Jun 292015
 

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)I know New Year’s is when you’re supposed to do it. I know that’s the time to look back on the past year of your life and check out all that you’ve done and fantasize about where you yet want to go.

But last week, as we were prepping to leave for the beach, it hit me suddenly: an entire year has passed since I last did this. An entire year since I last dug for sand buckets and broke a sweat trying to jam all the sandals I own into a suitcase. Because I don’t know how to pack.

Crap. Everything was the same. And what had I done?

You see, the kids did pretty much everything. Started preschool. Started Kindergarten. Learned to ride a bike. Pooped in the toilet. Related, learned to wipe their own butts. Tried soccer for the first time. Made new friends. Began reading. Began writing. Grew about 5,000 inches. Figured out how to pull a chair over and pull open the security lock on all the doors. Fantastic.

Their lives, every second that they breathe in and out, they change and grow, experiencing newness of life at every turn.

As for me? I’m still crawling out of bed every morning, blindly smacking the power button on the same old tired coffee machine. Nothing has really happened.

Unless…

Unless I’m wrong and lots of things have happened.

I mean, I basically look the same. Sure, my hair is blue now, but I’m still cozying up with the same 15 extra lbs., and you know I haven’t given up my go-to shorts. Our house is the same and my husband still runs himself in circles pursuing infinite hobbies. Our dog is still a grouchy old man who hasn’t forgiven us for having human children.

It’s all the same.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened. Because it has. Countless times over, it has.

I believe there is a victory in the day to day getting up and caring for your family, doing the work set in front of you. This has happened, inarguably, this has happened. But there were new things, different things, things of pride, big things that rocked my own corner of the world in the past 365 days.

I got my blog trademarked. What does this mean? The United States Government has officially titled me Mom of the Year. I know.

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)

I was on a national television show for the first time ever. Boss.

Despite a total lack of familiarity with the public educational system, my husband and I navigated our way to our son’s IEP. If you’re not a parent of a grade-school child, this is far bigger than it sounds.

I became an aunt to the sweetest baby girl of all time.

I hung with a dear friend through the worst time in her life and was captured by the depth of our relationship.

I taught myself to create graphics on my blog. I’m not saying I’m good at it, but I DID IT.

I planned an uber-successful second year of BlogU with some of the smartest, coolest women I know and it was awesome.

My hair is blue. I didn’t mean to casually write this off above. It’s not casual. It’s blue.

The thing of it is, the kids look different than they did last year. And they have all these mile-markers they can tick off as evidence of their growth. All these tangible ways to measure their change.

When the adult years roll in, it doesn’t work this way. The surface remains the same. And no one else but you might know of the waves that crashed upon your shore while others weren’t looking. I mean sure, you could get a blog and endlessly pummel everyone with your updates, but really, how classless…;)

But it’s okay. Because while my yoga pants still strain over my thighs the same (albeit with a few more threadbare patches), I know that I’ve done different things.

I may not have changed, but that’s okay; I’ve still lived. I lived a year of my life, and lived it the best way I know how.

And as I continued jamming those sandals into the suitcase and grunting over the stubborn zipper, I reflected on the truth that while I’d tackled no major feats in the past year (such as that nifty learning-to-use-toilet-paper thing my kids were on) my life wasn’t really so stagnant after all. Not really at all…

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:3885753, copyright:alptraum

 

Jun 272015
 

Keeping kids busy and occupied over the summer is a CHORE than any mom knows too well! Check these ideas to keep the days full and busy without losing your mind from exhaustion. #13 is brilliant!Ah yes. Summer again. What a relief! No responsibilities for two months. Nothing but endless sunshine and good times. You can stay up late and sleep in even later. You can read books by the dozen and go on exciting road trip with friends. Movies, concerts, dancing: you name it and you’re going to do it! You can… What’s that? Daydreaming again? We understand. Happens to the best of us.

Turns out you’re not a kid anymore, are you? In fact, you have your own kids. For them, summer is nothing but endless sunshine and good times. And for you, dear Mom? Summer means you get to work your buns off so your kids can, decades later, daydream about the summers they once had.

Make no mistake, those sixty consecutive days without scholastic relief: they can be daunting. How will you will make it through? How will you make happy those wonderful, whiny little people you gave birth to and keep them from strangling each other (or you from strangling them)?

Don’t worry, we’ve been there, and we have a handful of suggestions that will help carry you through and, more importantly, allow you to set some of the planning aside and simply take joy in spending time with your lovelies.

