Parents, Now You Can Say Yes To The Drums

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Thanks to Yamaha Drums for sponsoring this post.

Last year we were looking into starting music lessons when Jacob announced that he wanted to learn to play the drums. The idea of drums sounded fun but when I thought about all of the loud practice time I’d have to endure I quickly steered him to a less headache-inducing instrument, and he settled on the acoustic guitar. Though he loves the guitar, when Yamaha Drums contacted me recently about a drum set that he could practice on without disrupting the whole neighborhood while using, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to review it.

The video below gives a great overview of all the wonderful features that the Yamaha DTX400K drum kit offers.

The Yamaha DTX400K electronic drum kit is a quieter and more versatile option than traditional drum sets so it’s the perfect choice for parents who may otherwise resist exploring drums for their music-enthusiast children. This kit comes with a set of headphones that can be plugged in to keep the noise down so the family will be undisturbed while the drum set is being played. This is by far my favorite feature because our home is already loud enough with two young boys and all of their toys and electronics that make noise. Playing these drums is one of the few things they do that’s actually quiet- all I hear is a subdued tapping sound when they play!

This electronic drum kit has other great features. For one, it’s a great set for small spaces. We live in a condo and wouldn’t have room for a larger drum set but this one fits perfectly in the corner of our living room.

Another feature that parents will love is that this drum kit is built to last. The Yamaha DTX400K offers quality and durability which means that this kit can take a lot of punishment and still maintain a solid performance level for years.

This drum kit has a number of great apps as well that make it an even better value. The kit can be expanded with the DTX400 Touch app (free in the App Stores) to create new kit configurations, select preset kits, access tempo and metronome settings, and much more. Parents will also love being able to save money on beginner drum lessons with the DTX400 Drum Lessons app (available for iPad/iPhone). Your child can use this app to learn the basics before they start lessons with an instructor.

Listen below to all the sounds the DTX400K can create- with just one drum kit!

I’d love to hear about your favorite features in the comments below. Aren’t you just loving the fact that this drum kit comes with headphones? Now you can say yes when your child begs to play the drums!

How To Brighten Your Child’s Day When They Are Sick

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This post has been sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and 20th Century Fox. All thoughts are my own.

When my boys are sick there is nothing I wish more than to have the ability to make them feel better. Though I can’t magically cure them, there are a few things that I can do as a mom to brighten their day when they aren’t feeling well. Here are five ways to bring a smile to their face on sick days.

Make them a fun snack.

When kids are sick it’s sometimes a struggle to get food in them so, around here, sick days mean special treats. The snacks I give my kids vary depending on what they are sick with. If they have a sore throat I give them cold things that go down easily like popsicles and ice cream. If you don’t have any popsicles you can easily make your own by freezing small paper cups full of coconut water and fresh fruit (just make sure to stick a popsicle stick in them before they are fully frozen). If your child has a cold perhaps they’d rather a bowl of chicken noodle soup made with fun alphabet letter shaped pasta. For fevers or aches & pains I generally give my kids things like pudding and snack mixes.

Watch a movie they haven’t seen before.

Cuddling while watching a movie is one of our favorite things to do on sick days. I enjoy introducing my kids to the movies of my childhood. Just recently we watched The Sandlot which I knew my baseball playing boys would love. The movie is about a shy kid, Scotty, who desperately wants to make friends and join the pickup baseball team that plays every day in the neighborhood sandlot. The oldest player on the team lets him play and the summer passes as Scotty learns to play ball. One day when they need a ball to play with, Scotty returns home and “borrows” his stepfather’s ball, which he promptly uses to hit his first home run, knocking the ball clear out of the sandlot into mean old Mr. Mertle’s junkyard, home to Mertle’s legendary guard dog The Beast. The boys learn how valuable the ball is and try to rescue it without The Beast getting them. This classic movie will become a family favorite!

Play a board game or card game.

Normally when our kiddos are sick they don’t want to move around too much so board games or card games are perfect activities to keep them occupied because they can be played on the couch. Our family loves playing games and I shared our top 10 favorite games here if you are looking for some more to add to your collection. For sick days we like to choose games that make us laugh like Pie Face and Headbandz or games that take a lot of time like Monopoly.

Make a craft together.

Crafts that don’t require a lot of messy materials are great for sick days. If there is a craft or hobby you have been wanting to teach your child, now is the perfect time to start. Things like learning to crochet take time and patience and are great to start on a day when your child will be sitting around anyways. Another craft you can do together is make new crayons out of old crayon pieces. The bulk of time for this activity is peeling the crayon wrappers off the crayons which is something children can do while they relax on the couch. After an adult does the cooking part of this craft kids will enjoy coloring with their new crayons.

Give them medicine to make them feel a little better.

You’ll want to consult your child’s pediatrician when they are sick. Our children’s doctor often recommends using over the counter medicines, especially when our boys have fevers or coughs. When our kids have aches and pains or fevers we count on Children’s Advil® to relieve their pain and bring their fever down. Children’s Advil® comes in several great-tasting flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit and Dye-Free White Grape flavors, which makes children more willing to take their medicine. If they have coughs or chest congestion we use Children’s Robitussin® Cough & Chest Congestion made for children 4+. The non-drowsy daytime formula helps break up chest congestion.

Shop at Target and save with Cartwheel coupon codes–>

 

What do you do to brighten your child’s day when they are sick?

How Parents Can Help Keep Kids Safe Online

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I read an article in the New York Times recently that said the average age children get a cell phone nowadays is 10 years old. Because of this, children have access to the internet at a young age and we need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting our kids from the dangers online. I wanted to share a few ways that parents can help keep their kids and tweens safe as they navigate the digital world.

The first step, I believe, is talking with your child before you give them a cell phone. You can create a contract outlining usage rules that your child most follow in order to receive and keep their cell phone. KidGuard provides great tips in creating this contract with your child. You can read the whole article here but these are the things you’ll want to consider discussing with them:

  • Usage - how much, when and where your child can use their cell
  • Privacy – what your child can, and can’t, share with others (including their name, birthday, location, school and anything else that identifies them)
  • Permissions – clarify what you, as the parent, will have access to
  • Data – if your plan isn’t unlimited you will want to outline how much data your child can use
  • Places – what online sites they can go on and what social media your child can use
  • Consequences – what consequences your child will face if they break the contract in any way

My two boys have their own phones that have access to the internet but no calling or texting capabilities. They mainly use their smartphones to play games, watch YouTube videos about gaming and listen to music. They know what YouTubers they are allowed to watch and which ones they can’t, that they are not allowed to talk or message with anyone online in any way (even if they think they are other kids or even friends they know in real life), and that if they hear a bad word in a video or song they have to change it immediately.

As important as teaching our children about digital safety is, it’s not enough to help our kids stay safe online. Parents still need to monitor their child’s internet use and I don’t think just being “aware” of what our children are doing online is enough. My boys are typically by their father or I when using their phones and I have an idea of what they are doing on their phones but I have discovered that even when they are near us we can’t keep an eye on what they are doing 24/7. For example, back in December we were at gymnastics and Jacob was 2 feet away from me using my phone to play a game. I checked the screen frequently during the time he had it while I talked with other moms. After about 15 minutes or so I asked him for my phone back, only to discover numerous emails from the app store about purchases. He had spent almost $180 of my (real) money buying virtual coins for a game. In 15 minutes! Even though I was aware of what he was doing I obviously wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been.

I also heard a story a few months ago of younger kids watching YouTube videos that were supposedly a popular kids cartoon episode but someone had edited the video with some horrible things and the little kids were watching it without the parents knowing the content of what was in the video. Just goes to show that as much as we think we are watching them, we are going to miss things unless we are looking over their shoulder the entire time that they are online.

It’s reasons like these that I think having something, like KidGuard, to monitor internet use and phone use is so important. KidGuard helps parents keep their child safe on the internet by giving them the tools to monitor their activities on their various devices.

Parents can view their child’s current location and past whereabouts, call history, images on their camera roll, what apps they are using, texts they have received and sent (even the deleted ones!), browser history and social media accounts.

While I used to think monitoring internet use was all an “invasion of privacy” I realized that the dangers online are real and it’s my job as a parent to protect my children from danger, especially when they are too young to realize the consequences of their actions. KidGuard allows you to grant your children the online independence they want by allowing you to monitor and spot any suspicious activity and proactively protect your children from things like cyber bullying, online predators, and other safety concerns.

How do you keep your kids and tweens safe online? Do you have a contract with rules for use or a monitoring service? If you want to try KidGuard, they are offering a free trial of the service.

15 Back To School Hacks That Make Life Easier

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The end of August means busier schedules and more items on our to-do lists so I wanted to share 15 hacks to make this school year the best one yet. From making mornings run smoother to helping kids become self-sufficient to spending less time running errands, I hope you’ll find a couple ideas to try :)

#1 Do as much the night before as you can.

Things can be hectic in the morning so do as much the night before as you can. We try to pick out outfits, get homework back in the backpacks and get the lunchboxes on the counter and partially packed before we go to bed. The less you have to do in the morning the better!

#2 Start your morning routine earlier and plan to be ready or out the door earlier than you need to be.

I’ve found that my kids always need more time to get ready than I think they will need. We start our morning routine earlier than I think we will need to and our goal is to leave our house 30 minutes early every day (though school is just a couple minutes away). Most days we are out of the house on time and I treat myself to coffee on the way to school drop off. Even on mornings we are running a few minutes behind we still end up arriving to school early. We sit in the car talking about our day, getting in reading time or practicing math facts. It’s such a more relaxing way to start the day and even Luke’s teachers comment that he seems calmer when he is one of the first kids at school (versus when their dad drops them off closer to the bell time and they have to rush to their lockers and class).

#3 Have quick breakfasts ready to go for the kids (and yourself).

Am I the only one who has had a child say they “forgot” to eat breakfast right as they are walking out the door (even though said child has been up a couple hours already)? For those mornings I have cereal in a baggie ready to go and they can eat on the go.

#4 Have a snack station to make packing lunches easier (and teach older kids how to pack their lunches!)

Jacob just recently started packing his own lunch as well as Luke’s. To make things easier to pack lunches (and to see when we are running low on things) we have all of the snacks in two places. We use three containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep yogurts, cheese sticks and bags of fruits and veggies and a number of small bins on the shelves of our island that store raisins, portable applesauce, crackers, chips and other snacks.

#5 Freeze water bottles overnight to keep lunches cold.

In place of a freezer pack you can freeze a water bottle to stick in the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and melt in time for a nice cool drink to enjoy at lunch. (Remember to not fill the bottle up all the way ;) lol)

#6 Help kids learn routines with schedules.

Whether you use picture schedules for younger children or written schedules for older ones, schedules help keep things running smoothly. I’ll never forget the first day of school last year when Jacob woke me up early in the morning to tell me he was all ready for school without me having to remind him of a thing!

#7 Have a homework station and stock it with everything your children will need to complete projects and homework assignments.

I’ve learned over the years that children need a lot more than a pencil to complete homework assignments. Find a place in your home where you can keep everything children need at homework time- from scissors to markers to glue sticks. Make sure to have plenty of sharpened pencils there as well!

#8 Simplify after-school activities with separate bags for each activity and keep all items related to the activity in the bag.

We’ve found that bags for each activity my kids are in makes it easy to get out the door because we aren’t trying to find items as we are getting ready to leave the house. A simple reusable bag or backpack works to keep everything together and we no longer have to hunt for their scouting books or the soccer shin guards.

#9 Tame paperwork with an expandable paper file.

As parents we get tons of papers on a weekly basis. Many of them have important dates and information on them. Write all dates on your calendar immediately and file the paper away in an expanding file folder by category (school, sports, community, etc). When that activity comes up on your calendar you can find it in your expandable paper file and refer to the paper for information about location, what to bring, etc. Once the event is done you can then throw the flier away. I have two file units- a smaller one for things I’ll need on the go and a larger one I keep at home for things I don’t need to keep with me but still need to refer to.

#10 Make memory boxes for art work, school work and other memories.

Keep a box for each child labeled with the school year and put all “memory” things in it (art work, stories, pictures, awards, etc) as you clean out their folders every day or week. At the end of the year you can go through it and decide which things you want to keep and what you can let go of. My mom made boxes for my siblings and I and I’ve loved looking back through them as I’ve gotten older- remembering everything from my first concert to my sweet 16 birthday party. Even if you don’t physically keep everything but choose to take photos of the items and store them digitally, your children will cherish the memories you have kept for them.

#11 Have children take uniforms off and put them directly on (or in) the washer.

Whether it’s their school uniform or their karate uniform, nobody wants to dig through dirty laundry looking for that essential item of clothing they need. I have my boys take their sports uniforms off and put them right on top of the washer so I can wash them before their next game or practice and we always know where it all of the pieces of their uniforms are. No more missing soccer socks found at the bottom of the laundry basket!

