Archive for the ‘Early Childhood’ Category

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Monday, November 30th, 2015

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Sometimes it is difficult to share here and keep a sense of privacy  around certain issues that we have in our family. We have been dealing with a personal struggle with our kids and creating a good balance of online time and offline time with them. Our biggest struggle though has been protecting them from the internet and potentially harmful content as well as monitoring the amount of time they are spending on their devices.

There are a few things that I became aware of over the past couple of years about my loss of control as a parent.

One was that one of my children was getting up in the middle of the night to play online games while we were sleeping because we were monitoring the amount of technology hours they were allowed online. We found out that this child had been getting up at 3 in the morning every day, slipping on their uniform, playing Minecraft until I needed to wake them up, and then pretending to read in their room, absolutely wowing me that I did not have to pull them out of bed. Of course, the routine started to slip when they became an absolute disaster at school and emotional mess when they came home. We checked our internet logs to discover what was happening and realized it had been a routine for quite awhile before we realized they had been doing it.

The second was that one of our children left open their Google searches on our computer and a peek at their open search history yielded a serious discussion we needed to have about sex and the potential that their search could yield pornography or put them at risk of child predators. We should have had the talk sooner- it felt like a parenting fail to see what they were looking for.

The third were some unsavory jokes at our dinner table that apparently had been found on YouTube skits. 

Clearly, we had lost our control.

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

We started locking down the internet in as many ways as possible. No one could get on during certain hours, their Kindles had every parental restriction we could set, and we blocked any potential sites that we could that might pop up in their searches. We became police monitors of their behavior as best as we could, but still situations arose where we felt we lost control. My husband did hours and hours of research on what we could do to make this better, but we couldn’t find anything that fit our family’s needs. These blockers for our kids created blockers for me all day trying to do my job and I didn’t know how to reset the blockers my husband enabled. Potential monitoring systems would not work with our router so this is the crappy “block you from everything,”  solution that we had come up with for now.

Until THIS.  It’s called Circle. The company reached out to me to help spread the word about their service for the holidays. Honestly, I almost cried when I watched the video because this is what we needed.  THIS is what our family has been waiting for. THIS is the answer to our issues and I am so excited to show it to you today. I am over the moon excited that we are implementing this system in our home to help protect our kids and I can’t encourage you enough to consider the same system especially if you are having these struggles too.

Every family needs this in their home.

Don’t believe me? Watch this video clip and you’ll be sold too.

Best part…

It’s on sale today!

$85.00! (regularly $99)

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Are you tired of letting the Internet dictate what your family is exposed to? Not Anymore! With Circle, you are the boss!

Here are 4 Awesome things you can EASILY do with Circle:

1. Set appropriate filters for EACH DEVICE. Use the pre-designed ones or customize your own.

iOS Screen 4

2. Track where your family is spending their time online. iOS Screen 3

3. Give your devices a BED TIME! iOS Screen 2

4. PAUSE the internet! Yes. you. can. iOS Screen 1

If you are still not convinced, read what these Circle customers are saying about it:

“As the father of four kids from elementary through college age, I am not exaggerating when I say Circle is EXACTLY the device I have been looking for to control the internet in my house. Circle truly is peace of mind in a little white box.” – Wayne Stocks

“Circle has literally changed our lives and how our family spends time on the internet. My worries of what my children could be exposed to online has changed overnight by the use of Circle. I can pause the internet anytime making getting chores or homework done much easier these days.” -Terra Nyce

“Circle makes it easy for me to protect my kids online, monitor usage across all our home’s devices, and create conversations with the entire family. It’s rare that something is simple and effective, but Circle is both.” — Michael Lukaszewski

We are so excited to finally have control again. Get control of the Internet and give your family this gift of Circle on Cyber Monday.

*This post contains an affiliate link, but I only promote things I believe will add value to your life.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here.  Part 2 continued the diagnosis and treatment process!  Today we tackle working with the schools! We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

I think one of the biggest challenges for me as a parent wasn’t just the treatment process, but more the stigma and worry about what having a label like ADD can do.  Before we dealt with this, I had always thought of this as kids being crazy (and probably indulging in too much sugar), but ADD/ADHD can be so different for each kid. Maybe you had an idea for that label too? It isn’t always necessarily hyper kids- I don’t think I would have identified my child as that. In each child, it looks a little differently with similar characteristic traits.

Today I want to talk about how we tried to set Ethan up for success at school.  I already told you, this kid is SMART (he gets it from his daddy!), but we needed to get certain tools and people in place to help him be the star that we know he is!

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Start Talking Early

We knew that Ethan was struggling at school and we felt like we needed to let our teacher know that we were working really hard to improve things for him and hopefully for her too! I set up a meeting with the principal and his teacher and tearfully explained that we were working with our doctor and were in the process of figuring things out and asked for a little patience until we had some answers. They both were genuinely kind and sympathetic as we were floundering to figure out how to help Ethan.  Looping them in early bought us a little grace during the diagnosis process because they knew we were trying very hard to make things better for all the parties involved.

