Posts Tagged ‘family bonding’

TV-Turnoff Week: Take the Challenge!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Take the challenge—keep your TVs turned off this week. After you go through that initial media-withdrawal, you just might see a glimpse of the possible rewards of a TV-free lifestyle, most notably having more time to really connect as a family.

Continue in the spirit of TV-Turnoff Week by scheduling one unplugged day or evening a week when the only things you’re tuned into are each other. Chinaberry can help you to unplug from electronics and tune into family and community. Check out our wide selection of games, crafts, activity books, puzzles, and outdoor/active play toys and free yourself from TV for at least one day a week.

Disneyland is Free on Your Birthday!

Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Photo: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Photo: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

[OK now, I'm sure many of you have already heard about this Disney promotion. Just in case you haven't, read on.]

I was happily surprised (our family doesn’t watch much TV) to find out that during this year, Disneyland is letting people in free on their birthdays. Since I have twins, who will turn seven this month, I get both of them in for free! We happen to live close enough to Disneyland for a day trip. The girls are very excited since the first time I took them there, it rained most of the day.These free tickets can only be used on your exact birthday and you’ll need to bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate. I believe you can get free birthday tickets at Disney World, as well.

Get your free birthday ticket(s) here!

I also just found out that Disneyland has finished their renovation of the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride–it was closed last time we visiting. To me, Disneyland just isn’t complete unless I go on this ride. The “downside” is that I’ll have the It’s a Small World song in my head for weeks afterward. Well, it’s better than Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which one of my girls has been humming & singing since December.

Crafting - Coloring Easter Eggs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Decorated Easter Eggs

Decorated Easter Eggs

Last year around this time of year, I gathered all of our Easter egg supplies and took the activity outside where we could decorate without fear of spilled dye on the carpet or dripping fingers touching the furniture. I know that not everyone has the luxury of warm weather in the spring, but if you are able to get outside to decorate your eggs, it really is the best option. I have a little play table that is a good height for the kids so they can stand over the dye cups and not risk tipping the cups over like they might at a dining room table or kitchen counter.

I have my boys dress in old clothes and then let them go at it. I buy an inexpensive egg decorating kit that includes the dye pellets, a wire holder (though a tablespoon is generally easier to maneuver), and sometimes a few stickers, which I usually put into their Easter baskets. I’ve never gone for those complicated dye kits that add glitter or wrap plastic casings around the eggs. I think they take away from the creativity and imagination of making your own designs. My boys like to draw on their eggs with a crayon before dipping them to create patterns or personalize them with their names. The half-and-half egg is a popular one at our house but requires a steady hand to hold the egg only halfway into the dye before flipping it on the spoon and dipping the opposite side into another color. My eldest likes to use an old eye dropper to deposit small drips and make a swirl effect with a rainbow of colors.

Using dye is the perfect opportunity to learn about color mixing (last year we ended up with lots of purple eggs, the result of my littlest trying to make a brown egg!). My boys usually abandon their spoons and holders halfway through the proceedings and end up dipping their fingers into the dye to retrieve their eggs. I don’t mind a little mess as I think it encourages the imagination, but if you want the kids fresh and clean for Easter Sunday, the dye does stain fingers and nails so have them wear rubber gloves!

This weekend I will be setting up our egg coloring station in the front yard. I hope you will share your own family Easter egg coloring traditions with us!

Time to decorate those eggs!

Time to decorate those eggs!

The Joke’s on You!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Well, it’s here once again… April Fool’s Day. Even though I tend to fall for most pranks on this silly day, I still love it. Here at Chinaberry, there is laughter coming from all corners of our building. We are a company that laughs often normally, but today light-heartedness abounds. April Fool’s Day reminds me not to take life so seriously and to recognize the revitalizing, cathartic and stress-reducing attributes of laughing. I love the times when I laugh so hard that tears come streaming down my face. I especially like when I’m open to letting this happen as a family. Being a single parent, I feel as if I spend way too much time being the nagging, multi-tasking, no-fun disciplinarian. My six-year-old twin girls LOVE to laugh-everything is funny to them. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he wanted to.”-jokes that only kids can fully appreciate. When I can “let my guard down,” the results are spontaneous family bonding & fun.

