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

Celebrate the 4th safely…be careful with sparklers!

The 4th of July is this week!  It is the epitome of summer to me.  Cook outs, parades, watermelon, home made ice cream, family time, and of course fireworks.  We have had a very dry summer here in the Midwest, so many firework displays have been cancelled and home fireworks have been banned.  That being said, I know there will still be many children who will be celebrating the day with sparklers.  Many parents feel that sparklers are a harmless “fire work” that the youngest of children can handle.  Sparklers burn at a temperature of about 1200 to  1500 degrees F.  That is hotter than any oven that we latch with child protective latches!  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 45 percent of all firework injuries are to children younger than age 15 and many of those injuries are caused by sparklers.  Injuries to hands and eyes top the list of firework injuries, and many are serious.  I encourage families to enjoy the public displays of fireworks and resist the temptation to “do it yourself”.  Think twice about sparklers, be sure that your children realize that sparklers are very hot and should be treated with caution.  Think about alternatives…what about glow sticks for all the young children at your house?  Glow sticks have been in abundance at dollar stores, the dollar aisle at Target and Michael’s.  These are fun and much safer. They are not safe for those children who will put them in their mouth however.  Flash lights are fun to play with at dark too….another safe way to “light up the night”.

What can you do to help prevent an injury from ruining your celebration of the 4th?

  • If you are using sparklers, all children must be closely supervised.
  • Make sure that children hold the sparklers at arm’s distance and away from clothing.
  • Children should stand far apart when holding sparklers, discourage running while holding them.
  • Light a sparkler while a child holds it, do not try to pass a lit sparkler.
  • Have buckets of water near so that children can drop the sparkler in the bucket when finished.  The sparkler sticks stay hot for quite awhile after the “sparkle” is done.

For those parents of older children…there has been an increase in popularity of “sparkler bombs” where a large number of sparklers are taped together and lit.  These “bombs” can explode with reports of mailboxes and garbage cans being destroyed by them.  There have been children who have lost hands and experienced other serious injuries with this unsafe use of sparklers.  Just a heads up…not something I was aware of!

So celebrate the 4th with family time, food, and fun.  Head to the local parade,  forget those strict bedtimes and head  to the public fireworks display.  Keep safety in mind if you celebrate with sparklers …a trip to the emergency room is never a good ending to any celebration.  Stay safe, wave a flag and celebrate the USA.…Glow sticks anyone?

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


Keep your child’s smile healthy and bright!


Image courtesy of American Dental Association

I can remember that feeling of excitement when I first saw the top of a little tooth poking through our oldest child’s gum….I must admit I remember the shock the first time I felt that tooth when I was nursing too!

(Remember, children can bite only if latched incorrectly, and that is usually when they are “playing” at the end of a nursing. Put your child down and say, “that hurts!” If you put your baby down every time he or she bites or you break the nursing latch when you realize your baby is no longer sucking to eat…there will be no problems. Just because your baby is teething or has teeth is not a reason in itself to wean from the breast!)

We have always known that care of those cute little teeth was important, but there has been some recent changes in the recommendations of care. How we care for our child’s teeth will affect his or her health. Those baby teeth ARE important! Dental decay is an active infection in a mouth…and we want to protect those little pearly whites for the best smiles now and down the road!

Dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood! 24 percent of children in the U. S. have a cavity before age four! 53 percent by age 8 and 56 percent by age 15. There has been a significant increase of dental decay in children in the 2-4 year old age group. So, what are parents supposed to do to protect our little ones’ precious smiles? There is a plan!  http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/11/18/peds.2014-2984.full.pdf+html

  1. Brush with fluoridated toothpaste at the first sign of a tooth. (Yes you heard me right…that is a big change. Past recommendation was to use “baby toothpaste” without fluoride until age 2!) Starting to brush teeth from moment one teaches a lifelong habit for your child. At a minimum, the recommendation is to brush twice daily, morning and night. The most important brushing is the nighttime one before bed. Parents should use a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) until age 3. (see picture above) After age 3, children and adults should use about a pea size amount of toothpaste. Parents should supervise tooth brushing until about age 8 when most children are proficient. It is not important to worry about what direction to brush on the tooth….just that all sides of the tooth and the gum line are brushed.
  2. Drink tap water! Many of us have become a bit of “water snobs” drinking only a certain brand of bottled water! Most bottled water does not have fluoride. Fluoridated water has been proven to prevent dental decay in children and adults! So fill up your child’s straw cup and get a glass for yourself too!
  3. Monitor sugar and sticky foods. We know that tooth decay increases when there is sugar on teeth for long periods of time. Children who drink sugared drinks (this includes juice!) sleep with bottles, or use a sippy cup with milk or juice in it all day are more prone to decay. Keep water in your child’s cup except at meals and stay away from a lot of sugared or sticky foods and treats.
  4. Prevent bacteria in the mouth. Tooth decay is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus mutans. Parents who have a history of poor dental health (lots of cavities) should be very cautious about sharing cups and cleaning those pacifiers in their own mouths! Transfer of that bacteria early on increases your child’s risk of early dental decay. Most importantly, parents should be sure that their own dental health is good…having active decay that is untreated increases the streptococcus mutans in your mouth increasing the likelihood your child’s mouth will colonize with it too. We want to be sure that the snuggles and kisses you give your child does not transfer bad bacteria…because those kisses are a necessity!!
  5. Find a dental home for your child. Your child should have a dental visit by age 1. Dentists are a huge part of your child’s health care just like your child’s doctor! Make every 6 month visits to your child’s dentist to promote good dental health. If your child sees the dentist for preventative care, there may never be a need to develop a fear…there will be no cavities!
  6. Ask about fluoride varnish. Fluoride varnish is a sticky resin of highly concentrated fluoride. Your child can have two or more applications per year and it is very effective in preventing dental decay. Some pediatricians are applying this at well child visits, and often dentists are using this instead of the fluoride rinse or gel of the past. A child can eat right away after this application and it actually will stay on the teeth for a longer time and can help restore early decay.

