Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry, merry Christmas to all my wonderful readers who celebrate this Holiday!Hope you are all enjoying the wonderful moments that we've all been blessed with in so many ways!

Friday, December 24, 2010

FOCUS FRIDAY! Last Minutes Ideas to Make the Holidays Fun with Family

Christmas eve and Christmas day can get pretty crazy with little ones.  Here are a few ideas to entertain the kids and make the holiday special for you and your family!

In home Concert.  If your child is learning an instrument, make a new tradition for them to play their instrument for relatives during the holidays.  This works out great because it makes them feel proud and shows off their new talent (plus all that money you've been dishing out actually pays off!) Many teachers have been teaching Christmas songs this time of year making it perfect for your little one to show off their talent on the holiday.

Find a new Christmas movie.  There are so many on t.v right now that finding one your child hasn't seen should be pretty easy! 

Sing christmas carols together.  Ask your child how many Christmas carols they know and challenge them to learn a new one. 

Take a ride to look at holiday lights and listen to Christmas music. Maybe even bring along a little hot cocoa for the ride!!

Create a last minute message from Santa for your kids (or spouse).  This website is so cool! It is free and it only takes a minute to complete.  Check it out!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Story Told Hilariously Wrong - AOL Video.flv

TODDLER TUESDAY! Check Out One of My Favorite Sites!

There are days when I wonder, "What is with this child?!?!" 
Toddlers go through so many stages and learn so many things at a rapid pace.  Understanding what is normal is very helpful in order to cope with these difficult behaviors and know how to deal with it.  When your in the trenches, it often feels as if the problem is impossible to deal with and your child is unusual.  In fact, the difficult behaviors is part of toddlerdom.  I love the website  They have a Toddler Tracker feature which provides short glimpses at the milestones and difficulties that most toddlers encounter based on their specific age (a few months at a time).  I find taking a moment to read these facts helps me to remember that Sienna is not unruly, instead she's doing what most toddlers are doing.  Knowing these facts help me to be more understanding and patient as a parent!

Monday, December 20, 2010

When and How to Say No to Volunteering and Donating Money

Many mothers struggle with the word "No" and want to give as much as humanly possible to others.  However, it's often necessary to keep things in check and know when you're overextended (or about to overextend yourself!).  If we learn how to spend our time wisely, we will be happier people (and also easier to be around!) 

As a parent, schools and organizations are always asking you for help and donations.  Especially in these times of economic hardships when organizations are laying off and depending on volunteers for much of the needed help. 

It's often thought that we should give to others before ourselves but this kind of thinking can really get us in trouble.  Personally, I donate blood and donate my time and money when I can to those in need and volunteering is something I plan to do in the very near future.  I think volunteering sets a great example for our children and is very rewarding.  However, looking at the big picture allows us to prioritize our families needs first. Before making a commitment, ask yourself these questions...

Does this make sense for my schedule at this point?  Think of your time as a pie chart.  If your children are involved in many activities (for example), is it reasonable to make another commitment to volunteer? 

Is my family OK with this?  Talk to your spouse or family about the commitment your thinking of making before saying yes.

Can you negotiate?  Most organizations are willing to take whatever you can give.  If the commitment they are asking for is a tall order, ask if there's a more reasonable commitment.  Chances are, they also do not want you to make a commitment they you later resent or can't keep up with.

Are all my other financial needs met?  Donating your money is a wonderful thing, however, there are times when our bills become a priority (and that is OK!)  Budgeting your money wisely and donating at the appropriate times is a good thing.  If you are unable to give money now, forgive yourself and remember you are taking care of your family needs first.

Remember that being a charitable person begins in the home.  If you aren't able to be present as a parent than your not being charitable to your children which is most important.  Your kids will thank you later!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taking Kids Holiday Shopping?

