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Fall Festival Activities

As much as I LOVE summer and all that happens during the summer months, fall has a special place in my heart. I love the leaves changing, the weather getting crisp but not quite bitter and most of all, the festivals. If you haven’t made your way to any this month yet, you’re in luck because there are 2 left that are worth checking out. Unfortunately the end of the month is sooner than later so make sure to check out the following festivals:

1. Erie Orchards Harvest Festival-Saturday, September 23rd

This is a great fall weekend to visit the orchard. The apples are all ripe for picking and the corn maze is open and pony and hayrides for all.  They will have a magic show on Sunday for the children. 

http://www.erieorchards.com/?pg=events

2. Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center Fall Festival

The Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center will host its first Fall Festival on Saturday, September 30, 2017 from 10 AM to 5 PM in the parking lot in front of the Center.

This family-oriented event features:

Children’s games

Both children and adults can make a fairy garden or decorate pumpkins.

Our pumpkin patch will be stocked with both typical and exotic varieties, courtesy of Rupp Seeds.

Food with an autumnal flare will be available from our neighbors at Fowl & Fodder.

The Amazing Eli will conjure up balloon creations from 11 AM until 2 PM.

This year’s main event will be the MEGA Brain, a larger-than-life, inflatable interactive exhibit of the human brain. Visitors will have the chance to learn how the brain works from the inside out and what can happen when the brain is injured. This is a wonderful educational tool for teachers, healthcare professionals, parents, children or anyone that wants to know how the brain works.

Healthcare professionals will also be available to answer questions about brain injury and resources in our community.

We will also be offering fleece mermaid tails for sale. These one-of-a-kind items, crafted by TBI survivors, can be worn for Halloween or used to keep warm while relaxing at home as the evenings turn cooler.

Admission to the event is free. Proceeds from the event benefit the Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center and will help to support the launch of pediatric programming. The event take place under a tent, rain or shine.

https://tbirc.org/index.php/component/content/article?id=122.jpg&Itemid=

 

 

 

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How Much to Allow a Child to Dictate the Day

Who is in the driver’s seat in the house? Is it you? Your child(ren)? Sometimes balance can be tricky…especially when it comes to  a child with disabilities. Balance is one thing every parent strives to conquer and usually fails before getting it right.

As parents, we tell our children what to do. It is our job to set limits and boundaries, and teach them how to behave and be respectful. I would imagine I bark orders at my kids at least 20 times a day: “Be nice to your sister.” “Get dressed.” “Sit up.” “Chew with your mouth closed.” “Clean up your toys.” These are just a few of the everyday utterances that leave my mouth.

For the child being on the receiving end, I can imagine how this may get frustrating. Nobody likes someone telling them what to do, and just like us, children have opinions, desires, and needs.

And so the power struggle begins…

My children’s demands constantly tempt me, and I often contemplate how much say they are allowed to have: Should they get to choose what they want to wear in the morning, or do I? Should they get to pick what they want to eat for dinner, causing me to cook two or even three different meals? If they don’t want to do a planned activity, such as going to a soccer practice or friend’s house to play, do I give in to their request?

Most of the time society tells us that as parents, we are in charge and need to maintain authority within the family. But I’ve noticed an epidemic of children acting entitled and disrespectful towards their parents, teachers, and coaches. I’ve also noticed that most children don’t just automatically respect their elders; instead, elders must earn their respect, which is different than it was generations past.

So how do we earn our children’s respect? It’s simple—by respecting them. It is important that we truly listen to what our children say, and that we listen to them the same way we listen to our partners and friends. Then, we need to let our children know that we’ve heardwhat they’ve said. That might mean that we repeat it: “I hear that you want to play longer, but it’s time to go.”

Answering a child with, “Because I said so and I am your parent” certainly has a time and place. But if we don’t allow a child to question the world they live in, we may be teaching them not to be curious. When we disregard our children’s feelings, or tell them we don’t care what they think, we may be sending a message to be silent. In the moment it can be effective, but the long-term impact may be that we raise our children not to speak up when they are bullied, assaulted, or mistreated. We may be raising young adults who do not have the resources to speak out for what they believe in, because we never gave them the chance. We may be raising adults who cannot resolve a conflict because they are too frightened to speak their mind.

As parents, we must teach children to trust themselves, and to do this, we have to validate their voice. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to their every wish and demand. We all want what’s best for our children. We all try to do the best job we can. Ultimately, we will never be perfect.