So those are some of the best tips to prevent dental decay in your child. The habits we form early in our child’s life will have long -lasting effects on their dental health and smiles in the future. Keep your child’s sweet smile bright!

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



Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth

This cute little smile cost us several thousand dollars later to straighten it out….but worth it!

There is nothing cuter than a toothless grin of a baby.  Next the cute little pearly whites that erupt create a darling smile, then there is a toothless grin again as the tooth fairy starts to make visits to your home, and then soon your child will have  two big front teeth that look way too big for their mouth.  As your child grows, their dental needs change too.  Why is dental health so important for children? Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood illness.  There are at least 4 million preschoolers that have had at least one cavity.  Forty to fifty percent of children will have cavities before the age of five.  51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental health problems.  The American diet is high in sugar, and we are using more and more  non-fluoridated bottled water for drinking.  This all adds up to an increase in dental cavities, and a decrease in dental health of our children.  Children with cavities in their primary or “baby” teeth have more problems with poor weight gain, iron deficiency, speech problems and poor dental health as adults.  Taking care of our children’s teeth is part of good health care!

I.  When do baby teeth form and erupt?

  •  The primary teeth or baby teeth begin to form before your baby is born at about the 14th 19th week of pregnancy.  The crown, or the white part of the tooth that is seen, continues to develop until several weeks to several months after your child is born.
  • Total of 20 baby teeth, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom by about age 3.
  • The first tooth to appear usually is the lower central incisors (the bottom two teeth) around 6 months of age.  Don’t panic if your baby’s first tooth isn’t the lower two teeth…some babies teeth to the beat of their own drummer!
  • Teething can be painful for infants.  Babies explore their world with their mouths, and during teething this can be uncomfortable.  There can be redness, swelling in the gums, drooling, increase in finger sucking, and the need to bite and chew on any object.  Some babies will pull at ears or rub their jaw line, teething pain is often referred to the ear area.
  • Sometimes parents will see a “blister” where the tooth is about to erupt, this is normal.
  •  Many babies  like a clean teething ring, frozen wash cloth, frozen fruit in a mesh feeder, frozen bagel or mom’s fingers to rub the gums.
  • You can give acetaminophen, or ibuprofen (after 6 months of age) to help with the pain.  Ibuprofen is a bit more effective for inflammation of the gums, but wait until your baby is at least 6 months to use this!
  • Do NOT place oral numbing ointments on your baby’s gums.  This can cause a decrease in the gag reflex and could be dangerous.
  • Teething pain usually occurs for 3 to 4 days prior to the tooth breaking through the gum.  Pain should decrease once the tooth breaks through the gum line.  There may still be some discomfort for a few days after.  It is not a month-long process unless your baby is cutting multiple teeth one after the other.
  • Teething does NOT cause a fever, vomiting, diarrhea or cold symptoms.  If your baby has any of these symptoms with teething, he or she is probably ill too.
  • Teething can cause an increase in drooling which can lead to a rash or irritation around the mouth and on a baby’s chest.  Keep the area dry by changing shirts frequently, using absorbent bibs, and “water proofing” the skin with ointments.

II. When is the first dental visit?

  • The first dental visit should be at about age one or 6 months after the first tooth.  It is important to have your child’s first teeth examined.  Dental problems can begin early.  Children with healthy teeth can eat better, develop better speech, and dental cavities can cause a permanent state of infection in your child.
  •  Usually the first visit is just a visual exam—usually on mom of dad’s lap.  Going to the dentist is just like a well child exam at your child’s doctor.  We want to be sure we support healthy teeth, not just see the dentist when there is a problem!

