Category Archives: Family

The Leaders of Tomorrow, Raising Children

water-fight-442257_1920Kids - and more kids everywhere.   Whether or not you have kids living at home, or adult children, or no children at all; WE are ALL affected by the kids of the world.  Raising children is vitally important.

The youth of today WILL be some of the leaders of tomorrow.

The youth of today WILL be our teachers, police officers, our war veterans, our doctors, our lawyers, the business owners, and the administrators and care givers helping us adults when we enter old age.

The youth of today will possibly be the homeless adults of tomorrow, the veterans having issues, parents that can't find work, and even the criminals locked up in prison.

WE ALL have a responsibility to raise kids that can be the LEADERS of communities, states and this great nation.  We have a responsibility to nurture kids that will want to do the hard jobs and do them well.  We need to raise kids that want to be great teachers to help educate future amazing adults.  We have a responsibility to provide an environment that fosters the arts and creativity in children to help their amazing minds reach their full potential.  We need to place emphasis on raising children in a healthy and dynamic way.

"It takes a village to raise a child." -African Proverb

I know this to be true.  One, I was once a child and two, I have seven children myself.american-soldier-381847_1280

As a kid, I knew that I anywhere I went, if I mis-behaved any adult would be free to correct me.  And as a kid, I respected every adult.  No, life wasn't perfect.  There were adults in my village that were not honorable.  But, that didn't matter.  I had a whole village.  I had church, school, my neighborhood, my friend's parents, my extended family and of course my parents.  Most of them felt it was their duty to correct me when needed along my path.  I think I turned out pretty decent.  I NEVER had the perfect childhood either.  Go figure.

I had good and bad examples.  I learned from both.  I was nurtured by the good examples.  And I was allowed to develop my talents and stretch my brain.

I didn't have a perfect childhood, I didn't get special training or classes, I often got picked last, sometimes I won, sometimes I was alone and scared, sometimes I lost, sometimes I had no friends, my heart got broken and sometimes I got in trouble for things I didn't do and sometimes I actually got away with something.  I fought with my siblings, babysat them and thought my parents were unfair.  I did have people in my life who loved me and some who didn't.  I had a village.  I am the product of that village.

When I was very young, racism was very much alive and real.  Once I was even told not to play with kids that had a different skin color by one of the adults in my village.  That was still an accepted idea at that time.  But I saw those same adults treat other adults with different colored skin with respect and I knew we were all the same.  Then my grandmother did some research, privately but because she was part of my village we all saw and learned from her; anyway she did some research on different races, read books, prayed and changed her view on this topic.  My grandmother was born in the 1920's in the west.  I learned from my grandmother we could adapt and learn on some very controversial topics.  This same grandmother kept taking classes and learning.  Her world went from horses and a few cars to jet airplanes and computers and she kept up with it.  She even took language classes.  I learned from her to keep my mind busy, learn new things, and stay active.  She also served the community a lot in the local hospital and at church.  I saw her quilting blankets for the hospital all the time.  She was serving others until she was 90 years old and passed away.  I learned to serve as a virtue from her.

When I was born, I was left handed.  Although most of the adults thought I "should be" right handed.  In 1st grade I broke my right arm.  The school of course hired a tutor to take care of me even though I insisted I still could right with my left hand.  Nope - I wasn't "allowed".  And I missed that very important time of the day COLORING.  However in 4th grade my teacher was a hippy rebel, she even made us sing "hippy songs" which I still remember to this day.  Well my hippy teacher thought it was good to be left handed and even got me left handed scissors.  I didn't have bad feelings to the other teachers, but sure my heart was happy with my 4th grade hippy teacher that made a huge difference in my life with teaching me that lefties are awesome, hippy music was fun, and basically learning was fun.  She dressed well and taught more than what was in the books.

piano-1493797_1920I always loved to play the piano.  I didn't have a teacher once so I asked my granny if she would teach me.  She was very talented.  She was very blunt and honest with me and said she didn't like kids and wouldn't be able to.  She just didn't have the patience to teach piano lessons.  The horror..... NOT.  My granny was kind and loving and honest.  A trait she taught me.  She taught me that you can be openly honest and kind.  I never held it against her, in fact I loved her even more and admired her.  She did obviously have children of her own, that is how she became my granny.  She had six children.  And she played cello and other instruments, she painted, carved, and made tons of amazing crafts.  In fact this granny kept her hobbies up and learning new arts until she died.  She stayed busy doing and creating.  She in her youth was in an orphanage.  She went onto be one of the artists in Disney's movie "Snow White".  I learned you are never too old or too limited to develop talents.  And I learned you can be honest with yourself and others and still love people.

I had a friend at the age of four.  I still know her today.  She is my oldest and dearest friend.  I spent a lot of time at her house.  Her mother was an industrious person, always busy making things.  And no matter what, anytime I went to her house, she smiled and said hello.  She was a happy person and always had a meal to share.  I don't know if I know a happier person.  She is getting old now but when I see her, she still has a big smile and says hello.  My friends dad was a tease.  He teased me non stop.  They both made me feel accepted in their home and I was expected to follow the rules, which I did of course.  I learned from them how to treat other all the time.

I had a piano teacher, my neighbor.  She went above and beyond teaching me the piano.  She loved the piano herself and she saw in me greatness when I didn't see it myself.  She weekly inspired me.  She had loads of patience even when I didn't practice and she encouraged me to excel and strive for my very best.  I didn't believe in myself or my talent, but she did even when there were others that could play better than me.  She helped me believe in me, the real me.  She taught me that if I worked hard I could play the piano well.  As a senior in high school I learned to play Brahms Rhapsody in G minor.  I learned to keep practicing the rest of my life and the joy of playing an instrument.

I had uncles in my life that not only teased me and played tricks on me, they nurtured my scientific mind and encouraged me to go to college, a university.  Which I did to major in Aerospace Engineering.

