More kindness rocks--same song, second verse!
It's almost spring break. Here's hoping you'll be able to spend some time with your grandchildren on their spring vacation. I came up with something for me and my older grands to do. I call them kindness rocks with a multicultural twist. It's been fun for me, and I hope it will be fun for them when they visit.
As I've written in past blogs, I've really enjoyed painting kindness rocks. It's simple really--just buy a bag of garden rocks at the home improvement store, paint a short message on them, and plant them around your neighborhood on your daily walk. The idea is to make someone's day when they find the rock with a simple image or short phrase of inspiration. Megan Murphy, the founder of the Kindness Rocks Project, said it best, "One message at just the right moment can change someone's entire day, outlook, life."
So I've been painting kindness rocks, and planting them around town for probably a year and a half. I got rather bored with writing the same old sentiments on the rocks. I remembered when I taught World Cultures in middle school, I did a mini-unit on African wisdom and folk lore. Little bits of wisdom and folk adages from around the world have always intrigued me. So I thought why not put some folk wisdom on my kindness rocks? So there you have the premise for my latest venture. And I think it's a great one to share with my grandchildren. Fun and educational for them too!
Not the whole truth!
I'm not really telling the entire truth about my moment of inspiration. I actually found this African-stylized lion on Pinterest, loved him, and ended up painting him. I decided that he needed a bit of African folk wisdom to go on the back. So there you have my complete motivation. (Insert chuckle here.)
And that's it!
I've had fun researching folk wisdom from around the world, and searching on Pinterest and other sites for just the right image to paint on my rock (it had to be easy, as I'm certainly no artist). I hope it brings a smile to the rock finder's face. It brought some much needed therapy and calmness to my life--that's for sure.
Finding the folk wisdom and old adages for your rocks~
Of course I just did online searches for my bits of wisdom I wrote on the back of my rocks. When my grands are off for spring break, hopefully we can ride the trolley (part of the fun) to the library, and do a lot of our research there--checking out appropriate books for art ideas as well as folk wisdom.
Here are some I found that might tickle your creative bent:
Added bonus for seniors? Stress relief of course!
As I was putting this blog together, a friend posted this article on Facebook:
The article essentially says what a study at Drexel University revealed, that the hormone cortisol is lowered after about an hour of doing some kind of artwork. Cortisol is that hormone that is responsible for our"flight or fight" response. Cortisol increases in your body when you are under stress. So the implication for grandparents (or all of us really) is that when you do some kind of art or craft, you actually lower your stress. So that's one of the reasons I share painting kindness rocks with you.
Painting kindness rocks with an multicultural twist not your cup of tea? Well then, don't forget the holidays. Just paint kindness rocks with a holiday motif--we've got St. Patrick's Day and Easter coming up--go for it!
One last disclaimer: I am certainly not an artist (as you can see). I copy others' ideas from Pinterest. It all started when I was looking for a craft endeavor to do with my grandkids. A friend told me about kindness rocks. So if you haven't tried it, I would encourage you. It's not about perfection or any level of skill--it's just about FUN! And sharing with others. Isn't that what it's all about--helping each other on our walk?
My other blogs about kindness rocks:
Are you concerned because of all the stress and anxiety your grandchildren have to deal with? Helping them by showing them some mindfulness techniques might be the answer.
I see it in your posts on Facebook. The world your grandchildren live in is very different from the one we grew up in. I can't imagine having to go through "Armed Intruder Drills" in school. What our grandchildren must think and worry about when they see another mass shooting on the news. That is real anxiety.
And there are other causes of their anxiousness. Dealing with bullies on the school bus, the stress that comes with too much testing in our schools today, trying to cope with over-zealous parents or coaches in children's sports. I know you can add to this list. And there are more, such as children spending way too much time on online games and videos. Studies have shown that that does indeed change their brains and can often make them anxious mainly because of the constant barrage of visual and auditory effects. And finally, some of our grandchildren are just wired differently. They simply tend to be more anxious about things.
But we can help! Grandparents can play a huge role. We can advise them on how we handle stress. We can also show them some tips on how to cope. You can share these ideas with them when they confess to you that they often feel anxious. You can also use these when they are simply having a good old-fashioned meltdown when they are at your house. You don't have to scold them during such times; just give them some real life tips. I've culled various websites and books to make it easier for all of us. And I think these tips can help the little guys having a meltdown all the way to teenagers dealing with the stress of trying out for the honor band.
Here are some things I found to help:
If you've tried any mindfulness or meditation techniques yourself, you know that how you breathe is a big part of that. So that's where you'll want to start with children. In fact, I read that with the really little guys, you'll probably want to show them how to breathe correctly by buying them a bottle of bubbles. That way you can show them if they try to blow a bubble the way the Big Bad Wolf blew to knock the house down, that's too much. They'll end up blowing the bubble liquid all over the place and come out blowing nary a bubble. But if they blow softly, it works--they'll successfully blow a big bubble. This enables them to learn to softly and slowly exhale. So start there with the little guys.