#12 Prepare fruits and vegetables one day a week.

One day a week, wash and cut up all the fruit and veggies for snacks and lunches and then portion them into individual ziploc bags. I know in our house our produce is likely to be eaten more often if it’s easy to ready to go. It also makes packing healthy lunches easier because all the work is already done and we just need to put it in the lunchbox in the morning.

#13 As you commit to things add them to your calendar.

“Mommy brain” is real. I swear! lol. Make sure to add things to your calendar immediately. Don’t write them on post-it’s, count on reminder emails or think that you will remember. We already have enough on our minds as parents so there is no need to try and add a list of important dates on top of everything else.

#14 Take some time on Sundays to plan the week ahead.

Every weekend look at the schedule for the week coming up. Add anything you need to your shopping list (like a birthday gift for the birthday party your child will be going to or snacks for the soccer game) and plan out your to-do list. The week will run much smoother if you know what’s coming up instead of waiting until that day to see what you have planned.

#15 Limit errands you have to run by doing as much as you can online.

During the school year I have so much to do that I don’t want to be spending most of my days running errands around town. I’ve found that most of what I need to do can be done online or even via my phone. Whether it’s buying a birthday gift, putting money in my kid’s school lunch account, or paying bills, there is little need to leave the house to run errands these days.

PayPal is one of my favorite tools to use when I’m doing online transactions, whether it’s sending or receiving money or ordering things online. I like knowing my bank account information is secure when I pay with PayPal and, with PayPal One Touch, there is no need to type in credit card information or re-enter usernames and passwords on every app or website which makes the process even quicker.

If you are still looking to purchase back to school clothing or supplies take advantage of PayPal’s exclusive offers with select retailers that can make your Back to School shopping even more affordable. Visit paypal.com/backtoschool to see the best ways to save money!

#16 {BONUS!} Show your children that the person they are is more important than the grades they get.

I told my kids today that as important as grades are, I care more that they are a good person and a kind friend. As parents we try to teach our children to care about others and the best way to do that is to show that we care for others. Whether it’s bringing a meal to a sick friend, volunteering at a soup kitchen or sticking up for someone being bullied, there are many ways that our family can help others. One easy way to support those in our community who need help is to use the PayPal Giving Fund which lets people donate online with 100% of proceeds going to selected partnering charity organizations, such as Let Girls LearnYMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Even better, now through August 31st, donations made through the PayPal Giving Fund will receive a 1% match from PayPal! Learn more here.

What hacks do you have to share? I could use some help figuring out how to get Lucas to get dressed the first time I ask and tips to keep my car (aka the place we basically live in during the school year) clean and tidy!

 

 

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Preparing For Sleepovers With A DIY Personalized Pillowcase

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RestEasySolutions #CollectiveBias 

Read on to learn why we love GoodNites products and how they will help my bed wetter feel confident enough to go to sleepovers this school year! (If only his mom was as ready as he is….)

The school year brings more time with friends and with that comes invitations to birthday parties and requests for play dates and sleepovers. My kids haven’t had sleepovers with their friends yet but I know that is coming soon now that they are in 2nd and 3rd grade. Lucas would be so excited to go to a friend’s house for a sleepover but a few questions arise when thinking about this typical childhood “rite of passage”.

First of all, he’s my baby and he’s never slept over anywhere since he was a toddler so that would be hard for me. My main concern though is mostly related to his Autism and how the parents would handle that. I think I’d have to know them very well and them know him extremely well and us both know that they’d be able (and willing!) to handle his meltdowns. He’s high functioning, so many times he is just like any other 2nd grader, but sometimes he gets overwhelmed. Taking care of a child on the Autism Spectrum is a lot to ask of someone!

Another issue of concern is that he still wets the bed at night sometimes. Though 1 in 6 kids age 4-12 wet the bed once or more per week after potty training ends, I know that he is embarrassed by it. Being seven and not wanting anyone to think he’s a “baby”, I know he’d be devastated if he had a nighttime accident while at a friend’s house and woke up in wet pajamas.

While I can’t overcome the fear of the unknown “what if’s” that accompany raising a child with special needs, I figured out a solution to the whole bed wetting issue! No, I didn’t magically stop him from wetting the bed, but I did come up with a way of hiding it if he does have an accident at night while he’s at a sleepover.

We bought him more GoodNites TruFit Underwear. They look and feel like real underwear but they hold absorbent, disposable inserts that provide outstanding nighttime protection that keep sheets and pajamas dry all night long. (We’ve used these before when we go on vacation and sleep in hotel beds and we love them!)

In addition, we personalized a pillowcase he could carry to sleepovers and inside the pillowcase we created a space for him to hide his GoodNites TruFit Underwear and inserts. It was easy to do by using a zippered protective sleeve inside the pillowcase. When it’s time for bed he can just unzip the pillow protector, pull them out and put them on under his pajamas. He then is ready for bed and can go to sleep confident that he won’t wake up in wet pajamas!

Personalizing the pillowcase was easy and a fun craft for him to do with mommy!

Here is what you need:

  • Fabric markers
  • Stencils
  • White pillowcase
  • Zippered pillow protector
  • Pillow
  • Piece of cardboard (optional but recommended)

Directions to make a personalized pillowcase:

1) Decide what stencils you want to use and where you want them on the pillowcase. Lucas chose to do the letters of his name and some favorite animals.

2) Put the piece of cardboard inside the pillowcase so that the marker does not bleed through to the other side of the pillowcase

3) Set your stencil where you want it and color inside of the stencil. Repeat for as many stencils as you have.

4) Put the zippered pillow protector on your pillow and then put the decorated pillowcase over that one

Once that is done, put your GoodNites TruFit Underwear and an insert in the zippered pillow protector, zip it up and your child is ready to go to their friend’s house or Grandma’s!

There are a couple other products in the GoodNites line that are great for children who wet their bed. GoodNites Bedtime Pants are more absorbent vs the leading training pant and have 25% stretchier sides to fit and move more like underwear. GoodNites Bed Mats are also available. These disposable mats that have a waterproof backing and can be placed directly on the bed to help cut down on sheet changes. They are designed with micro-pocket technology to lock in odor.

GoodNites are the #1 night time protection brand and all of their products can be found at Walmart. While supplies last, you can save $2 on them! The coupon will be live during certain periods so keep checking back for more chances to get the coupon.

How do you prepare for sleepovers? I’d love to hear some of your tips since this is a new chapter in my parenting journey!

Get Race Day Ready With Advil And A Fun Racetrack Craft

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RaceDayRelief #CollectiveBias

On my travels recently I have had a lot of car related fun, including getting an up close look at rare corvettes and going to my first car race. Through these trips I’ve discovered the heart pounding thrill of fast cars and car racing. I wanted to share that excitement with my boys so I created a fun racetrack craft to make with them that they could incorporate into their play and get them ready for the next big race day.

We enjoy going outside on nice days and one of the things the boys like to do is bring out the chalk, cars and their car sets and build a town. They use the chalk to make roads and parking spots and enjoy pretending with their vehicles. I thought a finish line for a racetrack would be the perfect addition to their play so they could pretend to be a famous race car driver like Ty Dillion.

My kids love when mommy and daddy play toys with them and they always ask us to play. I love to do so but sometimes I can’t stop thinking about the pain that will accompany sitting on the ground (and the pain trying to get up as well). I typically have joint pain on a daily basis but sitting for long periods of time makes things worse, especially in my knees. Thankfully I’ve discovered that Advil has a new fast release formula that goes to work within minutes of taking it. Fast acting Advil Film-Coated leverages the rapid absorption properties of ibuprofen sodium, now available for the first time in the US.* So now when the kids ask me to go outside and play I can take a couple Advil Film-Coated tablets and head outside with them.

Below are the directions for the paper weaving craft we made. We created a finish line for our car race but you could use the whole piece of paper and make a race flag if you wanted to instead. Weaving is a fun craft that’s great for practicing fine motor skills and makes the perfect racing checkerboard design.

The kids had a great time racing cars and playing with their playsets and the tunnel I “built” them. They were so happy that mommy was down on the ground playing with them. To us parents it might seem like something small, but when parents take the time to get down and play with their kids, doing something that interests them, that means so much to our children. Advil’s Film-Coated product with rapid release will help you enjoy the playtime as much as the kids do. This Advil is formulated with a unique Advil Ion Core Technology and an ultra thin shell to absorb quickly – in fact nothing is proven to work faster.*

So go ahead… crawl around on the ground racing toy cars, color with chalk, join in your child’s world and see the joy in their eyes. Don’t let aches and pains slow you down or stop you from spending time playing with your kids!

You can find Advil Film-Coated tablets at Walmart. Use fast acting Advil Film-Coated for headaches, muscle aches, toothaches, menstrual cramps, back pain, and aches and pains associated with the common cold. Don’t forget to use this $3 off coupon to save some money on an 80+ count box :)

*Among OTC pain relievers.

Baby Monitors Aren’t Just For Babies

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This blog post is brought to you by VTech and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

For most new moms a baby monitor is a must have item. I remember setting mine on the nightstand next to me while I slept so I could hear my boys when they woke in the middle of the night and carrying it around with me during the day so I could hear when they woke up from their naps.

As the years have gone on, I’ve discovered that baby monitors aren’t just for babies. They work wonderfully for parents of older children who are starting to engage in independent play or host play-dates with friends and they are useful to check in on older kids without interrupting playtime. They even work for dog and cat moms who want to keep their furry friends away from off-limits areas.

VTech, a brand my family knows and loves, has a whole line of Safe&Sound® baby monitors ranging from compact audio monitors to high-tech video monitors because they know that every family’s needs are different. VTech’s Safe&Sound audio monitors focus on helping parents feel safe and secure. VTech has come out with a new monitor, the VTech Safe&Sound® DM271-110 DECT 6.0 Digital Audio Baby Monitor with Open/Closed & Motion Sensors, with features that give parents peace of mind as their children grow. It’s just the latest addition to VTech’s award-winning monitor line. The VTech Digital Audio Monitor comes equipped with two ULE (Ultra Low Energy) smart home sensors to make taking care of your kids easier than ever before. With the open/closed and motion sensor alerts on doors, cabinets and open spaces, you can know when your child is somewhere off limits, or getting into something they shouldn’t be. The product can be bought for $119.95 on the VTech phones website or Amazon.

Product features:

  • Open/closed and motion sensors
  • Glow-on- ceiling night light with lullaby
  • 1,000 feet of range
  • Back-lit display on the parent unit
  • Talk-back intercom
  • Vibrating sound-alert on the parent unit
  • Temperature sensor
  • Adjustable projection angle
  • DECT 6.0 digital technology
  • ULE (Ultra Low Energy) technology
  • Rechargeable battery with low-battery alert on the parent unit
  • 5-level sound indicator
  • Secure audio transmission
  • Belt clip
  • Volume control
  • Battery type – 2.4V 750mAh Ni-MH

One of my favorite features this VTech Digital Audio Monitor has is the monitor’s talk-back intercom that let’s me check in with the kids easily. I’ve always wanted an intercom system built in to the home and we don’t have one so this is the next best thing in my opinion. I love that it enables me to give my boys (ages 7 and 8) the freedom they crave while still ensuring they are behaving and not doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.

Here are some of the ways I’m using this talk-back intercom feature in my children’s room:

  • To check on them when they are supposed to be picking up their room to see if they really are or if it sounds like they are playing (because there have been so many times I’ve checked in on them an hour later and their room is even messier than it was to begin with).
  • To make sure they are actually in bed when it’s bedtime.
  • To listen to interactions between siblings when I start hearing whispering or yelling
  • To call them for dinner.
  • To listen to what they are watching on the television to make sure it’s appropriate.
  • To tell them when it’s time to start getting ready to leave the house.

The VTech Digital Audio Monitor also has a night light which the boys, especially Lucas, like. It’s a cool space theme, too! Below is part of what is projected on their ceiling.

The package also comes with open/close sensors and motion sensors which give added piece of mind. We’ve decided to use the open/close sensor on our back porch door since it’s a slider door. Though it has a top lock that the kids can’t reach they do know how to unlock it and could do so if they stood on a chair. Having a child with Autism I can never be too careful and like the extra security the sensor on the door provides. The motion sensor we are putting near the boy’s bedroom door since Lucas likes to sneak out of his room after we’ve put the kids to bed. Numerous times we’ve caught him in our bed watching television when we opened the door to go to bed.

When I first had kids I never thought I’d have a baby monitor once they headed off to preschool, and we actually had gotten rid of our old one, but here I am again with a monitor next to me as I type this. What would you use this “baby” monitor for?

