parenting

Bravery.

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Last weekend our volunteer staff had the opportunity to spend an entire day together. We ate, played, and spent time digging into our own stories - in order that we might be able to better walk alongside you. There was a resounding theme that echoed through the day. We, as a culture, must seek to rid ourselves of assumptions. We must validate the unique stories of the women in our lives. We can walk alongside each other in pain and in joy.

Through education and support we strongly feel there is hope for a societal shift in maternal health.

We acknowledge that we all must become better listeners. In humility and vulnerability, we must also share our stories. For often, healing begins with one person's simple bravery.

Will you join us in changing the culture? Will you join us as we seek to better the health of women from pre-conception through preschool? Change begins with individuals. Change begins with us.

All my love,

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Café Recap: Handling Transitions

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Our panelists: Josie Olson (Play Therapist), Loan Kline (Pediatrician) and Katherine Brown (Early Learning Center Director), and our moderator, Lauren Barnes. We often talk about bellies and babies here at the Collective, but today's topic includes issues specific to our two- to four-year-old children. Potty training, big kid beds, and limits– there are lots of unique challenges within this age range.

Milestones

Loan focuses mostly on gross motor skills in the first year and language skills during the second year. Katherine sees children develop at various paces; her organization does an assessment based on each child instead of comparing children to each other. They use the assessments, along with parents' assessments, to help the children achieve goals. While it can be tempting to push children to reach certain milestones, that behavior in parents can be harmful. Josie recommends setting them up to achieve these milestones by creating an environment that will help them to get there on their own.

Potty Training

Potty training is a big milestone that parents are often anxious to achieve sooner than later. Loan says that you can start before two, but most kids are not going to be ready by age two. Signs of readiness are the ability to follow two step commands ("take your pants off and sit on the potty"), recognizing that they have gone (if they will continue to play in wet underwear then they don't have this awareness yet), recognizing that they need to go before they go, and a willingness to sit on the potty. A potty in the car can be a solution for transitioning from at home potty training to going out in the world. Fear during potty training is another hurdle some children need to overcome. Josie recommends validating their fears; having them draw or use puppets to show what exactly they're afraid of, and then helping them find a solution (like picking out a new toddler potty).

Sometimes transitions and milestones overlap. Having a second child can make parents want to potty train their first child before they're ready. Reading their cues and waiting until they're ready is usually the better option for both parent and child. An audience member suggests that two babies in diapers is much easier than struggling to potty train a toddler that isn't ready, while juggling a newborn as well.

Sleep

According the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers (1-2 years) need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night. Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common. Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers' drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child's imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Loan finds that these guidelines are true for most toddlers. Toddlers that do well with less sleep usually have a parent that also functions well on fewer hours of sleep than average. One indicator that they are not getting enough sleep is growth; the growth hormone is released during sleep so if a child is not growing well sleep may be the issue.

Transitioning out of the crib usually happens around two to three years of age. Some children are ready earlier (if your toddler can climb out of the crib it is time to move them). For active/climbing children, consider taking anything dangerous or furniture that they can climb out of the room. Some parents stay in the room after bedtime to enforce the idea of staying in bed for the first few nights; do not engage with the child, simply direct them back to bed immediately.

There are various reasons that children have trouble with bedtime. Some children have trouble relaxing their bodies; you can gently massage or rub their back until you hear their breathing change and they are ready for sleep. Remember that with any transition it can take your child a few days, or longer, to get used to the new routine. Consistency will help them adapt easier. If children are afraid you can help them realize their monsters (with drawing or clay) and discuss how to overcome that fear (with "boogie monster" spray, for example).

Responsibilities

Josie says to never do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Empower them to help and take care of themselves and their things. Model how to do things, give them the tools to help, and they will join in and eventually be able to do things themselves. Loan says a sense of responsibility is very important. Her office provides a list of age-appropriate chores for parents. Singing or making it into a game can help ("let's put all the blue blocks away first"). If a toddler fails once and then gives up, you can help them gradually learn to do it themselves. You can break the task into smaller steps to help it seem more manageable and provide more opportunities for success. Remind them of past successes, and talk with them about problem solving.

Behavior

Emotional regulation for toddlers is a process. 18 months to three years is a period of negativity. They delight in refusing a request because it is a new-found power for them. This is also a time they are testing boundaries and seeing what they can do. Give them choices to help avoid the constant "no". Let them make small choices to help them feel empowered, and stick to routines. Tell them when there is going to be a change of plans and help them prepare for new situations.

Shaming your child is never helpful. You can point out bad behavior but reiterate that the child is not bad. Use positive language to tell them what to do, instead of using negative language to tell them what not to do ("walk, please" as opposed to "stop running"). Use books to help illustrate good and bad behavior. Katherine has classroom meetings to discuss problems before they arise. She lets the children talk to each other to help them learn from each other. Discipline is an ongoing process, but with young children redirection and distraction is often the preferred method. If you can get them to stop a negative behavior without a tantrum or fight, they are going to be happier and learn good behavior from your positive reinforcement. When it come to matters of safety you can still give options ("you can hold my hand or I can carry you in the street"), but do not negotiate anything beyond what is safe for the child.

New Siblings

The best time for a second or subsequent child depends on you and your family. Physically a woman's body is fully recovered from childbirth after two years. Some suggest that a three year old is much more capable of handling a new sibling than a two year old, as they are more independent. Our panelists suggest that you start preparing your child early for the arrival of a new baby. Use age-appropriate books and videos to introduce them to the idea (picture books are helpful for younger children). Getting them a baby doll of their own to take care of can be helpful, as young children like to imitate our behaviors. Talk to your child about what it means to be a sibling, and continue to promote the idea that siblings are the very best friends. Allow them to hold onto some "baby" things (like their special blankie, for example). When it comes to room sharing, experienced moms say that each child will get used to it and their sleep patterns will adjust as needed.

What a lot of helpful information! Thank you to our panelists for providing so much great advice. If there is anything that was not addressed in this article, feel free to leave us a comment here or on The Motherhood Collective facebook page.

Happy New Year from The Motherhood Collective!

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For those of you who joined us for the first time yesterday morning, welcome! We enjoyed meeting each of you and truly hope you were able to connect, learn and receive support. If you have any questions about yesterday's topic, panelists, our resources, please let me know: lbarnes@themotherhoodcollective.org. The Café panelists covered a vast array of subjects, from adding value to our children to their methods of correction. They encouraged us to embrace today, reminding us that the challenges we face today will fade and new obstacles will arise with each year of growth (even when our children are grown!). Each season with our children is precious and brief. Eileen spoke of how she writes out a blessing for her children full of hopes for their future and affirmations of who they are today. She reads this to them on their birthday and frames them. What a beautiful idea!

Our hope for this year is to bring more depth to our education and support by serving you in love, on purpose and with focus. We are honored to create spaces where women of all philosophies, parenting theories, ages, and backgrounds can come together and support one another. Together we will "nurture the mother to grow the child".

Most sincerely,

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Not Yet Ready for Motherhood

A major surprising thing that’s recently happened to me was when I discovered I was pregnant. I didn’t expect to get pregnant at my age. I’m nearly approaching my 40’s, and I believe conceiving a baby at my age sometimes poses some explicit risks. Also, another thing that troubles me is my tight budget. I’ll need to find ways not only to support my needs, but also those of my unborn child, on top of supporting my adopted young daughter on a day to day basis.

I will need to bravely deal with my unexpected pregnancy, though. My husband and I have searched for the best tips on how to deal with unexpected motherhood. We’ve come up with a list of tips that we think may prove to be useful in helping us out.

 

Image from Flickr

Resolve Potential Sibling Rivalry

I’m well aware that a new parenting task I’ll be facing is resolving sibling rivalry between my new baby and my 6-year old daughter. I think as early as now, I should start contemplating the resolution I would implement in order to resolve the issue of possible sibling rivalry between my kids once they start growing up together.