The first breathing technique I ever learned for myself was Dr. Andrew Weil's "4-7-8" breathing technique. I first used it to get to sleep at night, but I heard from a friend that it works anytime when you're nervous or anxious, like before you speak to a large group. I shared it with my teenage grandson when he was nervous about trying out for the honor band. It's also called "The Relaxing Breath" and so it helps at such times.
"Take 5" Breathing~
This technique is about tracing your hand with your index finger. As you go up each finger, inhale. As you trace down an individual finger, exhale. Just demonstrating and doing it with a grandchild will help him learn it right away.
Breathing with "Magnet Hands"~
Tell your grandchild to stand straight and tall with their hands straight out in front of them. As they bring their hands together, they should inhale deeply while imagining a magnet is pulling their hands together, but they are fighting against that pull--don't let your hands touch!! Then when they exhale, they should pull their hands apart and just let them relax at their sides, breathing out very slowly.
I'm sure you've noticed with these breathing techniques, that just concentrating on exactly HOW you're suppose to breathe, gets your mind off your anxiousness. Another way to do this is with GROUNDING.
The "Grounding" technique-
This one I learned from my daughter-in-law and is also based on the number "5" and the five senses. When a child is having what might be called an anxiety attack, they simple stop what they are doing and look around them. They should focus on five things they see, four things they can touch/feel, three things they can hear, two things they smell, and finally one thing they can taste. As you can see, this takes them out of this time of anxiousness and grounds them in the moment--the very definition of mindfulness--existing in the moment.
I've read where many teachers are teaching their students mindfulness techniques. One way I read about is teachers keeping a rainstick in their classroom. When they want their students to get in the moment, they simply turn over the rainstick and ask the students to stop what they're doing and listen......and keep listening until they can hear the very last raindrop. Besides, how relaxing is listening to the rain?
I don't have a rainstick, but I found this old baby toy that I think would work nicely. Besides listening to the "rain," one also has a visual to watch.
Another technique to use with a grandchild who might be having a temper tantrum while at your house is to just give them a pinwheel. They might be able to refocus their attention as they blow on the pinwheel to get it to spin or whirling around the room to move the wheel. Then they can focus on the pinwheel as it slowly stops. This would be really nice with a rainbow-colored wheel, then you could ask them what colors they see and how the colors blend as it's spinning. Any items you might have around your house to get them out of their difficult moment and into a more peaceful state. You're also teaching them how to cope. They are learning what they can do when you're not around. And isn't that what we as parents and grandparents are all about--teaching our kids how to successfully cope in this world?
There you have it! Some tips on how to help your kids dealing with stress, anxiety, and even the real and honest human emotions like sadness or anger. Frankly I use these too, as I'm sure you do. Who hasn't been late to work, sat in a traffic jam, and found your anger rising? Then you remembered the simple technique of counting to ten to calm yourself as well as some deep breathing. As grandparents and role models, we should teach coping skills to our grandkids and great-grandkids.
I'll end with these thoughts:
"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me," lyrics from the song by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller
"You can't calm the storm...so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass." Buddha's teachings
The importance of telling the stories of our ancestors:
I've written at least two blogs on this subject. I think it's really that important. I realize that most of my contemporaries are the oldest generation still alive. It's up to us to tell the stories of our family as we know them. I read a little fact before when I was writing about this subject that really brought it all home to me: We are the connection between the two generations that came before us and the two generations that come after us. I'd say that's an important connection. So if we don't do it, who will?
I've also written about the importance of sharing these stories with our grandkids. I've read and repeated in this blog, that kids who have a strong sense of family history and the importance of family traditions, just fare better in this world. They have good self esteem and a stronger performance ethic. They realize they can conquer just about anything life throws at them because they know the ones who came before them did exactly that.
So let's tell those stories--even what little bit we may know! I'll start with my in-laws as my mother-in-law is still living, and that means I can interview her. And I also have a wealth of artifacts as my father-in-law did not throw anything away--and I mean that precisely! He never threw anything away. So here we go--I'll share the process that I used. and maybe that will inspire you to do the same.
I started by interviewing my mother-in-law. I've heard the stories before, but this time I wrote down what she said. To give you some background information, my father-in-law was in the Army Air Corps stationed in England during World War II. My mother-in-law is from England. The air field where Adrian worked backed up to Margie's family's farm. That's how they met. But fast forward to after their marriage, and Adrian bringing Margie to America. That's one story I wanted to tell. Future generations would probably want to know how she got to America, and I wanted my grands to know the hardships she endured making such a trip. Here are the facts I got from Margie in our telephone interview:
And with these next artifacts, my children and grandchildren can actually see what life was like aboard a ship in 1947. How cool is this?
Each day the ship printed out a newspaper with news of the world as well as news from aboard ship. I loved reading all the copies he saved. And as you can see, there was entertainment aboard ship each night. One such newspaper revealed that they even showed movies. One night they saw "Anchors Aweigh" with Frank Sinatra. In "technicolor" no less!