Just saw about 5 meltdowns at the 5 Below store today...ugh!  Here's an idea to avoid those crazy moments....before heading to the store with your little ones this holiday season, remember to use treats/praise for positive behavior instead of bribes to calm them down.  Be realistic (3 hours of shopping is a lot for a toddler for example!) Let them know your expectations and be calm and consistent. If at all possible, leave them at home! It's a jungle out there!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Goals for the New Year

As you all know, I love goals!  The new year is so great for looking inward, evaluating, forgiving, and starting over.  I love coming up with new ideas of what I'd like to do and then making a plan to make it happen.  In addition, I like to feel the excitement related to meeting those measurable goals. 

My goals for the new year are...drum roll please...

Have Baby #2! That's right! We are expecting our second child in July 2011.  My goal is to have a healthy pregnancy and enjoy time alone with Sienna as much as I can! Also, not gain as much weight as I did the first time and not get fat in the face. Uh...I mean eat healthier this pregnancy and continue working out as long as I can!  Then once the baby arrives, enjoy having a family of four and all the amazing things about having a newborn! 

Anyway, we are SOOOO excited to have a new addition to our family (but of course a little scared!) I told my husband i was pregnant by writing "Baby #2" on my belly with Sienna's soap crayons!

He was so excited! Then, we told my family at the Thanksgiving dinner table and we told my husband's family by dressing Sienna in a big sister shirt!  Everyone was excited!  Been pretty sick but it seems to be getting better this week (thank the LORD!) 
So, here are my goals related to pregnancy and home life.
                           1.  Make 3 healthy homemade dinners a week
                           2.  Include veggie and fruit snacks into my day
                           3.  Drink water
                           4.  Register for Zumba Class
                           5.  Spend a lot of quality time with Sienna before the baby arrives
In addition, I plan to get a house cleaner and get more organized (Isn't this on my goal list EVERY year!?!!? Argh!)

Of course, the above goals tie into my personal goals (especially from a health perspective).  In addition, I am going to continue seeing my awesome therapist and read the books that she recommends (I REALLY need to do better at this one!)  I am going to volunteer in our community and give back through an organization called Cuddle My Kids (helping other moms who are going through chemotherapy).  Finally, I want to stop being a codependent crazy lady and let go of other people's issues that have absolutely NOTHING to do with me!

I love being a stay at home mom, however, I realize that it won't be forever.  Once my children are in school (which will be here before I know it!)  I want to have a career that I enjoy and feel proud of. I really think that teaching is the way for me to go for me and I'm going to take steps to look into programs in the next 6 months.  In addition, I plan to write to magazine publications (one magazine a month) to get exposure and a possible writing position.  I want to make more money for my household so we don't have to worry as much (and I can afford that house cleaner I so badly want!)

4.  FINANCIAL GOALS.  Well, luckily for us, my husband is very good at our finances.  He calls the cable company and credit cards often and follows up on all the medical bills, etc. Thank God he does this because I am not a number person and would have it all screwed up.  However, my goal this year is to be more involved in the budget and set up some organization (thinking of buying Quicken....anyone use this?)  Also, we started our daughter's college fund but we need to put money into it and get our credit assessment.

I have researched many different goal setting ideas and websites and they all seem to have these things in common. 

1.  Set sharp, clearly defined goals you can measure.
2.  Write your goals down.
3.  Take baby steps toward making them happen (time lines help with this!) so you don't get overwhelmed.
4.  Give yourself a pat on the back when you've made progress and let go of self criticism if you fall behind!

Join me in setting up and achieving your goals for the new year.  Feel free to share any ideas or goals with me along the journey!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Toddler Tuesdays: Making Daily Tasks Easier

Empowering toddlers? You are probably saying...."Are you crazy?!" But the truth is that toddlers really need to feel like they are in control sometimes.  During this stage of life, they are beginning to find their independence and figure out who they are.  They want to do everything on their own and while you can't let them cut their own food with a knife (for instance), giving them some space to do things on their own will make them happier and help them to feel more confident (as well as limit many power struggles!).  Here are a few ideas that I use with Sienna.

