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Hi my name is Dr. Marian C Fritzemeier and I'm an education and child development specialist. I've accumulated many years speaking, writing, consulting and teaching both in the classroom and for parenting audiences. I believe the parenting process can be a fantastic and overwhelmingly fun journey with the right plan in mind. Need some help with that plan? Then you've come to the right place.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Changing Christmas Traditions, Part 2

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D., © 2012
Author, Speaker, Educator
The other day at the mall, before I retreated towards the ladies bathroom for a pity party, my thirteen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter insisted on changing some Christmas traditions. It was quite a shock. They both know how important holiday celebrations are in this family.

I've been pondering and I think I've got it. The kids, I guess they're not kids, but I can't quite say it, very young adolescents, already gave up sitting on Santa's lap. We're not celebrating Happy Birthday Jesus parties anymore. I can't snap photos in front of the tree on Christmas morning in their pajamas just before opening stockings from Santa. I noticed that they left "stockings from Santa" on the list. Since they don't believe in Santa anymore, maybe I'll remove that one myself. "No stockings from Santa" - delete. "That felt good," I claim.

Since I promised I'd listen to my kid's input, listed below are child-friendly Christmas traditions we've celebrated and how we've adapted them for adolescent-friendly traditions. Change is really difficult for me because I love all our family traditions. So why am I going to all this trouble? It's simple. I want my adolescents to hold onto our Christian beliefs, and learn that how we practice our traditions can be modified. These new age-appropriate traditions can assist them in expressing that Christ is Lord of their life. How could a mother refuse?

Family Traditions
Child-Friendly Traditions
Adolescent-Friendly Traditions

Happy Birthday
Jesus Party

Happy Birthday Jesus Birthday invitations are handmade or computer generated by children. Neighborhood children are asked to donate canned food "gifts" for the Angel Tree Project (families with incarcerated parent). During the party, read the Christmas story from the most age-appropriate book, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, serve birthday cake, and play fun Christmas games.
Our early adolescents enjoy going door-to-door in the neighborhood collecting canned food as we tag along. They quickly discover they obtain more food than at the party. Bring along several double-bagged grocery bags. Finally, we deliver the groceries to our churches' Angel Tree Project. Note: Teens must be willing to articulate who food is for, i.e.: gospel mission, needy families, Angel Tree Project, etc.


New Christmas Ornaments


"Where did the years go?"

Beginning when each baby is born, purchase an ornament that is representative of the year. As ornaments are added, create a list for each child with the year, ornament, and who it's from. Store each child's ornaments in separate boxes. As children decorate the tree with their own ornaments, you can hear them recall, "Oh, I remember this one. That's the year I visited Grandmother in Kansas." These ornaments become family heirlooms when they move away, so buy yourself a new ornament or two every year or your tree will be empty along with your empty nest.
As your children get older, they can select their own special ornament. They'll have more life events to choose from, so help them recall some highlights. Some ideas include: 6th grade camp, babysitting, awards, sports teams, vacations, missions trip, or getting a driver's license. With the increasing price of ornaments, you may need to create a budget. Some adolescents can spend months hunting for the ideal ornament, especially with Christmas decorations displayed in July.

Christmas Cards & Letters
Some years we send a Christmas card, photo, and/or family letter that recounts God's blessings and highlights each family member. When purchasing cards, try selecting religious cards or cards from an organization you support.
Let your adolescents choose their own photo(s) for the card. Save time and ask them to create the family card. To avoid adolescent embarrassment, invite them to write their own section for the family's letter. Give them a word count and due date.

The Hallmark
Christmas Tree
My mother let us decorate our tree, but later she'd move the ornaments where she wanted them. She didn't think we noticed, but we did. Decide early on what's more important: the perfect tree or time together creating happy memories. If you treasure your "Hallmark" tree, provide a small tree for the children to decorate.
"What do you mean you don't want to get the Christmas tree this year?" Oh yeah, my adolescents want to include their friends. Encourage your kids to invite a friend or two to traipse along with the family. After choosing the perfect tree, let the young people decorate it, lights and all. Hang around while serving hot chocolate & treats. No, it won't be your Hallmark tree; it may be more interesting and definitely more memorable.

Photos with Santa & Gift for Needy Child


Note: If your family does not include Santa in your celebrations, follow the gift-giving part.

Dressed in new Christmas outfits, take pictures with Santa at the mall. Next, choose a child's name tag from the Soroptimist's Community Christmas tree for a needy child or teen. Use the money saved from recycling cans for purchasing the gift. Then children scour the mall for the best present. Finally, proudly return the perfect donation to the tree for wrapping.
Let your adolescents choose someone or an organization to help at Christmas. Maybe they know a family who needs food, a bed with a mattress, Christmas tree & decorations, or gifts for their children. Maybe they'd rather choose an organization their passionate about helping. They can still use the money from recycling. If the budget comes up short, planning how to earn the money or collecting donations becomes part of the project.

Coats for Kids
As children outgrow their coats each year, we donate them to Coats for Kids. Many different organizations sponsor this type o event such as firefighters or local news channels. Coats are typically distributed in January.