I realized after I started this that I really need to interview Margie again...and perhaps again. In telling her story, I need more details, like where did they live while waiting for their papers? What did she pack? Did she use a big trunk? What was she feeling and thinking on the day they traveled to Southhampton to board the ship? How did they travel to Southhampton? Did any of her family go with them and see them off? As you can see, the questions go on and on, and something I'd really like to know.
And I've discovered websites that can help you write your ancestor stories. So you don't have to go it alone:
And there are myriad ways to do this. My husband told his family stories in a scrapbook. I'm thinking this is the best and easiest way to do it. Just simply paste into the scrapbook any pictures and memorabilia you have, and add any captions to give additional facts as you know them. Oral histories are fine, and most of us do that. But to have a memento of your family stories for your kids and grandkids is wonderful too. And as I always tell you in this blog, there are great websites for using your scanned photos and making your own book.
You don't have to have a lot of details about the ancestors or all the wonderful keepsakes that my husband's family has. My friend Kathy made a book about her and her husband's ancestors and at Christmas, presented it to her children. She had very little information about the people, but she proceeded anyway. Sometimes all she had were the dates of their births and their marriage, and sometimes their children's names. But what she did know either from her own experiences or from reports from her parents, she added to the book. Anything that makes those people come alive and jump off the page as flesh and blood people trying to eke out a living and participate in life. Here's a page from her book:
That was the extent of Kathy's writing about her great-grandparents. But they were still alive when she was a little girl, and she remembers how she loved going to their home. She says it was such a warm and happy place. That makes that couple in the picture above seem so real.
Another friend is researching and recording her family history. Beth has this wonderful picture of her great-grandparents. They moved from Bell County, Texas to Lea County, New Mexico back in 1895. Our children and grandchildren study the Western Movement in school. Can you imagine how that comes alive for them when they see their ancestors actually participated in that expansion? And no, someone in the crowd didn't take a selfie. Either a traveling photographer took the picture or they got a photographer to come and take the picture upon their departure in Texas or arrival in New Mexico. More interesting details to tell the grandkids.
One last plea!
Please don't leave those old family photos in a box in the attic for your kids to spy after you've gone, only to simply throw away as just a dusty old box full of ancient pictures of strangers whom they simply don't know. Put them in a scrapbook and record any details about them that you might know. I think it's that important. And if you can add any details that you might know about them from your own experience, add that too. It makes them come alive right off the page!
My previous blogs about writing "Ancestor Stories":
The app Kathy used for her book of ancestor stories: Simple Prints. And the website--
"The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children." Phillip Carr-Gomm
"We're all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us." Liam Callanan
Surprise your grandchildren with some Valentine treats, and make it educational while you're at it! Everyone enjoys getting Valentines. And we can sneak some educational gifts into the treat bag! It's all fun! And since you're surprising your grandchildren with some St. Valentine's Day goodies, gift their parents too!
The seed of this idea may have started with my own mother. Once when I was in junior high school, she came home with two of those beautiful boxes full of chocolates for my brother and me. I remember what a delightful surprise that was. It actually made me laugh as I thought at the time, it's usually something you get from a sweetheart. It was just so fun to have my own box and to pick out any of the chocolates I wanted. And who hasn't coveted those beautiful boxes in the Five and Dime or the local drugstore. It really was a treat
Try to recreate that childhood memory!
I'm always about trying to recreate a favorite childhood memory for my own grandchildren. But the school teacher in me wanted to gift something beyond just candy--something educational but still fun for them! When my grands were little, I used the day to give them various things. I often filled a bag full of treats for them: books about Valentine's Day, tee-shirts with a Valentine theme, CDs with a collection of favorite children's songs, and maybe a wee bit of candy. I often filled the bag and put it at their door to greet them when they returned home from school--there's something about that element of surprise. And for grands not in town, a care package with the same items would arrive in the mail. I have fun filling the bag.
I haven't done such a bag in a while--my grands are getting older and they're not about cute Valentine tees with the printed words, "Daddy's Little Sweetheart," or other such juvenile embellishments. I'm thinking no one buys CDs anymore and they'd rather pick out their own music and books, thank you very much.
But I'm doing it again this year and here's what I came up with:
For my five-year-old~
And for my older grands:
You don't have to spend a lot of money. I kept it very simple. For my 14-year-old, I just got a box of daily basketball trivia and a bag of his favorite candy. For my granddaughters, I got them items for their desk and journal writing as well as bags of their favorite candy. Everyone should get a sweet treat on this day.
And as I previously stated, I want to get something for my daughter-in-law and my two sons. I'm thinking along these lines:
I just need to pack it in a pretty bag and place it at their door on Valentine's Day while they're all gone to work and school. It should be a nice Valentine surprise.
As I always say, this is fun for grandparents too--the giving that is. If you've got the winter blues, it gets you out of the house and shopping at a local mall. Who wants to always be sitting at home. These are the ages of my grandchildren, but I know many of you have college-age kids. They would really enjoy a care package with some Valentine treats. Just have some fun!
I'll close with these favorite quotations:
"You always gain by giving love." Reese Witherspoon
"All you need is love, But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." Charles M. Schulz
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!