Tuesday, 13 August 2013

How to Adjust Summer Bedtimes & Routines (or Lack of) Back for School Days

One area of parenting that I am super consistent with is bedtime.  This is mainly for my personal needs.  My husband travels a lot and I need the children to have a consistent bedtime routine so I can have some time in the evening.

This summer, I lost control.  As my children are getting older and able to stay up a little later, I let go of the routine for the summer.  Many nights the children were up WAY to late and other nights I would TRY to get them to sleep earlier with little success.   Most of the problem I believe came not from the varied bedtimes but from the change in routine.  My kids were not thriving without a bedtime routine.  Often, I would skip portions of our evening ritual to move the process along.  This always backfired and it would end up taking longer to put them to bed.

School begins on August 26.  Last night I slowly began to adjust bedtimes. I will move them by 15-20 minutes earlier until we get to the proper bedtime.  I’ve also set our evening routine back in place.  Here is a peek at what it looks like.

  • Dinner (at a somewhat reasonable hour…it’s so tough in the summer when the sun is out so long)
  • Bath for my youngest (the girls like to shower in the morning)
  • Gummy Vitamins (my son has a song called The Gummy Truck he sings)
  • Brush teeth
  • Lay out clothes for the morning
  • Go to the bathroom one last time (at least try)
  • Read books
  • Kiss goodnight and snuggles

Our evening routine has changed over the years.  When the children were small I played music (lullabies) after books and turned on the twilight constellation night light turtle.  Before that, I would sing to them and rock them in the glider.  You need to find a routine that works for you and is age appropriate.

A good bedtime routine is a great gift you can give to your child and an amazing gift to yourself, a peaceful evening.

And there is nothing more beautiful than peaceful, sleeping children.

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Monday, 5 August 2013

Help! I’m Drowning in Paperwork!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been drowning in paper for years!  What art projects and tests do I keep from my children, recipes, sheets torn out of magazines, bills, tax returns, school awards and the list goes on and on.  Recently, a friend of mine turned me onto Evernote.  This was a big step for me.  Twenty years ago, I could do anything computer related without a thought.  Since I’ve been out of the workforce, it takes a lot for me to try to keep up with the ever-changing technology.  Today, I have everything from recipes to school report cards to tax returns and everything in between organized with Evernote.  I want to share two links with you that have really helped to simplify my life.

I want to warn you that Evernote for Moms is a $5.00 download purchase but it may be the best $5.00 I’ve spent in a long time.  It gives someone that doesn’t know where to begin a great framework to start using the program.

http://getmegeeky.com/evernote-for-moms/

Evernote has a wonderful blog post called “Twelve Ways to Get Ready for Baby.”  This is a fantastic outline on how to manage all of the overwhelming information you need and receive when the baby is coming.

http://blog.evernote.com/blog/2013/04/30/12-ways-to-use-evernote-to-get-ready-for-baby/?utm_source=silverpop&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=073013_monthly_newsletter_en

These days I do stay very organized with my Evernote.  I keep trying to use it for my daily To Do lists but I have to admit it’s a struggle.  I am a notebook and pen kind of gal.  Something about physically crossing out the item that I completed makes me smile.  Evernote does have checkmark boxes but it just doesn’t feel the same to me.  However, I will keep trying!

Do you use Evernote?  Do you have any good pointers?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What is Too Much or Too Little for a Child’s Birthday Celebration?

First of all, I believe birthday celebrations are important at every age.  My concern is the over-stimulation that happens at most young children’s birthday parties.  There are too many activities, too many sweets, extravagant goody bags and way too many kids.  It seems that most parties are in the $500 price range.  I remember one year spending $200 on a cake for my stepdaughter for her 6th birthday!  What was I thinking???  Today, I long for simpler parties of pin-the-tail on the donkey and musical chairs.

I am planning the 5th birthday party for my son.  If you have a child this age, you know that they are very opinionated about what they want to do for their birthday and whom they want to invite.  My son wants laser tag.  The reasons are many why he won’t have a laser tag party but try to explain this to an almost 5 year old.  I decided to brainstorm about what he really loves these days…and one of the things he loves to do is boogie board.  I got excited as we began the planning of a beach party with a boogie-boarding instructor and some water balloon games.   My husband and I would cook hot dogs and hamburgers.   The big fun will be no cake for dessert, but SMORES!  Yum!  Everything went into the trashcan when I mentioned it to my son.  He did not like the idea.  He decided he did not want a party and just wanted to go to dinner with the family and one to three friends.  A simple family dinner sounds fun.

