Blog Archives

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!

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!

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.

5 Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

November 4, 2013

tips for conferences with teachers, ideas for successful teacher conference, communicating with teachers, school conferencesIn the season of parent teacher conferences, how can you get the most of those 15 minutes with your child’s teacher?

5 Tips for Successful Parent Teacher Conferences

1. Be prepared

Think ahead about what you’d like to discuss with your child’s teacher and what questions you’d like to ask. Ask your child ahead of time if there is anything he’s concerned about or would like you to talk about in your conference. What they share may surprise you. You may also seek input from a spouse or a childcare provider, anyone who spends a lot of time with your child.


2.Write it down

communicating with teacher, woman holding books, math on black board, school success, tips for school success, improving reading speed, third graders, tips for conferences, communicating with teacher, woman holding books, math on black board, school success, tips for school success, improving reading speed, third graders,Inevitably, you have some specific thing you’d like to ask the teacher and you’ve forgotten what it is when you walk into the classroom. So often, the teachers are on a tight schedule with parents stacking up outside their door, so you want to maximize your turn. Especially if you have more than one child, writing down some notes and questions is even more important.

Besides questions, you might jot down some things you’d like to share with the teacher, such as an activity or project your child particularly enjoyed or a family or health issue that you want to bring to her attention.

3. Listen

Hear what your child’s teacher wants to share with you about your child. Does she see things that you’re not aware of? Can she provide information about your child’s social interactions, respectfulness of others and general manners and behavior when they’re outside of your purvey? Perhaps he has some worries about your child academically or organizationally.

Hear what she is saying without evaluating or judging. Listen with an open mind to learn more about your child and how she may be perceived or where he may be struggling. Your child’s teacher sees your child in a unique setting for at least six hours a day. She has a valuable perspective and insight into your kiddo.

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.

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.

Organizing Kid’s Artwork

September 19, 2013

organizing kids artwork, still life pastel, vase of flowers in pastels, kids pastels, how to save kids artAs we start the new school year, how will you manage organizing kid’s artwork projects and the heaps of paintings, drawings and craft creations? Whether you have a preschooler’s colorful stick figures or a teen’s 3-D science presentation, here’s a solution that I love!

Many years ago, before I was in the digital mode for photography, and pre-smart phones, I read about an idea that stuck with me: take pictures of your children’s artwork and then assemble a book of the pictures. I’ve only done this for the last four school years, but with everything electronic now, it’s a task that’s quite easy, with a little organization. (So why haven’t I started last school year’s book yet?)

When I do start it (writing this is motivating me to get to it) I use and really like Shutterfly. (You can click the link on the sidebar to go directly to Shutterfly). I am comfortable with their tools and products, they offer frequent discounts on photo books and their customer service has been exceptionally responsive when I’ve had any questions. There are other options out there (iPhoto, Tiny Prints, Snapfish, Mixbook, Lulu) for you to peruse.

When a kiddo comes home with a Groundhog Day hat, I put it on their head and take a picture, then throw away the hat. When the paints come out and the creativity flows into stacks of masterpieces, I snap a shot of each one, and toss them.mermaid painting, mermaid art, drawing mermaids, kids art tips, art books, photo books for artwork, ariel painting, how to organize kids art

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.

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.

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.

Math Kisses

July 23, 2013

Math kisses, bedtime math, teaching kids math, learning math with fun, fun ways to learn math, fun ways to teach math, making math part of your day, math routines, how to teach math, ideas to teach young kids mathMath kisses grew in our family from a song that a babysitter when I was about eight years old first sang for me.

It’s a silly little ditty:

“Good Night, Leah,
Good Night, Leah,
Good Night, Leah,
It’s time to go to bed,
Boop Boop!”

And the babysitter accented the “boops” with her hips as she left my doorway.

When Ali was little, I sang it to her and soon it was a regular part of our bedtime routine. Over the years and through three children, the song has grown, changed and evolved.

Each child has added his or her own individual enhancements. A second verse bloomed, “I love [insert kids’ name here], I love [kid sings Mommy/Daddy as parent sings kid’s name], I love [you get the idea], it’s time to go to bed, boop boop.” bedtime mathMichael now says “wee-ooo” instead of “boop boop.” Another addition, we sing the names of everyone in the family (and our bird, Piper) and new phrases have crept in, too, (“I love Ali, so much, I love Michael, so much…”)

As the song has lengthened, perhaps initially to delay the actual bedtime, it has remained a special part of ending the day. I don’t know how or when, but years ago, Anna began giving two kisses in between each phrase and instead of the boop boops. One night I realized she was counting the kisses on her fingers, we would end up with 16 kisses and run out of fingers, and then we always had to kiss four more times to get to an even 20.

I suggested she count by twos using one finger for each pair of kisses, so Anna started learning and practicing counting by twos. We added a challenge and I’d give her one kiss before singing and she’d need to count by twos on the odd numbers. Without knowing, we had fallen into a special bedtime routine of math kisses.

Sell Old DVDs Online with Music Magpie

July 8, 2013

sell old DVDs online, music magpie, making extra money online, helping kids make money selling, organizing cds, cleaning old DVDs, tag sales, yard sales DVD, Music Magpie is a site I recently learned about that let’s you sell old DVDs online. Somehow, we have way too many CDs in our house. They’re stacked up and hidden away, taking up space in our TV armoire barely ever looked at, let alone listened to.

So I’m taking the plunge, paring down and selling whole towers of old CDs. I remember my first CD player and the feel of opening a new CD and now I chuckle as they collect dust and I listen to my iPod while cleaning out our old music collection!

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.

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

 

Talking to Kids About Bad Things

April 18, 2013

American Flag, flag with snow, talking to kids about bad things, praying for Boston, talking to kids about Boston Marathon, answering kids tough questions, answering kids quesitons, flag half staffTalking to kids about bad things is difficult for parents, especially as we grapple ourselves to find meaning in the meaningless, the horrific.

Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are.” Angels among us, it’s so true.

Can we find a silver lining amidst these horrors?

I am always an optimist and am continually warmed by humanity and the generous, boundless, selfless outpourings of love and kindnesses in the face of terror and disaster. We saw it in Boston, in Newtown, in New York, in Haiti, in Sandy, in Katrina, in Texas ….

How do we find our own center to be able to talk to our kids about bad things? How is it possible to make sense of something that makes no sense? And that’s where I start with my kids.

Keeping their ages in mind is always important and knowing their personalities to be able to gauge what they are able to hear and what they need to hear.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I parent from a place of truthfulness and openness with my kids: about where babies come from, about sex and about bad things. They see me cry, I explain; I share my emotions and disbelief, my grief and my anger. I believe in answering kids tough questions head-on and honestly. But also age-appropriately.

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?

Happy Spring Equinox

March 20, 2013

spring, spring flowers, spring equinox, vernal equinox, happy spring, signs of spring, spring is in the air, daffodils, narcissis, trumpet flowerSpring is my favorite season and even though we welcome this year’s spring equinox with snow-covered ground, there is sunshine and green buds are poking through. Robins are hopping around and I feel excited by the season of new beginnings. Bring some spring indoors and force forsythia with the kids.

Seasons change because of how the Earth orbits the sun and the tilt of its axis, it’s determined by shifting sunlight. Today, the vernal equinox, both night and day are both about the same length of time. In Latin, equinox means “equal night.” Also on the spring equinox, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west.

A few weeks ago, I cut some forsythia branches from our bramble of winter forsythia bushes. I brought them in to force and today I’m enjoying the yellow spring flowers in full bloom. This is a fun activity to do with children of all ages.

Up close, you can see that the branches that look bare and sleepy are actually full of buds. Since forsythia grow and multiple heartily, it’s okay to allow children old enough to manage clippers to cut some with your guidance. Simply cut branches then clip off any short pieces that would be below the water line of a vase. Then give them a fresh cut at an angle and because they are a woody stem, I also use the shears to cut UP the stem separating it vertically to give more area to absorb water. Another option is to give a fresh cut and then crush the end of the branch with a hammer. (Any kid would love to help with that part!) Then wait a few days and you’ll have spring indoors!

forcing forsythia, vase of branches, red dining room, red walls, forced forsythia, yellow flowers, forsythia in bloom, how to make forsythia bloom, when do forsythia bloom, yellow flowers of spring, spring flowering bushes

 

To the left are the plain branches waiting to open. To the right, the blooming branches to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t like to throw any away so these in the blue vase are the tiny off shouts that I cut from the large branches. These make great smaller arrangements to put in bathrooms, kids rooms or on your office desk to cheer you!