One of our best fits of laughter as a family came when my then 5-year-old girls and I were attempting to play badminton in our front yard (they for the first time). All the air swinging, jumping, being hit on the top of the head with the birdie, having the birdie land in the perfect spot in the tree-it was too much to take-I felt as if we were in an “I Love Lucy” skit. After being so serious about trying to hit the birdie, we finally just broke down in laughter. My girls couldn’t exactly figure out why I was crying so much, as usually crying is preceded by sadness or utter exhaustion. The girls and I enjoy remembering that moment. My wish is that I can create more space for humor in our lives.

The Chinaberry April Fool’s Day tradition:
Our Customer Service Manager, Patti, had made it a tradition early in the day on each April 1st, to announce over the office intercom, “Donuts in the break room.” Almost every year an unsuspecting Chinaberry newbie comes rushing into the break room to discover… no donuts and a foolish look on their face. The first year, Patti heard the oncoming stampede of hungry, hardworking warehouse workers rushing into the break room. This has been a Chinaberry tradition for 14 years now. Well, today, Patti changed it up a bit and actually brought donuts. Of course, except for a few fellow tricksters, everyone else thought “There she goes again. Won’t she ever stop that joke? Nobody falls for that one anymore.” So, the donuts sat there undisturbed by the masses until the real joke happened once her co-workers found the donuts. Maybe this is a ‘you had to be there’ kind of prank, but it sure had us Chinaberrians laughing out loud.

Please share one of the funniest pranks you encountered today-and remember to keep your sense of humor active throughout the day and all year round.

Featured Chinaberry Employee - Karen Knight

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Janet: How long have you been working for Chinaberry?

Karen: I was first hired in April, 2000 to do payroll and some bookkeeping. When I was offered a job elsewhere in 2007, I took it, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that Chinaberry is the place for me. After two months, I returned to open arms. You just can’t leave a place like Chinaberry and be happy.

Janet: How would you describe what you do now?

Karen: I work in three departments: in Human Resources, my primary job is payroll; in the Website Department, I turn the ads on and off as inventory changes, copy ads to different websites, and keep an eye on other websites that have links to our website; and in Accounting, I do sales taxes and anything they need help with.

Janet: What has been your most memorable experience at Chinaberry?

Karen: One of the most memorable experiences was when Chinaberry was threatened by fire. Everyone immediately pulled together to get a rental truck loaded so we could keep the business running if the fire were to reach our building. No one had to ask anyone to help; everyone just pulled together and got busy. The next year the fire was even closer, and in the wee hours of the morning, employees who could get through to the building left their homes to come and make sure things were covered to keep smoke from the merchandise. Together, they stood at the back of the building as the fire approached, hoping it would not hop the roadway below.  No one called and asked anyone to come; they just showed up and got busy doing whatever they could to help. Some employees lost their homes and everything in them. Immediately, the Chinaberry family tried to find out what they could do to help.

I love how employees are quietly watched for their strengths and how management works together to find the perfect fit for employees. Every book and toy is read or tested by employees and their families to make sure it is a fit for Chinaberry kids. We have books you would never find in the mall bookstores.

Janet: What are your top two all-time favorite Chinaberry books?

Karen: Eat, Drink and Be Chinaberry is a cookbook I’ve given to all my children and friends. The recipes are simply wonderful, but more than that, you can find helpful hints like making your own diaper wipes. With five grandkids in and out of our home, we have used that one more than once. In this time of financial struggle for so many people, there are ways to save money and this is a great one. This cookbook is the favorite one in all our homes.  Also, James Herriot’s Treasury for Children is one that my grandchildren and I love to sit and read together.

Janet: What are your top two all-time favorite Chinaberry products?