When I was eight, I got bit by a rattlesnake and I was in the hospital for nearly a week.  Adults in my village from the community that knew my dad and from church came to visit me.  One of the "old men" snuck me in a milk shake which made my day during the long days at the hospital.  They visited me, which was so nice.  We didn't have computer games, Game Boys, or much TV at that time.  Visitors made the difference.  They even played games with me while I was stuck in bed.

In addition to setting a good example for children - your own or in the community; teach them to endure.  They also need to learn to work in groups.  They can learn the art of negotiation in groups, with their friends or siblings and in school.

Give kids opportunities to make decisions.  As small children this starts with choosing their clothes with your help, you might offer two acceptable outfits and let them choose.  As they get older, the choices should be more complex.  But never make it a do or die situation, they need to LEARN TO MAKE CHOICES.  Our job as mentors (parents, family, neighbors and community) is to help teach them how.

Kids need opportunities to speak out and even debate issues.  They need to learn to speak with confidence, to look people in the eye and shake hands.  They can learn these skills in school, at home, at church and other community programs.

Raising my kids, I was shocked at how many kids in the neighborhood didn't have chores or work to do - or very little and even more shocking was that their friends enjoyed coming and helping my kids do work.  The value of work is an important skill for them to gain.  Small kids can have chores, be patient with them.  I gave my kids chores and at night I went behind them and cleaned up or fixed the job.  But they can learn to do a job and do it well.

My mother had eight children of her own.  She made most of our food from scratch.  She took the small salary that my dad, a police officer, had and raised us all.  I guess we didn't have a lot of money, but I never knew it.  She was thrifty and industrious.  She made clothes for us - especially new dresses for Easter.  She made Christmas gifts for us.  I have a jewelry box, quilt, and other treasures that were made by my parents.  She canned, had a garden and taught me to be self-sufficient.  She got us part time jobs to earn money.  I weaned animals for farmers, chopped weeds in cotton fields, and babysat.  All this before I was twelve years old.  I learned to work from my mother who had an endless supply of jobs that we were to do well before we were allowed to play.  I knew I could work hard.  I could chop wood for the fire place, and move a bale of hay which can weigh about 50 lbs.  I also learned to ride horses from my mother, which I love to do.  We worked hard and then we played.  My mom had us on picnics, horseback riding, camping, and cooking out.  She taught us to have a good time with each other.  She sacrificed a lot for us.  And one time without knowing, she taught me to pray.  I went into her room late one night and saw her silently on her knees for a long time.  And I knew where she got her strength from.  She loved us.

My dad was in the air force, in fact he was in boot camp when I was born.  After he served he came home and did a few odd jobs.  At one point he owned a janitorial company and I remember helping clean the businesses that hired him. We all pitched in the family business.  My dad went to school and then became a police officer and finally he ran for the office of sheriff.  My dad was a hard worker.  He figured out how to remodel and keep our house that was about 70 years old at the time in good shape.  And of course, guess what - we all learned.  By the time I was in high school I learned to sheet rock a wall, and do a roof.  And when we did that roof, the village showed up to help.  We didn't have money to hire people to fix all the stuff a family of ten goes thru, so my dad learned to do a lot.  I thought he was a genius.  I learned a lot I could do.  And my dad loved to travel, so we did and I learned to love the diversity of this country.  His favorite and mine was the beach.  Most importantly my dad taught me what you focus on grows.  He taught me to raise my kids focusing on what I wanted, not what I didn't want.  He sacrificed a lot for us.  He loved us.

I had tons of bad examples in my life.  I'm sure we all do.  But these are just a few of the great lessons I had in my life from the people in my village.  They all made a difference in who I am today.

Get involved with the youth of today - play games with your children, grandchildren or anyone.  My mother-in-law at the age of 92 still plays games with my kids and that that is one of the best memories they have with her.  She never lets them win either.  When they win, they earn it and they know it.

We all, no matter what, need to make a difference today.  The future needs us to.  Our village needs us.baby-1317627_1920

We are mothers to other's children.  We are teachers.  We are extended family.  We are examples.  We are guardians of virtue and values.  We are the story tellers.  We are the village.

I am grateful to all the adults in my village that continue to teach me and I am grateful to all the adults watching over my children all over the world.  My 2nd child lives in China.  She works for a family and spends a lot of time with this family.  We got to go visit her.  The grandmother assured me they were taking care of my daughter (she is 27 years old) and watching over her.  They knew they were her village and wanted me to know they would watch over her and they do.

You can be sure that I watch over the kids I am around.  I love them all.  And I am excited to see the things the children of this world create.  I look forward to the art and the music being created child-1260421_1920within them.  With pride in my community I listen to the younger ones running for political office and standing up for their values and the good of our community.  There is good in this world and there is greatness in our children!  We are a village and we need each other and we need to watch over and nurture the children.

What are you doing to support your village?  What do you think we need to make happen in our communities?

11 Nov 2012 653Do you know someone special that makes your village better?  If you do, send them a thank you note.

Keep up the good work!

Kally Efros

Indigo Mountain

 

Happy Holidays from Indigo Mountain

christmas-1090690_1920 Pixabay freeThe holidays are a wonderful time of year – no matter what holiday you celebrate.  The word holiday comes from 2 words, holy days.  During the holidays, especially at this time of year, we reconnect with family and friends and participate in traditions.  Traditions and holidays are both important in maintaining connection with each other and passing on our family heritages.   The holidays are a good time to give the gift of forgiveness to yourself and others.  Check out my article and radio program on Forgiveness.menorah-318641_1920 Pixabay free

I have dear Jewish friends and family members that celebrate Hanuka.  The Jews have been observing this festival of lights in celebration of the re-dedication of
Jerusalem’s temple in 164 B.C.  In fact Jesus celebrated Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated is December 25th in the year 336 A.D.  during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor.  Most of the Christians around the world celebrate Christmas and of course many people celebrate the Santa Clause version of Christmas.

nicholas-1007764_1920 pixabay freeAround the world you will find people observing the 12 Days of Christmas – after Christmas until the 12th day known as the Three Kings Day.  Many Latin countries, Día de Los Reyes is celebrated to honor the Three Wise Men and closes the Christmas festivities.  It is the day they exchange gifts.  We have always had an advent calendar to mark the days leading up to December 25th with candles, singing, and other occasions and in many cultures this is a common practice.

