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2014 Reasons to be Grateful

January 1, 2014

2014, 2014 reasons to be grateful, list of blessings, get happy, feel grateful, thankfulness list,One thing I know for sure is that GRATITUDE is the key to happiness. Being able to see the good around us, taking note of the blessings in our lives, even when things are in chaos, is not always easy, but within it lies happiness and contentment.

I had the idea to list 2014 reasons to be grateful, so here goes, I’m challenging myself to find that many.

1 Amazing husband
3 Incredible children
2 Supportive parents
2 Caring in-laws
2 Kind-hearted sisters
1 Fun brother
3 Precious nephews
10 Fingers to work, type, touch, cook, live, DO
1 Healthy heart
1 Mouth for kissing, smiling and talking
2 Arms to hug my family, to play tennis, do yoga, and do a million other things
7500 Body Parts: Okay, so before I list every body part, the American Association of Anatomists has 7,500 listed parts and that’s 7500 reasons to be grateful – even if I can’t pronounce them all. But let’s keep going, I allow for 25 parts that I can easily be thankful for: my eyes, arms, hands, lungs, ears, legs, heart, mouth, fingers, and brain.
100 = 25 Healthy body parts on my three kids and husband
250 = 25 Healthy body parts on my parents, in-laws, sister, brother and nephews

So we are up to 378 reasons to be grateful – let’s keep going! This will be harder than I thought but it’s making me happy just counting my blessings.

I’m thankful for:
Friends
The 500 kids of the Destiny Africa Choir and at the Kampala Children’s Centre
Our church and the people thereDestiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in uganda
Newtown, my hometown
Books – I’m sure I have over 2014 books to be thankful for!

My Christmas Binder

December 20, 2013

Thank you to my friend, Danielle, an inspiring Mom and a believer in the importance of family traditions and rituals. I aspire to be as organized as she is, read here about her brilliant Christmas binder idea.
Danielle is the voice behind Festival Fete’s blog, Festival Fete and her own blog, Rock-Paper-Snips.

Guest Post by Danielle Salisbury, Find Danielle on Facebook

christmas crafts, Christmas baking ideas, Christmas activities for kids, organizing for Christmas, Christmas organization,  Christmas traditionsI admit it. I am one of those super-organized people who I think drive other people crazy. When confronted with a mess, after the initial rush of panic, I actually get joy from creating order out of chaos. I also love a celebration, and with the holidays, I tend to go a little over board and end up feeling overwhelmed. So, finally a few years ago I discovered my own little holiday tradition that keeps me in check (so I don’t go too overboard) and helps me keep a bit of order in the chaos of holiday planning. It’s my Christmas Binder.

In the binder, I have photos, recipes, menus, Christmas “To Do” list, Christmas card list, gift ideas, crafts, table settings, decorating ideas and a gift and tip list. I love being able to reference back to see what we gave the babysitter last year and how much we gave in tips!

organized Christmas, red binder, Martha Stewart Christmas, going overboard for Christmas, limoncello, homemade Christmas gifts, cooking for Christmas, menus for holiday dinner, Probably the the most useful part of the book is my personal notes on menus and what we cooked. For example, the year that I made seafood risotto on Christmas Eve (thinking I would satisfy the Italian tradition of seven fishes in one big dish) we didn’t sit down to eat until 10:00 pm and unfortunately we hardly remember the dish because of all the wine that we were sharing with the risotto during the three hours of cooking! Now I can refer to my notes to see that I shouldn’t start shucking lobster and shellfish an hour before you expect to eat it.

One of my favorite things about this binder is that it is a place where I can put a great idea and say to myself, “someday…I WILL do/make/cook that.” And eventually, some of those inspirations become a reality.

I usually try to come up with one handmade gift item each year, (usually something for eating or drinking) such as a jam, Limoncello liquor, truffles, etc. This year, paging through my binder I found a recipe for cranberry vinegar and decided that would be my foodie gift. The recipe was from Coastal Living Magazine in 2000. So even though it took me 12 years to finally make this – it did happen eventually!

Ten Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Addiction: What Parents Need to Know

December 19, 2013

signs of teen pot use, signs of marijuana addiction, marijuana addiction, signs of weed use, teen grass use, teen weed useMy thanks to Scott Brand for this guest post on recognizing teen marijuana addiction. Taken one by one, some of these signs may appear to be typical teenage behaviors, but use these signs with an open mind and to be aware of patterns.

For a lot of these signs, the key can be if you’ve noticed a CHANGE in these behaviors. It can be hard for parents to face and accept tough issues in our kids but they need us to advocate for them if they get on a troubled path.

Guest Post by Scott Brand

Do you know the signs of teen marijuana addiction? Do you know what to do if you suspect your teen is addicted?

Marijuana is also referred to as cannabis, or weed, grass, pot, dope, ganja, Mary Jane and countless other slang terms. Whatever the term, marijuana has been hypothesized by some researchers to be a gateway drug that leads to more serious teen drug abuse. Marijuana is the most often used illegal drug in the United States.

Ten Early Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Addiction

Christmas Elves

December 9, 2013

tips tricks ideas for elves, Christmas elf ideas, elf on shelf ideas, ideas for Elf on Shelf, naughty elves, Santa's elves, Elf Magic, Crispin, Jilly and Zibby are our own personal Christmas elves. These mischievous Santa’s helpers are called from the North Pole with crackers (to remind them of the crunching snow) and water (melted snow); they visit for the weeks before Christmas, hiding, making messes and bringing joy until they return to Santa’s village on Christmas Eve with Santa.

I’ve always loved everything about Christmas and I am still overcome with the love, generosity and magic of the season. I see the deeper meaning of Christmas even within seemingly commercial, non-spiritual activities. I love the sheer excitement and amazement in my children’s eyes elves in popcorn, elves making a mess, hiding elves, Christmas elf tradition, ideas for elves, Jilly, Zibby, Crispin, elfmagic.com, when the elves are discovered in the morning in a pile of homemade snowflakes and all the scraps that go with it or creating music at the piano among music strewn about.

When we moved to Rhode Island nearly eight years ago, some friends introduced me to elf-magic.com, instead of getting an elf per child as some families did, I chose to introduce just one elf. Crispin was our first little boy elf. Over the years the kids attributed magic to the elf beyond the intention.

elf ideas, visiting elves, how to do elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf, ideas for Christmas elves, traditions for Christmas, girl in Indian hat, One morning, they could not find Crispin anywhere, it was hilarious to me because they passed by him over and over. He was in the downstairs bathroom where the silly elf had unrolled several rolls of toilet paper and hidden in the tube of one in the middle of the huge mess of paper. The kids walked back and forth searching and never saw the paper. Finally, my son said, “Wait, maybe we need to get ready for school and do what we’re supposed to do first, then we’ll be able to find him!” So they scurried off to get dressed. Right after that, they somehow did see the toilet paper explosion, with faces filled with wonder, and as a bonus, it reinforced doing the right thing!

Chanukah, However You Spell It

November 26, 2013

Hanukkah (that’s my preferred spelling!) starts at sundown this Thursday. My thanks to Melissa for writing about The Festival of Lights and her family traditions.

Guest Post by Melissa Chernick

chanukah traditions, how do you spell hanukah, spelling hanukah, latkes, Allie's donuts RI, festival of lights traditions, family holiday traditionsChanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Cahnukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka, Hannukka, Channukkah, Chanuqa. One holiday with 18 ways to spell it! Which ever way you choose it has the same meaning and significance. It is a celebration of the victory of the Jews and the miracle that occurred when the menorah was lit with enough oil to last only 1 day but it lasted eight!

