Tag Archives: Family

Re-branding Santa

Santa Claus, as we know him today, is based on a fourth century Christian bishop, now known as Saint Nicholas, who was legendary for his generosity.  The most famous legend is that Nicholas heard about a family who was so poor, they considered selling their three daughters.  To save the girls from a life of prostitution, Nicholas tossed three bags of gold onto the family doorstep, thus providing dowries that would enable the girls to marry.

Saint Nicholas is thus considered a protector of children.  To celebrate this, a tradition emerged where children received special gifts on his feast day.  When this custom was brought to America, it became associated with Christmas and the name of the giver changed to Santa Claus.

Branding Santa

According to Wikipedia, the first appearances of Santa Claus wearing what we recognise today as the Santa suit, were drawn by Thomas Nast and appeared in Harper’s Weekly in the mid to late 1800s.  Fast forward to 1931, Haddon Sundblom portrayed Santa in the red suit as part of an advertising campaign for Coca-Cola.  It was this work that standardised the way in which Santa was portrayed from this point forward.

What next?

This year, Graphic Springs, a logo design company, invited suggestions on modernising Santa from 400 respondents from the UK and US.  A selection of these suggestions were then voted upon by over 4000 people from the UK and US.  The most popular suggestions were included in a graphic re-branding of the holiday hero.

Controversy erupts

Interestingly, media didn’t mind the thought of Santa going on a diet, using Amazon Prime, wearing skinny jeans and trainers, riding a hoverboard or in a flying car, or having tattoos and an iPhone.  Google “Rebranding Santa” and the one point most articles picked up on was that some 27% voted in favour of making Santa female or gender neutral. See this post and this post as examples.

As the comments on this brief statement suggest there are plenty of people who are offended by the possibility that Santa could be portrayed as anything other than male.  Some defend this with reminders of the ancient connection to Saint Nicholas.

It’s already been done…

In Santa Baby (2006) and Santa Baby 2 (2009), the Claus’ daughter, Mary, is called upon to save Christmas after her father takes ill and, in the sequel, wants to retire.  I suspect there may be other movies among the plethora of Christmas tales in which Mrs. Claus or another female plays the leading role.

What do you think?

Should consideration be given to re-branding Santa for the new millennia?  If so, what would you change?  Are there aspects of our understanding of Santa that must remain consistent (like gender)?  Why or why not?  We would love to hear from you.

Want to see more Holiday Posts?

Check these out: Elf on the ShelfRudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Baby it’s Cold Outside.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

 

Elf on the Shelf

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.

The song was first sung on a radio show in November of 1934.  According to Wikipedia  it became an instant hit with orders for 500,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours.  Since then, this song has become a staple of Christmas music with recordings by over 200 artists.

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

The lyrics of this song provide a warning for children – Santa Claus has a naughty and nice list and is watching.  This becomes an interesting opportunity for parents to challenge their children to behave or face the possibility of getting coal in their stockings.

Enter Elf on the Shelf

Fast forward to 2005 and The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition hits bookstores explaining how Santa watches, through the presence elves who visit children from (American) Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve when they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season.  The book includes a small scout elf which is expected to be found in a new location every morning.

Creativity abounds

Thanks to social media, the world can look in on the antics of the scout elves as families share photos and videos revealing where these are found each morning.  There are websites devoted to highlighting “Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas” and a quick search on Twitter gives examples like:

The controversy

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Elf on the Shelf.  Some find it overdone.  Others believe that teaching children that good behaviour is rewarded with gifts sends the wrong message.  There is also a plethora of adult humour that is mixed in with social media illustrations of Elf on the Shelf creating the potential for questions if children search #elfontheshelf.

What do you think?

Do you have an Elf on the Shelf at home?  Has become a tradition for your family?  Or do think this is seriously overdone and/or problematic?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Take your kids to work

I noticed on Twitter today that it was ‘take your kid to work’ day across the country.  Looking at #KidsToWork, there were loads of tweets of proud parents showing off their children in their workplaces as they were treated to a sneak peak of what their parents do at work.