III.  How do you care for the first teeth?

  • Wipe your baby’s first teeth using a  wash cloth or gauze or a soft bristled baby toothbrush.  Ideally, your baby’s teeth should be wiped or brushed twice a day.  Once in the morning and once before bed.  The earlier your child becomes accustomed to wiping or brushing their teeth, the easier it will be.
  • You can use a small smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on your child’s tooth or teeth until age 3 and then a pea size amount after age 3.  Fluoride is important!  It helps strengthen your child’s teeth and prevent decay.
  • You should help your child brush teeth until at least age 6.  Children are not coordinated enough to brush teeth well before that.   Sometimes this will be a battle, but it is worth the battle.  We want to form good dental hygiene habits early!  Do what you have to do to get teeth brushed.
  • Have your child sit on your lap facing out, or you sit on the floor and lean your child back into your lap to brush.
  • Let your child brush after you brush.  Use circular motions on the teeth and brush along the gum line.
  • Use stickers, games, songs, whatever it takes to get the tooth brushing done.  If your child cries, brush quickly…but at least the mouth will be open!
  •  Never put your baby to bed with a bottle of formula or breast milk.  This will result in decay in your baby’s first teeth!
  •  Never put juice or any other sugared drink in a bottle.
  •  Do not allow your child to walk around with a sippy cup of juice or milk all day long.  This will leave a continual coating of sugars on your child’s teeth.
  •  You can begin to floss your child’s teeth when they start to touch.  Again, this is a good habit to start young!
  • As your child begins to eat table food, try to avoid high sugar snacks.  Sticky snacks are the worst.  Fruit snacks, dried fruit like raisins and any other sticky food must be brushed out of your child’s teeth.

IV.  When do I worry about thumb sucking, finger sucking and pacifiers?

  • It is perfectly normal for infants and young children to need to suck.  Sucking decreases stress in young children and makes for a happier child!
  • It should be discouraged starting at about age 18 months.  Parents should limit pacifier use to bedtime and nap time.
  • All thumb sucking and pacifier use should be discouraged after age 3.
  • Most children stop on their own, but some need help.  Most will then quit with encouragement from the dentist and parents.   Do not use negative reinforcement like hot sauce on a thumb, taping fingers, or putting mittens on your child.
  • Prolonged sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problem.   The fingers, thumb and pacifier all affect the teeth the same way.

VI. My child grinds his teeth, is this bad?

  • Teeth grinding happens in many toddlers.  The toddler’s molars are very smooth, and children will often grind.
  • Most children outgrow the habit by about age 6.
  • If teeth grinding continues after permanent teeth arrive, then speak with your child’s dentist.

VII.  What should I do if my child injures his mouth and teeth?

  • Be sure and ask your dentist when he or she would like to be contacted for a tooth injury.
  • If a child knocks out a permanent tooth, keep it moist or drop it into cup of milk and call the dentist immediately or head to the ER.
  • If a child is hit in the mouth–always call the dentist for an exam even if there is  no obvious damage.
  • If a child chips a tooth–call the dentist even if there is no sensitivity.
  • Your child should use a mouth guard for sporting activities!

Start good dental habits early…find your child a dental office home where both you and your child are comfortable.  Dental care should not be scary but just a part of good health.  Take care of your child’s smile, it is one of the most beautiful things a parent sees!

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





Celebrate Dad…he is very important!

brad at the beach

  Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who make such a difference in their kids’ lives!!

Celebrate Dad this weekend…and celebrate BIG!  Dads have such an important role in families, and often we don’t recognize the importance.  Research tells us that both sons and daughters are better adjusted, more successful in school, build better relationships, and are more productive adults when Dad is involved in their lives throughout their childhood.  Male role models are essential to both girls and boys and as a society we need to encourage and support good fathering.

I don’t have to read any study to know this truth, I see this truth in my own life and in the lives of the young families I work with.  My own Dad has given me many gifts, but the greatest is the example of what a loving, strong, sensitive, supportive man and father looks like.  Because of his example, I married a loving, strong, sensitive, supportive man who is a wonderful father to our children.  Children, both boys and girls, NEED Dads to set this example of  real manhood in their lives.  Boys need to learn what it means to be a good, strong, loving man; and girls must learn how it feels to be loved and respected by a good, strong, loving man. The choices our children will make in their future partners are influenced by what they see in their own families.  Dads are different from Moms, not better, but different.   A Dad’s parenting complements a Mom’s and children thrive with both styles of parenting.

So, stop for a moment and thank all the Dads in your life; make sure they know how important they are in your life and your child’s life.   Go make that newspaper crown, fix his favorite meal, let him put his feet up and let Dad be “King for the day”….he deserves at LEAST that!  Happy Father’s Day to all those strong men who embrace fatherhood 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.


We need Dad’s to be involved in parenting….encourage it!

Brad  as “King for a day!”  He has always been a “hands on” Dad!

Dads have a special role in their kids’ lives.  I believe that my parenting would have been incomplete without Brad, but I could have very easily discouraged his involvement very early on.  I was a “gatekeeper” Mom; I needed and wanted him to be involved, but had a difficult time actually “letting go”  of any of the parenting.  I hovered and gave “suggestions” on the best way to hold the baby, how to bathe the baby, kind of the “my way or the highway” approach.   Soon I realized that neither of us were the experts and a parenting partnership was better for me, him, and our baby!  We were “in this” together!