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The Importance of Reading to Your Kids

You probably already know that you should read to your children, but do you know why? Here are three important reasons to not only read aloud with your child, but also to make it a shared activity:

  1. Reading exposes your child to rich language and diverse content.  Book language uses a larger vocabulary and more complex grammatical structures than the short, one-way communication we tend to use in feeding and caring for our children. Books allow us parents to expand the language environment as we become their children’s first and most important teachers.  They help us to immerse our children in rich and varied language. Books of narrative fiction spark children’s imagination as they entertain and inform them about their emotions.  Books of informational non-fiction answer questions, providing concepts and knowledge that are the cornerstones of science and math. Both types are important and all of their benefits can be realized with books in any language. Parents should feel empowered to read aloud in Spanish, Chinese, or whatever their native language.
  2. Reading with your children helps prepare their minds to succeed in school.  The benefits of shared reading know no age limits.  Babies are soothed by their parents’ voices; school children reading to parents can show their new accomplishments or seek their parents’ help. Books for toddlers can help children get ready to learn to read. I recommend books that provide nursery rhymes, songs and verse as they help children learn to appreciate the sounds within words. Children are used to listening to language for its meaning, but reading demands that they also pay attention to the sounds of language.  Hearing words in terms of syllables, consonants and vowels encourages phoneme awareness, which is the first step towards reading phonetically.  Nursery rhymes and songs leap from the page when parents remember them from their own childhood and make them a part of family life.  When said in English or Spanish, traditional nursery rhymes and songs help attune children to what the alphabet is all about.
  3. Reading with your child can enrich family ties and intimacy.  Its virtues are strongest when us parents read ‘dialogically’ by taking the book as an opportunity to enjoy a conversation.  Reading together is family time; it is fun time, cuddle time, a time to share your passions, perspective, and your values but also a time to listen. It creates a time for children to express themselves as well as an opportunity for us to show our willingness to listen. When we build a conversation around a book we encourage our children to communicate with us.

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Mom of the Year…or Not.

Stressed? You’re not alone. Apparently 70 percent of U.S. moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” And 96 percent also feel that we are far more stressed than our own mothers were.

So what’s triggering Mommy Angst, circa 2017? (How much time do you have? LOL) It’s everything from financial insecurities, a more intensive parenting style and  higher expectations for our kids’ success to a lack of support, time famine, relationship demands, and concern that the world is more perilous for kid raising.

The best news is that you can try these tricks with your kids that will make you feel like “Mom of the Year” is right around the corner, which means everyone benefits by learning to manage stress.

1. Learn your stress signs

Common stress signs include: Rising blood pressure or spiked heart rate (which can make you feel a little dizzy). Speaking louder or yelling. Irritability, more impatient or experiencing lapses in judgment.

2. Take a break

You may not be able to avoid all the stress, but you can get away for just a few minutes to feel less overwhelmed. Giving yourself permission to take a brief “stress break” is often enough to decompress or just give a new perspective. This can include:

Taking a Mommy time out: Put up a “do not disturb” sign on your bedroom door. Listen to relaxing music or plant a picture in your mind of a soothing place. Take five minutes to decompress.

Give permission to “take ten”: Let everyone in your family know it’s OK to walk away until they can get back in control. Some families create a family signal such as using an umpire “Time Out” hand gesture that means that the person needs to decompress.

3. Create solutions for your “hot” times

Stress mounts for me at predictable times, such as in the morning when everyone is dashing to get out the door or at that dinner time witching hour. Identify when you are most irritable, and find a simple way to curb the friction during that “hot” time. For instance: If mornings are stressful because your kid can’t decide (or find) what to wear: lay clothes out the night before. If your car pool is frantic because you can’t find your keys, make an extra set.

4. Learn deep breathing or meditation

How to start:

Use slow, deep breaths.Inhale slowly to a count of five, pause for two counts, and then slowly breathe out the same way, again counting to five. Repeating the sequence creates maximum relaxation. (Using bubble blowers or pinwheels helps younger kids learn to take slow deep breaths to blow “meanies” away.)

5. Exercise together (My personal FAVORITE technique)

The research is growing that exercise keeps stress at bay whether it’s walking, bike riding, swimming, playing basketball or something else. The trick is finding the type you enjoy. Best yet, find a strategy to do with your kids so everyone benefits.

Just walk: Walk alone, with your kids or find one other mom to join for a short walk each day.

Ride off the tension: There is nothing like riding bikes with your kids.

Dance stress away: A ten-minute spontaneous dance session with your kids is a great tension reliever whether the music is a nursery rhyme or Coldplay.

6. Take time to laugh

Be spontaneous: Celebrate the dog’s birthday by baking him a cake. Eat dinner in reverse. Tape a dollar bill to the garbage can (and don’t say anything about it) to see who will take out the trash. Just have fun!

7. Find a support group

The truth is we devote so much time to our families, we forget to take time for our social needs, whether it’s our significant other or our girlfriends. Relationships help reduce our stress and restore balance.

Schedule date nights: The date doesn’t have to cost anything — a walk, going to the park, watching a rented movie, or sitting in the car in your driveway with wine and cheese. It’s just time alone with your significant other.

There’s a reason flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen masks first, then on the kids. We can’t take care of our families unless we take time for ourselves, and Moms are notorious at putting ourselves on the backburner. Take time for yourself. Make sure to check your stress. After all, a happy, less-stressed mom makes happier, less-stressed kids. Always has. Always will.

What are your secrets for de-stressing?

