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

How Worried Should Moms Be About the Zika Virus?


The Zika virus is in the news and could be causing severe birth defects in unborn babies…it is carried by mosquitoes in certain tropical countries.

There has been much in the news about the Zika virus over the last couple of weeks. I know many Moms have had questions, they wonder if the virus will be an issue in the United States and if potential travel plans need to be changed. As with many scary health topics, it is sometimes difficult to weed through the information that is in the news and find what the actual truth is. I am sure that over the next weeks and probably months, more information will be gathered about this virus and more accurate information will be made available to us all. Our best resource right now is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). I have gathered some of the information from that site to help parents understand what this virus is, its risks, and what we should be concerned about right now.

First and most important, the Zika virus only affects an unborn baby who is exposed to the virus in utero. This means a Mom must be infected with the virus when she is pregnant. Women who are not pregnant and are infected with the Zika virus will not infect their future babies once the virus has cleared their body (usually within a week). So women who are pregnant should be most concerned about this virus and should consider where they will be traveling while pregnant. The Zika virus is dangerous to an unborn baby during any trimester of pregnancy…first, second and third trimester. This virus is thought to cause serious birth defects in unborn babies, especially in neurologic development. There is a connection with this virus and microcephaly. This is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than average. Microcephaly often means a baby has a smaller brain that has not developed as usual.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes infected with the virus. The particular species that carries this disease is the Aedes mosquito. The illness is actually very mild with only about 20% of people even knowing they have been infected. The symptoms that are most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis; which is red, infected eyes. The symptoms usually begin from 2 to 7 days after an infected mosquito bites someone. Because only 20% of those infected actually have symptoms, 80% never know they have been exposed. So traveling to a country that has an outbreak of Zika virus and never feeling ill doesn’t mean you were not exposed to the illness! So a pregnant mom who feels well after traveling to one of these countries could still have contracted the virus and spread it to her unborn baby.  There is no medication or vaccine to prevent the illness.

So where is this virus now? As of January 31st the CDC has listed the following areas with outbreaks:

Countries with active Zika virus transmissions:


zika virus



  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin
  • Suriname
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela


  • Samoa


  • Cape Verde

This information is very fluid and will change I am sure. It is possible that this virus can travel to the United States in the future, but there is no virus activity at this time in the U. S.

So, if you are pregnant and planning a trip to any of these areas should you go? In my opinion, I would not take the chance. Until we understand more about this virus, the CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant moms and women trying to become pregnant. The CDC advises that pregnant women, in any trimester of the pregnancy, should consider changing travel plans to the area where there is known Zika virus outbreaks. If a pregnant woman does travel to these areas, she should have talk with her health care provider and be sure to follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Women who are trying to become pregnant or could become pregnant during a trip should also take precautions to prevent mosquito bites when traveling to these areas. Many airlines and cruise lines are working with pregnant women who want to change their travel plans after this travel advisory was issued.

If you must travel to the infected areas, how do you prevent the Zika virus? The only prevention is preventing mosquito bites. The CDC suggests the following:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
    • Always follow the product label instructions.
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • If you have a baby or child:
    • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
    • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
    • Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
    • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

So if you are not pregnant and want to travel to Mexico or other Caribbean countries which have Zika outbreaks…go have fun, but think about not planning a pregnancy during your trip or shortly after your return until any risk of the virus is gone. If you are pregnant and planning a trip to these areas, I would think twice…taking a chance with your precious unborn baby may not be worth sitting on that beautiful beach right now.

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




The child care dilemma, how do you choose?

Tragically, we sometimes see in the news a report about a child’s injury or death in a day care setting.  This is certainly rare, but the safety of child care is a topic that needs to be discussed for all new parents.  As parents, there ARE times that we will not be able to care for our child.  Some of us work outside of the home, and all of us need and deserve the occasional day or evening away.  Finding  daily child care or just occasional child care is a source of worry and anxiety for most parents.  How do you find a caregiver that you trust for your precious child? First START EARLY!  It takes time to do your research and find the best caregiver for your child!  Do not rush the process and always trust your gut! If a child care center, home or sitter does not feel right to you, then it isn’t!   Ask friends, family members, and other parents for their suggestions.  The best referral comes from a parent that uses the child care provider.

There are resources in each state that will help you get started with your search.  Child Care Aware is a website that you can access.  This site will direct you to your area’s child care referral system.  This will give you the local licensed and unlicensed day care centers, in home day cares, and church ministries.  By using the Child Care Aware website you will also be able to access any violations these centers may have. The  National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care produced a list of guidelines for parents that are looking for childcare.  These guidelines are as follows:


  • Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?
  • How do the caregivers discipline children? (Hint: Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)

 Hand washing and Diapering

  • Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
  • Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
  • Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering?
  • Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with stool or urine?
  • Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? (Hands should be scrubbed with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds and then rinsed and dried. The water faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.)

Director Qualifications

  • Does the director of a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the director worked in child care for at least two years?
  • Does the director understand what children need to grow and learn?

Lead Teacher Qualifications

  • Does the lead teacher in a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
  • Does the teacher give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?

Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size

  • How many children are being cared for in the child care program?
  • How many caregivers are there? (Your child will get more attention if each caregiver has fewer children to care for. The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be. For example, one family home caregiver should only take care of two infants.)


  • Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
  • Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?

Toxic Substances

  • Are toxic substances like cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?
  • Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
  • Is poison control information posted?

Emergency Plan

  • Does the child care program have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
  • Does the child care program have first-aid kits?
  • Does the child care program have information about who to contact in an emergency?

 Fire/Emergency Drills

  • Does the child care program have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
  • Does the child care program do practice drills once every month?

Child Abuse

  • Can caregivers be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
  • Have all caregivers undergone background check?
  • Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?


  • Does the child care program keep medication out of reach from children?
  • Are the caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?

Staff Training/First Aid

  • Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
  • Do they know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
  • Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
  • Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on and implementing infant back sleeping and safe sleep policies to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, crib death)? (When infants are sleeping, are they on their backs with no pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, or other soft bedding in the crib with them?)


  • Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
  • Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
  • If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
  • Are the soil and playground surfaces checked often for dangerous substances and hazards?
  • Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (1-800-598-5437)

What do you do when you need an occasional babysitter?

  1. Start early—don’t wait until the last moment to try to find a sitter.
  2. Recruit from relatives, friends and neighbors.  Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for suggestions.  You can ask churches, high schools, your doctor, local colleges.  Network!
  3. Think about “training” a sitter.  Use a “mother’s helper” while you are in your house.  Have a younger sitter come to your house and help you out while you are there.  Gradually give more responsibility until you are comfortable leaving for shorter and then longer periods of time.
  4. Ask questions about a potential  sitter.
  • What other childcare experience do you have?
  • What are the ages of other children you have watched?
  • How would you handle certain, possibly difficult situations that might occur?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
  • Tell me about school, sports, activities etc.
  • Do you know CPR or emergency procedures?  If you have a sitter that you may use frequently—why not pay for him or her to become CPR certified and take a safe sitter class?
  • How much do you charge?
  • References?
  • Questions for me?

5.  Orient a new sitter to your home.   Point out where phones are, fire extinguishers, circuit breakers, first aid kit, what is off limits to the kids, how to lock doors etc.

6. Discuss how they are to get in touch with you.

7.  Review rules of the home including those for meals, pets, TV, computer time, and play.

8.  Explain possible behavior problems and how you would want them to be handled.

9. Introduce the sitter to your child and let them get to know each other.   Allow some time together before you leave.

10.  Leave a list of activities that your child would like and any bed time routine.

11.  Make sure you leave your address, nearest crossroads, and any emergency numbers written by the phone.

12.  Discuss what food is available to the sitter and what activities for the sitter  you feel are appropriate once the children are in bed.

13. When you return home ask the sitter how things went and if your child is verbal, ask your child how he or she liked the sitter!  Children are very honest!

Your work is not finished once you find the child care facility or occasional sitter for your child.  As a parent, you must stay involved.  Continue to ask questions and make surprise visits. Your child is your most precious possession, and you must be your child’s advocate for safe and loving care when you are not there!

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


Tis the season for coughs and colds!

It is the season for runny noses!

It is the season for runny noses!

It is cold season.  I can’t tell you the number of runny, crusty little noses, coughs, and worried parents I have seen over the last couple of weeks.  I remember the days when my own four kids seemed to have constant runny noses.  The average child has 6 to 10 colds a year that last a week to 10 days on average, and many times most of those colds are during the winter months.  So, I bet your child has a runny little nose now!  The best treatment is supportive; no medicine will help a child get over a cold more quickly!  Here are a few tips to help your child feel a bit better, and you too….

How should I treat my child’s cold?             

  • No medicine will make the cold go away faster.   Do not use over the counter cold medications, they are ineffective and can actually be dangerous for children. 
  • Offer your child lots of liquids, especially if your child has a fever.  Liquids will thin secretions and prevent dehydration if your child is feverish.
  • Use a bulb syringe to suction you your child’s nose if necessary.  Infants are not able to eat well with a stuffy nose and most children are not able to blow their nose until about age 2.  You may use saline nose drops to loosen mucous in the nose to help.  I guarantee your child won’t like this!
  • Use petroleum jelly or a heavy ointment around the nose to protect the skin from irritation from drainage and wiping.  Chapped lips, cheeks, and red noses are often part of a cold.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s bedroom.  This will keep that “snot” draining a bit better, and will make it easier for your child to breath with the dry winter heat.  Be sure to clean the vaporizer as recommended, white vinegar works well if you have hard water.
  •  Colds often cause drainage in the throat and coughs.  Cough syrup is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If your child is 1 year or older…try a half teaspoon of honey!  Honey has been proven to be as effective for cough relief in children as over the counter cough syrup, and it is safer.  For children age 2 to 5 give ½ teaspoon, for children 6 to 11, 1 teaspoon and for children 12 and older 2 teaspoons.  Be sure to brush your child’s teeth if given at bedtime.  Honey is not safe for children younger than a year of age.
  • Elevate the head of your child’s mattress.  If your child is in a crib, place a couple of towels between the mattress and the crib springs.
  • Give acetaminophen or if your child is older than 6 months you may use ibuprofen, to ease discomfort or fever. 
  • Antibiotics will not help a viral cold go away faster, I promise!