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

March 15, 2013

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck. Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” it’s a recipe to make your own luck! Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

Parent Child One on One Time

March 12, 2013

yellow plane, rhinebeck, ww1 planes, father son camping, boys weekend, One on one time with each of your children is worth scheduling. It’s can be such a valued tradition for each parent to carve out a special time alone with each child throughout your week. What you do doesn’t matter, what matters is that your child has 100% of your attention with no distractions.

It doesn’t need to cost money, take all day and it doesn’t even require leaving the house, but adding in special occasion one on one time can build cherished memories.

I still feel cherished and special when I think about some one on one time I had with my parents growing up. There was the time my Dad took me, just me, to go horseback riding. It wasn’t a habit and didn’t become a thing, we only went once, but it was a new experience and I did it with my Dad. I was the center of his attention the entire time we were together. Another time, we went hiking in the woods. On the day I was alone with my Dad, my Mom would take my sister somewhere just for her. On one of our days, my Mom let me choose what to do, I picked going to a Hallmark store! Truthfully, I still love gift shops and sending cards.

Finding time alone with each of your children isn’t always easy, but get creative and I’m sure you can see opportunities in your day to give even 15-20 minutes of concentrated attention to each child. Can you do a puzzle or craft with your 4 year old while your toddler naps? Can you go for a treasure-hunt walk through the yard or neighborhood when grandma comes over to stay with the other child(ren)? How about making the usual bedtime or bath time routine dedicated time to a child?

Bunny in the Basket

March 9, 2013

bunny in basket, stuffed animal bunny, bunny book, Easter books, Easter giftsI recently learned that my dear friend, Kelly Connaghan Dengler, wrote a children’s book, Bunny in the Basket, that comes with a plush bunny in the basket that your child can name. The simple story explains to children (and parents) how the bunny works, it’s similar to the Christmas elf idea for Easter time.

Through the bunny, Kelly tries to give parents that extra set of eyes and gives kids a little motivation to exhibit good behavior since the bunny is watching and reporting back to Peter Cottontail.

When our package arrived, I wasn’t sure how it was presented so even though Anna was dying to open the newly delivered box, I waited until she went to school to check it out. I didn’t need to worry, it was child-friendly and packaged with the book and bunny together peeking out through the box. I read the book and left it, with the pale blue bunny in the basket, for my daughter at her place at the dinner table.

The Importance of Sleep

March 4, 2013

boy sleeping with teddy, sleeping wtih stuffed animals, boy sleeping, trouble sleeping, kids sleep problems,This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family. We’re kicking off Sleep Awareness Week with the benefits and importance of sleep.

Sleep can be one of those things, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Kids resist naps and bedtimes, but busy, fatigued adults crave a chance to lie down.

Color Code Your Kids

February 13, 2013

pink and blue bowls, orange bowl, cereal bowls, cheerios left over, kids favorite colors, parenting tips I color code my kids.

After having enough of counter tops full of glasses, I got everyone a unique, special glass that identified them. Each day, each kid would (ideally) use only one glass. All we really drink is water and it has helped limit that full-top, un-full bottom dishwasher issue.

Then, I kept coming to the kitchen finding half eaten bowls of cereal, I was throwing away so much every day, but it wasn’t always the same kid leaving it behind, so I bought cereal bowls that matched the kids glasses colors. Ali, blue, Michael, orange, Anna, pink. (Michael loves green but his glass had orange glass goldfish into it and thought it was cool, so he’s become orange.)

Now at least I have an idea who to speak to about leaving Cheerios soaking and soggy.

I need to color code my kids towels next. You’ve heard me rant about continually finding towels on the floor. There are hooks RIGHT THERE! I call kids back again and again, interrupting them from whatever activity they’re involved in, hoping that eventually they won’t want to be disturbed and will just hang up their towels. Nope! Hasn’t worked yet.

I often hear, “I hung mine up!” as I stare at a floor-full of white towels and empty hooks. So that’s fairly easy to tell that NO ONE did it, but there are times that there’s no way to know the culprit if a few towels end up on the towel rack.