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Sibling Rivalry

The excitement when I found out our youngest was a girl and would be the little sister to our sweet 2.5 year old daughter was just overwhelming. I was excited for them to be the best of friends like my sister and I. They would play dolls together, have sweet tea parties, run around together, etc. Life would be grand as sisters.

Then reality set in about 12 months in. Our girls are complete opposites and getting them to play together is like oil and water. NOT the vision I had in my mind the day our second was born. In fact, it has been a struggle to teach them how to get along and understand each others’ differences since pretty much day one.

I could stop trying to get them a better understanding one another and let them disagree on EVERYTHING…or I could seek the advice of others that have been in the same boat I am in now. I truly believe it takes a village.  That being said, I of course, did my research and have been implementing some key strategies throughout our day to make life and relationships a bit more “loving.”

Here are some tips I have found helpful in our household and maybe you will as well:

1. Make friends before birth. Get your older child acquainted with the new baby before birth. Show her pictures of a baby growing in mommy’s belly. Let her pat the baby beneath the bulge, talk to baby, and feel baby kick.

2. Make the older sibling feel important. Savvy visitors who themselves have survived sibling rivalry will bring along a gift for the older child when visiting the new baby. In case this doesn’t happen, keep a few small gifts in reserve for the older sib when friends lavish presents and attention on the new baby. Let her be the one to unwrap the baby gifts and test the rattles. Give your child a job in the family organization. To pull the child out of the “I want to be a baby, too” belief, play up her importance to you, personally and practically. Give her a job title, such as “mommy’s helper.”

3. Time share. What bothers children most is sharing you with the new baby. Since the concept of sharing is foreign to the child under three (as mom is their most important “possession”), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell the child on the concept of sharing mother. It sounds good to say that you’ll give your older child equal amounts of your time, but in practice that’s unrealistic and unnecessary. New babies require a lot of maintenance, and you don’t have 200 percent of yourself to give. Be creative when trying to take care of baby and give time to the older siblings all at once.

4. Stay positive. Promoting sibling harmony requires a bit of parental marketing. You may think that your older child should be thrilled to have gained a live-in friend, but children are often preoccupied with what they’ve lost. They’re not so keen on sharing their toys, their room, and most importantly, their parents with someone else. Turn this around to help the normally egocentric child to imagine, “what’s in it for me?” Use the term “special time.” (You’ll get a lot of marketing mileage out of the word “special.”) The attention your child apparently has lost from mom, he gains from dad. Arrange a lot of one-on-one outings for your older child, such as time at the park and the ice cream store, so the child realizes that even though he’s lost some time with mom, he’s gets more special time with dad, grandparents, or other caregivers.

5. Begin the day in harmony. If possible, start most days with “special time” with your toddler. Sometimes starting the day with twenty minutes of intensive care—holding time—with your toddler can ward off angry feelings in the toddler toward the new baby and is a good investment in the rest of the day.

6. Raise sensitive sibs. It’s hard to hate and hit a person you care about and who cares about you. You can nurture patterns of life-long friendship among your children by helping them find constructive ways to be sensitive to each other. Learning to live with a sib is a child’s first lesson in getting along with other children. Early in our parenting career, we realized that the parent’s role in promoting sibling harmony is as a facilitator, one who doesn’t do things directly for the children, but rather sets conditions that foster a compatible relationship between them. Your job is not to control how siblings relate, but rather to shape these relationships.

  • Sib in charge. If your children are several years apart, give the older child some supervised responsibility for the younger one. This will motivate the older brother or sister to care, and the younger sib will sense this. Even a toddler can gently hold and pat the tiny baby under supervision.
  • Sib as comforter. When one child was hurt, we would ask one of our other children to help attend to the injury. We would give our assistant a job title: “Dr. Erin, you hold Matthew’s leg while I wrap it” or “Please put the bandage on Lauren’s cut.” The “doctor” would most likely muster up compassion for the “patient.” It’s hard to hate the hand that comforts you.
  • Sib as minister. In our family, if one child was either physically or emotionally hurt, the others were encouraged to offer comfort to ease the pain. We called this practice “laying on of hands.” The sib under pressure (whether it be an upcoming test, or an emotional or physical hurt) would sit in the middle of the group while the rest of us would place a hand on him and pray for his comfort in a calming way. When our seventh child, Stephen, was born, we saw very little sibling rivalry between the rest of the children. Because Stephen was born with Down Syndrome, our children soon learned – because they were taught – that Stephen had special needs and he needed a special kind of brotherly and sisterly love.
  • Sib as teacher. Encourage your child to teach a skill he is proficient at to his sibling. For example, we got our son Matthew, an avid baseball player, to show his brother Stephen how to hit and catch a ball. And now, years later, Stephen can play ball well with typical boys his age.
  • Sibs as co-workers. Assign children tasks that require cooperation and motivate them to work together: “Matthew, would you and Erin please clean up the garage? If you two hurry, we can finish soon enough to catch an afternoon movie!” If the siblings are born with clashing personalities, the adult monitor should keep a “bossy-submissive” relationship from developing.
  • Sibs as co-sleepers. Parents in our practice have told us that children who sleep together at night usually play more peacefully together during the day. That has also been our experience.
  • Sib as entertainer. If you have a born clown, capitalize on that asset and encourage the clown to entertain the other sibling, such as the older child humoring the toddler while you get something done.