Adolescents can donate their outgrown coats and outerwear too. Additionally, they can collect coats from friends or youth groups to donate.

Sharing Clothes, Toys, Household Items

In anticipation of new clothes and toys for Christmas, supervise children cleaning out their closets, dressers, and toy boxes. Select items they no longer use or  fit. These items are shared with a younger sibling or given to someone else. Children can go through their belongings after Christmas during their school break. Since children learn from role modeling, this is a perfect time for parents to choose items to donate as well.
You'll notice that adolescents go through growth spurts just like when they were younger. Some years they'll have more to share than other years. They could donate video games, DVDs, and CDs. Let your adolescents choose the recipients. Our daughters know younger girls who love getting a "new to me" wardrobe and new games. The items might be donated to a family who's recently experienced a disaster, such as a fire.


Live Nativity and
The Journey to Bethlehem




Young children learn best through experiences. The story of Jesus' birth is no exception. Find a church that performs an outdoor live nativity. As children get older, find one that also offers a short narration. Bundling up in warm clothes with hot chocolate makes this a treasured memory and valuable way for learning the true Christmas story.
Adolescents can tire of the live nativity and may find more joy in bothering the animals. Perhaps they can become a live nativity performer or handle the manger animals. Many communities offer a more in-depth experience during The Journey to Bethlehem. Stops along the journey tell the story in an engaging manner. Encourage adolescents to invite friends so they'll visit during the long wait in lines. The lines and later evening times make this experience better suited for adolescents. Check your local newspapers or online early in the season for dates and times.

Christmas Morning Pics
What's a better memory than photos of little ones dressed in pajamas sitting before the lighted Christmas tree? Some years the siblings wear matching pajamas. Such sweet recollections of adorable children make this tradition harder to give up.
Take "Christmas" photos when adolescents are "dressed up" for a school event, like a winter formal, music or dance performance. Snap photos in front of the tree with their friends. They'll enjoy creating different poses and groupings. Let them use your camera.

Christmas Services
or Mass

Many churches offer Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services or masses at various times that work well for families with young children. As children get older, perhaps an evening service may work. If your church doesn't offer a service, locate one near you that does. Christmas services are usually advertised in the local newspaper or check online.
Many adolescents are weary of attending the same "old" Christmas service. Invite them to choose this year's Christmas service for your family. Maybe they know a friend who's in a Christmas program in another church. Perhaps they'd prefer attending midnight mass or a late service. If there are young children who can't stay up late, allow your adolescent to attend with friends' families. Mom and Dad, you can stay up extra late tonight!

Change is difficult especially when connected to emotionally-laden long-standing traditions. Begin making changes slowly as your children enter early adolescence and adolescence. Share this article with them. Ask them to choose one or two traditions. Maybe these thoughts will generate ideas for adapting your specific celebrations. Oh, and by the way, I decided to keep the Christmas stockings on the list as MY tradition. Undelete.

Images from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/  Accessed 4/19/2014.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Changing Christmas Traditions, Part 1

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012

Author, Speaker, Educator

"But we've always snapped photos in front of the tree on Christmas morning in your P.J.s. Remember, just before we open our stockings from Santa. You do want your stockings, right?" My guilt trips aren't working, not even on the first day of advent. I pour it on. "You have limited Christmases at home before you graduate. You'll be sorry some day that you didn't let me buy you Christmas P.J.s," I sniffle with a single tear rolling down my cheek.

"Mom, get a grip. We were in grade school when we wore Christmas pajamas. Need I remind you, I don't wear pajamas anymore?"

Cringing at the thought of my thirteen-year-old son in, well.... I can't go there. Why won't they cooperate like when they were younger? "You know how important Christmas traditions are to this family." Another sniffle and a second tear for affect.

"I'm too old for cutesy reindeer pajamas," adds my twelve-year-old daughter. "Plus, I don't let anyone take pictures unless my hair is done. And it better be a good hair day."

"Just for this year," I beg to no avail.

I'm about to run towards the mall bathroom for a pity party where surely there are other mothers of adolescents when my son admonishes me. "Lighten up, Mom. It's not that we don't like celebrating traditions. It's just that we're almost adults. Remember, we convinced you a few years ago we were too old for photos on Santa's lap?"

I painfully recall that year. "It was hard, but I survived...somehow."

"Mama, we loved all the traditions when we were younger. We don't want to give them up, just adapt them so we're not embarrassed," my daughter adds. "Oh, and we want to include our friends just like we do the rest of the year."

I've already been forced to give up some traditions. Now they want to change traditions, AND include other hormone-laced adolescents? What will it be next? The two of them insisting on an artificial tree to help save the environment?

Disturbed by these new fangled notions, I consider my options.

I can force them to celebrate and they'll resent me and the reason we celebrate Christmas, to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday! Oh, I remember the Jesus Birthday parties we celebrated. The neighborhood kids brought canned food for the Angel Tree Project, listened to the Christmas story, and played fun holiday games. We already gave that up.

"Lord, why is changing Christmas traditions so hard for me? I'm letting them grow-up in other areas."

The answer arrives in my own question. The meaning of traditions: handing down beliefs and customs, from generation to generation, especially by practice. It isn't so much the specific way we express the traditions, but our beliefs behind the traditions.