How do we reel in the birthday parties?  What are some age appropriate ideas that are for the kids and not the parents?  Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

 

  • Time of the Day – Choose a time of the day where a meal will not be expected.  The morning hour of 10am-12pm is a great time for young kids.

 

  • Revamp the Goody Bag – It doesn’t have to be a bag of junk.  How about a paperback book, a simple headband, or matchbox car?

 

  • Guest List – Keep the guest list small.  Your child probably has only a few close friends.  If you feel the need to include the entire class at school, just bring in cupcakes or cookies and celebrate at school.

 

  • Simple Décor – Many children consider the décor to be the paper plates, napkins, and balloons.  Keep it simple.  Remember the party is for them not for you.

 

  • Location – Can you have the party at your home or a local park?

 

  • Party Activities – You don’t need to hire a princess or a magician.  You can play party games like a scavenger hunt, relay races or a beanbag toss.  Or you can hire a local teenager to dress as a princess or paint faces.

 

The bottom line is that you need to keep it simple and remember that the party is for your child.

 

What are some fun birthday parties that you have planned for your child?

 

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Can you guess what party game this is at our Scooby Doo themed party?

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This is a photo from a pirate and princess party we had at home. We hired a high school girl to paint faces.

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First Birthday for our youngest.

 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Where Have Manners and Formalities Gone?

One of my favorite guilty pleasures this summer is watching the PBS series, Downton Abby, on my ipad.  I can’t wait to get the kids into bed at night so I can settle in and watch what will happen next to the Crawleys and their ever-loyal servants.  This brought to the front of my mind something that has bothered me for a long time…manners and formalities.  I know that times are changing and have been for a long time.  But I miss the everyday manners and formalities.  I remember the days when you got dressed for church, to go on an airplane or to have dinner at a friend’s home.  Gone are the times when you wouldn’t even think of addressing an adult without the proper title Mr. or Mrs.   Please don’t even get me started on table manners…well how many of us sit down at the table these days and actually eat as a family?

I am a big offender myself in the clothing department.  There are many times in the summer my kids will go days without wearing shoes and I am embarrassed to say that we went to church in gym clothes and bathing suits last week!  In my head, I was thinking it was better to be there in that state then not at all.

So the question is how do we bring these manners and formalities back?

My mother gave me a book recently called, 365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly.  This is a great book because it gives one lesson a day.  Ideally, you would start on January 1 but I feel you can pick the book up on any date and begin.  According to this book,

A three-year-old should:

  • Establish eye contact when speaking to another.
  • Say Hello.
  • Wash hands before and after a meal.
  • Stay seated during the meal.
  • Use utensils at the table.
  • Say “please” and “thank you”

A ten-year-old should:

  • Be able to hold a conversation with an adult.
  • Use good table manners.
  • Answer the telephone properly and take careful messages.
  • Show self-control in public places.
  • Take responsibility for keeping the bedroom neat.
  • Know how to be on time.

As parents we have to hold hard and true to what we expect as far as manners from our children.  We can make no exceptions.  We should not allow ourselves to be influenced against our beliefs by society or friends.  When I was growing up, I remember my mother saying, “I want you to be prepared to visit with the Queen of England or the President of the United States.”  And I shall teach my children the same.

What manners are important to you and how do you teach your children?

Monday, 22 July 2013

A Must Read — The Invisible Mother

A good friend of mine shared this story with me today and it hit home.  I want to place it somewhere that I can read it regularly.

I hope you enjoy it.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?? 

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, and she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. 

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ 

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. 

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’ 

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

—Anonymous

Monday, 22 July 2013

How Do We Help Our Kids Develop Friendships?

Friendship is a wonderful thing.   From infancy through adulthood, our children will have many friends.  Some will be friends forever and some will come in and out of our lives.  All of these relationships are important.

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Here are some key points to share with your child on how to be a good friend.