Some Words Of Advice: Tackling Three Concerns Parents Have For Teens

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The following is a guest post courtesy of Mercury Insurance.

Keeping our kids healthy, safe and thriving is a top priority for parents in today’s fast-paced world. However, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the risks out there for our children, and we can’t be with them every moment of every day. May is Youth Safety Month, a campaign designed to educate parents about the steps they can take to protect their children. It’s also an opportune time to shine a spotlight on three primary areas of concern for parents with teens.

1. Driving

Learning to drive is an exciting experience for most teens…and it can be pretty scary for parents. This concern is not unfounded: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,524 teen drivers and passengers were killed and 177,000 were injured in 2013. Driving is the no. 1 cause of death for teens.

There are some things you can do, however, to prepare your teen to drive and significantly cut down the risks they will face when they get behind the wheel.

“It starts with practice,” says Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. “Most states don’t require enough supervised behind the wheel training to adequately prepare teens to drive on their own, so it’s up to parents to take the time to teach their kids how to drive. I recommend you drive with them a lot. If you need milk, make them drive to the store. If you need to take another child to soccer practice, get everyone in the car and have your teen drive.” It’s important to remember, however, that you need to stay calm in the passenger seat. If your teen makes a mistake, don’t jump on them for it. Wait until you reach your destination then discuss it with them. You want them focused on the road, not on a lecture from mom or dad.

And speaking of staying focused on the road, you should make it very clear that distracted driving is very dangerous and won’t be tolerated. No texting while driving. No eating while driving. No posting selfies while driving. No searching the phone for the perfect song while driving. All of these activities reduce driver reaction time so much that it’s equal to being legally drunk behind the wheel, according to a University of Utah study. “Most of us wouldn’t dream of driving drunk, but those same people won’t think twice about playing with iTunes while eating a cheeseburger while driving,” says Petro.

If you’re looking for some great tips and resources to help you prepare your teen to drive, I suggest you take a look at the Drive Safe Challenge website created by Mercury Insurance.

2. Social Media

It’s pretty much impossible to keep teens away from social media, especially when 88 percent own a smartphone and primarily use it to connect with friends via social channels, according to a report on the Huffington Post. “My daughter, if left to her own, would be on her phone all hours of the day,” says Marlee Walsh, of her 17-year-old. While growing up in a world with a 24/7 connection to friends and outsiders can be a lot of fun for teens, it can also put them at risk.

Start discussing healthy habits early on for when and how to use social media so their mental, emotional and even physical state stays positive. Discuss smart social media use and make sure all of their accounts are set to the strictest privacy settings, where only their friends and family can see their posts. This is an important step because most sites allow any user to view another user’s information by default. Create clear guidelines for what they should and shouldn’t share on social media and instruct them to only accept friend requests from people they know. “Having an open discussion and coming to an agreement together allowed us to setup guidelines that help keep her safe,” Walsh added.

Ultimately, your teen has the power to control what they do on social media, but you can stay in touch with their activity. One app called My Mobile Watch Dog helps parents see how their children are using their smartphones. Another app, Net Nanny Social, keeps a watchful eye on social media accounts and includes features that filter content, deal with privacy concerns, identify and prevent cyberbullying or inappropriate friendships and removes damaging pictures or videos.

3. Peer Pressure

It’s only natural for kids to want to fit in and feel accepted by their peers, and every parent wants their child to have friends. Teens are the demographic that are most influenced by their friends, which can have good and bad consequences. Peer pressure has only increased with technology, and kids want to be accepted by a group while seeking independence. So, how do you tackle this difficult topic without seeming controlling or overbearing?

Talk to your teen and have authentic conversations so that he feels safe talking to you about what’s going on in his life. Talk to your teen about what values are important to you, and make sure she knows it’s okay to refuse to do something that she believes is wrong. Reinforce and encourage good habits and take part in productive activities. Be present in his life by showing up when it counts, learning about what he loves and get to know his friends. It’s also important to lead by example and demonstrate good behaviors through your own actions.

As a parent, you can provide the tools your children need to make good choices. So talk to them and help guide them down the path to becoming the person they were meant to be.

50 Ways Moms Can Enjoy “Me” Time

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With Mother’s Day coming up I hope many of you will have a day of rest and relaxation. One day is not enough time to have to yourself so I wanted to encourage all of you to make time for yourself daily and encourage your friends to do the same. Whether it’s something small you do for yourself at home or you go out, it’s so important to focus on yourself for a bit of time each day. Since my mind tends to go blank and I always end up just watching television during my “me” time, I wanted to share 50 ways you can make time for yourself and do something just for you!

1) Write

2) Paint a picture

3) Go shopping

4) Take a bubble bath

5) Learn a new language

6) Take a nap

7) Get a pedicure

8) Read a book

9) Craft something

10) Have a spa day at home

11) Flip through a magazine

12) Bake something

13) Give yourself a manicure

14) Go out for dinner with a friend

15) Journal

16) Take an art class

17) Get a massage

18) Volunteer

19) Relax outside

20) Pet an animal at a pet store or animal shelter

21) Enjoy your coffee or tea while it’s still hot

22) Go to bed early

23) Wake up early and enjoy quiet time

24) Go for a walk

25) Talk with a friend on the phone

26) Watch a movie

27) Go out for a drink with girlfriends

28) Workout

29) Sit at a coffee shop and people watch

30) Daydream

31) Make a fancy lunch for yourself

32) Watch an old favorite television show

33) Relax in front of the fireplace

34) Explore the internet- whether it’s Pinterest or blogs

35) Cheer on your favorite sports team

36) Do yoga

37) Dance

38) Start a hobby

39) Listen to music and sing along

40) Enjoy a special dinner you’ve been craving

41) Go on a roadtrip

42) Eat a chocolate bar without sharing

43) Color

44) Complete a puzzle

45) Get a facial

46) Go out for brunch

47) Grow something

48) Go out for drinks with friends

49) Plan a vacation

50) Pick flowers and make a bouquet

The Importance Of Everyday Moments With Our Children

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I am happy to be working with the Bezos Foundation to support their Vroom initiative which was developed based on the premise that every child is born with enormous potential, and every parent can help them realize that potential.

I recently spoke at a parenting event and shared about the importance of moms cherishing the special moments of motherhood, even on the most chaotic of days. As much as those everyday moments are important to moms and other caregivers though, they are even more important to children. Everyday interactions between parents and their children have a significant long-term impact in the lives of kids.

Science tells us that our children’s first years are when they develop the foundation for all future learning. Every time we connect with them, it’s not just their eyes that light up—it’s their brains too. In these moments, half a million neurons fire at once, taking in all the things we say and do. We can’t see it happening, but it’s all there, all at work.

Vroom, an initiative from the Bezos Foundation, was designed to give parents and caregivers simple tools that turn everyday activities, like mealtime and bath time, into brain building moments where we can nurture our children’s growing minds. They help to empower parents and caregivers to interact with their children during their daily routines, engaging them in activities that require no additional time or resources but have long-term benefits. I think as busy parents the “no additional time” piece is so important because it means we can incorporate brain building activities easily into what we already do. Below are some great tips for parents to remember when interacting with their children.

Today the Bezos Foundation launched the Vroom Superheroes campaign to demonstrate the heroic role that every parent and caregiver plays in the lives of children, and reinforces the message that anyone can be a Vroom Superhero to a child. This video below tells the story of an aunt-turned-foster-mother, Camellia, and her daughter, Cammie, showing us a powerful example of how the everyday moments they share have a profound impact on both of them.

Here are ten easy ways that you can foster healthy brain development by maximizing everyday interactions you have with your child:

  • Sit down for dinner as a family and ask children about their day
  • Take a walk together and point out things you see along the way
  • After school, ask children questions about what they learned that day
  • Find things to count at the playground, whether it’s steps or the number of times they go down the slide
  • Let your child help make the grocery list and find the items at the store
  • Read a story to your child at bedtime and during the story ask them to guess what happens next
  • Cook or bake together and share some of your favorite food related memories with your child
  • Fold laundry together and ask questions about what seasons they would wear items of clothing (like a coat or a bathing suit)
  • If you hear a sound ask your child what they think is making that sound and where it’s coming from
  • Point out colors, shapes and words throughout the day

Want even more ideas? Download the Vroom app for Apple or Android! I’d love to hear about your favorite way to connect with your child during everyday moments.

Motherhood: The Toughest (But Most Rewarding) Job

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Thanks to Teleflora for sponsoring this post.

I have held numerous jobs in my thirty two years of life but none of them has been as rewarding, or as difficult, as this one called motherhood. This job, where my bosses pay in hugs and kisses and my job description consists of chauffeur and bedtime story reader, is not as easy as I thought it was going to be when I dreamed about it growing up.

I underestimated the number of times I’d be woken up in the middle of the night, the frustrating meetings I’d have to sit in to advocate for my children’s educational special needs to be met, the amount of dirty diapers I’d change, and the number of sports games I’d sit through where a blanket and winter jacket couldn’t help protect me from the chilling cold. All that aside though, it’s my favorite job I’ve ever been privileged to have.

Teleflora recently came out with a new video that I love called “One Tough Mother”. They realize that motherhood isn’t always hearts and roses but believe that Mother’s Day can be with a bouquet from Teleflora.

Gifting a beautiful flower bouquet is the perfect way to say thank you to moms near and far for all the love, hard work, sacrifice, patience, fun, intelligence, and compassion they bring to their children’s live each and every day. I agree because fresh flowers are one of my favorite gifts to receive for any occasion!

I was sent a Luxurious Lavender Bouquet (available on Teleflora.com for $109.95). Arriving in a sculpted lavender glass vase from a local florist, it was full of dark pink roses, purple carnations and fragrant lilies. It made my home smell amazing and brought a pop of color to the room.

Teleflora has a number of other bouquets you can send the special mom in your life. You can see them all here. Which one is your favorite?

Tips For Potty Training Success

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This post and giveaway were made possible by iConnect and Pampers. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

The weather is getting warmer and for many parents of toddlers that means it’s potty training season. Though my family is out of this season of our lives I know many of you are still working on it so I wanted to share a post with some of the tips I learned during the process. I also wanted to share some tips from Dr. Laura Jana, a potty training expert.

Her first tip is to watch for signs of readiness. Just about all children give subtle (and some not-so-subtle) signs that they are ready for potty training. These signs of readiness typically include using their words to express themselves, toddling their own way to the bathroom, pulling down their own pants, saying they want to use the “big potty,” and being aware of the sensation of peeing or pooping, characteristically noticeable when young children suddenly stop what they’re doing as they feel themselves start to go. It is also helpful and increases the likelihood of potty training interest when children start to be bothered by their messy diapers, as that can serve as a good motivation for using the potty instead!

I found this was the biggest factor to finding potty training success for my kids. I tried potty training before my boys were ready and failed because I was trying to train them too early. I learned that there is no magical age to start potty training but it is instead all about when they start to show signs of readiness. My boys both have Sensory Processing Disorder, and my youngest is also on the Autism Spectrum, so they both took longer to develop the awareness that they had soiled themselves and even longer to realize when they needed to go to the bathroom. Once I waited for them to become aware of these things potty training became much easier.

Dr. Jana’s second tip is to prepare for potty training by making sure you have all supplies on hand. These supplies will help you through any obstacle and can help foster your child’s interest and independence – from a step stool (to improve access to the toilet) or potty seat to training pants. Pampers Easy Ups training pants are designed to help the diaper-to-underwear transition by allowing potty-training toddlers to set aside their diapers and wear something with a more underwear-like look and feel that still helps contain accidental messes no matter wherever they happen: at home, on-the-go or overnight.

We liked using training pants because they helped reduce messes. I also found that they were easiest for our always on the go family. Pampers Easy Ups training pants, available in sizes 2T through 5T, are a good choice because they have fun designs featuring your child’s favorite characters like Thomas & Friends® and Dora the Explorer®. The super-stretchy sides make them easy to pull up and down when using the potty so children feel a sense of independence when using them.

Her third tip is to celebrate every win. As with any learning experience, young children can learn a lot from both their potty successes and their setbacks. While potty accidents are an inevitable (and admittedly inconvenient) aspect of potty learning, they shouldn’t dominate your day-to-day discussions. Instead, simply help your child learn to cope with and clean up any messes, and focus your attention on celebrating your child’s efforts and successes with plenty of hugs and words of encouragement.

I found that focusing on my kid’s successes and encouraging them to keep trying was really important. Our kids were really motivated by sticker charts and the possibility of earning small special toys when they had enough stickers. This also made the process more fun for them.