So, without further ado, fun family activities for summer:

  • Visit an amusement park and ride roller coasters
  • Play a few rounds of mini golf
  • Go to the movies (mix it up by taking them to the drive-in one night)
  • Blow bubbles in the yard while Dad grills out
  • Visit the state or county fair (entering a contest like baking can make for a fun family adventure)
  • Go berry picking and then make jam or preserves later that day
  • Have a picnic at a local park (food plus playground equals naps for everyone when you get home!)
  • Write and film a short movie (your kids will be the stars, of course; use your smartphone to record and edit it)
  • Go to the lake for a swim or to fish
  • Go camping and take a long hike
  • Play tennis, bocce ball, badminton, beach volleyball, etc. (if your kids are old enough, you can pit them against Mom and Dad, which always seems to delight the little ones)
  • Visit the beach and collect seashells
  • Go to a Major League Baseball game
  • Visit a different museum each week
  • Help them plan a 4th of July parade for your neighborhood (outfit everyone in patriotic clothing and help them build their own float)
  • Enroll the whole family in pottery classes or painting classes
  • Learn a foreign language together (yes, it’s possible, and yes, it can even be fun!)
  • Do charity work together like collecting canned food or working in a soup kitchen twice a month (let them see that helping others can feel good and be fun too)

There you have it. Have we drained the well of all possibilities? Of course not. But implement several of these in your weekly routines and you’ll find not only that the hours and days fly by, but that you’ll have wonderful family fun along the way.

Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:46804091, copyright:Gorilla

Jun 242015
 

Spread goodness in this world! Worried about the development of your child's self esteem? You're not alone. In fact, did you know there is an ENTIRE MOVEMENT dedicated to building confidence in school-age children? And since it's made up of educators, pychologists, therapists, and programming experts who've endless researched the best way to achieve this, trust this advice! They make this important goal easy with these resources!What if there was a children’s book series that not only instilled positive values but did so in a way that actually rewarded them for carrying through on what they learned?

What if it, through reading it, they became self-motivated to learn even more?

What if it was a perfect fit for all of your grade school children, regardless of their specific age?

What if these books came with a bevvy of available resources to help guide parents and educators through the process of helping kids build their self-esteem?

What if it actually, truly made a difference in their self-confidence?

What if it was the key to empowering them to be better versions of themselves?

 

Worried about the development of your child's self esteem? You're not alone. In fact, did you know there is an ENTIRE MOVEMENT dedicated to building confidence in school-age children? And since it's made up of educators, pychologists, therapists, and programming experts who've endless researched the best way to achieve this, trust this advice! They make this important goal easy with these resources!

When I first interviewed Dona Rudderrow Sturn, the Founder of The JNP Project, I expected to chat with the creator of a cool new children’s book series who was excited to share her work. I was blown away to discover so very much more.

Dona is a woman passionately dedicated to promoting social good through this movement that she’s made it her life’s work. Dona has fully invested herself in the incredibly well-researched design and promotion of this project. In just several months, she has guided The JNP Project from the first introduction of its products to the the thriving rescource center it is now. Drawing from her own background of being raised in a very bad neighborhood and working hard to provide a better life for herself and her four boys, she is committed to empowering children and helping them develop their core values.

What is the JNP Project?

The JNP Project is a Self-Esteem Discovery Movement for children of all ages. Their goal is to do good through building confidence and future leaders. Following their vision of “I am. I can. I will. Empowered.”, the commitment to developing healthy self-esteem is promoted through empowerment tools for you and your children.

Currently in 16 countries, the JNP Project is a movement because they are actively working to raise a generation of confident children, focusing on school-age children, as it has been shown that core values are already formed by age 6. In assembling and test-marketing products (story lines, website exposure, toy design development and accessories), they relied on a team of astute international professionals to create and develop content for this amazing project. Psychologists, educators, counselors, teachers, reading specialists, children’s programming directors, eBook publishers, parents and young adults all serve on the Advisory Commitee.

What does The JNP Project offer?

The movement has created a toolbox of resources for adults to help children develop a their “inner-awesome”, a belief in themselves and the unique value they add to this world.

Spread goodness in this world! Worried about the development of your child's self esteem? You're not alone. In fact, did you know there is an ENTIRE MOVEMENT dedicated to building confidence in school-age children? And since it's made up of educators, pychologists, therapists, and programming experts who've endless researched the best way to achieve this, trust this advice! They make this important goal easy with these resources!1) First and foremost, the JNP Project focuses on an interactive esteem-building series for kids. The core of the project is a series of 31 interactive adventure stories featuring Oracle (a magical orange goldfish), Jane & Jake, and their friends. The World of Jane Not Plain™ features characters with whom both boys and girls can identify. The really cool thing about this book series is that the lead character Jane in Jane NOT Plain® is developed to be a “blank canvas” for each child to colorize as she or he “sees” Jane (and her friend Jake). This allows your children to choose the characters’ external colors (called “Your Face of Traits.”) while Jane and her cast of friends teach your child about his or her inner colors—the 10 core value character traits, or “inner awesome”!

