You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Springing forward….what is a parent to do?

Ahh spring is finally just around the corner…I hope!  It seems that it has been a long sunless winter here in the Midwest!  I am ready for some real sunshine.  That is what I hate the most about midwest winters, the lack of blue sky and sun.  Spring brings more outdoor time for parents and children, teaching moments about nature, fewer battles with jackets, hats, and mittens, and Daylight Savings Time.  Whenever the clock changes, I get countless questions on how to make the transition easier for parents and children.  It is difficult sometimes for a child that is very structured in routine to jump and hour ahead in the spring or fall back an hour in the fall.  There are two ways to handle the transition.

  1. You can wing it.  Go cold turkey with the switch.  The day before the time changes on Saturday morning, you can just wake your child at the “new” time, so if they normally get up at 7:00 am wake your child at the new 7:00 am time (which will actually be 6:00 am), and deal with a crankier child. This will provide a little sleep deficit helping your child be tired a bit earlier that evening.  Hopefully you can put your child to bed at the “new” 7:00 pm time on Saturday night (actually 6:00 pm before the time change) and your child will not be too overly tired to sleep.  Sunday morning be sure that you wake your child on the “new” time at 7:00 am because daylight savings time starts during the night.  There may be a couple of days of transition.  Actually, if you have a child who is rising too early, the switch to daylight savings time may actually help you out!
  2. You can plan for the change starting now.  I prefer this option, it seems like a more gradual adjustment.  Then again, I could prefer it because I sometimes tend to be a bit of a “control freak”.  Starting tonight, move your whole nighttime routine up by 15 minutes.  This will include dinner, bath, story and bedtime. On Saturday night, move the routine another 15 minutes.  Do the same on Sunday night.  By doing this, on Sunday evening you will have adjusted your child’s routine by nearly an hour to the “new” daylight savings time bedtime.  Make sense?

Regardless how you choose to change your child’s bedtime to the daylight savings time, there are other challenges with the switch.  Black out shades may become a necessity.  They were in our house.  Somehow it is difficult to convince a child that it is bedtime when the sun is shining….there is no Mr. Moon out yet!  The rule of adjusting your child’s clock with light is still important but difficult when it is light until 9:30 pm here in Indiana.  Start dimming the lights in the house and finish your bedtime routine with the black out shades pulled in the bedroom.  This will remove the light from your child’s eyes, help adjust their inner clock, and “prove” to them that it is indeed night!

When the clock switches, it is also a great time to check those batteries in the smoke detectors in your home.  Keep on top of keeping you and your child safe.

So, either have a plan for the switch, or “wing it” but be sure that your child is getting enough sleep!  Sleep is so important for your child and you too!  Looking forward to spring!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Childproofing 101


Staying ahead of kids in order to keep the house safe is no easy task….some days I would have been better off wrapping my four in bubble wrap!  

New parents have so much to do!  It seems the “to do” list is never-ending.  At the top of every parent’s “to do” list should be child proofing.  Keeping your precious little one safe is a #1 priority, and no simple task.   Children are curious, quick, and smart!  Just when you think that you have your child protected, you find your child standing in the center of the kitchen table swinging from the overhead light….or at least it seems that way!  The truth is, accidents are the leading cause of injury and death in children.  So many of these tragedies can be prevented with a little preparation.  Child proofing is a MUST but, NOTHING replaces supervision.  Child proofing slows a child down but does not totally prevent injury.  Think about child proofing in layers….putting dangerous items in an upper cabinet and then latching the cabinet.  We all know that any self-respecting toddler can push a chair over and reach that cabinet!  Over the next few days, check back and we will go over a room by room check for child proofing and common mistakes that parents make!

General tips:

