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We all know quality family time is important. Those moments when we’re together, sharing an experience, reminiscing and telling stories, or participating in a favorite tradition, make for some of our sweetest memories.

Yet as technology has become a more pervasive and distracting presence in our lives, it can definitely impact the quality of the time we spend together. As parents, being truly present with our children is essential, not only for the sake of our relationship with them but for their well-being. Making the most of each moment where you’re fully engaged in an activity together allows your kids to feel that they’re loved, that they matter, that they have a supportive place to share their thoughts and feelings. And these moments all add up to happier, healthier kids.

When you carve out time to simply be together as a family, that’s an expression of love that often speaks louder than words. And when you completely unplug, that deepens the joy that you’ll share.

Here are a few suggestions for making your quality time together count.

 

 

Be playful and creative
From board games and puzzles to scavenger hunts and craft projects, there’s a world of fun available beyond our screens. Build an obstacle course in the backyard, bake a favorite family recipe or hold your own paint party. You could even try something new together, like learning to juggle or to perform basic magic tricks.

 

 

Read together
Take time to read aloud to your kids or to sit quietly side by side lost in your favorite books. Family visits to the local library can also open up new horizons, inspire conversations on a world of subjects and foster appreciation for these vital public spaces.

 

 


Perform community service
Schedule family days to help out in your community. Look for specific volunteer opportunities like park clean-ups, animal rescue fundraisers, or food pantry events or contact an organization that supports a cause you care about to see what opportunities they offer. You can even initiate your own projects such as creating care package for the homeless or writing thank-you notes to your local firefighters and police officers.

Contributor: William Lessa is a family therapist and  former president of the executive board for The Center for Parenting Education.” 

Our parents make so many sacrifices to provide us with a happy and healthy childhood and to help us fulfill our potential. All those times of juggling and rearranging schedules to be there for the moments that mattered to us, all those dreams and plans they put on the back burner — they might think we never noticed. But in this touching video tribute to his mom, Wendell lets her know just how grateful he is for her steadfast presence, and truthful guidance, in his life.

Sometimes, it’s the constant, everyday expressions of love and appreciation that are the easiest to take for granted. All the more reason to let those we cherish know we see and value everything they do for us.

Acknowledge their sacrifices. Thank them for their thoughtfulness. Express how they’ve helped shape the person you are. You don’t have to do it in a video but a wonderful way to share a message they can turn to again and again to feel your love and gratitude.

 

The women who mean the most to us inspire us for so many reasons. They’re models of strength and determination, courage and generosity, wisdom and support. We love them, wholeheartedly, for all they bring to our lives. This beautiful video tribute captures the many roles our moms, our wives, our daughters, sisters and grandmothers play — and thanks all of these special women for filling us up with so much happiness and love.

May it inspire you to share your heart with a woman you cherish. Let her know why she’s your biggest inspiration. Share the ways she’s helped you to grow. Recall a memory or moment that always makes you smile. Tell her why there’s no greater gift than having her love in your life.

Some of us are just natural gift-givers, affirming how much someone means to us with every present that shows we really know and appreciate them. And some of us, despite our best intentions and caring, struggle every time a special celebration looms.

But with a little advanced planning and extra attention, you, too, can be the giver of an ultra-thoughtful, wow-worthy gift.

Follow these tips to take the stress out of gift-giving for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.

Pay attention to clues
Whenever you’re around the recipient, watch and listen for the things they love. Are they drawn to dragonflies? Is turquoise their favorite color? Does the scent of lavender conjure up instant relaxation? Keep track of such clues to take the guesswork out of making that special purchase.

Expand your reach
If you’re not around the recipient enough to pick up on any clues they might drop, reach out to a best friend or family member who may be more intimately familiar with their tastes and interests. And don’t forget social media: a Pinterest board or Instagram account can be fabulous places to learn what’s captured their attention.