Each book is focused on one of the core values (Kindness, Truth, Harmony, Forgiveness, Love, Giving, Determination, Strength, Character, and Compassion) and is geared towards children ages 5-12. They are written at a higher reading level, designed to engage older readers and encourage parents to read the books with younger children to help them understand and develop the concepts presented. There are loads of illustrations to keep the interest of younger readers as they are listening to the book. This series would be a perfect fit for school reading programs in which older students read to younger ones. And I’m eager for my son’s reading skills grow so he can read more of the stories to my daughter.

Every book includes an Oracle Ditty, a short story or poem, that can be downloaded as a song to help reinforce the lessons in the book. There is also a color-coded “Pearl of Wisdom” children can collect as they complete each book and then earn a Circle of Power badge at the end.

Worried about the development of your child's self esteem? You're not alone. In fact, did you know there is an ENTIRE MOVEMENT dedicated to building confidence in school-age children? And since it's made up of educators, pychologists, therapists, and programming experts who've endless researched the best way to achieve this, trust this advice! They make this important goal easy with these resources!

As my daughter said, “Mommy, I want this cute fishy to teach me more!” 😉

Each book also includes parent kit, which provides wonderfully helpful guides to parents to use these books to encourage learning at home. These kits are especially handy during these summer months, when you want your children to continue learning while keeping the fun flowing!

Good news for you, readers? One set of the Prequel Story and the first two books (Kindness and Truth) are being given away below! As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to win! The giveaway will close 7/1/15 at 5:30amET, so be sure to enter before then!

The first resource is an esteem-tools website for for parents, teachers, counselors, in-home educators and caregivers. This site offers tools designed to guide them in building self-esteem through fun and adventure. Support is available through online forums, Q & A with professionals, webinars, new downloads available monthly, and JNP gear, toys and accessories.

2) Secondly, The JNP Project offers an esteem-tools website for for parents, teachers, counselors, in-home educators and caregivers. This site offers tools designed to guide them in building self-esteem through fun and adventure. Support is available through online forums, Q & A with professionals, webinars, new downloads available monthly, and JNP gear, toys and accessories.

3) Finally, there are educational resource kits available to extend the learning both in and out of the classroom. The lesson plans are excellent fit for homeschooling, special programming, or offering additional support at home over the summer months. There is curriculum available for grades 1-4. Check out the website to learn more about the available resources.

Why does is this movement so important?

When talking with Dona, she shared a startling stastic from Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. He cited a survey of 1000 parents and 1000 teachers in which 72% of the parents said the teachers were responsible for developing children’s self-esteem, while 78% of the teachers said the parents were responsible.

There is a gap. And our children are the ones suffering.

Instill self-esteem and confidence in them must happen. Teaching them that they can, they are and they will is a gift of empowerment that they can carry with them through a lifetime. Investing in this mission and goal is so incredibly valuable.

What can you do?

Aside from supporting The JNP Project and checking out the available resources and books for your children, take this fun “Boomerang It! Challenge”. Go HERE and make a physical boomerang and then go do an act of kindness for someone else. Pass the boomerang on to them and keep the goodness flowing. Want to see how far your boomerang flies? Go record your tracking number and your good work online and follow along to see where it goes!

Spread goodness in this world! Worried about the development of your child's self esteem? You're not alone. In fact, did you know there is an ENTIRE MOVEMENT dedicated to building confidence in school-age children? And since it's made up of educators, pychologists, therapists, and programming experts who've endless researched the best way to achieve this, trust this advice! They make this important goal easy with these resources!

The JNP Project is good, friends. One with a gorgeous heart and mission. Don’t forget to enter for a a set of the books below, and check out the website further and use it to grow the self-esteem in your own home!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

****Thanks to The JNP Project for sponsoring this post so I could share their work with all of you. That I am so impressed by this movement is 100%!****

Jun 232015
 

Sending your kids to summer camp can be a VERY scary experience for parents! Use these insider tips and tricks to prepare the whole family--and then relax and enjoy the summer for all the sweetness it is!Now that summer is here, you might be preparing to send your kids off to camp. It’s not easy sending your child off to their first sleepaway. As the parent, you know that camp will give them great memories and will teach them important skills. But for your child, it can seem like a scary experience and cause anxiety that you may not have anticipated. As you begin to help your child get ready for camp, keep them involved in all of the planning. This will help them develop an understanding of what to expect, which will help them to be more excited than scared.

So how do you start to prepare?

