Creating Goals with Your Kids for 2017

2017 goals in letterpress wood type

I am a firm believer that a goal without a plan is just a wish. As an adult, I annually write out my goals and spend the year breaking them down into more attainable goals that I can “check off” a list.  When I taught 3rd grade, I did this same process with my students. I taught the importance of having big and small goals. These are the strategies I used in my classroom to help my students create concrete, attainable goals. These same steps can be applied to your child at home (best for ages 7 and up).

6 Tips for setting goals with children

goals goal-setting-sheet

1. Collaborate with your child to set goals. Try not to dictate what goals your little one should set. S/he is more likely to push towards their goals if they can take ownership of them.

2. Start with small goals. Starting out with small, easy to achieve goals, ensures that your child experiences some success early on in the goal setting process. Once they have some success, they will gain confidence in their abilities and are more likely to set more challenging goals in the future.

3. Make sure goals are age appropriate. Young kids between Kindergarten and third grade might set goals such as sharing with friends, reading a book independently, etc. Starting at around fourth grade, children might set more complex goals for themselves such as making honor roll or making a sports team.

4. Goals need to be realistic and attainable. Children need to set goals that they have the skills to achieve. For example, it would be unrealistic for a five year old to have a goal of reading a Harry Potter book independently because they have not developed the necessary skills to do so. This goal would most likely be unattainable for them despite their best efforts.

5. Make goals specific. Having broad goals can overwhelm and confuse a child. When setting goals, try to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I will do better in school,” state specifically what you will do in order to do better in school. For example, “I will complete my homework daily.”

6. Decide how you will track progress. Kids are more likely to work towards their goals when they see progress. They can track their progress by using a sticker chart, graph with tally marks, a spreadsheet, etc. Make sure they can readily see the progress they are making towards achieving their goal.


Making vision boards with children
A vision board is a visual representation of the things you want to accomplish or acquire. People create vision boards to have a constant reminder of what they are working towards. A vision board is a great tool for teaching children about goal setting. Children can use vision boards to keep them motivated and focused as they work toward their goals.


Support You May Not Know Exists for a Child With Special Needs


Raising kids is hard in general. Add a child with special needs/circumstances and life gets even harder. You have to schedule in specialists appointments, doctor’s appointments, therapy, etc. into an already overcrowded schedule. I make it sound dire and that is not my intention. But…having a child with special needs requires a different kind of schedule than a typical thriving child. Having been on this road for quite some time, I have learned that we can’t do it on our own, specialists have a vast amount of knowledge, and we need to take advantage of the resources available to us.

Sometimes finding the resources can be tricky, misleading and just plain invisible if you don’t know where to look and who to reach out to. I have composed a list of resources we have had the privilege of using for our two daughter’s who suffer from hypotonia (low muscle tone) and our youngest with severe anxiety. Feel free to include any other resouces you have found useful in the comments below.

A developmental pediatrician was our first step in getting to the bottom of the issue. She was able to pinpoint exactly what was going on with our daughter and combat a plan of action. She then referred us to BCMH


The Children with Medical Handicaps Program (BCMH) is a health care program in the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). BCMH links families of children with special health care needs to a network of quality providers and helps families obtain payment for the services their children need.

Help Me Grow

Help Me Grow is a voluntary family support program for pregnant women or new parents. Offered in every county of the state through a well-established network, Help Me Grow is an evidence-based program that promotes healthy growth and development for babies and young children. Our home visitors are well-trained professionals who use a non-judgmental and compassionate approach that empowers parents with skills, tools and confidence to nurture the healthy growth of their children.

Special Needs Resource Project Special Needs Resource Project (SNRP) provides a basic guide for parents of children with chronic health issues, disabilities and special needs. This site is designed to help you get a jump-start in your search for helpful information and resources. Every situation is unique. Our aim is to help you learn the basic skills you’ll need to obtain the specific resource information, equipment, and services your child and family needs. Though focused on children ages 0-22, most of the information we offer is applicable to adults as well.

Summer Camp Opportunities is a specialized directory dedicated exclusively to camps which serve individuals with one or more of a wide range of special needs.



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What’s Next?

“What’s next?”