Once we had a diagnosis, we were able to begin making the accommodations necessary through our public school system and our principal explained how we could get a 504 for Ethan in place once we had this paperwork. Depending on your needs, you may need an IEP or a 504.  If you are trying to figure out what you need, I love this table that breaks down what each of these means on Understood (a great resource for parents!). At times, with speech services we needed an IEP. When speech was dropped, we just needed the 504. It depends on what type of accommodations your family needs to determine which type of paperwork is filed.

What The Heck is a 504?

Once we had the official paperwork from the testing with our diagnosis, we put a plan in place for Ethan.  We set up a meeting with the principal, his teacher, and with someone who could set up something called a 504 plan for him. A 504 is basically a blueprint or plan for how a child will have access to learning at school that is written together.  It provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students and is provided at no cost to you.

Here is the thing… I did not want to ask for special favors or inconvenience our teacher, but I knew that there were things that really needed to happen so that Ethan could perform successfully at school. It pained me to ask for “favors” (I am a big people pleaser and hate being a bother to people), but I knew this could help him so much!

Our 504 has pretty much remained the same since elementary school with a few tweaks here and there for his accommodations.

We Need To Be In the Loop- Our biggest issue was that we felt in the dark about what needed to happen during the day and if the teacher needed something from us. We asked that Ethan write in his agenda daily what needed to happen and requested the teacher initial to verify everything so we weren’t missing important papers and deadlines anymore. We also asked that any further communication that she wanted to do with us also was on the agenda so we could be sure not to miss anything.

We Need Access to Quiet Spaces Sometimes- Some classrooms are rowdier than others. He had a hard time focusing when there was a lot going on and we wanted to be sure that he could take advantage of a quieter room if he needed it. This is something we only have cashed in on once, but it’s nice to have in place.

We Asked for A Little Grace on Late Papers- This is never to be abused, but sometimes our disorganization has caused us to be late on assignments. We just asked for grace, particularly transitioning into our new school routines since having zeros for late assignments could really lower his grades.

We Need Extra Time At the End of the Day- This was particularly important as we headed into middle school so that he had enough time to get his books and papers gathered and organized before getting on the bus. That extra 5-10 minutes made an enormous difference in our organizational level and our grades. I think this was the best thing we asked for!

Where Does the 504 Go?

For us, one of our biggest transitions was going from an elementary school setting to a middle school setting. Although we had communicated with his teachers that he had ADD, we did not know that we need to communicate with the middle school that he had a 504 from elementary school and that we wanted to make sure everything was set with it moving forward into our new school. If there is one thing we learned through this process, we learned that we need to check in every year about this and make sure that it is communicated with his teachers. The first year of middle school taught us a lot about making requests known as we were struggling to even pass because the accommodations weren’t there.

What ends up being the difference in the grades if the 504 is not addressed?

We went from barely pulling C’s to High Principal’s Honor Roll!

That’s an incredible difference for a child and for their family.

It’s also an incredible difference in my child’s confidence about himself.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

How Can I Continue Making His Day Better?

Not only do we have the 504 in place for Ethan, but we take advantage of anything that the school offers that can continue improving those grades and helping him feel confident.

Confidence is such an important thing for a kid.

When our middle school offered free tutoring, we took advantage of that so he could stay after school and tackle that homework with help. We found that he was more productive in that environment than he was riding the bus trying to work on his homework when he got home.

We also looked into ways that he could burn off energy in a positive way. We were lucky enough to have gotten the scoop on cross country in middle school from another mom and this helped Ethan burn off some energy and be a part of a team that really fit with his personality.  I love that his coach focuses on each child doing their own personal best and that he has managed to find fun ways to encourage my child to run with a system of great rewards that Ethan finds motivating. We also love that running is an activity he can always do when he needs to burn off a little steam at home. What a great gift!

I wrote a special note to his coach to thank him for all he does to encourage our son because it has meant so much to us and to Ethan. His positive influence has been a big gift to our family.

How Can I Set My Kid Up for Success?

Success at school starts at home. I can do all of these incredible things for him through the people he interacts with at school, but if I am disorganized at home, those repercussions follow Ethan and make his day hard. It’s a team mentality and I struggle each year as the new school year starts. I can barely keep myself organized most days, let alone stay on top of someone else’s stuff too!

As a parent, I have to make sure that I communicate with his teachers from day one, I have to make sure the appropriate paperwork is filed on his 504, and I have to be the one to stay on top of everything with his homework and projects.

Being organized at home is important because it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day for my son.

As he gets older though, I am trying to push a little more back to him. Someday he will be an adult and he won’t have a mom setting everything up for him in his workplace and in his home. I want to raise a self-sufficient child so I have to do my part to help him do that. Sometimes he will do great with it, sometimes he won’t.