Growing up in New York I was exposed to all races and religions. In my experience, every family went to church or temple, had their own holiday traditions and all the kids met up and played in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood was a mix of Italians, Irish Catholics and Jews. It was always fun to compare Christmas/Chanukah presents with the neighborhood kids.family in window, grandparents celebrate hanukkah, celebrating Hanukkah, festival of lights, kids in blue window, blue window panes,

In our house, Chanukah was a fun holiday typically celebrated with just my immediate family. We had so much family nearby who we saw on a regular basis that this little holiday was our own! My brothers and I anxiously awaited our father’s return home from work each night, lit the candles and ripped open presents, hoping for something special. To me, Chanukah means spending time with family, lighting candles and reflecting about what it means to be Jewish. It’s our time to be together, just enjoy ourselves and create memories.

Great Books For Kids

November 20, 2013

great books for kids, dual language books, plays for kids, teaching kindness to kids, golden rule for kids, christmas gift books for kids, kids books, new kids books, new childrens booksAs a blogger, I’m often asked to review products, websites, articles and books. I am particular about what I say yes to and only post things I can honestly recommend.

Here are some great books for kids that I want to share with you just in time for holiday giving. Full disclosure: I received complimentary review copies of these books.

 

Fife’s Lessons: The Tao of Cool

By Rob DegnanIllustrated by Jason Robert LeClair
FifesLessons.com

tao of cool, rob degnan, fife, book about kindness, book about acceptance, third grader book, teaching kids kindness, lessons for kidsThird grader, Fife is cool, her parents are cool, but what happens when a new kid moves to town and is left out and made to feel, well, uncool.

Fife struggles with issues of fitting in, acceptance and ultimately learns the greatest lesson in kindness. The story guides readers to learn these lessons along with Fife, and some unspoken ones, too. More subtle lessons presented are how we never know what’s really going on in another person’s heart and head and how we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Fife learns that working together with someone who excels in different ways than she does can bring success and that a friendship can grow when one opens their mind and heart to another person. Fife’s Lessons are just as important for adults as they are for kiddos! Welcome Fife and her friends into your home.

The Grace Box

November 13, 2013

saying grace, teaching kids to pray, faith and family, faith and kids, prayers, dinnertime prayers, ideas for grace, box of prayersThe Grace Box sits on our kitchen table and represents more than the slips of paper it holds. I believe that the key to happiness in life is gratitude and daily grace before meals builds in both being thankful and teaching thankfulness to our kids.

The Grace Box used to be a small envelope that Ali decorated in Sunday school, over the years, we’ve collected short prayers and dinnertime graces and upgraded to a larger container. The prayers came from Sunday school classes, magazine clippings and the weekly prayers our old church in New Jersey used to distribute in the Sunday bulletin. We have a small children’s book of prayers that fits in neatly and an embroidered prayer on the wall that Anna favors reading when we sit at the table that’s closest to the framed words.

Should You Let Your Kids Watch Scary Movies?

October 30, 2013

Many thanks to Kate Oliver of www.help4yourfamily.com for this guest post on scary movies and gauging your child’s developmental readiness for viewing them.

By Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

scary tv shows, kids and scary movies, kid with bowl of popcorn, what age is it ok for kids to watch scary movies, when can kids see scary moviesIn my house, Halloween is second only to Christmas. My children are still at an age where they want to dress up and trick or treat. They are eight and ten and they love to get a little bit scared sometimes as well. It is all part of the Halloween fun. Many holidays have special movies attached to them as well. Unlike Christmas, with, tales of Santa Claus and reindeer, and Easter, where we learn about a sweet bunny that brings treats, Halloween has movies of a different sort.

Sure there is Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, but then there are the other movies…the scary movies.
In my work as a child therapist one issue I help kids overcome is sleep problems including nightmares. It is interesting to me that many times when children have nightmares, they are linked to watching scary movies, or even just the news. During this season of scary movies, let’s be especially mindful of the impact of what we decide to let our children watch.

teens and movies, teen nightmares, TV and teens, teens eating popcorn, boy in striped shirtI am certain my husband and I are not the only ones who have thought back to a movie we watched as kids, looked it up on Netflix and excitedly introduced it to our children only to be surprised at just how many four letter words were in say, ET and The Karate Kid. I certainly do not remember, as a kid, taking note of the language that was flying through those movies. I think many times when parents watch a scary movie with their children; they do so because they remember that excited and scared feeling they had watching the same movie.

5 Ways to Enjoy Parenting More

October 25, 2013

Are you enjoying parenting? Or are you just plodding through the days, bogged down in the tedium of caring for and redirecting little ones (or bigger ones) day in and day out?

5 Ways to Enjoy Parenting More

enjoy parenting more, are you enjoying parenting, sunflower parenting, how to be a better parent, love parenting, how to enjoy being a mom, 1. Slow Down

Yeah, I know, SO much easier said than done! I too often feel like we’re always in a hurry, rushing to pick one kid up only to race to the other side of town to get another kid to a doctor or activity. With three kids all wanting to participate in sports, music, robotics and other enrichment activities, even the best laid schedules end up with some overlap. As parents, we want to provide these opportunities to our kids and allow them to explore something they’re interested in, but it’s worthwhile to strive for balance.

On the days that we have less going on, or a rainy day that cancels a sports practice (thankfully!), I savor the calm pace, the chance to leisurely cut vegetables for dinner, to chat with a child over a cup of afternoon tea. I build in at least one week day in which we have no after school activities and no set place to be. The kids can run around and play with the neighbors after their homework is done and can take a long, prune-making bath instead of a speedy shower.

I find I enjoy parenting more when we slow down. Our weekends, since no one plays soccer, are usually an oasis of slow motion, extended time in PJs, big breakfasts together and working together in the yard. We value the time to play a family game, watch a family movie or do a project together.

2. Focused Time

Every day, I check in, touch base and give focused attention to each child. Even taking a 15 minute chunk to hear about their day, to ask about friends, to ask their opinion on something, makes a big difference in connecting to your child. Connecting, in turn, helps us to enjoy parenting more. Isn’t that the whole reason we had kids in the first place – for the prospect of a special relationship.

Mammograms and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 14, 2013

This post was originally published May 31, 2012, I am reposting it in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take care of yourself!

mammograms, spot mammograms, breast cancer awareness month stories, my mammogram story, story of mammograms, story of mammogram call backThere was a message left at 1:27 pm yesterday, the day after my mammogram, “Please call us back.” Call them back? What about just waiting for that nice letter that arrives next week to tell me everything is okay?

Hours had passed and kids swarmed the kitchen as I listened to the message. I waited until I dropped them off at afternoon activities, I was alone in the parking lot and I clutched the note paper with the number of the Anne Pappas Center scribbled on it. The woman who answers is so busy she needs to call me back. “Breathe,” I tell myself and I wait. At 4:55 pm, I worried that I hadn’t heard and that they’d close for the night, I couldn’t wonder overnight, so I called back apologizing for my repeat call. She was very sweet, just very busy and promised to call me before she left.

True to her word, she called me reporting that they want to do an ultrasound, we were able to schedule it for the next day, today, two days after my original mammogram.

I have had mammograms for several years now starting with a diagnostic check of a lump in my right breast, everything has been fine with that year after year. I wondered if something had changed. I prayed. I thought of my friends who had fought and are fighting breast cancer at a young age, at my age. I thought about how the kids have giggled at me crying to the Martina McBride song, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.”

I’m not in a high risk category; I have no family history, I had my first full term pregnancy and birth before age pink ribbon tree, pink ribbons, breast cancer awareness ribbons, tree of pink ribbons, 30, I breastfed three kids. Breastfeeding has a cumulative protective factor and I’d nursed two babies for over a year each and my third for two years (a long time from our culture’s viewpoint, but in my doula-ing-breastfeeding-birthie world, not long enough. I digress). I’m not high risk, but, really, I know that doesn’t mean I’m not AT risk as a woman with boobs.

Nervous all morning, I distracted myself by watering my vegetable garden, vacuuming, organizing my desk and making hard boiled eggs. My calendar alert nudged me to my car, I was suddenly very jittery and the drive to Providence seemed longer than normal.

In the waiting room, I overheard a very young woman checking in and she mentioned that last year she had to come back in for an ultrasound, when her body moved slightly toward me, I croaked out, “That’s why I’m here.” I don’t know why I told her or what made be blurt it out to a stranger.

Trading in the Mini-Van

October 9, 2013

trading in the mini van, not wanting mini van, why get a mini van, upgrading from mini van, good bye to mini van, gold mini van, tire treads, I swore I’d never drive a mini-van.

Then, almost thirteen years ago, with a growing family, we shopped around and, without wanting to, I loved the Honda Odyssey. It was the first mini-van to have the third seat that folded INTO the car so it laid flat. We’ve used that feature for furniture, bulky shrubs and lugging stuff from Home Depot more times that we can count. The entire contents of my trunk have spewed all over a parking lot on numerous occasions as I reconfigured the car to fit a new patio set or the tag sale treasure I couldn’t pass by!

But now it is time and I’m trading in the mini-van.

Our gold Odyssey has driven us the equivalent of around the world – FOUR TIMES! Yup, 204,089 miles to visit grandparents, take vacations and camping trips, attend far away weddings and to make 1,492,648,112,951 trips to the grocery store. She’s welcomed two babies, endured coffee spills, melted crayons, throw up and seasons upon seasons of winter salts and summer sands. Her cup holders and Michael’s “secret compartment” have collected countless treasures like acorns, seashells, rocks, candy wrappers, food bits, and handfuls of the green Stop & Shop twistie ties.

It’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic as we part ways. I’ve never been much of a car person, sure I like a nice car, but mostly I care if it’s functional and safe and doesn’t cause me problems. But it’s time to let this golden capsule go. She’s car mileage, over 200000 miles on car, odometer reading over 200000, high odometer reading, gold honda odysseyserved us well.

We’ve long ago lost the knob cover for the bass on the radio, I have to fiddle with the temperature knob in just the right way to make the kids get heat or AC in the back, and the thingy on my seat belt that holds up the metal latch is gone. You have no idea how important that silly nodule is until you have to dig between the seat and the door to find the buckle 32 times a day! Yup – I’m trading in the mini-van.

Memories match the marks. There’s the white smudge on the ceiling from the sheet rock when we redid our basement playroom, there’s the stain from my Dad’s spilled coffee mug when we were house hunting in Rhode Island, and there are still a few pine needles from the year we stuck the tree in the car instead of on the roof. There’s the small scratch from Michael’s scooter riding a little too close to the driver’s door, and there’s the gash on the back bumper from that snow-covered, too-low-to-see-in-the-dark rock – oops!

We have a “system” we are used to in this family car. We have the hand sanitizer in a specific pocket that we all can reach, there are hair brushes and pencils, workbooks and song lyric books, How to Learn French read-alongs and enough Lego’s hidden all over to build another car. We know who sits where, even when we fit grandmas and grandpas in with us. Without looking I can reach a napkin, a CD, or toss a kid a snack.

This car has listened to singing, lot’s of singing. From lovely notes and off key sounds, to shout-it-out singing, rock-and-roll singing and singing you may not call singing. (I think we may have the very last car running that still has a cassette player. How will I play those mixed tapes from high schgold honda odyssey, old odyssey, trading in odyssey, good bye to old car, kids saying good bye to car, missing old car, ool now?) This car has heard peals of laughter, endless joking and moments of screaming and ranting. She’s heard soft spoken adult talks, heart-to-heart teen talks, unguarded secrets spilling and endless toddler tales.

4 Habits to Teach Your Children ASAP

October 4, 2013

Guest post by Ken Myers

4 habits to teach your children, what to teach  your kids, teach your kids these habits, When it comes to habits, our little ones learn from our actions as parents. If we want our children to exhibit the mannerisms and attitudes we value, we need to start teaching them early. Children are susceptible to input from a very early age and guiding them is our job to help promote a brighter future.

With all of the habits and manners we wish to teach our little ones, which ones are more important to focus on?

 Here are 4 habits to teach your children starting today.

Autumn Organizing Ideas

September 30, 2013

autumn organizing, autumn organizing tips, ideas for fall cleaning, orange leaves, fall leaves backgroundSpring Cleaning is a time of clearing out and freshening up after winter and Autumn Organizing is a time to declutter and put things in order before snuggling in for winter.

There are so many things to switch over in the fall, summer clothes are exchanged for sweaters and mittens, toys are purged and the entertainment center is rearranged to make room for what Santa brings. I even like to move books down through the kids. Things Ali is too old for move on to Michael and Michael’s shelves are cleared out for Anna. When Anna outgrows books, we safely store the favorites in waterproof bins and others are donated or shared with cousins and younger friends.

This weekend, I tackled our shoe problem, for Autumn Organizing, the flip flops are traded for fuzzy boots. I cannot believe how many pairs of shoes we have for a family of five – and since the start of school, every shoe, sandal and sneaker seemed to be spilling around every entrance. Then, at the first snap of cold, my girls (as girls can do) excitedly pulled out all of their favorite winter boots and added them to the mix. Every shoe bin and basket overflowed, bursting heel to sole.

The Great Shoe Switch-Over Project had to be done! Every kid tried on all of their shoes. Ali’s hand-me-downs got put away for Anna’s petite feet, Anna’s out-growns are in a bag for donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters and anything with rips, holes or excessive wear (i.e. most of Michael’s shoes) got tossed.

How to Support your Child Through Divorce

September 25, 2013

Guest post by Fiona McGlynn

how to support your child through divorce, helping kids through divorce, tips for divorce, divorce books for kidsDivorce can be a very confusing and emotionally fraught time for kids and parents alike. Based on my experience as an adult child of divorce, here are 5 ways to support your child through divorce.

Confident Parenting

September 16, 2013

confident parenting, 4 seasons, discipline techniques for kids, reward systems for kids, learning to parent, how to parent, parenting tips, help for parents, learning to parentThere are times we parents find ourselves rattled, off our game or plain old stumped, but it’s at those times, we need to seek resources and find our mojo to return to confident parenting. Parenthood begins in pregnancy and evolves as our kids grow.

The main goal in parenting boils down to raising future adults with solid character (however each family defines that). We are raising children with the hope of them becoming happy, resilient, confident, healthy grown-ups ready to face the world.

We find our parenting style in many ways, through trial and error, doing and learning, reading books, websites, blogs, expert opinions, observing other parents, reflecting on how our parents did the job. In the end, even with support of family, friends, teachers and community members, the job is ours and we need to trust ourselves. Trust that we know our children best, trust our ability and trust ourselves to seek out help when we need it.

Parenting is a learned behavior – you can improve, you can develop skills and you can grow and change.

Confident parenting encourages us to both examine ourselves and our habits, and to reject advise we don’t agree with, even if it’s from an “expert” or printed in a book. It’s okay to get comfortable trying stuff out, I loveblowing bubbles, child blowing bubbles, games to play with toddlers, crafts for toddlers, pudgy toddler hand, the idea of building up a parenting “tool bag” with tools gleaned from different sources. Tools can be stories to illustrate an idea, motivational tools, demonstration of a skill, reward charts, discipline techniques, family rituals, morning or bedtime systems, distraction tricks, setting clear limits … anything we use in teaching and guiding our children.

Remembering September 11 – Twelve Years Later

September 11, 2013

remembering september 11, september 11 2013, september 11 stories, sept 11 twelve years later, ceremonies for sept 11, starting school sept 11September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were that day as horror upon horror unfolded. When I go back to September 11, 2001, I can still feel the terror of wondering what was happening and what would happen next, the desperation to reach loved ones, the tears and the trembling. We all have our memories of that bright blue, terrifying day and the vast, expansive repercussions following. This is my story.

That morning was Ali’s very first day of school. We were excited, my parents had come to our house on their way home from a wedding in Canada and enjoyed sharing the milestone and picture taking. Ali couldn’t wait to wear the name tag that was mailed home. I looped the yarn of the name tag around her neck. It was a laminated blue airplane. Meaningless as I tied it on and shattering as I took it off hours later.

6 Tennis Tips for Kids

September 9, 2013

6 tennis tips for kids, tips for tennis, teaching kids tennis, tips to teach kids tennis, tips for family sports, team sports for kidsTennis is a terrific sport for all ages and it’s a sport that grows with you. Here are 6 tennis tips for kids.

I played a little tennis as a kid, wait, I take that back, I took LESSONS as a kid but never really played. I remember one instructor telling me my moves looked more like I was dancing than playing tennis. Oh well. I moved onto other physical endeavors. I did a lot of individual sports like gymnastics, skiing and yoga, but I do feel like I missed out on something by not having participated on a team sport growing up.

Seven years ago, I decided I really wanted to play tennis. I began playing in the summer, quite intensely, I loved it and would play any hour of the day, sweltering under the burning sun, with anyone who would play with me. I was so obsessed that I felt disappointment, no matter how many hours we’d been playing, whenever my tennis buddies would wind down and end our session. For years, I only played in the summers and by the time July rolled serena williams, serena image, serena serving, serena williams in pink and yellow, serena williams 2012, serena us open, around, I was practically back to square one. Finally, I joined our local indoor club and began playing year round about four years ago, that made the difference. I could at last begin to improve and up my game.

As a watched amazing tennis at the US Open yesterday (what a match between Serena and Azarenka) and during the past weeks, I thought about how much I love tennis and how happy I am that all three of our kids are enjoying the sport as young children. I’m so happy that Ali is playing on the high school team and getting that experience I never had – being a part of team, supporting one another, training, practicing, traveling together and cheering one another on. Tennis is giving her that.

[Tune in tonight for what’s sure to be more stellar tennis with the Djokovic/Nadal match-up (5:00 pm on CBS).]

6 Tennis Tips for Kids

1. Make it Fun

Tennis should be fun first! When playing isn’t fun or kids feel pressured, they’re likely to lose interest. It’s important to keep it low key as kids learn. Allow them to just enjoy hitting, trying new things and socializing without any focus on results or winning. Skill building and improving will come.

One of the major reasons that 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13 is because they’re not having fun. A Michigan State University study asked girls and boys aged 10 to 12 why they played sports. The top five reasons given:

1. To have fun.
2. To do something I’m good at.
3. To improve my skills.
4. To stay in shape.
5. To get exercise.

The answer “winning” didn’t make it into the top ten reasons. And repeated studies found the same number one response of “fun” as kid’s reason to play sports.

Art is Smart, Recycle A Bike and Education Foundation

September 6, 2013

art is smart, recycle a bike, providence charities, volunteer opportunities in RI, volunteering in RI, EGEF, EGEF RI, educational foundations, starting an education foundation, money for schools, money for art programsLast weekend, Festival Fete in Rhode Island highlighted several worthy non-profits including Art is Smart, Recycle-A-Bike, the East Greenwich Education Foundation and All Things Grow with Love. I believe in the goodness of human nature and that where there is a need or a passion, people build something wonderful to fulfill it. Check these organizations out to see if any spark your interest or desire to serve/give.

Art is Smart

Art is Smart is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that “serves children by raising funds to support public education art programs.” The organizationart is smart merchandise, supporting art is smart, money for public art education, grants for art in school, art teachers supplies, festival fete art, raises money through merchandise sales, fundraising efforts and through direct corporate and individual donations. They simplify the process of requesting and receiving funds, art teachers in the public education arena need only submit a succinct but specific letter outlining the requested needs.

As the mother of three artistically inclined children, I value their public school art programs and have volunteered my time to coordinate school Art Nights because I believe in the importance of art education. You can donate or purchase Art is Smart items at www.ArtIsSmart.com.

Recycle-A-Bike

recycle a bike, bike repairs, learning bike skills, biking in RI, biking workshops, Another unique and impressive organization at Festival Fete was Recycle-A-Bike. Their mission is stated as “a volunteer-based community organization that connects people with refurbished bikes, provides practical bike knowledge, and advocates bicycle use by safer, more confident cyclists.”

First Day of School Traditions

August 28, 2013

first day of school, first day of school traditions, family traditions for school, starting school, back to school, back to school 2013, first day of school nervousBack to school is like a parent’s New Year’s. The calendar rolls into a new school year, new goals are set, there is hope in the air for a fresh year. My mind visualizes the academic year and on the first day of school, and like on the first day of a new year, I tend to reflect back.

As I’m sure so many people do, we have the tradition of taking pictures on the first day of school. The images mark their moves through the grades and even offer proof of unrecognized growth from September to June. I love family record-keeping projects like photo books to highlight the year’s events and kids art photo books.

The first day of school pictures are filled with emotions as I remembering their first day of school jitters (and my own) and how quickly they evaporate. The excitement of wearing a new shirt, meeting their teacher(s) and the anticipation of seeing friends all jump out of those pictures. I laugh at how their over-loaded back packs, filled high with supplies, causes them to tip and lean.

Their first day nervous-excited grins peer out at us, year after year. The pictures mark my babies growing up. Right. Before. My. Eyes. How is it that I just dropped off Ali for her very first day of preschool? I can vividly remember each of my bright-eyed Kindergarteners eagerly jumping on the school bus and waving good-bye through the window. Another proud step toward independence as my heart squeezed and I was left waving at the departing bus, swatting at a tear.

[caption id="attachment_3282" align="aligncenter" width="300"]first day of school pictures, school pictures, school traditions, family pictures, recording family life, My three kiddos off to school this morning.[/caption]

Rhody Bloggers

August 12, 2013

rhody bloggers, bloggers in RI, anchor blogs, mommy bloggers, Rhode Island blogs

I’m proud to be a part of a fantastic group of women bloggers in Rhode Island, the Rhody Bloggers. Many I am grateful to call my friends, others I know only online but reading their blogs makes me feel like I really do know them! We have a wealth of amazing writers, thinkers, creators, travelers, doers, givers, entertainers, adventurers among us – enjoy perusing their blogs, listed below.

Stop by for a visit when you have a chance!

Introducing the Rhody Bloggers:

World’s Okayest Mom

August 6, 2013

world's okayest mom, worlds okayest mom, world's best mom, world's greatest mom, best mom ever, good enough momI just saw a mug emblazoned with “World’s Okayest Mom” and laughed out loud. That’s a title that says it all. I love that my kids think I’m the “Greatest Mom,” and my youngest still tells me, “You’re the BEST Mom in the whole wide world,” but I know the truth.