It should be expected my little kids may likely get into arguments and quarrels, particularly when playing. I won’t be surprised if each of my kid refuses to share the toy I’ve bought for them for Christmas. It may be beyond my power to prevent this scenario from happening when my budget is tight, and I only have so much money to buy one toy for Christmas.

To make both of my kids happy, I would buy little treats for each of them that fit my budget, such as candies and chocolates. These treats should make my kids happy, and it should avert any fights that may occur between them.

Relive Tantrum Days

And, to think I would have had enough of tantrums from kids! I thought I’ve already gotten past the stage of having to deal with a little child crying whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. And here I go, expecting the same scenario all over again.

In the past, whenever I took my daughter to a playground nearby our local park, she would always throw a fit if her playmates didn’t do what she wanted them to do, subsequently embarrassing me in front of a crowd.

After I give birth to my unborn child, I plan to strictly discipline my child to let him know he can’t always throw tantrums and get away with them scot-free. I would take away privileges from my child if he throws a tantrum a lot of times within the past month. By doing this, I can teach my child a lesson that rewards such as movie time, or a new toy only comes alongside good behaviors.

I’d likely consider engaging in interactive play with my younger kid in the playground to guide him how to act appropriately during moments that he can’t get everything he desires. The benefits of playground interaction of parents and kids are overwhelmingly immeasurable. Engaging in interactive play with my younger child maximizes opportunities for my kid to gain more friends, rather than enemies, in the playground.

The Age Gap Burden

Obviously, two kids with big age difference will likely have trouble relating to each other during play. One kid may have different ideas on how to play as compared to those of the other kid. Idea differences may cause arguments to break out between my two kids.

One of the most essential parts of motherhood is being there for your children, especially during their younger years. I, for one, wouldn't hesitate to come to my kids’ rescue when it comes to providing them with invaluable lessons on how to cope with sibling age difference.

Imparting lessons to my kids on how to cope with sibling age difference through creative storytelling would likely inspire my kids to extend their patience and understanding to each other. My kids are likely going to be inspired with the successful scenarios within the stories that I have to tell. After hearing these stories, I’d look forward to seeing them become the better big sister/ little brother or sister to each other.

Unprepared To Take Some Time Off From Work

Since my first child is a bit older and independent now, I was expecting to take some more time away from home working. I needed to earn additional income because I have been on a tight budget.

Now, I would have to make the transition in adjusting my busy schedule to spend more time bonding with my new baby after he is born. Spending more time playing and bonding with younger kids positively contribute not only to their emotional and social development, but also to their day to day safety, as well.

According to an article in Playgroundequipment.com, one out of every four kids becomes a prey to a bully, or to a number of bullies. I’m particularly alarmed of the risk of my little kid getting bullied, at school, in the playground, or wherever he may go. With this said, I’d be more than willing to adjust my schedule to spend more time with my young child after he is born to prevent avoidable untoward incidents from happening before it’s too late, even though it may be difficult to do so.

As a soon-to-be parent again, I need to be my unborn kid’s mother, friend and protector all in one package. I need to be the mom that my kid can proudly look up to and admire.

A mother is a child’s safe haven against the troubles this chaotic world constantly brings into his life. Having said this, us mothers, should in turn, hail our children to be the best blessings God can ever give us in this lifetime.

Raising a Kid in the 21st Century

Is technology better for a child's development compared to old school child's play?

In the technology-based world of today, a three-year old playing an app in some hi-tech phone is not an uncommon sight though, quite frankly, it’s still something most of us need some getting used to. Or is it?

Many argue over the negative effects of technology towards child learning and development. After all, much of our forefathers didn’t have the same technological privileges we have today and yet, they were able to produce geniuses and brilliant leaders. So what’s the need for such tools today?

Technological advancements coupled with internet access makes for a powerful weapon. And as in any weapon, it depends on how it’s used that makes it an advantage or a disadvantage. If your kid is spending a fair amount of time in front of the computer, he/she probably won’t suffer from strained eyes or bad posture and instead will reap the benefits – specifically advanced or specialized learning – of having access to such technology. But leave your child there for a couple more hours per day and the whole thing backfires.

Photo courtesy of Ramberto Cumagun

Friend: As an educational tool

As in educational programs for television, today’s technology targets specific areas of learning (e.g., Math, Language, etc.) through a variety of specialized programs. For toddlers, fiddling with a laptop or smartphone develops hand-eye coordination since what they see on-screen results from what key they press. Same thing with touch screens although the process may not be as creative as, say, finger painting.

With specialized programs, your children can learn at a pacing they’re most comfortable with. They can also learn on their own by depending on text or audio instructions. Never has there been a time when information is right at your fingertips than now. You can take advantage of this fact and let your kids learn beyond the confines of a set curriculum.

If you have children with special needs and/or abilities, there are apps designed to specifically cater to their every need, enabling them to learn with much efficiency.

Foe: As a destructive and distractive tool

As technology paves the way for a global village, your kids will have access to lots of information and people. What’s crucial is the filtering of what will reach them. You may install a firewall to prevent your children from accessing websites with inappropriate content.

Since playing with the computer or an iPad rarely involves physical activity (with the exception of Wii and Kinect), your kids are short-changed when it comes to exercise and motor development.  Being in front of the screen most of the time also limits personal interaction – essential in developing social skills.  Because almost everything is within reach and fast-paced, it may develop impatience, instant gratification, and ultimately, laziness among kids. Also, due to its overstimulation nature, it may encourage short-attention span leaving your kids having a hard time in dealing with quieter past-times or relatively “boring” teaching counterparts.

Others argue that it interferes with sleep and homework especially with social networking sites being so addictive. MUDs (multi-user dungeons) also tend to desensitize children toward violence and death.

Technological advancements also put the poorer communities to a disadvantage since they tend to have limited access to technology.

Playtime: Back to old school learning

There is no doubt that experiential learning is an effective learning tool. Through this, your kids learn what their bodies can and cannot do and the consequences of such. Outside play is important even in preschool years as it develops visual-spatial processing which technologies are limited in developing. Play time also develops kids’ creativity through arts-and-crafts-making as well as cognitive development through different educational toys like puzzles, building blocks, etc.

It promotes socialization – meaning actual or personal interaction – through playgroups and team activities. However, keep in mind that there will always be squabbles among kids so keep a closer eye.

So which is better?

It all actually depends on the quality of the learning environment, teaching, and education. These “stools” are only there to aid your kids’ learning abilities. It’s how you use it to your advantage that’s crucial. However, there is always a trade-off so opt for balance instead of an either/or debate.

The world is headed towards an even more technologically-advanced society and so being tech-savvy will be a definitive edge. However, this doesn’t mean we must and can do away with the "older" practices which have been proven effective through time. Technology shouldn’t be seen as a replacement, rather, an educational support to classroom set-up learning. It is relatively young and thus, has lots of room for improvement. If only utilized effectively then maybe it can prove extremely beneficial in the education realm.

What to Tell Your Kids When They're Left Alone in the House

Looking after the kids is an imperative for any responsible parent. So obviously, child safety tops their list of priorities. However, certain situations require you to leave the house with no option to bring the kids with you. For most parents, the thought of leaving their child at home and alone conjures up a variation of possible scenarios, these scenarios often rest on the negative side of things. When such situations come up, it is best to know the things you must consider to ensure the safety of your children. Because you can’t always avoid these kinds of situations, but you can always prepare for them in advance. You best take note of some child safety tips so that when you do leave your children at home, you know that they are safe and not in harm’s way. But before you do, you should first know if your child is in fact ready to be left home alone.  

Are we allowed to leave our kids at home alone?

This question is tricky, because there is no concrete limiting instructions for when you can leave your child at home. The act seems to be dancing on the verge of the division between neglect and independence. On the one hand, you don’t really want to have your child spend the day alone in the house, but on the other hand, you know there’s something you have to do outside and it could be the chance for your child to learn some independence. But it’s not as clear-cut as we want it to be. The focus then should not be on the parent, but more on the child. When you, as the parent, are deciding on what to do, consider your child first. Is he or she ready to be left alone in the house? Can he or she manage to spend a day or just a couple of hours with just him or herself? Evaluate your child’s maturity before making a decision. Measure your child’s capability to be independent, judge by age and character. You as the parent should know when your child is ready to be left alone.