Dads sometimes need a bit of encouragement to become confident in their role as a Dad and especially in their baby care skills .  Moms are often responsible for much of the “baby duty” those first few weeks, and sometimes even have a difficult time allowing Dad to own his role.  Studies show us that babies respond to Dads differently than Moms.  Most babies become more alert and active when Dad engages them!  Let’s face it, Dads usually interact with a bit more energy and fun!  Routine and consistency are important for children, but they also need a balance between Mom and Dad.   Embrace parenting as a partnership.  Everyone will benefit…

Ways to Help New Dads Get Involved

1.  Many Dads want to be more involved than their fathers were. 

Moms can help by encouraging time with other families that have involved Dads.  Seeing other fathers that are breaking the old stereotypes will encourage them to do the same.  Talk with other Moms and Dads that have a  parenting philosophy that you like or admire.  Surround yourself with like-minded parents and Dads that like to participate in the care of their children.  Soon you will see that his conversation with other Dads will include the color and consistency of what is in a diaper and the best technique in swaddling, and he will actually be interested in it…who would have thought!

2.  Help Dad get involved early on.

The sooner a Dad gets involved with his baby, the more likely that he will stay connected over the long term.  Be sure to keep everything related to the baby a partnership.  Have Dad change diapers, read to the baby, feed or bring you the baby for nursing, bathe and play his way with the baby.  Breast fed babies may have more time with Mom in the very beginning, but there are many ways that Dad can still participate in caring for his baby.  Skin to skin contact is important for babies—that means Mom’s skin and Dad’s skin!  Encourage Dad to hold his newborn shirtless and comfort just like Mom!  This builds bonding between Dad and baby.  Few Moms can swaddle a baby as securely as a Dad, and Dads can walk and comfort the baby after Mom has nursed–buy a sling that is Dad friendly! Don’t let Dads wait until baby is older to begin his parenting, babies need him from moment one!

3.  Allow Dad to be involved. 

Some dads want to be VERY involved, but Moms have a difficult time letting go.   Studies show us that children with Dads who care for them beginning in infancy, end up more secure in life.  Do not tell Dad how to do everything.  If Dad does something differently, that is not wrong.  If Dad is criticized, he will back off the parenting duties and his confidence will decrease.  Fathers parent differently.  Dads often let children play more physically and take more chances.  This is different from Moms, but good for children and their developing understanding of the world.  Let Dad take one night or weekend day alone, this is good for you, Dad and your baby.  Encourage Dad to own one parenting chore like bathing,  bathing is a task that allows great interaction and is needed from the first moments of parenthood.  Allow Dad to figure out his own parenting pattern and not totally depend on Mom.  Be careful not to slip into a gatekeeper role as I did.  Moms and Dads both need alone time with baby because this allows Mom and Dad to develop their own parenting style and confidence.  Remember, Dad is not a babysitter, he is a parenting partner!

4.  Praise Dad’s efforts. 

We all like praise and fathers really need more of it when caring for their new baby.  Since stereotypes are changing, one way to make sure that Dads are embracing true involvement is for Dads to feel in control and confident.  This confidence develops when Moms praise him for what he does well rather than criticize him for what is done differently from Mom or unsuccessfully.  Offer advice, but approach it as a team.  “This is what has worked for me, try it and see if it does for you.”  Remember success breeds success.  The first time Dad quiets his crying baby,  that accomplishment will result in him being more comfortable in quieting the baby the next time!  I quickly learned that Brad’s confident, firm hold was an immediate fix for our second child’s fussy period in the early evening…he had the knack for calming her!

5.  Update Dad

When Moms are on maternity leave or have chosen to not work outside the home,  many Dads feel disconnected while at work.  Taking a moment to send a picture when your baby smiles or to update Dad on a developmental milestones or activities during the day keeps him connected.

6.  Talk together about your parenting goals.  

We all have hopes for our children and our family environment.  Talk about them together…communication about parenting as a team results in you both being on the same page.

  • What are your hopes for your family?
  • How do you see your roles as parents?
  • What kind of parents would you like to be?
  • How would each of  you like it to be handled when there is a disagreement about a parenting issue?
  • How can you best support each other as parents?

7.  Talk with other families who share your parenting beliefs. 

Sharing parenting experiences with other parents who are parenting as a team really encourages both Mom and Dad.  One of the best parenting tips I can give, is to surround yourself with like-minded parents.  It is much easier to believe in your parenting philosophy when you have other parents that support you.

8.  Put your partner first.

Try to remember that your relationship with your partner will be there after your child is grown.  By loving each other, you are giving your child an important gift—a stable base.  Putting your partner first is wise, and makes your parenting relationship stronger.  Relationships can become stronger even with the pressures of parenthood if you keep each other first.

9.  Keep your sense of humor.

Remember, you are in this together.  As you pass each other in the night, keep a tally on whose turn it is to change the poopy diaper, clean up the spit up, or collapse in exhaustion together in a heap on the couch, laughter at the situation and with each other fixes all kinds of stress.

Becoming a parent is a huge change for both Moms and Dads.  Each parent needs support from the other.  Giving and taking, encouraging, praising and simply loving each other will make both your relationship strong, and your baby happy and successful in the future. Working together is the key to happy families, fulfilled parents, and secure relationships.

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


2015 Summer Bucket List…..What’s Yours???


What will you do this summer?  Share your summer bucket list, here is mine!

