Teach Your Children Gratitude

By Tracey Dowdy

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in people, don’t they? ‘Tis the season for giving, but if we aren’t careful, it’s also the season for crowds, spending beyond our budget, and unrealistic expectations. 

Managing our own expectations is important, but it’s also essential we manage the expectations of our children. These tips can help you teach your children gratitude not only at the holidays but all year round. 

Start by leading by example. It’s something of a cliche, but more is caught than taught when it comes to parenting. If you want to raise grateful children, show gratitude yourself. Studies show that kids use courtesy words only about twenty percent as much as they hear them, so it’s important they hear it often, especially from you. While you’re at it, help them understand that saying thank you for a gift they may not like isn’t lying. Gratitude isn’t only about the present; it’s being grateful that they were given anything at all and appreciating that someone else spent their time and effort to give them a gift.

Talk about feelings. Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they do. Tell your children to think about how they feel when someone thanks them and remind them that they’re helping the other person experience those same feelings of happiness when they show gratitude. Help them understand that the giver is more important than the gift. 

Say more than just “Thank you.” The most meaningful thank you’s have three parts: the actual thank you; speaking the other person’s name; naming the gift, and saying something nice about it. For example, “Thank you for the Legos, Uncle Nikko. I love building things,” or “Thank you for the baby doll, Auntie Sarah. I love her pretty curls that look just like mine,” or even, “Thank you for thinking of me, Grandma. I can always use more socks.” 

Don’t feel pressured to buy everything on their list. Children have little or no concept of money, and if they still believe presents come from Santa, their expectations can run wild. Paradoxically, the more you give, the more they’ll want. Let them create their lists, then talk about what items are most important.  Pick and choose, staying within your budget. Going over budget now may make for an exciting Christmas morning, but it also makes for a miserable January when those credit card payments are due. 

Do unto others. If you really want to help them understand the importance of gratitude, find a way to serve your community. There are countless organizations like Operation Christmas SpiritSalvation Army Angel TreeMake-A-Wish Foundation, and Toys for Tots that do charitable work all year but have special initiatives at Christmas. Food pantries, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and other local communities also have ways you can help families in need around the holidays. Have your children look through the options that are meaningful to them, and donate time, finances, or pantry staples – whatever the need. Raising community-minded adults begins by instilling compassion in your children. The holidays are a perfect time to reinforce that compassion. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Best Holiday Gifts for Dads

By Tracey Dowdy

Dad’s are notoriously hard to buy for. By this point in working-from-home he’s definitely got a favorite coffee mug, and who needs a new tie when he’s not leaving the house? 

These gift suggestions are practical, come in at several price points, and work for just about every personality and interest.

If dad is a NASCAR fan, he’ll love the chance to get behind the wheel and drive a NASCAR Race Car for timed racing sessions on any of the Nation’s Premier Speedways. Dad will meet with the crew chief, get training and instruction, get behind the wheel, make pit stops, and choose from 5 to 48 minutes of Track Time. Packages start as low as $99 for a ride-along and increase depending on drive time and the track chosen. 

Balancing social distancing, the colder weather in many parts of the country, and our need to see friends and family, can be challenging. That makes outdoor experience gifts a great option this year. Fire pitsoutdoor experiences like hiking, snowshoe tours, or backyard accessories like outdoor heaters and blankets can make getting together safely possible.

If dad is more of a foodie, consider a MasterClass so they can learn to make Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant recipes at home or how to make Texas Barbecue from Aaron Franklin, one of the most influential pitmasters in the country. 

If he’s missing that posh morning coffee from his commute, a coffee subscription, a french press, coffee stencils for perfect foam art, or a Cold Brew Coffee Maker can make dad the family barista. Consider it a gift for the whole family! 

For dads who are golf obsessed, Golf Digest has a fantastic list of options for the dad who already has everything. The list includes stylish golf shirts and shoes, a top-rated mask for sport, and if you really want to go all-in, a $15,430 Southern Tide Sirius golf cart that comes with JBL speakers and custom embroidery and finishes.