  • Child proof ahead of your child!  You never know the first time your child will roll over, begin to crawl, or pull up.  Child proof before it is a must.
  • Get on your child’ level to child proof.  That’s right, crawl around and see what your child sees.  You will be surprised at the number of dangers that lurk at your child’s eye level and not yours.
  • Sign up to receive e-mail recall notifications at www.cpsc.gov  New parents have so much baby equipment!  It is hard to keep track of any recalls or safety notices.  By signing up for e-mails on recalls you will be able to make sure your baby equipment is safe.
  • Keep a notebook or spreadsheet with a list of all your baby equipment including serial numbers, and date and place of purchase.  This is a quick reference guide for you to flip to when you receive a recall notice.  Much easier than trying to find the numbers on your baby equipment and remember when and where you purchased it!
  • Take a CPR class for parents!  Local hospitals, the Red Cross, and other agencies offer CPR classes for parents.  Sign up and be a prepared parent….knowledge is the key to peace of mind for you and protection for your child.
  • Install outlet covers in every room.  There are sliding outlet plates that replace your existing outlet plate and have a sliding “door” that slides to cover the outlet.  These are less of a choking hazard.
  • Remove rubber caps off of all door stoppers, they are choking hazards.
  • Keep dangerous chemicals out of reach and locked up, provide a double layer of protection.
  • Program the Poison Control phone number in your cell phone for quick use 1-800-222-1222.
  • Use cabinet and drawer latches.  There are many to choose from!  Pick one that can be installed easily, there are adhesive mount latches for those areas that a parent may not want permanent mountings.
  • Always use the safety belts in bouncy chairs, high chairs, swings…whenever there is one provided!
  • Shorten or go cordless on curtain and blind cords.
  • Know the names of the plants you have in the house, in case one is eaten!  Put all plants out of your child’s reach.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor.  Make sure there is one outside of bedrooms.
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home.  Check the batteries every 6 months.
  • Use corner bumpers on furniture with sharp edges.
  • Install window guards for all windows above the first level of a home.  Windows that can be opened more than 4 inches are dangerous.
  • Secure all heavy furniture to the wall.  Every year thousands of children are hurt when furniture is pulled over on them.  Children pull out dresser drawers and use them as steps too.  Keep the tops of furniture cleared of tempting items like toys, and knickknacks to deter a child from climbing up to reach them. This would include tall dressers, entertainment centers, book cases, and large screen televisions.
  • Turn the water heater down to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees F.
  • Keep lighters, matches and lit candles out of reach.
  • Install gates at the top and bottom of stairways.  Do not use pressure mounted gates at the top of stairs.
  • Fire arms should be locked up with a trigger lock in place.  Ammunition should be stored and locked separately from the fire arm. Do not keep fire arms loaded in the home. Teaching children about gun safety does NOT negate the need to lock up your guns.  Children can’t be trusted around fire arms!
  • Make a plan for fire evacuation.  Talk with all members of the family and practice with a fire drill! Buy an escape ladder to store under your bed if you live in a two story home.
  • Test homes built before 1978 for lead paint.  For information about getting paint samples go to the National Lead Information Center’s website.
  • Look for a safety store at your closest children’s hospital.  These stores will sell child proofing products at cost and have safety experts there to answer questions.  If you live in Indiana, the Riley Safety Store is available at several Indiana University Hospital sites.  For more information visit RileyHospital.org, or call toll free 1-888-365-2022 or e-mail kids1st@iupui.edu.
This will give you a start!  Remember, a little prevention goes a long way, but never replaces supervision.  So, get down on those hands and knees and take a look at your home…then make your home as safe as it can be so your child can explore their world!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Make your home emotionally safe for your child!

Keeping all four kids physically safe was a challenge and providing an emotionally safe environment was just as challenging.  As parents, we always tried to authentically validate each child’s unique needs, feelings, and fears…and each of these little faces had their own…you can almost see each of their own uniqueness in this picture!

“Be safe!”  “Wear your seat belt!” ” Put your helmet on!”  “Don’t jump off the slide!”  ” Ride with both hands on the handlebars!”  ” Don’t drive too fast!”  ” Turn the music down in the car!”  “Where is your mouth guard?”  “Leave the party if there is drinking.”  ” Call me if you need a ride home.”…..I have sounded like a walking safety book with my children.  I have tried to create a safe environment for my kids when they were small and impart “words of wisdom” to keep them safe as my kids became older.  From the first moment you lay eyes on your child, you have an insatiable need to keep your child safe.  Physical safety is a huge part of this….but we as parents also must remember that our children need to be in a safe emotional environment too.

We can buy outlet covers, cabinet locks, bike helmets, and mouth guards, but how do we create an emotionally safe environment that fosters our child’s strengths, helps our child develop coping skills, helps our child recover from disappointments and be prepared for life?  I often made the mistake of telling my children, “You are OK..it will be fine.”  I was desperately wanting them to just feel better, no matter what they were disappointed about.  A better choice is always to listen with empathy, validate their feelings and fears and not simply push those feelings away thinking you are making them “all better.”  If we do this, then our child will not learn how to handle these real feelings and move on from disappointment or hardship to figuring out solutions.

So, what kind of “childproofing” can you do to make your home emotionally safe for your child?  The home is a place where a child should feel safe to be who they are, to be heard for what they feel, and have no fear that they still will be loved and valued no matter how they act.

  • Parents need to work at figuring out what their child needs…not wants, but needs.
  • Parents need to stop and truly listen;  listen quietly to what their child shares.
  • Parents need to stop, breathe, and then speak when their own emotions are overwhelming.  Responding to children in a way that is frightening or overwhelming will prevent a child from feeling emotional safety.
  • Parents need to validate and respect their child’s feelings, fears, and thoughts even if those feelings , fears, and thoughts seem wrong or silly to the parent.  Never minimize your child’s feelings and emotions.
  • Parents need to be consistently there for their child when their child needs them, even if the parent can’t fix the problem.
  • Parents need to help a child work through feelings and empower their child to develop his or her own strategy or plan to solve the problem, even if it seems easier for you to fix it or solve it for your child.
  • Parents need to set appropriate limits and boundaries for their child, even if the limit causes tears or an “I hate you!” response.  Limits and boundaries bring a feeling of safety and security to children, even if they don’t admit it.
  • Parents need to handle their own emotions, worries, fears, and stress with maturity.  Children model behavior of parents and if the behavior they see is  melting down, yelling, anxiety or withdrawing; children will use the same strategies to cope with their own emotions, fears, and stress.

So as we are looking at each nook and cranny of our homes to be sure our child’s environment is safe for him or her physically; let’s think about what our home needs so that it is always an emotionally safe place for our child.  Our homes need to be safe enough that our child can share who they truly are, tell us what fears they have in their heart, and express what deep emotions they hold without fear that we parents will withhold our love and support, or that we will merely tell them that “it is OK” without truly listening.   So today, stop for a moment and think about creating a safe haven in your home for your children…one that keeps them physically safe, but just as important, one that keeps them emotionally safe.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Think about a straw cup instead of a sippy!

straw cup

Sippy cups are everywhere…there are aisles and aisles of them at most discount and baby stores. Cups with soft spouts, cups with hard spouts, cups with valves, cups without valves, cups with straws, cups with handles, and cups of every color and size. Choices, choices and more choices! Once again it seems a parent needs a class on how to choose a sippy cup. I am going to make it easy for you….

Sippy cups are a transitional cup…..Transitional! That means it is a cup for a child to use for a short period of time when transitioning from a breast or bottle. Children are developmentally capable of drinking from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3. Capable if we allow them to develop the skill.

A cup should be introduced at about 6 months when a child starts solid foods. I have always recommended a sippy cup with a hard spout and without a valve. I now feel that a child should use a straw cup over a sippy cup. Children often use sippy cups like a bottle. Their heads are tipped back and they suck on the spout just like a nipple. When children suck, their jaw, lips and tongue all move simultaneously. This motion does not allow the jaw, lips and tongue to work separately which is necessary for speech. The tongue also is in a forward position pushing on the teeth, which can cause a misshapen mouth and a tongue thrust. This all can result in problems with speech and articulation.  The use of a straw cup will often prevent this from happening.

So, introduce a valveless hard spout sippy cup with meals at about 6 months of age. Start working with your child to use a straw cup. Usually by 9 months of age a child is able to use a straw. You can start by using a cup that can be squeezed, put gentle pressure on the cup to bring fluid up into the straw. Try using an open or lidless cup with meals and save the straw cup for times that you are away from the table and want to prevent spills. Your child can also practice with an open cup in the bathtub…no worries about spills there! So parents, let go of that sippy cup! Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup and use a straw cup when spills need to be prevented. Their teeth and their speech will thank you. Relax, there will be a few spills, but there is no reason to cry over spilled milk!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Picky Toddler Eating

Our daughter, Kaitlyn, the picture of  toddler pickiness!

Why is it that we parents worry so much about how much our child is eating?  I can remember thinking that how well Kaitlyn ate that day, determined how well I had parented.  Not true!  Children under the age of one usually nurse or formula feed well, and are eager for the introduction of solid foods.  But seemingly over night, our toddlers start to have an opinion about what we feed them!  I can remember being very frustrated because I was providing her with this wonderfully healthy meal, and often all she wanted was bananas!  To make it more confusing, the next day she may have thrown all those bananas off her tray!  My darling daughter was a typical toddler, and with toddlers, meals are often a challenge.  Why?

1.Toddlers have slowed down in growth.

The first year of life a child grows very quickly, between birth and a year most children triple their birth weight!  A toddler grows much more slowly and seems less hungry.

2.  Eating interrupts a toddler’s activity.

Toddlers are busy…any parent can tell you that.  Sitting for any length of time just isn’t on the toddler’s agenda!

3.  You can’t force a toddler to eat.

A parent’s job is to present a toddler with a wide taste pallet of healthy foods every day.  It is up to the child to eat them!  The more you force, the more most toddlers turn up their noses.  A healthy child offered healthy food will NOT starve themself!

4.  Toddlers usually eat one good meal a day.

Often toddlers will eat a good breakfast, an OK lunch and pick at dinner. Toddlers only need about 40 calories an inch. (Now don’t get that calculator out for your child!)  Most will only need about 1000 to 1200 calories a day.  By dinner, many toddlers have eaten their required calories for the day!

5.  Toddlers like to binge on one food.

Food jags are common in toddlers.  One day you can’t fill them up on green beans, and then two days later it is bananas.    Some days a toddler may eat only fruit, the next day they may fill up on protein.  What a toddler eats over a week is a better picture of their diet intake.

So what is a parent to do….

  • Relax!
  •  Offer food frequently!  Toddlers need 3 meals and at least 2 snacks offered each day.  Toddlers behave better when they are eating frequently.  Their tummies are small and temper tantrums increase when blood sugars are low.  Try planning snacks from at least 2 food groups 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Dip it!  Toddlers like to dip everything.  It is fun, and it is messy…two essentials for toddler eating!  Humus, yogurt, cottage cheese, guacamole, melted cheese, salsa, peanut butter and even ranch dressing are some essential dips for toddlers.
  • Hide it!  Hide the broccoli under cheese sauce, shred the vegies and mix them in humus or cream cheese and spread on a tortilla and cut into pin wheels, puree vegies and add them to pasta sauce, lasagna, meatloaf.  Make “orange ” pancakes with sweet potato puree or carrot puree and a dash of cinnamon.  Get sneaky!   When you hide vegetables, make sure you include some on your child’s plate so they learn what a balanced diet looks like.
  • Be creative!  Kids like fun.  Make faces on sandwiches, use cookie cutters and cut shapes in pancakes and bread, make shish-ka-bobs with fruit and pretzel sticks, make party bananas with sprinkles, serve fruit and yogurt in an ice cream cone, try smoothies….
  • Remember the toddler serving size!  A serving size is a tablespoon per year.  One serving of vegetables for a 2-year-old is two tablespoons!  Many times we are trying to serve our toddlers adult size portions!
  •  Don’t let your toddler “drink” his calories.  A toddler should only have  16 to a maximum of 20 ounces of milk a day.  That is much less than the 28 to 32 ounces most were drinking before becoming toddlers!  If your child drinks too much cow’s milk, he will not eat solid food calories!  Too much milk provides too little iron and other needed nutrients!  Juice should be limited to only 4 to 6 ounces a day, better to have the whole fruit than just the juice!
  • Let your child “shop” for food.  Give your child a few dollars and let them “shop” in the produce section.  Your child will be more likely to eat the food he or she “buys”!  You might learn to cook and eat a new fruit or vegetable too….you never know what your child may pick out!  (this is how I learned to fix spaghetti squash!)
  • Let your child “help” prepare food.  A child who watches a parent make dinner and “helps” will often be more likely to eat!  Let your child have a few choices, control is important for toddlers.
  • Let your child be messy.  Toddlers explore food with their mouths, taste buds, and hands.  They smash food, throw food, spread food, “paint” with food and generally need a bath after most meals.  You must allow your toddler to feed himself.  You must introduce spoons and forks, and be patient with the fact that it takes time and messes to learn how to use them!
  • Don’t battle…try a “No thank you bite”.  Toddlers have opinions, and sometimes they are very strong!  The more battle there is in a meal, the more likely you will lose!  Offer healthy foods and a variety of foods.  If your toddler refuses to try something, introduce a “no thank you bite”.  One bite and then he can refuse more.  You might even ask your child to “kiss” the food, not even take a bite.  This may provide just a small enough taste to convince your child to take a bite!  Remember, it takes 15 to 20 introductions to a food before your child will develop a definite like or dislike!

Here are a couple good sites for toddler recipes.  Some of my favorites are by Annabel Karmel!   Relax…don’t make your mealtime a battle!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Helpful Websites:




Baby Sign…How do you start?

Teach your child sign…help him express his feelings!  The “I love you” sign can be used as a special sign for many years to come!

How do you start?

1.  Familiarize yourself with signs through books, websites or other sources. 

  • There are many resources on the web…don’t try to learn all the signs, you will be starting with just a few!

2.  Be realistic

  • Feel free to start signing with your child at a young age, but most children aren’t able to communicate using signs until around 9 months at the earliest!  (yes even your extremely smart, gifted child!:)) Children must be able to engage with you and then have the fine motor control to make the sign (or at least something similar to the sign).  This will happen around that 9 or 10 month mark.

3.  Choose a sign.

  • Most parents choose a sign that involves eating such as milk, eat, more and all done.  This will let your child ask for things that he or she may need.  Many times these are called “power” words.  Once your child is able to sign these words, they have a little control or power.
  • You may also want to choose a few signs that may be exciting to your child.  Words like Mommy, Daddy, and Dog or other words that excite your child will keep your child’s interest.
  • You will want to choose about three signs that you will work on with your child.  Show the sign before, during and after the activity and every time you do the activity.
  • There are a few websites that have pictures and directions for some of the most common signs a parent may use.  A great site is http://www.babysignlanguage.com  This site has a video showing each sign.

4.  Make it interactive

  • Hold your baby on your lap and try helping him make the signs with his hands.  Talk while signing to give the sign context.  Remember, your baby will be able to understand your words before he will be able to make the sign!

5.  Be consistent.

  • Use the sign every time you do the activity.  Consistency is the key. If you are giving your baby milk, sign and say “milk” give your baby a bottle or nurse and sign and say “milk” several times while your baby is eating.
  • Work the signing into everyday life.  Don’t just sign at home–sign when you are out and about and encourage anyone who is with your child consistently to use the signs too.

6.  Use your chosen signs until your baby begins to sign back to you.

  • When your baby connects with a sign, then you may choose another sign and start the process over.  Do not drop the signs your baby has learned.  The more signs your baby learns, the easier it will be for him to pick up new ones.  As soon as your baby links the sign to the word, the flood gates tend to open!  Suddenly your child will begin to pick up on new signs readily.

7.  Expect your child to recognize a sign before he can actually sign it back to you. 

  • This is just like the spoken word.  A child will understand a sign or a word before he or she is able to sign the word or speak it.  Don’t give up, keep signing.  You will start to see your child get excited when you sign “milk”, “eat”, or “book” as your child understands what the sign means.

8.   Expect that your child may start out using the same sign for several things.

  • This is like verbal expression when a child uses the word Ma Ma for every female adult.  Do not become frustrated.  Continue to be consistent in the signing and your child will “get it”.

9.  Expect a signing increase when a child realizes that a sign will get him something…the sign is a link!

  • Your child will start to soak up signs like a sponge–just as he will  when he becomes verbal.   It is so exciting to see your child get excited about communicating.

10.  Be happy, sign with enthusiasm.  

  • An excited parent who signs will make a child want to sign.
  • Read books and sign as you read.  Show your child the sign for animals, cars, trucks, whatever you are reading about!  Pick out signs that your child is interested in!
  • Be expressive.  Use your face, body and hands when you sign.  Make it fun and interesting.  Make good eye contact with your child when  you sign.
  • Play games to encourage signing.  Blow bubbles outside and then stop, push your child in a swing and then stop, and then sign the word “more”.   Sign when you play!

11.  Be open to interpretation.

  • Your child will not make a sign correctly the first time–just like learning to talk.
  • Reinforce any sign your child attempts, as your child develops better fine motor skills, the signing will become more clear.

12.  Praise.

  • Be excited when your baby signs words!  Give lots of positive reinforcement for any attempt!

13.  Be patient.

  • Babies can take weeks or even months before they make their first sign.
  • The perfect time to start is about age 6 months, many babies will attempt their first sign at about 9 to 10 months.
  • It is never too late to start signing.  Children that are very frustrated because of a lack of communication between 16 and 30 months will pick up sign language quickly.
  • Be prepared to be excited and surprised at how your baby can develop signs to communicate.

14.  Keep Talking!!

  • Sign should never replace words!  Spoken words are important for language development.  Talk and sign….then talk some more!  The number of words your child hears is directly related to language development.  Let your child see your mouth as you speak and your hands as you sign.  Face to face interaction is important for their language development.
The 10 most common words parents sign:  (click the link to see a video of the sign)
  1. Mommy 
  2. Daddy 
  3. Other family members:  brother, sister, grandma, grandpa
  4.  dog or cat
  5. Milk
  6. More
  7. Please 
  8. Thank you
  9. Happy
  10. Book

I would also consider adding change, all done, sleep, and help.  These words often help with transition activities which can be a challenge for toddlers especially.

Children often will lose the sign as the verbal word is developed; but you can keep the signs by continuing to use them with the word .  Use of signs is a great way to get messages to your child when you are not in speaking distance or are in a crowd.  How nice it is to sign the word “potty” without having to yell it across the room!  More wonderful is seeing my kids sign “I love you” out the car window as they drive off!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

My “little” Valentines are all grown up!

I was talking to several people over the last week about Valentine’s Day, and many Moms and Dads feel like it is another “chore” of parenting anymore.   After all we see Valentine hearts in the stores and on TV from the moment the Christmas decorations come down and the stores are filled with “items” that you MUST buy to celebrate LOVE.

But, if we try to remove the commercial, and teach our kids that the day really is just a time to make sure that everyone that is special in our life knows it…what can be wrong with celebrating Valentine’s Day? Besides, if you are like me, I like to celebrate little things in life, it makes it more fun.  There is nothing better in the middle of winter than a celebration about love at home.

Remember, these little rituals and traditions endear your children to  your family, and build family closeness.  I just got a phone call from my 28-year-old daughter who told me she still misses the heart-shaped pancakes and Valentine table decorations that were a tradition in our home.  So I guess the red plastic tablecloth and Bisquick pink heart pancakes did mean something!   So I hope that you plan a little something special for Valentine’s Day!  Here are some suggestions that can help make the celebration fun for your kids.  Ignore the commercialism and think simple.  Make sure that you save a little time to do something special for that “extra special someone” in your life too.

Break out the red plastic tablecloth and Valentine napkins and serve a Valentine breakfast.  There are some quick and easy things you can serve.

  • How about instant oatmeal with a heart made with strawberry jam on top?
  • Try a strawberry smoothie, quick and easy.
  • Heart shaped pancakes are always a hit.
  • How about an easy heart-shaped egg sandwich

Heart Shaped Egg Sandwich

  1.  Cut out a heart using a cookie cutter in a piece of bread.
  2.  Butter one side of the bread and put it butter side down in a skillet.
  3. Crack an egg into a cup and slowly pour that egg into the center of the heart cut out.
  4. Cook until the egg white is solid and then gently flip the toast and egg over using a spatula.
  5.  Cook a few minutes longer and transfer to a plate…you have a heart-shaped egg sandwich that will keep your child from being hungry till lunch!

Lunch Surprises:

  • What about putting a Valentine napkin in your child’s lunch?  Write a note or a silly poem.
  • A couple Hershey Kisses in the lunch box let’s them know you are thinking of them.
  • Try cutting the PB and J into a heart using the cookie cutter!
  • Even your older children will enjoy a little surprise in the lunch.

Dinner Surprises:

  • Dinner can be heart-shaped pasta, heart-shaped pizza, or just a treat of sugar cookies or Valentine cupcakes.
  • Light the candles and celebrate the evening!
  • Don’t forget the red tablecloth and Valentine napkins!

Other Activities:

  • Help your child make a Valentine to give to someone special and deliver it together.
  • Send greetings to Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles.  Remember it is a day to TELL those people in their life that they love them!
  • Older children love to help bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor.  This is a great way to start teaching your child the simple ways you can reach out to others and bring a smile to someone who might need one!
  • Check out seasonal Valentine books from the library.
  • Wear red!

Whatever you do, take a moment to give your little Valentine an extra hug and kiss.  Celebrate the small things in life in simple ways, it makes life so much more fun!  I know I have my red plastic tablecloth out and ready!    Happy Valentine’s Day!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Date night on a budget!

Be creative and have a “date night”, every parent needs one! 

After the talk about reconnecting as a couple, I thought we better talk a bit about how do it on a budget.  I am not saying that I am a “cheap” date, but I am all about atmosphere and mood, not necessarily expense.  I always say that even meatloaf can be a romantic dinner if the candles are lit!  Get creative, think outside of the box, try something even if it sounds a little silly.  We have so many places to go just in our own neighborhoods that we sometimes forget to try!  Make a commitment to planning a “date night” at least a couple of times a month so you can stay connected to the person who is your best friend, love of your life, and your better half.

1.  Romantic dinner in…try cooking together.  Think chocolate.

2.  Rent a movie, make popcorn and buy candy at Wal-Mart.

3.  DVR your favorite TV shows for a few weeks and have a marathon.

4.  Think Groupon.

5.  Take in the museums.  There are FREE nights…plan ahead.

6.  Check out the local parks for free concerts.

7.  Visit a nature center.

8.  Go ice skating at a local rink.

9.  Have an indoor picnic.

10.  Pretend there is a black out…no electricity all night…no computers or smart phones either.

11. Serve breakfast in bed, serve dinner in bed.

12. Cook fondue.

13.  Dress up in your best clothes and eat take-out.

14.  Remember what it was like to dance?  Dance in your living room.

15.  Work out together.

16.  Go out to a local coffee shop.

17.  Go to a nice restaurant for dessert only.

18.  Have a dinner theme night…Mexican, Italian, Indian, or dessert only.

19.  Have a board game night…get competitive.

20.  Check out the local high school for a concert or play or athletic event.

21.  Butler University has been voted one of the most romantic campuses in the country…go check it out.

22.  Go for a drive and get ice cream.

23 Go to a local bookstore and read.

24.  Go window shopping for a new house, car, or fancy piece of jewelry.  Dream a little.

25.  Put a 1000 piece puzzle together…talk about team work!

26.  Give each other a foot massage.

27.  Go to a local winery and do a wine tasting…it is only expensive if you buy!

28.  Read to each other.

29.   Go on a hike.

30.  Make s’mores inside.

31.  Camp out in your family room.

32.  Check out the observatory at Butler…look at the stars close up!

33. Head to the art galleries in Carmel and finish with coffee or hot chocolate.

34.  Do a local wine and canvas…paint together!

35  Write each other a love letter and then read it to each other.

36.  Take a walking tour of downtown Indy, or the quaint downtown of Zionsville.

37.  Go for a bike ride.

38.  Make a pact not to talk about the kids for a whole night.

39.  Go to a matinée.

40.  Go to a local botanical garden.

41.  Go out to breakfast…it is cheaper than dinner!

42.  Get travel brochures and plan a dream vacation.

43.  Keep a can on your counter.  Eat left overs one night a week for a month and then go to dinner with the money you save!

44.  Sit in an expensive hotel lobby downtown and people watch.

45.  Head to the library together.  Check out an old classic movie to watch.

46.  Teach each other something.

47.  Check out the Indiana Historical Society website…great inexpensive ideas!

48.  Walk along the canal downtown.

49.  Go bowling.

50.  Check out Mass Ave.  People watch!

What are your ideas?  Let us ALL know!  I could use a few new ones after 30 years!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Read, Read, Read…..and Read Some More!

baby reading

Reading opens up the world for your child…..our goal is 1000 books before kindergarten!!

Bath time is over, p.j.s are on, your little one is on your lap and you snuggle your nose into their sweet smelling cheek.  The craziness of the day begins to melt away.  You open the familiar book and your toddler snuggles into your lap.  What a precious ritual, and not only precious but so incredibly valuable.  With that moment, you may have just helped your child get into Harvard…well at least become a good reader.

What is the best way to encourage your child to become a reader?  What can you do now to prepare your child for school…and even college?  It is very simple….read, read, and read some more.  There is no better way to encourage a child to love reading, help them succeed in school, and improve language skills than to read to them. I think I can still recite The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.  Some of my most treasured moments were spent with my children on my lap, reading a story.  Moments is the key word.   When we are reading to young children, the reading is often in very short bursts.  Reading a total of 20 to 30 minutes a day is recommended but that may be divided into several short periods.  Having a “reading routine” before naps or at bedtime is a great way to incorporate “cuddle time” with your child and the benefits of reading. You might even try “reading your child awake”.  Some children wake from a nap a little grumpy, reading to them until they are fully awake makes it easier on you and them!   Here are some tips to keep your young child interested in reading.

  • Toddlers have an opinion!  Give them a choice of what stories they want.  Often you might read the same books over and over.  Toddlers love repetition.  Soon your child will be able to “read” the book to you!
  • Allow your toddler to handle the books.  Books should be well-loved.  Keep baskets of books out so your child can go to them whenever they are interested.  A basket next to their potty is a great way to keep them entertained while potty training!
  • Read with drama.  Be silly.  Change your voice.  Use puppets or hand motions.  Children love interaction.
  • Talk about the pictures.  It isn’t important to read all the words on a page!  Don’t be surprised if your child realizes that you have left parts out of a familiar story though!  They will catch you!  This shows that they are learning!
  • Ask open-ended questions. Let your child tell you the story!
  • Never force reading.  Many toddlers do not have the attention span to finish a book.  Read a few pages and leave the book open.  You may find your toddler will come back to it later.  Let your child play while you read.  Read an active story together that they participate in too.
  • Take trips to your local library often.  Allow your child to become comfortable in the library.  Participate in Story Times offered at the library.  These are free and great resources for parents and children!
  • Set a good example.  Turn off the TV and let your child see that you love reading too.  Check out a book from the library for you too!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


It is the weekend, get a little sleep!

Most parents feel  “out of order” when they are sleep deprived!  Try this weekend to grab a few more minutes of sleep!

Ahh sleep…what new parent isn’t wishing for more?  I heard a new parent speak of the first few months of parenting to be as exhausting as the Iron Man Triathlon.  Makes sense to me!  Not only are new parents sleep deprived, but their fatigue is increased by mental exhaustion.  There is so much to learn with a new baby, especially first time parents. Even simple tasks seem more difficult when you are exhausted.  I call it “Mommy brain”, it just is difficult to think through a solution to any dilemma, like how to measure the coffee and tend to a crying baby!   Eventually everyone will sleep again but what do you do in the meantime?

Simple Steps for Parents:

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps.  I know everyone tells you this, but how many of you do it? When your baby sleeps, immediately lay down.  Leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry on the floor and sleep.  Doing “just one more thing” will eat into that very short nap time.  You will feel much better with a nap, than with an empty laundry basket that will only be empty a few minutes!
  • Don’t stay up late!  Dim the lights in the house in the evening, avoid the computer and TV, take a warm shower or bath and then try to relax.  Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine will help you drift off to sleep so you are ready for that next feeding in a couple of hours!  Even parents of toddlers need an early bedtime.  The energy it takes to chase a toddler requires restorative sleep at night!
  • Share the night-time baby care routine.  Trade off on getting up and comforting.  If you are breastfeeding, have Dad bring you the baby after he has changed him.  Later, when your milk supply is established well, let Dad give a bottle of pumped breast milk, it is amazing what a 5 or 6 hour stretch of sleep will do for you!
  • Walk.  Going on long walks in the morning or late afternoon can be an energy booster.  It is good for your baby too!  Exercise lowers anxiety and stress levels and improves your sleep.  Being outside in natural light is very important.  Sunlight tells your brain to be alert and happy due to serotonin.  So, even if you don’t have the energy to walk, sitting outside for a few minutes getting fresh air and sunlight will give you a bit more energy.
  • Eat something besides cookies!  When we are tired and hungry, many of us grab something that is fast and sugary.  Eating something sweet never helps fatigue.  Keep healthy snacks around.  If you are a breastfeeding Mom, you need an extra 500 calories a day, and not in cookies!  Accept those meals people offer, keep quick healthy snacks of fruits and vegetables prepared, and don’t rely on sugar to help fatigue.
  • Drink.  Drink water that is!  Dehydration can make you feel fatigued.  Try to steer clear of too much caffeine and sugary drinks.  Even alcohol can alter your sleep patterns.  Keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator, make it look pretty and taste better by floating some fresh fruit in it!  You will feel like you are at a spa!  Well, it might just encourage you to drink those 6 to 8 glasses of water a day!

Help your baby sleep:

  • Watch for sleep cues.  Remember your baby will not say, “I’m tired.”  Parents have to watch for the cues.  Most babies until about age 6 months need to nap every couple of hours.  If you notice your baby starting to “zone out” with a blank stare, yawning, rubbing eyes, or getting a bit agitated, then it is time to settle down.  Missing the window for sleep results in a baby that is overly tired and doesn’t settle easily.  Look at the clock, when you see the sleep cues note how long your baby has been up and then start settling a few minutes earlier the next time.
  • Use the 5 S’s.  Swaddle your baby, hold your baby side lying or on his stomach, shoosh, and sway.  Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block tips really do work! Swaddle your baby for naps and nighttime sleep!
  • Try white noise.  White noise works wonders for many babies.  There are white noise machines, white noise CDs, and even white noise apps for smart phones!
  • Make sure your baby naps.  Naps promote better sleep.  Sleep begets sleep in children.  Children that are overly tired sleep less…it is true!  Children need to nap during the day until about age 3.  Newborns will nap every couple of hours, by 6 months of age most babies will take a longer morning nap and a longer afternoon nap, by 12 to 15 months most children will go to one afternoon nap, and all children will need a nap or “rest time” through age three.  Children that are well rested with naps will sleep easier and longer at night.  Do not keep your child up during the day hoping that you will get a longer stretch of sleep at night!
  • Try wearing your baby during the day.  If you can “catch up” your baby’s sleep during the day.  Many babies like to be “worn” and will nap well that way!
  • Set your baby’s internal clock.  In the mornings, stand in front of a window or if the weather is nice take a walk in natural light.  Keep the lights on during the day.  When evening arrives, start to dim the lights about an hour before bedtime.  Even if your baby is not sleeping through the night, treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding.  Feed in the dark, no interaction, and no diaper change unless your baby is very uncomfortable or has a dirty diaper.  Soon your baby will have an inner clock that knows the difference between day and night.
  • Start a routine.  Children thrive on routines.  Most babies become a bit more predictable around 3 months of age.  However, you can start a nap time and bed time routine that is the same every day before that 3 month mark.  Provide activities that are soothing like a bath, massage, story, song, and a cuddle.  Repeat these routines and your baby will begin to relax with the predictability.  Pick a “bedtime” and remember that children are wired “early to bed and early to rise.”
  • Help your baby self soothe.  At around four months of age, babies can learn to self soothe by using hands, fingers, or pacifiers to suck, or a fuss cry to calm.  When your baby starts to wake, quietly help your baby find their hands or a pacifier, lay your hand on their tummy and head and ” shoosh”.  Soon your baby will learn to soothe himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of a sleep cycle.
  • Be calm.  Babies can tell when a parent is stressed and that keeps everyone awake!  Just realize that this stage will pass too…take a deep breath and stay calm when you are trying to calm a fussy baby.  Try one calming method at a time, not all at once!  Try swaddling and rocking calmly with a bit of white noise.  A walk in the stroller will help many babies.  Find what works for you, but keep it calm.

So Mom and Dad, work together this weekend and try to get a little extra sleep!  Concentrate on these few tips and see if a few more minutes of sleep makes that overwhelming sense of fatigue fade just a bit.  If not, remember, this will pass, you will sleep again…I promise.  Happy Friday!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



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