1.  Diaper changing.  Sienna does not like to have her diaper changed and fights me tooth and nail about it but I have found some things that are helpful when trying to get her to accomplish this task.  I give her a choice of two places that she would like to do it.  By doing this, I am stating (without words) that not changing her diaper is not an option. 

2.  Nail clipping.  Distraction is a wonderful thing!  Since Sienna loves her stuffed puppy, we get him out and pretend to clip his nails before clipping hers. (Also, we usually do it in front of the t.v so she's distracted by Elmo as well!)  We never watch t.v....ugh!  I wish I could say that!!!

3.  Brushing teeth.  Teeth brushing can sometimes be a challenge in our house, however, when I pretend to brush my teeth first, it usually helps to make the process easier.  Also, sometimes a tooth brushing song that I make up helps the process!

4.  Eating.  I know this is the biggest struggle parents face when it come to toddlers.  They naturally become picky and begin wanting only certain foods (usually not the healthiest!)  Once they become older you can use dessert as an incentive or talk to them but at this age it's hard to reason.  I have found that sneaking healthy food into other things she will eat usually does the trick.  For instance, I put blueberries in her oatmeal, dip her chicken in applesauce, and I always mix veggies into her mac n cheese or noodles.  Also, it seems to help when she sees me eating fruit, she wants it!

Overall, remember the tools of distraction and empowerment.  Make things fun and avoid the power struggles!

Do you have more ideas? I would love to hear them!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Setting Goals for the New Year

So, you've thought about your goals and what's important you. Now it's time to make it happen! It's simple. If it's something you WANT to happen, you will MAKE it happen. That simply!

In 2007, I started this exercise and I've been using it ever since. This exercise was taught to me by Mr. Stuart Bryant, owner of Mr. Stuarts Martial Arts. Every single goal I've set, I've made happen!! My goals included findng Mr. Right, getting married, starting a family, getting my black belt, loosing ten pounds, and making a certain amount of money from my job. The important thing is being real with yourself and accepting the challenge. Saying it out loud and taking steps toward your goals. I love this saying. "Seldom does an individual exceed his own expectations." - author unknown.

Now, lets get started...are you with me?

1. Set your goals. Be realistic but don't underestimate yourself. If you want to be an astranaut, set goals to make steps toward that dream.

2. State your goals. Say it out loud. Write it down. This helps to make it concrete.

3. Keep it SIMPLE. Choose your top 3 goals and write them down. Then write the steps you will make in the next three days, three months and three years. Try not to think too much about it or you might talk yourself out of something you really want (for example, "oh, I will never be able to get my PhD".

4. Visualize. Close your eyes and picture yourself doing the things you will create in your goals.

5. Line up your support. We are humans and in order to succeed, we need a good support system, people who believe in us and will help us along the way!

5. Make it happen. That's it. It's SIMPLE!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Privacy Parenting

When I was a little girl my mom used to read me a book called Beth's Big Day.  It was a children's book (that I still have, all beat up and worn with love!) about a little girl named Beth's birthday.  One thing that stands out to me in this book was the way that Beth treated something special.  In the beginning of this story, she started her birthday morning very excited but she did not want to wear a fancy dress because she did not want anyone to get "suspicious".  Thinking back now, I think, "What a great lesson!"  She was keeping her special day to herself and did not need any recognition!

Today, we live in a world where, in an instant, we can share our joys, thoughts, and/or ideas with all our "friends" by pressing a few buttons.  Of course, as a blogger, I constantly struggle with this much to share? How often and when is the right time?  (I am sure there is a Dummies guide to Social Networking that I probably should read!!)  In reality, I don't think there's needs to be a guide about what to say or how to do social networking.  Perhaps it's as easy as "keeping it simple".  Picture yourself on a stage in front of a huge audience announcing what it is you are about to type in your facebook status or twitter feed.  Most of the time, it's probably best to zip your lip and keep that special information as a treasure for yourself. 