 

  • Model good friend behavior – It’s the same old story…our children watch what we do.  Be a good friend.  Bring a sick friend dinner, help an elderly neighbor carry in groceries, bring a friend that needs some cheering up a flower.  Random acts of kindness go a long way in friendship.
  • Be Yourself – Be the best you that you can be.  Do not change who you are to be like your friend.  If your friend doesn’t like you how you are, they are not a friend.
  • Invite friends to your house – As a parent, this is a great way to not only get to know your children’s friends but to help young children learn how to play together.  It’s a good idea to speak with your child ahead of time and come up with some ideas of what to play.  Also, sharing often becomes an issue with young children.  I talk to my children about sharing and then ask them if there are any toys they do not want to share before the play date.  If there are toys they don’t want to share, I hide them away during the play date.
  • Help young children work through differences – Young children will have limited skills to work through problems.  You need to teach them to remain calm.  I tell my children to find an adult to help with the problem before it escalates to something physical like hitting or biting.  This isn’t always possible.   Do not be embarrassed if your child is the one that bites or hits.  This will happen and has happened to many of us.  Address it immediately with your child.
  • Be Friendly  - Always be friendly and say hello to people.  Keep a smile on your face.  It is amazing how a smile and a hello will just make people smile.
  • Be Loyal – Be a true blue friend.  Be there for your friend when they need you and do not gossip.  If your friend tells you something in confidence, that is as far as it should go (unless your friend is in trouble and you need to tell an adult.)
  • Be Positive – We all know it is much more fun to spend time with happy people then sad or angry people.  Encourage your child to be happy and not sweat the small stuff.

 

I asked my children what it means to be a good friend and here is what they said,

My four year old says, “You don’t be mean.”

My seven year old says, “To play with them and be nice to them.”

My nine year old says, “By putting effort in and including everyone and being nice.”

How do you help your children be a good friend?

 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Is It Better to Have a Best Friend or Encourage Your Child to Be a Friend to All?

The topic of friendship has come up recently in my own group of friends.  I was surprised at the different thoughts and values we put on friendship.  Growing up I had a very few close friends and only one best friend.  I can tell you exactly when we became best friends.  We were in the fourth grade and my friend came to my house for a sleepover one night and didn’t leave for four days!  This was the beginning of our “best friendship.”  We had many laughs and secrets over the years that I will always hold close to my heart.  To this day, we still connect via email but are on opposite sides of the US.   Since my first best friend, I’ve had a few other women who I have considered a “best friend” over the years.  For me, it was always only a very few best friends at a time.   These are treasured relationships.

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I believe that in recent years the term “best friend” has lost its true meaning.  When you look best friend up in the dictionary there is no definition.  It leads you to boon companion; which means an intimate or close friend.  I feel there are many levels of friendship and they are all important.  What concerns me is the overuse of the phrase best friend.  We are living in a world now where we want everything to be fair and equal.  We worry so much about hurting people’s feelings that we call everyone our best friend.  I think this takes away from the true meaning of the phrase.   I am not saying we shouldn’t have many friends.  I believe in being a friend to all.  Personally, I will hold dear the phrase “best friend” and will teach my children the same.

 

Friendships begin at birth.  As parents, we join parent groups, or gym classes and the children of the parents we connect with become our children’s friends.  As our children grow, they will slowly start to make decisions on which friends they want to spend time with based on common interests.  My four-year old son, all of a sudden doesn’t want to play with girls.  For years, many of his friends were girls. Recently, my seven-year old came to me and said that she really didn’t have anything in common with her best friend anymore.  I was impressed with her observation.  I did tell her the story of my first best friend.  There is a significance about a first best friend.  My first best friend and I have gone in different directions in life and have many different interests now and are separated by geography.  That being said, I still consider her a very close friend.  No matter the amount of time that passes, we can always pick up where we left off.  I want my daughter to know that her best friend will be a friend for life regardless of their different interests.  It is also very important to be able to appreciate the differences in each other.

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Today and forever, it is my dear husband who is my best friend, my boon companion.  I have a few very close friends I rely on constantly for support and many laughs and then many friends who I enjoy.  But I will save the title “best friend” for my husband.

a-gard43

 

There are countless books out there on friendship.  Please read to your child about friendship.  Please teach your child the Golden Rule; treat others how you want to be treated. In the end, friendship is a very important part of our life from the beginning.  Everyone needs friendships at all levels in their life.  Later in life our friends become our sanity and our safe haven.  Help your child learn how to build a solid friendship.

 

 

And please do not misuse or overuse the term “best friend” with your children.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Happy Birthday to me! The Birthday Extravaganza!