We don’t expect perfection, we are proud of him for trying and doing the best he can.

We certainly aren’t perfect either.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

The Nagging Mom Transformation

I needed to work on my nagging as much as Ethan needed to work on better habits.

In the morning, the routine was the same:

Do you have your papers?

Did you get your agenda signed?

Did you do your homework?

Do you have your gym clothes?

(said in a nagging mom voice)

I started utilizing a checklist that I would sit by his backpack to go through and would just remind him to check his checklist in the morning instead of the daily nag. I turned off my own distractions and just focused on a good breakfast and building that kid up at the bus stop. I made more time for hugs and less time for Facebook-checking. I tried to tell him one thing I was proud of him each day. All of this has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it anymore.

I don’t think this makes me an amazing mom and I don’t say this to brag, I just say this because part of the transformation of this diagnosis is the transforming I had to do on myself.  I had to see the psychologist so I knew how to respond to my child better. I have to invest the time monthly in check-ups and making sure his medical needs are addressed. I have to communicate with the school staff so they know I care. I have to make room in our schedule for activities that make my son feel confident.

It has all been worth it.




I hope that sharing this story offers some encouragement to you. As a blogger, there is a difficult balance that we have to deal with when sharing about our families. I shared this because I felt so very alone in this process and I know our story can help others.

If you are working through this with your child, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are a good mom.

The process of discovery, diagnosis, and treatment can be transformative for a family.

Your process might look different than mine or you might explore other avenues than we did. Each family must figure out what works best for them.

I have found I was a much harsher judge of other moms before this experience. Now I just look at all of our different paths (with all those winding turns) and say, “I am so proud of you for doing what’s best for you!”

If there is anything I have learned from this experience it is that it takes a village.

I am so thankful for mine.


Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here. We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

Testing day could not come quickly enough, but it first required a session with the psychologist to explain our concerns. We didn’t just talk about his inability to follow through on tasks and disorganization (although that was frustrating). Our biggest concern was the emotional outbursts and anger that we were dealing with. We knew we weren’t handling these situations well and were concerned that not only were we dealing with a possible ADD diagnosis, but that maybe something emotionally was wrong too.

I remember that the doctor said that often by treating the ADD that these emotional outbursts lessen because the child is not so frustrated.  I certainly didn’t want to pin my hopes on that, but wouldn’t it be incredible if we were able to help both elements of our struggles as parents?

He said he would get us scheduled with some weekly visits for the anger issues though so we could get that under control.

Good, we needed it!

Testing, Testing

Testing day had finally arrived. We had lots of questionnaires to fill out and even ones to pass on to our teacher to share about how our son performed in the classroom.

Testing can be done in a variety of ways (every family needs to explore those options with their own doctor/psychologist)  and the psychologist we chose diagnosed through an IQ test. I remember nervously dropping him off with a big snack and a kiss for the morning.

Once the test results were done, we got to come back in and chat with the psychologist about the diagnosis.

What did the results show us? He was incredibly smart (you don’t have to tell us that!), but his memory/processing/sequencing (I apologize that I don’t remember the specific category) was extremely low. Since those numbers don’t correlate, he had every characteristic listed on every ADD site we ever visited, and the questionnaire filled out by us and by his teachers supported this theory, the psychologist said that he felt confident that our son had ADD.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

He has ADD, Now What?

Hallelujah! We have an answer!  In my mind, someone gives us a prescription and we go along on our merry way and live happily ever after.

It wasn’t like that though.

The psychologist gave us the paperwork and we had to set up an appointment with our physician and then the doctor had to outline the treatment and then we had to go back to the psychologist.

Of course, we haven’t even touched the anger issues so we need to set up appointments for that.

Oh, and loop in our teacher and the school system.

Instead of relief, it felt like a million more pounds of stuff I needed to do.

First, we contacted our doctor and he had a complete physical that gave us information about where we were starting at (particularly his height & weight) and then she recommended a medication that we could try, letting me know that we could start a small dose and then increase the dosage based on what we needed. Since I know nothing about medication or dosage, I left this piece of the puzzle in the doctor’s hands.

She assured me she would keep a close eye on things since I would be seeing her once a month now.

WAIT, HOLD UP. I have to go to the doctor with my kid every month for this?

Granted, I know other moms who have had a much harder time with their kids and medical issues so this feels really ridiculous for me to feel like this is a burden, but the idea of going to the doctor monthly for physicals and having to have a handwritten prescription every month that I could not just get filled annually, but have to bring in a physical prescription every four weeks seemed like a lot to deal with on top of our counseling appointments.

It goes without saying, but the cost of all of these tests, medications, and physicals were also unexpected.

Pass the wine!  But just the boxed stuff because BILLS.

Treatment Begins

This is probably the hardest part of our journey and this journey can look so differently for so many families.

This was the part of the journey that Ethan wanted me to share specifically with you.