Kids at work

My kid never participated in ‘take your kid to work’ day.  I don’t remember why.  Perhaps it was because dad is a teacher and it is easy to get a sense of what they do both at school and at home (marking is often all around our family room).  Mom, on the other hand, is a priest, a role which doesn’t necessarily have a typical day because there is a need to be available for pastoral visits, participate in meetings, prepare sermons, worship and other programming, preside at worship, and so on.  Some of these aspects would be inappropriate for a kid to be present and others would not be particularly engaging.

I suspect this dad, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency understands the dilemma of introducing your kid to a job that requires independent work that may or may not be particularly engaging for others:

Tailoring the day for the students

It would seem that some companies welcomed students and made a point of developing engaging programming that young people would enjoy.

CSIS Canada tweeted:


Baycrest provided experiential learning with an ‘aging suit’ according to this tweet:


Students at Alectra had some electrifying experiences:

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in ‘take your kid to work’?  If yes, what did that look like for you?  If not, why not?  Do you think that this is a meaningful opportunity for young people?  Why or why not?  To what extent do you think young people should be encouraged to explore careers through such hands on opportunities?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Financial Literacy

I recently completed the online survey about education reform.  This included a section regarding financial literacy expectations for students.  Namely, what skills should schools be teaching?  While I agree there are some technical aspects which can be taught in school – for example, how to calculate interest on a loan – there are life skills and a morality attached to the use of money that could and perhaps should be taught at home.

Teaching about money

There are toys appropriate for young children which can be used to introduce money.  There are cash registers that allow children to imagine shopping at a grocery store.  There are games that can be played that involve money – Monopoly (which has a Junior version), Payday, Life, and so on.  All of these can be fun ways to explore money choices and options.

Giving children an allowance

The government of Canada provides an outline to help parents reflect upon the extent to which giving a child an allowance can be a tool for teaching financial literacy.  Having access to their own money can be an important way to encourage children to save, share and spend wisely.  With their own money, children get to decide what purchases are priorities and develop an understanding of making choices about what, when and how to buy what they want or need.

Financial morality

Inherent in our use of money is a morality.  We make choices about our priorities including where, how and what to spend our money on.  These choices can influence our children’s priorities.  Consider, for example, those who choose organic and fair trade products or shop locally.  These options are often chosen intentionally and it becomes easy to share these priorities with our children, letting them know that there are consequences to what we choose to buy and the companies we choose to support.

Our relationship to money can also be reflected in our actions.  If all our children see is us spending in hap hazard ways, they may come to believe that this is appropriate thus developing a hap hazard approach to their own finances.  If we never show our children our bills, they may not realise the expenses that come with renting or home ownership.  If we never show our children what we do to save money, they may struggle to understand the importance and ways to save.

What do you think?

Do you believe that financial literacy in its entirety is something that should be left to schools?  In what ways do you think parents could and perhaps should teach about financial literacy?  What priorities do you hope to pass on to your children?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Picky Eaters

At a recent Thrive! Dinner we had paninis.  To accommodate vegetarians, I purchased an avocado hummus that I thought would be nice with red peppers, carrots, spinach and cheese.  While I have eaten garlic and roasted red pepper hummus, avocado was new to me so, I decided to give it a try with a carrot. 

The puzzled look on my face (the taste was not what I was expecting), led to a conversation that included inviting others to give it a try.  Initially there weren’t a lot of fans.  I followed up by making a panini.  The taste grew on me and another participant was really enjoying it as a dip.  In the end, it was an interesting experiment.

Food fights!

One of the challenges of parenting is getting our kids to try new things.  Picky eaters can be the norm for a considerable part of childhood and even beyond.  Sometimes the struggle is compounded by food allergies or anxiety making mealtimes a constant battle.

Tricks we tried

Over the years, we tried to get our picky eater to try new things.  For a while we used Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious” which had me making purees, freezing these in ice cube trays and then adding them to a variety of dishes.  Our kid knew that I would do this, but the rule was that I wouldn’t reveal what was in the food until at least half of the serving was eaten.