7. Set limits. Sometimes you’re too tired to play amateur psychologist and you just want to click into your police mode. Do it and don’t worry about permanently damaging your child’s psyche. Give clear messages about how you expect your kids to behave toward one another before arguments become a way of life. Offer calm verbal reminders: “That’s a put-down,” as one sib belittles the other. Or, issue a look that says “don’t even think about it!” Head off fights at the first squabble, before they get out of hand. Be watchful for aggressor- victim roles. Your job is to protect your children, even from one another. How siblings behave toward one another is their first social lesson in how to behave in a group. In our family, we have set certain “maximum allowable limits”, which are behaviors that we insist upon to like living with our children, and the children are taught to respect these.

8. Hold family meetings.

9. Humor is the best medicine. Humor disarms and catches children by surprise, so that they can see how insensitive their actions are toward one another.

10. Foster a team spirit. We often took our children with us on family trips. They soon learned that with privileges come responsibilities, so they learned how to act in a group. The home and family is the first social relationship that kids learn. They learned how people treat people and that everyone in that group has individual rights. They developed a group sensitivity, which is an important tool for life. In fact, disciplining siblings is really giving them the tools to succeed in life.

11. Promote empathy. Disciplining siblings is giving them the tools to succeed in life, and one of the most important tools that has life-long social implications is the quality of empathy. This is another way of stating the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Help your children learn how to get behind the eyes of another person and think first how their behavior is going to affect that other person. We want our children to think through what they’re about to do. A lack of empathy is the hallmark of sociopathic relationships between adult siblings.

12. Promote gender sensitivity.

13. Ignore smallies; address biggies. For smallies, such as toy squabbles, teach children to handle it themselves. Simply state the consequences and what you expect, “I’ll be back in one minute. If you kids haven’t learned how to share the toy or work it out, the toy goes in the garage.” You can either time-out the toy or time-out the kids. You’re giving them two messages: you expect them to be able to work it out themselves, but you’re giving them the unequivocal consequences that if they don’t, you will. Children expect parental guidance, as if wanting adults to protect them from being like, well, kids. Biggies are put-downs, or one child victimizing the other. In these situations, children need you to monitor put-downs. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job. By remaining silent, the victim concludes you’re siding with the victimizer. Some sibling squabbles seem to be a right of passage. Children practice on each other, especially when they’re bored. They feel, “We need some action here. Let’s stir things up.” This can lead to the older child goading the younger one, though oftentimes the younger sib becomes the pest and instigator, as if child number two has to try just a little harder.

14. Children do not have to be treated equally. While children are created equally, it’s impossible to treat them that way all the time. It took us several children to discover this fact of large family life. In their desire to prevent sibling squabbles, parents strive to do everything the same way for all their children, whether it’s buying pajamas or selecting a college. Children aren’t the same; you don’t need to behave as if they were. Make moment-by-moment decisions and don’t worry about the long-term consequences if you give one child more strokes than the other one day. Shoot for a balanced week, not a balanced day. “Why did Hayden get a new pair of shoes and I didn’t?” quibbled Erin. “Because hers were worn out and you got a new pair of shoes last month.” Yet, we didn’t let Hayden flaunt her prize in front of Erin. Children want to be treated individually, not equally.

Yet, children have an innate sense of fairness, or what they perceive as being fair. Some children are born scorekeepers. If you try to join the game, it will drive you nuts. One evening at dinner two of our score- keeping children counted the number of peas they had been served to be sure they got an equal number. After that, we let them serve themselves. If they wanted to go through this ridiculous exercise, that was their choice, but we weren’t going to join in this draining game. If a treat needs to be divided, we let one child divide the treat, while the other one gets first choice. As much as you can, try to divide chores equally among children according to their ages and capabilities, yet don’t beat yourself up trying to be 100 percent fair. You can’t be.

Remember, you are preparing your children for life, and life does not treat people fairly and equally. “Daddy, why do I have to go to bed at 9:00 o’clock when Erin gets to stay up until 10 o’clock?” “Because you need more sleep.” Children don’t seem to grumble when they sense the fairness of your decisions. Explain that children get different privileges and more responsibilities as they get older. They can look forward to growing up. Sometimes group therapy solves the equal-time drama. If we gave every child in our family equal time for a story at bedtime, we’d be reading all night. The older ones soon learn that the younger ones need more nighttime parenting to get them to sleep. If they want the same, they join the family bedtime story. Oftentimes, we would have several kids around the bed to join in the three-year-old’s story.