Personally, I am starting a new family tradition; adding the 12 Days of Christmas after the 25th to honor the reasons we celebrate Christmas. I hope it is a trend to bring back the 12 Days of Christmas to our local community.  It is a much slower time to enjoy each other's company, ring in the new year, and thing about what is important to us.

Don’t forget that in the Asian culture, Chinese New Year is a major holiday and time to visit family and friends, have special meals, gift giving and of course fireworks.  It is their most important social and economic holiday.

However you choose to celebrate, perhaps it would be a good time to introduce new family traditions or pick up some old ones.  It is also a good time to start some new traditions to incorporate all year long.  Here are some suggestions for you:

  • Family date once a month. Many people already have a couple date night weekly, and if you don’t that is a great idea to do.  It is a good time as a family to have fun and reconnect from the busy pace of life.
  • Have a family game or puzzle night each week.
  • Take a class together as a family or read a book together – have a family book club, especially if your family is moving away.
  • Spend time each month organizing a family photo album.
  • Write a family history together.
  • Launch rockets or some other event.
  • Take vacations or go camping each year.
  • A family music/singing night.
  • Create a family recipe file.
  • Create a secret family handshake.
  • Brunch on regular basis.
  • Family service projects.
  • Rent a hotel room and have a family slumber party.
  • 12 Days of Christmas, after Christmas.

Here is an update for you on our family since many of our customers have become good friends and many of you keep asking.  Many of you have gotten to know our kids as they have worked in our store.  We are very blessed with 7 kids, lots of extended family, a wonderful community, and our dog.

  • Our oldest, Daniel is working as a manager in a kitchen at a restaurant.  He loves food.  He also plays in different bands around his community. He is very happy.IMG_0184
  • Angela is working on he masters in China and will be attending the United Nations conference next year.  She also performs in China and teaches English.  She is doing very well.
  • Nicole is going to school to get a degree in Natural medicine.
  • Trevor is serving a mission for our church in Taiwan and will be home in the spring of 2016.  He uses his music skills in Taiwan and has become quit fluent in Mandarin.
  • Chandler is serving a mission for our church in Brazil and will be home in 2017.  He still gets to use his music skills down there plus he is learning Portuguese very well.
  • Riley is still at home and just starting to learn how to help in the store.  He acts, plays soccer and the piano.
  • Rachel is also at home and loves to help in the store.  She acts and plays the piano.
  • Lizzy, our Shih Tzu keesp us busy with walks and keeps us entertained.  She is sometimes more  like a cat.

This year we welcomed Julie Davis and Mackenzie Davis to our staff.  They always have a smile for everyone that walks in the door.  We love having them at Indigo Mountain.

IMG_0219From all of us at Indigo Mountain, we wish you a very happy holiday season and the Merriest of Christmas'.   We appreciate your support of our family business.  Thank you for letting us serve you.  You may have noticed Julie and Mackenzie in the store.  We were very happy to welcome them to the Indigo Mountain family this year.

Mark, Kally and our 7 kids, Julie and Mackenzie

 

Julie Davis
Mackenzie Davis

Family Traditions and Memories

Kally with her Mother, Sister, Grandmother and son, Daniel
Kally with her Mother, Sister, Grandmother and son, Daniel

Tune in to this show for our experience with family traditions, great vacations, and memorable holidays. We will share with you how our family memories are built around events like these and every opportunity we have to be together.

Family traditions are an important part of keeping a family healthy.  It gives children a sense of security and helps them feel connected.   Making and preserving family memories are a part of family traditions and help remind everyone of the good times.  It really connects a family together.

You really need to create your own unique family traditions.

Interestingly enough, where you sit at the table is a very popular tradition coming in at 15 in a study.  The number 1 family tradition is celebrating Christmas after that is birthdays.  Number 6 is IMG_0615Sunday dinner and visits to relatives.  Number 11 is house cleaning routines and at number 14 - Father cooking dinner.

In our home, the kids have great memories of their dad cooking dinner - especially for special occasions.  As a result, all 4 of our sons are excellent cooks and help a lot in the kitchen.

Family traditions offer kids a sense of security.   The bring a sense of belongingness, commitment and familiarity with each other.  Family traditions pave the way for good times and good memories.

Family traditions and celebrations help to mark transitions.  Recording memories and pictures can help strengthen and unite families.

Continuing family traditions are essential in enhancing family values and strengthening the bond which ties each family.  Old and newly introduced family traditions no matter how grand or simple it is, brings about the sense of belongingness, emphasizes good values and more importantly, creates happy family memories.

IMG_0219Tune in to hear about our family traditions.

Mark and Kally

on the Get Real! with Mark and Kally show on Your True Colours Image Radio Network

Making Memories With Your Family and the Importance of Family Traditions

IMG_0615The family is the basic unity of society.  Creating family memories and family traditions help keep your family healthy.   Family traditions offer a sense of security to family members and create strong bonds.   Family traditions are part of a families identity and helps to create good memories.

Check out our show as we share our experience with family traditions, great vacations, and memorable holidays. We will share with you how our family memories are built around events like these and every opportunity we have to be together.

Making and preserving family memories are a part of family traditions and help remind everyone of the good times.