The struggles with figuring out the right medication and the right dosage for our child were extremely difficult as were the side effects that he experienced. Remember how I said I left the medication piece of the puzzle up to our doctor to figure out? We had no idea that the dosage was too high for our son because we had no idea what an appropriate dosage would be.

Although it is typical to experience side effects from medication as your body adjusts to it, our child did not even resemble my child anymore.

He could not sleep at night.

He barely ate.

He seemed like a robot.

After the first day in school on his medication though, he told me something though that nearly brought me to my knees.

“I finally feel smart.”

This beautifully bright boy had never felt smart until now and that just about broke me.

I was still riddled with the guilt of yelling at him and feeling like I failed him as a mom. What if I would have caught this sooner? What if I could have helped him feel smart years ago?  The guilt and the part I played in this story really bothered me.

We headed to our weekly therapy appointments to deal with anger.

Guess who sat out in the waiting room?

The kid with the anger management issues.

Guess who went to therapy?

My husband and I!

Oh, that made me so mad…

I wonder where he got those anger issues from.

As the doctor had suggested though, Ethan wasn’t angry anymore. We didn’t experience emotional outbursts, but we wanted to be prepared if they started back up again. My husband and I headed to anger management class and my son sat out in the waiting room reading his book, unaware how cool we were going to be after all this training.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

nancy lary studios

Go With Your Gut

Even though Ethan felt really smart, I did not love the side effects of this medication he was on. I went along with the the plan despite my misgivings.  I regret that I did not speak up sooner for him and for our family.

After a year of living with a zombie, we ended up needing to switch doctors and I got a referral into one of the best doctors in our town. He immediately put him on the lowest dosage available and also selected a pill that would have very few side effects. Instead of changing my kid, it would just act as a little aid to help him tap into those smarts that he already possessed. I started to see my boy again and I knew we were on a better path.

What I learned from that experience was that I may not be a doctor, but I need to always be an advocate for his treatment.  If I’m not comfortable with how things are going, I need to speak up about it.

Since he is growing like a weed now and doing so well with this pill, we don’t have to meet with our doctor monthly, but we still have several meetings a month where our doctor talks to him about school and learning to tune in to the things that he experiences with his medication and learning how to utilize those cues as life skills if he doesn’t want to continue a medication later in life.  This is a conversation that the two of them have and I chime in as needed. It’s a good place to be in when you have such a great dialogue with your physician.

Now that we got through our biggest hurdles, we still had to address how we handled everything at school. Next week I’ll share what it has been like going to bat for Ethan in the school system and what I have learned from this experience together!



Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

I am sure if you have been a reader here, you know how fiercely I guard the privacy of my children. Over the years I have struggled a lot as a mom and one of my biggest struggles was my son’s diagnosis with ADD. Through his diagnosis and treatment, we have had the opportunity to help so many parents locally who have been going through the same difficulties and  point them to doctors and resources that have helped improve their lives.

It is with his blessing and permission that I share our story today, in hopes we can help someone else going through the same struggles.

I am so proud of our boy for sharing his story to help other families! I hope you will leave him a little note to tell him that! 

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

When Your Kid Doesn’t Fit in the Box

Ethan was the kind of kid that never fit into the box and this is just one of many reasons why I love him. From his shocking entry into the world (early and complete with a placental abruption that could have killed us both), I should have known he was going to challenge everything I thought about parenting.  Ethan hit most milestones normally with the exception of one… speech.  He was a silent baby and did not make any noises at all.  He rarely made eye contact with us and never turned to us when we said his name. Since he was my first baby, I had no expectations of what he should be doing, but others in our family and our pediatrician were concerned about his lack of speech. At ten months he qualified for early intervention speech therapy in Massachusetts. When my husband lost his job, we relocated around that time to Indiana, and I decided to hold off on the speech therapy and see if Ethan might blossom in his new location.

At eighteen months, he still made hardly any audible sounds and still would not turn to me when I called his name. We were placed into the First Steps program where he benefited from an incredible therapist who helped us both with Ethan’s speech delay and sensory issues. I remember thinking how ridiculous this all seemed as she played with playdough and blew bubbles with him on my kitchen floor. Clearly I knew nothing because not only did he start speaking, we couldn’t get this kid to shut up! The ability to speak helped curb some of his frustrated outbursts and baby signing helped us until he could communicate fully.

Instead of speaking like a baby though, he went full-out sentences and would fixate on one particular thing and talk about it nonstop. It began with trains and then later it was dinosaurs. This child who could not even say mom now said Ankylosaurus and had memorized an entire dinosaur dictionary. It was so wild to me!