Organization is Key

Of course, you’ll need all of your camp essentials. Make a list with your child of all the things they think they will need while camping. If the camp has sent a list of recommended supplies, start with that, but don’t be afraid to add things. This will be a good opportunity to help your child develop an understanding of how to plan for a long-term trip like this. Items to consider include:

  • A good quality sleeping bag, pillows, and blankets. Don’t skimp on a cheap sleeping bag as a bad night of sleep is a great way to compound existing stress for a kid.
  • Toiletries with containers. This should include a toothbrush holder with a cap, a soap dish with a cap, and a caddy to carry everything.
  • A strong backpack that will be good for carrying things while hiking. You should consider looking into personalized kids backpacks, as this will help your child keep track of their backpack so it won’t get mixed up with the other kids’ things. A cool backpack can also go a long way towards boosting self confidence.
  • Plenty of clothing for all weather types: pajamas, shorts, long pants and jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, a rain coat, rain boots, tennis shoes, sandals, bathing suits, and plenty of underwear and socks. Since clothes tend to get a lot of hard use at summer camp, you will probably want to stock up on some inexpensive items and extras.
  • Miscellaneous items: a few metal water bottles, some pre-packaged snack packs or other little treats to share or eat for some quick energy on the trail, extra Band-Aids, a flashlight, lots of sunscreen, and bug spray.

Have your child sit with you and go through catalogues or look online to find items they like. Go to stores and shop for items together. Let them be in charge of crossing items off the list. This will help them get excited for the trip. Be sure to label everything so it doesn’t get mixed up with your child’s fellow campers’ possessions. You can use a sharpie or even get a custom stamp and ink pad.

Make Sure You Are Listening to Your Child

It’s normal for your child to have some pre-camping anxiety, especially if they’ve never done this before. Have a good sense of what this particular camp will be like so that you can answer your child’s specific questions. They will feel better if they feel like they have a pretty firm sense of what to expect while on their trip. Be sure to go to any pre-trip planning or orientation events and bring your child along.

Also make sure you are giving your child room for self-expression. If your child isn’t getting a chance to tell you how anxious they are feeling, their fear and anxiety might build up without you even realizing it.

Trust the Camp and Your Child!

It’s hard to let go on the first time that your child will be away from home for an extended period of time. Be sure to respect the camp rules regarding cell-phone and Internet policies. Get them some camp stationery and postcards and pre-fill out envelopes for them so that they can send you letters. Also, send your child regular encouragement through nice notes and care packages, but other than that, try to let your child get some distance and have a good time! You’ll be amazed by how much they’ve grown and learned when they come home.

Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:43250879, copyright:lightsource

 

Jun 192015
 

Have tons of pics and videos of your kids but don't have the time to do anything cool with them like make an album? Let the pros handle it--worth EVERY PENNY, I promise! Plus, this is the moist perfect gift yoyu could give grandparents!Aren’t our fancy smartphones fabulous? It is entirely possible to capture almost every minute of your child’s life with one sleek device. Back in my day, video recording required more large equipment than NASA’s shuttle launches and there was this crazy thing called rolls of film. You’d drop them off at your local Kmart, wait 100 years, and then go back to pick them up, crossing your fingers that one of the 24 pack might actually turn out and be more than a blur of color. It was really, really exciting stuff. Plus I had a pretty huge tween crush on the guy working behind the photo desk, an extra bonus.

Today’s a totally different ball game. All the sweet photos and videos are at your fingertips with the press of your thumb. It’s a parent’s dream, except for one stickey-wicket: what do you do with all of the photos?

If you’re like me, about once a year, you make an hysterical attempt to print out a boatload of photos, fully intending to file them in albums. Months later they sit in a hopeless pile along with all the other abandoned goals of busy motherhood. The videos I take? I don’t even know where on our computer my husband stores them, to be honest.

And that’s the problem: we have all of these fantastic memories but we don’t actually do anything with them. Sure, I might throw some up on Facebook and Instagram here and there, but largely, some of the most important memories of our lives sit buried and unshared with those we love. Sad!

So when UrLife contacted me and asked to make custom-produced video for my family using pictures and video I had taken of my children, it was definite yes!

Have tons of pics and videos of your kids but don't have the time to do anything cool with them like make an album? Let the pros handle it--worth EVERY PENNY, I promise! Plus, this is the moist perfect gift yoyu could give grandparents!

What is UrLife?

UrLife is a revolutionary new premium service that takes the most important moments of your life- birthdays, children’s milestones, epic adventures, unforgettable holidays- and edits them into a custom Hollywood-style movie trailer.

You can finally empty out that phone! Let a Hollywood film editor transfer the the priceless memories that you capture in photos and videos into a professional trailer that is easily shared with all your family and friends via social media.

Who is behind UrLife?

A huge Hollywood movie producer who retired to spend more time with his family, started having his editors create trailers of his children’s birthday parties, family vacations, etc. and UrLife Media was started. Now, the guys who cut the biggest blockbuster ads in Hollywood (see website for examples) are cutting trailers for YOU.

Have tons of pics and videos of your kids but don't have the time to do anything cool with them like make an album? Let the pros handle it--worth EVERY PENNY, I promise! Plus, this is the moist perfect gift yoyu could give grandparents!

What makes UrLife Media so different than the other apps out there that create videos for you?