Being a part of a family is more than living in the same home or having the IMG_0184same last name, it is about relationships and family bonds.  Family traditions can be handed down from generation to generation or made up with your immediate family, they are something that you do more than once and you do them together.  As a result, family traditions deepen family relationships and create a strong sense of belonging.

Celebrating the holidays together, having your own unique rituals and traditions, marking transitions together as a family, and preserving those memories help keep and families and the members of the family healthy.

What are the top family traditions?

  1. ChristmasIMG_2822
  2. Birthdays
  3. Vacations together
  4. Easter
  5. Sunday Dinner
  6. Dinner time
  7. Thanksgiving
  8. Family Reunions
  9. Housecleaning routines
  10. New Year's Eve and Day
  11. Dad coking dinner
  12. Where you sit at the table

One of the most important aspects of family traditions and rituals is that it helps family members adjust through change.  Traditions can be consistent.

While Christmas my be on the top of the list, each family may celebrate in unique ways.

Tune in and find out some unique family traditions and how we celebrate and stay connected with kids living all over the world.

11 Nov 2012 653Thanks for tuning in.

What are your favorite family traditions?  We like to hear what your family is up to.

Mark and Kally
Get Real! with Mark and Kally on Your True Colours Image Radio

Join the conversation on Facebook.

Laughter and Loyalty, Two Keys to a Happy Marriage

Kally and Mark compressedI have been married to my husband, Mark for 28 years.  I won’t lie to you…some of those years were not so fun.  But we stuck it out and worked through our issues, and the end result is a very happy marriage and life together.  Along the way we have moved 12 times, lived in a hotel 3 different times (he was in the hotel business), lived in our RV for almost 2 years and lived in 5 different states.  We have 7 wonderful children and 1 dog.  We have suffered disappointments of all kinds.  There were times when we didn’t know how we were going to pay the bills the next day and times we were so mad at each other we had to separate into corners to “cool off”.  In the end, we still love each other even more than when we got married.  There are even couples that have been married for 89 years and they talk of a happy marriage.

What is our secret for a happy marriage?  We have many that we have learned through the years that has saved our marriage and helped us forge an incredible bond.  I’m going to focus on 2 of them:  Laughter and Loyalty.

The definition of loyalty is:  Faithfulness to commitments or obligations.Kally and Mark wedding rings

When you enter into a marriage, you agree to certain terms that both parties agree on.  For a successful marriage and a healthy relationship, loyalty is a trait that should be nurtured by both parties all the time.  When there is no loyalty, trust is betrayed and it leaves the partners feeling vulnerable and unsupported.  If trust is broken, work to repair that trust.

Some relationships are dysfunctional and abusive.  In those cases couples should seek professional advice.  If you are in a difficult relationship, take care of yourself.  But even then, you can practice the art of loyalty, which may even help your spouse get the help they need.

Here are a few keys to fostering a marriage with loyalty.

  1. Be completely honest with each other.
  2. Don’t talk about your spouse behind their back to anyone, except clergy, councilors, or a life coach. This includes friends and family.  Let’s face it, if you talk about how bad your spouse is, most of those people will back you up; and that can destroy a marriage.  If you do talk to others to get advice, they should be neutral.  And you should only have that conversation to gain understanding about yourself and your spouse.  Never bash your spouse.   Even if you do have family and friends that are neutral, it still puts them in an awkward place.
  3. Make a good effort to get along with your in-laws. Avoid speaking negatively about them.  If you accept your spouse, you accept where they came from as well.
  4. Be your spouse’s best cheerleader. Support them in what they do.
  5. Be each other’s best friend. You can still have your friends, but your spouse should always be your best friend.Honeymoon Lover by Piyaphon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  6. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will form a replacement relationship while married.
  7. Make the needs of your spouse just as important as your own needs. Give service to your spouse.
  8. Love your spouse unconditionally. This means without conditions or terms.  Don’t hold them hostage.
  9. Practice forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes.
  10. Learn to understand the way your spouse thinks, communicates and receives love. We love the books The People Code by Dr. Taylor Hartman and The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman to help.  Speaking your partner’s language really helps.

Loyalty in a marriage means you are committed to the contract of marriage and that relationship.  It comes first.  If you fall out of love, out of honor, remain loyal still.  Work on the things you can work on and perhaps you will find love again.  It happens.  Every marriage goes through the ups and downs of life.  We have seen our fair share.  The key has been that we are absolutely loyal to each other.  No one or nothing has become between the two of us.  At one point we hit a rough spell and we agreed to talk to our religious leader.  He chuckled and said we hit the 7 year itch and that it would pass.  He had years of experience on us and offered neutral advice to both of us…and it passed.  Had we gone to friends or family or looked for other areas to lick our wounds, we would probably not have stayed married.  No marriage is without a challenge.  And it is well worth the effort.

When loyalty exists in a marriage, couples are happier and more satisfied with their lives according to a Northwestern University study.

April is National Humor Month.  Humor is an incredible tool to heal the body and help balance emotions.  It can take the tension out of tough situations and relationships.  We all need to laugh at ourselves and our relationships.

The old saying, “Laughter is good medicine”, is really true.  It can mend bridges of discontent easier than anything.

Laughter establishes or restores a positive emotional climate and sense of connection between two people, who literally take pleasure in the company of each other.  The levity can diffuse anger and anxiety, which can pave a path to intimacy.  Read more about the benefits of Laughter.

Early in our marriage we recognized the value of laughter.  One Christmas present we gave each other was a Thumb War book.  We agreed that in an argument we would battle it out with a ‘Thumb War’ first and then discuss our issues.  After a good laugh, the issues seemed to clear up or we found them easier to talk about.

Laughter releases good chemicals in the brain and helps to reduce stress.   Less stress equals better relationships.

Make note of the funny moments each day.  Make it a habit to share something funny that happened while eating dinner.  Enjoy comedies on TV and in movies (don’t forget the classics).  Share jokes.  Reflect on the funny times you have had in the past.