Karen: The Marble Whacker is a game we really enjoy playing. It gets really noisy with the sound of the marbles clicking as you hit them, but the laughter is the greatest. Also, the Butter Bell Crock is sitting on my counter all the time and part of setting the table.

Janet: Want to share a little bit about your family and/or hobbies?

Karen: My husband and I have five children and five grandchildren with another on the way. We enjoy our Sunday family dinners, especially since all we have to provide is the house because they all do the cooking!

Watching the kids grow and mature and having the opportunity to play ball and go on family bike rides is the best, but never more fun than camping together. Of course our son-in-law claims he will never camp with us again because every time we’ve gone, we’ve run into a bear or two. The last time we went camping, it took us three hours to get to our campsite, but only 1-1/2 hours to load up and run back to the car after bears were headed toward our tents! We’re going camping locally in two weeks and hope to prove we don’t always have bears around. This time, we’ll be in mountain lion country! (We’ve never seen one there, but keep your fingers crossed!)

The Art of Storytelling

Sunday, March 8th, 2009
Nova (Ali's daughter) asleep with Gus-Gus after storytime

Nova (Ali's daughter) asleep with Gus-Gus after storytime

Don’t forget the magic in a came-from-your-own-heart, straight-out-of- your-imagination, in-your-own-words story. The “Mommy (or Daddy), tell me a story” kind of story. It’s a completely different experience from reading a book to your child and I heartily recommend it!

Some of our family’s closest times together revolved around that kind of thing. There was a stately old beat-up chair in toddler Elizabeth’s room that she named “The Story Chair,” for it was where she sat every single night while I told her the animal-filled, gentleness-infused original tale of Whoopie the Whale. (The story was really lame, but she absolutely insisted on it at both naptime and bedtime.) And then there was Evan, whose taste in stories I never quite got a handle on until I learned to routinely ask him to tell me three things he wanted his story to be about that night. (His answer was generally along the lines of “a boy, a policeman and a robot” or “a snake, a bomb and a boy.”) Within about ten minutes, I’d told him his made-to-order story, he’d drifted off and I was left in the quiet of the night to caress his back, run my hand through his hair and be full of wonder at the lessons he was teaching me, my heart welling over with love for this tired little boy.

Fully Engaging With Our Children

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Janet's daughter and grandson

When I was recently at the grocery store with my 5-year-old grandson, the clerk asked if I’d like help out to the car. But, umm, all I had bought was a carton of eggs. I laughed and said that while I may be a grandma, I’m not too feeble to carry a dozen eggs to my car! The dour clerk told me they had to ask everyone that question or they’d ‘get in trouble.’ She then smiled and said, ‘Have a nice day!’ (You just know she’d also be in hot water if she didn’t say that!)

As a grandmother who wants her grandson to grow up to be a common-sense kind of guy and an independent thinker, I felt I had been handed one of those ‘teachable moments.’ For the life of me, though, I was at a loss about what to say! I so wanted to instill in him the value of thinking something through rather than just doing what you’re told because somebody said you’d ‘get in trouble’ if you didn’t. Suddenly I felt like a loser grandma because I didn’t have a clue how to get this principle across to a 5-year-old. Yikes. Why do we always put such pressure on ourselves to suddenly transform into Ward Cleaver at times like this? Why do I always feel as if I should have pearls of wisdom dropping from my mouth around my grandson? But mindful parenting (and grandparenting!) isn’t scripted any more than mindful customer service is (take note, big grocery store chain!), and it usually isn’t what we ’say’ to children that makes the lasting impression. It’s all the gloriously messy and rich and colorful stuff in between. It’s about fully engaging with our children on a daily basis, being in the moment rather than going by a script as we explore critters in the backyard, learn a new board game, or try a ‘yucky’ new food.

Years ago, my mother-in-law cautioned me not to parent too much ‘by the book,’ and she was right. In retrospect, when I think of the things I did right as a parent, it was allowing my daughter to explore at her own pace, and many times that meant refraining from pressing for that ‘teachable moment.’ Sometimes in our eagerness to be the ‘best’ parents we can be, we end up overstimulating our children with unduly long lectures and the latest ‘educational’ toys, bombarding them with so many activities and so much stuff that their little brains and souls go on overload.