When do I call the doctor?

  • Call if your child begins pulling at ears or becomes increasingly fussy.
  • Call if there is thick yellow or green drainage from your child’s nose for more than 10 days.
  • Call if there is a worsening cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Call if your child is wheezing.
  • Call if your child develops a fever after a few days of cold symptoms or begins to feel worse after several days.
  • Call if your child refuses to drink.
  • Call if you are worried or anxious about your child’s cold symptoms.  Always better to call than worry!

How do I prevent colds?

  • Hand washing is the number one way to prevent colds and illnesses.
  • Wipe down your child’s toys occasionally…try throwing plastic toys into the top rack of the dishwasher!
  • Show your child good hygiene by blowing into a tissue and turning your head to cough rather than coughing and sneezing into your hands.
  • Make sure that your child has a healthy diet, is sleeping enough, and is not in closed crowded areas during flu and cold season.
  • Use a humidifier in your home and/or child’s room.  This keeps your child’s noses from drying out with the heat resulting in stuffiness.
  • Do not smoke around your child.  Children in homes where parents smoke have many more colds and ear infections.  Insist smokers change their clothing before holding your child.  Clothing holds smoke and is a second-hand smoke exposure for your child.

So it is the season, don’t stay home just because your child has a runny nose!   If your child does not have a fever and seems to be feeling OK go ahead and venture out with that runny nose, if not you may be home all winter!  If your child does feel a bit under the weather, enjoy the extra cuddle time and put on some chicken soup!

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 2016….Live with Joy


Here it is the 3rd of January, the holidays are really over!  I love the holiday season, but I also love the feeling of new beginnings.  There really is no magic to the month of January, but it is a time that I stop for a moment and think about the blessings of the past and the anticipation of what will happen in the upcoming year.  I often start listing what things I want to do or change or ways I want to improve.  If I am not careful, I start to think about what “could” happen next year…and worry about it!  I am wired to worry. Over the years I have learned this about myself, but I often have not been very successful in turning off the worry.  The fact is, we don’t have a lot of control over what life will give us this year.  There will be joys, and yes there might be worries and maybe hardships.  Simply worrying or thinking about “what might happen” never accomplishes anything.  That worry over what “might happen” results in missing the joy of the moment.  So, I am concentrating on living joyfully…and not wasting energy thinking about things unless I have a plan to solve a problem or make a change.  I most likely will have to renew this promise to myself each day….maybe even several times a day!  The wonderful thing about beginnings is that you can decide at any moment to begin again.  So, even though I commit to this on January 3rd….I can decide January 4th, 5th, 6th, …..or every day to begin again to redirect my thoughts to what is joyful at that moment.  Here are a few more hopes I have for families this year….including my own “kids” …. (they will always be my kids, no matter how old!)….

  1. Families will begin each day with excitement, live each day with joy and end each day with gratitude.  I believe every child should go to sleep thinking of the good things of that day and wake up with thoughts of the good things to come.  I want parents to concentrate on the moment….because worry about what will come is wasting a moment of joy.
  2. Families will give structure when needed and “bend the rules” too!  One of the best things about being a parent is creating structure but also breaking rules occasionally.  There is nothing more fun than letting your child have an extra treat, stay up a little later, nap on the floor in the family room, make chocolate hand prints on paper or whatever “slightly naughty” thing you want to do.  Joyful families turn boring routines into magic occasionally!
  3. Time for individual kid time.  There is something about taking time to do something special with each of your children alone.  No interruptions, no sibling rivalry, no sharing…..just enjoying your child for who he or she is alone.  I really get to enjoy the unique gifts each of my kids have when I have the opportunity to have that alone time.
  4. Families will remember that “this too will pass” and “this soon will be gone”…..these are basically the same words but different thoughts.  Yes, the temper tantrums, dirty diapers, sleepless nights will pass…and yes, the sticky kisses, sweet little voices, and cuddle time will also soon be gone.  Enjoy it all…don’t wish any of it away.
  5. Families will forgive each other and themselves.  We parents are not perfect, we never will be.  Our parents weren’t perfect either.  Families who are healthy and happy forgive.  Parents who are happy forgive themselves and others.  We cannot continue to stew over mistakes we make or will make as parents or mistakes other family members make.  The time spent in unforgiveness wastes time that could be joyful.  Forgive and forget….move on.
  6. Families will laugh till it hurts!  Kids learn humor, happiness, and joy from their parents.  Kids love to see their parents laugh, enjoy, and be silly.  Scientifically we know that laughter changes our brain chemistry…it causes feel good serotonin to be released.  Laughing and laughing hard with your kids is one sure way to make your day better.
  7. Hug and kiss….a lot.  Happy families are physical.  Happy parents give each other love through touch….they hold  hands, hug often and always kiss each other good night.  A cuddle always makes a hurt feel better and the day a little better.  Don’t let the busyness of life rob you of the chance to hug and kiss your family.  Don’t let your adolescent fool you, they need it too.
  8. Families will slow down every day.  Don’t let life keep you on a hamster wheel.  That type of living results in stress, anxiety, and a loss of joy.
  9. What are your hopes for 2016?  Commit with me to live with joy….Let us all start each day with the resolve to love more, enjoy more, smile more, be grateful and be our best.  That will allow us to live in the best way….  Happy New Year!

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



Being a parent, is at the top of my Gratitude List….


I am grateful for my life as a Mom….

I am sitting this morning in the quiet, sipping my coffee, my college  aged son is soundly sleeping upstairs,  all four of our children will be home by Wednesday and the house will be lively.  Life is good.  I am grateful.  This time of year always turns my thoughts to gratitude, and I realize that simply because I am a parent, my blessing cup overflows. My children have brought me a greater joy than any other aspect of my life.  I am thankful for my four children for many reasons, but some of the reasons that I am grateful to be a parent include:

·        Parenting Love.  From the moment I “fell in love” with each of my children, the definition of love changed.  A mix of responsibility, awe, pride, wanting more for them than myself and immense love…which has all overflowed back to me, a total gift.

·        Enjoying the wonder.  Being able to enjoy the moments of childhood wonder again, reliving those moments of awe and magic. Experiencing the world new again, even participating in those school projects that I actually learned more from the 2nd (3rd and 4th) time around! (I finally know the state capitals!)  It continues as I watch them as young adults finding their passions in life….the world is completely open to them!

·        Learning that the greatest joy is the joy experienced through a child. The greatest pride is in the accomplishments not of yourself but of your child, and the greatest accomplishments are not material but that moment that you realize your child is a wonderful human being.  There is nothing better than seeing your child become a caring, passionate, adult.

·        Remembering the hugs, kisses, smiles, high fives, and “the looks” I have gotten from each of my kids that showed me I was loved.  Experiencing now, the “I’m home” hugs as they return home from their world now.

·        Loving my husband more.  Children expanded the love I have for my husband.  I loved him with my whole heart before children, but even loved him more and yes maybe differently when I saw him become the amazing Dad he is.  I continue to love him more at each day in our life as he continues to “father” our children at each season in their lives.

·        Remembering the sticky fingers, messy bedrooms, late night “emergency talks” and yes loads of college laundry that have made me feel like a Mom.  Nothing like feeling needed….

·        Realizing that my children have helped me appreciate my own parents.  Until you are a parent, it is difficult to “get it”.  As the years pass, I realize over and over again what sacrifices my own parents made for me; the lessons they taught, the love they lavished, and the roots they gave.  I think that by becoming a parent, you realize more the blessing of your own parents.  There becomes this special bond…a kind of “parenting club” where you finally “get it”.  I am more aware each year of the blessing of my own parents, and am more grateful than ever for their example to me.

·        Realizing that my children have made me a better person.  Our children have brought me challenges that have made me stronger, made me admit my weaknesses and accept them, focused me on prayer and have helped me ever expand my capability to love. Yes….each of them have made me a better person…

Yes, being a parent is at the top of my Gratitude List this Thanksgiving.  My heart is full…Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, may your heart be full of gratitude 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.


“We always do that!” Why Family Tradition is Important!

christmas tree 2013

Our “traditional” Christmas tree.  A little more “perfectly” decorated than years past….there are ornaments even on the bottom of the tree now! Can you see the beautiful popcorn string on our tree…a Love family tradition!

The Christmas tree is decorated.  We have strung our traditional popcorn string from the top of the tree to the bottom.  The first year we attempted this…about 25 years ago, we had a popcorn string of about 12 inches.  Each year I think that this might be the year not all the kids will be home to participate, or they might even decide that the tradition is old and tired.  I know at least two of the four kids are not totally thrilled with the activity but last year I heard the same words I have heard for many years from all four kids…”But we always string popcorn!”  (I know that one of the kids who shall remain nameless only completed one short strand this year.  The other three siblings definitely picked up the slack!) :)

If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” or “That is what we always do!” even when we have only done it that way one other time.  Your child is not just talking about the good time he had, but the fact that it meant something to him and he thinks to you too.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We live not by things, but the meaning of things.”  It is not what you do or eat that is important, it is the meaning and feeling that comes with what you are doing that is so important to your child.

Creating your own special rituals now and faithfully repeating them throughout your child’s life will provide your child with a sense of security, stability, belonging and pride in his family.  It is never too early to start your own family traditions.

Four reasons tradition is important to a family:

1.  Traditions help make life predictable.  Rituals that are followed daily, weekly, and yearly such as family dinners, nightly stories, spring picnics; holiday songs etc. helps make children feel secure.  Their world is often unpredictable—keeping things predictable at home gives security.

2.  Traditions give families a time to connect.  Sometimes we can feel unconnected when we get busy.  Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking.  Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.

3.  Family traditions teach children what their family values are.  Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and activities.  These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring with him to adulthood.

4.  Tradition forms family identity.  Build a family group for your child to feel connected to and this will often prevent them from trying to find other less suitable groups to identify with.  A child’s family is a huge piece of their identity.

Traditions can be very simple…it is the act of repeating them, allowing them to change with your family’s “season in life” and keeping them fun that is the key.  If something is not fun anymore, then let it go!

Don’t get hung up on creating the prefect rituals, let them happen naturally based on what your family enjoys. Many traditions just happen.  The wonderful thing about becoming your own family is that you get to create your own traditions from scratch.  Some you will come up with on your own, some you will borrow, and some you will discard from your past, but the traditions will become part of who your family is.

Some suggestions to try during the holiday season that might be fun:

  1. Take a drive in pajamas to see the holiday lights.
  2. Take a hike in a local park and find some natural decorations for your tree or to make other holiday decorations.
  3. Make a homemade Christmas tree ornament.  Date it, and each year you will add to the collection.
  4. Bake Christmas cookies or Hanukkah treats and share with friends and neighbors.
  5. Draw Secret Santas in the family.  Each Secret Santa will complete a kind deed for the family member he or she drew.
  6. Have a traditional Christmas breakfast, or Christmas Eve dinner.
  7. Attend religious services together.
  8. Lay a piece of straw in the Baby Jesus’ bed each day if a child has done a good deed.
  9. Read a holiday story each night.
  10. Have a traditional Advent wreath or Advent calendar.
  11. Have a Christmas countdown chain.  Make a construction paper chain and tear one link off each day until Christmas.  Write an activity on each chain link that you will do that day.
  12. Camp out under your Christmas tree one night.
  13. Go caroling.
  14. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
  15. String popcorn for your tree.

And the list can go on and on….share some of your traditions!

Remember, family tradition endears your child to your family and establishes an everlasting family bond. The celebration, the meal, and the activities do not need to be perfect, the perfection comes from a celebration steeped in tradition and full of fun memories that draw a family together….that is perfection

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


Do Parents Need a “Media Diet”?

mom baby and phone

What are we and our kids missing when we are “plugged in” to a screen rather than each other?

I have become connected to my phone….more than I ever would like to admit that I am.  I am a late comer to the smart phone, having mine only since last spring.  In that short amount of time I have frequently caught myself on my phone at times that are truly inappropriate.  My love affair with my phone may just be a bit out of control.  Evidently I am not alone, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s Internet Trends report, those of us with smart phones check them every six and a half minutes or 150 times a day.  Wow, what could I get accomplished in that amount of time, or better yet, what conversations am I missing out on?

As parents, we need to show our children that they are more important than our email, twitter, or Facebook pages. It is really difficult to be fully engaged when our phone is between us and our child or even our husbands!  I do worry about the relationships that this generation of children may form in the future, will they be based on a screen or true engagement?

So, as guilty as I am of being too attached to my beloved smart phone…how do I break away?

  • Stop and ask….do I need to look at the phone right now?  Unless there is an emergency phone call, there is no reason to disengage from your husband, child, or friend to look at a screen.  The here and now….the real in front of you always trumps a screen.
  • Acknowledge that there is a rush when there is a “like” on a Facebook post, or a new follower on Pinterest and there might even be a bit of anxiety when you ignore the urge to check your phone.  Move on, the moment of the present will give you more of a rush than a look at a screen will ever give.  I have found if I ignore the temptation and direct back to the here and now, the urge to “check” leaves quickly….kind of like the urge for chocolate! 
  • Remember that even if you are not totally enthralled with a game of Candyland at the moment, showing your child that you feel  being with him is important enough that the phone is not in your hand will build a relationship that hopefully will result in your 13-year-old feeling comfortable sharing with you in the future.  Paying attention when your child is young results in a relationship that is solid during those teen years. I am glad I didn’t have to deal with this temptation as a young Mother. 
  •  I am trying to set specific times during the day to check my phone, not just when a whim hits me.  This may decrease the number of times that I check my phone when my family is around.  Phones should be turned off during dinner hours or family time.  Nap times may be a good time to “check-in” or if necessary to check in when children are with you, think about a timer to keep you focused on work for a short amount of time.  Telling your child that you will be on your phone or computer until the timer goes off gives a specific ending time for you and your child.
  • There are times when you do get sucked into the world of the smartphone….then you need to say “Hey, I am sorry guys….Mommy is putting the phone away, I am back.”  Then truly be back.  You can handle the separation from your phone, there will be no permanent disability if the phone is not connected to you.  It is much easier to handle that separation than a separation from a child because he or she never received the attention needed for a relationship to thrive.

I remember spending the morning at a park when my children were young.  Often our conversations were about the birds, or the clouds in the sky, or maybe even the ants on the sidewalk.  On my afternoon run the other day, I saw a young Mom pushing her child in the swing with one hand and texting with the other.  Her eyes were on her phone.  She had her child outside enjoying the wonderful afternoon, but she was missing the best part, the joy of engaging with her child.  She was missing her child’s giggle and the opportunity to tickle her child’s tummy as she swung forward and to kiss those little toes as they reached the sky…..moments that a phone could never match, and moments her child will truly miss.

As I think about my own new obsession, I realize that there are times that I am missing out on wonderful conversations with my husband, or a moment of peace and silence without stimulation, or even an uninterrupted enjoyment of a sunset because my phone “pings” telling me that I have a message, or a new follower.  That moment of “rush” when I hear the phone can never be as good as that moment of engagement that I miss.  My smart phone has not made me a better wife, mother, or conversationalist….it has only spread me thinner.  I pledge now to be a better steward of my phone…so my relationships in life are not with a screen, but with those I love.  You have a tougher challenge as young Moms because screens are a much bigger part of your life with your children than I could ever imagine when my kids were young.  It will take a real effort and plan to keep those screens from “stealing” those moments of parenthood that can never be replaced.  I am going on a diet this week….a smart phone diet, want to take the challenge with me?

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



Better protection from the flu!

It is not too late to protect your child and you! More flu cases so far this year than all of last year!

Flu shot season is here….and there is even more protection this year!

It is hard to believe….but it is that time of year again, flu shot season.  The Katydids have been chirping in the evening (6 weeks till that first frost??), and before we know it flu season will be here.  So, even though we have had some beautiful summer weather over the last few days, it is time to start thinking about everyone in your home receiving the flu shot.  (yes, everyone!)  The recommendations remain the same, everyone 6 months of age and older should receive a flu shot.  Those of you who have babies younger than 6 months need to make sure that your baby is cocooned in protection…everyone who has frequent contact with your baby should be vaccinated against the flu!

This year you may be hearing about the newer quadrivalent vaccines.  These flu vaccines contain protection against 4 strains of influenza.  Usually the flu shot covers 2 type A strains and 1 type B strain.  Flu strains change and evolve so the flu shot “recipe” changes as experts try to predict what flu strains will be most likely to hit during flu season.  Type A strains usually make people sicker so both H1N1 and H3N2 type strains are included.  There is also usually 2 strains of type B flu around and experts try to guess which one to include in the vaccine.  Now, both strains have been added for better coverage.  The supply of quadrivalent flu vaccine may be more limited…but there will be plenty of the traditional trivalent (3 strain) vaccine, the important point is…get a flu shot!   If you have a choice…get the quadrivalent vaccine to protect yourself and your child more completely.  Every year approximately 24,000 Americans die from the flu…and many become ill.  Don’t wait, vaccinate and protect yourself and your child.  Call today and find out when your doctor will offer the vaccine…adults now can also receive the vaccine from their local pharmacist without seeing a doctor. Ask these questions to help determine if your child needs 1 or 2 doses of the flu vaccine.

  1. Is your child 6 months old or older?
  2. Has your child ever received the flu vaccine?
  3. If yes, did your child receive two or more total doses of the flu vaccine since July of 2015?
  4. If yes, your child needs one dose of the flu vaccine.  If your child has not received two or more vaccines since July of 2015, and is between 6 months of age and age 8, then he or she will need two doses of flu vaccine separated by at least 30 days.
  5. If your child has never gotten a flu vaccine or you are not sure about the number of doses, is between the ages of 6 months and age 8, he or she should receive two doses to be safe.
  6. If your child is 9 or older, then one dose of flu vaccine is all that is necessary.

Children between 6 months and 9 years need two doses of the flu vaccine initially to establish first time immunity.  This is my first reminder of several to come, the flu vaccine is a must for all parents and children over 6 months of age!!  Keep yourself and your child healthy!  Look ahead, plan to make that appointment for your child’s flu vaccines, and remember that your child may need 2 vaccines!  Flu season will hit this winter, that is a promise, so be prepared.  Now, let’s get back to enjoying this great end of summer weather!

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


Ironing and Love

Image result for ironing

Can this be a tool of love?

I have often said that you can tell the stage in life of a family by looking at their laundry basket. Certainly there are times when the basket is full of bibs and sleep sacks, and then training pants and toddler overalls, followed by school clothes, sweaty athletic uniforms, and then emptiness as your babies become young adults. My basket is pretty empty now. But, this past weekend, our youngest child who has been in his first job out of school just a few months, asked if I would iron a couple of shirts for his first business trip. Of course I said yes and he showed up a bit later with about 6 loads of clothes….including 8 shirts and at least that many pairs of pants that needed ironing. I have never liked to iron; as a matter of fact my own mother will often iron for me when she visits because she knows it is not my favorite chore. I must admit that I never understood how my Mom enjoyed ironing for me. Who could enjoy that chore? She had to be lying! So, when my son showed up with all this laundry and ironing, I must admit I was a little annoyed at first. After all, he was leaving the next day and I needed to get it done that evening. As I began washing, folding and yes ironing I began to feel my annoyance turn to love. As I folded his t-shirts, and carefully ironed his dress pants and shirts, I thought of those small shirts and pants from years ago. I thought of the excitement he had now with this new experience on his horizon, and as I carefully folded that last t-shirt my heart was over flowing. I get it now….I understand why my Mom enjoys ironing when she is here. She must feel that same love for me just as I felt for my son as I did something I had never enjoyed or really taken the time to think about in the past; but now was able to stop and take the time to reminisce about washing those many clothes when he was that sweet baby, and busy, busy toddler, and grimy little fisherman, and sweaty football player and now a young man with an exciting new career. I was able to iron those shirts with thought and love because my life has slowed down. I guess I was always doing that laundry with love, I just had the time to realize it now. Those laundry baskets sure are full of much more than just dirty clothes…Moms do all things with love.

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


Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby

Our daughter Kelsey loving her solid foods!  She was needing a dunk in the tub after this meal!

I can remember the excitement of introducing the kids to their first tastes of “real food”.  The camera was ready, they were sitting up and eager, and that first bite often resulted in the funniest look as they had that first taste.