I heard Annora say that throughout Christmas and I was getting a little annoyed.  I kept reminding myself that she is a little one and the excitement has been building for quite a while…just breath mom…

“Stop and enjoy the blessings you have in front of you!” I kept saying. I said it all evening Saturday and all day Sunday. I also reminded her that some kids don’t get any presents at all…to be grateful.

I woke up pretty early yesterday morning and started reflecting on the holiday season, the hustle and bustle of Christmas traffic and then…life in general. You know what I immediately thought…

“What’s next?”

I felt God reminding me to “Stop and enjoy the blessings you have in front of you Mary!” Live in the moment and stop looking so far ahead to “what’s next.”


CHEERS to living for the now! I’m going to go snuggle my little ones and not worry so much about “what’s next!”



Top 10 Ways/Ideas/Coupons to Save Money RIGHT NOW



As a stay-at-home mommy, I have to get creative with our finances. I am always looking for a deal, shopping at second-hand stores and garage sales, and looking through online coupons to get the best bang for my buck. Anyone who knows me well knows I am FRUGAL! I have the hardest time spending top price for anything and if I think it is something I could make, own second-hand or just flat out don’t “need,”  there is no way it will get purchased. For example, I was at a Christmas craft fair with my mom a year or two back. Every booth I approached (homemade soaps, hand-painted signs, knitted afghans, Christmas decor, jewelry, etc.) I couldn’t help but think…Why would I buy this when I could make this for $3? I am a pretty crafty person and I feel like all crafty people might think this way (maybe I am wrong). So…I paid $5 to get into the craft fair just to walk out empty-handed with the thoughts that I can do all crafts (BTW I do NOT knit! LOL).

My dad brought it to my attention that not all people think this way (it is a slight obsession of mine). Some people find it more difficult to search for the best deal, make their own crafts, etc. than to just buy the item. So, I am going to make it easy on you and provide a list of the top money-saving techniques I use as a stay-at-home momma. That’s right…all the deals and quirky things I do to save moola in one spot for your convenience!

1. Grocery shop at Aldi’s

I have found that I can get all of my staple foods at Aldi’s Grocery Store. They provide many different gluten-free options along with many organic options. My grocery bill went from $200 a week from shopping at Meijer, Kroger and even Wal-Mart to just $90 a week (yes I said $90!!!) give or take $10.

2. Go to second-hand stores

If your kids are anything like mine, they LOVE to play and they LOVE to play without thinking of getting messy (rightfully so on most occasions). Unfortunately in our family, we are boy heavy and don’t get many hand-me-downs for my oldest daughter so I am on my own with her wardrobe. So I am sure you can imagine my frugal self is not going to go to Baby Gap and get “play clothes.” I shop our local garage sale sites, Once Upon a Child stores and, in the summer, go to garage sales throughout the community. Then, when it is time for her to look “put together,” I go to the kids’ stores I like (Baby Gap has GREAT sales) and buy clothing on sale. If it isn’t on sale or a good deal…like practically free (LOL), I pass it by.

3. Throw Parties for Multi-Level Marketing Friends

Want that Pampered Chef cookware? that Matilda Jane clothing for your daughter? that thirty-one cooler bag? those Norwex rags?, then throw a party and get most of your items for FREE! That’s right…I work hard at getting my party filled with people who love those brands, let them “shop” for their favorite items, and get the perks for hosting a party! I have gotten $1,000 worth of free Pampered Chef, 2 Matilda Jane outfits (worth probably closer to $200), and more Norwex rags than I know what to do with…all for FREE! (I told you I was frugal)

4. Use Groupon

 I have purchased many Groupons that have gone unused so I want to share how I have adapted to make sure that no longer happens. I don’t buy a Groupon unless I am physically in the store/ restaurant at the time of purchase and I use it right then and there. rarely do I have Groupons sit unused anymore. I have been able to save our family so much money when we are out to eat at a restaurant. I will also scan Groupons available for purchase before making a decision on where to eat as a family. We go where the deal is!

5. Use Kroger gift cards and get cheap gas

If you are making a large purchase of some sort, go to Kroger and buy a Visa gift card. You have the money to purchase the item you would like to buy and you get Kroger fuel points on top of it. Anytime I want to get someone a gift card for their birthday or holiday, I get it at Kroger.

6. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children

When it comes to entertaining my little ones, I look for FREE before anything else. They are so simply entertained at this age that I cannot imagine spending gobs of money just to keep them entertained when an empty over-sized box does the trick most days. Some of our go-to’s are the Art Museum, local library (they put together many different activities throughout the month that we attend such as magic shows, toddler yoga, family story-time, craft night, puppet shows, movie night, etc.), local metro parks,  play dates are always fun, etc. The thing I realized is that my girls want my time, not a bunch of stuff, and I’ll find money in my pocket and joy in my heart doing things this way.

 7. Master the 10-second rule

Whenever you pick up an item and add it to your cart or take it to the checkout, stop for 10 seconds and ask yourself why you’re buying it and whether you actually need it or not. If you can’t find a good answer, put the item back. This keeps me from making impulse buys on a regular basis.

8. Swap babysitting with neighbors

We usually ask family to watch our girls but in an instance where they are unable to help us out, we revert to a sitter. It amazes me how much babysitters cost these days. Some sitters make $12 an hour!

So, let me get this straight…if I go on a date with my husband to dinner and a fancy show, we are gone for about 5 hours. Let’s break this down…

Babysitter arrives 15 minutes early to get the low-down on how everything works…

So her fee would be around $63

We go to dinner = $35-$40

We go to a show = $25 x 2 = $50

Our date night costs us a WHOPPING $153!!!

If we swapped date nights with friends and FREE sitting where our kids could have fun with their friends all evening we would save $63…which for me is a lot of money…like more than half of my week’s grocery bill! If we eliminate the sitter, now our evening costs us $90 and I am okay with that once in a while.

9. Always ask for fees to be waived

Any time you sign up for a service of any kind and there are sign-up fees, ask for them to be waived. Sometimes (not always), they will be–and you save money just by being forthright about not wanting to pay excessive fees.

10. Cancel the cable or satellite channels you don’t watch

Many people with cable services often are paying for a premium package that they don’t really need. For the longest time, my hubby and I were paying an arm and a leg for cable and internet which we barely watched and used. Fast-forward several years and now we have eliminated our cable bill. We have basic cable (which we rarely watch), Apple TV, and pay for Netflix and Hulu. Our savings has been HUGE since we have done this.



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The Elf on the Shelf…Yes or No? (SPOILER ALERT)



I am a sucker for art projects, holiday activities, baking and getting involved in the community for holiday events so when I had kids, it was only “OBVIOUS” that I was going to go all in with them as well…

Right before Annora was born this Elf on the Shelf idea hit the community and BLEW UP! By now you’ve likely all heard about the Elf, but just in case you’ve been in hiding or trapped in a Christmas time warp for the past few years, here’s the gist of it: Sold with a book that tells his story, the Elf sits on a shelf (and on toilets, in freezers, atop batches of freshly baked cookies… but more on that later) and keeps a watchful eye over the inhabitants of the home…AKA your children.

When everyone is alseep he flies home to the North Pole, where he reports back to Santa on whether the kids have been good or bad. Then he zips back to the house in time for everyone to find him precariously perched in some new, wildly entertaining spot the next morning.

Apart from being many families’ new favorite Christmas tradition, the Elf on the Shelf is also a multi-million dollar industry. As the Washington Post notes, “Within seven years of his birth, the Elf has scored his own Web site, Twitter account, $16 million in sales for 2011, an annual growth rate of 149 percent and a movie deal.”

Fun right? A little Christmas joy along with an easy way to keep the children behaving for about a month. What could possibly be wrong with this seemingly harmless practice? We weren’t sure we wanted to build up such a lie to our (at the time) child.

When our first-born came along and was of age for traditions to start, my husband and I needed to make a decision because we weren’t so sure having an elf in our home for 4 weeks a year was sending the right message about Christmas (I know…we are slightly over-protective). We had a list of cons such as:

1.He is naughty. 

For someone who is supposed to be encouraging kids to be good, the Elf seems to spend a lot of time making mischief. He tears apart pillow cases, writes all over bathroom mirrors, he toilet papers the Christmas tree and gets into “laundry fights,” strewing clothes all over the floor. And yet, when the children he’s watching over-step and are out of line, he doesn’t hesitate to write a note letting them know that yes, he did tell Santa about the Sharpie-on-the-leather-couch incident and no, Santa is definitely not impressed.