With this new year, my wish is that we remember the importance of nurturing our child’s natural curiosity and thought processes, and that we cut ourselves some slack regarding the ways we go about doing it. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and ourselves) is simply to be there for them with open ears and hearts, lovingly listening, patiently guiding. Call it mindful parenting or just plain common sense; you can’t go wrong with this approach.

Tips for Having Enough Energy to Survive Daily Life with Small Children

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

• Be sure to get enough rest. It is so easy to stay up late after the
children are in bed to have a few precious hours of solitude. But if
this time comes at the expense of your sleep, you and your family
will eventually pay a high price for these few hours.

• If mornings are hard for you, make sure you get up before your
children. Allow yourself a few minutes to adjust to the day before
you are inundated by your children’s needs. Have time to take your
shower, or drink your morning cup of coffee. Do whatever you need
to do to say “Good morning” to yourself. Once you’ve greeted the day, it is much easier to face the unbounded enthusiasm of a cheery toddler first thing in the morning.

• If your children nap, take that time purely for yourself. Parents need
downtime, too. Read a book, take a nap, do something creative—
anything to nourish yourself. Don’t feel as if you have to make that
the most productive hour of the day. Think of this time as your time
to renew your batteries, not as the hour to get everything done
that hasn’t been done all day.

• Eat regular meals. It is so easy to ignore your own needs. When
things get hectic or children become overwrought, it can be a challenge
to remember to feed yourself. Even if it is just a five-minute
break to eat a peanut butter sandwich and drink a glass of milk, sit
down. Show your children how to take care of themselves by taking
care of yourself.

• Remember to drink plenty of water (not Coke, not coffee—but
water). It’s amazing how much energy proper hydration provides.
To figure out how much water you require, divide your weight in
pounds by two and drink that number in ounces of water. So if you
weigh 140 pounds, you need 70 ounces of water, or just about nine
eight-ounce glasses. If that sounds like a lot, you probably aren’t
drinking enough. Try it for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
You might be surprised. (more…)

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. with family after hearing that he won the Noble Peace Prize.

Two nights ago, I began reading the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. to my girls at bedtime. This is one quote–taken from ‘The Drum Major Instinct’ speech–that stood out to me, especially as we prepare to welcome in our new president, our first African-American president. It is up to all of us to help make the world a better place. We each have unique gifts that we can use to help others in need.  Please consider volunteering with your family and make a real difference in your community. What a great quality to teach our children about–service to others.

“… And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.

You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mindful Movements - Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) teaches mindfulness, meditation and awareness, gratefulness, and knowing how to live life fully in the present moment. His simple approach works well with both children and adults. This wonderful little book is perfect for families. The illustrations and simple language will appeal to children, yet the movements are profound and deeply effective for all ages, and we can do them the rest of our lives.

In the included DVD (video clip below), the exercises are taught outside beneath a beautiful willow tree by one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s students and then re-led by Thay himself. ”The practice of the Mindful Movements is to bring awareness and enjoyment into our bodies and into the movements we make with our bodies. Mindful Movements are very simple but very deep. They have been taught and practiced in Plum Village (Thay’s retreat center in France) for over two decades.”

I have been doing the Mindful Movements every morning and can feel how much my body, mind, and spirit are benefiting. I especially like the emphasis on breath. ”We often assume breathing is a natural skill. But breathing is a miracle. Being aware of our breath not only helps us manage the difficulties in everyday life, it also helps develop our wisdom and compassion.”

I plan to give this book to all my favorite people. A portion of the proceeds goes to nonprofit projects in Vietnam, and purchasing the book supports Thich Nhat Hanh in continuing to bring his profound gifts to the world.

Enjoy this video clip from Thick Nhat Hanh’s DVD Mindful Movements: