Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hang On and Enjoy the Ride

Guest Post by: Beth C.

Being a parent is the most rewarding yet most challenging thing in life.  There isn't a book that tells you how to raise children, so you have to live and learn, hoping that by the time they are 18 they can make wise decisions on their own.  My husband and I have three children, twin 1 year olds and a 2 ½  year old.  Needless to say, with two full time working parents and three kids under the age of three, we stay very busy! 

I would have to say that my biggest struggle is being a working mom.  Balancing family life and work life can be very difficult.  My weekdays start at 5:30AM, which is a struggle in itself, and ends around 10:30PM.  I usually get home from work around 5:00pm and fix dinner, feed kids, bathe kids and put kids to bed by 8:30PM.  I then clean up from dinner and start laundry.  With five people in our house, laundry is a daily task.  Around 9:30PM, I will usually sit down and watch tv with my husband and try to catch up on our day.  I am very blessed with a wonderful husband who helps out around the house and makes time to play with our children.

We are experiencing the terrible two’s right now and potty training.  Let me say that it is just not right for these two things to happen at the same time.  I am still learning what correction methods work with my son and which ones don’t.  I have a very strong willed/stubborn 2 year old, so the disciplines that work for him, probably won’t work with my 1 year old who is laid back and easy going.  I must be doing something right though because when my 2 year old has to sit in timeout, he always comes and gives me a hug when he gets out.  As for potty training, this has been a huge challenge for us.  I think I have tried every bribery tactic there is out there.  I have finally accepted that my child will use the potty when he is ready.  As frustrating as that is to hear from other people, I believe it to be the truth.  However, when my child went to the potty for the first time and had success, it gave me such great joy.  I was so proud of his accomplishment!  Yes, that’s right, I am one proud mommy that my kid went pee pee in the potty!  Take pride in the little things!

I would be lying if I said I wasn't exhausted 90% of the time with this crazy life I live, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I love being a mom.   I love when my son gets mad and crinkles his nose when he says “NO!”  I love that my kids and I have a dance party every night in our kitchen.  I love cuddling with them.  I love singing to my kids.  I love hearing them say “momma/mommy”.  I love that my kids are so close in age.  I often times get told “Bless your heart” or “You have your hands full”, when people hear that my kids are 17 months apart.  I usually respond with “Yes, I am blessed!” 

Having young children so close together can be challenging, but the love and memories I make with my children are totally worth it.  Life with small children is a constant roller coaster, so hang on and enjoy the ride!  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

15 Family Goals in 2015

 By: Angie @ Kids Matter

As the new year is underway many people have already broken their New Year Resolutions. Instead of resolutions like lose weight, get in shape, etc., I have put together a list of 15 Family Goals in 2015. These 15 things are things that I already try to do, but sometimes I need a reminder.

1) Patience - Kids do not have the same sense of urgency that adults have. Occasionally stop saying "hurry" and slow your pace down to match your child. Children see the world through different eyes and it can be refreshing to our weary adult eyes!

2) Laugh - You are busy. Your schedule is jam packed and some days you feel like you have to schedule time to breathe. We understand, because we are busy too! During this busy time, take time out to laugh and the rest will be easier.

3) Be silly - Some days you have to be serious, but other days you need to take time to be silly. Wear a funny hat, do a funny dance, make up a funny rhyme, but show your kids that it is okay to be silly.

4) Read a book with your kids - Even better, find a series to read together. Even "big kids" like to share special moments like this with a parent.

5) Read a book alone - Want to raise readers? Let your kids see you reading and how important that is to you. Be the example that your kids are looking for!

6) Watch the clouds - Lay on your back, on the ground, with your kids and pick out shapes in the clouds. Kids seem to be very scheduled today and you need to show them that they need to relax too.

7) Watch a meteor shower- Take a look at The American Meteor Shower Website and pick a great night to lay in the yard and be amazed at a meteor shower.

8) Be kind - Empathy is an asset to everyone! Take the kids and let them see you volunteer or to assist someone. Kids learn by example and kind people are always needed in the world.

9) Be understanding - Sometimes we all mess up! If your child spills something or has an accident, remember that it was an accident! Help clean up and move on!

 10) Cook together - Kids love to get in the kitchen and explore. Not only do you get the time with your kids, but you are teaching them a valuable life skill.