So, how can we teach this important lesson to our children?  The easiest way is to fuel your children with positive statements and encourage self confidence.  Having good self esteem will enable them to feel that they, themselves, are the most important person to please.  In a addition, being a good role model ourselves and knowing when to keep things private is a great thing!

Let's face it, in this day in age, privacy can be a difficult thing to achieve.  While sharing information on social media outlets can be a great tool trade information, sharing personal information is something to be done with special consideration.  Bottom line, sharing the joy (or sorrow) of a special moment can be a great thing, but the true joy is what you feel on the inside.  Keeping a secret often allows you to TRULY feel the joy and pride accompanied by a good choice you made and reminds you of who your real best friend is, yourself!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Easy Guide to Giving an Allowance

I have not personally used this (since my daughter is so young) but I am sooo impressed with the tutorial! Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Fresh Start With an Awesome Look

I am sooo excited to share with you my new endeavor, Tickles and Time Outs!  This website is defiinetly going to be one of your favorites and I can't wait to share with you all my new ideas, resources, and activities for you and your family!  Starting this new site is a great chance for me to open new doors, get fresh inspiration, and learn all kinds of new things from my readers and partners. As I take the next step in my journey, I ask you to come along with me!  Talk to me and share any ideas and comments you would like.  Also, I encourage you to start you own new endeavors!

As the year begins to come to an end, we are reminded of the wonderful possibilities that we have each day.  The fall leaves blow in the wind, turning and changing as they blow through the trees.  As people, we also change and move through our environments.  Life is a journey full of many mistakes, lessons, and moments...what we make of these moments is how we will become the person we want to be.

As 2010 comes to an end, I am going to be posting many goal setting exercises to help prepare you and your family for the new year.  Let's start thinking now about what we want next year to look like.  What changes do we want to make?  Who do we want to become? What kind of parent will you be? What kind of person will you be?

Let's get focused and make 2011 a great year for yourself and your family!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 Ways to Keep it Simple Amidst Holiday Chaos

The holidays are so busy, it's easy to go crazy trying to do it all.   However, these are the very special times that we often let slip by without appreciating them.  Slowing down and looking around can help you and your family to stay calm amidst chaos.  Here are a few ways to keep it simple.

1.  Forget the Jones'. The day after Thanksgiving I began feeling the pressure of keeping up with the Jones' when I saw everyone in my neighborhood putting up their lights.  It's sometimes helpful to remind yourself that being realistic with what you can handle and spending money that is within your means is the true way to enjoying the holidays.

2.  Limit Your Commitments.  December is a month when we get a million invites to friend's holiday party, work parties, cookie exchanges, and lots more.  While it's fun to see our friends, it's also necessary to consider what commitments you can do without going crazy (before we go crazy!)  I know a couple that got tired of trying to go to both sets of parents every Christmas and ended up not enjoying the holiday.  They decided to rotate which family they see on Christmas yearly and are much happier with that arrangement.  I know another family that had the best Thankgiving this year because they ordered Boston Market and didn't worry about cooking or cleaning up.

3.  Enjoy the moments.  Yesterday I was sitting with Sienna while she was pretending to read a book.  When she got to the end she exclaimed, "Amen" instead of "The End".  It was such a sweet memory that I  put in my pocket and carry around with me to make me smile!

4.  Budget.  Talk to your spouse or take a look at your budget (if your single) and budget for gifts and then stick to it.  Nothing is more stressful than living outside your means and knowing you can't afford what your spending.  Keep it simple and focus on the joy of the holidays rather than the gifts.  Your kids will be happy no matter what they get and you will have the satisfaction knowing that you will not have to pick up a second job just to pay for their gifts.

5.  Prepare Ahead.  Communicate now about where you would like to spend the day or evening and if you're going somewhere communicate ahead of time what you will be bringing.  Start gift lists and begin wrapping soon so it doesn't get to be too much on Christmas eve!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Toni's Wish List

1.  Just Dance Wii Game
I love to dance and Sienna is starting to really enjoy dancing with me too.  I would love to get this game and play it with family and friends!