Boy Coming Home After School

 

How can you tell if your child is ready?

Though it sounds so easy to make sure your child is ready before deciding on leaving him or her alone at home, it isn’t really an easy thing to do. Today, usual criteria employed in seeing if your child is ready for a taste of independence are beginning to grow faulty. What with young children learning to do more things in the house and older, young adults still latching on their parents for support, such as the case of Rachel Canning who filed a case against her parents, demanding for support for her college years. But to see if your child is ready to be left alone, you first look at his or her age. It is a universal rule that children below 5 years old cannot be left alone at home and that ages 16 and above should know their way around the house enough to manage it in cases when the parents are away. So if your child is under or above those age limits, then you know what to do. If they however, rest in the middle part of the bracket, you can proceed to the next step. Ask them about the idea of being left alone. Most kids under 10 years old aren’t comfortable with having the house for themselves and most kids from 13 to 15 relish the idea for the wrong reasons. So through asking them about the idea of being left alone, you get a clearer picture of what you should do. If your child shows signs of apprehension or worry with the idea, don’t push through. In the end, you would still be the judge; it’s just best to know their take on the matter as well.

 

Things to put in mind when you’ve decided to leave your child at home

When you finally make a decision and you choose to leave your child at home for a couple of hours or a day, here are a few things you should consider to keep them safe.

Make sure your child is aware of the situation. Let them know that they are responsible for the time being and let them know what time you are most likely to come home. In this way they can gauge on their own the amount of time they’d have to spend alone and see if they can handle it.

Let’s face it, the top scenario you fear when thinking of leaving your child at home is the thought of burglars. It’s a legitimate fear and not an impossible one at that. But you can do your best so that it remains just that, an imagined scenario and not a real one. If you are really worried about it, set-up home alarm systems. IP communicators and IP surveillance cameras will help you keep track of your child through wireless access portal that can be optimized for video streaming. Alarm monitoring services and home alarm systems are available in alarm system stores present in different cities. Today’s technology allows you to keep watch of your children even when you’re away. So if this fear is the one hounding you and stopping you from leaving your child at home, then now you know what to do.

Why I'm Okay with My Little Girl Wanting to be a Princess

I have wanted to write this post for a while now. I just hadn’t found the time, but early this morning I saw a post that irritated me enough to get me to start writing. The post was called 12 Very Important Messages for Princess Loving Girls . What irritated me most about the post, you ask? Basically, everything in the post is telling girls THEIR choice to be a princess is WRONG.

Miss E and her cousin going through the princess treasure chest.

Isn’t that the opposite of what we are trying to teach them by breaking down gender stereotypes? Aren’t we trying to show them that IT’S OKAY for them to be WHO THEY WANT TO BE!

I’ve seen it so many times that we shouldn’t encourage our girls to be princesses because all they do, is wait to be rescued. Instead we are to encourage them to be superheroes. Great! Let’s take a look at the most popular.

Let’s encourage our children to be Ironman, a spoiled rich kid, smart, with a BIG drinking problem. But hey he saves people so its okay!

Okay, no Ironman? How about Batman, look at that, another rich kid. This one never got over the tragedy of his parents death so he turned vigilante, which I’m pretty sure is illegal! On top of it all he lies to those he’s closest too. Yes, it might be to “keep them safe” but aren’t we trying to teach our children, a lie is a lie?

Then there is Superman, an alien with super powers. He too, lies to those closest to him.

Spiderman, bitten by a spider and given super powers. Tormented by the guilt he felt over his grandfather’s death, he decides to become a vigilante, and lie to those closest to him.

My personal favorite, Hulk, a scientist, his strength is triggered by his anger. His IQ drops the bigger his muscles get.

And let’s not forget Wolverine. What can I say about him? He is pretty much a sociopath.

Don’t get me wrong, I love superheroes. My point is, I’m not sure those are the individuals I want my daughter emulating.

SO now I ask, what is so wrong with girls wanting to be princesses?

Ariel, a mermaid who wished to see more than the ocean she lived in. She rescued a prince, it was the prod she “needed” to take the dangerous plunge into the human world. She didn’t lose who she was even after she lost her voice. She got to experience that world she longed to be a part of. In the end, with the help of her prince, they defeated the evil witch.

Rapunzel, trapped in a tower, she did not let her circumstances keep her from wanting to see more! When the opportunity came she “convinced” a thief to show her the outside world. She took her future into her own hands. In the end she was willing to give up her freedom to save the thief that had given her so much.

Jasmine, at an age where she had to choose a husband, she held out looking for her right fit. She stood up to her dad, helped Aladdin defeat Jafar (by distracting Jafar), and with her perseverance her dad changed the law so she could marry who SHE deemed appropriate.

Mulan, she saved China. Nuff’ said!

Belle, she gave up her freedom to save her father. She showed tremendous courage not backing down to the Beast. She also saw the good in him and helped him find it in himself. When he gave her her freedom back, Belle put herself in harms way to save him.

In the interest of time I won’t do all the princesses. I will point out that while Cinderella and Snow White were more passive, they did show some very important traits. Both princesses never lost their optimism or sense of hope! How many people would be able to live through what they did and still have a kind word and smiling face? Not many.

While I know everyone interprets things differently, these are the traits I’d like my daughter to see. Really, optimism and hope is something most of the Disney Princesses have in common. In this world, if I have to choose what I want my daughter to imitate it would be those traits. So I’ll let her be a princess.

Car Seat Safety: It's a Passion of Mine

Greetings from your Resident Safety Advisor!  I'm here to discuss all things related to child safety, but first I wanted to give you a little background about my journey into safety and a passion of mine - car seats.  If you have any topics you particularly would like to see covered (car seat related or not), please send us an email and let us know.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent a little time researching options for car seats.  And then went out and registered for one that came with a jogging stroller I liked (we live on a farm, those large tires are very helpful on uneven ground) and called it done.  After all, an infant seat is designed for infants, right?  What could be wrong with it?  Then my daughter was born.  Her head drooped in the seat in an unsightly and seemingly uncomfortable way.  She would scream for entire trips and upon arrival, would be drenched in sweat.  I dreaded car rides.  After one of (many) visits to our lactation consultant she followed us out to the car and noticed how my daughter slept in her infant seat once connected to the base.  She made a few suggestions and advised getting our seat checked for proper installation.

(L) One week old in her ill-fitting infant seat (with improper harness tightness and chest clip position). (R) Nearly three months old and much happier in a properly fitting and properly angled convertible car seat.

 

I silently rolled my eyes and dutifully went home and tried to make the suggested changes, without much effect.  A few weeks later I found myself enrolled in a car seat workshop that was followed by a member of the Lynchburg Fire Department inspecting our seats and installations.  I learned a lot from the course the instructor made some changes to my daughter's seat.  Then I started reading.  Come to find out, the very seat I had selected (remember, I liked the jogging stroller that came with it), which was rated for use in babies as little as 5 pounds, is known to be a horrible fit for newborns.  Infuriated by this knowledge, and tired of a fussy baby in the back seat, I moved my daughter into her convertible seat (and a much better fit) and had many happier travels.

My personal experience started me on a journey I never expected.  Car seats became a hobby, a passion.  I have a tendency to get stuck on a topic and read a lot (too much?) on it.  I've been reading about car seats and their use for nearly three years now.  Friends began coming to me for advice on car seats.  I relished each question because it gave me something else to research (just last night one of these inquiries had me researching the differences between Swedish and Australian rear facing tether systems; sounds fascinating, right?).  Earlier this year, I was told, partially in a joking manner, that I should consider becoming a certified car seat technician.  Three weeks later I was enrolled in a course and received the official title of “Child Safety Passenger Technician,” or CPST for short.  Car seats can be frustrating, their manuals can be confusing, and some are simply not easy to install or adjust, and the recommendations on which seat to use when never seem to stop changing.  I'm here to help.

A few facts about car seats and their use in the United States:

  • Motor vehicle injuries are the number one cause of death among children in the United States.
    • The use of properly installed and properly fitted car seats can decrease the risk of death to infants (age less than 1 year) by 71% and to toddlers (age 1-4 years) by 54%.
    • When compared to the use of seat belts alone, the use of booster seats reduces the risk of serious injury by 45% for children aged 4-8 years.
    • It’s estimated that over 90% of car seats are used improperly, either due to improper installation techniques or improper fit.
  • All car seats on the market are subject to the same standards established by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and must pass the same test in order to be sold in the US.  However, there is no governing body that oversees the tests themselves; it is left up to the individual manufacturers to perform the tests and report the results.
  • There is no one "safest" car seat.  The safest car seat (no matter the brand or model) is the one that:
    • Fits your child
    • Fits your car
    • Fits your family’s needs in terms of comfort and convenience, so that you’ll use it every time

So, now that The Motherhood Collective offers our mamas a "Resident Safety Advisor," what does this mean?  I'm here to help you understand safety concerns that relate to our children and advise you on how to handle them.  As a CPST, I'm able to help educate and train parents on proper car seat use.  In the broad goals of The Motherhood Collective, we hope to eventually be able to offer car seat inspections to local mothers to ensure their proper use.  In the meantime, I'm here to serve as a safety educator and offer advice and education.  My goals are to start offering posts on car seat tips and installations, and then branch out into other safety education topics.

Montessori Moods: Your House is a Classroom

I have been dreading this post, because there are times in my life when doing formal Montessori just doesn’t fit. Either I’m tired, we’re busy, or my kids just aren’t into it (and I don’t have the patience to work with them). The thing that encourages me during these times is that my entire house is a Montessori classroom. And yours is, too. My kids put their own clothes on. They did Montessori.

They helped me mix up pancakes for breakfast. They did Montessori.

We read a whole bunch of books together and the older one sounded out some words and was reminded of some puzzle words. We did Montessori.

The older one demanded a chore to do and mopped the floor. He did Montessori!

If you are letting your children live life with you and allowing them to do things on their own as much as you can (and your patience allows), you are doing Montessori. Give them space to do things themselves and let them mess up and get things wrong. And then let them try to figure out how to get it right. This is one of the most difficult things for Mamas to do. I want to rush in and tell them what to do and fix their backwards clothes, but what they really need is for me to leave them alone and let them try to figure it out on their own.

backwards

So don’t be hard on yourself when you’re not doing anything formal! Every day has opportunities for your child to learn without you preparing for it.

Survival Lessons from a Working Mom

First of all, I am learning. I’m 6 months new to this parenting thing, and I am quickly learning that no prior level of experience with kids fully prepares you for the actual parenting role. Sure, you might have practice holding a newborn, or magical teething remedies in your back pocket (please tell me if you do!). But it’s not the same as being wholly responsible for growing this baby into a healthy, adjusted adult human. So I have a few “new mom” lessons that have made the difference for me. Hopefully one of these helps equip you, inform you, or set you a little more free. 1. “Some babies are natural sleepers, others… just aren’t.” My pediatrician told me this, and boy is it true! My friend’s baby was on a consistent, through the night, no waking sleep schedule by 2.5 weeks. Another friend of mine fought wakeful nights for a year. Both homes were filled with love and consistency and routine. Me? I breastfeed a 6-month old who is teeny for her age, so I figure nighttime feedings are just par for the course. So I figured out various ways to get as much rest as possible while safely providing her what she needs. I give you permission to do the same (yes, even if it means tossing that book that supposedly works magic).

2. “Definitely before 1, and probably before 2, you aren’t creating a ‘habit’ out of anything”. I heard this from a Motherhood mom. I believe strongly in consistency (still do), but so much so I believed if I made one wrong move, my kid would surely be addicted to a pacifier until college or worse. But let’s face it: the way of the world is learning to cope with change. So I stopped fighting it, stopped guilting myself for it, and started loving my daughter through it (insert your “it”). Added bonus: you’re not furious when teething, sickness, or vacation throws off your perfectly cultivated sleep schedule.

--By now you can probably see that I am the perfectionistic, high-performance, A-type personality. Not convinced? Allow me: I am in two graduate courses, working full time, married, raising a 6 month old, serving at church, and asking myself why I didn’t get to the dishes. Sound familiar?—

3. STOP MULTITASKING 24/7.

Multi-tasking A Good Habit Or Misapprehension?

(photo credit: Sulekha.com)

This is a tough one! Even now, you’re probably skimming this post while nursing or making a bottle or cleaning. And hey, I get it. We moms take on so much that if we do not multitask, we drown. My job centers on it, my brain thrives on it, and not ¼ of my stuff would be done if I didn’t. Sure, cook dinner with your baby on your hip if you need to. But when that chicken has to simmer, stop. Look at your child. Tune in to her. Talk to him. Make faces. Sound ridiculous. Other moments, turn down the radio and listen to your baby find her voice. Put away Facebook (gasp!) and help him learn his colors. You’ll give yourself a much deserved brain break and gain precious minutes back that our social rat race and personal pressure try to steal. Be an example of connectedness. My experience is that you will never regret those mommy moments you stole back.

In addition to mothering, are you a Student? Employee? Volunteer? I would love to hear what parenting lessons have set you free!

A (Real) Season of Thanks

November. It's that time of year where there's a lot of warmth and coziness and good cheer and smiling faces. I truly, truly, love this season.  Anything that gets people to be kinder to one another, to think beyond themselves, to reach out, is a good thing, in my book.  And the holiday season does that.

However.

There's also the crazed reality of this time of year.  Shopping lists, budget stretches, overtired children, burned side dishes.  I always feel like there are moments where your choice is to either laugh, or cry.

I try really hard to choose laughter.

So in the spirit of the season, I thought I'd share with you my list of things I'm most grateful for. With a little dose of reality.

 

1. My husband.  A man with many, many talents, not the least of which is his ability to sleep through crying children between the hours of 10pm and 6am.  But!  I'm thankful that this full night's sleep means that he'll get up with them on the weekends.  So he's forgiven (during the daytime hours).

 

2. My daughter (4.5 years) . She is such an amazing little person.  Inquisitive and social and kind.  I'm thankful that she is also a master humbler: "Mommy, you should take a nap, you look tired.  And why are you wearing that shirt again today?"  She keeps me real.

 

3. My son (2 years).  A toddler who is ready to take on the world.  So much so that he doesn't want to ever sleep for fear of missing something. I'm grateful that he has healthy lungs that allow him to let me know that he doesn't want to sleep, and that this requires me to spend so much time sitting on the floor next to his crib.  I'm getting a lot of reading done on my Kindle.

 

4. My power.  I have many superpowers, but in this case, I don't mean my personal powers, but the convenience of electric power.  Yes, for lights and heat and computers and television,but especially for the coffeepot.  I know, I know.  You can make coffee without electricity.  I'm sure Laura Ingalls Wilder did it brilliantly But I need my push a button, ready in 3 minutes coffee.  Sometimes several times a day.

 

5. My home.  The place that's warm and safe and dry.  But I'm also thankful for the place to hide on the days when I don't get out of my pajamas till 4pm, haven't had a shower in 2 days, and am babbling from sleep deprivation.

 

6. My girlfriends.  As a wife and mom, these women are my lifeline.  And thanks to modern technology, they are all only a text or FB message (who has time to talk on the phone??) away.  I'm thankful that we can all be instantly connected and supported on the days when we don't get out our pajamas till 4pm, haven't showered in 2 days, and are babbling from sleep exhaustion.

 

7.  My writing.   Something that is for me, separate from my role as mom and wife.  I'm thankful I have this outlet to pour my energy into.  You know, at 8pm.  When my beautiful children are not climbing my legs or demanding another snack.  So after 8pm.  Did I mention I'm grateful for the ability to make quick coffee?