I love birthdays.  I feel they are important and should be celebrated at every age.  It is the one-day a year each person gets to feel special.  My husband doesn’t share the same school of thought on birthdays; at least not with adult birthdays.  This year he asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I told him I just wanted to go to a nice dinner with our family.  He called and made a reservation at our favorite fancy spot.   I was thrilled.  I suggested we take a taxi so that we could have a glass (or two) of wine.  Well, he surprised me with a limo and two-dozen roses!

The kids were so well behaved at dinner and I was a proud mama!   After dinner, the surprise continued as he dropped me off at a friend’s house for a night cap and he took our kids and my friend’s kids to the candy store in the limo.  The next morning, our four year old walked into our bedroom and said, “I had a dream last night, that I went to the Candy Baron, in a limo!”

We had so much fun and I will cherish the memories of that night forever.

What was your best adult birthday celebration since parenthood?

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

How Do We Save Ourselves From An Overscheduled Summer?

Well, this is embarrassing.  It has been many months since I have written a post.  So much as happened in my life since my last post several months ago…birthdays, school plays, award ceremonies, sporting events, work events and so on.  If you have school age children, you get it.

As our last day of school approached on June 14, I was very excited to have some slow summer days.  I wanted days where we could sleep past 6:00am.  I wanted days where I could make pancakes (from scratch) for the kids.  I wanted days where I didn’t need to get in my car.  I dreamed of these slow days.  I dreamed of taking the free trolley around our beach town instead of my car.  As I sat down to plan the summer, I wanted a balance of fun activities and camps for the kids and some down time.

The first week of summer was fantastic.  We slept in, went several days without getting in the car, we had big breakfasts and lazy beach days.  My nine-year-old daughter even finished one of her required summer reading books in the first week.  This was starting out to be the summer I had envisioned.

Then came week two.  Everything changed.  We had been lucky because we got a jumpstart on our summer.   What changed with week two was now all the schools in the area were on summer vacation.  And at 4, 7, and 9 years old, my children already want to be with their friends non-stop.  They are little social butterflies.  The week brought a mix of summer camp, swim team and a constant revolving door of children in and out of the house.  I am not one of those people that embrace the chaos.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love that my children have friends and I do love that they all feel so comfortable at our house and I do LOVE having them at my house.  It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to me.  I just need a little quiet here and there.  This is something I personally want to tackle this summer….embracing the chaos.

Week three brought more changes.  I decided to dial it back a little bit.  I wanted to go back to our slow mornings.  I decided the kids would not participate in the morning camp in our neighborhood.  Well, if you look at the photo below, you will see that idea did not work as planned.   When the summer camp meets at the public green across the street from your house, it’s a little challenging.

I am making a resolution to get back on the blogging wagon so look for many more of our summer adventures soon.

I would love to hear your ideas.  What plans do you have for your children and family this summer?

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Friday, 19 April 2013

The Importance of Involving your Young Children in Household Duties

Our children have responsibilities around our home and understand that they need
to do these items because they are part of the family. Just because they know that
they have to do them doesn’t make them whine any less. So we do pay them. Over
the years payment the form of payment has changed. In the beginning, all that was
needed were words of praise. Then it moved to stickers, then small toys and now
for the older children, we are onto money. I’ve learned that the key is finding what
motivates your children. And often it is different things with each child. Right now,
my older children are motivated by money. With my youngest, screen time appears
to be the big motivator. It is also important to change up the duties. A new task can
be exciting to children.

You can begin this process of involvement from the time they are infants. When
you are folding laundry or grocery shopping, you can talk to them about what you
are doing. Talking to them helps them to feel involved and you will be amazed how
much they learn from listening to you and watching you. Next thing you know you
will have your 18 month old helping you sort the clothes by color and switching
the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Then comes folding the towels at 3 or 4
and so on. Another great task is to let your children make their own beds. This can
be frustrating because in the beginning, they usually look like a mess. Whatever
you do, do not remake the bed. They are doing their best and you don’t want to
discourage them.

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The last two weekends in our house have involved some small house projects. My
4 year old son helped my husband take down all the towel bars in the house that
needed to be replaced and fill all the holes with Spackle. He was truly enjoying the
time with Dad and getting to use the screwdriver. The next weekend he was asking
what was on their list was for the day and when can they get started.

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The bottom line is that you need to have your children help with the household
chores. Not only does it teach them how to do the actual tasks, it also gives them a
great sense of accomplishment and pride. In the beginning things move slower and
can be a little frustrating but it will pay off in spades in the end.

What chores do your young children do around the house? What do you use for
motivators?

 - Sarah