15. Every child is a favorite. It’s unrealistic for parents to claim they never play favorites. Some parents’ and some childrens’ personalities clash; others mesh. Some children bring out the best in their parents; others push the wrong buttons. The key is to not let your children perceive this as favoritism. Better yet, make them all feel special. If your child asks you a question, “Who do you love more – me or Matthew?” give the politically correct answer – “I love you both in special ways.” Give the comparison that love is like sunshine – sharing the sun doesn’t mean you get less, and our love shines on our children like sunshine. Mention special qualities: “You are my firstborn, and no one else can be my firstborn child” (or second, or first daughter, etc.). Don’t fall into the “who’s best” trap. Children don’t expect you to say who’s better, they are only fishing for reassurance about how you feel about them.

16. Minimize comparisons. This is also the basis for feelings of inferiority, which encourages undesirable behavior among siblings. Praise your child for accomplishments in relation to herself and not in comparison to a sibling. Each child can feel she is special in the eyes of her parents. Children are constantly being compared. Most of their life they will be rated on their performance: grades in school, the batting order on the baseball team, races and games among themselves. The home is the only organization left that values a child for himself and not in comparison with others. So, avoid comments like, “Why can’t you make good grades like your brother?”

17. Referee quarrels. When to step in as a referee and when to remain a bystander is a round-by-round judgment call. Sometimes letting children be children or giving them reminders is all that is necessary. Martha’s immediate fight-stopper is “You’re disturbing my peace.” This works because we have already planted the idea that in crowds (our family qualifies as a crowd) one respects the peace of others. If children are in danger of hurting someone or damaging property, stop the fight. Siblings who are allowed to fight as kids are more likely to fight as adults. Above all, stop sibling abuse – either physical or emotional.

18. When in doubt, intervene. You may hear, “Oh, they’ll just grow out of it!” Both experience and research has shown that without parental guidance, siblings with bad relationships are likely to grow into adults with bad relationships. The more they are allowed to fight as kids, the more likely they are to fight as adults. Being complacent and concluding that the childhood relationship will naturally grow from sour to sweet is being naïve. It doesn’t. The relationship is likely to get more sour when children grow up being deprived of the brotherly and sisterly love that is the birthright of being a brother or sister.

19. Listen to both sides. Children will be both buddies and battlers. We not only need to protect growing bodies from physical abuse, which siblings usually grow out of with few or no lasting scars, but more importantly we need to protect their absorbing minds against emotional abuse —which is more likely to have life-long consequences. Sibling abuse is not to be tolerated. If danger is apparent, remember safety first and psychology second. First, separate the fighters; then instead of being drawn into the shouting match, calm everyone down and put on your home psychology hat on top of your authority hat.

Also, if you sense one child is victimizing another, call a halt. Verbal abuse qualifies as fighting. Be particularly vigilant to prevent emotional scars, which take longer to heal than the physical ones. Show them alternatives ways of handling differences, a valuable lesson for life. Listen to both sides, “He hit me,” “No, he hit me first!” “I hate you!” “I hate you more!” Give your children time and space to vent their anger and frustration before beginning your “therapy.”

Kids are so caught up in their own emotions that they don’t hear what you’re saying. Show you understand both children’s viewpoints and help them hear each other by echoing their feelings, “Bob, you feel like Jim wronged you, and Jim, you feel that Bob is being unfair… This sounds like something both of you can work out. You’re big boys, and I expect you to come out of this bedroom as friends.” At the height of sibling bickering, our children would occasionally remark that we had too many kids. We silenced their complaints with: “Which one of you shouldn’t we have had?”

20. Siblings are forever. As parents of many children we wear many hats – teacher, referee, coach, psychologist, and field-general. Yet, we wear our communications hat to help our children be life-long friends. Sometime during middle childhood (ages 6 through 10), impress upon your children what “brother” or “sister” really means. Children sense that “blood is thicker than water.” Brothers and sisters are a sort of live-in support system. Here’s the message we give our children: “Your brothers and sisters will ultimately be your best friends. Once your other friends have moved or drifted away, your family friends will always be there when you need them. Friends come and go; siblings are forever.”

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Preparing You…or Your Child for School ;)

Oh the day is coming and I am DREADing dropping off my sweet, innocent little girl to school for kindergarten. I’m sure I am not the only parent out there who is feeling the heavy stomach and realizing the day is coming faster than I can blink! 3 weeks…that is it! My baby will be leaving my care that she has gotten for the last 5.5 years of her life and someone else besides myself will be teaching her…YIKES! Having previously taught kindergarten for 4 years, I know all too well the first day jitters parents show…and now I will be on the other side of the door with those same jitters I witnessed other parents express just 7 short years ago.

So how does one mentally prepare for such a “drop off?” I want to express what I have done to prepare myself and my daughter for the day she will walk into the care of someone else and learn by the teachings of another woman. (I am sure you can sense how difficult this is for me…it is my first baby and I can’t imagine my days without her next year).

Here are some tips I took from other mommy friends who have experienced the same emotions stirring in me.

  1. I wrote her a letter ( and will do this every year she is in school)…and it goes something like this:

    Dear Annora:

    In just 27 short days, you start kindergarten. It feels like your dad and I have been counting down to this moment since you were born: “Can you believe in three years she’ll go to school?” “Next year at this time she’ll be in school.” “Only two more months until school.” But now, in time that’s felt less like a marathon and more like a 50-yard sprint, we’re buying markers and pencils, a Moana thermos and colored folders.