 

8. My health.  Three cheers for hearty, German stock!  I'm thankful that I'm blessed with good health.  Because nowhere in my "Mommy Benefits Package" is there mention of sick days.  I guess moms don't get those?

time out step

9. My optimism.  This parenting gig is tough.  It's easy to get bogged down in self-doubt, worries, or fears.  I'm thankful that my outlook is generally optimistic.  Well, optimism with a side of sarcasm.  It works for me.

 

10.  My humor.  Not just mine, but that of those I surround myself with.  I'm thankful that there are people who are willing to laugh with me, at me (only when they have my permission, of course) and for me.  During those times we're exhausted, hungry, and frustrated because our child is exhausted, hungry and frustrated, we need those moments of laughter to keep going.

 

Happy season of thanks, ladies. My wish for you is that you  find moments of laughter and thankfulness amidst the everyday chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Idle Hands

Mama said, "Idle hands are Devil's handy work." -- Leanne Rhymes I have found that when I have a free moment, I cannot just sit and relax without picking up my cell phone or turning on the TV to stare at some mind-numbing show.

Why?

I was in the elevator at work and didn't have my cell phone. It was the longest 45 seconds ever! I didn't have anything to look at. I didn't have anything to distract me. It made me think, how did I get to the point in my life that I am so used to being ridiculously busy that I can't just be?

Photo courtesy of www.wealthysinglemommy.com

I see zombies everywhere. They walk along with their faces in their phones or iPods and they don't recognize what is going on around them. When I first saw the movie Wall-e, I thought to myself, "Geez, those people don't have to interact with each other at all...how horrible!" In a less extreme version I am starting to believe that we are on that path. Moms take their kids to the park and spend most of the time Facebook-ing or texting. An occasional glance up or a "Yea, good job" is called out without even looking to see what their child is exclaiming about. I am not above reproach here. My son is only 11 months and if we are on the floor playing and I pull out my phone he is completely zoned into what I'm doing. It makes me wonder what kind of technology will be available to him. He is already fascinated by the lights on the phones and iPad.

Have we become a society that is unable to be idle? I find that I need to be "doing something" all the time. Riding an elevator, sitting at a stop light (BAD!), listening to a boring coworker - all these trigger my compulsion to pull out my cell phone and "check it".

I feel like I am doing a huge disservice to my children! Isn't it true that children learn best by example? What am I teaching them when I cannot sit still myself? Am I teaching my son that being constantly busy is the norm? Am I telling him that he needs to learn to be patient without showing him what it means to be patient?

My challenge to myself, in his second year of life, is to be more available to him. Sure, I'm sitting on the floor "playing", but checking my phone constantly isn't being truly present. As a "working mom", I already feel guilty that I do not get enough time with him, so why do I constantly find myself squandering those precious hours I get to actually attend his play? No longer. I've recognized the problem, will try to stop it and will hopefully avoid instilling this terrible habit in my children!

Thoughts From an Evil Step-Mother

Being a step parent is hard. If you have step-children you understand the gravity of that statement. My step-daughter is 5. I came into her life at the age of 2. She was a spunky little ball of fire then and continues to amaze me with her wit and intelligence. She’s an awesome kid and I love her dearly! But, being her step-mom is hard. When her dad and I got married, I told her that I thought it would be a good idea for her to start calling me her “evil stepmother”. After all, every mention of stepmothers in Disney movies are all negative. So, I thought I would just head that off with a bit of a joke and diffuse any kind of bad feeling that would come with this change. She would laugh at me and refuse! I told her it was a joke and it was ok.  She looked me dead in the eye and said, “But Bre, you’re not evil. You’re the best stepmom ever!” HA! What a sweet girl! Now I realize she has little frame of reference, but I’ll take it.  I’ll take it because those kind of sentiments are few and far between when you’re a stepparent.

I’ve heard often that parenting is a thankless job.  I have a son of my own and I agree with that statement, but being a stepparent is even more of a thankless job. When she is with us, I am her mother. I do all the things a mother must/gets to do. Yes, it’s on a part-time basis, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I don’t believe that you can be a “part time” parent. We may only see her part of each month but she is in our hearts, thoughts, and plans everyday! I love being her stepmother, but sometimes it’s very difficult.

I will never be her mother, and I have never tried to assume that role, but my heart is hers! When I hear her telling a story and the words “my real mommy” come out of her mouth, it makes me twinge a little. She is my kid in so many ways. I just don’t get the Mom perks. That’s ok. I’m not looking for that. School Bus She starts Kindergarten this year. Her parents get to take her to registration and ride the bus with her on the first day. I miss out on those things because I’m not her “real” mother. It hurts my heart to know that I only get to participate in some of the events in her life in the “mother” capacity. I invest so much of myself into her and it is hard to have to step back and just watch her experience those types of milestones.

She has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I owe a great deal to her for teaching me about life and love and parenting. Before we had our son, she was the be-all end-all to my life as a parent. Now she shares that with her little brother, but is still my “first” kid love. I may not get to ride the bus with her and I may have to stand back and watch her parents participate in her events, but that can be ok. I get to love this kid like she is my own child. I get to be in her life. I get to watch her mature and blossom into a beautiful young woman. I get to impart some of my knowledge and *cough* “wisdom” that will hopefully stick with her and help her along the way. So, it’s ok that I’m “just her step-mom”. It’s hard and stressful and trying…but so worth it!

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Mauresa Guelzo

Ever wonder who's behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers - once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support. Meet our Primary Email Correspondent and C0-Founder! Mauresa helped shape who we are today.  We think you'll agree, she's pretty awesome!

0006Without our Mauresa, The Motherhood Collective would not be here. Her dedication to women in our community is simply noteworthy. Over the years, wherever there has been a need, she has served: book-keeper, location liaison, proof-reader, content writer, database analyst, brainstormer, problem solver, party host, blog contributor, group leader, and currently Primary Email Corespondent... the list goes on and on.

On top of the above, she has been raising two beautiful toddlers of her own, both of whom have been fodder for her creative writing on our blog and honest insight in Cafe morning small groups.

Currently Mauresa serves as our Primary Email Correspondent; meaning, if you were to contact us via our main email address, SHE would be the on the receiving end. She'll connect you to whomever you need or answer you herself. She is the perfect woman for this job, since she is one of our original founders and one of the best at explaining what we "actually do". She also scripts our bi-weekly "email blasts" updating those on our subscription list with all of the events, activities and blog posts coming up!

With an Italian directness, down-to-earth reasoning, and genuine kindness, Mauresa consistently, and with a quiet strength, brings our team back to our ORIGINAL vision of Nurturing the Mother to Grow the Child.