2.  Donation to a Charity
This year I asked family and loved ones to make a donation in my name to The Ronald McDonald house.  I truly feel blessed with having so many blessings (both material and non material) and really don't need anything.  As you all know, I have a spot in my heart for children and would feel so wonderful if I could help give a child in need get something special on Christmas morning. If you are interested in donating to a charity but not sure which one, check out this awesome site for all you need to know http://www.http//

2.  House Cleaning gift certificate 
I would LOVE, LOVE to get a house cleaner for just one thorough cleaning of this house!!

3.   Shared book
This is a product that turns my blog into a book....How cool is that?

4.  Canvas on Demand 
I love preserving memories and I think these are awesome! (Just be careful if you are thinking of adding an addition to your family soon, you may want to wait on the family portrait!)

5.  Polaroid Instant Analog Camera 
I never have time to print out the gazillion pictures I have stored on my laptop! I would love to be able to print pictures fast and easily.  Of course, don't forget the paper!

6.  I Tunes gift card  I never feel like I can buy music for myself, however, I absolutely love music and I'm always wishing I had some more on my docking station. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child's Teacher

Just like every relationship you have in your life, the one with the person who is taking care of your child is a very important one. Do not underestimate this. I don't mean you should be best friends with them (actually that may make things more challenging), I mean you should have trust and good communication (both ways). I have come up with some ideas to help you along.

Communicate Effectively
As a child care provider, I really appreciated any information about the child's night or morning when they are dropped off. It helps me to understand the child's needs and allows me to see the big picture. Let us know if your child had a particularly difficult evening or morning. If something major is going on at home (such as divorce or a death in the family) your child care provider should definitely be informed so that we can help your child if they are acting out or feeling sad. This also opens the door so that they can communicate with you if there are any issues. In general, being approachable is a good thing so that the teacher feels they can talk to you if your child is having any issues.

Show Respect
There are some crappy teachers/nannies out there but there are MANY good ones. Your child is going to have both through the course of his or her life and they will learn lessons from all of them. Even though you may not particularly like your child's teacher/child care provider, you need show respectful to him or her.
If there is a major issue with your child while they are under the childcare provider's care, confronting them is a must. But, be aware of your timing. I know it's often challenging to find the right time to talk with a teacher since they are often trying to do other things (especially during drop off or pick up times). Respect their time by talking to them at an appropriate time. If you need to chat with them for more than a minute, try sending a note or coming in early when there isn't a lot going on. If face to face communication is a must, ask them when a good time to chat would be.  Do not speak badly about your child's teacher in front of your child. This will create a triangle and being direct is a much better way to handle the situation. If you need to vent, talk to your spouse or friend about the situation.  Also, say thank you to your child's teacher often! Show them you appreciate their hard work and dedication either in person, in a note or by giving them a small handmade gift from your child.

Build trust
Trust is an important part of your relationship with your childcare provider. I know some teacher's do not like when the parent hangs around while dropping their child off (it can be a disruption if the teacher is in the middle of something). But there's nothing wrong with you taking your time hanging things up or a quick chat with a teacher (unless you are having difficulties with your child during these times which can be a problem). If your childcare provider allows the chance for you to participate in a party, take them up on it. This is a good opportunity to see their interactions with the children and spend some time in their classroom.  In addition, listen to your child-ask them about their day. Children are pretty good at giving you an idea of what their day was like. Follow your intuition and trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, talk to the teacher or nanny about it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Encouraging Your Kids to Use their Manners During the Holidays

It can be nerve racking going to a family gathering and hoping your kids will be appreciative and use their manners. Preset your kids before going to the gathering and let them know what your expectations are. It's important that they understand that even if get a gift that is something they don't like, they should still use good manners, say "thank you" and show appreciation.
Check out this fun game to encourage manners...
Have your kids pick random items in your home and then have them give these items as a present to each other. When they open the gift (even if it's toilet paper), they must say "thank you" and also something nice about it. This is a fun way to get your kids ready for the holidays!! Make using manners fun and of course praise them when they do a good job!