There are REAL PEOPLE (professional Hollywood editors) cutting the trailers and putting them together. Each trailer is 100% customized with not only the content you give UrLife, but also with the input you give them. If you are looking to celebrate a specific time of your child’s life (like preschool, or a memorable vacation) or give a trailer as a gift for a special occasion (perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a grandparent birthday or the holidays!), let the editors know as they develop the theme for your trailer. The end result is truly personalized, quality work!

The attention to detail and willingness to collaborate is impressive. As I talked with the editors, we decided to focus on the general theme of “Childhood”, a celebration of my kids’ younger years and all of the fun things as part of our day-to-day as something I could gift my husband for Father’s Day. Any parent knows what a wild ride this age is, and I’m pretty sure he’ll love it.

I’m eager to share our trailer here with all of you, and I hope you can laugh and smile along with us as you watch!

The very cool news for you, readers? UrLife is giving away a Hollywood Trailer (worth $500) below to one of you! The winner will work with the editors via email to create their own trailer with their personal photos and video. As long as you are 18 or older, and enter before 6/29/15 at 5:30am ET, you are eligible to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*****Many thanks to UrLife Media for cutting this trailer for our family. Our delight in it is 100% genuine and we’ll always treasure it!*****

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:14910727, copyright:scanrail

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:8568382, copyright:HANA76

Jun 042015
 

Want to see changes in your child's educational system? The issue of fair funding for our schools affects all of us, and now with this this super-easy tool, you can make a difference that matters! Take a minute and share your voice so it's heard!My mother was a public school teacher for 40 years. She taught until the day she got a call from her doctor in her classroom, ordering her to report to the hospital immediately, as her test results had returned, very far from normal. A year and a half later, she died of liver cancer.

She gave so much of herself to her teaching, spending countless late evenings finishing her work and thousands of after-school hours tutoring students one-on-one to help them succeed. But she did it all because she loved public education and was happy to dedicate herself to its mission. If she was still alive, she would be saddened by the current state of Basic Education Funding. Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between rich and poor school districts of any state in the country. Per pupil spending in PA’s poorest districts is 33 percent less than in PA’s wealthiest districts, according to the National Forum on Education Statistics 2015 report. She would be proud to hear her grandson speaking out on the matter.

This week, my family supported the Campaign for Fair Education in its fight for all students to get the education they deserve. Through a youth voice platform, my son answered questions about what he thought about the state of public school education funding—all asked in a way an elementary student could comprehend.

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding

By Isaac, 5

 

What is the Campaign for Fair Education Funding?

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding is a statewide non-partisan effort made up of organizations that, collectively, represent Pennsylvanians from every corner of the state.  The campaign includes more than 50 organizations—everyone from advocates, teachers and school administrators to business, community and church leaders. They groups are all fighting for Pennsylvania to adopt and maintain an adequate and equitable system of funding public education by 2016.   The campaign believes every public school must have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success, and become productive, knowledgeable, and engaged adults.

Why is a funding formula needed? 

Right now, not all students are armed with the things they needed to succeed. The absence of a funding formula, combined with state funding cuts in recent years, hits our students hard. A recent report found that 93 percent of school districts reduced staff, 50 percent furloughed teachers or other staff, 74 percent cut or reduced at least one academic program 57 percent increased class size. Without a funding formula, ALL students will suffer: rural, city, suburban and small town.

What are students saying?

Some of thoese students area speaking out about the issue on youth voice platform. Recently, Hear Me, a part of Carnegie Mellon University’s Create Lab, interviewed students across Pennsylvania and produced a podcast about their thoughts on the current state of public school education funding. Now, the group is giving all students, in grades K-12, a chance to be heard.

My son is only five; his reflection on the status quo isn’t deep. He merely wants there to be more blocks available in his classroom–a reasonable desire of any Kindergartner. I’m guessing he means the chalk blocks he fell in love with that allow him to do cool things like practice spelling words and create his own math problems at our kitchen table. We gifted a set to his teacher at the holidays.

Want to see changes in your child's educational system? The issue of fair funding for our schools affects all of us, and now with this this super-easy tool, you can make a difference that matters! Take a minute and share your voice so it's heard!

I think these were the blocks he was talking about in the recording. He loves the way they make learning fun!

However simple the requests might be, each student has a voice that is worth hearing. To establish proper educational funding, we need to listen to our children; we need to hear what they really want and need in their classrooms. And then we must work hard to help them get it.

What can you do to help? Get Involved in the Campaign for Fair Education Funding through their website, and follow along with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Add your own family’s voice to Hear Me and speak out your own thoughts using their interactive website. You can also connect with Hear Me on Facebook and Twitter.

We love our public schools. We feel blessed to have such supreme education available to our children. Yet we recognize the deficiencies in funding and will continue to advocate for more balanced funding to the benefit of all.

Want to see changes in your child's educational system? The issue of fair funding for our schools affects all of us, and now with this this super-easy tool, you can make a difference that matters! Take a minute and share your voice so it's heard!

Right now, going to school is something we celebrate it this house! We want to see this continue.

