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I just attended an event, which was held at an upscale restaurant, with more than 100 guests in attendance, a full open bar and cocktail hour before a sit down dinner, Viennese dessert table, table centerpieces, dancing with DJ and guest favors.  No, it wasn’t a wedding, it wasn’t a 50th anniversary party–it was a first communion celebration.  That’s right–all this for a 7-year-old.  I forgot to mention the professional face painter who created beautiful and dramatic artwork of the little tots’ faces.  My own first communion "party" (as well as any others I’ve attended) was a gathering of family and a few close friends back at the house where Mom made buffet style food and guests brought a side dish.

Am I the only person who thinks this elaborate celebration was a bit excessive?  I realize this is happening more and more.  MTV has a show that highlights Sweet Sixteen parties, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more, parents are buying their teens expensive luxury or sports cars when they first get their driver’s license and birthday or holiday presents keep getting more outrageous (one of my daughter’s friends got a pair of $600 boots!).  We all want our kids to have things we weren’t able to ourselves, but even if you CAN afford it, is it really in the best interest of the child??

My concern is the expectations we might be setting for our children.  Are we teaching them the value of things and the effort that goes into obtaining them by simply indulging their every whim?  My parents told me if I wanted a car I had to pay for it myself.  I spent my senior year in high school working after school at a retirement home where I served dinner to the residents.  Every pay check went directly into my savings account.  At the end of the year my father checked to see what I had saved.  He then told me he’d match it dollar for dollar and I could look for a car within that price range.  All along my parents could have afforded to buy me a car, but they wanted me to work for it.  They were right–I did respect that car a lot more than if it had been handed to me.  I knew how much work had gone into saving for it.

I can’t help but wonder about the little girl who had the incredible first communion party.  I’m sure I will attend an even more spectacular event when she makes her confirmation and again on her Sweet Sixteen.  I can only imagine what her wedding will be like.  But, when she grows up what happens when she leaves her parents and starts her own life?  Will she accept that her beginner’s salary can only purchase so much?  Will she marry a man for love or will she look for what kind of financial security he can provide?  Again–what future expectations are her parents setting by their actions today?

Yes, my first communion celebration, as is the case with most kids, happened at home, with a few friends and my cousins all playing tag in the backyard.  We enjoyed home cooking and feasted on cake and ice cream.  But you know what–I’ll bet we had just as good a time as those kids with the expensive cuisine and DJ.  The great thing about being a kid is that it doesn’t take much to be happy and content.

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When I was growing up, the start of my summer was officially Memorial Day weekend–our first weekend of the year at our summer place.  Even now, the last weekend of May I always associate with the beginning of summer, the end of school (or close to it) and …strawberries.

Since it was our first weekend at the beach, we’d head down early Saturday morning to open up the place and get things ready for the season.  Nearby, there was a farm that had "pick-your-own" fields open to the public.  Memorial Day weekend meant the strawberry fields were open.  As we’d round the bend toward our summer house, my sister and I would excitedly point out to my mother that there were already a lot of people in the fields and if we didn’t get there soon all the strawberries would be gone.  We usually made it to the farm the following day and of course there were still plenty of strawberries left.  We’d spend a few hours picking the big, juicy berries and I’m pretty sure I ate more than I put in the basket to take home.

Unfortunately, that farm has since been sold and beach homes now stand where the fields were, but I still mark the end of May as the best time to visit the local farmer’s market or produce stand and get the best strawberries of the year!  My mother traditionally put up homemade strawberry jam, which we’d enjoy all year.  I’m not quite that adventurous, so I stick with easier ways to enjoy them.  Thankfully my kids love them sliced fresh with a little whipped cream on top.

The Fruits & Veggies–More Matters site has some tasty recipes you might want to try while strawberries are at their peak of flavor:

Enjoy and if you’re lucky enough to live near a "pick-your-own" farm, take advantage of it–you’ll be glad you did!

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For me, a healthy body is the result of two important things–diet and exercise.  While I exercise on a regular basis year round, I find April, May and June to be my favorite months because it allows me to give the gym a rest and venture outside for my physical activity.  The cold weather is behind us and the summertime heat hasn’t yet set in.  Quite frankly, it’s really difficult to find an excuse to be a couch potato when it’s so beautiful outside.

I think the physical benefits are pretty obvious to being active outdoors (you’ll burn fat and calories, improve circulation, etc.), but many people don’t realize that it’s also good mentally and emotionally.  When heading to one of the many parks near my house, I purposely leave my iPod at home and instead enjoy all the sites, smells and sounds of spring.  You’d be surprised at how much it can perk up your mood.  Just the other day I took a jog and enjoyed listening to the birds, someone mowing his lawn nearby and the sounds of a baseball game being played on one of the athletic fields.  The fruit trees are in bloom, so their blossoms smell heavenly as did the scent of fresh cut grass (okay–my allergies did kick into high gear later that night, but it was worth it!). 

I find that activities outside this time of year not only make me feel physically good, but they clear my head.  It’s like hitting the reset button when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed with life’s daily challenges.  In fact, even though I’m expending the same energy I would at the gym, I don’t feel as physically exhausted when I’m finished exercising.  And remember that it doesn’t cost anything–just go outside and walk, run, play with your kids in the yard, ride a bike …the list is endless.

Our site has a great section on physical activity and its role in healthy weight management.  It includes a list of activities (many of which you can do outdoors) as well as a look at how many calories are burned per activity.  So get outside and get moving–before you know it we’ll be dealing with scorching temps and high humidity!

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