Recognising that kids can be turned off at the sight of something new and different, for a time we played: “name that food”.  I would make dinner without telling my family what I was making.  Then I would blindfold them at the table and give them bites of food.  They then had to guess what I made.  This was done with the assurance that there would only be one potentially new food on the plate so as not to overwhelm the picky eater.  Interestingly, this is when I introduced long grain and wild rice.  To this day I believe that my kid would have picked out the wild rice because it is dark in colour but because it was first tried while blindfolded it remains on the menu to this day.

Peer Pressure

As our picky eater moved into the later teen years, we have encouraged hosting dinner parties and going to meals with friends.  Engaging with others has helped to introduce our teen to some new foods.  Of course, this process comes with its challenges too.  Giving teenagers free reign to make their own dinner had them ambitiously trying to make pasta from scratch which ended up being a horrible failure.  In the end, the group opted to order pizza which we still considered a ‘win’ in developing independence.

What is important?

In the end, we know there are those who will go through life and continue to be picky eaters.  I know seniors for whom restaurant choices are a challenge.  Perhaps the most important thing is that whoever we are and whatever our preferences might be, our body gets what it needs to survive and thrive.

Do you agree?

Are you a picky eater?  Do you know a picky eater?  What tricks have you experienced to encourage picky eaters to try something new?  What does it take for you to try something new?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Friends!

At our Thrive! Dinner last night, I discovered that one of our young men is a fan of “Friends”.  Aired from 1994 to 2004, the show follows 3 men and 3 women through the struggles of early adulthood.  While done with humour, there was a realism to the challenges faced by the characters over the years as we watched every character go through job changes, relationship failures and heartbreak all while renting apartments in New York City and drinking coffee at Central Perk.

Life uncertainty

As Generation X was coming of age, Friends hit the air.  There are many themes which resonate with this generation.  I remember being a young adult talking with teenagers whose fears included being the first generation who was not better off than their parents.  Many of my friends didn’t get the jobs they hoped for upon leaving school.  Many changed jobs multiple times over their lives.  There were many reasons the characters from “Friends” changed jobs.  There are many today who understand and have lived with these kinds of changes.

I’ll be there for you

The theme song says it all “So no one told you life was gonna be this way.  You’re job’s a joke, you’re broke, you’re love life’s D.O.A.  It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear.  When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year, but I’ll be there for you…”

At the heart of this show was a story about relationships, friendships.  Despite the challenges of life, they always had each other.  They continually cared for and supported one another in a multitude of ways.  And they accepted one another’s quirks and eccentricities.

There is something poignant about this foundation.  There is wisdom in knowing that the best things in life are not material.  Relationships can bring meaning to our days regardless of what else we may confront.  In the face of breakups, divorce, job uncertainty, health struggles, life’s ups and downs, when we have people around us that we can depend upon we have a vital resource that allows us to persevere.  This is true for every generation.

Who are your friends?

There was once a post on Facebook which asked who, on your friend’s list, excluding family, have you known the longest.  For me, it is my university roommate and friend.  We haven’t lived in the same city for decades but remain connected through email, social media and texting.  We visit each other from time to time and can talk for hours about a multitude of topics.

Friends are a treasure, especially those enduring friendships which provide mutual support and care over the years.  Do you agree?  Who are your friends?  How do you nurture those friendships?  In what ways do parents help our children to make and keep friends?  What do you think is the most important lesson in regards to friendships?  We want to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

 

Happy Halloween

It is the day when people are encouraged to dress up and be playful.  We are among those who decorate our house with ghosts and bats and witches.  We have a mat we picked up at Canadian Tire years ago.  When someone steps on it – it screams!  It was the best $5 we ever spent.  The reactions of children who come to the door are priceless!

Getting Creative

Of course, Halloween doesn’t always arrive at a convenient time.  I must admit there have been many years when we hadn’t given much thought to a costume for our kid.  The result has been a time of creativity often an hour before going trick or treating.

Among my favourites costumes was the very first year.  At 8 months old, we hadn’t intended on taking the kid out trick or treating.  But as the night went on and we watched the neighbourhood kids run around, we decided it would be fun to knock on the doors of those we knew.  On the spur of the moment we pondered a costume.  Taking a canvass bag, we dropped the kid inside and added stuffed animals and dolls.  Our kid’s first costume thus became: a bag of toys!