Thank you, Mauresa, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

~~~

Have questions about The Motherhood Collective? Would you like to subscribe to our email blasts to be "in the know"?  Email Mauresa at contact@themotherhoodcollective.org. We would love to answer your questions or add you to our list of friends!

How to Shop at a Thrift Store

Kids are expensive, so is their stuff. While kids grow like weeds; their clothes and toys do not. So how can you provide material things for your child without going into bankruptcy? Buy used! I've been thrifting for about 15 years and I still can't get enough. Now that I have children, it's even more of a thrill because I'm thrifting with a purpose rather than just as a hobby. We've saved thousands of dollars through buying items used or trading with other parents. If you're eager to save money but intimidated by the huge stores with racks of weird looking clothes, I've broken down the essential tips for successful money saving experiences:

Tips for Thrifting
  • Know your child. If you're child(ren) already hate shopping, DON'T TAKE THEM WITH YOU. A thrift store is not like Target. It is a time commitment and can be full of temptations for short-legged, sticky-fingered creatures like children. Personally, I think it's absolutely worth paying a babysitter so you can have the time to really evaluate what you're looking for.
  • Pace Yourself. Thrifting can be like a road trip - keep a full stomach and empty bladder! If you go into the store hungry and irritable, you've already lost. You should plan to spend at least 1 hour in the store so you can really dig and find great bargains.
  • Location Counts. If you're searching for something in particular, location will determine what you will find. Affluent neighborhoods yield higher quality and more current items. Older neighborhoods have fantastic vintage items. Southerners love Vera Bradley. Yankees love leather. Young neighborhoods have children's items, etc.
  • Dress appropriately. Not all thrift stores have a dressing room, and the thrift stores that do have dressing rooms are usually packed with other people. With that in mind, it's easiest for the person trying on clothing to wear slim fitting pants, a slim fitting top, and slip-on shoes so one can try things on over existing clothing.
  • Know your brands. You may be surprised how many high-quality brands end up on the racks of a thrift store. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit like me, there's also a better chance of re-selling the item later if it's a recognizable brand.  I bought an Oilily dress for Joanna for $.75 at Goodwill. She wore it about about 6 times before outgrowing it. Because of the brand, I was able to sell the dress on eBay for $12!  But be careful - selling on eBay can be very hit and miss. Major brands and professional sports team apparel are more likely to sell, but there are no guarantees.
  • Discount Days. Some locations offer discount days. Our local Salvation Army takes 25% off every Wednesday. The DAV has $5 bag days where you pay only $5 for whatever you can shove into a bag. Call ahead to see what kind of discount your local thrift store offers.
  • Go with your gut. If something catches your attention, check it out! If it's fabulous but too big, it can be altered. If it's adorable and too small, you could use it as something else. A skirt, little apron, scarf, etc. Check out New Dress A Day for some incredible before and after photos. The things she comes up with range from simple to genius.
  • Most things can be fixed with some TLC.  Plastic toys are easy to clean. I tend to stay away from battery operated toys because the battery can be corroded by the time it ends up in the thrift store. In terms of clothing, if you can patch a hole or create a hem, you can turn many things into a functional piece of clothing. If something has a stain that doesn't come out, you can dye it to a new color.
  • Smart Phones are your friend. If I'm looking to make an investment or check to see if something has all of its parts, I always use my smart phone to do some research. Below, you'll see a photo of an espresso machine below that I bought for $12. It's an older model from the late 1990s, but it was unused. The gamble paid off because it makes wonderful coffee and lattes.
  • Have fun! Thrifting is best enjoyed as an adventure with others. If you can, try to go with others that aren't your size otherwise you may find yourself fighting over bargains. Especially shoes.
  • Espresso
    My $12 Krups Espresso Machine is my favorite thrift find to date.
    SAMSUNG
    Gap Maternity Dress for $4.50 / sold later for $64.00 on eBay
    But what about Yard Sales?
    I have two different strategies for yard sales. Either start early or start late. If you start early, you'll get first dibs on the good stuff. If you start late, you'll get the best prices but it will be picked over. Your strategy will depend on whether you are looking for something in particular or if you're going for fun.
    • Start Early. Early can mean 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., depending on your local yard sale culture. Some yard sale listings will have a time and some may even say "No Early Birds.".
    • Start Late. Late can mean 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I usually prefer to go later so I can snag better deals. More often than not, people are so tired of staring at their possessions that they'll give you many items for free! I can't count how many children's clothing and toys I've received for free when all I really wanted was a lamp. Did I take the free stuff? Of course I did! If its free, its for me.
    • Bring more cash than you think you'll need. If you think you only want to spend $40, bring $100. If you only want to spend $100, bring $200. You may find a great piece of furniture that you didn't expect to find. You don't want to ask them to hold it while you run to the ATM - chances are that if they have another buyer, they won't hold it for you. (Nor should they!) If you end up with extra cash at the end of the morning, hide it in your freezer for a rainy day.
    • Location Counts. Just like with thrift stores, the neighborhoods determine what you will find. Kids items, vintage, high end goods, etc.
    • Check Craigslist. Nowadays, most families no longer list their yard sales in the newspaper - they use the internet. Craigslist is my go-to for yard sale announcements. Some even include photos of the items.
    • Always ask for a deal. If the sticker says $5, ask if they'll take $3. The worst thing they'll say is no.
    • Bundle Bundle Bundle. If you're getting more than one thing, ask for a lower combined price. Like I said before, the previous owners want to get rid of their stuff as quickly and as economically as possible. They will usually take the lower price just to see it go.
    • Just like thrifting, keep a full belly and an empty bladder. If you're hungry, you're already off of your game.
    • If the kids are selling lemonade and cookies, buy them. This isn't really a saving money rule, but its just a good thing to do. Those kids worked hard. They deserve the $.50 and a $4.50 tip.
    • Plastic can be washed. Below are photos of my most recent yard sale finds. Little People brand toys can go for $20 to $50, depending on the models. I snagged the doll house for $2 and Noah's Ark with the animals for $.50. The Mega Blocks in the back can retail for $35 and I paid $7. All of them were very easy to clean and my little girl LOVES them! The other photo is her 2-sided play kitchen that we bought for $40. The former owner even gave us all of the food and kitchen accessories for free because we were helping her clean out her house.

     

     

     

    20130808_124815 PhotoGrid_1375980729198

    So what are your favorite finds? Did you get them at a yard sale? Thrift store? Retail store? Be sure to share about it in the comment section!

    A Seamless Back to School

    August is "Back to School" Month for many at The Motherhood Collective. We were happy to share this post last year and thought the suggestions were so great, we'd share it again! Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom, we hope that these thoughts on transition will inspire you. ~TMC ---

    Whether you're homeschooling, co-oping, or sending your child to school; your life is about to adjust a bit with the beginning of school! The key to making it a seamless transition is spending some time in preparation! That word "preparation" sometimes sounds like a scary one to me. We have 3 kids (10, 8, and 5). This is my first year with all three kids in school which is a major life change for me. I've had someone with me for almost 11 years, so the first couple days of school have been very emotional. This season is a stressful, but exciting time for each of us!

    A goal in our house is to find balance in all areas of our life: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Facing this new season takes our job as moms to a new focus. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a seamless transition and a happy home.

    Plan your breakfasts: I fall into the routine of letting my kids have cereal and fruit each morning, but this year I am challenging myself to wake up earlier and fix them a healthy breakfast (realistically a few times a week). Kids need a balance of protein, whole grains and good omega oils to get their days started. Try making them a green smoothie each morning, a fresh juice, some whole grain muffins, buckwheat pancakes, homemade granola or local eggs and 100% whole grain or gluten free toast.

    Incorporating omega oils such as chia seeds, flax seeds and other sources have been known to help children behaviorally and mentally. One study says: Supplements of omega-3 and omega-6 oils can improve the behavior of rowdy kids and help language skills, researchers from England have found.During five months, 65 children with behavioral problems were given a daily supplement of omega-3 fish oil in combination with evening primrose oil (omega-6).

    Be creative with their lunchbox: There are so many great ideas out there, especially on pinterest, for lunchboxes. Don’t be satisfied with good old PB&J everyday.. although they will probably have it once a week at my house. With just a little thought and changing around ingredients to make their lunchbox more interesting, your kids will enjoy new real foods without any trouble. Introduce a new veggie or fruit each week. Don’t forget a little note from time to time.

     