Kids want to learn. They want to grow and discover new things. If we can facilitate this with proper educational funding for the tools that help them meet this goal? That is one smart move.

****I’m teaming up with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to speak out for students across Pennsylvania. Although I am receiving some form of compensation, all opinions remain my own. #FairFundingPA****

May 182015
 

Does it feel like pulling teeth to get your child to tell you about his day? Asking these three questions every day has been the magic trick for us! I love knowing more about their school days and classrooms and love that these questions help reinforce some important messages to my kids too! Start asking, mom!I generally tend to figure out how to do things in life right before they come to an end. Like, I finally got uber-good at sneaking in productive work-outs around long job hours–and then got knocked up and quit my job. I nailed feeding a baby while caring for a toddler–and then my baby became a toddler herself. I aced getting to preschool pick-up on time–about a week before my son’s graduation.

So of course it makes sense, that now, 16 days before the school year ends (not that Mommy is counting), I finally figured out how to get my kids to talk about their days.

If you’ve ever been driving a car, begging your children, “Tell me about your day”, only to be met with a mumbly murmur or worse, a clipped “It was good” answer, you know exactly what I mean. I studied child development, and I get it: the question I’m asking is big for my 3 and 5 year olds. But yet, even when I more specifically zeroed in on what they did in gym or what they chatted about with their friends, the silence resounded. The kids weren’t into filling me in.

One day recently, weary of this daily battle, I had a flash of inspiration. I remembered how some families take turns going around the dinner table, each sharing a low and a high from their day. This could work for my children after school!? They operate well with rules, but the rule that they tell Mommy about their day was too vague. If I posed a specific set of questions they knew in advance they’d be asked? This might just work.

Upon getting everyone loaded in the Swagger Wagon, I said excitedly, “Guys! I have a surprise!” (This may have been overselling it; the chipper tone of my voice intimated more a circus coming to town than a new set of conversation rules.) “Today we are going to start answering 3 questions every day.”

(insert a whole lot of confused little kid whining)

I refused to be daunted, “So this is how it works. Each day I am going to ask you 3 questions you need to answer:

  • What was something that made you happy?
  • What is something we can pray about for you?
  • What is something you learned?”

Boom! It was like the magic ticket. By asking these three questions they started chattering.

Does it feel like pulling teeth to get your child to tell you about his day? Asking these three questions every day has been the magic trick for us! I love knowing more about their school days and classrooms and love that these questions help reinforce some important messages to my kids too! Start asking, mom!

Why do these three questions work so well to encourage the kind of conversation you want to have with your kids?

  • The questions avoid the dead-ends of yes and no questions, and leave enough room for substantial responses.
  • The questions are small enough not to overwhelm younger or tired kids.
  • The questions are general enough to be asked every day, so kids who like order and routine know what to expect.
  • The questions cover the three things I genuinely want to know as a mom: what is going well at school, what do you need help with, and are you actually learning anything (tell me our mad-dash crazed runs out the door in the morning are worth it)
  • These questions support our belief that school is about both learning and fun, while stressing that if something isn’t going so well, I care and want to help them (while reinforcing our faith that we take our concerns to God).

They aren’t fail-proof. I’ve learned quickly to make a rule that you aren’t allowed to answer, “Same as yesterday” (or verbatim report the same thing as yesterday). There are days that the kids are simply cranky and not in the mood to chat; their answers might be really short.

That’s okay. The questions aren’t set up to dictate. If they don’t generate flowing responses some days, that’s fine. They are just a way to help guide us to productive conversation. And by productive, I mean that Mommy gets a clue as to how their days went and it doesn’t feel like pulling teeth.

For the most part, my kids think the questions are fun. Some days they plan ahead of time something they really want to tell me (awesome!), and some days they want me to answer too (though they are often less impressed with my answers–successfully installing new plug-ins is decidedly less wow-worthy than learning to how to spell cat).

The questions help. They help the kids talk more and help me understand their days better. So for us, they’re a win. 

Here’s to some chatty car rides, friends!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:11468472, copyright:Mirage3

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10294835, copyright:Wavebreakmedia

 

 

May 152015
 

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!I have an announcement, a very important announcement, friends: WE ARE DONE WITH DIAPERS! I know, I know. It’s basically the best news to happen around these parts in forever. But, silly, new-to-this-post-diaper life mom that I am, I wondered if this also meant it was time to bid adieu to my ginormous stockpile of wipes?

The answer: NO. Now, more than ever, it seems necessary to permanently strap a pack of Huggies® Wipes to myself as we go about our day-to-day. Maybe I can bill it as the new fashion in fanny packs?? The thing is, while we don’t have bums to wipe any more in our house, we have loads of other fun things that need wiping–like messy meals (spaghetti for dinner, anyone?) and very “exciting” playtimes that leave Mommy fantasizing about an early Happy Hour.