Another favourite was also a last minute conjuring.  Sailor hat, life jacket and some well-placed green tissue paper transformed the kid into what we called ‘lost at sea’.

Trick or Treating

To be fair, hubby and I took turns distributing candy and trick or treating.  It afforded us each an opportunity to have fun and connect with neighbours.  As the kid grew older, there came a time when a desire was expressed to go solely with friends.  We insisted the group be at least 3 and set some parameters which were followed.  It was the first time our kid carried a cellphone, one tool that allowed for some independence.

We Scare Hunger

When we were young, trick or treaters were encouraged to carry UNICEF boxes and collect change along with their treats.  It created an opportunity to do something for children around the world who live in poverty.  I haven’t seen those boxes in quite a while.  However, another organisation has taken advantage of this opportunity to build awareness around hunger.

Free the Children (now known as “We Charity”) has included in its materials the suggestion of using Halloween as an opportunity to collect canned goods for local food banks.  Some have done this in school or with other groups.  Our kid and friends, did it by bringing a wagon with them trick or treating.  As a result, we allowed the kid to trick or treat a couple years into high school.  This meant one year when we had 4 kids, eating loads of candy and ‘sleeping over’.  Oh the memories.

What do you do?

Every family is different.  What are your memories of Halloween?  What traditions have you developed?  What was your favourite costume?  We would love to hear from you!  Trick or treat!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Families

How sitcoms portray family has shifted – from the criticism of “Murphy Brown” in 1992 to the more recent sitcom: “Modern Family” which includes a gay couple, blended family and the traditional heterosexual family.  These are but two examples which mirror the ways in which the realities of family have also shifted.

Did you know?

According to the 2016 Canadian census:

  • While 98.6% of children in Canada live with at least one biological or adoptive parent:
    • 3% live with two biological or adoptive parents;
    • 1% live with one biological or adoptive parent and one step-parent;
    • 2% live in a lone parent family
  • 30% of dads claimed or intended to take parental leave in 2015
  • 9% of all couples in Canada are same-sex couples
    • 9% are male couples
    • 1% are female couples
    • 1 in 8 same sex couples had children living with them
  • 21.3% of couples living together in Canada are in common law unions

It’s Complicated

In an effort to accommodate these variations, we are beginning to see forms which no longer ask for Mom’s name and Dad’s name.  Instead, parent 1 and parent 2 or simply ‘guardian’ is becoming more the norm.  This creates space from which families that are not headed by heterosexual, married couples can still be seen and treated as valid.

In fact, it is entirely possible that children today are familiar with at least a few of the many different forms of family simply because there are friends and classmates who are outside the old norm.  Generation X parents are somewhat familiar with this shift as we witnessed a number of divorced, blended and single parent families during our tenure as students.  Now there are a few other options in the mix. Still, the challenge remains: how do we ensure that all children feel comfortable talking about their families at school and elsewhere?

Family Tree

When confronted with families that are not headed by a heterosexual, married couple, how do we respond?  Are there family types which prompt an awkward reaction by us or others?  Are we comfortable talking about the various possibilities within our families?  What would it take to ensure that all people could feel valid and welcome in our homes, our schools, and our communities?

To quote from Murphy Brown: “Whether by choice or by circumstance, families come in all shapes and sizes, and ultimately what really defines a family is commitment, caring and love.”

Do you agree?  How would you define family?  What do you think is important for ensuring that all types of families feel valid and welcome?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Consent

My nephews, with whom I am close, were at our last Thrive! Dinner.  As things were wrapping up, I put my arms around the shoulders of one of my nephews and said, maybe next time we will talk about consent.  He looked up and asked “Consent? What’s that?”

I responded, “Well, I should have asked before I put my arms around you.”  With that I put my arms down and then asked if I could put my arms around him, to which he said “yes”.  I then asked if I could hug him and again he said ‘yes’ and we hugged.  “Is that consent?” he asked.  I said “yes and if you said ‘no’ or I didn’t want to, then we wouldn’t hug.”

Family closeness

There is a closeness in some families which is reflected in physical expressions like hugs.  As a result, it becomes natural for us to extend those expressions across generations.  Ours is a family that hugs, when we come together and when we leave and sometimes in between.  It is an expression of our love for one another.  A question to consider, however, is what happens if a child does not want to participate in this custom?

