Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Solstice - the Shortest Day of the Year

Winter Solstice - the Shortest Day of the Year
Kim @ Kids Matter
Winter or December solstice is coming to the northern hemisphere.   The December Solstice is when the earth is nearest to the sun and moving in its fastest orbit.  It is the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon.

The word solstice comes from the Latin word “sol” meaning (sun) and “sistere” meaning (to stand still). During the solstices, the sun stands still as it moves down the seasonal movement of the sun's path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction. At that time the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.

A solstice occurs twice each year as the sun reaches its highest or lowest position, relative to the equator.  As a result, on the day of the solstice, the sun looks to have reached its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, i.e., solar noon.

Time is measured as mid-day to the next mid-day which most of us do not know.  Days are counted by the earth’s spin and they are never exactly 24 hours.  Solar noon changes with the seasons.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  In 2012, the December solstice coincided with the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Many saw this as a prophecy of the end of the world.  We are still here and the winter solstice will be 12:11 p.m. EST Saturday, December 21.  The sun will be in the lowest point in the sky for the year and winter begins.  On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.

Las Vegas Guardian Express

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Love Does Not End With Death: Coping Through the Holidays

Love Does Not End With Death: Coping Through the Holidays
Belinda @ Kids Matter

Never is anything related to death a pleasant and easy experience. But… we have to pick ourselves up and get through the holidays. Isn’t that what they would have wanted for us? Chances are your loved one was well aware of your love for them. I think that is the hardest part about grieving, beyond the actual physical missing of them. So many doubts run through your head. You wonder if they knew the depth of your love. You begin to go over every conversation you had with them, every fight, and each argument from small to great. This isn’t grieving. This is doubt, a seed you have planted in your own mind to prevent you from dealing directly with death. So, how do you cope with death over the holidays?

No, I’m not a certified expert, but I do have experience. The first step is allowing yourself to admit that your loved one was well aware of your feelings for them. There… doubt eliminated.  Secondly, your loved one would not want you to grieve through the holidays. They knew, as we do now, that holidays are for celebrating life. And lastly, with that being said, celebrate the life of your loved one over the holidays. Yes, they are gone, but… oh, what a wonderful life they lived and what glorious memories they left in our hearts. This is not the time to shut out memories, smiles, or happy feelings… this is a time for sharing all those wonderful things given to you by your loved one.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt said it best, “love does not end with death”. So, if it doesn’t end with death then we must celebrate love every opportunity we get and holidays are no exception to that rule. Odds are you are going to gather with family that loved this person as well. Take this opportunity to include the deceased in your holiday celebrations. One suggestion would be to have an object that meant something to the deceased at the family get together. Allow this object, or even a picture of the loved one, to be discussed openly among the gathered. Allow people to recall those memories, smiles, and happy feelings. Will this be easy for you? Maybe not, but I assure you, your heart will feel better.

The roughest hurdle in grieving is the feeling that you have to let go of this person you loved so dearly. Why? “Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life.  The death of someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life— past, present and future.  The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assessing your individual situation.  Make the best use of this time to define the positive things in life that surround you,” as Dr. Wolfelt advises. Keep in mind that you were most likely not the only person on this earth to care about the deceased. That means you should connect with those whom you have an eternal bond with through life and death. Don’t push people away because you are in so much pain that just the thought of taking one more breath seems like you are committing a crime against the one you lost. Stop that! The person you lost loved you just as much as you loved them. They want you to continue on your journey through life and be fulfilled by the things in life that made them happy the short time they were with you. Live for them. Celebrate your life and theirs.

Death Came December
Written by: Belinda

Winter comes,
An unforgiving season,
Hazards at every turn,
We are unprepared.

Days grow shorter,
Darkness looms,
Depression sets in,
Minds grow weary.

Holidays come,
Days grow frantic,
Bills pile up,
Stress becomes reality.

Life goes on,
We travel to work,
Accidents happen,
We aren’t prepared.

Bodies grow old,
Organs fail,
God comes to call,
Families left to mourn.

December came,
Took many we love,
Memories it left,
We must carry on.

The hole in my heart,
One day will be filled,
With memories of you,
Until I see you again.

At the Gates of Heaven,
Steadfast you stand,
Your hand guiding me,
Your light protecting me.