    As with every other step along this parenting journey, friends, family, even strangers have offered opinions on how I’ll feel when I drop you off at school that first day. I haven’t a clue but I do know that when the door closes and I get that last glimpse of you for seven hours (and even shorter on your 1/2 days), you’ll crowd my thoughts: what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, if you’re ok, if you’re eating your lunch and using your manners, if you miss me and your sister(s) and your dad.

    Being a parent has been beautiful, interesting, frightening, rewarding, and frustrating, sometimes all at once. You have been such a blessing from God to Daddy and I and we are so proud of you. You have always had an infectious personality that brings the biggest of strangers into a “family” circle around you. You have a way of making people love you from the moment they lay eyes on you and your heart is bigger than you even know. You have a beautiful spirit and I have learned so much from you. You have taught me patience, kindness, compassion, a love for bugs (sort of), and have given me a child’s perspective on faith that I could never repay you for. I am a better person, mother, friend and wife-all because God decided I was the best mommy for the job. I am one blessed momma…and I hope you know how much you hold my heart.

    Like so many parents of our generation, we tried to give you the “must-haves” the experts insisted on: Breastfeeding: Check. Lots of books: Check. Minimal TV: Check. Early preschool: Check. [Mostly] Healthy meals: Check. Your whole life, you’ve had options and choices, a fortunate distinction from most of the rest of the world.

    While I have given you advantages and can buy those school supplies and pack your lunch, you’ll have to go it alone. That’s why as the days draw nearer to the start of school, you test the waters, asking questions, imitating imagined conversations, thinking aloud what this strange new world will be like. You’ve always been one to jump in with two feet and conquer the world with the biggest smile on your face. You have never limited your thinking and you dream BIG! It’s a trait you and I share; while it comes with some limitations, it also has its advantages. I tell people that your younger sister — the one who always sports a bruise or a cut — will be cliff diving, while you’ll be checking the ropes for her.

    Once I expressed my own hesitations about school to a teacher acquaintance. Her advice stuck with me: The hardest part of releasing you to elementary school — or any new experience — is realizing that I must give you up to the less-than-perfect world that awaits you.

    While the world has been and always will be imperfect, I too have been an imperfect parent. But I was always willing to learn, to say I was sorry, to try harder the next time. And now I’m willing to release you, with the knowledge that school, like parenting, will be rewarding and frustrating and I cannot change that. Despite all those fortunes of your early life, you will have sad days and lonely days and days when you just don’t want to go, when your teacher doesn’t notice you or your best friend won’t play with you or another kid is mean to you.

    If there are a few thoughts that carry you through, let them be this: While your dad and I have to let you go, no matter what you think or do or become we will always be there for you and listen. Dive off that cliff occasionally (check the rope first) and know that in our imperfect world, with all my imperfect ways, I have been given you and your sister, the two most perfect gifts one could hope for.

    Love,

    Momma

  2. Think about how you want to be involved.

    There will be lots of opportunities to volunteer your time. Parents recommend evaluating your options rather than signing up for the first one. Think about how you like to spend your time: Do you want to be in the classroom? Work with the teacher? Do you want to be on a committee, or lead the committee? Talk to other parents and figure out the best way to help out. And remember, the amount of time you volunteer isn’t a reflection of how much you love your kid.

  3. Get ready to learn new things about your own kid.

    Many parents report transformational growth in their children during kindergarten. After spending 5+ years with this little person, you may know them better than you know yourself. That starts to change in kindergarten. Feedback from teachers may sound like they’re talking about a stranger. “He is the first to start cleaning up? Really?” Get ready to learn new things about your kid as he starts to figure out who he wants to be.

  4. Get ready for life to hit fast-forward.

    We’ve all heard it before: “the days are long, but the years are short.” Parents tell us life goes into hyperdrive once children start kindergarten. One moment it’s the first day of school, the next it’s winter break, the next they are driving a car. Be sure to remember to hit pause and allow yourself to experience and remember the first year of school.

  5. And finally, just when you thought you couldn’t love your kid any more, you realize you actually can.

    A mom shared this sweet story: On the last day of preschool, a few weeks before the first day of kindergarten, her daughter gave her one of those arms around the neck/legs around the waist hugs. The kind where even if you don’t hold on, the kid still doesn’t fall off your body. She eventually let go, jumped onto the ground, and asked, “Did you know I was going to land on my feet?” And the mom did. In more ways than one.

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10 Ways You Can Create Lasting Memories With Your Kids Without Breaking the Bank

I get so busy doing dishes, running the sweeper, keeping up with my online business, running errands, cooking, etc. that sometimes I fail to STOP and PLAY! Play with my kids, appreciate the stage in life they are currently at and just enjoy…just…enjoy…life!

I have started to make it a point to relax and soak in my kids a bit more. Am I busy, YES…is it hard, YES…is it wirth it…YUP! Here is a list of some things I have done to create some lasting memories with my family and some things I plan on doing in the near future…some ideas on how I was, am, and will be able to STOP and PLAY a bit more.