This works with mittens and hats, and I’ve heard of people color coding socks, each kid gets all one color sock. Ifish glass, goldfish glass, glass wtih fish, orange fish, gold fish with spots, i-Stuff suppose that makes laundry easy and would work with young kids. As kids get more fashion-aware, though, most won’t want to always wear pink socks, and clearly blue socks don’t go with black pants. Could I even find orange socks if I wanted to?

We recently added a new way to color code my kids. With all the i-Stuff in the house and all the corresponding cords and plugs, we’ve covered each kid’s chargers with a colored duct tape (found this idea on Pinterest, I’ve pinned in under Things to Do) and it’s already minimized the, “That’s my charger,” disagreements over the exact same cord!

Do you have any ideas to color code your kids?

Celebrating Childhood Birthdays

February 8, 2013

This is my fourth post in the Mom Before Mom series started by Carla at All of Me Now.

This Week’s Prompt: How did you celebrate your birthday?

Happy Birthday Leah, Birthday cake, decorating a birthday cake, kids birthday cakes, pretty flowered cake, peach flowers,Like in last week’s Mom Before Mom post about favorite home cooked meals, my Mom was central in making birthdays special growing up. She baked, decorated, planned, wrapped, hostessed and cleaned up after.

Most of my memories of my earliest birthdays are from faded square pictures. My friends and I all dressed in frilly pink party dresses, a cardboard throne decorated for the birthday girl, streamers, balloons and presents.

My birthday is in early November, so as I got older, I often had Halloween-themed birthday parties. Decked out in costumes, my friends would arrive and between autumnleah's birthday, 1970's birthdays, old birthday photos, pink party dress, birthday girl games, my Mom would lead us through a mini haunted house in our finished basement. We loved the nervous feeling and giggled nervously as she told us a legend, blind-folded, and we had to step over imaginary creatures, touch unknown brains and we somehow ended with our face in a plate of flour, I wonder if she remembers how the story went.

Even for my sleepover parties, my Mom planned games like dressing up relays. One year, I remember my Dad getting angry because some of my friends dressed my little brother up as a ballerina and then tied together the pink tights at his feet. I got in trouble, but it still makes me laugh!

As a Mom, I really don’t love slumber parties, but for my birthdays, just like my kids now, I always wanted to have a pajama party. My friends and I would line up in our family room and do the hustle to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. (Can you guess how old I am?)

Clingy Toddler Help

January 31, 2013

toddler holding head, toddler in purple, oh brother!, tips for clingy toddler, purple butterfly jacket, I often get asked what to do about a clingy toddler. As parents, we want to raise autonomous children who are also well-attached to us and to others who care for them, but clinginess can be frustrating.

Clinginess is about separation and separation at different ages and stages is often difficult for parents as well as for children.

First it’s important to recognize when the separation anxiety is our own instead of our child’s. A child leaving our side to venture out, a child left in someone else’s arms at day care, or a child walking into a preschool class, can be charged moments of conflicting feelings for Moms. The way we respond can affect how our children react. They are signs of autonomy and can be scary for toddlers as well as for Mamas!

Even a child under a year old crawls away and tests his independence before returning. It’s great to be encouraging and give your child positive feedback as he glances over his shoulder to check on you! Then go ahead and smoosh him up with kisses and hugs when you reunite to let you both know that the time apart was okay.

Separation, in increasing increments throughout childhood, the teen years and beyond, is one of the great dances of parenthood: how much to let go, how much to protect them. How much to push them to do something on their own, how much to pull them back. This is true at 8 months and 18 years old, we have to find balance. Sometimes the separation makes the parents uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s the kiddos who are troubled.

Writing Life

January 28, 2013

writing journals, diaries for kids, national novel writing month, record keeping families, traveling, Bermuda, France, cruises with families, Writing has always been something I’ve loved. I got my first diary when I was eight years old, a yellow book with white flowers on the cover, gilded pages and a golden lock.

Those early entries in my daisy-covered diary, written in second-grader printing, were simple recordings of my days, “I got up, I went to school. After school, Karen came over to play. We played outside. It was great!” My report-style writing evolved to reflecting on events, venting deep emotions, exploring relationships and pondering life. Recording daily details continued at a new level, and often my diaries became references for where we spent a certain Thanksgiving (settling some bets), what year we threw the 80’s party or when I dated “that guy.”

In re-reading old journals, it’s shocking to me how many things – big things – I’d forgotten, not just minutia but things like auditioning for the school play, I did that?