I know that starting solid foods often comes along with many questions.  What food is first?  What about allergies?  How much?  When?  And the list goes on and on.  To be honest, there are not many hard and fast “rules” that come with starting your little one on solids.  As with many issue of parenting, you may see many different suggestions and contradictory information which can increase your anxiety.    Like many of my parenting tips, I start by saying “Relax!”  There really is not a “wrong” way to do this!  So get your cameras ready….the introduction to solid food is a milestone for every parent and baby, and is darn cute too!

When is my baby ready?

The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents that solid foods should be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.  At any point between 4 and 6 months, it is just fine!  More important than age, we like to see that the baby is developmentally ready for solids.

Why should I wait until my baby is 4 to 6 months old?

Ideally, breast milk or formula should be the main nutrition for a baby’s first 4 to 6 months.  The foods that you introduce after that are really just supplemental to the nutrients in the breast milk and formula.  Solids are really an education in taste and texture for the first year of life.  Breast milk or formula is the core of your baby’s diet for the first full year providing at least 75% of your baby’s calories.  After a year, your baby will start to meet more and more of their nutritional needs through solid foods.  By age 3, a child should only be getting about 10-20% of their calories from milk, and the rest from solid foods.

Isn’t this different from when I grew up?

Maybe.  The school of thought regarding solids has changed over the years.   In the 1920’s, solid foods were seldom offered to babies before a year.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s solid foods often were fed to infants in the first three months.  There are pictures of me being fed rice cereal at just a few weeks of age.  (I AM pretty old!)  Moms were often told then that the cereal would help a young infant sleep through the night.  I promise it doesn’t!   Slowly, we have come almost full circle with the recommendation now to wait until your baby is at least 4 months old.

Why do we wait now?

We have learned that babies are just not developmentally ready for solids.  More important than actual age is your baby’s development.

  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s digestive system is too immature for solids.
  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s throat muscles are not developed for swallowing solids and there is a tongue thrust…food that is placed in the mouth is pushed back out with his tongue.  Most babies no longer have this tongue thrust by 6 months.
  • Before 4 months of age, your baby has no ability to tell you that he is full.  Until around 4 to 5 months, babies will not turn their head to refuse food.
  • Before 4 months of age, solid foods will result in your baby taking less breast milk or formula that has the correct amount of nutrients and fat for growth.
  • Solids should be introduced no later than 6 months.  Waiting too long for the introduction of solids can result in a delay in your baby’s eating and chewing skills, and recent studies now show that waiting longer than 6 months of age may actually increase food allergies.

What are some signs that might show my baby is developmentally ready for solids?

  • Your baby is between 4 and 6 months in age.
  • Your baby has at least doubled his birth weight.
  • Your baby can sit with support.
  • Your baby has good head and neck control and is able to turn his head to refuse food.
  • Your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is diminishing.
  • Your baby is breast-feeding more than 8 to 10 times a day and still wants more or your baby is taking 32 to 40 ounces of formula and wants more.
  • Your baby is reaching for your food, or shows an interest when you are eating.

What food should be first?

Traditionally babies have been started on an iron fortified, easily digested cereal, like rice.  This is because at 6 months of age, a baby’s natural iron stores from Mom are beginning to diminish.  So, most parents start with some type of cereal, often rice.  Other than the iron, there is not much nutrition in the rice cereal. I feel that a white rice cereal is not the best choice for a first food….there really is no hard and fast rule regarding what food you should start first.  There are many good options such as:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Strained meats
  • Whole milk yogurt if a baby is 6 months of age or older

First foods should be single ingredients.  Foods should be introduced one at a time with a couple of days in between each new food so if there is any type of reaction you will know which food is likely the culprit!

Some will suggest that a parent introduce vegetables before fruits so the baby does not taste the sweet food first.  I don’t feel this is necessary.  Babies who are breast-fed have tasted sweet…breast milk is sweet!  No matter if a parent introduces fruits or vegetables first, babies will always prefer the sweeter taste.  So, it really doesn’t matter!  Introduce a vegetable, then a fruit, then a meat….whatever works for you and your child!

How do I start?

  1. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of a single ingredient pureed food.  It should be a liquid consistency in the beginning.  Your goal is not to fill up your child’s tummy, but to expose him to the new taste and texture.  Be careful not to substitute food for breast milk or formula.  During the first year babies should still have 4-6 breast feedings or 24-36 ounces of formula in 24 hours.  If milk consumption drops, you may be feeding too many solids.
  2. Use your finger as the first spoon and have your baby suck the food off your finger.  You then can move to a rubber coated spoon.
  3. Offer the first meal when you are not in a hurry and your baby is not overly tired or too hungry.  I suggest you nurse or bottle feed first, and then an hour later try the solids.
  4. Always offer the new food in the morning so if your baby would have any kind of reaction or upset tummy, it doesn’t happen at night!
  5. Watch your facial expressions.  Babies learn what foods you like and don’t like!  Everything should be yummy!
  6. If your baby makes a face or gags with the new taste or texture, it does not mean that he doesn’t like the food.  It takes at least 10 to 15 introductions of a food before a baby can develop a like or dislike!  We want our babies to have a wide taste pallet!  Don’t limit your baby to only the foods you like, especially if you are picky!
  7. Watch carefully to see when your baby has had enough.  A baby may turn his head, close his mouth, bat the spoon away, or become fussy.  Do not force food.  Remember, the majority of your baby’s calories should be coming from breast milk or formula.
  8. It makes no difference to a baby if he gets green beans for breakfast!  There is no right or wrong food for each meal.
  9. Start with one meal a day and then move to twice a day.  By 9 months of age, most babies are enjoying solid foods and are eating 3 meals a day.
  10. There should be “dinner and a show!”  Babies like smiles, airplane spoons, songs, and fun with the meal.  Enjoy it!