    Allow time for some exercise: Fall sports leagues, good ol’ playing outside, or a family walk are all good ways for your child to decompress from a day of using their minds. Being part of a team teaches them many valuable lessons as well. Personally, I have a hard time with teams because our kids are gone for so much of our day. I would really like them to be home with us in the evenings. But I have found that each child claiming one season is do-able for us. We would go to our son’s baseball practices and games together as a family.

    Plan family dinners: According to an article in TIME magazine: Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.

    An older mom once told me she would prep most of her meals while the children were at school, or do crockpot recipes, so that when her children came home from school her attention would be on them and not dinner. When it is time for dinner, include your children in preparing it. This teaches both responsibility, independence, and a new skill set!

    You don’t have to make an elaborate meal, but try doing a Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Wacky Wednesday. Our family enjoys "cooking through the nations". Finding new foods from other cultures and making a theme out of dinner not only helps me prepare, but makes it special for the kids. Having a set theme each week will alleviate the stress of meal planning (which I have not mastered yet!).

    Come up with a few questions you consistently ask your kids about their day. Allow them to share their happy and sad times while teaching them about the healthy foods they’re eating. Talk about where the food came from and how it was harvested. Give thanks for real food together.

    Rest! Rest is not idleness. But it is a time where we stop, relax and enjoy one another. Disconnect from electronics! Reading together, playing games together or walking together allows your child to connect with you emotionally as well as, decompress from a day of mental focus. Allow a day per weekend to really rest and do what your family enjoys most. Many families in our culture do not understand how to rest. We run from event to event, party to party, sport to sport. If we stop for a moment, we can learn so much from one another and care for the emotions that our family is experiencing.

    Back to school time is not just about helping their minds, it's about their emotions and their physical development! By feeding your children healthy, real foods and exercising their bodies, they will be strong physically. With your time writing notes, reading to them, and meals shared together, their emotions are free to develop appropriately. May your back to school days be a special time for your family!

    Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you! For more on this subject and others, please check out my website www.puregoodness.net!

    Taking Time for Me: An Update

    Back in December, I wrote this post about taking time for myself in 2013. That's easy to say, but the truth is, there's often that lingering "mama guilt".  I'm a stay-at-home-parent and homemaker.  My two children are ages four, and 19 months, which means they're still pretty dependent upon me.  My day is currently filled with books, ramps for toy cars, and supplies for (endless) craft projects of my 4yo's own design.  Oh, and trying to keep the house (somewhat) clean.  And preparing 3 meals a day.  And the constant errand-running.  There's barely time for all that...how do I make time for me without sacrificing something that can't really be sacrificed?

    The answer, for me, was not to sacrifice (okay, well, maybe the house-cleaning...shhh!), but to reorganize.  At the end of February, we lost my mother-in-law to a 9 month battle with cancer.  That kind of thing takes a toll on everyone, and we were physically and emotionally exhausted.  While we were out of town for the funeral, I received an offer to grab a dream that I hadn't actually planned on getting to for several more years.  The opportunity left me sort of stunned, but I wasn't really in a mental state to process or accept, and so I pushed it aside.

    A week went by, and I brought it up to my husband, who encouraged me not to wait for a "better time" because a better time might not come.  Yes, we have small children.  Yes, we were coming off of a challenging year and in a period of mourning.  Yes, it could potentially mean some late night and odd schedules and a new routine on our part, but if it was my dream...

    A month, many emails, and a phone call later, I officially signed the paperwork:

    901914_10100485831122667_926260054_o

    And suddenly, just like that, I had a new career writing children's books.  Or at least, an agent who believed enough in my manuscripts to help me launch a career writing children's books.

    It means I'm now adding hours on to my day, writing after the kids are in bed. It means my to-do list is longer. It means I have to pull together a professional wardrobe for a work-related conference after wearing jeans and t-shirts for the last 4 years.

    On the other hand...

    It allows me to (at least try to) pursue a career that I'm passionate about.  It's new, and fun, and exciting.  And despite the craziness of the last few months, I feel better about me.  I'm eating better, I lost that last 10lbs of baby weight, and I'm a very happy kind of busy.

    Who would have thought, when I wrote that post last December that this is where I would be 7 months later?

    Motherhood is an exhausting job.  Some days, it can break us down.  I'm encouraging you, when those days come along, take a moment to yourself.  It is when we are our best selves that we can be better mothers, spouses, and friends.

    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. :)

    Home Education: School-at-Home

    Courtesy of: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/playing-school-at-home-154636 Let’s take a look at another approach to homeschooling.  Doing “school-at-home” is what many people picture when they hear the word homeschooling.  Some of the characteristics of school-at-home include:

    •  children gathered around the kitchen table or at desks in a specified "school room" in the home with a parent instructor
    •  generally one of the more expensive ways of homeschooling due to buying large amounts of curriculum sets which typically include textbooks, study schedules, grading requirements, and record keeping guides
    • generally one the most difficult ways to homeschool due to trying to follow the set curriculum with multiple ages
    •  typically very easy for first time homeschooling parent because most of the planning is done
    •  this type of homeschooling will require the teacher/parent to do a lot of preparation work for each lesson

    I would like to give you a little glimpse into one homeschool journey.  This family uses an altered version of school-at-home:

    1.  What would you state is your homeschooling style and why?

    I was a public school teacher, so I basically do public school at home.  We use a public school curriculum (McGraw Hill), but move at a faster pace, school year round, and include extra subjects, like Rosetta Stone Spanish. Plus, I like the fact that this curriculum teaches all three types of learners.  If I ever have to put my son in public school, I want him to be familiar with the teaching style.

    2.  What does an average school day look like for you?

    My son has a sleep disorder, so we don't do school at a certain time each day, but we do follow a set routine.  First, we have calendar time, where we review the day of the week, date, month, year, tell time, count money, graph the weather type and temperature, and review place value. Second, we do math.  We use manipulatives to explore the new skill and then he learns to express the concept with numbers and symbols.  There is an emphasis on word problems and choosing the operation. Third is reading.  I read a book to him that focuses on a concept we've been studying or a holiday that is approaching.  This book is above his grade level.  After we discuss it, he reads aloud from a separate reader.  Reading is concluded with learning a new skill, discussing it, reading selections that emphasize the new skill, and completing a few worksheets on the skill. Fourth, he writes about a topic.  It either has something to do with what we read, focuses on a skill, or is a journal topic of his choosing.  There is an emphasis on spelling and handwriting, as well as quality of expression.  These writings are usually illustrated, but not always. Fifth, we either do health, science, or social studies.  We rotate through these subjects doing a unit from each one.  This time may consist of an experiment, an observation, a reading selection, a discussion, or any combination of the above.  Often worksheets are completed to demonstrate leaning. We close with Spanish, art, or music.  Spanish occurs more often than the other two.  Spanish is a Rosetta Stone done on the computer.  Art is a holiday craft or a lesson on an art concept, followed by an art project during which he can experiment with the learned concept.  Music began with a study of instruments in which we read about an instrument, listened to works emphasizing the instrument, watched YouTube videos of people playing the instruments, and wrote about it.  Having completed all the instruments, he is preparing to learn to read music and play the piano and guitar. Gym is done two or three times a week.  He gets a lot of activity as a normal part of his play, but we like to try to focus on a skill as often as possible.  He takes gymnastics, is getting ready to begin ballroom dancing, practices golf and fishing with his father, is working on new swimming skills with me, and has a trampoline, a bike, a scooter, and playground equipment.  We often take walks with friends. Socialization is also very important.  We get together with other kids approximately three times a week, more often in the nice weather.  We are members of a homeschool support group and a mommy and me play group.  We have park play dates, gatherings at our homes, potluck luncheons, restaurant dining experiences, group field trips, and much more.  He has interaction with adults and kids of all ages and backgrounds because that is what real life socialization is like. We school year round and are generally “on” for three weeks and “off” for one.  This provides him with plenty of down time, but doesn’t involve any breaks long enough to allow forgetting to occur. 

    3.  What resources do you utilize outside of your home for educational purposes? 