Work together to build a great sense of humor in your relationship.  It really does release negative tension.  Read more from Laughter and Humor in Your Marriage.

Don’t let life get too serious.  Laughter really is good therapy.  It is healing to both the physical body, your mental state, and your emotional well-being.

Nurture both laughter and loyalty in your marriage and you will find that these tools are better than years of therapy.  Remember, you chose to marry your spouse, for better or for worse.  A good belly laugh can make the tough times more enjoyable and will give you the resilience to push through.  When you are loyal to your partner, it says a lot about your character as well.

My husband is my best friend!  We started out as good friends while dating and over the years, we have drawn apart and grown and even closer together.  Being able to laugh at ourselves is one of our secrets of success.   I sure love that guy of mine!

Kally

Photo Credit by Piyaphon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kally and Mark

Picking the Best Toys – Gifts for Children

Puppet Theater
With an infinite list, it seems, of choices to choose from; how do you pick the right gifts for children?  Today we'll discuss the pros and cons of electronics verses more traditional toys and gifts.  Check it out.

Play is very important in all aspects of your child's growth, and toys are really part of developmental learning.  It is rumored that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, didn't let his kids play with iPads.   So tune in for an interesting discussion and learn about some ideal gifts for children.

When selecting from the overwhelming choices of toys in today's marketplace, we have some great tips. Look for toys that:

1. Foster learning and open-ended play. Toys that come with all the bells and whistles often fill in the blanks that your children's mind could be filling in and imagining.

2. Provide endless play.  Studies show that when a toy has particular functions, they will not be creative with it. Quality toys will grow with the child.

3. Will last forever (or at least one childhood). Flimsy plastic toys break. Kids can be rough and should be. Solid wood toys can last for decades.

4. Ditch the batteries and cords. Electronics have their place in our world, but it's not on the toy row. Quit ignoring all the studies and do your kids a favor, limit or completely eliminate electronics.

5. Don't worry about the gender. The giant wooden kitchen and dollhouse in our retail store are popular with both boys and girls. Boys eat in kitchens and live in houses, too. Girls like to construct and have a good sword fight occasionally.

6. Pick age appropriate. Don't rely on the government approved age stamped on the packaging, those are for safety, not playing.Art Easel

Here's some ideas for age appropriate toys:

Infants - safe stuffed toys, things they can reach for, shake, make noise, and stick in their mouth, unbreakable mirrors.

Toddlers - things to pretend with (dolls, telephones, puppets), things to create with (non-toxic washable crayons and markers), picture books.

Pre-School - things for problem solving, building, dress-up, musical instruments.

girl recieving gift Stuart Miles by freedigitalphotos.netMost importantly, parents need to spend time playing with their children. You can't sit down and bury your face in email or Facebook and expect your children to remain content playing with themselves without an electronic babysitter.

We opened our toy store and wellness center with a goal in mind, to help individuals and families life a more joy-filled passionate life with good health and vitality. We are toy experts and can help you find real toys that inspire creativity and imagination and are really quite fun.

Feel free to contact us for toy ideas, that is what we do. Our store is a virtual laboratory to observe children playing every day.

Kally and Mark for webWhat was or still is your favorite toy?

Do you have tips for getting your children off technology and playing with toys?

Let us know - we want to hear from you!

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Mark and Kally

Our latest episode on the Get Real! with Mark and Kally:  Picking the Right Toy for Your Children

Making Fantastic Memories and Traditions

Efros kids putting on a show
The kids love putting on shows and sing songs together.

With children living abroad and growing up, I have learned just how important those traditions were to my children.  Last year when my daughter came home to visit from China, we celebrated as many traditions in one day as we could.  You can read about it here.  When we have become too busy, my kids remind us of OUR traditions and help us stay on track.  They expect them, they look forward to them, identify with them and have a strong sense of belonging as a result.  I'm glad we took time along the way to have traditions and make memories.  The photo above me (Kally) with my 1st son Daniel, my sister Chelsey, and my grandmother.

Some thoughts to get you started or modify what you are doing

I think it is very important that each family create their own unique traditions.  Your “family” might be just you, your significant other, no kids, lots of kids, a pet or another extended family member.   The people you choose to share a home and life with are the most important.   Creating your unique traditions helps to keep your family united and strong.  Everyone is unique and that uniqueness should be celebrated.  The family traditions then help create a common bond that unites the family.

Seeing the sites of Las Vegas while visiting family.
Seeing the sites of Las Vegas while visiting family.

Keep it simple and fun unless you want a big challenge.  The traditions that get carried on are the ones you can replicate over and over again.  We used to go out to dinner for each child’s birthday, but when times got tough, we couldn’t afford that, so I made anything they wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So now the tradition is their favorite food all day. We adjusted.

Be consistent. 

Some traditions are celebrated with holidays and birthdays, but you can have other traditions all year.

It is never too late to start or change.  We used to go caroling at Christmas as a family until one year, no one seemed to understand what we were doing or even come to the door to hear us sing.  So we just sing carols at home with each other.

Make a record of your traditions and experiences.  Even just a simple calendar page or something that can help anchor the experiences and memories.  Make a short video to mark an event.

Benefits

One of the benefits of family traditions is more family togetherness.

Another benefit from family traditions is lasting memories.  These rituals that you do over and over again are anchors for memories.  Often during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner one of the kids will say, “Remember when we did….”  And for weeks now my ten year old has been reciting some of our Christmas rituals and remembering the past years and the fun she had.  She anticipates with great joy our family traditions.  As the youngest member of the family at ten years old and her oldest brother being 25, she feels deeply connected to him and all the others through these rituals.  She has participated just as they did and that gives her a great sense of belonging and connectedness. 