Creating a Family Business Plan


One of Hollywood’s biggest couples, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has appeared to survive the stress of Hollywood. We think our lives are stressful, but how do they manage along with two huge careers and a whole lot of media attention?

Oprah recently interviewed this amazing couple and they revealed some interesting ideas about how they view the family unit. First of all, they have designed a family business plan. I am a huge fan of goals and plans so this definitely sparked my attention. They decided that they need a plan to “facilitate and encourage the individuality of their children.” What a great idea!! They also mentioned that they expect their children to find their own way to add to the family group, neighborhood, and humanity.

As a person who has ADD, I definitely think staying on a plan is helpful to stay focused on your priorities. If having a respectful, happy family is a priority than it makes perfect sense to have a plan so everyone is on the same page and knows their role and expectations.

So, how do Will and Jada keep the spark alive in their relationship? Check out this clip I have a hard time understanding how Jada Pinkett Smith has to work at being attractive to her spouse (considering she is so freakin’ beautiful!) but I’m sure every couple has challenges in this area at times in their relationship. It’s nice to know I’m not alone at having to work at keeping my sex life alive sometimes! But I believe that keeping your love alive as a couple, keeps the family alive as a whole.
Finally, the Smiths’ allowed their young daughter to shave the sides of her hair and shave a star design into it. Hmmm…If my daughter asked me if she could do that, how would I respond? That’s a tough one! Well, I would not be excited about it for sure, but isn’t it my job to encourage her to be proud of who she is, make her think she is beautiful no matter what, and encourage her to be creative? Will explained, “Your children can have as much ‘freedom’ as they can handle, then if they make a mistake you have to pull back those freedoms. Not necessarily in punishments, but revoke some freedoms.”

It’s a struggle to pick your battles when your children want something that you don’t especially like, but isn’t it our job to encourage individuality? After hearing the Smith’s perspective, I will think again when my daughter asks me for something I think is absolutely ridiculous.

I find this Hollywood couple to be such an inspiration to the everyday family. Although we look at them like they ‘have it made’, I am convinced that living in the spotlight has tremendous challenges. Although, every family has their problems, I really admire their motivation, devotion, and respect for one another and feel we can all learn from their ideas….I know I have!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is it OK to Use Santa as a Bribe?

Using Santa's gifts as an incentive for good behavior is very tempting this time of year. The question is, can threatening Santa's visit be a bad thing? Well, first of all, don't make promises you can't keep (IE. "If you are bad, Santa will not come!") Making those kinds of threats are unrealistic and not a fair punishment for bad behavior. Instead, focus on the true spirit of the holiday. If we focus too much on Santa and presents than we might be sending our children the message that presents are what's most important about the holiday. Instead, donate your time to a nearby organization or visit a nearby nursing home with your children to spend time with the residents or even sing some Christmas Carols. In my opinion, using Santa as an incentive is not a bad thing, as long as you are clear and don't make promises you can't keep. Encourage good choices by saying something like,"Remember, Santa is watching you!" but don't loose focus that these choices are good because it's the right thing (not just because Santa is watching!) In addition, Christmas is a great opportunity to read bible stories and learn about the true spirit of giving! The bottom line...encouraging good behavior for Santa's arrival here and there is OK but make sure you all also teach your children all the other reasons to make good choices and enjoy the true spirit of the holiday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. ~Abigail Van Buren

Substitute Beans for Meat for a Healthy and Cheap Alternative

Looking for great ways to make cheap and easy recipes? My husband and I love beans but sometimes I forget to incorporate them into our dinners. Did you know that beans are low in fat and cholesterol free? They are also high in fiber and are often used to replace meat in many diets. Buying beans in place of meat is a great substitute. It will save you money on your grocery bill and will give you a healthier meal for your family. There are many recipes with beans (baked beans, black beans, chili to name a few!)
Here is one I really like (and I hope you will too!):

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to Deal with your Child's 'Not so Great' Teacher

Let's face it, it's a part of life. You're child will have over many teachers in his or her life and they will not all be good! However, if we view bad teachers as a learning experience, our children will become more resilient and successful overall. Here's how...