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

Everything is Fine Until You Have to Go to School

Since Ethan was an only child, our therapist thought he might benefit from being around other kids his age more, so we looked into a school program for him when he turned two. He loved school so much and I loved seeing his vocabulary growing. I remember that he was so busy and I couldn’t believe all this big energy that could be in such a little body!  Socially, we were struggling. Ethan would only do things he wanted to do, preferring to not interact with other kids at all unless they played his games. He never listened to anyone else- and only talked excessively about what he was into. In circle times, he did not sit like he was supposed to, preferring to get up and do laps instead of sitting.

To help improve our circle time at school, I took him to storytime at the library. As the kids sat in their mama’s laps and sang songs and listened to the librarian, my son refused to sit with me and spent the entire time lapping the room, ripping open the cabinets behind the librarian, and screaming if I tried to hold him in my lap. I sobbed in the parking lot and vowed I would NEVER do that to myself again.

We held Ethan back a year to see if he might benefit from an extra year of preschool before we put him in elementary school, thinking he had some social issues to work through. That year of Pre-K was one of the worst years of my parenting life. Ethan was bored in school and every morning to take him there was a battle and not the kind of battles I had ever seen any of my friends deal with. He kicked and screamed. He hit me. He would stretch his arms and legs as wide as they would go and refuse to get in the car. Many days, I took this five year-old kid and left him outside of his classroom, kicking and screaming. I would walk away and be glad I didn’t have to deal with him for a few hours.

It wasn’t my proudest moment as a mom.

I screamed at him.

I was embarrassed by his outbursts.

These moments of frustration were peppered throughout the years until he turned nine. He would have toddler-like tantrums about doing homework.

One night he barricaded his door with all of his belongings just to keep us out of his room.

He was always disorganized.

He would not bring home papers for me to sign, he would do work at school and just fizzle out at the end of worksheets for no reason, and he was always angry and frustrated with us.

Harder than that though, were the apologies after the outbursts and the crocodile tears down his face as he told us he was sorry and didn’t know why he was doing this.

I became a broken nagging record every single day, begging him to just, FOR THE LOVE, do your homework and bring your stuff home. HOW HARD IS IT? IT’S SO SIMPLE.

In fourth grade (for lack of better words), the shit hit the fan. As his teacher was preparing him for middle school, our frustrations got bigger and the homework got longer and the outbursts were out of control. He was so mean and so angry.

I was so mean and so angry.

As I shared my frustrations with a family member, she said, “That reminds me of so-and-so in our family.”

That so-and-so in our family had ADD.


ADD- Is that Even a Real Thing?

I didn’t think ADD was a real thing, but was an excuse for disorganization and lack of discipline. Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes at me! I tend to believe that good exercise, a healthy diet, and vitamins are the cure for anything that ails you. The idea that my son had something that might require a doctor’s care and treatment baffled me.

I also felt ashamed that it made me feel relieved too to know there was something wrong and I wasn’t just a terrible mom.

If there is something wrong and we can figure it out, I can help us all.

As I clicked through website after website, these things that I thought were problems that only Ethan had, were actually characteristics of someone who had ADD.

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

It was as though someone knew our family personally and the struggles we were experiencing. Not only that, but when I flipped through his report cards, the teachers had even said some of these same exact phrases on his report card. Were they trying to clue me in?

Now that I thought I might know what the issue was, I was more determined than ever to get a proper diagnosis and not a quickie questionnaire in the doctor’s office. I wanted a true capture of what we were dealing with and how we could help our child.

We reached out to a psychologist in town for an evaluation and waited an excruciating two weeks until he could come in for testing.

That test changed our lives and our interactions with our child forever!

Come back next Tuesday for the continuation of our story!


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Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen and tween stages this year and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

Today I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

Head on over the Kenmore blog to get the instructions & tutorial for this easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids.

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Review & GIVEAWAY: Empowered SAFETY Membership

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When my children were small, I was absolutely obsessed with tracking recall information. Let’s face it; the sheer amount of equipment needed to keep your baby safe in that first year is astounding.  Back then I subscribed to Parents Magazine and would skim the magazine for the latest recall information. Over the course of those first few years as a mom, there were many recalls, but I was so busy and so tired that I struggled to stay on top of that and keep up with it all.  Thankfully, there are faster and easier ways to stay on top of recalls now.

This week I am partnering with a fantastic site called Empowered SAFETY to share with you all of the great advantages of a membership & how it can help you keep track of legitimate complaints & recalls when it comes to items you use in your home and the food you consume. We are giving everyone one free month to try this service and giving one lucky reader a six month subscription.

  How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

What Does Empowered SAFETY Offer?

Did you know that there can be hundreds of complaints made to government agencies about child-specific products before a recall is actually issued?  Instead of waiting for the recall to occur, a subscription to Empowered SAFETY can alert you of the complaints prior to the recall even is issued.

With a premium membership you can simply match the products in your home with the half-million child products in Empowered SAFETY’s database, and you will receive an email notification on that product should complaints be made against it. It is as easy as that!