Celebrating New Year's Eve with confetti
Celebrating New Year's Eve with confetti
Efros kids waiting on Christmas morning
The kids are waiting in the hall on Christmas morning.

Our traditions have changed a little and been modified over the years as the kids get older.  But there are some constants.  We have annual traditions like:

-New Year’s Eve:  lots of confetti in the house (it takes a whole year to find it all) and Martinelli’s to toast the New Year and we all stay up playing games, dancing, singing, and having fun.

-On Christmas we will always have Efros Eggs (Rachel is convinced that only Efros’ can have this) which are scrambled eggs with sausage and cream cheese.  Once I added onions and that was taboo since it wasn’t traditional.  Mark makes Christmas dinner and anything goes.  No one is allowed by the tree until mom and dad give the go ahead.  And most importantly – no one in our family is in a rush to open the presents all at once.  We sit around and let each person open one present at a time.  Then we will get breakfast, play with opened gifts, and enjoy them.  We will continue opening gifts until the afternoon sometimes.  Mom and dad get to sleep in – the kids let us.  We trained them well.  The result is a beautiful Christmas that is enjoyed and cherished. 

-Eating on the good China that belonged to Mark’s grandmother for special occasions.

-We bought some beautiful hand blown glass goblets in Italy recently.  So that has become a new tradition to drink from those for special times.  Each time we do, we remember the great fun we had in Italy.

-Good night kisses and hugs from each of the kids every night.

-Girls night

-Dad’s date with the kids (so mom gets a day off)

Efros Europe Family Vacation on a castle bridge
Sight seeing in Europe on a Castle bridge, enjoying a family vacation.

-Annual family vacations and other outings.  We made those a priority over the years and now we have a stock pile of memories from those trips.  In lean years they would be simple camping trips.  We did save up for years to take the kids to Europe.  During family get togethers, I will often hear the kids say, “Remember on this trip we did….”  It was all worth it.

Traditions can be as unique as every family is, so don’t try to copy, just make your own. The important thing is to do it and enjoy the benefits. The memories will last a lifetime.

Kally and MarkShare with us you favorite family traditions.  You might inspire some ideas.

Have a wonderful and happy holiday season!

Kally and Mark Efros

Today is a New Day – Celebrate Each Day. What About New Year’s Resolutions?

We always celebrate New Year's Eve with style in our family - it is a fun celebration.   We watch movies, play games, work on puzzles, eat lots of food and stay awake until past midnight.  We spend it with friends and/or family.  The kids always had so much fun staying up late.  We watch the countdown on the TV and listen to music.  Sometimes we even play those dancing games.  We'll even reminisce about the past year. I speak a little Spanish and one year we played Spanish scrabble with a family from Argentina - that was fun and challenging.  What ever we do, we have fun.  At the stroke of midnight we shoot off poppers of confetti - yes - in my house.  It goes everywhere and gets into everything.  All year we find confetti.  Just when I thought we got it all, we moved after 10 years of New Year Celebrations and I laughed with joy at the confetti we found and WHERE we found it.   Then we pull out the sparkling cider and glass flutes or Italian glass goblets and we toast the new year.  The kids love it!  It is such a tradition that when we celebrated all the holidays in one day for my China daughter - toasting the new year was part of that.  Here is a great article on the value of playing games, it would make a great New Years Resolution.

This year we'll be making a Memory Jar, adding little notes all year of memories and things we are grateful for, to review next New Year's Eve.

I have moved away from the printed calender using instead electronic calenders that sync with my smart phone.  It isn't the same as far as memories go.   This year I printed out a 12 month calender to write down important events as they happen over the year.    On the back of each month calender page I'll be able to journal about the month - quickly and easily.  It is a good reference.  With digital photos, I don't print them out and look at them and I have not scrapbooked in years.  For the year as we take pictures, I'll be creating 3 files.  One file for the months of the year pictures.  Another file for the special pictures I want to print out.  And the last file will be for pictures I think would make a good slide show on a CD.  At the end of the year, I'll have my Memory Jar, Photos printed into a photo book with a CD of the year in review slide show and the 12 calender pages with the important dates written on them.  I'm really excited actually.   Next New Year's Eve will be so much fun with an easy CD slide show of pictures to watch and our Memory Jar of the past year. 

So now that it is a new year, it is a good time to reflect on what you did and didn't do.  Many people like to make New Year's Resolutions.   I like to start the year with making a Vision Board.

This year we were talking about the past  year and planning for the new year, missing our 2 kids in China and 1 in the Phoenix area.  We Facebook messaged the China kids - they were eating lunch and thinking of our midnight tradition.  As we reflected about our lives, Mark said, "You know New Year's Eve and New Year Day just doesn't quite have the same meaning to me anymore.  Everyday is a new year and a new beginning."  Bingo!  He won the prize - living in the present moment.  We don't have to wait for December 31st to start anew.  

Dr. Darren Weissman in his book The Power Of Infinite Love & Gratitude said, "Owning your power is living life with Infinite Love & Gratitude.  It means to embrace all aspects of life with passion, purpose and courage."  When you face each day passion, purpose and courage - every day really is a celebration of living.  Imagine what your life would look like if each day was embraced with love and gratitude.  If you have ever been to a Tony Robbins event, you are constantly celebrating.  Imagine what your life would like if you celebrated each day not just the last day of the year.  There is great value to honoring the successes and victories of each day

This is how I approach the change of the year and New Year's Resolutions:

  •  Memory Jar, to stay focused on the good moments of the year and what we are grateful for.
  • 12 month printed calender to record important life events; plan the year in general and create objectives and goals during the year; and to be used to evaluate the past year
  • Organizing my digital photos as I go through the year dropping photos in files to generate a photo album and CD slide show
  • Evaluate the past year, if you didn't accomplish something - why not?
  • Imagine what I want my life to look like next December and set some long rang goals to achieve that
  • Look at each area of my life and see what I would like to improve or change
  • Take a realistic look at what I'm willing to do and match that with what I want my life to look like
  • Get a mentor, coach, support person and/or friend that can help support you; tell someone 
  • Create a Vision Board
  • Break it down and make some actionable steps; don't try to do it all in January
  • Plan to celebrate along the way - Celebrate the Journey and Find Joy in the Journey
  • Be flexible, you may need to change course through the year or adjust your goals
  • Be consistent
  • Most important:  Everyday is a new day, you get to start each new day working on the bigger picture of your life plan.