2. He is manipulative.

Plenty of parents have concerns about the idea of using the threat of Santa’s little tattle-taling helper to coax kids into behaving themselves. It reinforces the message to even very young children that the only reason to be good to each other is to get stuff.

Isn’t that just an extension of the tradition of jolly old St. Nick himself, though? After all, as the song goes, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Like most busy moms out there, I have nothing against a little bit of well-placed bribery. 

Those 2 objections were well talked about in our household and we weren’t sure the Elf would be welcome…but we also discussed the pros to having him around.


How fun would it be to write letters to Santa, have the elf take them at night and come back with a Santa response letter the next day?  

Or…Your elf listens to your wishes that you whisper to him/her and reports them back to Santa for you?

Or…Your child explains the Christmas story to your elf using the nativity scene and you make sure the real meaning of Christmas isn’t lost in translation.

Or…Your elf brings gifts from Santa and places them under the tree throughout the month just because he caught you being an awesome kid?

We decided that the pros outweighed the cons and “Elsa” the elf was born. She doesn’t get into mischief at all. She does, however, move around our house (but just because it is fun to watch the kids try to find her in the morning). Santa writes letters to the girls but every letter talks about the true meaning of Christmas and encourages them to “Go be like Jesus.” Elsa brings the girls gifts (PJ’s for Christmas Eve night and a book about Christmas when she arrives at our house the first time). And lastly…we don’t use our elf, Elsa, to threaten our kids. We reprimand them like we always do and leave the elf out of it…she is there to report good things to Santa.

santa-letter-4 santa-letter



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December MUST Do’s in the Toledo Area!

I’m THRILLED!!! I had a lot of people respond to my November calendar of events in the Toledo, Ohio area so I decided to give you a good snap shot of what we plan on doing the month of December and you can pick and choose what you think your family may enjoy. I have toddlers and preschoolers but I must say this list is for ANY AGE! I have also included all links to the event pages along with the Toledo Parent link (which is where I get many of my monthly ideas).

1. Toledo Zoo for the Lights Before Christmas.

If you have a membership, they allow you one free pass into the zoo for the lights (for the whole family). This is HANDS DOWN our FAVORITE holiday activity!

Check the link below for times and days they are open.

lights-before-christmas toledo-zoo-lights huge-tree



2. Bass Pro Shops to see Santa and do some holiday crafts

This is a FREE (my FAVORITE 4 letter word) activity to do with the family and there is always a lot to do there.

Check out the link below for all activities, days they are doing them and when Santa plans to be there.



3. The Bethlehem Experience at Westgate Chapel Church

This happens to be THIS WEEKEND (December 9th-10th) but is FREE and totally worth it! GET THERE EARLY!!!

The Bethlehem Experience is the largest live indoor experience of the Christmas Story in the greater Toledo area. It’s an interactive dramatization of the Christmas story where you’ll journey through Biblical accounts leading up to the birth of Christ. You experience the sights, sounds, people, animals and trades of a bustling Bethlehem Marketplace, all culminating with an awe inspiring scene of the Angel’s pronouncement to the Shepherds and the birth of the Christ child.



4. Children’s Wonderland at Tam-O-Shanter

This Toledo classic event has been around for more than 50 years. A truly beautiful look at the wonders of Christmas, it features train rides, treats, interactive kid zones, and pictures with Santa!

childrens-wonderland-2 childrens-wonderland



5. Fort Meigs Holiday Open House in Perrysburg, DECEMBER 11th ONLY

Celebrate the holidays with Fort Meigs as they provide demonstrations and answer questions about the War of 1812, all while you enjoy holiday music and refreshments.



6. A Charlie Brown Christmas performed by Ten Mile Creek Theatre Company DECEMBER 16th-18th

Join Ten Mile Creek Theatre Company as it begins a new tradition of presenting A Charlie Brown Christmas live onstage. The well-known holiday story takes its turn in the spotlight.




7. The Nutcracker at the Stranahan Theatre DECEMBER 17th-18th

The longest-running annual Nutcracker performance in the United States, this Toledo tradition is sure to stun audiences. Keeping with tradition, the character Mother Ginger will be played by a local celebrity at each performance! Tickets range from $27.50-$57.50.