1. Communicate Remember, your child only offers one side of the story and your child may be leaving important information out of the story. Talk to your child's teacher politely and find out the whole story. Try to put yourself in the teacher's shoes. The teacher may be new, going through a difficult time in their personal life, or have other information about the situation.

2. Setting boundaries. Be your child's advocate. If there are issues that you are concerned about, don't be afraid to address the situation with the teacher and ask for follow up. If the issue still isn't resolved, look for other options such as talking to a principal about the problem. If that doesn't work, you may need to speak to someone even higher up the chain. Just think carefully and have a plan before acting out in anger. Remember, your child may need to be in the classroom for many more months and you want to make the situation better (not more difficult) for them.

3. Show Respect. Although you may not like your child's teacher, you still need to be respectful. (This may require biting your tongue in front of your child!) Even when you are home, avoid talking badly about the teacher in front of your child.

4. Be positive. Making the best of the situation will help your child overcome the situation and allow them to focus on the what's really work. It will also encourage them to overcome the situation instead of being the victim.

Avoiding difficult people doesn't solve problems and can lead to negative self esteem in children. Instead, teach your children to use the tools they have to overcome their struggles and allow these experiences to be a positive experience instead of a negative one. Try not to focus too much on the problem and instead focus on the schoolwork, reminding your child that your teacher is there to teach not to be your friend. Overall, your child will walk away from this experience with a new lesson in their pocket and a better view on education.

To Stay at Home or Work? What's Best for You?

These are some of the hardest decisions we have to make but we often make it harder than it needs to be! If we follow our intuition and let go of the guilt, we can be happy no matter what we decide (and so can our children!)'s that simple. If you are struggling with whether you should go back to school, work, or quit your job and stay home with the are some ideas that may help you out with your decision.

Should you work full time?  Being a stay at home mom is not for everyone and if it's not for you, you certainly shouldn't feel bad about it! I feel so bad hearing women (or men) who are unhappy about staying at home with their children. Everyone goes through rough days (maybe even a week) but if you are finding yourself unhappy for extended periods of time, think of some other options. If most of the following statements match your feelings, perhaps it's time to go back to work, go back to school, or work part time.
1. You are going into debt because you can't afford to pay your bills.

2. You are not known to be very patient.

3. You miss your old job constantly.

4. 10 minutes of duck duck goose is enough to drive you into the grave.

5. The thought of repeating the same thing 55 times a day is less than enticing.

6. You think a play date is the worst possible thing you could do with your time.

7. You constantly miss the lifestyle you had while you were working.

8. You find yourself moody and resentful of the life your significant other has outside the home.

9. If you hear Elmo's laugh one more time, you might punch yourself in the face.

10. You have found your passion/niche (and it doesn't involve being a stay at home mom!)

Should you work Part Time? New research indicates that moms that work part time are the happiest because they have their time away but don't feel overwhelmed by trying to do everything. If the following statements match your feelings, it may be time to look into a part time job or even going back to school.
1. You have to work to pay the bills (and by bills I mean mortgage, utilities, or car payments). You hate constantly worrying about how you're going to pay the electric bill.
2. You miss getting out and feeling like an adult.
3. You would like to make a little extra money for a nice pair of boots you've been eyeing up.

4. You enjoy staying at home (most of the time) but sometimes feel chained to the house and need a break.

Should you stay at home full time?

1. You truly enjoy playing hide n seek, duck duck goose, and reading Elmo books (it's not for everyone after all)

2. You enjoy being creative and finding new games to play.

3. Coloring and crafts are a hobby of yours.

4. You often find yourself singing Barney songs.

5. The thought of working full time and letting someone else take care of your child makes you feel ill.

6. You feel like staying at home with the kids is what you were meant to do.

Whatever choice you make, the important thing is to feel confident in your decision and not carry around guilt. Also, it's enough to know that you are a good mom if you are able to pay your bills, keep your children in a safe and fulfilling environment (even if it's not with you!), and still be true to yourself!