There are Moms that do it better than me, I’m certain, or Moms that do pieces of this Mommy gig better than me. But in the end, we’re all doing our best and sometimes, just being the World’s Okayest Mom is quite enough. I had a friend who used to tell me about her standards for babysitters, “If the kids are alive when I get home, I’m good” which made me realize I could lighten up my own expectations and the same goes for myself as a mother.

Sometimes good enough is just plain okay!

Did the kids get fed mostly nutritious meals? Did they finish their homework (even if I never sat with them to help or check it out)? Did I tell them I love them? Did they get to their activities mostly on time? Were they alive for bedtime? Then I did a pretty good job that day! So all the other stuff adds up to wonderful bonuses.

Top Mommy Blogs

August 1, 2013

top mommy blog approved, top mommy blogs, mother's circle blog, blog directory, mommy blog directory, Top Mommy Blogs is a directory of Mommy Blogs that are ranked, categorized and rated. They boast over 4500 blogs in 30 different categories. I’m a member and that’s the huge number of blogs I’m competing with! :-)

I am currently ranked #4 in the Family Life category and #25 overall. I’ve been as high as #19 and I’m working to break into the top 15.www.motherscircle.net, parenting, VBAC, doula, childbirth, breastfeeding and fenugreek, parenting advices, smart parenting tips, practical parenting, mommy blogs, top mommy blogs

Here’s my shameless plug for votes!

As a Mother’s Circle reader, I hope you’ll consider voting for me, your vote will count once in every 24 hour period, so if you’re really enthusiastic, please click every now and then! Every click helps me! And clicks from different IP addresses are terrific if you happen to work and live using different IP addresses. (Now I’m really asking a lot of you!)

What is littleBits?

July 25, 2013

what is littleBits, littleBits starter kit, building with electronics modules, electronics for kids, better than legos, if you like legos you'll love littlebits, littlebits color codeWhat is littleBits? Now that I know the answer, littleBits are guaranteed to be wrapped up for birthday gifts and under our tree for many Christmases to come. With the discount code for Mother’s Circle readers below, you can give the gift of imagination, too!

Move over, Legos, here comes littleBits!

littleBits makes building with electronics and prototyping for budding engineers completely accessible and fun (ages 8 and up.)

We always call our son Michael “the engineer” because he is incredibly resourceful, creative in mechanical and inventive ways, and endlessly curious about how things work. He’s always figuring things out, fixing things and solving functional problems around the house. His eyes lit up when he opened the littleBits box!

Michael has always loved all things building from Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys to erector sets, magnetics and bristle blocks, but I think as much as we’ve loved and been buried by Legos in our house, this could replace them! Or perhaps we’ll see Legos make their way into a littleBits creation.

As a blogger, I am bombarded by people asking for me to review items or to pitch their thing on my blog. I only agree to something that I really love and feel genuinely good about recommending to my readers and I am so excited to share this with you. My whole family (and the neighbors) are happy that we’ve “discovered” it! Watch this video and you’ll be hooked, too.

Tabata Songs

July 19, 2013

tabata songs, tabata workout music, tabata training, tabata timing, tabata intervals, interval training music, timed music, barefoot truth music, Tabata songs are the perfect way to time your Tabata interval training workouts. Easier and more inspiring than a timer, these original, timed songs can kick up your routine. My friend Jay Driscoll along with Barefoot Truth band-mate John “Wayno” Waynelovich wrote, performed and recorded these songs specifically for Tabata training.

Jay explains how Tabata Songs originated: “While on tour, we have found Tabata Training to be the quickest, most effective form of exercise. For us, it is perfect for a quick hotel room workout. We hated staring at a clock to time the intervals, so we decided to just make music that tells the listener when to GO and when to STOP. Its basically like having a personal trainer on your iPod!”

What’s Tabata?

Ideal for busy Moms, the Tabata Protocol for interval training, though not new, is quickly gaining in popularity. Developed in 1996 by Japanese fitness researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, its studied benefits include fat-loss, building cardio fitness and muscle retention, increased metabolism and muscular endurance.

Whether you’ve just been given the thumbs up to exercise after a baby, whether you’re chasing a toddler or working out with your teen – a huge benefit for Moms is that it can be done in 4 minutes. It’s high intensity training with intervals of 20 seconds and a 10 second rest in between.

Here are some tools and videos to help you design Tabata intervals that work for you.

Benefits of Tabata Songs

Tabata Songs allow you the freedom to focus on your training without fussing with a timer, stop watch or juggling a smart phone app.

Why You Need Mommy Time

July 10, 2013

why you need mommy time, ideas for mommy time, taking care of mom, making time for myself, making self priority, kids painting, kids artwork, painting in orange and blue,Mommy time is a way to fill ourselves up to be able to be better in all of our roles. As Moms, we spend much of our days focused on kids. Kids’ meals, kids’ behaviors, kids’ activities, kid’s homework, kid’s bathing, brushing, towel-dumping, rule-not-following, stop-touching-him stuff.

You deserve some grown-up time. Guilt-free parenting is my mantra and giving yourself time should be a priority on your to do list. Go ahead and do something to fill yourself up.

When we feel fulfilled and like our own lives are valuable independent of being someone’s Mommy, we open ourselves to personal growth and in turn to being better mothers, wives, friends, people.

You’ve heard the expression: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.” It’s so often true, as Moms, that we set the tone of the family. We set the example. We create the culture over the long term and create the mood in the short term.

How we greet the day and the people in our homes matters to the family culture. We are key in sculpting the family dynamics and when we feel whole as women, we are better able to weather the tedium and build the home lives we imagined when first dreaming of a family.

So here’s a quick list of some ideas for Mommy Time to get you thinking about what you can do for yourself. Start today!

Camping Activities for Kids

June 25, 2013

sun through trees, woods, woodlands, camping activities for kids, things to do with kids, outdoor activities, camping ideas, fun with kids, camping recipesCamping activities for kids can spring up naturally from your surroundings and basic camping preparations. We’ve been camping with our kids since Michael was a baby (that was a sleepless weekend with a pack and play in a tent and rising with the birds … but that’s a story for another post!)

Both Nick and I grew up camping with our families, his family more than mine. We both have warm and happy memories of evenings around a campfire, searching for the perfect marshmallow roasting stick and spending time with our parents. Before our kids were born, Nick and I did some camping together and with groups of friends. We camped in Saratoga, NY, and spent our days at the races and along the water in Virgina. It was the perfect activity for our fresh out of school salaries.

Years later, when our children were still little, we ventured out on a few single-night camping outings. We pitching tents, putting up a tent, how to put up a tent, tent camping, tents and kids, kids putting up a tent, kids helping with camping, would load everything up and leave early on a Saturday morning to a campground nearby. Sometimes we were only 20 minutes from home but once you’re inside a wooded campground with streams, ponds, pools and fire pits, no one could tell where we were!

The kids, older now, love camping and we are building memories of unplugged family time. Our number one camping rule: Electronics are not allowed.

Remember when camping, hiking, climbing and exploring in the woods to check for ticks. Click here for 7 tips to protect your kids, and yourself, from Lyme disease.

Kids find their own fun with what’s around and here is a list of more camping activities for kids.

Summer Solstice Activities

June 21, 2013

summer solstice activities, strawberry, strawberry picking, strawberry in hand, when to strawberry pick, strawberry lemonade recipe, homemade strawberry lemonadeHow will you spend the longest day of the year? Here are some summer solstice activities to do for yourself or with your kids.

In astronomical terms, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere marks the start of summer and the time that the sun is at it’s northernmost point in the sky. But the day is also full of spiritual meanings, symbolic meanings, and personal meanings.

The day marks a sort of tipping point in the year when we reach the longest day and shortest night and it marks a reversal as days shorten following the solstice. There are myriad ways to acknowledge this celebrated day. Add your own ideas to this list in the comments.