8. Holiday Magic Show at the Waterville Branch Library DECEMBER 19th

Feel the magic of the season with a Toledo Public Library-sponsored magic show! Fun for the whole family and free! Just be sure to register for your seat starting December 5.



9. Noon Year’s Eve at The Toledo Zoo on DECEMBER 31st

Midnight is awfully late. Why not celebrate a little early at the Toledo Zoo’s Noon Year’s Eve? Cheer in the New Year by watching the ball rise at noon and having an apple juice toast. Ice carving, crafts, and an ice slide will also be available for a fun family outing.


My Child Has Anxiety…Now What?


As Ben and I have learned the secret that drives our sweet 2 year olds behavior, we have taken a proactive look into how we can best help her cope. Diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder just 3 short weeks ago, we have been on a whirlwind of emotions. Once the initial shock of it all had disapated a bit, I could truly focus on the issues at hand…What is severe anxiety disorder in children? How do we best help Delise overcome her anxiety? What might her anxiety look like at different stages of her life? How did this happen? With all of these questions, I turned to the professionals and sought out answers.


Anxiety is actually classified as a behavioral disorder that is often co-occurring with other conditions. It is one of the most common behavioral disorders in children and is on the rise as more demands for academic and recreational excellence are placed on our kids. There are many different anxiety disorders including: separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Anxiety can also include phobias and irrational fears of future events, objects or situations. Delise suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder which brings on her anxiety. I feel she struggles with feeling out of control so she emphasizes her feelings into compulsive actions.



An anxiety disorder is characterized by a chronic fear, nervousness, shyness, and avoidance of people or situations that interfere with how a child may function. No amount of reassurance or comforting measures can help to alleviate the child’s anxiety. Some common signs of an anxiety disorder are:

GAD – excessive worry, fatigue or inability to sleep, difficulty concentrating and irritability.

OCD – obsessions and/or compulsions, constant worry about germs, excessive concern about order, washing and rewashing hands and arranging and rearranging items in a certain order or way.

PTSD – appear nervous or jumpy, difficulty sleeping and withdrawn from friends and family.

Separation Anxiety – feelings of homesickness, crying, refusal to go to school and worry for parents while away.

Social Anxiety – fear of performance, shyness and isolation in social situations.


There may be multiple causes for an anxiety disorder. They may range from genetics, parenting, stress, an individuals personality and traumatic events.


Children with an anxiety disorder may struggle academically and/or socially in school. They may need extra support in building confidence and positive peer relationships. These learners can often be the quiet, unassuming children in class and it is important to recognize their unique needs. If the symptoms of anxiety are not addressed they may lead to or be complicated by other conditions.

Girls standing apart from others in school --- Image by © Heide Benser/Corbis


  1. Provide a way to release anxiety. This will vary from child to child but could include listening to calming sounds or taking a body break
  2. Validate the child’s feelings, take their concerns seriously
  3. Give the child a place where it is safe to fail, provide a quiet spot away from peers to manage their anxiety
  4. Be organized, give the child a visual schedule at their desk, break the school day into sections that the child can visualize and manage
  5. Give the child more time to process information, the situation and the demands that may be asked of them
  6. Remain calm and relaxed, provide a comforting presence
  7. Be consistent and have a predictable classroom routine
  8. Teach and model coping techniques, deep breathing for example (smell the flower, blow out the candle)
  9. Use a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach that allows the student some freedom in choosing their task or assignment
  10. Try not to put the child “on the spot” or call attention to their anxiety
  11. Allow the child to have an item or toy that provides comfort at school

Grandfather and Grandson Reading Bible Together

Our Family’s Actions:

Since Delise isn’t in school yet and won’t be for quite some time, we choose to focus on the now and how we can best prepare her for when school does become an issue (if we choose not to homeschool that is). Our family has a strong faith in our God almighty. He saves and provides miracles continuously. So for now, I will continue to research anxiety and how to cope as a family and how to help Delise the best to our ability but first and foremost, we will pray, dive into our Bibles as a family and ask God to take this from her or use it to bring glory to His kindgom.

Websites and resources:

Understanding Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Program from the Psychology Foundation of Canada

Teaching Kids With Anxiety

Anxiety BC

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Turnaround Anxiety