Consider clothing subscription boxes like Frank and OakStitch Fix, or Trunk Club for the sartorialist. LuminScentbird, and Birchbox Man will meet all their skincare and fragrance needs, and a subscription to FlaviarButcher BoxGrill Master’s Club, or Murray’s Cheese is sure to impress. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Fun, Indoor Activities for Kids 

By Tracey Dowdy

Now that the colder weather is here, it’s even more challenging to keep our littles entertained or help them to find creative – screen-free – ways to entertain themselves. Encouraging their creativity and imagination is more than a way to keep them busy for a few minutes. Creative thinking develops problem-solving skills, spurs innovation, promotes taking initiative, and spans careers and vocations. It’s a life long skill that will carry them far. 

Here are a few ideas for inspiration the next time you hear, “I’m bored!”

Build a blanket fort. I know, I know, it makes a mess and you’re the one who has to fold all those dang blankets when they’re done, but help your kids to see it’s not just a bunch of blankets. It’s a tree fort, a spaceship, a cave, or even another planet. Not only that, they make great places to curl up with a good book, protect Lego creations from pesky little siblings, or sketch in peace. 

Paint a picture. Again, I KNOW that it can get messy, but the fact that it’s a rare treat to paint means your littles will be very excited and more likely to be engaged for more than five minutes. 

Create a time capsule. 2020 has been a wild ride, so have them collect things or make a list of the things that they loved most, absolutely hated, and what made them happy over the past year. Have them include their favorite TV shows, movies, books, games, or even their favorite outfit. No need to bury in the backyard unless you want to – it’s just as much fun to tuck it into the back of a closet or top-shelf. Pull it out this time next year and reminisce over all that happened. 

Have them learn a TikTok dance or choreograph one of their own. Not only does it spark creativity, but they’re also getting a little exercise in and getting out some of that restless energy. 

Have them put on a play or shoot a movie. Have them write their own script or act out a favorite book. They could write a sequel to a favorite story or write an origin story for a favorite character. They can shoot the movie on a phone, tablet, or iPad and both Apple and Android have simple video editing software. 

Play with your food. Cook together, do a blind taste test, and see if they can guess the food or flavor – highly recommend parental supervision on that one – or make pictures or necklaces with pasta like you did in elementary school. 

Plant some seeds. You don’t need fancy gardening supplies or even a packet of seeds. Teach your kids how to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the produce you buy at the supermarket. All you need is inexpensive potting soil and an egg carton, and the scraps from plants like peppers, onions, celery, mint, dill, or even potatoes and pineapples. This is also a lesson in patience and responsibility as they tend and watch their plants grow and mature over the next several weeks.

Go old school. Break out the board games you used to play as a child – Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Scrabble, Clue, Pretty Pretty Princess, Twister, Battleship, Candyland…or, find a new favorite like Cataan Jr, Feed the Woozle, or Wild Kratts Race Around the World. Or, skip board games and play hide and seek, tic tac toe, or monkey in the middle with a Nerf or other soft ball. 

Let them “redecorate” their room. I’m not suggesting you hand over your credit card and set them loose on Pottery Barn’s website, but moving their bed or desk to a different wall, or changing up the art work on the walls can make the space feel fresh and new. Have them cut out snowflakes and tape them to their windows or hang them from the ceiling. Or, give them a stack of magazines and let their inner designer come out as they cut out pictures of their dream house. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tips for Leading Online Meetings

Online meetings became the new normal months ago but based on personal, or perhaps professional, opinion, some of you are still struggling to make them work. There’s a lot to remember – when to mute and unmute yourself, choosing a background and decent lighting, and even deciding how to exit a meeting. Since we’re headed into 2021 with many still working from home, this guide will help you improve your game. 

If you’re task-driven, working from home without the distraction of phones ringing and coworkers randomly swinging by your desk to chat may be your idea of heaven. If, on the other hand, you enjoy working as a team, you may miss the camaraderie of onsite work. To balance this, some offices have created a “virtual water cooler.” It can be as structured as a specific time and place or as informal as a virtual happy hour. The idea is to connect your team and make them comfortable with one another. A study from the University of Texas at Arlington discovered that individuals who shared a funny or embarrassing story about themselves with their coworkers produced 26% more ideas in brainstorming sessions than workers who didn’t.

While some may be eager to kick things off and power through the agenda, if you’re trying to maintain a team rather than a group of standalone employees, make time for casual conversation. Have everyone sign in a few minutes early to allow your team to catch up and interact informally before you switch to business-mode. This encourages engagement, strengthens culture, and deepens your relationship with your team.