We know it happens.  Sometimes children are grumpy or moody or tired or simply playing shy and don’t want to hug one person or another.  It is easy for us to guilt them into relenting, telling them that they are making grandma sad or their uncle will be mad at them or bribing them into doing what is considered proper.  The goal, of course, is to encourage our children to be part of a tradition that is important to us and reflects the closeness of our family.  When physical expressions of our love for one another are the norm, we don’t necessarily consider alternative messages that might be sent when we try to get children to conform to that tradition.

Teaching Consent

What might happen, however, if when a child is reluctant to participate in these traditions we respect that decision?  What would we be teaching if we said, ‘that’s OK, you don’t have to hug grandpa today if you don’t want to’?  It is true that it may cause someone to feel left out, but it may also help our children understand that they can choose when to participate in hugs, while at the same time learning that it is OK for them, and someone else, to say no and have that decision respected.

Teaching Body Language

Certainly verbal cues provide important insights.  It is also true that before he left, my nephew (and his brother) gave me hugs without anyone asking if it is OK.  This is something we have done for a long time and there was no resistance indicated by anyone.  We are happy to share hugs.

This could create another opportunity to talk about what consent looks like for those people we know well.  Are there ways that we show resistance when we don’t want hugs?  What might happen if someone pushed away or even ran away when it came time to offer hugs?  This too could be a lesson in respecting boundaries and understanding consent.  There are many ways we say ‘yes’ and many ways we say ‘no’.  Recognising all the ways we communicate can impact the ways we come to relate to family, friend and stranger.

What do you think?

How do you recognise consent?  To what extent have you discussed consent in your family? Do you believe that it is important for us to have conversations about consent?  What does that look like for you?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Time – A Thrive! Dinner Review

Sept. 30th beginning at 5pm, a group from Essex County came together for a Thrive! Dinner.  It began by making quesadillas.  This was actually a new experience for some.  In fact, one person admitted to googling it ahead of the gathering.  As I think about it, we never had quesadillas when I was growing up either.  It is something that we have come to enjoy thanks to increased exposure to Mexican food.  Life changes as we open ourselves to new experiences.

Eating together

As we sat for dinner, we shared fellowship offering insights into the highlights of our summer and our dreams.  At times the room grew quiet as we munched away.  It was a mirror of family dinners with their ebbs and flows of conversation.  Sometimes we need a little help to keep everyone engaged.

We actually finished the meal early.  Knowing that one family would be late, we took the time to be a little silly as participants paired up and took turns trying to empty a bucket of balls that was tied behind our backs by shaking it like Shakira.  While there is video of this, we have opted not to include it here to protect the dignity of our participants  😉 If you want to see this in action, you’ll have to come to a dinner!

Playing with time

Once all participants had arrived, we broke up into teams and began a kind of obstacle course which explored the challenges of trying to manage time within families.  Stations included “last minute science project”, “I can’t find my…”, “slow eater”, “dinner dilemma”, “homework”, “quiz prep”, “late for the bus”, “walk the dog”, “two places at once”, and “scheduling”.  Each activity sought to mimic a reality in the life of families.  Click here for a description of these activities.

Going deeper

Breaking off into our groups, we took some time to talk about the activities.  When asked which resonated most with our lives, the parents recognised the scheduling as a regular challenge.  We also acknowledged the struggles getting children to school on time and dealing with homework.  It is frustrating that the way some subjects are taught are so different from what we remember.  Sometimes we need to admit we don’t know and tell our children to ask their teacher.

Homework help

Enter the Internet – did you know that the Ontario Ministry of Education offers free, live online math tutoring from an Ontario teacher?  Check out http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/elearning/homework.html for more information.  It is also possible to find videos and other helpful tools when you google a topic.

Time challenge

Family life today is surrounded by many challenges.  From busy schedules, to meal planning, to seeking to balance work and life, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Still, as we gathered together at the end of the evening we recognised that there are those incredible moments when we are in our ‘happy places’, gathered together doing meaningful things.  Our prayer is that we continue to make time for those moments so that our lives continue to include the joy, grace and wonder that comes with being family.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/