Offer your services
Can you organize a home office, wash the car, or babysit the kids for two hours so your loved one can have some quiet to themselves? Offering a gift of your skills, time or talents is not only an expression of caring it helps the recipient feel better about themselves and some aspect of their lives.

Give the gift of experience.
A museum membership, a spa day or theater tickets all make memorable gifts that encourage spending time together. Similarly, choosing an activity the recipient’s always wanted to explore is a wonderful way to support a goal while enhancing your relationship.

So you’re throwing a party for someone special, but you want to make it really unforgettable without going overboard and over budget. What can you do? According to event designer, Sarah Reese, no matter what the occasion – birthday, shower, retirement, going away or any life event – it can be so much more memorable and personal if the details relate to the preferences and passions of the guest of honor. “Think about what makes them unique,” Sarah says. “Why are we celebrating them? What qualities about them make the rest of the world smile?”

 

Similarly, consider what’s their favorite color? Flower? Travel destination? Hobby? Book? Quote or saying? Combine those elements and weave them into a celebration that tells their story.

Start with their favorite colors, and plan to incorporate them throughout. For instance, a little food coloring can go a long way to personalizing the frosting on home made cupcakes, cookies or cakes with they love.
Create a welcome sign that highlights their favorite things or most adored qualities.

Make the tables and wall decor reflect the guest of honor’s personality. Do they love to read? How about a banner decorated with book jackets? Do they live for the beach? Consider a table scape with tropical decorations…pineapples, palm trees, sun icons and colorful cocktail umbrellas. For favors – try making a message in a bottle for each attendee.

 

 

Did they come of age in another era? If their youth was spent in the 1950s, for instance, look for nostalgic touches…juke boxes and other retro diner or soda fountain icons. For the ‘70s, consider the festive touch of a disco mirror ball.

The centerpiece can also reflect the guest of honor. If they’re adventurous, create a fabulous hot-air balloon display with a basket at its base. If they’re a gardener, straw hats adorned with flowers can make beautiful centerpieces.

Fill goodie bags with their favorite treat – maybe it’s chocolate chip cookies or a special chocolate or nostalgic candy from childhood.

And don’t forget a guest book. It can become a keepsake the guest of honor will treasure forever. If they like music, for instance, guests could sign old vinyl records with metallic sharpies. If they love balloons, have each guest write a message on a slip of paper and insert it into a balloon that will be inflated…and then popped toward the end of the party so the message can be read aloud.

 

So many days can feel like a series of ordinary moments strung together. But in the midst of our routines and busyness, life gives us countless reasons, big and small, to celebrate. Often they involve an event, from the everyday joy of a meal shared with family to the arrival of long-awaited good news. But when we think about those moments, what makes them so memorable are the people at the heart of them all — and the words we use to let them know how much they mean to us. This inspiring video reminds us that being there for the ones we love, with support, with appreciation, with caring, takes so little time. Yet when woven into the fabric of our days, these are the threads that sustain and uplift us, and keep us forever in each other’s hearts.

 

 

Take a moment today to let someone you love know you’re thinking about them. Reach out to say “I miss you,” acknowledge something important that’s going on in their lives, share a memory you know will make them laugh. We promise: you’ll both be gifted with a fuller, more grateful heart.

Few moments are more satisfying for a parent than to see their adult children enjoying each other’s company and genuinely caring about each other. Fostering such relationships begins early on. Alan Kay of Asheville, NC, understands this and because he is passionate about helping others to do the same, he founded the Better Dads Festival. The annual celebration of fatherhood is a chance for men and women to connect with each other as they explore what it means to create the kind of communities where they want to live and raise their kids.

 

 

All three of Alan’s own children are involved with the festival, from coordinating its social media, to developing its website and helping out onsite. Their support is no surprise, considering the relationship they share not only with him, but with each other.