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from

We aren’t just talking car seats and baby equipment though; the service also offers valuable information about food safety which, as we know, can be potentially life-threatening to a child with food allergies. You can receive the food recalls in the area where you live so you can stay on top of potential allergens and safety hazards in your home.

How Can This Help You When Making Purchases?

When I make purchases for my family, I spend hours online trying to decide which item will be the best for us based on the reviews of other shoppers. I hate wasting my money or time on purchase that don’t have longevity in our home. When it comes to purchases that keep our family safe, I really want to know that the items that I am choosing will do their job well and that I won’t find myself needing to replace them later.

Empowered SAFETY can let you know if the product you are thinking of purchasing has had any complaints on it, allowing you to be a more empowered consumer and saving you valuable time.

What Do They Monitor For You?

Complaints can come in many different ways and Empowered SAFETY monitors all the different sources so you don’t have to. Not only do they monitor actual consumer complaints, and product and food recalls and warnings to government agencies, they also follow news reports, legal filings, press releases, blog postings, federal & state agency websites for outbreaks & health alerts, as well as member-reported product issues.

As a busy mom, I certainly don’t have time to monitor all of that so a membership like this can save your family a lot of time, hassle, and unnecessary clutter from items that are potentially unsafe and won’t have longevity in your home.

Everyone is a Winner

Today I am giving EVERY reader a free 28-day promo code to try the Empowered SAFETY site. Just enter code the code ES28DAY93  (Expires 11/30/14) upon sign-up on Empowered SAFETY.

Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter to win a FREE six-month premium membership to Empowered SAFETY.  Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


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3 Rainbow Science Experiments for the Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns Movie

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

In honor of the upcoming animated film release, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, I am sharing three fun rainbow experiments you can try with your kids. These rainbow experiments are not only fun, but also educational. Before we begin these rainbow crafts though, I have to share with you that I have two major obsessions that you might not know about.

The first is anything to do with Oz and the characters. If you don’t believe me, here is the only year I asked my kids to do my dream costumes… and the only year I ever got away with it.

Wizard of Oz Halloween Costumes

This was my dream Halloween year as a mom and my mother-in-law even helped make the costume for me. Basically, all perfect Halloween dreams come true.

I miss those days.

The other thing you should know is that I am an enormous fan of Lea Michele and anything and all things related to Glee. I run to a Glee playlist, I pretty much cry about every emotional thing on that show, I sleep in a Glee shirt (yes, I do!), and Lea is my favorite actress in it. When I heard that not only was a Legends of Oz movie coming out, but that Lea Michele was doing the voice of Dorothy for it, I was beside myself with excitement.

I will be first in line to buy my tickets. And I will probably pre-order my tickets at my theater. That’s how excited I truly am!

Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns

In the animated film, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, Dorothy is called back for another adventure in Oz.  After waking to post-tornado Kansas, Dorothy (Lea Michele) and Toto are whisked to Oz on a magical rainbow mover sent by their old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi) and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer). Time in Oz has passed much faster than back in Kansas, and Dorothy discovers that the Jester (Martin Short) – the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West – is taking Oz over one region at a time, holding their leaders captive and casting a pall of darkness over the beloved land. Even Glinda (Bernadette Peters) is unable to combat the Jester’s evil powers, making Dorothy their only hope.

When she arrives in Oz, Dorothy’s plan is to travel to the Emerald City to reunite with her old friends and join forces with them to stop the Jester. However, the yellow brick road isn’t quite as easy to follow this time around, especially with the Jester planting tricky detours to lead her astray, so she enlists the help of Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart) to help find her way.

Since Dorothy is sent to Oz on a magical rainbow mover, we decided to try three rainbow experiments that you can do together in honor of the film!


Make a Liquid Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

Olive Oil

Rubbing Alcohol

Dawn Blue Dish Detergent

Corn Syrup

Food Coloring (red & green)

Large Jar


3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments


Let’s make a liquid rainbow in a jar.

1. To make our blue slowly pour 1 cup of blue dish soap down the side of your jar.  You want to make sure to do this slowly too so you don’t create any bubbles.

2. Next mix  1 cup of water with four drops of green food coloring. Mix well.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the water down the side of the jar.

3. Next pour one cup of oil carefully down the side of the jar to create your yellow.

4. Finally mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with four drops of red food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the alcohol down the side of the jar.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Results from our Liquid Rainbow

Out of all of our experiments that we performed, this was our favorite. Our yellow got a little bubbly, but everything else stayed true with separate colors. This is a great lesson for teaching your kids about density. The different liquids all have different densities. Density means how much “stuff” there is in something. Not the thing’s weight nor its size, but how many atoms it has in it.  In our liquid rainbow, the dish soap is the densest layer and sits at the bottom of the glass, then the water is next, then the oil (which happens to be thick and can’t mix with water), and then the alcohol is the lightest in density. We are impressed with this one!

Make a Milk Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

1 cup of half & half or whole milk

Food coloring (in any rainbow of colors)

Dish soap


Let’s make a milk rainbow!