Summer is finally here.  I am an incessant  list maker, but one of the most fun lists I make are my seasonal bucket lists.   It is time to think about those wonderful days of summer and taking advantage of them! There is just something about summer.  I no longer have kids celebrating summer break, but I still feel different when summer arrives!   There is just something about summer and the feeling of relaxation and freedom.  I love the longer evenings sitting on our porch, the extra time with family and the whole summer “mind-set” of slowing down. Time does fly, and before I know it the leaves are beginning to turn and the days have become shorter, so I like to make a summer bucket list.  Some things on my list remain the same from year to year…those special things I MUST do every summer, and others may be new things I want to try. Be careful about “overbooking”, a mistake I made one summer.  Everything sounded fun and I had four kids signed up for too much.  I learned the hard way that we actually missed out on more important things than the “summer education” plan I had in place.  I truly believe that summer must have time for doing nothing.  It is during that time, that children really recharge, learn to play creatively, explore, and really enjoy.  We all have to learn how to be idle.  Take the time to think about what you will do to make this summer one to be remembered….not just busy but full of memories to hold on to when the snow begins to fly and your children are grown.  Fill your child’s summer with memories of the lazy, hazy days of summer fun.  So drum roll, here is what is on my 2015 summer bucket list…what is on yours?

  1.  A trip to the beach!  I love the beach, there is something about the sand and waves.  We will be heading south, but there are a few beaches in the Indianapolis area too.  Check out Morse Beach or the beach at Saxony in Fishers!
  2. Free summer concerts.  I love to head to the summer concerts that are offered all over the area.  Pack up the kids, a few snacks and a blanket and head out to a little music under the stars.  Kids love to twirl and dance to the music and what a wonderful way to introduce all the different music varieties to your children, for free!  Try going kidless too…what a great date night!
  3. Symphony on the Prairie.  At least once this summer we will pack our “gourmet” dinner and a bottle of wine and head with our blanket to Connor Prairie for the symphony.  One of our more special “date nights” of the summer!  Indy has some other great date nights too!  Take a look!
  4. Biking to breakfast.  I am an early riser, and if I am going to be up, why not eat!  I love heading out on a bike down the Monon to a great breakfast place.  Nothing better than a cup of great coffee, leisurely breakfast, and exercise all before 10:00 am.
  5. Indians game.  I am not a huge baseball fan, but I love the Indian’s ballpark.  It is a great place to introduce your family to baseball…or at least baseball food! We will be throwing down a blanket on the lawn and I will be cheering, chatting, eating, and enjoying the evening!
  6. A trip to one of our great state parks.    We love to pack a lunch and head out for a hike at one of our great parks.  Last summer we visited Clifty Falls for the first time.  We had missed that gem over the years!  Nothing better than a hike along cool shaded trails, a little creek stomping, and discovery of the great parks in Indiana.
  7. A trip to the farm.  For this city slicker, a trip to the local dairy farm or U-Pick farm is always a treat.  Take a tour of Trader’s Point Creamery, enjoy the beauty of the area and sample some ice cream, head to the local strawberry patch and pick a few berries or just take a drive outside the city through farm country.  Stop at roadside farm stands and sample the taste of summer.
  8. Read on my back porch….and maybe take a nap!  What a treat to read and maybe doze to the sounds of summer!  Share a great summer read!
  9. Backyard s’mores.  I love sitting by a bonfire and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores.  Great conversations are held around fires!
  10. Hit the local drive-in root beer stand.  This is a memory from my childhood that just screams summer.  I can remember the excitement of having the tray hooked to our car window and the “baby” mugs of root beer being delivered right to the car.  Healthy eating??  Not so much.   Great memories?…absolutely.  Memories win in this case.
  11. Enjoy a picnic and music at Mallow Run Winery We stopped at this winery on a fluke a couple of years ago and vowed to go back.  This summer its on the bucket list.  If you enjoy a glass of wine, Indy has several great wineries that have beautiful settings and inexpensive activities.  Another great date night!
  12. Star gazing.  The summer sky will make you wish on a star, and don’t we all deserve to make wishes and believe they will come true?  We may head to Holcomb Observatory on Butler University’s Campus.  It is open most Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 8:45…stars up close and personal!  If you don’t make it there, throw a blanket on the ground and teach your child to look up…there are some things that are worth forgetting bedtime rituals and rules!
  13. Trips to nowhere.  I love to take a drive in the evening, going nowhere.  Windows down, music on, driving with no place to go…hoping to end up at Alexanders Ice Cream Shop on Morse Reservoir.  Love their soft serve ice cream!  Perfect end to any summer day.

So that is the start of my Summer Bucket List…simple right?  Just sit for a moment and think about the days ahead.  Don’t let the summer days slip by without experiencing the lazy, hazy days that will bring you and your children so much!   No pressure, just experience it.  Give your child the gift of a LONG summer…even though the moments go quickly.  Share your list…I just may add a few more “to-dos” to my bucket list!!!

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




Break the Ice and Let a Child Warm Up…It Helps with Stranger Anxiety and Separation!

christy and noa

My Sister Christy and her sweet Noa….I finally got a snuggle from Noa after “breaking the ice” with a few high fives and singing “Pony Boy”.  