Tips for making mealtime easier?

  1. Show your baby how you take a bite and enjoy your food.  This may encourage a reluctant eater.
  2. Use the upper lip to sweep food off the spoon.
  3. Dress yourself and your baby in clothes that won’t be hurt by a messy eater!  Many times I stripped my little ones down and sometimes a bath was necessary after the meal!  Babies are messy eaters….no way to get around that!
  4. Use suction cup bottomed bowels.  Keep your baby’s hands busy, give him a spoon to hold too!
  5. No pressure.  It is O.K. if your baby misses a meal.  If your baby is fighting the solid foods, skip a meal or two and then try again.  Remember, solids are mainly an education to taste and texture.  Your baby should be receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk or formula.

What about water and  juice?

Babies do not need any other liquid besides breast milk or formula for the first 4 to 6 months.  This means no juice or water.  Once solid foods are introduced, a baby should be introduced to a cup.  Water may be given in a cup with a meal.  Your baby will probably just take a few sips.  Juice can be introduced when your baby is at least 6 months of age.  The juice should only be given in a cup, never in a bottle, and no more than 4 ounces daily.  If you choose to give juice, give it only after solid foods and breast milk or formula have been given.  We don’t want your baby to fill up on juice and not receive the more nutritious solids or breast milk and formula. Juice is not a must!

What about allergies?

Some health care providers may suggest waiting to start foods like eggs, fish, or peanut butter until your baby is older because of the risk of food allergies.  Studies have shown that avoidance of foods does not prevent the allergy and may actually increase the incidence of food allergies.  In January of 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines recommending that foods should not be avoided unless there was a significant family history of food allergies.  Check with your health care provider regarding his or her suggestions about these foods.

One food that should be avoided until after the first birthday is honey.  Honey carries the risk of your baby developing botulism.  This does not include honey that is in foods like crackers or cereal, only pure honey.

How will I know if my baby is allergic to a food?

If your baby has vomiting, diarrhea, a new diaper rash or skin rash including hives, or develops wheezing, then this could be a food allergy.  If your baby has gas, or a tummy ache it may just be a food intolerance.  If you think your baby has had an allergic response or an intolerance, you should stop giving the food to your baby.  You might try the food again in a couple of months if the reaction was mild and your baby may do just fine.  If there was a more severe reaction like vomiting, hives, or wheezing talk to your health care provider before giving the food again.

What about homemade baby food?

Some parents choose to make baby food.  To be honest, if you are waiting to start solids until your baby is 6 months old, your little one will not eat true puree food for very long.  Most babies will start finger foods at about 7-8 months and are eating mostly table food by 10 to 11 months of age.    It is not terribly difficult or time-consuming to make baby food.  You may choose to make all of your own, or use some store-bought and some homemade.  Your baby will also do just fine if you choose to use all store-bought.  Here are some tips for making your own.

  • You will need something to grind or puree food.  You might use a blender, food processor or simply a fork as your little one gets used to texture.
  • You will need storage containers like ice-cube trays or something similar.  There are trays made just for baby food, but ice-cube trays will work just the same.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and fresh, or frozen for the best nutritional value.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Wash the fruit and vegetables well!
  • Bake, boil, or steam the vegetables or fruit.  You then can mash or puree using water or breast milk/formula.  If you boil the vegetables/fruit, use the leftover liquid to mash the food to prevent loss of nutrients in the water.
  • Peel and pit fruits and vegetables and strain if necessary.
  • You can use seasoning!  Babies like flavor!  Try to stay away from salt.
  • Remove skin and trim fat from meat.  You can puree cooked meat, or grind it, or simply cut it up into very small pieces for an older baby.
  • Freeze the food  in ice-cube trays.  Remove the cubes of food and store in labeled freezer bags.  One cube is about 1 ounce of food.
  • When ready, thaw the amount you will use.  If your baby does not eat all the food prepared in the dish, it must be thrown out, it cannot be saved.
  • Use caution heating with a microwave.  Microwaves can cause hot spots..be sure to stir and test the food.

There are many books with tips and recipes for making baby food.  Some of my favorites include:

Super Baby Food   By:  RuthYaron

Baby Bites   By:   Bridget Swinney

Top 100 Baby Purees:  100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby   By:   Annabel Karmel

So, the introduction of solids really should not make you anxious, it should be exciting and fun!  Enjoy this milestone for you and your baby!  Your baby’s first taste of solid food only happens once!  Don’t over think the process.  Get ready for dinner and a show!

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



American Academy of Pediatrics







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