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Archive for the ‘Family Activity’ Category

It’s the start of a new year, and with that comes the traditional New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s sad, really, that we need something as simple as a calendar change to do the things we should have been doing the whole year before (or whole life before).  Yet every year people worldwide set goals to better their lives.  I’m guilty of it too.  And just like many others, I’m guilty of breaking them after a few months.  You get busy, you fall back into routine, and, well, life happens.

It got me wondering, though, what the most common resolutions are.  What do Americans think matter the most?  You can probably guess most of them.  Like I just said, it’s the things we should all be doing anyway.  And I really wonder why it’s so hard to follow through with them…

Losing weight, eating better and working out always top the list.  As does quitting smoking or drinking.  It’s easy to understand the reasons behind these.  Especially after the calorie laden crap we all eat and drink around the holidays.  Overindulgence is what the holidays are all about.  I’ll admit, working out was one of mine.  For a few years in a row.  (One week in and I can now run on my elliptical machine for a good 15 minutes without passing out!)  But why is this one so hard to accomplish?  Mr. T made a good point about this today.  He was trying to find a healthy fast food lunch option and spent almost an hour researching nutritional information of fast food chains.  Many of the “healthy options” like salads have just as many calories and as much fat as a cheeseburger.  “It’s easy to see how so many people just say F-it when it comes to eating right,” he said. And he’s right.  It’s a pain in the ass.  It takes time and effort, and let’s face it, most of us are too damn lazy.  Hopefully it won’t take a heart attack or another new year for people to accomplish this goal…

Next on the usual suspect list is making more money, getting out of debt, and getting a new job.  Again, really sad we need to wait until a year begins to work on our budget.  This one too comes after a season of maxing out credit cards to get friends and family “that perfect gift.”  I wonder what would happen if we all took the money we were going to spend on gifts and instead opened a savings account.  With regard to making more money, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “no one has ever been on their deathbed wishing they spent more time at the office.”

Also on the top list – stress less and volunteer.  Well, perhaps if we all worked out, ate better and actually went though the effort to save more money we wouldn’t have so much to stress out about.  As for volunteering; again, we’re lazy.  We don’t have time to do things for us, so where would we find the time to volunteer?  But perhaps if we saw what those with less lived like, we would stress less about our own lives and the things we didn’t own.

Now for my personal favorite – spending more time with family.  Come on people, this one’s free!  Not only is it free, I can provide ways to keep the other resolutions listed by simply doing this last one.  First of all, cook dinner and eat together.  There have been numerous studies linking better overall health and diet when a family eats a meal together. [i] Go hiking, take walks or even play active video games together.   My brother brought his X-Box with Kinect to our last family get together and we all got quite a work out (and perhaps even burned off dessert…or at least we told ourselves that).  Smoking and drinking?  That’s an obvious one to quit when you have kids…  Getting out of debt and saving money may be a little tougher, but it’s attainable with support from a close family.  Establish a family budget with your partner and get your kids involved.  We didn’t have a lot of toys and games when we were kids but we did have imaginations (they are free, by the way) and parents who enjoyed spending time with us.  Besides, my daughter’s favorite toys are the ones lying around the house (boxes, kitchen utensils, plastic bowls, etc.).  And if you’re spending your free time being active with your kids you won’t have time to spend money on things like cable TV, magazines, and other non-essential items.  Now for the last two – stress and volunteering.  Looking for something to do with your kids that’s free?  Der, take them with you to volunteer.  Show them how other people less fortunate live and perhaps it will teach them to be thankful for the toys they do have.  With regard to stress, well, look inside yourself.    If you are fortunate to have a close family (whether blood relation or friends so close they might as well be), are in good health (or at least working on it) and have a dollar to your name, you’ve got it pretty good.

So this year, let’s all try a little harder to actually follow through with our goals.  Like I just demonstrated, many can be attained with just accomplishing one.  And if you find yourself back to the old routine in March, don’t say “maybe next year.”  In the words of George Eliot, “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

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The memory of picking Kentucky pole beans in the hot, muggy Texas summer every season of my childhood still haunts me to this day.  As mosquitoes practically carried us off, my brothers and I would spend what seemed like an hour searching for the tender beans amongst the vines.  My parents always had a huge garden that was responsible for growing the majority of the fresh produce we consumed.  They also had free child labor to pick everything.  I’ll admit I was none too fond of harvesting vegetables from our family garden…until the year I had my own section.

I was given a choice of several vegetable and flower seeds to plant and nurture all by myself.  Surprisingly, one of my selections was Kentucky pole beans.  I can remember digging a hole in the earth, carefully placing each bean pod in the soil and gently covering it with soil.  Only a week and a half later, the first sprouts appeared.  Never had I felt so much pride in something I created.  Every evening before dinner I would scrutinize my section of the garden, pulling weeds and monitoring the growth of my plants.  For the first time I was excited about getting to pick beans – I had grown them after all.  Not only was I excited about getting to pick green beans, I was equally so about getting to eat them.  Yes, you read that right; a kid excited to eat green beans.

There is a definite sense of accomplishment and pride amassed by growing a large healthy plant from seed.  It is taken a step further when that plant produces food that can nourish you and your loved ones.  Besides the boost in self pride, there are several other health benefits to growing a garden.  Spending just five minutes a day with nature can positively impact people’s self esteem and improve their mood.[i] Gardening can also be a low impact workout, burning on average 200-300 calories per hour.  It can also improve the diet of you and your family.  The expense of fresh produce is often a prohibiting factor in eating healthy for many families.  Seeds and plants are relatively cheap and depending on where you live, growing a variety of fresh produce year round is fairly easy to do.  Even more expensive at the grocery store is organic produce.  Well, you can’t get more organic than growing it on your own!  You control whether pesticides or chemicals are sprayed on your plants and if fertilizers are even used.  Last, home grown food just tastes better.  Let’s face it, there is no comparison to eating a juicy ripe tomato handpicked from the vine.  If you haven’t had the luxury of doing so, well, you are seriously missing out.

If the benefits discussed above are not enough to make you yield a shovel, consider this common expression: “The family that plays together stays together.” Family involvement in growing your own produce is a relatively simple and low cost way to spend quality time together.  Everyone gets some exercise, vitamin D and the ability to grow food AND a stronger family.  Weekend entertainment for a family of four can be very costly, especially if you add in the cost of eating out.  The entire family can spend time in the garden and make dinner together using food that was just harvested.  To get your kids excited about the idea, allow them to have their own section.  Children involved in gardening can learn responsibility, patience and creativity while reinforcing the values of healthy eating.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that preschool children who ate homegrown produce were twice as likely to both eat and LIKE more fruit and vegetables. [ii] Furthermore, it is a great way to slip in lessons about science, nature, ecology and horticulture.  Too many children these days are glued to a television or video game and rarely get to experience the splendor of nature or given the opportunity to cultivate a love for the outdoors.

Whether you donate half your backyard or just a small pot for herbs, it’s easy to reap the many benefits of the family garden.


[i] Dr Jo Barton and Professor Jules Pretty, the American journal, Environmental Science and Technology http://www.essex.ac.uk/news/event.aspx?e_id=1588

[ii] (Rural Missouri. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 107, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 577-584 Marilyn S. Nanney, Sheldon Johnson, Michael Elliott and Debra Haire-Joshu.

Picture from Homemaking-Cottage.com

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