This past weekend we had a family gathering and I was able to visit with my youngest sister’s children. I don’t see them often, but when I do I can’t wait to give both of them a snuggle and I love to steal some time with them. I always have to “restrain” myself because my first inclination is to swoop them up and give them a big hug and kiss. I know better…but it is so hard to resist those cute little cheeks and big brown eyes. I learned quickly again this weekend that starting slowly is the key and being satisfied with a “high five” at first might be the best way to some real snuggle time later.

Separation anxiety and stranger anxiety is real in children. It can vary between kids, but most infants and toddlers experience some degree of it. There are some children who will melt down if Mom is merely out of sight and some children who are more social butterflies. Some children begin with tears as an infant and struggle through the preschool years and some children react intensely but for only a few months. All of this is normal…none of this means you as a parent are doing anything wrong. Separation issues actually mean that your child has a wonderful attachment to you! Knowledge of that doesn’t make it any easier to see your child cry and reach for you as you leave or see your child cry as a loving Grandma, Aunt, Uncle or dear friend attempts to love on them. So how do we help our kiddos get through it?? Here are a few milestones….

  • Infants develop separation anxiety around the time they develop object permanence at about 9 months. Some infants will display this as early as 4 to 5 months but most are later.  Stranger anxiety begins around the 5 to 7 month age.
  • Toddlers experience the peak of separation anxiety at about 18 months of age. Their separation anxiety can result in temper tantrums, loud tears, and physical acting out… they are difficult to handle!
  • Some preschoolers will still show anxiety when Mom and Dad leave, but are much better able to handle the separation. Parents should definitely work with being consistent in leaving preschoolers and develop rituals that are meaningful when they leave and return.

So what does a parent do when an Aunt (like me) goes to swoop up their child resulting in lots of tears??

  1. Introduce slowly. Warn friends and relatives that your child is struggling with some separation or stranger anxiety. Introduce new people when you are holding your child. Don’t force the issue. Suggest a slow “get to know you” with giving a high five rather than a hug and kiss at the beginning or sitting on the floor playing or simply smiles and conversation in the safety of your arms. Adults need to understand that forcing a child to come to them only increases the anxiety!
  2. Develop some good bye rituals that you and your child own. Special kisses, snuggles, secret handshakes…whatever you develop that is special to you and your child will work. Keep the good-bye brief and consistent each time. Never sneak away, always say goodbye with a promise that you will return.   Use “kid time” meaning telling your child a time that he or she understands. “When you wake up from your nap, Mom will be home.” “After you eat your snack, I will be home.” If you are going to be gone for a couple of days, speak about it in terms of number of “sleeps” and leave a calendar to mark off or a construction paper chain that can be torn so your child can visually see when you will be home again. Remember, they do not have a concept of time, but children do know their routines! Be sure if you make a promise of when you will return, you keep it!
  3. Practice makes perfect. Children need to practice separating from parents. Go to the gym, use a babysitter, leave your child with Grandma or a trusted friend, practice your good-bye ritual and then return with lots of hugs and kisses. Learning that Mom and Dad leave but always come back is an important lesson for your child. It is great practice for you too! Sometimes our anxiety when leaving our child is transferred to our child…remember your child reads your anxiety and if Mom and Dad are nervous, then your child will be too!

After giving my sweet niece some time, a few high fives, and a little “Pony Boy song” she finally came to me for some snuggles before the night was over. Most likely I will have to start over the next time I see her…but practice makes perfect! Watching her with my sister and brother-in-law, it is easy to see why she thinks her Mommy and Daddy are pretty special…I agree with her!

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


Are the “Magic Words” still important?

Why is it that so often when you want your child to be on his or her best behavior…the most embarrassing things happen?  (Remind me to write about my son when he was 2 1/2 and dinner with our parish priest…long story)  Simply, because children are not born with manners…and the development of manners is a process, a LONG process, a LONG and IMPORTANT process.   This process of learning the all important life skill of manners  is much easier when started very young during formative years.  Words like “please” , “thank you”, “ excuse me”, and “I’m sorry” need to be taught, practiced, and modeled at home from the time your child is a baby.

Manners really help shape a person’s character, help increase a person’s self confidence, and definitely help make a person more likeable.  Manners are a part of most successful people’s lives.  People that naturally practice good manners have less focus on “self” and more focus on the respect of others. That is what I want for my children! Manners are so much more than just please and thank you!

Our children are exposed to very different social norms today.  Society is very open and allows honest expression of feelings.  I agree that honest expression is important, but we need to teach our children ways to respect the needs and feelings of others while still expressing their own feelings and needs.

I think some of our pop culture actually rewards disrespect.  Some of the most popular TV shows, popular music, and professional athletes glorify being rude and disrespectful…it has suddenly become “cool”.  As parents, it is our role to provide teachable moments so our children more often hear and see what is polite and respectful rather than what society may be teaching is the norm and “cool”.

So the fact is, no one is born polite.  In fact children, especially toddlers, tend to throw fits, grab toys, throw food, and display very few if any glimpses of manners…and we parents should not expect it!  Developmentally toddlers are not naturally polite!  However, your teen will not be polite either if you don’t start introducing the concept of manners and respect at a young age.