For my year 2000 project, I set out to transcribe all hundred-something hand-written books. While I didn’t make a big dent in that idea, as I worked, I marveled at how I could read and find myself feeling 12 or 17 again, I could instantly be back in a moment in my past. At other times, it was as if I was outside looking back in a motherly way at my younger self, I saw and experienced that memory in a whole new way, with a new perspective colored by experience.

Disciplining Our Kids: The Basics

January 16, 2013

sisters, siblings hugging, girl in yellow dress, sisters as friends, big sister little sister, smiling sisters, Disciplining our kids is not easy. It’s exhausting and frustrating. Disciplining our kids can create feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, impatience and helplessness in the best of parents. But that’s no reason not to take charge and do it.

Discipline has two sides – negative consequences for negative behaviors and positive consequences for good behaviors. I love being able to reward my kids’ good choices in life. Praising and acknowledging the behaviors you want to encourage is the best way to influence and guide your child. However, kids do misbehave. I find in working with and being a parent, it’s dealing with the not-listening, rule-breaking behaviors that’s more challenging so that’s the focus of this post.

As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids safe, to set limits for them, to communicate those limits and to give them reasonable and swift consequences when they break a rule.

The point is learning. Discipline is all about teaching our children how to behave and interact with the world, beginning in our homes.

It can be uncomfortable and flat out not fun to execute time outs or to take away an iPod. It requires endless energy to mold kids behaviors, to determine adequate consequences, then to stick it out and deliver them in a timely way. If our goal is teaching them, it’s wise to follow through on a logical consequence right away so they connect the discomfort with the undesirable behavior.

Knowing exactly what motivates a child gives us a perfect immediate consequence; but that can punish the parent. A long car ride without a gadget may be tough, but if it’s educating our child on the importance of proper conduct, well, then as the parent, we need to see it through however hard it is on us.

It’s difficult to see our kids crying and upset, but we’re the adults and need to bear that discomfort and manage our personal feelings. We need to be the grown-ups and carry that weight for the long term good of our children.

If we back down to relieve our uncomfortable emotions, we are ineffective in parenting. We have only taught our children that they can cry, fuss or tantrum their way out of a sanction. They have not learned to choose the appropriate behavior and the next time, it will be exponentially harder for that parent.

Family of Circles

January 14, 2013

family circle time, silver circle necklace, silver rings, cute things children say, grateful mommy, happifyI love the symbolism and images of circles, so when I found this necklace full of circles, (at a bargain price, which made me even happier) I scooped it up.

One day when I was savoring the feeling of fiddling with the loops around my neck, my daughter sat on my lap to join me in playing with the necklace of circles.

She was at an age when it was routine to label things to represent family members, to notice ascending and descending sizes and correlate them to each of us. So, my necklace was bound to become our family of circles.

As she fanned out the circles, she began, “This one is Daddy, this one is Ali, this one is Michael and this one is me,” she paused for just a second, there are only four silver rings but five in our family. Then she touched the tiny one and announced, “And this is you, Mommy!”silver rings, importance of moms, kids love their moms, ascending order, math game

Even though this was only a child’s musings, the usual assigning the family to objects, I had a moment of pause. A moment with a wisp of a sinking feeling that I was viewed as small in her eyes. But before I could register theses thoughts or give a name to my emotion, she continued.

“Mommy, you’re the little one because you hold us all together.”

 

 

 

 

Knitting Lessons

January 9, 2013

sisters knitting, kids learning to knit, red yarn, ann hood's knitting circle, Knit wits, knitting groups, learning to knitMy grandmother taught me to knit when I was little. I started knitting lessons with the ugliest (I liked it then) bright purple yarn with silver flecked in it. I was knitting a scarf for my DAD! I just kept knitting it longer and longer, I didn’t ever finish it but I loved doing it. I especially loved doing it with my grandma.

In the years since, I did a lot of needle work, embroidery and cross stitching but haven’t done anything at all in close to a decade (can it be?) Life just took over. I used to stitch while watching TV, but now if I ever get to watch TV, I fold laundry, and more laundry, and, yup, you know, more laundry.

I’ve recently been thinking of asking my Mom to reteach me to knit, but I figured I’ll ask when I have more time to devote to relearning it. Then, I found really pretty yarn on sale – only 29 cents each! I scooped up two skeins and took them to my parent’s house.