  1. Do a science experiment together  https://sciencebob.com/category/experiments/
  2. Tuck away electronics and play
  3. Escape into the world of your child. Become the princess or dinosaur and tromp around the house acting silly.
  4. Be silly. Have those dance parties, put make-up on each other, etc.
  5. Go splash in rain puddles with your kids…it is EXTREMELY fun!
  6. Conduct Family Interviews. Members of your family’s older generations, like grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles, have many fascinating stories of growing up in different eras. Have your kids ask them what life was like in yesteryear and use a tape, digital, or video recorder to capture their tales, voices, and expressions.

  7. Designate a Family “Holiday.” Surprise family members with “holidays” tailored to each personality. Just like birthdays and conventional holidays, pack these days with unique traditions (like a poem written in someone’s honor) and special foods, etc.

  8. Plant a Family Garden. Encourage everyone to get their hands dirty by digging a patch to plant flowers or vegetables in the backyard.

  9. Cook (and eat) a family meal together…from start to finish.
  10. Take a family nature walk.

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Finding Out Our Child Wasn’t “Normal”

I was just getting home from a work trip and my husband says to me…

“Now don’t get too alarmed…I am sure it isn’t anything BUT…our daughter seems to be experiencing some sort of strange head jerks that she can’t control.”

Of course I flipped out and then quickly witnessed it for myself. It appeared to be a seizure to the untrained eye and with that, we rushed her to the hospital. They hooked her up to every machine, put an IV in her tiny little vein and the process began. She was just 8 months old and as new parents, we were not ready for this…like AT ALL.

With tears lumped in my throat, I held back my sobs and prayed our little baby girl was going to be ok. My mother’s intuition told me different so suppressing that feeling was mandatory at the time just to get by.

I will NEVER forget that feeling of helplessness and fear. I remember where we were standing, what she was wearing, words that were spoken, etc…It is hard to believe it was 5 years ago.

What we found out from the tests,  PET Scan, PH tests, pokes and prods is that Annora had something called Sandifer Syndrome…AKA…a very severe case of GERD. This was a GREAT outcome compared to what they had been screening her for and we were relieved. With some medication, her symptoms would subside and she would be just fine. Through this screening and testing process though, we found out some other interesting news about Annora. She not only suffered from Sandifer Syndrome, but she had something called “hypotonia.” Hypotonia is a technical term for low muscle tone. Hypotonia was something she would not grow out of, it was something she would have for life. Our daughter was “different” from the “normal” child…OUCH! Wrapping your mind around that is tricky and takes time to digest.

That news stung because we knew she had a long road ahead of her and we were NOT prepared to best help her with the tools we currently had. We needed assistance, help and support. We turned to our developmental pediatrician who recommended Help Me Grow http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/aboutus/Finding%20Help%20Me%20Grow/LucasCounty.aspx.

After some research into it, my husband and I decided to investigate further and found that the gobs of support they offer was just what we needed to help Annora be successful. The fear and stress of feeling alone went away immediately and we were able to process what she needed most with the help and support they offered (such as play groups, OT/PT one-on-one assistance, financial help, etc.).

Getting the help we needed for our child was stressful and hard because we didn’t have the necessary tools. I remember the feeling all too well when we found out the news our child wasn’t “normal” even though in a very slight way compared to what other children suffer from. It hurts, stings, and produces a helpless feeling. Knowing the resources available can cure those feelings and get your child on the road to success quickly.

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Bursting with Flavor: Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to dust off the grill and gather together with family and friends to thank the Lord for our many blessings as we remember the heroic men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy!

What better way to celebrate than with a super quick-n-easy meal that allows us more time with our family and less time in the kitchen! Firing up the grill is definitely one of the easiest ways to get a healthy meal on the table in just minutes!

Another plus is that grilling results in less mess and less dishes. And of course, you just can’t beat the savory flavor of grilled meats, which is why it’s one of my favorite cooking methods.

This super easy Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe is my new go-to favorite. I love that I can make the marinade ahead of time, which means even faster turn-around time on busy weeknights! I also throw some veggies on the grill at the same time for a simple side dish that complements the chicken perfectly and adds a boost of nutrition!

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious and healthy. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create quick-n-easy dishes just bursting with flavor! And remember you can always save even more time by grilling extra chicken that you can use to create other healthy weeknight meals.

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 Tbsp lime zest (about 2 limes)
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

1. Place chicken thighs in a 9×9-inch baking dish; set aside.
2. Place remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor in the order given. Cover and process on low until fine chopped and blended.
3. Transfer 1/2 cup of the cilantro-lime marinade to a small bowl. Evenly distribute the remaining marinade over the chicken, making sure to well coat.
4. Cover chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Then remove from fridge and pre-heat grill to medium-high heat.
5. Grill chicken about 3-4 minutes, until the edges become opaque. Then flip the chicken over and brush with reserved marinade. Reduce heat to medium and cover grill. Continue cooking until chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

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How to Become a Stay-At-Home Mommy on a Budget

One of the questions I get asked is “how do you afford to be a stay at home mom?” I never know exactly what to say because honestly, we don’t have an abundance of money just floating around. Staying home has meant that we don’t eat out very often, we give a lot of thought to what we purchase, and although we live a frugal life, we live a happy life.