1. Pour 1 cup of milk into the bowl

2. Add 3 drops of one color to the edge of the bowl. Repeat with two other colors, placed in the other edges of the bowl. Be careful not to mix or jiggle.

3. Squeeze a drop of dish soap in the center of the bowl.

4. Watch what happens to the colors when the soap is added.

Results from our Soap Rainbow

Does anyone sell real liquid food coloring anymore? We just had the gels so we found that the liquid fell to the bottom in our first experiment The second time around, the dish soap was already added so I made a little mixture of gel food coloring with the water and then we poured it into our bowl. It was amazing to see how the colors stayed separate with this dot of soap in the middle. We learned that the dish soap does not mix with the milk. The dish soap floats on top and spreads over the surface. As it spreads, it grabs the food color we dropped into it. Where the colors meet, they combine to form new colors. We also learned, don’t do this with just gel food coloring. It produces a muddy river when mixed.

Make Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed


Knife & cutting board (this part is for the grown-ups!)

Food coloring (any color of the rainbow)



3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments


1. Trim  the ends of your roses under cool running water.

2. Have a grown-up cut the rose in half.

3. Fill glasses with water and lots of food coloring.

4. Stand roses up and take the two sections of the rose and place them in two different colors of water. Allow them to stand in this water for 24 hours.

Results From Our Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Did you think it would look like this? These Rainbow Roses have been promised on Pinterest dozens of times when I am on there. No, our roses did not look like this at all. They, were just slightly tinted with color on the edges, and two of them died during the rainbow color attempt. It might be better to try this one with carnations or to not split the stems at all.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Nailed it!

Well, maybe not.

We still saw how the color traveled through the flower although it wasn’t as rainbow awesome as we had hoped.

Legends of Oz

We know we are guaranteed spectacular rainbows though when Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns hits theaters, so we plan to catch a rainbow there with the whole gang! I am so excited to see it and can’t wait to hear what you think of the movie when it releases on May 9!

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Pen Pals are a beautiful thing in a digital age where pen, paper, the process of writing, and waiting are so hard in our fast moving culture. Today I wanted to share about our experience with finding and writing pen pals that I hope will inspire you to find a pen pal of your own for your child after hearing about our experience.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Walmart challenged me to come up with a fun Spring Break activity for kids and finding a pen pal for my children is something that I have thought a lot about doing. We found items in their office supplies section like writing tablets (for big and small children), pretty note cards, and freshly sharpened pencils. With these arsenal of tools, we are now ready to begin a new adventure for our kids.

How Do You Find a Pen Pal?

Finding a pen pal is oh-so-easy thanks to social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I posted on my Facebook page that we were looking for children in our child’s age range that did not live in the United States to be pen pals with. Within minutes, we had many people replying about friends and family that lived in other countries with kids just around our age.

Of course, if finding someone living out of the states is harder to come by in your inner circle, consider just finding families that live in other parts of the United States. A child shivering in the polar vortex of Indiana, for example, might find a child’s life in Florida or California quite inspiring!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Encourage Your Child to Craft a Great Letter

Writing letters not only improves our vocabulary and spelling, but it also helps teach children about the give and take of conversation.

Talk with your child about crafting a great introduction about themselves and how to weave in questions to find out more about their new pen pal. When my daughter asked me if her pen pal had glasses, I told her that this would be a great question to ask her so she could look forward to her response.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Have Your Child Explore Their Pen Pal’s Town

It is easier than ever to learn more about where someone else lives thanks to Google’s Street View and Wikipedia. Although there was no street view for our pen pal, who resides in Greece, we were able to take a peek at pictures of landmark items in her country and read facts about where she lived.

Knowing information like this helps to build those initial letters as you get to know more about each other.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Send Your Letters Off

Once we were done writing our letter, we got to practice addressing an envelope and then added a few decorative touches to the back of our envelope for our new friend.

Although we ran our letter out to our mailbox at home, a great Spring Break activity might be to take that letter to the post office and make it feel even more, “official,” when sending it.

Now we must wait patiently for our response from our new friend and when she writes back, it will be a happy day, indeed!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

I hope this inspires you to find a few pen pals of your own. And as double inspiration, here is my childhood pen pal. We met at church camp and became best friends through our letters back and forth. I remember that sweet anticipation of the mail dropping through the mail slot of our home and ripping them open to read, then reread, then reread again the precious words from my friend. 25 whopping years later, she is still my best friend for life.

I already told Emily to save her money and hopefully she will have a friend like that in her pen pal who she can visit someday! You just never know- we certainly never did! I shall be very jealous of her trips to Greece, should that happen!

Here’s a little video we put together of Emily’s first pen pal letter! I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear if you had a pen pal and what they meant to you?