Want even more potty training tips? Join Pampers on April 28th from 9-10pm EST as they host a Twitter Party with Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician, award-winning parenting book author and potty training expert who co-authored to Its You and Me Against the Pee…and the Poop, Too! Dr. Jana will be sharing her tips to help simplify and improve the potty training experience for little ones and their parents. RSVP here.

What tips do you have for making potty training less stressful? I’d love to hear in the comments below and I’m even giving you a chance to win a great prize pack if you leave a comment!

GIVEAWAY:

One person will win a $25 AMEX Gift Card, Pampers wipes & Pampers Easy Ups

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment below sharing a potty training tip

OPTIONAL 2ND ENTRY:

Share this post on social media (adding the hashtag #PampersEasyUps) and comment with the link

This giveaway ends May 10, 2016 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident, 18 or older to enter.

Help Me End “Mommy Wars”

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I’m proud to be working with Similac on a sponsored campaign to help end “mommy wars”. This week I’m sharing about a time I felt judged by another mom because of a parenting choice I make. Hope you’ll watch the video below and be able to relate!

In the video above I share that another mom implied that I didn’t value family time because my kids were in a bunch of sports and activities. It hurt that she thought that, because we do value family time, but I know that this is the right choice for my family. My kids love being active and making new friends and I’ve seen their social skills blossom over the past few years.

A perfect example of the growth I’ve seen happened at the playground the other day. Lucas, who is on the Autism spectrum, used to just wander around, watch other kids play and not talk to anyone. A few years later his play at the playground is totally different. He is now able to communicate with other kids enough to play made-up games with them. He is learning to follow rules, remain calm when things don’t go his way and take turns. I contribute this social growth to the hours a week he spends with other children in school and on the sports field or at his other activities.

It’s a lot of work for me to get my kids to where they need to be every day but I know this is right for our family. Whether your kids are in no extracurricular activities, just a couple, or a handful, I want you to know that you are doing the right thing for YOUR family.

Have a “mommy war” story to share? I invite you to head to the Similac Facebook page and share it using the hashtag #EndMommyWars.

Let’s Stop Judging Each Other

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(Disclosure: I am partnering with Similac on their “Sisterhood of Motherhood” #SisterhoodUnite campaign but all thoughts are my own.)

Seven years ago this past June I became a mom for the first time. I was excited, overwhelmed, in love, tired and nervous all at the same time. Since I only knew one other local mom my age I dove into the online world to connect with other moms. I started a blog, got more active on social media, and joined as many local mom groups as I could.

Since my son had not come with an instruction manual I decided that other moms were my best resource for parenting tips and advice. I made a lot of wonderful mom friends that I still keep in contact with to this day. Moms that encouraged me and helped me when I needed it. Those were the type of people that I was looking for in my life.

As much as I found support in the online world and my local groups, I also discovered a lot of people that only made me feel worse about my parenting choices. Everything from feeding choices to diapering choices to how I chose to calm my baby. Even things like using a pacifier I felt judged about. I posted the above picture to social media with the below caption. Why did I feel the need to explain my one year old using a pacifier?

Most of the above things I tried not to let bother me but some things hurt more than others, many of which really came about after my second son was born. Those were things like when people wondered how I could work while raising my kids, when people judged me as my childen were having meltdowns, and those that pretty much disappeared from my life as soon as I started to use the terms “special needs”, “SPD” and “Autism” (whether because they didn’t want to be around for the journey, thought we couldn’t connect anymore or didn’t approve of my using labels I’ll never know but I feel like it was a combination of all of the above).

I was very hard on myself during the early years and second guessed a lot of the parenting decisions I was making, mostly because I felt judgement from others to do things differently. It took years to realize that the only ones that knew what was best for their children were the parents. I was doing the best I could and that was all that mattered.

Have you ever felt judged about parenting choices that you’ve made like the parents in the video above? Go to the Similac Facebook page and share the one thing you will do to help end the mommy wars. For me, it’s remembering that other parents are doing the best they can.

(Edited to add: Looking at pictures to find ones to add to this post I found a picture of me bringing Jacob home from the hospital. What I found? Someone commented and was judging me for carrying him in his carrier. Just goes to prove my point even more! Judgment is everywhere as a parent.)

 

This Weekend I Broke Lots Of My “Mom Rules”

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I’m proud to announce that I am partnering with Similac in their “Sisterhood of Motherhood” #UniteMonday campaign. I love that this campaign aims to unite moms and am happy to share my stories in hopes that you all will share yours, too because we are all alike more than we are different!

So this weekend Sinisa came home after being out of town for work since June 22nd with only a two day visit in that whole time (while I was attending a conference). I was literally counting down the minutes until his arrival because I was ready to have him home. Not only did I miss him but this parenting thing is hard solo!

When the kids woke up Saturday morning they ran right to daddy. They had missed him so much. I was so happy and thankful he was home that I broke a lot of self-imposed “mom rules” this weekend. Here are five things that I should feel guilty about this Monday morning but don’t:

1) My kids stayed up late this weekend. We had nothing scheduled for the mornings like we normally do so Saturday night we stayed out late at the Amusement Park and last night we stayed up late watching a movie together.

2) My kids ate a lot of junk. Saturday morning started with doughnuts, then after lunch it was a funnel cake sundae and dinner was found in the drive-thru. Sunday wasn’t much better but at least we got some veggies and fruit in them.

3) My kids spent most of Sunday watching tv and playing video games. Normally I try to limit this a bit but since this is how they bond with daddy I let it go.

4) My kids didn’t bathe Saturday. Or Friday. Or since they’d been at the pool on Thursday afternoon with camp. At least they got a nice long one yesterday though!

5) I didn’t follow through with punishments. Normally I try to not give consequences for bad behaviors unless I’m prepared to follow through on them but this weekend I just didn’t feel like doing that. After over a month of having to be in charge of correcting behavior I just wanted to be the “good” guy this weekend.

I may have had a lot of “fails” this weekend but I am proud of myself because I got out from behind the camera and took a family portrait. Sadly it’s been a while since our last one. I’m choosing to focus on that accomplishment and the fun times my family enjoyed this weekend instead of the things I think I should have done differently.

How was your weekend? Any “mom rules” you bent? No judgement here! Let the guilt go… :)

I Was Born To Be A Parent

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am a Dad Ambassador for the March of Dimes #imbornto campaign.

I am a father to two amazing boys. My goal is to guide them to grow up strong and instill the sense of power in them that they can do anything that they want to. I was born to be the best dad I can be for my boys.

My sister, my dad and me

During this time of year I enjoy the attention and affections my children give me but my thoughts also turn to my own father and my childhood. It is during my own childhood that my father helped me see what I was born to do. He taught me to play sports and how to have fun. He indulged me and gave me everything I wanted but he also pushed me not to give up and pushed me to excel in everything I do. Thanks to my dad, I am born to guide my kids to be awesome.

I am also born to make my children proud by advocating on behalf of those who can’t. I’m happy to say that I am a Dad Ambassador for the March of Dimes. For more than 75 years, the March of Dimes has helped babies be born strong and healthy through research, vaccines, education and breakthroughs. Lucas was in the NICU for a week at birth and thanks to the March of Dimes and the developments they’ve helped create in the past years, he made it through and is now a healthy, almost six year old.

The March of Dimes imbornto campaign celebrates the great things babies are born to do and thanks mothers and fathers who are the guardians and protectors of babies’ hopes and dreams. It’s a noble cause and a great calling to help babies and parents around the world. All babies are born to thrive and be healthy and I am privileged to be able to help them get a fighting chance by partnering with March of Dimes.

 

March of Dimes Dad

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post , but all thoughts are my own.

I am a brother. I am a son. At work I am a manager. When I have time I am a soccer player. We all have many roles in our daily life. My favorite role above all is being a father. I was born to be a good father and make my kids safe and happy. When my boys were born all I wished for was that they would be healthy with all 10 fingers and 10 toes. And whenever I see parents to be I wish the same for them. There is an organization called March Of Dimes that feels the same way.

For more than 75 years, the March of Dimes has been a leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

Founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, of the March of Dimes original mission was to defeat polio. By 1955, with funding from the March of Dimes, the Salk vaccine had been developed and tested, followed by the Sabin oral vaccine in 1962, and polio was on its way out.

Throughout its history, the March of Dimes has tackled infant health problems.Campaigns have supported programs related to polio, birth defects, folic acid, newborn screening and premature birth.

Today, the March of Dimes is inspired by all babies – those born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive. These babies are the millions of reasons behind our urgent mission and why the March of Dimes:

 

  • supports all important research into the causes and preventions for premature birth and birth defects;
  • fights for health insurance for all pregnant women and children;
  • pushes for expanded newborn screening that could save lives and prevent disabilities;
  • reaches out to women with healthy pregnancy information and services;
  • provides comfort and information to families with a newborn in intensive care.

I am very proud to announce I am a Dad Ambassador for the imbornto campaign for March of Dimes.

imbornto is a national cause marketing campaign that benefits the March of Dimes. It taps into the collective hopes, dreams and aspirations that we have for our babies and ourselves. All babies are born to do something great; something special and theirs alone. But they can’t do it on their own. Thanks to your support, the March of Dimes can help babies be born strong and healthy. The imbornto campaign raises money for the organization’s vital research and programs that improve the lives of babies and families everywhere.

Doing well as a company leads to doing good for the community. March of Dimes has several partners that have created special deals for its customers that wish to support March of Dimes and  #imbornto campaign. With Fathers day on the horizon check out the deals and make Dad happy and proud to help babies.

 

Make the time to visit  www.imbornto.com and http://www.marchofdimes.org to learn more and get involved. Checkout Twitter for the conversation  #imbornto (secondary hashtag: #MoDSquad).

Keep up with me and my kids to see what I get for Fathers day and to learn more about March of Dimes.

Raising Kids To Thrive {New Parenting Book}

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This review is sponsored but thoughts are my own.

There is a saying that children don’t come with manuals. That is so true! Have you ever come across a parenting challenge and struggled to solve it yourself? I have had a few of those instances and am only six years in to my parenting journey with many more years (including those teen years!) to come.

While no parenting manual has been written, I turn to a variety of books to give me tips on how to be a successful parent. One new book I discovered gives lots of great tips for raising children and teens. It is called Raising Kids to Thrive by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, and is all about a new method of parenting called the “lighthouse” parenting strategy. It focuses on balancing love with expectations and protection with trust.

Some of the things the book will help you do are:

-Raise kids who will succeed now and far into the future

-Understand why helicopter parenting undermines successful development

-Be a stable beacon your children will turn to for guidance and self-measurement

-Build the kind of relationship you hope to have with your child

-Reduce your children’s anxiety as they venture out on their own

While I think the book was written for those with children in their teens, I found that I could use a lot of what I learned with my younger children. It’s great to be able to work on my parenting skills now before my children hit the teenage years.

Some of the things I learned include:

-The importance of praising effort, not results (and being specific in that praise)

-My job as a parent is to set clear boundaries and then (mostly) get out of the way

-Teaching kids how to handle pressure from peers and the importance of “code words” that they can use when they are with their peers and they find themselves in an uncomfortable position

-How important it is to let my kids know that I have high expectations but that I also know they are human and will make mistakes

I highly recommend this book for all parents. You can find it on Amazon here.

 

 

Worry Free Outdoor Fun

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This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.

Today the temperature outside reached 64 in our Chicago suburb. This is very exciting for everyone, especially for active families that will be thrilled to go hiking and biking and play sports outside in the fresh air. For my family this means it is time for baseball, soccer and the playground. This also means it will be a time full of scrapes, cuts and bug bites. As a parent I know this is unavoidable and I hate to see my boys suffer.

To be truly prepared we always have a bag of a few essentials in our vehicles that can help in an emergency. Some of the best things to have in an emergency kit are an instant ice compress, bandages and band aids, extra mouth guards (for football), snacks and Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™

To keep your team from getting sidelined new Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound and Skin Cleanser, the easy first step in first aid that gently and effectively cleans and hydrates minor wounds, wants you to enter the Play to Win with #TeamPuracynPlus Giveaway for the chance to win a  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Emergency Kit, including a $50 gift card to a sporting goods store of your choice and  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ product. One winner announced each Friday on March 13, 20, and 27. #TeamPuarcynPlus (3 winners total).  It will be the best way to kick start the outdoors activities season.

My kids both play soccer and baseball during which they both get scrapes and usually the scrapes are messy from the field. The easy to use, hands free spray application of  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ thoroughly cleans minor cuts and wounds, eliminating the need for running water in the critical first moments of cleaning a wound.

I also like Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ because it is doctor tested and recommended for quick wound treatments and is free of alcohol and steroids. It is so safe that it will not bother them even if it accidentally gets in their eyes or ears. A 4oz bottle can be purchased at Rite Aid and Walgreens for $14.00. It is convenient to carry in your car kit so you will always have  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ in stock for when you really need it.

To learn more about the brand visit www.puracynplus.com and follow the brand on facebook (facebook.com/puracyn) and Pinterest. Another product they have is the Puracyn Plus Foot Wash and Skin Cleanser, a highly effective cleansing solution for healthier feet and wound care. If you or a loved one have diabetes Puracyn Plus Foot wash is essential to help make foot care part of your daily health routine and self care.

We are ready for the warm weather and the outdoors and especially the fun that comes with it. Thanks to Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™  we will be ready for anything that comes our way. So join in the fun and discover fearless life with Puracyn.

To learn more about the Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ , LIKE the brand on Facebook and follow the brand on Pinterest.

This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.


10 Things New Parents Learn

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I always knew I would be a dad someday. The plan was I would amass a great amount of wisdom and coolness first in order to be ready. Honestly nothing really prepares anyone for parenthood completely. I personally read books and asked around and truth be told when my first son was born I had tons of questions. I found myself living the dream and somewhere along the lines I learned great things about being a Dad.

So here is my list of 10 things new parents (specifically dads) learn:

1. Children change your life (for the better): All of a sudden staying in is way more important than hanging out with the guys at a bar on Friday night.
2. You learn the importance of sleep: Napping while they nap is awesome and sleeping in while the grandparents take the kids is a must.
3. Changing diapers like a pro: This is repetition meets survival because no one wants pee in their face or a big mess.
4. Your newborn knows who you are: Nothing is sweeter than when you realize your kid knows you and recognizes you and they are excited to be held by you.
5. 3 am feedings are the best bonding time: I worked 2 jobs as a restaurant manger and the hours were crazy but spending time with my kids in the middle of the night to feed them and comfort them was priceless
6. It is never too soon to start a 529 (college savings plan): This one is important. The economy is not what it used to be and no matter your income, college savings plans are best started early.
7. Men get baby fever too: My second son is the result of this but also in seriousness I do have moments when I think our family should be bigger and I wish to have a daughter.
8. It gets easier after the first year: Trust me, things fall into place and routines happen, kids get bigger and life gets easier.
9. Kids are resilient and they truly just need your love : All kids get scrapes and cuts but in the end they heal. Your love and attention is what helps them the most.
10. Kids absorb your every word: Kid’s little brains are like thirsty sponges and they are very aware of everything being said around them and to them.

What did you learn as a new parent?

Improving Breakfast With BelVita

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

As the rooster crows, my very hectic day starts (I actually woke up the rooster) and its time for breakfast. Let me tell you- breakfast is the most important meal of the day for me because its gets my energy flowing. It sets the mood and the tone for the day to come. When I do eat the most important thing I want from my breakfast is nutrition that will sustain me and replenish my energy long enough until lunch and sometimes dinner. But honestly, as a foodie I know that great taste is king. Early in the day I will not eat just anything. Great nutrition needs to be key and sometimes every smart person needs a bit of help every now and then, especially when we are on the go because of sports and school and work. I found both great nutrition and sustaining energy combined with great flavors with Belvita. Their breakfast biscuits have always provided great world taste and energized us for the whole day. BelVita Bites Breakfast Biscuits make breakfast easy and fun but also very healthy and nutritious, convenient and delicious.

The new size and packaging makes it fun and easy to have a great breakfast that combined with fresh fruit and some yogurt will make a complete and balanced breakfast. With all the best stuff in it like fiber and whole grain and no high fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oil and no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Can we say awesome?

Besides being great, BelVita wants to revolutionize your breakfast. It still holds true that most breakfast meals are cereals even at an age everyone is looking for a healthier choice. March 7 is National Cereal Day and BelVita aims to take over and encourage breakfast fans to trade in their spoons in favor of a balanced breakfast.

On March 4th at 11am ET BelVita will be hosting a breakfast panel leading up to National Cereal Day entitled, “The Changing American Breakfast.” Here is all the information:

Twitter Party Details

Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Time: 11:00 AM– 12:00 PM ET

Moderator: @MomCentral

belVita Breakfast Influencers: @ChristinHassler, @Kerigans, and @DaveZinczenko

Topic/Focus: Breakfast has always played an essential role in our diets but times have changed.  As today’s modern family has evolved, consumers’ morning routines and breakfast eating habits have changed as well. A panel of nationally renowned experts will discuss the changing American breakfast and how nutritious, convenient solutions like belVita can help on-the-go families stay energized all morning long

My family is set on trading in our spoons. As a foodie I am excited because I know my day will be better with the tasty BelVita breakfast biscuits and also a healthy nutritious breakfast.


 

Art Exhibit Encourages Parents To Talk About Tough Topics

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As a mom of young kids, the hardest topics I have to talk to my children about these days are sharing, being kind to others and taking turns. In a few years though, I know I will have to tackle tougher topics like drinking, drugs, and physical intimacy. I’m actually very nervous about those talks so I’m happy to be partnering with Rosecrance, a private not-for-profit organization offering behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults and families, and learning more on how to approach these conversations.

I participated in a Twitter party earlier this week and loved hearing from parents that have teens now, women that I admire in business who are also amazing moms. I also got some tips on talking about difficult subjects from Dr. Wright, the Chief Medical Officer at Rosecrance. Though my oldest is only six, I’m already in the process of figuring out how I am going to approach hard topics.

If you are a parent of tweens or teens and live in the Chicago area I’d highly recommend checking out the “In My Shoes” art exhibit at the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, IL during National Drug Facts Week. The exhibit was created to help parents understand teenagers’ points of view about the pressures they face and how they are confronted with the potential to use and abuse substances.

Developed by teen patients at Rosecrance’s adolescent campus in Rockford, “In My Shoes” displays shoes that have been painted and decorated by teens to tell their stories about substance use. From shoe selection to showcase, the process of creating shoe art is a meaningful experience because each shoe is unique and tells a teen’s story about addiction, recovery, and most important, their hopes and dreams for the future.

Here are all the details:

  • WHERE: Robert Crown Center, 21 Salt Creek Ln, Hinsdale, IL 60521 (SEE MAP)
  • WHEN:  Monday, Jan. 26 – Friday, Feb. 6, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Open house: Jan. 31, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • WHAT: During the open house there will be activities, presentations and screenings to raise awareness about substance use and prevention.
  • WHO:   Jennifer Thammavong, art therapist, will be onsite during the community open house on Saturday, Jan. 31
If you don’t live in Chicago, see if the exhibit is coming to a town near you here. They also have other resources on their site like this ebook about teens and weed.
Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #InMyShoes.

 

Having Faith In Tough Times

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(Disclosure: I am proud to be working with Brawny® on a series of sponsored posts as they inspire people to be “Tough to the Core.”)

The summer before I headed into my Senior year of High School my life completely changed. My {step}mom had been complaining she didn’t feel well and within a couple days she was in the hospital fighting for her life. She had Viral Encephalitis and was in a coma and the cause was thought to be West Nile virus. After weeks she came out of the hospital but the swelling in her brain had caused brain damage and she was never the same. She developed a seizure disorder, suffered from memory loss, battled depression and had noticeable personality changes.

For nine years my mom battled Epilepsy until it took her life in June of 2009. She truly taught me a lot about life and was tough to the very end, never letting her illness dictate her life. My mom spent hours a day fighting back against memory loss by writing down everything, doing memory boosting activities and trying to strengthen her memory retention skills. She also tried different medicines and procedures to get her seizures under control. She strived to keep her life, and her children’s lives, as normal as possible and she was sure that by trying as hard as she could, she’d succeed.

Every day was spent reading the Bible, listening to encouraging speakers and immersed in Bible studies. Her Faith never wavered. She believed that she would get better. Having Epilepsy she was not allowed to drive and this was probably one of the hardest things for her to accept. Her Doctor had told her that once she went at least 6 months without a seizure she would be allowed to drive again. Every time I talked to her she told me that she would be driving soon and then every seizure she had she started the countdown clock again. For over 9 years she kept a positive attitude and believed that she would be able to drive in her near future. I really think she’s up in Heaven cruising around in her sports car!

I try to teach this same strength to my kids. I want them to remain positive in the face of struggles and have faith even when it’s hard to. I think these two things can get my children through any tough situation they encounter.

Thanks to Brawny® for encouraging these conversations. Want more information on how to be tough to the core? Check out the inspiration video series featuring Everyday Heroes from Brawny® and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Being Tough For Your Kids

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(Disclosure: I am proud to be working with Brawny® on a series of sponsored posts as they inspire people to be “Tough to the Core.”)

When I had children I did all the obligatory mom things I had in my head that I was supposed to do. I read numerous parenting books, baby proofed our home, joined mommy and me groups to socialize my kids, filled the closet with tiny little outfits and basically tried everything to be a “good” mom.

The only thing I didn’t do was prepare myself to take the journey as a mom of kids who have special needs. When the boys were three and two I decided to swallow my pride and took them to the Doctor to share some concerns I had. When the Pediatrician dismissed me, I pushed because I knew, I knew, something was not right. I told him I wanted referrals and I had both boys tested through Early Intervention. With delays found in multiple areas, both boys were accepted and given speech, occupational and developmental therapies. I then pursued diagnosis with my youngest and it turns out my mother’s intuition was right. There was something going on and it was called Autism. A hard diagnosis to accept but suddenly it all made sense.

Just like there is no manual for parenting, there isn’t a step by step guide to raising children with special needs. In many ways it is harder because even once you have a diagnosis for your child, that gives you an idea of what to look into but not every child with the diagnosis is the same. Even Lucas, who has Autism, is on a spectrum. Some children with ASD are non-verbal and some can express themselves verbally. Some children I can identify as having Autism just by their outward behavior and some, like my son, you wouldn’t be able to notice the Autistic traits of until you were around them.

Once we were on the special needs path there were a variety of obstacles in our way. Hours of therapy each week that interfered with work, six month wait lists to get an appointment to see the developmental pediatrician and meeting after meeting with the public school system to get services my children deserved. I did everything I could to help my boys catch up to their peers and ensure that, once in school, they’d be able to learn and grow.

Sometimes you are tough because you have to be. Special needs parents have to be tough for their kids because we are their advocates and {sometimes} the only ones that will be looking out for their best interests.

Brawny® Paper Towels and Wipes have always stood for good old-fashioned toughness and that’s why Brawny® wants to share the inspiring stories to those everyday heroes out there – the folks who truly define what tough is.

Want more information on how to be tough to the core? Check out the inspiration video series featuring Everyday Heroes from Brawny®: http://www.brawny.com/tough-to-the-core

Stay connected with Brawny® on Twitter and Facebook.

 

10 Tips for Parents to Deal With Bullying

As we know all too well these days, bullying can happen any time, any where and to anyone, from the youngest children in day care (or even at home) and beyond. The following tips will help parents find ways to detect, prevent and deal with the bullying of young children.

1. Be your child’s go-to person. Make sure your child always feels safe telling you about incidents at school, at play in the neighborhood, at church/Sunday school, or even at home from the other parent or a sibling. I know a family that goes around the dinner table and everyone (parents and children alike) share the best thing that happened during the day and the worst thing that happened during the day. This helps everyone learn to appreciate and really notice when someone is kind and opens a door for them, or plays with them on the playground. To illustrate that no one is exempt from rudeness or bullying, other family members should share with their child/children bad situations at work or when they were young. Exploring how to handle the “bad” situations can be a teaching/learning moment for all members of the family.

2. Parents, don’t be an inadvertent bully. If the parent is constantly saying things that make a child feel bad about themselves, this is form of bullying. You may hear yourself saying, “I know you can get better grades.” But the child may be hearing only, “I’m stupid and won’t ever be able to please anyone.” Listen to what you say often to your child and make sure you aren’t behaving in a manner that would not be acceptable behavior from others.

3. Discuss what actions can be considered bullying. Help your child see that bullying can be words, actions, ignoring someone, giggling and pointing. Discuss ways to positively respond to each instance.

4. Welcome your child’s friends into your home. Perhaps even invite their whole family to a cookout or other event so that you can get to know the parents. If any of the friends seem to have an unusual amount of power over your child, you may need to help your child see that this person is not a true friend if everything always has to be their way.

5. Stop sibling bullying. Sometimes the bullying is being done by a sibling. If one child seems to have dominance over another child, sit down immediately and let them know that this behavior will NOT be tolerated. Make sure to follow through and discipline the bully when you see this happening either in the way she/he treats their sibling. Also make sure the child being bullied feels safe in coming to you.

6. Discipline your children appropriately if you see them doing or saying (or texting) something that you don’t consider kind. That way others–teachers, other parents or day care workers, etc.–don’t have to become the disciplinarian.

7. Help your child think of ways to react to bullying. For instance, if they are being teased about wearing glasses, perhaps there is a phrase they use to make the other person think twice about making comments like that again. If the child is being teased for being overweight, perhaps the whole family can review their eating habits and activities and work together to lose weight and feel better. Taking steps to change things, or practicing ways to react to mean comments, will make a child feel ready to stand up for themselves or others when they see bullying happening.

When your child gets a little older, you also have to keep in mind these next tips.

8. Understand cyber-bullying. One of the newest arenas where a child can feel helpless against what is being said or shown in pictures about them is online. Make sure to carefully monitor screen time in a way that feels protective to your child and not intrusive. The more conversations you have with your kids about what occurs online, the more likely they will be able to talk to you about what’s going on. Take every opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves in confusing situations.

9. Learn the latest lingo. This includes verbal, texting and online slang. Do you know that CD9 means parents are around and that 99 means parents have left? Your child may be hiding something that can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, even suicide.

10. Remember the Golden Rule. “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” is still great advice. A friend’s child was having trouble on the school bus with one particular boy. The mother suggested that this child might not know the right way to be a friend. So the child being bullied went out of his way to be extra nice to the bully. Once the bully realized there was a different way to act, the two children became real friends.

While nothing will totally stop bullying, at least by putting into practice some of these tips, I hope you can make the consequences for your child less damaging.

About the Author: Thomas Weck is a creative and captivating national award-winning author of children’s books, including the popular Lima Bear Stories Series: The Megasaurus, How Back-Back Got His Name, The Cave Monster, The Labyrinth and Bully Bean. Learn more at LimaBearPress.com.

Read These Safety Tips Before Leaving Kids Home Alone

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According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40 percent of all school children spend at least part of their day home alone. Many kids find themselves on their own between the time they get off from school and their parents come home from work. Because children can face so many dangers during this time, it’s important for parents to educate them on how to behave and what to watch out for. Here are four tips to help keep your kids safe:

Establish a Code Word

Children are taught to avoid strangers, but sometimes emergencies require parents to take unusual actions. For this reason, Dr. Phil suggests that parents set up a code word with their children in the event of an emergency. If your child is approached by a stranger or even a friend of the family and told that he was sent by your parents, children should know to ask for the code word.

If you’ve given that person the code word, he can repeat it to your child, and your child will know it’s okay to go with him. Let your child pick out the code word so he or she has an easier time remembering it.

Handling Bullies

Bullies may not seem like a safety threat, but your child probably views them as a scary part of every day. Talk to your children about the negative effects of bullying and offer guidance on how to handle these situations. According toHealthyChildren.org, kids should avoid giving a reaction to the bully, especially if they are being pushed to give in to demands.

If ignoring a bully doesn’t work, your child should confront the bully and threaten to report him or her if it doesn’t stop. And encourage your child to keep his friends close, if possible—crowds discourage bullies from harassing.

Create a Check-in Routine

Parents aren’t always able to be waiting at home when their children return from school. When kids are supervising themselves for a period of time, parents should establish a check-in routine for kids to go through after school. The Florida Department of Children and Families recommends parents make a clearly structured task list and divide the duties, if you have multiple children. For example, one can call you to check in while the other prepares the after-school snack.

Other important tasks can include locking the front door, re-arming the security system and starting homework at the kitchen table. If your home doesn’t have a home security system, consider getting one to provide greater peace of mind when your kids are home alone. These systems and their providers can be found at http://www.homesecuritysystem.com/. If anything is amiss at the house, you will be notified right away.

Practice Home Safety While You’re There

When you’ve addressed the safety measures children should take, make a few practice runs while you’re at home. Have children come into the house and start their after-school routine while you are unavailable in a closed-off room. You can come out and check periodically to see how they are doing, offer feedback and answer questions. This will provide a greater sense of security for both parties once you’re actually out of the home.

Author: Kyle Lexington. Kyle is a business consultant and freelance writer with three dogs and three kids. They all live in upstate New York.

Natural, Cost-Effective, FDA Approved At-Home Fertility Treatment

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When you want to start a family, finding out you’re pregnant can be one of the most joyful experiences of your life but, for some, getting to that milestone isn’t always easy. Today, 1 in 6 couples have trouble conceiving. I am really excited to partner with The Motherhood and Rinovum Women’s Health to spread the word about a new option for improving the chances of conception, called The Stork.

The Stork was designed as a natural, cost-effective option to help couples bridge the gap between natural conception and more aggressive treatments. The Stork aids in chances of conceiving by using a “technique” similar to intravaginal insemination. It can be used in the privacy of the home without affecting daily routine – both for couples with no known fertility issues and for those who are experiencing difficulty conceiving. The product is intended to aid in the process of becoming pregnant using cervical cap insemination. Fertility treatments can be expensive (upwards of $20,00 for one cycle!) but The Stork is so much more affordable (only $210 for a 3 day pack). Here’s a video of how it works:

I have never used it however I did sit through a webinar where I learned more about it and it seems like an amazing aide in helping couples conceive. I like that the couple can go through the steps of the process together. Being able to do so in the comfort of their own homes instead of a cold, sterile room is nice as well. I think most of all I like the price. For many couples, the infertility treatment options are not an option because of the price. If couples do try one of the pricier options they may only have one shot at conceiving because of the cost.

The Stork does require a Doctor’s prescription before ordering it to ensure that a woman has seen her Doctor beforehand. To learn more about the Stork you can visit their website.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for sharing about the Stork however I wouldn’t share about it unless I thought it was a great product. Thoughts are my own.)

10 Ways To Get Children To Help With Chores

How to Get Children to Help With the Chores

 

Fast Forward 11 Years…. {Picture}

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I just sent my big boy off to Kindergarten this week and Sinisa sent me this picture. Mommy is NOT ready for this yet!

(It should go without saying but the keys are not in the ignition, the car is parked, and their dad was right there)

10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

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Each new school year is a chance for children to start fresh and establish new routines. The same is true for parents, who play a huge role in a child’s education. As you send your children back to school this year, consider making a few resolutions of your own to make this a successful academic year. Most importantly, share the list with your child to help set expectations for both of you.

Education expert Renee Thompson, Kiddie Academy, offers the following thought starters for resolutions parents may wish to make, along with the reason why each is important.

Parents’ Back to School Resolutions:

1. I will give you a break after school if you need it before asking you to start homework.

Why: Some children can jump right into homework and others are more focused after having some time to unwind. See what works best for your child.

2. I will stay in touch with your teachers throughout the year.

Why: Communication is the key to early detection of potential problems. If your child is struggling, an open line of communication with the teacher will help in resolving the issue.

3. I will ask for positive feedback from your teachers.

Why: We’re all busy, including teachers, meaning that sometimes parents only hear when there is a problem. That’s not really fair to your kids or to you – if you’re going to endure the bad stuff, you both deserve to hear the good stuff, too.

4. I will offer guidance and assistance, but not a full solution, when you encounter a challenge.

Why: Children need to develop problem-solving skills. If their parents are constantly “fixing” things, the child will never learn to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road.

5. I will enforce a consistent bed time, even if you fight me on it.

Why: Getting a good night’s sleep will allow your child to start the school day refreshed and ready to learn.

6. I will provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast.

Why: Just like sleep, your body and your brain need fuel to function at their highest level.

7. I will stock up on school supplies so you’ll have what you need.

Why: Nobody wants to run out of paper or glue when finishing a project. Stock up in the fall, when prices are low, and keep the supplies in an easy-to-access location. Consider making a Homework Bin – you can find directions here.

8. I will listen to your opinions on Back To School fashion choices, and do my best to accommodate your requests — within reason.

Why: It’s important to show your child that you respect and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. You can still have the final say; however, listening is key.

9. I will document your FIRST day of school with a photo every year. I will be discreet and take the photo at home. I will not follow you to school or ride the bus to get candid shots.

Why: One day, your child will want to look back and remember how they looked as they grew up. You can save the memories for them until they’re old enough to appreciate them.

10. I will take a picture of you on your LAST day of school each year.

Why: It’s amazing how much kids grow over the course of a school year. Take a photo and compare it to the first day of school picture. Sharing the photos with your child is the perfect opportunity to review the year’s accomplishments.

 

The Gardner School {Tour Recap}

Fun areas of the classroom

(Disclosure: I was compensated for my time touring the school and for my social media efforts but all thoughts are my own. When it comes to childcare I would only recommend somewhere that I would feel comfortable bringing my own children.)

Early Childhood Education and care is very important to me. Having two preschoolers myself and working with young children for years both as a volunteer and as a professional I have a good idea of what a quality learning environment looks like. With that said, I feel confident in being able to recommend The Gardner School, an educational preschool for children six weeks to five years. The school’s first location was in Tennessee, and it has since spread to other states including their newest locations in my home state of Illinois. The Gardner School will open four locations in the Chicago area, the first of which is in the suburb of Warrenville. I got a sneak peak at the school before it’s opening and wanted to share some of the pictures I took {but not all, I got a little too excited to be back in a classroom that I took way too many pictures!} and my thoughts on the preschool. The school actually opened on Monday, March 18th, so call them for a tour today!

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First, let’s start with safety since that is the most important thing on every parent’s mind. With all of the safety concerns regarding schools lately, parents will feel confident knowing that visitors have multiple locked doors to go through to reach the children. Along with a locked door at the entry of the building which lets people into the lobby and to the front desk, every family gets a security code that they have to enter to go through another set of doors which leads to the hallways with the classrooms. Another great safety feature is a live feed of the classrooms in the lobby so that the family members can watch what goes on in the classroom. {This is also a great feature for those who have children who cry when they leave. You can see that 99.9% of the time your child stops crying the second you leave. As a Pre-K teacher this happened all the time and I would have to reassure the parents that their child would be fine but with the live feed parents can see their child really is okay.}

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The center has lots of natural light which is great. Each room is spacious so there is plenty of room for the children to move around.

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The classrooms are fun which is important since I believe that children learn through play. I can imagine that children will be so excited to go to school every day. I mean seriously, look at the picture above! Not just books on a bookshelf in the library area. There’s a tent they can read in, a nice comfy seat, puppets, and some felt board pieces so they can retell the story. I love reading areas like this.

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The home living area of the classroom was full of items that encouraged imagination as well. Each classroom had a kitchen area, some dress up clothes, and lots of other items that would help them pretend.

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The block section had lots of room for multiple children to build at the same time. This was nice because I can attest to the fact that if an area like this is too small the children end up knocking each other’s creations over, which is no fun. I think the addition of vehicles, buildings and animals in this area will make it an area where so much more goes on than just building towers.

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If there is one area in the classroom that is my favorite it would be the writing area. The one above was pretty empty when I took this picture, because the school hadn’t opened yet, but I imagine it is now full of papers, envelopes, stickers, writing utensils and the like that will make children want to write. That excites me so much! I also like that there’s room for multiple children. In my old classroom I had one seat at the writing table and all the kids loved the area but there wasn’t the ability to do writing activities with friends so I think the fact that there are a few chairs is awesome. I also liked that the classrooms had computers so they can play educational games.

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I spy lots of paints! This easel is nice and big, with space for four children. I think they will have fun painting and drawing at the easel.
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Each classroom has a sensory table. The contents in these tables will vary throughout the year, but they will all give the children a chance to use their different senses and experience different textures. We have a sensory table at home and the boys love it!
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Children have plenty of opportunities to explore and learn with science and math activities. There were also lots of different ‘table toys’ that they could play with solo or with a friend that work on fine motor skills.

On the subject of learning, the school uses a curriculum called ‘The DLM Early Childhood Express’ for Preschool, Pre-K & Kindergarten Readiness. According to the website, “each lesson begins with a FOCUS strategy that prepares children for the instruction and helps them focus their attention. The DEVELOP strategies that follow present the instruction. Children then participate in several PRACTICE activities, which allow them to apply and make sense of what they have just learned. Finally, they are encouraged to REFLECT on what they have learned and on how they will use the new information.” I think this is a great way for children to learn new concepts. They also use two programs I’m not familiar with but that I was interested to learn more about: Handwriting Without Tears and Growing With Mathematics. You can learn more about all of the curriculum (including the infant curriculum) on their website here.

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The fun doesn’t end in the classroom! Look at this outdoor area. The climbing structure is nice and large. I like that it’s surrounded so children can’t easily fall off. There was plenty of room to run around and burn off energy as well. Okay…now on to my favorite area of The Gardner School…

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How absolutely amazing is that!? Back when I worked at the daycare, I loathed rainy days or days that were really cold (which here in Chicago means being cooped up all winter long). Lots of children in one room for hours? Not fun! This area is a heated “outdoor” type space where children can be active and still stay warm and dry.

Since this center has so many fantastic areas I wanted to share some of my other pictures with some collages:

 

Fun areas of the classroom

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Toys!

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Outside the Classrooms

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Spaces for parents to connect

If you are looking for childcare in the Chicago area you should look into The Gardner School. There you will find a safe place for your children to stay when you can’t be with them during the day. You will find highly qualified teachers, a sound curriculum, and classrooms that are perfect for learning. When this school opens I expect one will hear lots of laughter and excitement all throughout the building!

Reader Question: How Do You Stop A Child From Biting?

I’m hoping some of you will have ideas for this mom who is dealing with a problem and has tried everything she can think of and nothing has worked. Here is what she asked:

“How do you deal with/correct biting?”

(Details: 3 year old boy, possible Sensory Processing Disorder, large vocabulary for age, biting daycare teacher and can’t explain why he’s doing it)

I didn’t have many ideas because, though my youngest with Autism and SPD did bite, we never figured out how to get him to stop and thankfully he just kind of “outgrew” it as his vocabulary increased.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions! :)

 

 

 

Potty Training Children Who Have Special Needs

huggies potty training

When I was a preschool teacher {back before I had children of my own} I couldn’t understand how children older than three were not potty trained yet. I blamed the parents and assumed they were just too lazy to potty train their kids. Here I am years later ashamed that I ever thought that and realizing how wrong I was in judging them. My oldest wasn’t potty trained until he was almost four and my youngest is three and a half and not even close to being potty trained. And that saying about karma? Yeah, I think it’s true because I feel the judgment when people realize my child in pull-ups is in preschool and no longer a toddler.

You see, what I didn’t understand all those years ago was that each child was different and though I had this list of things children “should” be doing by a certain age, it was just a loose guideline. Some children develop skills quicker and some children take longer to develop skills and potty-training is no exception to that rule.

The first time I tried to potty train Jacob he was about two. I had this idea that a sticker chart and a lot of encouragement along with making him sit on the toilet every 30 minutes were the keys to potty training success. After about a week I realized that he wasn’t “getting it” and I threw in the towel. Not only was he not realizing he had to go, but he wasn’t even realizing that he was wet or had a dirty diaper. After this first failed potty training attempt Jacob started wearing pull-ups. I figured this would be the easiest way for him to go to the bathroom if he all of a sudden felt he was starting to pee in his pants and could get to the bathroom.

Months later I tried potty-training him again. He still wasn’t ready and I decided at that point to wait until he was realizing he had to go before trying again. When that milestone came around it was a little bit before his fourth birthday. He started telling me when he had to go and we’d run to the bathroom. Sometimes he’d make it to the toilet and sometimes he’d just be so busy with what he was doing that he’d wait until the last minute and end up having an accident. The first weeks were full of constant reminders and multiple accidents but a month or so later he was fully potty trained and he moved on to underwear.

I really wish it hadn’t taken so long to potty-train Jacob but this was my first kid and I had no clue what I was doing {not that I have any clue now but at least I have a bit of experience}. My first attempts at potty-training were before I suspected any special needs and I think if I would have known then that he had Sensory Processing Disorder I would have waited until I thought he was ready and saved both of us a lot of time and frustration.

Lucas I think is going to be a little tougher to potty train. Lucas has SPD like Jacob but, along with having that, he also has Autism Spectrum Disorder and significant language delays. After the long journey with Jacob I decided not to push it with Lucas. At three and a half he doesn’t notice when he is wet yet and only occasionally seems to even notice if he has a poopy diaper. Children with Autism often are delayed in potty training and having SPD and language delays means that things are even more difficult because he doesn’t process senses the same as a “typical” child and can’t communicate his needs as well verbally. With Lucas I feel more confident in my parenting and accept the fact that people may judge me but I don’t care because I now know that I am doing what is right for my child and for my family instead of trying to pressure him to fit.

Here are some tips I have for potty-training children with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autism {seeing as every child is different these may not all work but I hope some might give you ideas of what might work for your child}:

1) Wait until they are ready. Your child needs to realize that they have have soiled themselves before they are even ready to start potty training.

2) Explain the process of using the toilet to the child. Explain step by step before, during and after. Many young children with Special Needs, and many without as well, need to know what is coming up so they can mentally prepare themselves for the task. Reading books about potty training may be beneficial, too. Here’s a list of ten books that you can read with your potty training child.

3) Provide visuals. You can type in “visual aid for potty training a child with Autism” in a Google search but here’s a direct link to one I think is a good one that you can print out and use in your home. Some children are visual learners and pictures will help greatly so they can see each step of the process.

4) Develop a way for them to notify you that they have to go potty. Maybe use sign language or have them point if they are non-verbal. A picture card may work well also so that they can give you the card when they need to go. For children who are semi-verbal maybe they can learn one word that they can use to tell you that they need to go to the bathroom.

5) Encourage your child and celebrate every victory. Even if they start peeing on the floor and you grab them and sit them on the toilet and they finish the rest in the actual toilet bowl…that’s a victory! Even if they go in their pants but then alert you that they are wet… that’s a victory. They aren’t going to be potty trained over night but instead, there are going to be a lot of small victories on the road to potty-training success.

6) Some children need motivation to get tasks done. Each child is different and therefore their motivator will be different. For some it may be extra time with a favorite toy or electronic, like my boys and their tablets or trains. For others one m&m or a sticker if they go in the potty may work. One thing I have done in the past is put old McDonald Happy Meal toys into a basket and if they went on the potty they could play with one. Since these toys had been put away it was like they got a brand new toy and I didn’t have to go out and spend extra money on them.

7) Use pull-ups that are easy to get on and off. We like the Huggies Pull-Ups because they feature easy open sides. Since he still wears a pull-up to school these help because then the teachers don’t have to take off his shoes and pants to change him.

8) Consider using a special kind of training pant that lets the child feel when they have peed. Huggies has a type of pull-ups called Cool Alert that feel cool when wet. I think this one in particular would be great for children with SPD or Autism because they can feel when they are wet with these more so than with an ordinary pull-up.

9) Make it fun! The Huggies Pull-Ups feature a favorite character, Lightning McQueen from Disney Pixar’s Cars movie, which makes wearing them exciting. They love reading books in the bathroom. We also sing random songs I’ve made up, which Lucas really likes because he loves music.

10) Understand and accept that your child is going to have accidents. With potty-training, like any learning process, it is going to take time. Your child will most likely have accidents and that’s okay. As frustrating as it can be for parents, try not to get frustrated with them because that will just make the process harder for everyone involved.

I hope the above steps have helped give you some ideas as you try to potty-train your child with Special Needs. The Huggies Pull-Ups website has some other tips and if you have any tips I’d love to hear them in the comments :)

If you are wanting to use pull-ups, Walmart has Huggies on rollback right now in stores and online for $8.97 a package! They also have Night Time Pull-Ups that are extra absorbent.

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Huggies but all thoughts are my own. #HuggiesWalmart #CBias #SocialFabric )

Why Kids Need Chores

Like so many parental expectations and requirements, getting your kid in the habit of doing chores will help prepare them for the real world (if you can ever get them to move out).  

Here are some of the benefits kids derive from assigned chores.  

• Responsibility (or “I’m not your maid.”)  When you make a mess YOU are obligated to clean it up.  The most straightforward reason your kid needs to do chores is to drive the point home that he is responsible for his actions in the world (and the messes he makes). 

• Personal Obligation (or “You helped create this mess now get up and help clean it up!”)  When you live with other people, you’re obliged to contribute to the general upkeep of common living areas.  Chores help your kid learn to pull her own weight when it comes to keeping shared spaces clean (so she doesn’t end up moving back home because even her friends consider her a slob). 

• Organization and Prioritizing (or “You had plenty of time to get that room clean.  You can just forget about going anywhere till it’s done!”)  Chores are unpleasant for most kids.  Unfortunately, life is filled with unpleasant but necessary tasks.  Chores provide the chance for your kid to practice making time for necessary evils like routine maintenance in their schedule of otherwise fun or meaningful activities.  This helps them learn how to plan, organize, prioritize and suffer. 

• Sensitivity for others (or “Just because it doesn’t bother you to wallow in filth doesn’t mean I’m going to live in a pig sty!”)  It isn’t crucial that things be straightened or cleaned.  Exposure to germs and disease can help build the immune system (if it doesn’t kill you first).  But, there are some things you do because it is important to someone else (like, say, a spouse or the health department).  Chores provide your kids with a clear message that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they need to take others’ feelings and sensibilities into consideration.  

• Pride in a job well done (or “You call that done?  Get back in there and finish cleaning that room.”)  It is important to take pride in even the most insignificant tasks.  Chores help your kids learn that every task, however base, is an opportunity to work their hardest and do their best.  (The expression on their face when you feed them this line is priceless.)   

• Self-sufficiency (or “Why do I have to tell you every single time to replace the trash bag after you take out the trash?”)  OK, this reason really isn’t that important.  If your kid needs a lot of practice before he can skillfully take out the trash or sweep the floor, you have much bigger challenges than getting chores done.

Like so many time-honored parental expectations, household chores have a value more significant than the practical issue of household maintenance.  That said, what is the most important reason kids should do chores?
Because you said so, of course.

***

Guest post Author info: Dr. James G. Wellborn is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Brentwood, Tenn., focusing on adolescents and families.  He is the author of the book Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting that includes a chapter on getting teens to do chores along with strategies for addressing 78 other typical teenage issues.  You can learn more about Dr. Wellborn by visiting his website at www.DrJamesWellborn.com

‘I Can Sign’ DVD {Giveaway}

I Can Sign

Learn how to use sign language to converse with your baby even before she can speak actual words! With I Can Sign, you will give your baby the precious gift of self-expression.

I Can Sign offers a simple and engaging way to teach parent and baby how to sign key words. This is a great way to open the lines of communication, even before baby learns to speak!

The DVD can be purchased from the BabyFirstTV website but you can enter to win one here at Making Time For Mommy!

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win BabyFirstTV’s ‘I Can Sign’ DVD

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what word you’d like to teach your child/grandchild first

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like BabyFirstTV on Facebook

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

5) Follow @BabyFirstTV on Twitter

6) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

Giveaway ends January 3, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Open to US and Canada residents.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for hosting this giveaway. I have not watched this DVD.)

Free Kindle Book: Hope For The Weary Mom

hope for the weary mom

{I have to start this post off by saying that if you don’t have a Kindle but you have an Android Smartphone you can still download this book! I have had an Android for a while now and just realized tonight that I can download a free app called “Kindle For Android” and access Kindle books that way even though I don’t have a Kindle! Yay!}

The Kindle edition of Hope For The Weary Mom: Where God Meets You In Your Mess {the expanded edition} is available for free today {10/23} and tomorrow {10/24} before it goes up to it’s regular price of $4.99. The book has all five star ratings on Amazon and good reviews from other readers. .

Enjoy! :)

Teaching Children To Do Things For Themselves {Quote}

children quote

Image from Live By Quotes

On Listening To Our Children {Quote}

listening to our kids

One Of My Favorite Parenting Quotes

motherhood quote pink

On Raising Children {Quote}

Find this and more inspirational quotes at TheSilverPen.com

Find this and more inspirational quotes at TheSilverPen.com

Where Are The Parents? {A Lesson On Not Judging Other Moms & Dads}

{This is a beautifully written post by a mom that was raising a child who was disabled. It had me in tears so I wanted to share it with you all. Reminds us to never judge other parents because we don’t know their situation and what they go through on a daily basis.}

Where Are The Parents? By Sue Stuyvesant, Parent

Hey everyone. For those of you who don’t know me (I’m only an occasional poster) I am mom to Michelle, 9 years old, microcephalic, athetoid/spastic CP, cortical visual impairment, seizure disorder — and CUTE! OK, now for the reason I’m posting.

To make a long story short, earlier this week a question was asked by some nitwit official as to why there weren’t more parents (of special needs kids) involved in the local PTA and other issues that have come up that directly involve our kids. His question, which was passed on to me was, “Where are the parents?” I went home that night, started thinking – and boy was I pi**ed – and banged this “little” essay out the next day on my lunch break. By the way, I took copies of this to the school board meeting that night, gave it to a couple of influential people and it WILL get around………….

Where are the parents?

They are on the phone to doctors and hospitals and fighting with insurance companies, wading through the red tape in order that their child’s medical needs can be properly addressed. They are buried under a mountain of paperwork and medical bills, trying to make sense of a system that seems designed to confuse and intimidate all but the very savvy.

Where are the parents?

They are at home, diapering their 15 year old son, or trying to lift their 100 lb. daughter onto the toilet. They are spending an hour at each meal to feed a child who cannot chew, or laboriously and carefully feeding their child through a g-tube. They are administering medications, changing catheters and switching oxygen tanks.

Where are the parents?

They are sitting, bleary eyed and exhausted, in hospital emergency rooms, waiting for tests results to come back and wondering, “Is this the time when my child doesn’t pull through?” They are sitting patiently in hospital rooms as their child recovers from yet another surgery to lengthen hamstrings or straighten backs or repair a faulty internal organ. They are waiting in long lines in county clinics because no insurance company will touch their child.

Where are the parents?

They are sleeping in shifts because their child won’t sleep more than 2 or 3 hours a night, and must constantly be watched, lest he do himself, or another member of the family, harm. They are sitting at home with their child because family and friends are either too intimidated or too unwilling to help with child care and the state agencies that are designed to help are suffering cut backs of their own.

Where are the parents?

They are trying to spend time with their non-disabled children, as they try to make up for the extra time and effort that is critical to keeping their disabled child alive. They are struggling to keep a marriage together, because adversity does not always bring you closer. They are working 2 and sometime 3 jobs in order to keep up with the extra expenses. And sometimes they are a single parent struggling to do it all by themselves.

Where are the parents?

They are trying to survive in a society that pays lip service to helping those in need, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They are trying to patch their broken dreams together so that they might have some sort of normal life for their children and their families.

They are busy, trying to survive.

***

Sue Stuyvesant 10/15/96: Permission to duplicate or distribute this document is granted with the provision that the document remains intact. [Sue passed away in October 2003. Michelle passed away a week before she was to turn 18 in September 2005].

Special Needs Moms {A Look Inside}

special needs moms

My cousin posted this on Facebook. I’m not sure of it’s origins but I just had to share :)

Parenting Advice Needed!

My oldest trying to get out of his crib when he was younger. I don't have any pictures of Luke doing so yet.

My oldest trying to get out of his crib when he was younger. I don't have any pictures of Luke doing so yet.

I am SO tired this morning. My youngest son finally learned how to climb out of his crib. He’s two and a half so I knew it was coming but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to get him to go to sleep. He was up until MIDNIGHT last night! He kept climbing out of his crib. I finally had to bring in a blanket and pillow and lay there on his floor. I woke up a little after two extremely sore so I do NOT want to do that again. I should also note that he shares a room with his brother. I tried not going in there and figured maybe he would play a bit and then just get tired enough to sleep but he ended up waking up Jacob because he was poking at him.

We are going to transition his crib to a toddler bed today.

What advice do you have for getting him to stay in it and go to sleep?

Thank you in advance for your tips! :)

Signed,

One Tired Mommy

Remembering My Unborn Child

Avery and Jacob, 2007

Avery 11/2007

Above is one of the only pictures I have of my child, Avery.

In 2007 I went in for an ultrasound and discovered I was carrying twins. At the same time the Doctor shared that most likely, baby “A” wouldn’t survive.

I was devastated. I had always thought that I didn’t want twins but once I found out I was carrying two children I couldn’t imagine life as anything but a mother of twins. I spent the whole next month hoping for the best but worrying that the baby would not make it.

In December of 2007, my fears were confirmed when only one heartbeat was heard. Though I still had one child growing inside of me I was filled with grief. I wondered what kind of mother I was that I could mourn when I still had life inside of me. That was one of my most difficult and confusing times as a mother.

June 4, 2008, I gave birth to Jacob who was baby “b”. He was healthy and I was thankful that God had given me a son.

In June 2009, I gave birth to Lucas. I had a hard time calling him my second son, since in my mind he was my third child, but I knew that calling him such would confuse people so I say that Lucas is my second child.

Two children later and I still think of baby “a” (who I have since named Avery). Would I be the mother of three rambunctious boys or two wild boys and one sweet, calm girl? Would Avery have had blonde hair like Jacob or brown hair like Lucas or maybe even red like grandpa’s? What would life have been like raising twins?

I will never know.

My prayer today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, is that no other parents would have to wonder these things, that every mom would give birth to the child they carried and that no parent would have to bury their son or daughter.

If you are raising children I hope that this serves as a reminder of just how blessed you are and that you hug them a little tighter today.

Motherhood {Saturday Stumbles}

This greeting card was made for me....
*I love this prayer calendar from Kat at Inspired to Action that gives us 30 topics we can pray for our children.

*Great post entitled: Motherhood is Application (here’s an exerpt:  “This isn’t a time for a gospel presentation because it is a time for gospel application. This is a time to take the grace that God has extended to you, and feed your children with it. Apply what you believe about God’s mercy and kindness and long suffering towards us, and pour it out to them — in a form they can believe in.”

*One mom shares how she enjoys motherhood here.

*Post about Balancing Motherhood With Career (Or NOT)

*A Motherhood Manifesto (Printable)

So true...

***

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! If you have any Motherhood posts you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below :)

Bullying: Words Can Kill

bullying

I normally don’t publish press releases but the preview for this 48 hours special brought tears to my eyes. Please share this with all the parents of tweens and teens that you know and please tune in on September 16th to learn more and potentially save your child’s life.

CBS NEWS PRESENTS A 48 HOURS SPECIAL ON BULLYING IN THE DIGITAL AGE
 “BULLYING: WORDS CAN KILL,” TO BE BROADCAST ON FRIDAY, SEPT. 16 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT)
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As a new school year begins across the country, more than 160,000 children will stay home every day because they are afraid of being bullied. That is just one of the startling facts in the CBS News/ 48 HOURS presentation “Bullying: Words Can Kill.” Reported by correspondent Tracy Smith, the program airing Friday, Sept. 16 (8:00 PM, ET/PT) reveals how the explosion in technology is only making bullying worse, as victims cannot find relief from their tormentors in a 24/7 digital world. The report will have important new information for parents, educators and legislators about how bullying affects children and how to address it.
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For six months, producers and camera crews were allowed in-depth access to the classrooms, cafeteria and gym at a Rhode Island middle school that is one of the few in theUnited States that has openly acknowledged it has a bullying problem and has taken action to address it. The 48 HOURS special documents the real lives of students at that particular school, and has the powerful stories of other young people and their families from around the country who have felt the impact of bullying firsthand.One constantly harassed 13-year-old told Smith, “They got inside my head. They did it because they knew it would hurt.” His mother said dropping him off at school was like “sending him off to war.” Tragically, more than 150 children have taken their own lives in recent years because they were victims of harassment in school and online. Among those featured in the broadcast:
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Dara Genovese, 13, bullying victim: “If you have ever been bullied, harassed, tortured, which I hope you haven’t, let me tell you, it is the worst. I mean, worst feeling ever. You’re laying in bed and you’re just thinking, like… what would it be like if you’re not here? Like… would it be better? Or, like, would people be happier – or just – just you wonder, you think a lot of questions.”
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Johnny Cagno, victim of bullying who attempted suicide at age 14: “When you’re tortured every single day, it gets to you. I was very, very scared to go to school every day.”
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Lisa Cagno, Johnny’s mother: “He was hurting himself. He was cutting himself, and he would just (say), ‘I hate myself, I don’t want to live anymore. I hate my life. Nobody likes me, no one cares about me.’ And I just – I would just have to constantly just reassure him. I couldn’t get those feelings out of his head.”
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Cynthia Logan, a parent who lost her daughter because of bullying: “We have principals in our schools and superintendents who don’t want to acknowledge the problem. They don’t want it to be their problem. I did as much as I could do as a parent, knowing as little as I did.”
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This broadcast is produced by Deborah Grau and Judy Rybak. The senior producers are Kathleen O’Connell and Paul Ryan, and Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the executive producer.

Organizing For A New School Year

organizational tips

Jacob starts preschool next week so I am busy preparing our family and our household for everything that this new season of our life will bring. I thought I’d share 10 things I’m doing to get ready for the start of the school year and hope that you will share some of your tips with me (especially if you have done this whole school thing before!)

1) Establish a weekly schedule. Things won’t be exactly the same every week but for the most part our routine will not change that much from week to week. I suggest writing the schedule down and posting it so everyone in the family knows the routines. Consider adding in details such as when to leave the house if you are going to be having dad, grandma, or a sitter help with some of the routines. Make sure to also schedule time for yourself!

2) Pull out the calendar. Add all school meetings, days off, and events to your personal calendar.

3) Organizing clothes. First, start by catching up on laundry if you aren’t already. Go through all of the kid’s clothing you currently have out and put aside anything that doesn’t fit or is unwearable. Pull out the fall/winter clothes and put them away in the closets and drawers. It’s still going to be hot here for another month or so but this saves you from having to do this later on. I also am going to be putting out a week’s worth of outfits every Sunday night so I have one less thing to do in the mornings. If your child picks out their own outfits they can do this ahead of time, too.

4) Establish new routines. Every year something in your schedule is bound to be different. A week or two before the first day of school start practicing the routines. For me I need to see how long it will take me to get to Jacob’s school during rush hour so I make sure he’s not late on his first day of school. I also want to figure out where his soccer gymnasium is located so I’m not searching for it on his first day of soccer. I will also be practicing getting myself out of bed and ready before the boys need me so I can see how long our morning routine will take us and plan accordingly.

5) Cleaning. I will be making sure my house and car are clean so I can start the school year off right. I am also going to create a cleaning schedule for my family so I can {hopefully} stay on top of things.

6) Meal planning. I’ve tried menu planning in the past and not followed through with it because I often cook whatever sounds good in the moment but I am planning on trying a loose meal plan of just a few meals to make throughout the week. I also hope to get some freezer meals prepared ahead of time for nights that are really busy. This will save me from picking something up on the way home that isn’t very healthy.

7) Contain the paper piles. Establish a place in the home for school/extracurricular papers. For some families this might be a binder, folder, or shelf in a kitchen cabinet. Also, find a home for the mail so it doesn’t overtake your kitchen. For school papers I will be using a binder. For mail I use a basket that I stick mail in and then go through it once a week while I watch TV.

8) Put together an emergency bag for the car. This should contain an extra set of clothes and whatever else your child may need. This is good to have in your car for a last minute sleepover, an overnight at Grandma’s, or a muddy day on the playground.

9) Gather the school supplies. Look at what items you already have and what you need to purchase. Consider buying extra supplies while they are on sale so you  have them on hand if your child runs out during the school year.

10) Get yourself ready! Maybe that means scheduling a Doctor’s appointment for yourself, getting a haircut, or investing in a new planner. Whatever it is, make sure that in all the craziness of getting ready for a new school year you don’t forget about yourself.

***

So those are my top 10 tips. What tips do you have for me? What have you found works to help you start the school year off right?

Happy Mother’s Day!

mothersdaycollage

***

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Please take time to do something for yourself today!

National Mom’s Nite Out TONIGHT

mno

Today, May 5, is National Moms Nite Out a day where mom’s can go out for the evening and not feel guilty {I even saw one site say that “even inmates get time off  for good behavior”}.

Simon Malls is hosting over 100 events at malls all over the United States tonight. You can see if your mall is listed here. To see some of the brands that are sponsoring the event and the list of blogging partners {including me!} you can view the list here.

Will you be attending an event at one of the malls or at another location? I’d love to hear about it!

Rainy Day Fun {Top Ten Tuesday}

toptentuesday

As I write this we are having another dreary, rainy day in Chicago. Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is a list of fun things to do with your family on a rainy day:

1. Head to an indoor playground. Many McDonald’s, community centers, and malls have children’s play areas where children can play for free. There are also other indoor playgrounds that cost money including: Monkey Joes, Lil Monkey Bizness, and Pump It Up.

2. Have a movie day (and don’t forget the popcorn)!

3. Bake. Kids love to help in the kitchen. Even young kids can help! My toddler likes to do the pouring and stirring.

4. Create a rainy day box that only comes out on rainy days. Fill the box w/ craft supplies or special toys and take rainy days from boring to *fun*!

5. Head to a local museum or aquarium.

6. Bring the outdoor fun inside. If you have items outside that can be played safely inside bring them in. We have a slide that can easily be brought inside for the day.

7. Have an indoor picnic. Spread out a blanket and have lunch on the floor of your living room. Make sure to choose easy finger foods for the meal.

8. Build a fort. Using pillows and blankets help your children make a fort. Make it simple or go all out adding a flag, decor, and anything else they can think of to personalize it.

9. Play a game. Board games, card games, duck-duck-goose, and make believe games all make the day seem to go by faster.

10. Cuddle on the couch with some good books.

{And as a bonus…}

11. Run “drive thru” errands. This may not be too fun at the time but doing these things on a rainy day means that you can be outside having fun on the sunny days! Consider the following errands that can be done without leaving your car: dropping off mail at the post office, picking up prescriptions, returning books and  movies, making a deposit at the bank, etc. (As a bonus, how about picking up lunch on your way home?)

What does your family do on rainy days? I’d love to hear your ideas! :)