Let’s be honest, affording to stay at home is not easy. It’s not something that was just magically bestowed on us although we do KNOW it’s a blessing. However, living on one income brings a new set of challenges and sacrifices.

My husband and I have always tried to be “smart spenders” and careful with our money even before having children so that definitely gave us an advantage once we had kids and more expenses. I continued working after my first daughter was born until she was about 18 months old. I then  transitioned to a stay at home mama. I always wanted to be a SAHM but didn’t think we could afford it.

So how do I afford to be a stay at home mom?!

Here are a few ways we save money so I can afford to be a stay at home mom. I think most people want to save money but often times it seems time-consuming and overwhelming to keep track of expenses and stick to a budget. I know as a busy mama, it’s not always easy to keep up with coupons or tracking every dollar in and out of the checking account. I actually need improvement on setting a budget but these are few easy ways that just keep us living within our means.

1. GROCERY SHOP SMARTLY & COOK MEALS AT HOME

With a house full of girls and daddy, our grocery bill is growing on a weekly basis. I try my best to plan out weekly groceries, even if it’s just a note I keep on my phone. While the grocery bill might increase, I’ve noticed that when I cook more at home, our monthly food bills are significantly lower than when we get take-out.

I do most of the shopping with the girls so it’s pretty common that I forget things since I’m always distracted in the stores with them. But, I’m going to try a new way of organizing separate lists for the 3 stores we mainly shop at. It frustrates me so much to go to a store one day and realize I need to go back in the same week!

I try to get most of our groceries at Aldi which really helps save on our grocery bill. It’s not always the most convenient place to shop when I have the girls since I have to bag the groceries but it is the cheapest!

2. BUY IN BULK

A huge money saver is buying in bulk! We love to buy household supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels, diapers, and non-perishable food items in bulk every month. It’s a time and money saver and everyone is happy that we’re usually well stocked on all of our favorite snacks. I love that having a bulk supply of household goods means that I’m not making random trips to the store to pick up one or two things.

3. FOCUS ON ESSENTIALS

Of course, essentials are different in every family. We’re pretty good about distinguishing between our needs vs wants. We definitely splurge on the “wants” but that’s only if our budget allows it. So what do I mean? Well, we don’t have cable – seems like a staple in many households. We know it would be cool to have but we can’t afford all the “cool” things so we don’t. We have AppleTV and that’s our splurge.

I don’t often shop for new clothes for myself or the girls. When I do shop, I look for sales, shop end of season sales for the next season, and my youngest mostly wears big sister’s hand me downs.

Taking it a step further considering essentials we decided not to send my oldest to preschool this year. Instead, I home-schooled her to prepare her for kindergarten. Many families in this area, start children in preschool or a formal daycare setting pretty early so I felt a bit of pressure. But, the reality is that preschool is another expense. I was a teacher before staying home so we decided not to try and scrounge up the money for preschool and I incorporate learning time into our days.

Oh and treats like pedicures, manicures, and fancy coffees — well, those are treats for special occasions. It’s not to say that I won’t ever treat myself but I just think of how we could use that money instead so I enjoy my cup of coffee at home and paint my nails myself.

4. ENTERTAINMENT

We knew for this lifestyle to work we had to choose entertainment options carefully. 

The girls LOVE to get out of the house and enjoy activities but we mostly find activities that are free. We love exploring museums, libraries, parks, playgrounds, or inside playgrounds at Chick-Fil-A. Also, when we go places, we pack our own snacks and drinks. We make impromptu picnics just a part of the fun.

Another tip is to plan ahead and search for coupons. We wanted to take the girls to Disney World and when my hubby and I were searching for deals, we saw that Bass Pro offered a deal we couldn’t pass up. After much consideration, we took the plunge and were able to enjoy Disney for a fraction of the cost. I check for coupons for places like Chuck E Cheese and often we get more tokens for our money. Groupon has also been helpful for our family when dining out.

5. EARN MONEY AT HOME

There are many ways mamas try to earn money while staying home. I know finding the time and life balance can still be kinda tricky. But, I have many mama friends who supplement their income in various ways. I personally started health and fitness coaching with Beachbody when I transitioned to a stay-at-home mom. I loved having an outlet and something new to learn and challenge myself with.

I know there are no quick and easy solutions for a family to afford to live on one income. We have made sacrifices and sometimes I have a little worry about putting my career on hold and what that means for my professional future but I don’t have any regrets. I wish every mom who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom could be home. I remember the emotional stress I felt when I had to work every day when I had my first daughter. I enjoyed working but my heart just wanted to be home with her. I know I don’t have all the answers but I hope this gives some insight into how we make this life work!