Where do you begin?

Between the age of 6 and 12 months begin with The Magic Words….

“Please”  “Thank you” and “Excuse me”

Saying please and thank you is usually the first bit of manners parents begin to teach.  You can begin this before your child is verbal.  Many parents teach the sign for “please” and “thank you” starting at about 6 to 9 months of age.  I see many of the youngest toddlers in my parenting groups sign “please” before getting their fishy cracker snack!  Parents should always prompt, “What do we say?” or “Say please!” or “Say thank you!”  If your toddler aged child does not respond, then you should say the words and provide the sign for your toddler.  Soon, “please” and “thank you” will become a part of who your child is…and will be words that are used by habit.

Saying “Excuse me” when interrupting, bumping into someone, or (heaven forbid) making a bodily noise (which is hysterically funny for young boys especially) will also serve your child well.  Once again, forming the habit early and modeling the behavior for your child is essential.

“Play nice” “Gentle” and “Share”

Toddlers are incapable of playing cooperatively and sharing nicely.  Preschoolers should have begun to master those concepts, but that will only happen with teaching and modeling the acceptable behavior.  When you begin to see your older infant or young toddler grab, push, or hit…respond with “Gentle touch.  Let’s play nice and share.”  Help your child share by trading the toys back, helping him take turns, and praising him for cooperating.  Toddlers who hit, shove, or bite when angry should immediately “take a break” or in other words a “time out”.  As you play with your child, trade toys back and forth, offer to share, model gentle touch and the behavior you want your child to learn.  After much practice, children will begin to learn how to play cooperatively, share, and respond with words rather than physical action.

“I am sorry”

Few words are more important in life than these.  Teaching your child to apologize when he or she is wrong or behaves in a way that is not respectful is an essential piece of manners.  Those words must be modeled by parents; apologizing to your child is essential to your child learning what a true apology is.  Again, teaching the sign for “sorry” can be the start.  Helping your child say “sorry” when necessary is also key.  If your child hurts another child or takes a toy, help your child apologize by prompting your child to sign or say the words, or say the words for him “John is sorry he shoved you, Mary.”  Talk about how saying sorry helps the hurt go away.

Talk and read about manners and respectful behavior every day. Some of my favorite books to introduce respectful behavior and manners to toddlers are:

Manners Time (Toddler Tools) and Sharing Time (Toddler Tools ) by:  Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen

Perfect Pigs an Introduction to Manners by: Marc Brown and Stephen Krensky

OOPS , Sorry! A First Book of Manners by: Richard Morgan

My Very First Book of Manners by: Michal Sparks

No Slurping, Little Pig! A book About Table Manners by: Sue Kueffner

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


Swim Season is here…keep your child safe!

We have spent many summer days at the pool or beach!  It is a part of summer and kids!

Memorial Day Weekend is fast approaching.  That means the beaches and pools will be open!  Summer water fun can be wonderful for children; most of us have great memories of the lazy days of summer spent at the pool or beach.  As a parent, those lazy days have a new meaning.  No longer will you be sitting in a beach chair with a book.  When there is water and children, there must be close supervision.  Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of  accidental death in children, and most drownings occur when there has been less than 5 minutes of unsupervised play around the water.  What can we do to make our children’s pool and beach time fun and safe?

Water Safety

  • A child can drown in just a couple of inches of water.  All water must be supervised, even blow up backyard pools.
  • If you have a pool, provide layers of protection for your child.  Think about fencing your pool, locking a gate, locking the backdoor from the house, an alarm, and/or a protective pool cover that will bear a child’s weight.
  • Inflatable above ground pools should have the ladder removed when not in use.  Children are very “top heavy” and children can fall head first into soft sided inflatable pools when they lean against them.
  • Empty small child pools after use and turn the pool over.  Remember it only takes a few inches of water to be dangerous.
  • Hot tubs and decorative water features in yards are a danger too!
  • Keep toys away from the pool when it is not supervised; toys tempt children into the water.
  • Always provide “touch supervision” for your child.  Your child should not be farther than arm’s length away from you in the water.
  • Always “pass the baton” of supervision.  Do not assume that other adults, and that includes even other family members, are watching your child if you leave the pool or beach area.
  • If a child is missing, always check the pool, lake, retention pond or any other water first.  Seconds matter in drowning.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool and a phone with emergency numbers programmed in it.
  • Do not rely on floatation devices like “floaties” or “water wings” as your child’ supervision.
  • If your child has had swim lessons, do not rely on those lessons as your child’s supervision…”touch supervision” by an adult is a must!
  • Only swim in designated swimming areas on a beach with lifeguards.
  • Teach children to enter lakes and oceans feet first.
  • Take a CPR course!  There are many parent focused courses in the community.  Contact local hospitals and the Red Cross for classes.