11) Game On! - If you want your child to be gracious in victory and in defeat, you must teach them this skill. That means occasionally challenge them to a game.

12) Say Yes - You have adult responsibilities that have to be done, but sometimes you just have to tell the kids YES when they ask you to do something. Whether it is go to the park, eat ice cream before dinner or just to build a fort in the living room, say yes once in a while!

13) Get outside - Don't spend all of your time inside. Get outside with the kids and teach them to get their hands dirty. Grow something, collect rocks, take pictures of bugs, whatever you want! Just do it outside.

14) Teach history - Show your kids where you grew up and where you went to school. Take them on a short tour and show them your history because your history is also their history.

15) Bring back on oldie but goody - Was there something you did as a kid that you remember fondly? Teach your kids how to do it. Whether it is a solar s'mores oven, painting your summer tennis shoes or making friendship bracelets, teach your kids something from your childhood.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Modern Baby Book

By: Angie @ Kids Matter

I have a friend that is an amazing single mother. I am not sure how she does it. She works all day, she cares for her toddler, she cooks, she cleans, she makes time for friends and family, but most importantly, she makes time for her daughter. Real one on one time that is spent just talking, learning and sharing with her daughter.

When her daughter was born, a regular old baby book just wasn't good enough for her. She had to take an extra step and make it meaningful. She set up an email address for her daughter and she gave it out to all of her family and her close friends. As her daughter grows, her friends and family send her periodic emails. They include dreams for her daughter, funny things she said or did, pictures of her, birthday wishes, holiday wishes and just general thoughts. I think this is an amazing idea! My friend has not read any of the emails to her daughter yet. She was initially going to wait until her daughter turned 18, but since her friends and family send so frequently, she may start when her daughter is a tween.

I believe this will be a truly memorable way for her daughter to cherish her childhood. What have you done to commemorate the childhood of your children? We would love to hear about the mementos that you cherish for your kids.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top 3 Precautions For Winter Road Trips

By: Angie @ Kids Matter

As we prepare to make trips to see family for the holidays, or we just get out on the roads to go on every day errands, there are some things to keep in mind. The safety of you and your child is of the utmost importance and in order to be safe you have to take a few precautions. 

1) A safety kit. Be sure you have a safety kit in your car including a minimum of the following things: 
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hat and gloves for each family member
  • An appropriate winter coat
  • Emergency blankets
  • Kitty litter or sand to help you get a vehicle unstuck
  • A charged cell phone
  • Water
  • Snacks with protein
  • Flashlight with working batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper and brush
2) Activities to distract kids. You do not want to try and entertain your kids while driving on roads that could be slick from snow, ice or freezing rain. Bring a few things along to occupy the kids:
  • Coloring Books
  • Crayons (Altoid tins are perfect to carry a few crayons in)
  • Books
  • Blank paper
  • Car Bingo printable games 
  • Small toys
  • Small electronics, if they will not be distracting to you
  • Travel size games
 3) Driving in winter weather. Before you go for a long drive, try out these procedures in an empty parking lot. The more sure you feel, the safer you will be.
  • Steer into a skid
  • Know your brakes: Stomp on anti-lock brakes, pump on non anti-lock brakes
  • Always wear your seat belt and be sure your passengers are also buckled in.
  • The safest spot for kids 12 and under is in the back seat.
  • Rain, Ice or Snow? Take it slow - reduce your speed and increase your distance between vehicles
  • Do not drive when you are overly tired
  • Alcohol and drugs never mix with driving, regardless of the weather. If you plan to drink, please be sure you have a designated driver.
Be safe on the roads, for the sake of your family and others.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

10 Parenting Mistakes That We Have All Made

 By: Angie @ Kids Matter

When you are about to become a parent, you see the world through a complete fog of happiness. You dream of being the perfect parent and how amazing your children will be.

Once the baby gets in the house, you live in a sleep deprived fog ranging from "look at how amazing and beautiful my baby is" to "Honey, it's your turn, I got up the last time!!"

As you start your parenting trek with a small baby, it can be hard to picture the choices you make in parenting that will make a life long influence. You just feed the baby, change the baby's diapers and snuggle up to smell that baby smell. As that baby grows though, you will make many decisions every single day that will influence the way your child interacts with the world. The best advice that I ever received was from my Granny. She told me "Raise that baby so that EVERYONE can love him, not just you and your husband". My Granny was very wise! She knew that if I spoiled my child, other people would just tolerate him, not love him for all of the wonderful things he has to offer the world.