    I believe that learning should be reinforced with real-life experience whenever possible.  We utilize all area resources.  We took trips to Natural Bridge and the beach after our unit on rocks, weathering, and erosion.  We traveled to Safari Park and Natural Bridge Zoo after our unit on animals.  We observed in the Emerald Isle Aquarium after completing a unit on ocean life.  We visited the White House, Capitol Building, and D.C museums after our units on government and prehistoric times.  We took a hike on a tree trail after our unit on plants.  We toured a cabinet factory to conclude an economics unit on goods and services. We are members of two different co-ops.  We take field trips with them.  They know us by name at the library. 

    --

    Visit Jessica's previous homeschool posts: Home Education: Deciphering the Information

    Home Education: Relaxed or Eclectic

    The Mommy Nerve

     

    Once upon a time I looked at my gorgeous husband and I asked him to give me a baby. He knocked me up faster than a sneeze. It was glorious (on both accounts). I loved being pregnant even though I puked my guts up a bazillion times a day for the first 6 or 7 months. It was magical. People smiled at me in Target and asked me if it was a girl or a boy. They wanted to know my due date. There I was, in Target, with perfect strangers talking to me about my unborn child and through their wrinkled eyes and gray hair they would tell me how wonderful children are. They'd tell me how much I will love having a baby in my life. What I didn't realize was...

    These people were GRANDparents. And big, fat stinking liars. 

    As I type these words my 7 week old is learning the valuable lesson of "Hey! Your mom can't hold you all day long. I have stuff to do! LIKE SHOWER! AND EAT!" So she's watching the blurry colors and absorbing the inappropriate sounds of Family Guy. (MOTHER OF THE YEAR!) Her father will walk through the door and want to play with her, but what he fails to realize is that as soon as the clock strikes 7:15PM my sweet, adorable little girl turns into her own version of Edward Hyde. I swear her sparkly, beautiful blue eyes haze over into this deep, dark gray and she scowls at me with hatred as she recounts her earlier "cry it out session" and the fact that I slammed her against my pelvic bone for an entire hour during labor. Those people brilliant scientists that claim have proven children don't remember their entrance into the world have clearly never seen the look of resentment, hostility, and disgust their infant gives them at random points in the day. It's as if they're saying,

    "Yeah ... I remember you, Dilating Cervix Lady. I remember my cruel descent down your pelvic region. And my crapping on your leg at 3:00 in the morning is just the start to the hellacious plans I have to pay you back! ... Hold on tight, Dilating Cervix Lady." 

    I'm the middle child of seven children. I was guaranteed to be special. What my parents and siblings failed to understand is that one day this sarcastic, semi-inappropriate individual would reproduce. Now, I am a fantastic mother. (If I say so myself...) I love being a stay at home mom and watching my little girl grow. I love laughing with her and having conversations that she can't understand. It is perfection. But you moms know what I'm talking about when I say every kid hits a nerve at some point. This nerve is buried under about 18 layers of patience, 46 layers of love, and 4 layers of self control. Somehow, someway that 7 week old infant burrows in and finds that nerve and tap dances the crap all over it. More often then not it is moments after she has pooped all over you, is screaming bloody murder, and refusing to nap (even though she needs it). You look around for help and you find two Labrador Retrievers staring at you like you broke the baby and you're going to hell.

    Because I am a middle child and sarcasm is my love language, I have started to think of ways to laugh at these situations. And by laugh I mean think of hilarious ways to pay my child back for tap dancing all over my well hidden Mommy Nerve. I've written these down in her journal that I will give to her when she graduates college. If she is my child (my hooha says she is...) she will get a good laugh out of it - and I hope you do too. Better to laugh than cry. Lord knows I'll be crying way too much when she is 13 and realizes I'm not as cool as I think I am.

     

    "Dear Emma,

    You're 7 weeks old. And you stress me out sometimes. We'll get through it, but here are some of the ways I wish I would have paid you back. (Or maybe I actually do it ...)

    Love, The Best Mom in The World

    1) When you poop on me. Why does this keep happening, by the way? You've never pooped on your dad. Did I do something wrong here? Is the pooping ON me really necessary? I follow all diaper changing procedures to protect myself. I've worked in daycares, nannied, babysat ... I'm really good at diaper changes! What gives, kid? Are you some Pooping Prodigy? At any rate, I'm going to let you get that cute puppy that you want so badly. Because I know one day he/she is going to drop a giant one in the house and you're bound to get poop on your hands. Enjoy that, sucker.

    2) When you scream for no reason at all other than you want to be held. This, well ... this one is my favorite. It will be really hard not to do this for real. One day you're going to be 13 and hate me. You'll think I'm a loser when I make fangs with candy corn and laugh at my awesomeness. (Shut up, I am awesome! And THAT IS FUNNY!) At this tender age you will ask me to drop you off a block away from school or not "embarrass you in front of your friends." So my payback? When you reject me I would love to throw myself on the ground and wail like I have nothing to live for. I mean go crazy. Tears, snot, running mascara and hyperventilating  I want people seeing this spectacle to believe that I am actually dying. I want them to call 9-1-1. And when they ask 'what's the emergency?' I want to scream, 'she won't let me hang out with her all the time and go everywhere she goes and she hates me and has abandoned me and I'm dying. I'M DYING OF A BROKEN HEART!' Sufficient payback. Sufficient indeed.

    3) When you scream when I walk out of a room and you can't see me. This is easy. Super easy. Here we are in the living room watching your stupid television shows about some teenage girls liking vampires (because I KNOW it's going to come back like platforms and bellbottoms when you are in your teenage years...) and you get up for a glass of tea. You walk into the kitchen and then all of the sudden you hear a shrill scream. You rush back into the room to find me smiling and happy again. You roll your eyes and walk away. It happens again, only this time it is worse. You run into the living room to find me flipping out like I have demons inside of me and the worst case of constipation to ever occur in the history of mankind. You ask me five times if I am okay, when I hear your voice and realize you're there I smile again and all is right with the world. Repeat. Repeat every stinking time you walk out of a room I am in.

    4) Sore breastfeeding nipples. Bengay in your training bra. That's all I'm sayin'.

    5) Fighting sleep. Ahh ... my second favorite. I'd like to come into your room at night and tell you stories. Loudly. Screaming them. As I drink espresso. There you are just trying to fall asleep and then there's me yelling to you about the time your dad and I installed the backsplash.

    6) Interrupting mommy and daddy's "special time" because your binky fell out. All those nights you try to sit in your boyfriend's car, well I won't be interrupting it just to prevent Mr. Handsy from feeling you up. It's called payback. The worst kind of payback. There's a form of blocking that you're doing ... and I refuse to say that word here. But a blocker? That's what you are.

    7) I love you. And you're going to grow up awesome because you have the realest mom in town. Eat your peas. And remember ... the best payback of all? One day you're going to be a mom."

    Building a Village

    We have all heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."  I completely agree with this saying.  I know for a fact that gleaning the wisdom of other mothers who have "been there, done that" is priceless.  I know that having mothers who are in the same place as I am is very comforting.  Being able to surround ourselves with other mothers in order to aid each other in all of the different child rearing stages is invaluable. Unfortunately, for most of us in our modern mobile society, many of us don't have a village readily available.  Our family has moved almost every year since my husband and I got married.  That makes it really hard to build sustaining relationships.  That also means that neither of us have any family closer than 6 hours away.

    So how do I go about creating the village that is needed to help me as mother?  Here are some of the avenues that I have taken to create such relationships:

    1. Facebook - I know, I know.  Facebook is a crazy social media frenzy that has nothing helpful on it.  Actually, Facebook and Yahoo groups are a great place for you to locate and connect with other mothers.  You can do this in the comfort of your own home, and distance is no barrier.  I have been very blessed to be able to join some local and nationwide mom's groups that are always only a few clicks away.  We connect on topics such as parenting philosophy, activities, geographical location, and spirituality.   Even if you live in Timbuktu (real place in Africa), you can join in to the mommy world via the internet.

    2.  Local Groups - There are tons of local moms groups in almost all geographical locations.  While I love my Facebook groups, having a group of people to connect with in real life is also very important.  Some groups that I have been able to connect with are Le Leche League, Attachment Parenting International, and The Motherhood Collective.  Each of the different groups has offered assistance, camaraderie, a shoulder to cry on, information, and friendships. Motherhood Collective 3.  Church - I have been very blessed to be able to build a community of women/mothers at our local church who are always willing to support my family in many different fashions.  Many churches offer groups such as MOPS.   Even if the group is not focused on mothers, getting involved with other women will allow friendships to form.  We all need friends, right!

    4.  Practitioners - Finding the right practitioners is another piece to this puzzle.  It is invaluable for me to be able to take my kids or myself to see our care provider, and know that I can trust them with our health.  I have very particular opinions about our healthcare (as do most moms I know), and I want to find people with whom I can work as a team with.

    There are many other avenues for you to connect with other moms.  Creating this village is very important because we shouldn't have to do this alone.