How to Make Mealtimes Memorable

There are so many ways to show your child that they are loved and mealtimes are a great chance to do that. Using your creativity to show your love can provide your kids with wonderful memories that they can cherish into adulthood. Here are a few ideas to get you started..

1. Own a Special plate. My mom had this cool plate for us while we were growing up and I loved it. We got the privilege of using the special plate whenever we did something good (good grade, birthday, or just for the heck of it!) I always love this tradition and use it with my family now. Here's the link if you'd like to purchase the Special Plate

2. Keep it simple. We eat at the table every night and I enjoy it.  As a single mom, making a healthy dinner after we get home at 5:30 can be my biggest struggle.  We ALWAYS have a better night when I am able to spend a little time with them instead of spending 45 minutes cooking then cleaning up. Therefore, heating up leftovers, having food ready in the crockpot, or ordering out can be a lifesaver.

3. Engage Children in the Process. If you plan ahead, you can ask your kids to pick a meal and help you get the ingredients at the grocery store (and even help you stir or pour ingredients into the bowls). Another idea? Children of all ages seem to love making Place cards for other family members (or guests). Set your child up with materials to make place cards while you get dinner ready.

4. Engage.  Not every mealtime has to be a blast but making mealtimes fun will engage children in the process.  Make a schedule and have each kid be in charge of picking out what they want for dinner one night a week (WARNING: provide choices or you may be eating ice cream every week!)  Pick a country such as Italy or Mexico and make a recipe from that county (don't worry-tacos or pizza is creative enough!) Bonus: Find a new word from that country and use it while you are having dinner! 

5. Question game. This is something you can do every night. Get your kids talking by asking what is their least favorite part of their day and best part of their day.  Another game the kids like to play is taking turns saying "what I like about you is...." 

6.  Don't fight.  Don't set your expectations too high but expecting kids to eat most of what's on their plate is reasonable.  If your child doesn't want to come to the table, ask one of the kids to turn the t.v off in 2 minutes and then have them turn the t.v off.  If they still won't come to the table, tell them the t.v still goes off during dinner hour and tell them you will put their plate in the fridge until later but they will be eating by themselves.

Although all of these ideas are fun, the important thing is just being together. Remember, your kids (especially teenagers) might complain "UGH! family dinner is ridiculous!" but years from now they will look back with a smile and remember those special moments with family!

How to Be a Happy Mom

1.  Setting Boundaries.  This is the most important tool for a happy mom.  I could talk about boundaries all day....but the truth is I really think having this skill is the most important skill a happy mom could have.  Being able to stay no
You may have grown up thinking that putting everyone else first is what a "good mom" does, but the truth is if you always put everyone else first, you will end up miserable, not fun to be around, and resentful.  If this is you, don't worry.  Setting boundaries is very difficult and uncomomfortable at first but it does get easier as you do it more and people will eventually respect you for setting your limits.

2.  Exercise.  Feeling good about yourself is so important, not to mention being healthy.  Exercise is a healthy escape from caring for children. Also, maintaining a healthy weight is something that will give you control and ability to keep up with the fast pace of your children. 

3.  Good nutrition.  Eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains will give a happy mom sustainable energy and ward off sickness.  Good nutrition also helps to maintain a healthy weight making you feel better about yourself.

4.  Good support system.  Developing a good support system is essentional for being a happy mom.  In addtion, hire a good babysitter

5.  Good Resources.  I love books and reading great blogs on the web.  Finding your favorite websites, books, and/or magazines will help you come up with new ideas when you face the many questions that face a parent.

6.  Know yourself.  Following your intution, pursuing your passions and keeping your identity will help you feel like you are not only a mom, but still a person.  Although your directions change a little once you have a child, you can still follow your dreams and create the life that you want.