If you’re the boss or tasked with running the meeting, start by asking how many people need to attend. Meetings that could have been an email are the bane of the workplace, and including unnecessary attendees bogs down the agenda and leads to team disengagement. 

Next, choose the right platform. Not all software is created equal, so check out this breakdown on TechRadar comparing options like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, ClickMeeting, and Skype. Ask questions like, “Do I need to the team’s faces as we work through this HR issue?” If so, Zoom maybe your best option. If you need your team to share screens to edit this document collaboratively, Google Docs is a solid option. If you need to watch this presentation together in real-time, choose a platform that allows screen sharing. 

Disorganization is a shortcut to frustration and disengagement, so it’s important to clarify details like the dress code, time – especially if you’re working across time zones – and the agenda for your meeting. Email attendees any key talking points, a timeline for the meeting, who will attend, each team member’s responsibilities for the meeting, and a list of relevant documents, files, or research they need to have on-hand. “You want to make sure that everyone enters [into the meeting] with clear guidelines of expectations and knowing what [everyone is] going to be doing and how to manage the virtual space,” says Bryant Galindo, the co-founder, and CEO of CollabsHQ. You’ll also want to include details like whether or not everyone speaks freely or will the team lead unmute mics when it’s that person’s turn to speak? Do all team members need to be on camera at all times or just the current speaker?

As the meeting ends, each team member needs a clear objective or action step. Closing the meeting is less about, “We’re done,” and more, “Get started.” Task each team member with their deliverables and next steps, the due date, who is responsible for follow up, and assign the date for the next meeting. 

Finally, as a host, it’s important to get team feedback from your team on how they felt the meeting went. You choose one on one conversation or an anonymous feedback survey via sites like Google Docs or SurveyLegend. Online meetings are a staple and making them streamlined, inclusive, and effective is the key to ongoing engagement and success. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.



Have Your New Year’s Eve Spirits Delivered

By Tracey Dowdy

Just because, like most Americans, you’ll be all dressed up – and by dressed up, I mean a clean t-shirt and yoga pants – with no place to go on New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate at home. A global pandemic that brought quarantining, lockdowns, and masked shopping, meant that alcohol delivery became very much a thing in 2020. In fact, Drizly, an online beverage alcohol delivery service, has seen their business more than triple since 2019.

So, whether you’re stocking up for New Year’s or a long winter, here a few of the best online liquor delivery options to consider. 

Remember, even though you’re staying home, the same rules apply – drink in moderation and NEVER drink and drive. 

Drizly partnered with over 2,200 retailers across North America to send beer, wine, liquor, and even snacks to your door. Available in 26 states and DC. Simply add your selections to your cart, then choose which store you want to fulfill the order in your area. You’ll see your estimated delivery time, minimums, and fees. You may be able to get your order delivered in under an hour through contactless delivery (though Drizly warns holiday demand may impact delivery times) or schedule a delivery for a later date. As with other delivery services, you can tip your driver

Total Wine has a broad selection of liquor, beer, and wine, and like Drizly, offers same-day alcohol and snack delivery. They have stores across 19 states and offer delivery as well as curbside and in-store pickup. Their inventory is massive, with selections as low as $3 running into more expensive and exclusive wines, craft beer, and spirits. 

Minibar is available in 19 states and DC and promises to deliver beer and liquor to your door in under an hour. If you’re not in a hurry, it offers statewide shipping within three to five days and an in-store pickup option at your local liquor store, making it ideal if you’re looking for an item out of stock locally. The site is streamlined, making it easy to filter your choices by type of alcohol, store, country, size, container, and price point.

Wine.com promises the world’s largest wine selection and will ship directly to you or your local Walgreens or FedEx. If you sign up for the StewardShip program – a one-year subscription is $49 – you get free shipping all year. They also offer Picked, an online wine club with wines hand-picked by experts just for you.

If you’re looking at delivery on an ongoing basis, consider Winc, a wine-of-the-month club, and wine subscription service. Members take a short quiz with questions like “How do you drink your coffee” to refine your preferences and offer recommendations that will match. You can search for specific varietals or wines, and if you choose four bottles, you get free shipping. 

Bottles start at $13 each. Shipping typically takes 3-7 business days depending on your distance from their fulfillment center, but again, there may be delays due to holiday demand.

*Alcohol delivery laws vary by state, so not every service is available everywhere.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.