Death came December,
Holidays upon us,
Memories heavy,
Heart’s a blaze.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas… Truly the Busiest Time of the Year

Christmas… Truly the Busiest Time of the Year
Kim @ Kids Matter
Christmas is such a busy time, especially when you work full time.  Most moms have to cook dinner and attend to the daily routine. There is never enough time to shop, have pictures made, send Christmas cards, bake, decorate, yada yada yada. The list is long. 
When I was younger, I actually dreaded Christmas. It was so much work for one day (December 25th).  Now I reflect back and wish I knew then what I understand now.  Remember that old saying, “too old too soon, too smart too late”?   Yes, it is so worth it to run crazy for a month or more to prepare for that one day.   It isn’t until years later that the impact is understood through the memories of our children and what they have to tell us about yesteryear. 
My daughter made the statement; while she was dating her now husband that, “Mom transforms the house into a Christmas wonderland. It is so great. I love Christmas!”   My children appreciate the old Santa pictures and also tell stories remembering those special presents.  For me, over the past decade, I have grown to appreciate the family gatherings while watching the children grow. This year my daughter is the mother of a one year old.  She is experiencing the stress of all the Christmas chores, but she does it, as we all did, for the child(ren).   I do think she “gets it” even if she might complain a little. I have only heard her complain about the expense of it. She is beginning to think about maybe a scarf and gloves or a candle.  We found inexpensive toys for children at Walgreens too.  After all, it really is the thought that counts.
We have begun to draw names for children in the extended family.  My sister-in-law wished that we didn’t have to do that for our immediate family. She remembers going to Grandma’s for Christmas and having a stack of presents.  She wanted her children to have that same excitement and memories.   Times are not what they once were.  Things are so expensive.  She explained that the stack of presents could be a coloring book and crayons in one, or socks in another. It wasn’t the richness of the gift, but the excitement of receiving a gift.  She is so right.  We forget that children just love to open presents.  Ever watch children at a birthday party? They tear from one present to the next; barely even acknowledging what the present is at that moment.
So, I think we should remember it is all worthwhile, downsize our gifts, and that it’s the excitement of having the gift that is most important to children.   Christmas is all about giving and loving.  The Christmas “chores” we do might just be a gift of love.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Finding Christmas Spirit

Finding Christmas Spirit
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Oh, Christmas spirit… where art thou?? I seek you in the dark, in the light, through the ark, and with all my might. I cannot find you near or far, here or there, or anywhere. I beckon. I summons. I plead on my knees. Oh, the need to feel the reason for the season. How I long for the enthusiasm of thee. Each year races by quicker as age sets in. Frailty overtakes me. January to November passes with the brevity of a summer storm. Year after year, time grows shorter. I reach out, too slow, Christmas cheer sped right by. I lunge forward, too fast, Christmas emotions linger slowly. I stood, not with grace, but lifelessness on my face. Hopelessness doth quickly gait. In the distance… carried on the winds of bliss, drifting note by note into a joyful melody, came the sound of a Christmas bell. The heavenly tune inspired a growing light within. The light originated as an ember and grew hastily into a blazing flame thrusting Christmas cheer throughout mind, body, and soul. Hooray… it’s Christmas!  Laughter erupted from deep within; tears of joy streamed mercilessly over my cheeks. Dancing and singing burst forth with glee. Oh, Christmas spirit, there you are… in joy and in light, for good will and all right. You hug me tenderly and inspire me tremendously. You are ever so gentle, but ever so fierce, as you enter like a lamb, and exit like a lion. You are ever present but often hidden by our own hearts, through the reality of life the other eleven months. We seek you so hard, yet you come in as an ember, a melodious note, a tender hug, the smell of cinnamon, a special ornament, a favorite cartoon, or a handwritten card. We are the seekers but you are the finder. Oh Christmas spirit, Oh… Christmas spirit, what a wonder you are.
Often, we seek so hard for inspiration that it goes unnoticed as it glares us in the face. Our hearts are so blinded by the day to day realities of life that we don’t see those blessings or evidence right in front of us. We must force ourselves to push the pause button. STOP… breathe… listen… look… and smell the sensations around you. It only takes one small ember to build a giant bonfire within your soul. Here are some inspiring quotes to fan the embers of Christmas spirit. Enjoy!
Dale Evans: “Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.”
Alexander Smith: “Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”
Ruth Carter Stapleton: “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”
Norman Vincent Peale: "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold; everything is softer and more beautiful."
Edna Ferber: "Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling."
Dr. Seuss: And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Marjorie Holmes: “At Christmas… all roads lead home.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Early Childhood Education Scholarship

