an Angel out of your child’s hand and foot prints – sure to be a great gift for the grandparents. Another fun one I can’t wait to try is making a Hug Through the Mail. I think this will be perfect for sending to Daddy while he’s away from home.

I love that the activities & recipes are simple, and use easy-to-find supplies, but provide a lot of hands-on fun for all ages.  With just a little bit of preparation time, you will have fun, family activities to do all month,  She also includes “Teachable Moments” for each of the customs, providing thought provoking questions for the parents to ask the children, and suggestions of topics to discuss.   These would be great dinner time conversations, or sweet, quiet talks at bedtime.  The ADVENTure of Christmas will provide you with years and years of enjoyment as your family creates new traditions through the activities shared here.  I especially love that she incorporates her faith in God and the true meaning of the season, while also including the custom of Santa, and the traditions of wrapping, giving, & opening gifts.

The artwork provided by Jeannie Mooney in this book is just as amazing as the content! Beautifully drawn, colored pictures relating to each and every custom just draw you in, and will make it fun for your children to enjoy as well!

Since I didn’t have this book on December 1st, we’ll just have to jump in where we can! I can’t wait to try the Candy Cane Science Experiment, learn how to say “Merry Christmas” in Italian, or make a Crayon Candle.

This book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, LifeWay Christian Stores or ChristianBooks.com.

Refreshing my faith at Christmas time

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This is the last day of the Wives of Faith Christmas Blog Carnival, and I’m so sad to see it come to an end.  If you want to see more, check out all the previous topics and responses.

Today’s topic is, “How does your faith refresh at Christmas time?”

Christmas has been different for me as a Mommy than it ever was before.  Every year since having my daughter, whenever I sing “Away in the Manger”, I hear the words “no crib for a bed” and I think of my own sweet child.  I think about how much I love her and how I can’t imagine my life without her.  I think about what an amazing blessing from God she is.

See….isn’t she cute? This was her at 6 months old…her 1st Christmas!

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Then I think about how much God loves His Son and how I can’t quite grasp what God must have felt looking at this little newborn baby knowing that 33 years later He was going to suffer and die.  It’s one thing to know we will all die someday, but knowing your child would SUFFER?  I have a lot of people in my life that I love, but none of them enough to watch my child suffer.  My love just isn’t that big.

But God’s love for us IS that big.  So when I think about how much He loves us, it refreshes my faith.  When I think about how our Savior chose to come to earth in a humble, simple way so that He could SERVE….not to be served…that refreshes my faith.

It refreshes my faith in God, and in His unconditional, never-changing, never-ending love for me.

And it makes me want to share that love with others.  He loves me just as I am, and I pray for the compassion to love others the same way.

Christmas Ornaments…through the eyes of a child

When Lovebug was 3 we started a tradition of letting her pick a Christmas ornament for our tree each year.  Hubby and I usually get one too that has to do with something we experienced during the year, but we also thought it would be fun to see what things she would pick each year.  Someday maybe I’ll let her have them for her own tree…maybe.  It’s been so fun to look through her eyes as she picks out ornaments, and I love the mish-mash that we have on our tree – each with a story behind it.

Age 3 – She thought this was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen!

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Age 4 – She was dreaming of a white Christmas and wanted snow!

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Age 5 – We saw baby blue jays in our yard that year, so she wanted this to remember the bird…and it needed a friend!

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Age 6 – In honor of our kitty, Angel (we had her last year too, but this year she gets an ornament!)

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You might be a military spouse at Christmas if…

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This is Day 6 of 7 for the Wives of Faith Christmas Blog Carnival.  This has been so much fun! I hope you are checking out the other participants’ responses for each day.

I almost skipped today because I haven’t been a military spouse very long.  In fact, this is my first Christmas as an Army wife! I’m fortunate that my hubby will be home from AIT for a few days at Christmas, but I did manage to come up with an answer for this topic.

You might be a military spouse at Christmas if…..

* You send your husband a mini Christmas tree (complete with ornaments and one homemade ornament from Lovebug) in the mail, so that he can enjoy a little bit of Christmas away from home.

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Whose birthday is this anyway?

This has been a topic of many, many conversations in our house lately.  Our family really feels the call to do Christmas different this year, and in the future.  We’ve always tried to keep the focus on Christ and not overdo it, but we can do better.  In the past, we’ve always done “3 gifts” with Lovebug, one of which is always a book.  Jesus got 3, so it’s plenty for you too! :)  It’s never been a problem because that’s just the way it’s always been.  She also doesn’t believe in Santa, so that takes away the pressure of an extra huge gift.  We all get our favorite candy in our stocking, and we aren’t fooled by how it got there.  It’s just a fun treat.