Don't set a goal for yourself to lose 50 lbs if you are not willing to change the way you eat and exercise or get to the root of your weight problem.  You will only set yourself up for failure.  A better option might be to work on adding exercise to your daily routine.  While we need to be realistic about where we are, we also need to dream and imagine what we want our life to look like.  One of the biggest challenges I see when working with people is that they don't know what they want out of life, but what they have they don't want.  If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there.  For some people that is okay, they get in the car and drive anywhere and they are happy.  But, if you want to get to a certain place, a little planning helps a lot and a map.  If you really want a great trip, talk to someone who has been there and they will tell you all the great hot spots.  

What is your destination for the end of they year?  What do you want to see in your life?  What are you willing to do to get there?  Get your map (goals and a vision board) and talk to someone that can coach you along the way and even help you get past those bumps in the road.

Happy New Year or as the common Spanish greeting goes:  "Prospero Año Nuevo" or have a prosperous new year.

Kally Wellness coach

Indigo Mountain:  Wellness, Toys and Gifts

Helping you 'map' out your new year and get past your roadblocks in all areas of your life.  Now taking new appointments for 2013 at my office at Indigo Mountain, over the phone or on Skype.

Connect with my on Facebook at www.facebook.com/indigomountain for great tips and motivation.  

Looking to lose weight this year?  We've helped hundreds.

Social Media, Eight Tips for Keeping Pace with Your Kids in a Shrinking World

Social Media and kids - do you have a challenge understanding social media and your roll in protecting your children online?  With the world of social media, the world has gotten a lot smaller.  

Guest Writers:  Lauren Bondy, MSW & Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT—Co-Founders of Parenting Perspectives

“These Parent Tips were originally developed by Parenting Perspectives for the Center on Media and Child Health newsletter, Media Health Matters – Fall 2012. The Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to understanding and responding to the effects of media on the physical, mental, and social health of children through research, translation, and education. Learn more about the staff, mission and projects of CMCH. Parents with questions about their children’s media use can get advice from Dr. Michael Rich through the free service: Ask the Mediatrician.

The playground for tweens and teens today is electronic. It is a world of social media (e.g., chat rooms, IM, texting, Facebook, X Box Live, Twitter, etc.). Whereas our generation grew up running around neighborhoods for hours and riding bicycles miles from home without an electronic umbilical cord (i.e. cell phone), kids today are roaming, playing, forming relationships, testing limits, making mistakes, exploring, experimenting, and forming their identities and values in online digital spaces. Below are tips for parenting in the age of social media:

Stay involved…but not too involved. Teach children to navigate the digital world responsibly. Having passwords and “spot checking” activity from time to time allows parents to stay in touch with their child’s interaction and intervene when appropriate. If something deeply concerning, extremely inappropriate, offensive, or dangerous presents itself, parents can seek answers. Your child may be angry when you monitor them or express resentment that you don’t trust them—and that’s okay.

Parents also need to refrain from over-involvement in monitoring online activity. You may see things that bother you but do not warrant conversation with your child. Some parents may be tempted to comment on every little thing that feels distasteful, but this would be a mistake for your relationship. Manage your emotions to avoid reactivity.

Understand their thinking. When you find inappropriate content or language, ask open-ended questions about what happened, and refrain from lecturing and attacking. “I’m wondering how Susie might feel if she read what you wrote?”, “If someone wrote this about you, how would you feel?” This approach will help your child stay calm and reflect on how others may have felt as a result of what was posted.

Set expectations for online behavior: Teach kids to value and protect their own reputations, and to respect those of others. To do so, establish rules around social networking, such as waiting to join social networking sites until age 13, using social media only in ways that they’d be okay with you seeing (so, no sexting), and keeping personal information (including address or phone numbers) private by not giving them out online. Discuss privacy settings, and require passcodes. Finally, talk with kids about specific issues: When using social media, what language is acceptable? Is talking about others in negative ways okay? What about discussing teachers/friends/ family members? Are all photo postings acceptable? What crosses the line? Let them know you will be present in their online lives as they learn to use digital media responsibly

Set a digital curfew. Studies show that sleep is interrupted when teens receive texts at night. Likewise, homework is interrupted and children become distracted when they receive notifications of a new chat messages, texts, or emails. To avoid a daily battle, make a time when all media are off limits into part of the routine. Involve kids in establishing a media plan for their entire day, and agree on weekday and weekend hours. Consider allowing social media time only after homework is done or during homework breaks. Ask them, “What’s the best place to charge your cell phone and keep it from distracting you?”

Have a plan and follow through. When kids violate the rule (and they will), say something like, “I know you want to chat with your friends, but you still have homework. Would you like to wait until your next break or chat when you are done?” If you have a digital curfew that’s not being honored, you might collect the cell phones and lap-tops at curfew until the next day. Deliver this consequence calmly and respectfully.

Explore together. When your child receives new technology or ventures into new social media, sit down and explore the account together. Calmly talk about the wonderful aspects of digital media and address concerns or misuses that could occur. Discuss digital footprints, permanence of online information, and online reputations.

Take advantage of teachable moments. Discuss risky online activity seen in movies, books, by your friends or their peers. Talking about other people’s choices may feel less threatening and create safe opportunities for discussion. When parents see hurtful behavior in social media and say nothing, it condones the behavior sending children the wrong message. Remain calm and non-judgmental.