I recount Luke 2:11: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (NIV). Then it dawns on me. Maybe it's past time my kids learn the deeper meaning of Christmas and get involved serving others.

Looking at my two children, I mean, adolescents, I begin, "Never mind new pajamas. You're not kids anymore. You've reminded me how important keeping our beliefs are, but how we practice our traditions can be modified. You're becoming young adults who need to adapt expressing traditions that help you demonstrate that Christ is Lord of your life. You can tell me all about your ideas on the way home."

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 2

Image from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/ christmas-tree-3-1409681-s. Accessed 4/19/2014.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are You There?

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D.
Author, Speaker, Educator

"This will be good news," I hope, answering the long-awaited call. It's the nurse from the neurologist's office. "The doctor has reviewed all your records. He's referring you to Stanford Neurology," she reports.
Stanford. Five years ago. My mind flashes back automatically to grand mal seizures that started at, of all places, McDonalds in East Palo Alto. Aren't they supposed to serve Happy Meals there? Next, the terrifying ambulance ride to Stanford Hospital's Emergency Room. Between seizures I weakly plead, "Can you make them stop?"

The nurse interrupts my thoughts. "Ma'am,... Ma'am, are you there?"

"Yes..., I'm here," I hesitantly reply while silently questioning, "God, are You there?"

I'm physically on the phone, but  my mind's recalling my body seizing over and over again for three more hours on a narrow hospital bed shoved somewhere along the ER's neglected hallway. I softly implore, "Why can't they make them stop?" My husband shakes his head while gently holding my hand. Then my body forcefully thrashes again.
The nurse rattles off more information jolting me to the present. "Do you have any questions?" she finally concludes.

"No, ...No questions," I whisper.
I hit end on my cell phone. Did I really just say, "No questions?" Yeah, I've got questions, but not for the nurse. "God, are you serious? Stanford? I can't go back there. Do You remember how traumatic it was? "

Recently I prayed, "Should I continue pursuing medical options or accept the reality of my brain impairment?
You answer, "Stanford Epilepsy AND their Sleep Center?"
Returning to Stanford is the last place I'd choose for medical treatment. Maybe I should've made more specific requests, like, "Should I continue homeopathy treatments? What about acupuncture? Continue supplements? But Stanford?" Last time I was dismissed like a crazy woman voluntarily producing seizures.
I can't force that horrendous day from my thoughts. Then the radiology tech inquires, "Can you make the seizures stop long enough for a CT scan?"
Can I make them stop? For hours my voice begs anyone who vaguely looks associated with a hospital, "Please, please stop my seizures."  Shaking my head No, "I can't make them stop," I mutter.
Finally, a kind soul pushes medicine through my I.V. The seizures stop within seconds. My body is quiet and still, almost lifeless. As my body begins relaxing, calmness returns. Someone directs, "Your C.T. scan is normal. Sign these papers and you can go home."
A second nurse's voice draws me back during another phone call. "We've scheduled you to arrive at the Stanford Neurology & Epilepsy Center on October 15. You'll be staying with us for up to a week," she explains. "We'll be monitoring your brain 24/7 and videotaping you. Do you have any questions?"
Questions? How many can I list? The questions I asked God over five years ago are still unanswered. Sometimes I wonder, "Are you there, God?" But the question I asked Him a few months ago is now answered. Not in a way I expected nor desired. Today He answers in a clear, calm, reassuring voice. "I'm here. I'm sending you to Stanford."
P.S. Stay tuned to discover what happens at Stanford

Image from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/ clouds-and-blue-sky 1387467-s. Accessed 4/18/2014.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seriously, the Phone Book?

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2012
Author, Speaker, Educator

"Seriously Mom. You're going to use the phone book?" While contemplating the Yellow Pages' value, my daughter types in Papa Murphy's, our zip code, and locates a coupon...all on line. In seconds, she's ordering our garlic chicken pizza and cookie dough. I'm still wondering where I left my phone.

 "My six-week-old granddaughter is going to grow up without knowing about phone books," I mutter.

"When she's older, she can use it as a booster seat," my daughter jokes, trying to make me feel better. 

I don't feel any better. How different will my grandchildren's lives be from mine? How different than their parents' lives? My two-year-old granddaughter has a "game" on her Grams' phone, a recent Child Development Professor. How did I allow that? That's not developmentally appropriate, I chastise myself.

Yesterday my four-year old grandson inquired, "Grams, where's the video?" as I strap him in his car seat.

"Gram's car doesn't have one. We can talk," I proudly reply.  

Moment's later my daughter directs me to Kylie Ann's one month photos. "Just use the mouse and click on each photo," she explains.  "It won't work on the glass."

"Just use the phone book," she chuckles. "Now there's a use for your phone book." For a minute, I feel a little better. My phone book is still useful!

I return to my thoughts. My grandchildren won't even know that phone books existed. What a different world they'll live in; probably just as different as my childhood was from my great grandparents' childhood. They didn't know what telephone phone books were either.

Image from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/  old-telephone 822959-2. Accessed 4/18/2014.