Early Childhood Education Scholarship
Blog Squad @ Kids Matter
The Child Care Council of Kentucky and KIDS MATTER® are pleased to announce two scholarships ($500 each) to students in the field of Early Childhood Education. 
One scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in college in the state of Kentucky and the other scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled in a college outside the state of Kentucky. 
Applications are currently OPEN.
Applications will be accepted through January 18th, 2014.
Applications are available HERE.
Winners will be notified via phone or email.
KIDS MATTER® promotes education as one of its key components. 
Previous Winners: 
2012 KY - Jamie Hobbs, Other State - August Kummerfeldt (WA)
2011 KY - Marie Noble, Other State - No entries
2010 KY - Erin Wheatley, Other State - Melinda Emge (MO.)
Kids Matter® Invest Early, Invest Often

Monday, December 9, 2013

“Let’s PLAY!”

“Let’s PLAY!”
By: BA @ Kids Matter
I lived in a small town when I was growing up; in a quiet neighborhood where everyone knew each other. We moved to that neighborhood when I was about four years old, and lived there until the summer of my senior year in high school. It was a nice, new, white house with a big yard, driveway to ride my bike, and roller skate. There were kids to play with… and summertime was just the best.
In those days,  school got out at the beginning of June and did not go back into session until the day after Labor Day. Ah, those were the days, my friend. If you have never had the opportunity to have a summer break for that long you have really missed out on something great. Summers would stretch out in front of us like a long and winding road. It was the days of sleeping in, eating breakfast late, watching “Howdy Doody” and “Uncle Al” then hitting the great outdoors for endless hours of pure enjoyment, fantasy, and magic. I had to be  practically dragged in for lunch and supper. Often, my mother would let me eat lunch on the front porch. I couldn’t stand to miss a moment of what was happening outside!
Play was the name of the game!  My best friend lived down the street and we literally spent every waking minute together. I walked to her house or she walked to mine.. And, we were followed everywhere by our pets.  I had a beagle named Missy and she had a little bulldog named Skipper.
 At my house, we played dolls and each of us had a “house” on either side of the front porch.  We had tea parties and dressed up in our mother’s (donated) high heels, jewelry, and dresses.  If we played bride then sheer curtains were our dress and veil. We also played with our doll houses under the big tree in the front yard. Sometimes we were allowed to play in the sprinkler and would laugh and squeal as the cold water sprayed us.
 She lived on a farm (yes, there was one in town) and at her house we spent hours riding our bicycles up and down the long driveway, making a playhouse out of the chicken coop, looking for little fish in the stream that ran through the property, climbing trees, and putting on  talent shows on the loading chute.  We also mastered walking along the top rail of the horse fence surrounding the property.
At night, we played hide and seek and hunted lightening bugs. We walked the railroad tracks that ran through our neighborhood. Our mother’s didn’t worry about us because if we did anything wrong, a neighbor would be there to reprimand and then tell our parents! Neighbors were also there to lend a hand if we got hurt or when we needed someone to talk to. I was an only child and my friend had two sisters and a brother.  It seemed like one huge family. It was a great time to be a kid! 
We each had to be home by 10:00 p.m. to wash up and go to bed. There was no such thing as air conditioning so it was shorty pajamas and a black metal fan to cool me on those long hot nights. I would drift off listening to the sound of that fan. I never remember being uncomfortable (probably because I was so tired from playing all day). 
As we grew older our playtime changed; boys became part of our growing circle of friends. We played wiffle ball and had endless tournaments. We challenged kids from other neighborhoods to play against us.  At night we would play badminton, or my all-time favorite, croquette. We were allowed to walk to the library and stop for ice cream at the “ten cent store”. If it was a rainy day, we would meet on my friend’s covered front porch and play board games.  Anyone who came by would stop and play. 
Soon we became interested in those boys that we had been playing with for years.  They magically started to look different in our eyes and we developed secret crushes on a new boy every week. We walked to the local movie theater. The boys sat behind us and would later follow us to the drug store for a coke. We spent Saturday mornings at the local bowling alley.  The boys were there, too.  We went to the local pool and sure enough, those boys would show up and show off. If there was a slumber party, you could bet that boys would be hiding outside and tapping on the window until someone’s mother caught them and sent them running home.  Being a “tween” in the summer was so much fun. It was all so sweet and innocent. It was all so easy and peaceful.   
My friend and I shared many, many, many summers together… many good times that we will never forget. When we entered high school we each had different activities. She was a cheerleader and I was a color guard in the band.  Our friends grew to include lots and lots of other people and we slowly began to drift apart. Her life went one way and mine went another. The funny thing about it is that we are still friends, even though we rarely see each other. The impact we had on each other as we were growing up is still with us. We shared so much together back then… and now we have those fond memories to share. We could probably pick up right where we left off. I know we could.
Now that’s an idea… “Hey Carolyn, grab your dollhouse and come on over. I have a big tree in my backyard. Let’s PLAY!!”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thankful November to Giving December