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Developmental Toys

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

When I was pregnant with my first child a friend said to me, “You know, you don’t need to buy many toys for a child. Just make sure you have some Tupperware, a cardboard box, some plastic measuring cups, and a wooden spoon and she’ll be happy”. I chuckled at the time, thinking “How many toys can one little baby need?”, but by my child’s first birthday I was no longer chuckling. Toys seemed to spontaneously generate in our living room. There were dozens of things that people told me my child needed . Mothers in my play group didn’t ask IF we had something, but HOW MANY we had. I received emails regularly from toy companies touting their latest toys that my child needed to have to develop on target. I conscientiously read all labels, did safety checks, scanned Amazon reviews, and kept checklists to make sure that I got my child what she needed when she needed it and that it was safe and reliable.

Then one day, after I had had my second child and the toy parade had started up its encore, I decided to stop the madness. What did my child really need? I certainly survived childhood (and even came out okay) without all these things to stimulate my left brain, my right brain, my intellect through music, and the many, many electronic items that cause my husband and I to purchase batteries each time we’re near a Target. I took a step back and thought about what we had that we really needed, versus what we enjoyed. The following article covers items that I feel really do contribute to a child’s development. Please note that it is NOT an all-inclusive list. I’m sure there are more things out there, or your own child may have benefited from or loved another item. These are not the “items any mother can’t live without” but my own personal take on “the type of toys that you should invest in since they contribute to a child’s development in his/her first 18 months”. Feel free to add to this list through one of the Mom Advice forums!

For the littlest ones, let’s start with toys that promote sensorimotor development. Rattles encourage reaching and grabbing and help motor skills development. Mobiles encourage visual tracking and reaching. Textures, such as rough, soft, crinkly, etc. give varying kinesthetic responses for your baby. Setting interesting toys just out of reach while on the floor encourages a slightly older baby (4+ months) to reach, roll, or crawl. Having an unbreakable mirror available for “tummy time” is fun for the baby and encourages beginning social skills.

As the child grows, ride-on toys that roll or rock are good for gross motor skill development. Soft balls for throwing and catching are great for outdoors or indoors. A larger, soft ball for rolling, kicking, and throwing with both hands is useful, too.

Language is an area that most parents focus on, and the best way to promote these skills is by talking to your child. (This is even free!). Naming items, talking to your baby whether he or she can understand the words or not, singing, and reading to your child are all important. The importance of reading to your child can’t be underemphasized. However, I have noticed that children’s books are as expensive, if not more, than adult books! The public library can be a super resource for the family. Many libraries also have baby or toddler programs with story time, etc. Books are plentiful and free. Most libraries also hold book sales where you can get children’s books at a bargain. Garage sales and discount websites are good bets, too.

Speaking of books, I’m often asked my opinion on the many electronic books available today. Here’s what I think: they are fun but not necessary. A good, old-fashioned book will do everything you need it to just by being a good story. (I read some interesting research through the International Reading Association recently that suggests that these electronic books are actually a bit of a distraction for “readers”. They are best for preschool and older children who already have the concept of a story (beginning, middle, end, etc.) to enhance the story as opposed to distracting from the language for younger ones).

While we’re on the subject of books, I can’t resist mentioning the oh-so-popular “video board books” that are ubiquitous these days. Do we own them? Yes. Do I like them? Yes. Are they essential for good development? No. There is nothing in these DVD’s that you can’t get from a classical music CD and a good book. (However, I do love how they calm the kids at “fussy time”!!).

This leads me to music, or more specifically classical music. When I was first pregnant I picked up a “brain builder” CD of classical music (for $17.99). I was shocked to see that it was all music I already owned. There was no big secret here. It was basically a lovely selection of classical pieces. Additionally the research on the “brain benefits” of classical music is pretty shaky; however, I’m a big believer in exposing kids to music (not just classical), so a good radio station, or calming CD’s, or favorite digital music station on television is always okay in my book.

As young children develop spatial skills, their cognitive skills develop as well. That’s why is useful to have some simple toys around to build these important skills. Stacking/nesting cups or blocks are usually cheap (mine were $2.99 at Target) but focus on important skills. “Shape sorters” are good, too, to develop cognitive skills and hand-eye coordination. And, I just can’t say enough good about old-fashioned blocks. These can be an essential tool for development that correlates with later math skills (there’s great research out of Boston College on this). I have noticed, though, that it can be hard to find old-fashioned, wooden building blocks, and once I found them I nearly fell over when I saw the price. However, they are a good investment for both boys and girls.

These months from birth to 18 months are key for developing so many skills. Children’s play is largely motor driven at first, and then exploratory. Language is critical, and you want to continue to foster those important language skills with your children through play. By 12-18 months, little ones are ready for a bit more challenge with play, and you can introduce crayons and markers to build motor and spatial skills (and foster creativity!), puzzles for perceptual organization develop, and “imaginary play” items, such as a play kitchen, tool bench, or dress-up clothes.

And, of course, everyone (at all ages!) needs at least one good “lovey”!