I love my kids and I love that they throw themselves so wholey into this life, but I’m thankful for Huggies® Wipes to see us through all the messy moments–Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Why are Huggies® Wipes a fantastic solution? They are the only brand with TripleClean™ technology and clean better than other national brand’s sensitive wipes. These new and improved wipes have Triple Clean layers, are perfect for not only gently wiping up my little baby niece when she comes to visit, but also for tackling the bigger messes of my own kids, like when we busted out the paint this week. Behold the chaos!

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Huggies® Wipes come in a variety of cool, convenient packaging, from Designer Tubs to Refill packs, great for on-the-go or stashing them up at home. Look for Huggies Natural Care ®, Huggies ® One & Done ® or Huggies ® Simply Clean ® and find out what works best for you.

And Walmart not only has all of these wipes, but they also have cute videos on their site to let you know that you’re not alone in your quest to tackle kid messes! Go check them out, snag few smiles, and then raise your wipes pack in solidarity with all the other parents out there. From muddy outdoor exploring to ice cream spills to dirty playtimes to the universal ability of little ones to smear pasta sauce all over their face within two seconds, you aren’t alone and Huggies® Wipes has you covered.

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Grab the wipes, friends, Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*!

****Many thanks to Huggies for sponsoring today’s story and encouraging me to purchase Huggies® Wipes at Walmart!****

May 112015
 

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!Once upon a time, there was a Mommy and a Daddy. They were happy, but they were very, very tired. You see, their 3 yr. old and 5 yr. old were the adorable lights of their lives, but these children required a rather sizable expenditure of energy. To feed them. To make sure backpacks were properly packed for letter Q Show-n-Share day. To repeatedly holler during their soccer games for them to stop staring at the clouds. And to endlessly explain that there are no monsters hiding in closets. And to generally try to keep them alive–that too.

Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much, but their love had taken on a quiet, persevering character, the way love does when time and busy days full of wiping little bums press on. They had heard of and believed in fantastical things like date nights and trips, but that darn needing-a-sitter jazz kept edging its way in.

So they wintered down, in more ways than one. Cozying up at night and settling in on the victory of surviving another day in suburbia while delighting in the small things–like a child who didn’t patter down the stairs in search of water more than three times and the rare, shocking evenings when Mommy didn’t pass out from exhaustion before 8pm.

It was, despite the echoes of dull ordinariness, a sweet life, a very sweet life.

Except, Mommy missed Daddy. And she knew he missed her. And she was pretty sulky that three of their favorite television shows had taken leave of the airwaves around the same time. Life would not be the same without Parenthood, Parks and Rec, and Mad Men. The cold was making her grouchy too. The winter had been long, and some serious Vitamin D with a side of fresh air was very needed.

It was time for something to give.

And it did.

Spring came.

This means many, many things: sports, school ending, parties, flowers, lawn mowing and maintenance, digging summer clothes out of boxes, scowling at ginormous thighs in the mirror, etc. But for this Mommy and Daddy, it meant one thing more important than all the rest: the deck was open.

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!

I’m not entirely sure what we do on the deck. There is usually crickets chirping and chill music in the background, margaritas on the weekends, a fired-up grill when we’re ambitious, sometimes games, sometimes friends, hopefully children asleep in their beds upstairs. Occasionally silence, but usually chatting.

Chatting about all the things–kids, work, house, friends, hobbies, hopes, prayers. It’s as if an edge comes off, an edge that corners in the rest of the time. It’s through our deck talks that we make plans and dream dreams. That I heal hurt about my mom. That we craft never-to-be-realized fantasies about bagging it all and moving off to some obscure corner of the world to keep bees.

The deck is our date. Our time. Our space. It’s when we shrug off our sluggish winter shackles and find ourselves again–find each other again.

Deck time matters. It matters so very much.

We might have kids who need a lot. We might not have a sitter or any elaborate plans. But we do have a deck, and we are most certainly rocking it this summer.

Here’s the same hope for you, readers: find some deck time. Whatever it looks like in your corner of the world, whether there is an actual deck or outdoors included or not. This life isn’t going to break for you, so take a break for yourself and what matters, however it works for you.

Taking a pause to breathe and connect? It’s pretty darn cool, trust me.

 

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:9435286, copyright:iofoto

 

May 042015
 

I would say getting your child to sleep through the night is one of the biggest head-scratchers as a parent, but let’s be honest: when you are going on night upon sleepless night, you’re not just scratching your head, you’re sobbing in repetitive fantasy of burying yourself under the covers–perhaps for a week. My kids are 3 and 5 now, and while we have the nightime gig mostly schooled away, we still struggle with how to best handle changes in routines and disruptions to our sleep schedule.

Nicole Johnson, President and Lead Sleep Consultant at The Baby Sleep Site®, understands that summertime is one of the trickiest times for sorting out sleep with your little ones, and she is here to help you get a game plan in order. She really knows her stuff (read her fantastic bio at the end), and impresses me with her ability to offer individualized, non-judgmental, real help for parents in need. Go get your sleep on this summer with Nicole’s smart advice!