This year, Lovebug went back and forth on whether or not she wanted any gifts this year.  She really, really wanted to sacrifice her Christmas in order to give to others.  Then she changed her mind a bit and just didn’t seem ready to give it all up completely, and as long as we were still helping others, that was fine with us.  After all, she is just 6.  I could tell she really wanted to want to give it all up, but was struggling with letting it go too.

Then, I shared this very moving post with her, and she again said that we should be focusing on Jesus for HIS birthday.  So, we decided that we’d still let the grandparents get her presents this year, but that our little family (the 3 of us) would not exchange any presents this year.  Instead, she wants to choose something from the World Vision Gift Catalog to purchase as a family.  She wants to get 2 rabbits and a Bible!

Lovebug and I were talking about how this makes perfect sense – to make Christmas about charity.  I mean, think about it.  When it’s your birthday, do other people go around giving each other presents?  At your child’s birthday party aren’t they all bringing things to celebrate the birthday kid? 

Does Jesus deserve any less?  Doesn’t He deserve the best?

If I need something, I’ll get it as long as we have the cash to get it.  If it’s something I just *want*, I can receive presents on my birthday.  This day, this season, is about doing unto others.  About caring for the least of these.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25: 37-40

I just read this post this morning as part of a Blog Carnival I’m participating in.  It was so good, I just had to share it with you!  In her post, she says, “I hate that Santa brings different toys to different kids based on parents’ income levels, all the while children are being told over and over that it’s based on how "good" they are.”

It made me stop and think.  I already cringe when I hear parents telling their kids at the mall that they might get that toy “if they are good”.  IF they are good? None of us are good.  Plus, you are talking to a CHILD! They are going to mess up.  So, what options do you have? Santa doesn’t come at all because they weren’t good enough? What does that teach them about love, grace and mercy?  More likely is that these parents are just throwing around empty threats and will buy the kid whatever is on the list anyway in an attempt to preserve the magic of Santa. Also not a good option.

Kelley’s post made me think.  I wonder what happens when the kids go back to school.  What are they thinking when they sit next to someone from a completely different socio-economic status and compare what gifts Santa brought them?  Do they feel like one is more worthy? Does Santa love him more? Was the poor child not good enough to get the big toys?  If they all believe that Santa brings toys to every girl and boy as long as they are “good”, how do they justify the end when some kids will get exactly what they wanted while others get nothing?

We are sheltered from the reality that so many kids have so little.  As a foster parent, I had kids come into my home with nothing more than the PJs they were wearing.  No toys to call their own.   Many children around the world will spend this Christmas longing for clean water, a piece of bread or a family to call their own.

I don’t mind that Lovebug doesn’t believe in Santa.  I actually like it.  We went to a Christmas event the other night (pictures soon), and one of the activities was to write a letter to Santa and mail it.  She wanted to do it “just for fun” she said, so of course I let her (I figured it was great handwriting practice!).  Sitting next to her as she wrote, was a little boy around the age of 10.  He was scribbling fast and furious as he looked over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being watched.  I had the camera handy because I was taking pictures of Lovebug, so when I saw the word “violent” on his page, I quickly pointed my camera at his letter and took a picture.

This is what it said.  This is NOT made up or photoshopped.  This was the letter that a 10-ish year old little boy was sending to Santa.

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Just in case you can’t read it, here is what it says:

“I have got good grades this year and would like some more violent games and and cataclysms on WOW (that’s World of Warcraft).  Shhhh don’t tell my parents pleaseee.  your friend, Ian”

Violence, lying and deceit.  I’m pretty sure that’s NOT what Jesus wants for his birthday.

What does Christmas mean to me?

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Today is Day 5 of the Wives of Faith Christmas Blog Carnival, and today’s topic is “What Christmas means to me?” Click here to see other participant’s answers (check the comments for links).

I thought about this one for quite a while because giving my honest answer means sharing a very personal part of my history with the world.  I almost avoided it all-together, but then I’m reminded that God has given me the gift of writing SO THAT I would share HIS story that is my life with others.

When I was in Junior High and High School, Christmas for me meant a time of peace.  It was the time of year that the family put on happy faces, filled the house with Christmas decorations, and for a short season….everyone fought less.  See, my father was an alcoholic and my childhood memories are just full of me hiding out in my room listening to my parents yell at each other, often escalating to cursing and sometimes worse.  Christmas time was different, though.  There was less fighting, more smiles & lots of yummy treats made by mom.  I don’t know if the whiskey gets watered down in the winter, but I do know that somehow, the mood in the house was always different in December.  Maybe it was the visual reminder of the season as our house was filled with red & green.  Maybe the nativity scene on the fireplace hearth made them pause.  Whatever it was, it was noticeably different, and I never wanted it to end.  My dad passed away over 9 years ago now, and my mom is happily remarried to a most wonderful man!