Thankful November to Giving December
Belinda @ Kids Matter
Did you ever stop to think about how the months transition into feelings and emotions? Truthfully, I sure didn’t until I was pondering what the next blog topic would be and I realized it happens quite often. I think that’s called being aware of your surroundings. How’s that? Are you always cognizant of the ebb and flow of the calendar year?
Let’s take a look; examine the 12 months that make up our emotional rollercoaster. First up we have January with its new year’s resolutions and grandiose plans. As we put that month to bed with our less than anticipated results, we slip all into mush mode with February. From there we kiss the blarney stone and welcome spring. Yes, then the April showers that bring the May flowers and long Memorial weekend. June rolls quietly till near the end when summer emerges and vacations begin. July explodes with amazement and color as the heat peaks and moves us to August when vacations end and school begins. The work force celebrates September and October emerges with horror and fright into the lengthening nights.
Now, having just emerged from thankful November, we move eagerly into giving December where we give to those we thanked in the prior month and expand upon the giving by donating and contributing to those less fortunate than ourselves. Isn’t it odd that it takes us 11 months before we work up the enthusiasm to share and spread joy? That’s the ebb and flow of it. We just breathe and go with it… year after year.
Retailers know the ebb and flow, matter of fact that’s how they stay in business. They know when we are in mania mode. They target us with sales we can’t resist. So, if they know and we know, what would happen if we upset that ebb and flow? What would happen if we gave to the poor and fed the homeless all year long? What if we bought Christmas in June and were thankful every day? Crazy, right? Or is it?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Want To Make A Difference? Sure you do!

Want To Make A Difference?  Sure you do!
BA @ Kids Matter
Have you ever thought about how a small gesture on your part can make a big difference in someone else’s day and maybe even in their life?  It happens all of the time. Sometimes it’s deliberate, meticulously planned out, and sometimes it’s spontaneous.  You get on the elevator and smile at a stranger, you speak to a person on the street, or you throw a few coins into the cup of a street performer. Maybe it’s donating to the local food bank. You offer your neighbor a ride, read a child a story… the list can go on forever.  Most of the time, these deeds are just simple things that you would do normally.  This time of the year seems to bring out the best in people. 
People want to help… and generally, they just need to be asked.  The Child Care Council of Kentucky is asking you to spread some of your generosity to help provide quality education for children who are in early care (birth to age five).  The Child Care Council of Kentucky provides training to the teachers of young children in a large region of Kentucky. 
Many children, nowadays, spend the better part of their day with a child care provider.  These dedicated early care professionals are working along with parents to build a strong foundation of learning for those little ones in care, however, research shows that many children enter school for the first time unprepared to succeed.  Early care professionals MUST receive the education and training necessary to prepare children for school!
You know it and I know it… all children DESERVE quality child care provided by well-educated caregivers.  Take a moment on Giving Tuesday (Dec 3, 2013) and make a donation for the quality education of all young children.
Investing, even a small amount, can pay off with a big gain for our children.  Help the Child Care Council of Kentucky.  Make a deliberate decision, by clicking on the link below, to donate to a cause that will directly improve children’s school readiness:  
Thank you and always remember that KIDS MATTER®

All about the Butter on the Biscuit

All about the Butter on the Biscuit
Belinda @ Kids Matter
When life is just butter on a biscuit, you know your world is grand! BUT… when you find your biscuit is stale and your butter dripping all in your lap, what then? Yeah, what then, oh my! Let me tell you what you do. Been there, done that, and repeat it often, so I dub myself a pro. You step back, nuke the biscuit a couple seconds, don’t use so much butter this time, eat and enjoy! What? Why is this strange person talking about biscuits? Why is it even important?
Let me explain… biscuits are the equivalent to your life. If you don’t put a little excitement, fun, and joy in your life, life gets really stale… just like a biscuit. Now the butter… that’s the joy, fun, and spice you add to your life. If you overdo it you’ve got a nice mess in your lap, but with just the right amount… well you know… ummm butter on a biscuit!