Do you have any family rituals or traditions around the summer solstice? Take a moment to enjoy some summer solstice activities alone or with your family.

Fame Obsession Among Kids

June 19, 2013

fame obsessed, obsessed with being famous, zac brown band image, I want to be a rock star, I want to be famous, my kid wants to be famous, kids want fame, I’ve pondered fame and what it means to be famous over the years and I’ve worried about the disproportionate value our young people place on fame. I believe that fame obsession among kids, from teens down to younger children, can have unexpectedly negative effects.

In a culture decades into reality TV (remember when the “experts” were predicting it would be short lived?) it’s difficult for kids to see anything but the positives and coolness of being famous. That’s the value system we’ve fed them their whole lives: Being famous is a goal, it’s a free ticket to whatever you want, strive to be famous.

Even in a household that limits television or even restricts it all together, that message is pervasive. In school bus discussions, on morning news loops and papers, splashed across magazines at the grocery store check out line. Fame is held high, coveted, envied.

A 2009 UK study found that the career goals of today’s kids versus 25 years ago vary greatly with the top three slots today being pop star, sports star and actor. Of the three, only sports star even showed up on the list 25 years ago, in 7th place.

In the extreme, fame obsession among kids and teens can lead to real-life consequences. From imitation in styles and risky behaviors, to misplaced goals and priorities, to outright craziness as portrayed in the film The Bling Ring, in theaters nationwide Friday. The Bling Ring is based on the true story of teens breaking in to celebrities home and stealing millions of dollars of stuff in an effort to live like the stars. Click here to read a Mother’s Circle post on The Bling Ring and Internet Safety.

Clearly, that’s on the far end of the spectrum. In my life and as a Mom, I strive for a balance. I love going to the movies and I’ve had my times of pining after Rob Lowe and Shawn Cassidy (I’m giving away my age!) but it had perspective. It’s normal to be star struck to a degree, even the stars say they get star struck. It’s our job to teach our kids the difference between a healthy admiration and fanaticism.

A Special Thank You to My Dad

June 15, 2013

My Dad is a loyal Mother’s Circle reader, another example of how he supports me.
So I’m delivering a special thank you to my dad for Father’s Day right here.

special thank you for my dad, personal note to dad, thanking fathers, letter from adult daughter to father, thank you note to fathers, acknowledging dads, adult daughter's letter to father,Dear Dad,

I’ve always told you that I love you and I still shower you generously with “I love yous.” I hope you really know what is behind those words and how very much I love you.

Growing up, you could always make me feel special. You would ask me to go for a ride and we’d talk in the car, you’d take me out to breakfasts where you’d check in on my life and I still cherish the memory of those times alone together, just the two of us. I even recall with a smile the breakfast on that family vacation after the night I got in big trouble; I was worried when we sat down, but left knowing I was loved despite questionable judgement.

[caption id="attachment_2816" align="alignright" width="245"]me and my dad, 1989, 1980s haircut, growing up with dad, letter to dad from adult daughter, Me and my Dad in 1989 – my haircut shows it.
We’re outside of Newtown High School.[/caption]

As a teenager, when I was still creating my self image and figuring out boys and emotions, I felt happy when you’d pay me a compliment. You did it sparingly so I knew it was always genuine. All dressed up to go out with friends, you’d say, “Hey, you look cute!” and I would leave the house feeling confident because of those words, because my Dad noticed me and was proud of me.

Even today, I glow inside when you tell me you’re proud of me. It still means everything to have your approval and I glow in your praise. It matters to me that you see me as a good mom and wife, it matters to me that you care about and take an interest in the things I do and the work I pursue.

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Babysitter

June 6, 2013

Thank you to Paul Taylor of Babysitterjobs.com for this guest post on the top questions to ask before hiring a babysitter. As parents, we all have times we need a sitter for a night out, to attend a meeting or to take on a nanny role while working outside of the home. Here Paul offers some tips on finding a sitter you can trust who can fit into your family dynamics and parenting values. I would also add that once you’ve narrowed down your search, ask your top picks to come over and meet your child/children. Observe how she interacts with them, is she talking to them, does she move her body down to their level, how does she try to put your children at ease?

questions to ask before hiring a babysitter, how to hire a babysitter, babysitter holding girl, trustworthy babysitter, teen babysitter, high school babysitter, questions for childcare, Do you really know the individual sitting in front of you applying to be your babysitter? Most of the time, the answer is a resounding, “No.” The process of hiring a babysitter can be quite a serious undertaking. You are inviting this person to care for the most important people in your life. You need to be absolutely sure the person you are considering is going to be right for the job.

 So here are my top 10 questions to ask before hiring a babysitter.

Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog – Part 2

May 31, 2013

This is the second part of Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog.
Click here to read Part 1.

[caption id="attachment_2693" align="alignleft" width="230"]Gardening with kids and a groundhog, groundhog home, gopher home, how to get rid of a groundhog, groundhog eating garden, Caddy shack gopher scene, bill murray caddy shack, Our groundhog’s home.[/caption]

New growth came from the healthy young plants trying their best, and then they were snipped to the ground again. I blamed bunnies, tried to match footprints and searched online for answers. We finally saw him: a lumbering, well-fed, brownish-reddish groundhog. We didn’t know where his home was so we needed another solution (since them, we’ve discovered his abode seen in the image to the left).

I got a Havahart trap and filled it with all the greens and lettuce a groundhog loves. Soon after, we spotted the trap door closed. “We got him!” I thought, but no, we got a possum. We let him free and filled the trap again. A day later, we caught a possum, we let him free again. In the pecking order of smarts, it appears groundhogs are smarter than possum. On and on it went, we had no success through the fall and then it was hibernation time.

The groundhog had won round one.

I mourned the loss of my garden, I truly felt sad each time I wandered to my fruitless garden beds. [On a side note, groundhogs (or maybe it’s just our groundhog) don’t like peppers and despite the disappointing season, I was grateful to at least have gotten something out of our garden.] new plants for garden, plants from seeds, turgor pressure, cucumber seedlings, squash seedlings, image of cucumber plant, gardening with kids

Growing new shoots from tiny seeds and watching them sprout then flourish into real plants makes me happy. Gardening with kids makes it even better. We chat while we work, about school or friends, and things spill out as we work the dirt. They also ask questions about each plant and begin to learn to identify them by their leaves, picking between a weed and a “real” plant. They learn basic biology, and about Turgor pressure and plant divisions, about bulbs, tubers and roots.

One of our favorite family lore stories is “The Cucumber Story.”

Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog Part 1

May 30, 2013

gardening with kids, gardening with kids and a groundhog, groundhog in garden, chicken wire fence, building a chicken wire fence, will chicken wire keep out groundhog, Gardening with kids is an opportunity ripe with lessons. I love gardening and through the years have had lush flower gardens and plentiful vegetables and I’ve struggled against beetles, deer and other critters. When we lived in New Jersey we had literally a dozen deer in our yard at a time (and lots of incidences of Lyme disease). We had sweet spotted fawn following their mamas and we witnessed full out buck fights, horn-to-horn only yards from our back door.

This overpopulation of deer chewed on everything except for the 5 foot tall weeds in our woods. They ate every “deer-resistant” shrub we planted. The garden center guy would say, “Well, they’re not supposed to eat holly [or this or that],” and I’d say, “Well, our deer do.” There wasn’t a purchased plant that was safe (unwanted weeds were untouched, of course).

I’d read at the time that dirty diapers outside keep the deer away from flowers and bushes; I had two young kiddos still in diapers so I rolled them up and put them around the garden beds. Yes, I know, in writing this it sounds as ridiculous as it was.