Now that I’m grown and have a family of my own, it’s very important to me to keep that feeling of peace in the Christmas season.  I love to get out and enjoy the festivities, but I also like to make sure we take the time to be still.  Christmas still means PEACE, but in a different way.  Peace because our Savior is born and He is the Prince of Peace.  Because of His sacrifice we will spend forever in peace with our Lord.  It’s also about the peacefulness that we create in our home.

My husband and I have always set aside one evening during the week before Christmas just for us.  A time to sit, talk, watch a Christmas movie, or go looking at Christmas lights.  Whatever it is, we take that time to just be peaceful before all the hustle and bustle that comes in the midst of wrapping presents, cooking food, & visiting all the family – all great things, but busy nonetheless.

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On Christmas Eve we attend church service enjoying the worship songs and singing Silent Night by candlelight.  Sometimes the family joins us, sometimes they don’t.  After church, we come home and enjoy a pizza dinner (sometimes homemade, sometimes ordered in) while watching a Christmas movie in our jammies (new ones for Lovebug).  We read the Christmas story before heading to bed for the night.

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After we had our daughter, we also claimed Christmas morning as our own.  That is our time as a family to wake up, do stockings, have a big breakfast, and relax in our jammies.  Then we head over to my mom & dad’s for a huge meal and gift exchanges.  We are blessed that both sides of our family get along well so we now combine our families on this day so that we go to one place to see everyone.

Our traditional Christmas Morning Stuffed Baked French Toast – YUM!!

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At my parents’ house

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Creating peace at this time of year can be hard, but I feel it is so, so important.  It’s also important for our daughter and her sensory needs that we don’t over-stimulate her multiple days in a row.  We want her to enjoy this season too, and that means making modifications and creating some down-time for her.

I don’t know how things will be from here forward as we will be living somewhere new next Christmas, but I know that Christmas will always be peace to me – as long as I take the time to make it so.

A Colorful Day!

Lovebug and I have been having a lot of fun incorporating Christmas into our school work!  Many of our Christmas activities come from the 1+1+1=1 website! This is one of my all time favorite homeschooling/preschool/early elementary idea sites…EVER! I am so very thankful that she provides so much of her hard work for the public to use for FREE!  I love FREE!  She has an entire Christmas “Tot Pack” of worksheets and printables available as well as a Nativity Tot Pack – check them out!

At first I thought some of them would be too young for Lovebug, but she LOVES them! Even if she already knows the material, she’s getting practice with fine motor skills (scissor work & coloring), and building her confidence as I work the easier things in between her harder subjects.

We also love these Christmas math worksheets from Kidzone.  Again, FREE! Lovebug’s fine motor skills are weak, so handwriting is her biggest challenge right now.  These are a fun way for her to practice writing her numbers.

We started the day with some letter tracing (letters A & B), then she traced a few color words in a book she’s putting together.

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We followed those with a number tracing page.  Then we moved on to a math worksheet because she thinks that’s fun!  She doesn’t realize she’s still getting more practice writing her numbers, she just loves to add!  Shhh, don’t tell her.

After all that, it was time for some art.  Today, she was using her dot paint markers and working on her Letter J Dot page.

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After finishing the page, she wanted some free time to just create, so she got out a white sheet of paper and wanted me to give her suggestions for what colors to mix.  I drew some circles and labeled 3 of them “red + blue”, “red + yellow”, and “yellow + blue”.  Then, I let her do all the painting and she just went with it!  She came up with more ideas for color mixing, wrote a couple words all on her own (orange and green) and was so excited when she was finished as she announced, “I made a COLOR CHART! All by myself!”.

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She wanted to write the words “Color Chart” at the top, so I took that opportunity to work on her spelling and problem solving.  I asked her how she could find out how to spell the words she wanted to write.  She said “Ask Mommy!”.  Smart girl.  I told her that was one way, but I wanted her to think of another way.  She said “Use the dictionary!”.  So she got out one of her dictionaries and found the word “color” all by herself.  She can read on a 3rd grade level, so finding the word wasn’t hard for her.  Her struggle is hearing the letter sounds in her head and translating it in order to spell it.  She can tell you the E says “Eh” (Thanks to Tad & Leapfrog’s Letter Factory!), but she doesn’t always hear it.

The word “chart” was a big harder as it wasn’t in either of our “First” dictionaries.  So, we sounded it out.  First the blend “ch”, then the “ar” sound, followed by the ending sound for “t”.  She was so thrilled that she figured it all out.  Then I showed it to her in the bigger Children’s Dictionary so she could see that she spelled it correctly.  Spelling has been a big challenge area for us the past year, so it’s so exciting to see her making leaps & bounds in that area.