Take time to connect. Your support in the media world is grounded in daily lessons that happen in the non-media world. Parents’ greatest influence is their connection to their child, so make time for that connection despite living in a fast-paced world. Attune to your child’s feelings and needs. The more connected children feel, the easier it will be for parents to start difficult discussions, which gives kids more opportunities to learn how to make wise choices.

Parenting Perspectives is a wonderful group promoting healthy development and nurturing the unique potential in every child. 

Do you have some thoughts on this topic or an idea that works for you?  We'd love to hear about it.  Please leave us a comment.

Sign up for our 10 Free Wellness keys for even more tips to help your children.  Connect with us on Facebook.  

Making Memories and Family Traditions, or in other words the FAKE Time Traveling Holiday

That is right I said the FAKE Time Traveling Holiday, that is what Rachel my 9 year old called it.   How do you keep family traditions and make family memories when your daughter lives in China and your oldest has flown the coop and the others are getting ready to go?  We have found ourselves on the other side of raising our children.  We were blessed with 7 wonderful kids.  Right now they are 24, 23, 20, 18, 16, 11, and  9.  In about 1 1/2 years I will find myself with 2 children left at home.  So we take advantage of the times we can get together to keep alive our family traditions and make new memories.

Family traditions are an important part of keeping a family healthy.  It gives children a sense of security and helps them feel connected.   Making and preserving family memories are a part of family traditions and help remind everyone of the good times.  It really connects a family together.

One unique gift idea that we have been sharing is an idea I found in looking for gift ideas for my husband's birthday.  It was a jar of memories.  What do you give someone that has most of what he wants or someone that lives in China and doesn't want 'stuff'.  This idea was brilliant.  We decorated a jar for Mark and an envelope for Angela who lives in China.  We put memories and quotes on paper and filled them with these.  The idea being that each day they draw out a piece of paper to read the memory or inspirational quote.  I've even seen a Memory Jar to record the family memories as they happen.  

Angela and Mark both loved their gifts and now she has something that she can easily pack in her suitcase and take to China and have some nice memories and motivation each day.  So now back to the FAKE Holiday.

This week I had all 7 of my children together.  It has been about 1 year.  I miss them.  I miss the pitter patter of little feet and I miss the hand prints on the walls and head counting making sure all 7 were in the car.  I only left 1 home once.  Was he upset?   No, my 3 year old Chandler said, "You are not supposed to leave me alone."  I treasure the time we are all together and I treasure each day with my children.  I wanted to do something special.  In China, Angela doesn't get to celebrate our holidays or our traditions.  So the Time Traveling Holiday or the FAKE Holiday was born.  We decided to celebrate all the holidays and special occasions in 1 long, outrageously fun day; including family pictures.  It was a blast.  

We started the morning with Christmas.  I had Christmas music playing, Christmas stocking full of goodies and Christmas presents for Angela.  I put Santa hats on everyone and we served our traditional breakfast what we call 'Efros Eggs'.  We've been serving this since the day Mark and I got married 25 years ago on Christmas morning.  You scramble eggs, chopped summer sausage, and add some cream cheese chunks, top with salt and pepper and you're good.  

One of our family traditions on New Year's Eve is to open up a couple bottles of Martinelli's sparkling cider and toast the new year.  So right after Christmas breakfast - we got out our special Italian glass goblets and stared pouring.  Unfortunately I broke one.  I kept the broken piece to remind me of the day and the love of my family.   It didn't seem right to just throw it away.  

Later in the morning, I had a Valentine for everyone with a chocolate Kiss attached.  I played some fun love songs.  Some of them started catching on.  

We always celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  I have ancestors that come from Ireland and I love it.  We made Reuben Sandwiches with corned beef and sauerkraut.  Mark and I wore silly Irish hats and I was playing Irish music.  I threw in a green sticker and put one on each person. That cut down on the pinching.

We squeezed in time for family pictures, got to have those memories and capture them.  Simple pictures, no professional photo shoot.  

Now it was time for Easter.  So we hid plastic Easter eggs filled with candy all over the yard.  I made them all go on an Easter Egg Hunt.  It was fun.  

Moving on through the year - time to celebrate Angela's birthday.  So I made her favorite ice cream cake, added candles and she got more presents. Birthday songs and celebrating.  

Okay so now everyone had caught on - or so they thought.  While dinner cooked, Mark and I snuck outside to decorate the porch for Halloween.  I set up a fog machine and we put on costumes.  We rang the doorbell and when they opened the door, the fog filled the living room and they busted a gut laughing - they had not expected this.  Trick or Treat!

Finally dinner was ready - a Thanksgiving feast.  Each year we share what we are thankful for.  It was beautiful and touching and a great opportunity for family memories and sharing.  Sometimes I think we can get so busy we forget the express appreciation for those in the family.  We have a lot to be thankful for.  Dinner was mostly traditional for us: starting with bacon wrapped water chestnuts, olives and sweet pickles followed up with a turkey, some amazing mashed potatoes with herbs from the garden, gravy, sliced roasted sweet potatoes, fresh green beans from the garden, stuffing with fresh herbs and onions from the garden, and homemade cranberry relish.  Dessert was a home cooked pumpkin pie.  I was grateful for the harvest of the garden.  

Since you can't go to bed on a full stomach, we broke out the Monopoly game.  The kids seem to have the idea that I always win.  Apparently Trevor has been practicing Monopoly so he can beat me and he did.  

So many memories new and old and they keep us together and connected.  Family memories and family traditions help keep families connected.  We took lots of pictures and I'll turn it into a special scrap book for them.

Happy Memories - whether your family is 1 person - make traditions for yourself or your family is 2 or 10  or more.  

Kally

Connect with us on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/indigomountain

www.wellnessandtoys.com