7 Tips to Protect Your Kids From Lyme Disease – And Yourself, Too

May 24, 2013

tips to protect kids from lyme, walking in the woods, deer ticks in woods, take a hike, prevention of lyme disease, help for lyme disease, resources for lyme diseaseThe most important way to protect your kids from Lyme disease is knowledge. I shared my story of Lyme Disease and also the controversy and misunderstanding surrounding Lyme. Within this swirl of confusion, there are studies, facts and recommendations that rise to the surface and are the first line of defense against this insidious and potentially debilitating disease.

Even with the best protective measures, it’s possible – even likely – you or someone in your family will get a deer tick bite and Lyme. Click here for one grandmother’s story of how despite her efforts, she has Lyme.

What I hope you gain from the post is a deeper awareness and understanding about Lyme so that you’re more likely to recognize signs (and trust yourself) earlier.

The earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes. Part of how to protect your kids from Lyme disease is guarding against chronic Lyme should your family be affected and undiagnosed, untreated Lyme can lead to a chronic condition.

1. Learn about Lyme

Here are some key things to know about Lyme disease:

  • Lyme is a risk in all 50 states, it is no longer a disease of the northeastern US region.
  • If you receive a positive blood test for Lyme, it’s absolute, you’ve got it. However, if you receive a negative test, you may still have it. You can’t trust a negative. Of people with acute culture-proven Lyme, 20-30% will continue to test negative on the Western Blot. There is no test for the actual spirochetes, only a test for the antibodies produced against it. There are also other tick borne illnesses not tested in commercial tests.
  • Because of unreliable testing issues, the diagnosis of Lyme is a clinical one.
  • It’s not know how long it takes to transfer the bacteria, it can be only seconds in children. Clearly we are not likely to see the exact moment a tick hops on our kids and we might not even see the tick itself. If you suspect Lyme, get treatment promptly. Lyme can spread widely through the body within hours to days.
  • Some hallmarks of Lyme are that it moves around, it’s a migratory, transient pain. A child may complain of leg pain then a headache, then hip pain over the course of time. It’s also cyclical with symptoms presenting in one way in about four weeks cycles, and they may change. Are you starting to see how this is a tough diagnosis? Does your child complain of a headache monthly? Or sore knees?
  • Another clue that it’s Lyme disease is the worsening effect at the time of the first treatment (this is called the Herxheimer reaction or Herxing). As the bacteria die off they release toxins into the body faster than the body can handle them creating a sudden and dramatic inflammatory response. If you or your child experience this Herxing effect, it’s another likely clue that it’s in fact Lyme.
  • There is documented transmission from mother to fetus and the baby may be born with congenital Lyme. We do not know, but the Lyme spirochetes may survive in breastmilk, it’s recommended that nursing mothers are treated aggressively.
  • Peak season is considered April – September.

Themed Cakes and Cupcakes

May 21, 2013

themed cakes and cupcakes, pink flower cupcakes, decorating cakes with marshmallows, marshmallow flowers, pink cupcake ideas, pretty cupcakes, I love to decorate themed cakes and cupcakes for a party. Years ago when I was making all sorts of pretty cupcakes, before the big cupcake trendy boom. I love entertaining with a theme and baking to match. Kids birthday parties are central to our decorating endeavors.

There have been rocket ship cakes for space parties, Jell-O that glowed from beneath for a glow in the dark party and cute froggy cupcakes for a Princess party (for the Frog Prince story.) We also have made lipstick shaped cakes for a girly spa party, blue patch worked cake for my son’s “Blue Party,” and Dinosaurs have marched across cakes and crystalized snow flakes have glittered upon them.

For my grandmother’s 90th birthday, my Mom handed me a ripped out magazine picture of an outrageous cake complete with a water body and beach. I took on the challenge and painstakingly, for my grandma, iced bikinis on Teddy Grahams. For the upteen hours of labor, I enjoyed a sweet moment of praise as everyone oohed and aahed at the cake before cutting in.

beach cake, themed cakes and cupcakes, teddy graham cake, jell-o in cake, blue pool in a cake, pool cake, seaside cake theme,

One of my favorites was the bumblebee and lady bug party:

lady bug cupcakes, lady bug party, bumble bee cupcakes, bumble bee party theme, bug party, bug birthday party, themed cakes and cupcakes

 

On the Flip Side

May 17, 2013

on the flip side, father and daughter, father and teen daughter, father hugging daughter, kids leaving home, empty nestersWe’re on the flip side. We have fewer years left with kids in our home than we’ve already had years with them.

I recently realized that we have only nine more years until we are empty nesters. It doesn’t seem possible. Looking at my sweet young kids, none driving yet, how can it be that Nick and I will be on our own with everyone graduated or away at college in fewer than 10 years?

Like a surprise party, somehow we’re on the flip side. It’s the trick of time. Amazingly, as I only recently “figured this out,” we’ve actually been on the flip side for a couple of years already. It went unrecognized as we romp through our daily life.

My feelings all swirl together like the colors in a carnival spin art craft. Joy, sadness, hopefulness, disbelief, worry, unpreparedness. I’m not ready. Not even close to ready now. Nine years is not enough time with my kids living right here, under my wings. Yet, like the mother of a two year old who laments having a teen, I know that as the minutes build into years, I’ll become more ready.

How is it that we only have four years to teach our daughter about boys, relationships, and life? Only four short years to impress upon her the warnings about drinking, the weightiness of foolishness, the exponential exposures of social media, the jumble of joys and dangers of choices …

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Teen

May 10, 2013

sarah cynthia sylvia teen, sarah cynthia sylvia  stout, shel silverstein, shel silverstein drawing, shel silverstein death date, bio of shel silverstein, poems by shel silverstein Today marks the 14th anniversary of Shel Silverstein’s death (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999).

I grew up treasuring my “Where the Sidewalk” ends book and I wrote poems inspired by his style and quirky subjects. I wrote about shaving cream, making friends with seaweed and other questionable poems as I emulated the master poet and artist. Read a biography of Shel Silverstein here.

I’ve read these poems to my children for over a decade, they’ve been the center of school poetry projects and my old “Where the Sidewalk Ends” book has been well loved; the book jacket tinged yellow at its edges.

One of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems has always been “Sarah Cythia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out.” (I also love the the King and his Peanut-Butter Sandwich, the Magical Eraser and my kids crack up at the Invisible Boy and Warning – the one about the snail in the nose.)

Since this poem rattles around in my head from time to time, in my frustration at my daughter’s messy bedroom, I began composing this poem. It’s based on my beloved Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and here I present it in celebration of Shel Silverstein’s life.

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, daffodils on red ground, flowers for mother's day, mothers day flowers, daffodils for moms, cream daffodils, spring flowers in vase, Happy Mother’s Day! I love the idea of slowing down to think about motherhood in both directions: about my own Mom and about what it means to have my children in my life.

Since I’ve become a Mom, I’ve thanked my mother for all the unseen sacrifices and her unending love, support, guidance and cheer leading throughout my life. I’ve apologized to my Mom for my fresh back talk, for saying hurtful things in angry bouts and for taking her for granted.

My Mom was and is always there for me. When I got home from school after holding in tears all day, when I had a teen drama at the dance and couldn’t wait to be home, when my babies were born and I needed mothering, when I need advice on how to manage these slippery night sweats that have crept into my life.

My Mom was a good Mom and raised me with loving discipline; I always knew I was loved. As an adult, she is my friend, and I’m so deeply grateful for that.

With my kiddos, I’m still in the active parenting stage and not yet at the best friend phase. Though, I recently realized with shock that we are on “the flip side.” We have fewer years left with kids in our house (only nine short years) than years we’ve had kids in our house (over fourteen years). Our children are part of us, entrusted to us to love, nurture, teach and cherish and it feels like not enough time left with them in our home. (Okay, yes, I know they often come back, but we’re brainwashing them with the expectation of getting a job and their own apartment after college, I’ll let you know how that goes.)

Spending Mother’s Day in the ER

May 7, 2013

mother's day in the ER, emergency room on mothers day, spending mothers day in hospital, hospital for mothers day, broken toe, er for broken toe

This was originally posted in May 2012 when we spent Mother’s Day in the ER and found some unexpected joy. Nick promises this year we’ll have a little more traditional Mother’s Day!

It certainly wasn’t how we’d planned to spend a preciously sunny Mother’s Day, but it was a day that tested me to live what I believe, a day that reminded me that I already know the value of gratitude.

I was reading a book in the hammock, feeling the warmth on my skin, listening to the kids take their first splashes in the pool (we finally figured out that opening it early makes a difference to a short Rhode Island pool season). My husband was tinkering around as he kept an eye on the kids; to give them access to the towel hooks, he moved the grill three inches to the left.Mothers day in the ER, gratitude on Mother's Day, mother's day lessons, being together on mothers day

Those three inches cost us eight hours in the emergency room. A heavy, cast iron grilling pan slipped off the side shelf and landed squarely on my husband’s right big toe.

Though he hopped around swearing beneath his breath and blood dripped, dotting everywhere he hopped, we didn’t think it would be so dramatic. At the advice of our nurse and doctor neighbors, we went to the hospital for a look and a tetanus shot.

The kids rallied, threw on cover ups, grabbed iPods (thank goodness) and off we headed, with Nick’s toe still bleeding all over.

Leadership Skills for Moms Part 2

April 25, 2013

walking in woods, walking under branches, kids hiking, kids in woods, brother and sister getting along, siblings on walk, leadership skills for moms, leadership tips, parenting tips for teens, In Leadership Skills for Moms part one, I applied the principles from Kouzes and Posner’s book, The Leadership Challenge to motherhood. As Moms, we certainly hold many leadership roles, whether we acknowledge that label or not, we ARE leaders.

Where are your leadership strengths? How do you want to grow as a leader? What’s one thing you can do today to take a step to become the Mom Leader you envision?

Based on their research, Kouzes and Posner defined five practices of exemplary leadership:

1. Model the way
2. Inspire a shared vision
3. Challenge the process
4. Enable others to act
5. Encourage the heart.

In Leadership Skills for Moms part one, I discussed model the way, inspire a shared vision and challenge the process. Here, let’s talk about the last two principles, enabling others to act and encourage the heart.

Using These Leadership Skills for Moms

Enable Others to Act

How do you get a 3 year old to put on his shoes so you can get out the door? How do you get a 7 year old to pick up his Lego’s? Get a 12 year old to clean her bedroom? A 15 year old to do his homework independently?

Leadership Skills for Moms

April 21, 2013

girl jumping on trampoline, leadership skills for moms, launch trampoline park, leading the way, model the way, parents as leaders, teaching kids leadership, challenge the process, leadership challengeI’ve just enjoyed a weekend of leadership training (and got stuck in Columbus!) Since “Mom” is my main job title, I gave a lot of thought about how to apply these principles to motherhood.

So here it is: Leadership skills for Moms!

Moms are leaders in their family and to their kiddos; we can benefit from bringing a consciousness to how we behave as leaders and models for our children.

These concepts will apply to you in every aspect of your life – career, PTA, in relationships, coaching the soccer team – but let’s look at them from a Mom’s viewpoint.

This weekend’s workshop curriculum was based on Kouzes and Posner’s book, The Leadership Challenge. Through their research, they defined five practices of exemplary leaders:

1. Model the way
2. Inspire a shared vision
3. Challenge the process
4. Enable others to act
5. Encourage the heart.

Today’s post will cover the first three, check back tomorrow for discussion on principles four and five.

Using These Leadership Skills for Moms

Model the way

Isn’t that the first sentence in the Mommy Job Description? We are our children’s first role models, the one they turn to to learn about themselves and their place in the world. They look at us to learn how facial expressions reveal emotions, to see if they should cry or not when they’ve fallen down and to search our eyes for approval.

We model the way all day long, every day, whether we’re kindly carrying a bag of groceries to a sick neighbor or yelling at another driver for cutting you off. Our kids may not always listen, but they sure do always HEAR!

Dying Easter Eggs Creatively

March 29, 2013

dying Easter eggs, creative easter eggs, Easter traditions, Easter kids activities, Easter activities, how to dye Easter eggs, pretty Easter eggsDying Easter eggs is one of our favorite Easter traditions. We boil four dozen eggs, one dozen per kid and oneDarth Vader egg, Star Wars Easter eggs, Daddy's egg, creative Easter eggs dozen for me and Nick to share if he’s home to participate. This year, he made one Darth Vader egg and went off to work.

The fun starts when the kids divide up the PAAS coloring tablets and before we each drop a tablet into the vinegar, we have to guess what color we think it will be. Year in and year out, we ooh and ahh with amazement as the tablet that looks orange turns yellow and the one that looks purple turns green.

All the cups full of colors make me happy!

cups of color, egg dyes, colors for dying eggs, Easter egg dyes, PAAS egg dye, pretty color mugs, rainbow mugs, rainbow liquidsThen we get creative, Ali tried scotch tape this year with partial success. We use kosher salt to absorb some of kosher salt on egg, egg dying tips, egg dying ideas, creative ideas for Easter eggs, green Easter eggthe dye and add interesting effects and we wrap eggs in elastic bands before coloring them to create stripy effects. rubber bands on egg, elastic bands on egg, ideas for easter eggs, interesting egg ideas,

The kids use drops of dye and blow the colors across the eggs for a tie-dyed look and use paint brushes for more exacting work. This year, Ali drew shapes all over her solid colored eggs with a black Sharpie for a really interesting and pretty look.

What Do Your Kids Want to Be When They Grow Up?

March 27, 2013

STEM careers, kids strengths, when I grow up, I want to be, career choicesIn this week’s Mom Before Mom post, I wrote about what I wanted to be when I grew up it made me think about what my kids say now that they want to be. For some kids, they set their minds on something and never waiver. For other kids, the ideas change weekly, their interests broad and open.

Michael just today came home and announced, “Mom, do you want to hear what I want to do when I grow up?” I was stunned and thought, “Be a psychic?” He had no idea what I was writing about! This most recent idea, though, was more of an event plan than a career path, he wants to climb Mount Everest and glide off the top. (Ugh, see my Boys and Bruises post!)

What do your kids want to be when they grow up? How do we nurture the things that make them happy? How, as parents, can we encourage them to explore and guide them to discover their strengths?

It begins young with exposure to many different experiences. Going for a walk and taking the time to stop and touch some moss or poke a mushroom with a stick is a beginning. So are things like kicking the ball in the backyard, marching through the house with musical instruments or early forays into watercolor still-lifes and Play-Doh sculptures. These are valuable activities at all ages.

Offering varied opportunities isn’t generally the hard part, there are a million and one possibilities, activities, teams, clubs, events and chances to try things out. It’s harder to know how to limit what our kids join, as in all things parenting, it’s about finding that balance.

In the adolescent years, kids tend to begin to specialize in certain activities, they’ve narrowed down their sports and extracurricular time to more focused interests. Those activities may not be what they would pursue as a life path. Or could they be?

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