Swimming Lessons

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children age 4 and older take swimming lessons.
  • Children between the age of 1 and 4 can take swim lessons, but children at this age usually are not coordinated enough to swim well.  Classes with parents are fun for children under the age of 4.
  • Babies younger than 1 can also enjoy the water with an adult.   Be sure that the water is warm enough and your baby is protected from the sun.  A child that shivers is too cold!
  • There should be no classes that force a child to go under the water before the age of 4.  Many children will swallow or “inhale” water and there is a risk of “water intoxication” in a very young child.
  • Most children will be able to swim well if they have taken lessons by about age 5.
  • Swimming lessons do not “drown proof” your child or replace adult supervision near the water!

Prevention of Illness

  • Remember swim diapers are not leak proof.  They are mainly for the purpose of stopping bowel movements from entering the water.  Urine and stool does seep from the diaper.  Always change the diaper when your child has a bowel movement, and make it a practice to change swim diapers every 60 minutes to prevent leakage.
  • Do not let children swim with diarrhea.
  • Never change a diaper poolside.  Always use the locker room changing area.  Wash your hands well after a diaper change.
  • Take young children to the bathroom frequently to prevent pee in the pool!
  • Do not let your child drink pool or lake water.
  • No swimming with contagious illnesses like pink eye.

So, put on that swim suit ( Ugh!), slather on the sun screen, find a sun hat and sun glasses, and pack up the pool and/or beach essentials and head to your “swimming hole”.  Kids love it, and what is summer without water!  Be safe!  Share your experiences at your favorite “swimming hole”!

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


Choosing a sunscreen for your child

Choose the right sunscreen protection for your child…and enjoy the summer!

The sun is shining…it is going to be a great day!  Whatever your plans are they must include some sunscreen.  If you are a bit confused about which one is best for you and your little one, then join the club!  Walking through a sunscreen aisle at the store can be very overwhelming.  We have SPF numbers, lotions, sticks, sprays, natural, baby sunscreen, discount brands, expensive brands, dry touch, waterproof, water-resistant, and the list goes on.  Reading labels and comparing sunscreens feels like a parent should have a doctorate in chemistry.  The new labeling makes it a bit easier to figure out, but there is still room for lots of confusion.  So begins another spring/summer of walking the aisles of Target wondering which sunscreen is the best! Is it easier just to keep your child inside?  Definitely not!  Here are a few tips that may help your sunscreen decisions.

Sun safety tips:

Babies under 6 months

  • As much as possible babies this age should avoid sun exposure.  Dress your baby in lightweight long pants, sleeves and brimmed hats that shade the neck.  When you are not able to cover your baby completely and keep him or her in the shade, then you can apply a small amount of sunscreen to exposed areas.  It is better to use sunscreen than for your baby to get a burn!!
  • Be aware of reflection of the sun off water and other objects.  The best time of day for an infant is when the sun is not at its highest intensity.  Try to stay out of direct sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Older Children

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside if you are using a chemical block.  Use sunscreen everyday as part of your routine.  Look for sunscreen of at least 30 SPF that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Make sure you are using enough sunscreen–about 1 ounce or a shot glass full!
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.  Even waterproof sunscreens need to be reapplied after swimming and towel drying.  Sunscreen sticks work well for under eyes and those hard to apply areas such as ears, and noses.
  • The best defense is covering up, use hats, sunglasses, and cotton clothing for your children.
  •  Try to be shaded as much as possible and remember that the peak hours of sun are between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Sunscreen labels

  • New labeling regulations are in effect this summer for sunscreen manufacturers.
  • Just because a sunscreen is labeled for kids or babies does not mean that it is the best for your child.  The ingredients make the difference!
  • The label must say broad spectrum or protects against UVA and UVB rays.  Both types of rays cause skin damage.
  • SPF numbers can be misleading.  SPF higher than 30 does not provide much more protection, and there are sunscreens with a high SPF that do not provide broad spectrum coverage.  You must have both.
  • Try to stay clear of vitamin A.  There has been some research that vitamin A listed as retinyl palmitate on labels, can cause more skin damage when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  (doesn’t make sense to put it in sunscreen!)  Vitamin A is the darling of cosmetic companies right now, with claims of anti aging.  Vitamin A in vegetables is great…not so great in sunscreen.
  • Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide.  These are mineral based sunscreens.  They are effective immediately and are not readily absorbed by your child’s skin.  They are more of a physical barrier to the sun, not a chemical barrier.  Avobenzone is a common chemical used in sunscreen.  It takes 20 to 30 minutes for it to be effective.  There has been no real definitive research that proves it is harmful, but zinc and titanium oxide both have been shown to be easy on sensitive skin and there are no chemicals that are absorbed. Sometimes these ingredients will make the sunscreen thicker and whiter on the skin.
  • Do not buy sunscreen with insect repellent!
  • Buy a cream or lotion rather than a spray.  There is concern about your child breathing in the small particles in the sunscreen spray and studies show us that parents do not apply enough sunscreen with a spray.  Remember, we need at least an ounce of sunscreen for good coverage.
  • Do your homework The Environmental Working Group reviews sunscreens each year.  Take a look at the best sunscreens of 2015  http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/and then make your decision.

So make some plans for the wonderful weather. We have been waiting for this!  Head outdoors with your child and have some fun!  But first, take a shopping trip today and find some sun protection for yourself and your child.  Purchase that all important sunscreen….and maybe a cute pair of sandals for yourself!

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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