 

“There are moments when all three of my kids are together and they’re talking among themselves and sitting in a relaxed way and sharing with each other and being curious about each other’s lives. I can step back and look at that, and it makes me so proud,” Kay says. “Seeing my kids loving one another and being supportive of one another warms my heart like nothing else. It’s really very sweet.

 

To create close-knit relationships in your family, why not start a project with your kids? It can be something as simple as baking cookies or something bigger like creating a garden or painting a room. Whatever the scope, it’s a wonderful way to connect while they’re young, and it just may blossom into life-long closeness for all of you.

Graduation is a big deal! Whether it’s high school, college, grad school...or any school, it’s a milestone worth noting. And the graduation card you send is an opportunity to add a short message to tell your favorite grad what’s in your heart, always focusing on the positive.→ Read more

We all want to be supportive when someone close to us loses a loved one, to let them know they’re in our thoughts and in our hearts. But beyond calling or sending a sympathy card, we may wish there was more we could do to show we care.

Here are some suggestions for gestures that make a difference and bring comfort to the grieving:

– Send a small gift card for coffee or a meal.

– Bring them a prepared meal or some food items from the grocery store.

– Ask them to go for a drink, for a walk in the park or to a movie.

– Offer to take their kids for an afternoon.

– Share your stories and photos with them.

– Give them a chance to talk.

– Honor anniversaries and special occasions.

– Do something thoughtful months or even years down the road to let them know you haven’t forgotten them, or their loved one.

When someone we love suffers a painful loss, we long to offer comfort and support. But sometimes we struggle to find the right words to say.

After three of her dear friends suddenly lost their husbands, our founder Kathy Davis wondered what words she could offer that would make a difference in the face of such immense grief.

“As one who makes a living helping people share words of comfort during times like these, it was important for me to better understand what may have helped my friends cope with their loss,” she says.

“My experience as a writer has taught me it’s often not how much you say, but what you don’t say that is important.”

While she knew she could turn to countless books and articles written on this topic, it was important to her to learn this knowledge in an authentic way…directly from her friends.

Here is what they shared with her about the words that didn’t bring comfort as they grieved — and those they found most meaningful.

Please DON’T:
– Don’t ask me “How are you?” I’m not OK.
– Don’t ask me what I need! I don’t know!
– Don’t say, “Call if you need anything,” because I do not want to impose. Just DO something nice for me without being asked.

Words that do NOT help:
– “I know just how you feel.”
– “Everything happens for a reason.”
– “(He’s) in a better place now.”
– “You’ll feel better with time.”
– “God works in mysterious ways.”

Please DO:
– Ask: “How are you doing this afternoon (this morning, right now…)?”
– Share a story, a recollection or memory about my loved one. Don’t be afraid that you may make me cry…or laugh!
– Add a personal note to my sympathy or thinking-of-you card. That lets me know my (loved one’s) life made a difference to you and others.
– When writing me a message, just be yourself. Simple yet genuine words let me know you care.

Words that DO help:
– “I know this is a really difficult time for you.”
– “I am here for you.”
– “I can’t even begin to imagine how you are feeling.”
– “I care.”
– “Call me whenever you may need to talk.”

Everyone’s experience with grief is different and very personal. Simply letting someone who’s suffering know they occupy a space in your heart can be incredibly meaningful.

Whether it’s big or small, a long time coming or a wonderful surprise, what matters is that to them, it means the world.→ Read more

 

Share the love that’s in your heart.

Once you’ve known the joy of sharing your heart with someone who understands you, is there for you and loves you… you realize that’s all you need.

Telling them what they mean to you, and what you admire and appreciate about them makes it last a lifetime. Our “Love & Happiness” Art Print is the perfect way to share what’s in your heart. Click here to order.

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As the landscape returns to life in May, spring’s renewal invites us to think about how we might change things up a bit. If we haven’t been fully immersed in our everyday lives, now is a great time to do so.→ Read more
Our Kindness art print simply says it all.→ Read more