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Summertime is full of trips and celebrations, but keeping your baby's sleep schedule sorted during all the fun can be so tricky? Are late bedtimes and skipped naps worth it? This smart sleep expert weighs in with all the considerations and tips for making sure your little one gets the rest she needs. I would never have thought of some of these smart tips and advice!

by Nicole Johnson, President and Lead Sleep Consultant at The Baby Sleep Site®

Summer approaches, and if you’re like me, then you have a lot of barbecues, pool parties, and vacation traveling in your future! But if you’re a mom of little ones, then you no doubt know what a double-edged sword summertime fun can be. Outdoor playtime and late-night fireworks and bonfires spell fun for you, but lots of missed sleep for your baby or toddler.

So what’s a sleep-conscious parent to do? Do you insist on sticking to your usual nap time and bedtime schedule over the summer, and miss out on special events and special activities, or do you join in on the summer fun and deal with missed naps and late bedtimes?

Should You Allow Missed Naps and Late Bedtimes, or Should You Stay Home?

This is a tough question, because the answer depends so much on unique factors, like your baby or toddler’s personality and sleep needs. So ultimately, this is one of those decisions that’s best left to you. I’ll supply some information and point out some considerations to help you make that choice.

With that said – here are the factors you’ll want to consider in deciding whether or not you should bring the kids along to that day-long barbecue, or to that late-night 4th of July celebration:

  • Does your baby or toddler have high sleep needs? Some babies and toddlers are able to get by on less sleep — they tend to make up the lower end of those ‘sleep average’ numbers I highlight sometimes on my blog. However, other babies and toddlers have higher sleep needs – they tend to need more nighttime and naptime sleep than other kids their age.
  • Is your baby or toddler adaptable enough to handle the schedule change? Adaptable babies are more likely to accept schedule changes without too much fuss, while slow-to-adapt babies tend to be much, much less forgiving when it comes to disruptions to the routine.

If your baby or toddler is fairly adaptable, and does okay with a little less sleep than normal, then having a night or two of holiday fun probably won’t make much of a difference in your little one’s demeanor. However, if your baby is slower-to-adapt, and has higher sleep needs, then even one ‘off’ night of less sleep may produce quite the cranky pants the next day and for a few days after!

What To Do After Your Baby or Toddler Misses a Nap or Goes To Bed Late

If you do decide to enjoy some late nights over the next week, bear in mind that there may very well be some exhausted, fussy aftermath to deal with the next day. Here are a few tips to help your baby or toddler make up for lost sleep, and get back on track quickly:

  • It’s okay to let your baby or toddler sleep in the morning after a late bedtime. Obviously, if your little one sleeps past his normal wake-up time — let that happen! But it might not – you should also be prepared for early-morning waking. Remember, babies and toddlers who are overtired actually tend to wake early, so it may be that your late night causes a super-early morning wake-up call.
  • If your baby or toddler wakes too early, or even wakes at her usual time the next morning, try making the first nap earlier. The first morning nap tends to be the most restorative, so moving it earlier in the morning, and allowing it to go long, can help your baby or toddler catch up on her missed sleep.
  • Insist on an afternoon rest time, if your toddler no longer naps. Even non-napping toddlers may be extra sleepy after a late night, so firmly insist that your little one spend an hour or so in bed, with toys and books. This way, if he is feeling sleepy, you will have set the stage for sleep.
  • Cut the afternoon nap short, if it’s going too long, as a nap that ends too late in the day can mean a later-than-usual bedtime, and that can cause a rough cycle of late bedtimes and out-of-whack naps that’ll be tough to break.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when it makes sense to enjoy some schedule-busting summer fun, and when it’s time to stay home and skip an outing, in favor of maintaining the sleep schedule. So much depends on the unique temperament of your baby or toddler – I’m sure some of you have little ones who are just fine missing sleep now and then, while others of you may have babies or toddlers who, if they have just one late bedtime, are “off” for days and days.

When my oldest was a baby, the slightest change in his daily schedule would lead to a week (or sometimes more!) of horrible sleep – so any event that would interrupt a nap or lead to a late bedtime had to be really, really worth it to me! But my youngest son was much more flexible; after he was born, I finally understood how people with babies actually managed to leave the house and enjoy themselves!

No matter how you manage your baby or toddler’s sleep this summer, remember: restorative sleep is important to your baby’s health and development, and to yours as well! If your baby or toddler isn’t sleeping through the night yet, and you’re wondering how to help, why not download my free e-Book, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night? It’s a great tool that’ll help you get started on the road to peaceful nights and relaxing, consistent naps!

 

Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her sons sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents find their childs sleep. If you have your own sleep issues, maybe she can help you, too.

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