Goal Setting for Kids

January 3, 2013

set goals, alphabet blocks, goal setting tips, activities for goal setting, I want to be a better reader, get straight A's, mini-goals, quotes on goalsGoal setting: it’s way better than “making resolutions!” Goal setting is a life skill and a gift to teach our kids young.

I love the Napoleon Hill quote, “A goal is a dream with a deadline,” we can dream, but we need to quantify it to help us achieve it.

Teaching and modeling goal setting to kids is setting them up to strive in life, it’s putting action behind the words: “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Teaching kids how to set goals and map out mini-goals along the path is giving them the tools to really be anything they want to be.

Effective goal setting includes writing it down. Good, old-fashioned pen and paper! You can have your kids illustrate the goal or cut out magazine pictures and make a collage around their written goal. Hang it somewhere prominent, above their bed, beside the bathroom mirror, somewhere they can see it during daily tasks (like teeth brushing, hopefully!)

Thank You Note to Moms

December 14, 2012

A Thank You Note to Moms

I was sitting and imagining what it would be like to receive a thank you from my kids.

We don’t become Moms for recognition or acknowledgement, we do it for the relationships we build with our children. We do it from a place of selfless, boundless love.

But we deserve to be thanked for our tireless, passionate, endless work as Moms. We don’t get sick days, personal days and we really don’t even get Mother’s Day off, do we?

So here is the thank you note every Mom should get. This is for you!

Never say you’re “just a mom” and know that your work is the most important there is!

mom and daughters, two girls, sisters, thanks Mom, appreciating Moms, Mother's Day, ideas for thanking Moms, raising children, disciplining kids, Dear Mom –

Thank you for all you do for me and our family.

Thank you for picking up my socks, my Legos, my bouncy balls, my crayons, shoes, towels and cars, my books, my crafts, my underwear, my DS games, teddy bears, magic markers, my pajamas, more Legos, my Play Doh, my Squinkies, my hair clips, my slippers and all the things we leave in a path behind us everywhere around the house.

I know you spend a lot of your day just picking up the things we left around between coming home from school and going to bed. I just wanted you to know I appreciate it!

Thanks for cooking for us, it must really take a lot of work to plan meals, to go to the grocery store, to read labels and pick the best foods to keep our bodies healthy. It must take a lot of time and energy to put the food into the cart, out of the cart to pay, into the cart, out of the cart to the car, out of the car, into the house, out of the bags and then into the pantry; all before you cook us dinner. Great job! (I’ll try not to say, “Eww” or “Yuck” anymore.)

Christmas Elves

December 5, 2012

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 […]

Christmas Birthdays

December 3, 2012

My first two babies were born on either side of Christmas, early December and late January. Over the years, I tried to separate their birthday celebrations a bit by moving parties into late November or early February, but like Kate’s experience in her guest post below, my daughter actually likes doing Christmasy stuff on or […]

Feeding Your Family

November 26, 2012

Feeding your family is different things to different people. It’s a challenge, a joy, a stressor, a chore, a gift. I experience all of those depending upon the day. I feel fulfilled serving a balanced meal, full of nutrition, but I often resent the interruption to my day to stop and prepare it. Other times, […]

5 Parent Teacher Conference Tips

November 5, 2012

communicating with teacher, woman holding books, math on black board, school success, tips for school success, improving reading speed, third graders, In the season of parent teacher conferences, how can you get the most of those 15 minutes with your child’s teacher?

Be prepared

Think ahead about what you’d like to discuss with your child’s teacher and what questions you’d like to ask. Ask your child ahead of time if there is anything he’s concerned about or would like you to talk about in your conference. What they share may surprise you. You may also seek input from a spouse or a childcare provider, anyone who spends a lot of time with your child.

Write it down

Inevitably, you have some specific thing you’d like to ask the teacher and you’ve forgotten what it is when you walk into the classroom. So often, the teachers are on a tight schedule with parents stacking up outside their door, so you want to maximize your turn. Especially if you have more than one child, writing down some notes and questions is even more important.

Listen

Hear what your child’s teacher wants to share with you about your child. Does she see things that you’re not aware of? Can she provide information about your child’s social interactions, respectfulness of others and general manners and behavior when they’re outside of your purvey? Perhaps he has some worries about your child academically or organizationally.

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