Without further ado, here is a list of parenting mistakes that every parent (including me) makes at least once, but you have to be willing to change your ways!

Mistake #10: Already have a vision of what our child will be like. Each person is unique. Just because a parent or a sibling is never shy, does not mean another child will not be shy. You cannot go into parenting with a preconceived notion of what your child will be like. They say that no one ever really changes, but I think that is untrue. I am very different as a "40ish" Mom than I was as a "20ish" fun loving girl and that is because my parents cared enough to let me grow up. Let your child be the person that they will be. It is your role to accept and love this person, not to change her.

Mistake #9: Always trying to be your child's BFF. This is a biggie. Some days it can be hard to be the adult, but we still must complete that task. If I was just my kid's friend, homework would never get completed, he would probably start ditching school in kindergarten and he would never have the chance to blossom into the wonderful person that I know he will be. We all want our kids to love us and to sing our praises from the highest mountains, but if I do my job correctly there will be days that he loathes me, rolls his eyes at me and prays that he was switched at birth and his real parents will rescue him any day. If you need approval so desperately, seek it elsewhere. You have to make tough decisions to raise a child and trying to be the BFF will always affect your decisions.

Mistake #8: Judging other parents and kids. We have all been there. You are in the grocery and there is a parent walking through the store with a screaming child and the parent does NOTHING! You think to yourself, what is wrong with her? Why can't she control her kid? If that was my kid, he would NOT act like that.  Really? Your kid has never cried in public? You always have your kids under control all the time? Kids are vocal and they cannot always figure out how to process emotions. Does that mean we let our kids act like hooligans in public? No, we just do the best we can and we understand that other parents are doing their best too. Back to that screaming kid in the grocery: Maybe the Mom is in a daze because she is a single parent and was just terminated from her job? Maybe the child just lost someone close to him and he is traumatized? There are any number of things that could be going on. If you do not know the journey that family is on, cut them a break and maybe some day other parents will cut you a break too.

Mistake #7: Reliving YOUR youth through your child. You had your chance! Now you need to sit back and let your child make her choices. We have all seen the parents that think they have the next World Class Ballerina, NBA Pro, MLB All-Star, etc. Just because they have a little talent does not mean they need to be pushed to be a champion every single second, of every single day. Let your kid enjoy the HOBBY they choose. If you are always screaming at them to be better, to work harder, to just try; do you think they are having fun? Allow kids to have fun and enjoy themselves, there will be plenty of competition in life, let them savor childhood.

Mistake #6: Never let them make mistakes. People learn from the mistakes they make. If you always tell your child how to do something correctly and then ensure it is correct, they have learned nothing. If your young daughter whines about doing homework every single day and then tells you that she didn't have any homework today, choose to let her learn. The next day, she will be the one facing her teacher and admitting that she neglected to do her homework. After that embarrassment, maybe the tune will be different at home when it comes time to do homework. I am not saying, let her fail a grade by never doing her work, but at some point kids have to learn cause and effect.

Mistake #5: Practice what I preach, not what I do. Parents have tried this for eons and it still doesn't work. Kids see everything and you have to practice what you preach. If you always tell them to share their things with others and then they see you hoarding the chocolate chip cookies to be eaten after they go to bed, they will not believe in sharing. If you tell them to always be kind to people less fortunate than you and then they see you lie to get out of some charity event, they no longer feel the need to be kind. If you make them eat all of their vegetables, you better eat yours too.

Mistake #4: Always being in a hurry. There are times to be in a rush to get someplace, but you have to slow down sometimes and let your kids be kids. Adults today are wired to be in a hurry, kids are wired to meander. An adult goes straight from point A to point B, without interruptions. A child starts at Point A and wanders through most of the alphabet before he finally arrives at Point B. Take time to savor the explorations of your child. Take time to enjoy the awe and wonder of the world through the eyes of your child. Whatever age your child is this very second, is the only time he will ever be this age! Take time to enjoy it!

Mistake #3: Not understanding the developmental stage of our kids. I have seen parents that are distraught that their kid seems to be behind physically. The child has an advanced vocabulary so they expect her to be advanced everywhere. That is not how it works. Each area of each child develops on its own time frame. As a parent of a child with a disability, I can assure you that kids cannot do everything. In my house we have a burst in physical improvement and then we have a burst in vocabulary improvement. He cannot put all of his efforts into all things at once. Accepting that was the best thing I did for may parenting skills. Having said that, only my son can decide which  skill (physical or speech) he will focus on for now. I am just along for the ride and encouraging him all the way.

Mistake #2: Always believing that your child is perfect and not at fault. It can be so difficult to hear anything negative about our child. We tend to see the intent, instead of the action. We also think that our child has friends that are a bad influence, the teacher is terrible or hates our kid, the other parents are jealous, etc. Sometimes you have to put the ego aside and realize that there could be times that your kid may be the instigator and not the victim. If your child fails a test, maybe he didn't study. If a parent calls and says that her son came home sobbing because your child was bullying him, you have an obligation to look at the situation without your ego and with clear eyes.

Mistake #1: Making empty threats. This can be one of the hardest things in parenting. Your kid will not pick up the toys all over the floor and so in a moment of anger you declare. "If you do not pick up these toys, I am taking away every single one of your toys!" He still doesn't pick up the toys and you just made a threat with several layers to it: 1) Now you have to pick up the toys. 2) Now you have to gather up all of her toys. 3) Where are you going to put all of these toys if she can't play with them? 4) You will have to listen to her whine all day and night for every single day that she has no toys.
If you make a threat, you have to follow through with the consequences. Kids will learn at a very young age when you are bluffing and they will then call you out every single time. Do not make big threats and the ones you make, you have to be willing to follow through with them or you will lose your household to anarchy!

Parenting is not the easiest job in the world, but it can be the most rewarding! Give it your all, try to avoid the big mistakes and you and the kids will come out better on the other side!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Family New Year Celebration


By: Angie @ Kids Matter

Once you have kids, your life is full of big decisions. Just one of those decisions is what are we going to do on New Year's Eve now? For many, the nights of going out to clubs and drinking lots of champagne are over. They choose a quieter evening at home with the kids. Just because you aren't getting all dressed up and going out to party, doesn't mean the night has to be a drag. You can still have fun, it's just a fun that the kids can participate in too!

Eat traditional New Year's foods with the kids. Some traditional foods and the beliefs associated with them:
  • Greens - eat your greens as they represent spendable greens of another type
  • Black eyed peas - This is a Southern thing, representing humility and invites good fortune. I believe in other regions, they choose a different type or bean.
  • Noodles - signify long life and you get bonus points if you eat the noodles without breaking them.
  • Rice - signifies abundance
  • Grapes - eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the new year. If a grape tastes bitter, watch out for that month next year.
  • Pomegranates -  with its many seeds representing prosperity.
  • Pork - pigs are considered lucky animals as they root forward and they are rotund/abundant
  • Fish - the scales represent money and when a fish swims in a school it represents abundance.
  •  Circular foods - like a cake or cookie represents coming full circle

Kid friendly activities:
  • Count down bags - get 12 paper lunch type bags and draw a clock face on the front of each bag. Each time that is reached, the child opens the bag to find small trinkets, noise makers, hats, candy and/or games to play. You can do this for each hour up to midnight if your child can stay up. Mine never makes it past 10:00pm, so we start at 10:00am opening bags.
  • Fill out the same printable form each year, covering the basics of the past year. It would be so much fun to look back on these each year and see the changes in your life, your likes and your handwriting.There is a great free printable at Wonderful Joy Ahead. 
  • Toast one another with special drinks. Each year, I melt chocolate and dip the rims of glasses in the chocolate and then into sprinkles. Once the chocolate hardens, I serve the glasses with milk inside alongside homemade cookies.
  • There is nothing more fun than a balloon drop! Besides having to actually blow up the balloons, there is little prep and it is completely mesmerizing for kids. You can order a balloon drop kit on Amazon.
 Whatever you do for New Year's Eve, be sure to include the kids and make it memorable for them. During the time frames of waiting for the next count down bag, we usually play some of our lesser used board games and see if we can find a new favorite family game! If we still don't like it, then it goes in my donate pile and I get an early start on my resolution to get organized. Have a wonderful 2015!