Thursday, June 19, 2014

Last Day of Kindergarten

Today is Sarah's last day of Kindergarten. She doesn't seem to be fazed by it, but for me this is a huge milestone. As I write this I have a huge lump in my throat and feel tears coming on.

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled and happy to see my daughter grow and thrive. It has been so much fun watching her learn to read and write sentences, and achieve in more ways than I could have ever imagined. But, knowing that I will not be going through this again makes it hard and I just want to hold on to this feeling just a little while longer.

I never really affected by school ending for Sarah in the past as her summer program was at her preschool and she was staying in the same place. For her it didn't seem different as the people were the same too.

This year is different. I feel it alright.

There have been so many new firsts for Sarah, and Daniel and I as her parents. Not only did she start a new school for Kindergarten, but now Sarah will be going to camp with her school friends for a true camp experience.

This is a BIG DEAL!!! This is all indeed A BIG DEAL!!!

I am just so glad that I followed an idea that a friend of my had with getting the Dr. Seuss Book, Oh the Places You'll Go and having Sarah's teachers signing it since preschool, with the plans for us to give it to her when she graduates High a personal year book.

Oh the places that Sarah will go is skies the limit. I am just so proud of her and we have such a great canvas in her to work with. She is so loving and compassionate yet nutty and rambunctious. She keeps Daniel and I on our toes.

I look forward to all the future adventures we will have together with Sarah and the journeys she will experience on her own. Watching her grow up and being her mom has been my life's greatest pleasure. The reward for me is being her parent and having the opportunity to experience life through her eyes. Oh the joys, and sometimes sorrows, we experience together I wouldn't change for the world.

This next chapter in our lives, in Sarah's life, will be exciting and amazing and challenging. I look forward to each step we take together as a family and as we watch her flourish and develop into her own.

This year of school done
Kindergarten is no more
Ready for first grade

She is growing up
My baby is a big girl
Learning and soaring

So proud of Sarah
She's my life's greatest reward
Watching her grow up

Letting her go free
So very hard to let go
watching her flourish

School's out, summer's here
Together time will be fun
Rest before school year

My baby is growing up and my heart hurts, but in a good way. I love who she is and who she is becoming.  My life is complete because she's in it. Being her mom, and being a parent, have been so rewarding, challenging, educational and amazing all rolled into one.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sharing Thanks this Memorial Day

Sarah Begun original (circa. Flag 2014)
While many of us may be off from work today possibly going to a barbecue, going to the beach, taking advantage of shopping sales, or resting and relaxing with family and friends, it is most important for us to take time to reflect to remember and thank the millions of men and women who have risked their lives to protect our country, which helped to give us the freedom we have today, and every day moving forward. 
Lest we not forget, the men and women who continue to go to war and combat and who train tirelessly away from their families and friends to.

So before, in between, and after today's festivities, let's take time to remember with sadness, and pride, as Americans, the many souls who sacrificed their lives and continue to do so every day, and veterans who dedicated and continue to dedicate their time, energy, and attention for the love of their country, to help fight for our freedom.

Words of thanks go to all the men and women who commit themselves to protect our country, and for those especially who lost their lives in the war for freedom.

A special shout out to all of Sarah's grandfathers and Great Uncle who participated in wars doing various jobs from medic to enemy lines battle to keep our country protected and safe. And, even when the war was not won we know the effort to try was hard and intense.

My heart also goes out to the children, both young and old, whose lives were and still are impacted by their parent's bravery to fight for our country, and especially the time they have away from them in order to do so.  

Credit: H.D.B Photography
(a.k.a. Sarah's awesome Uncle Harold)
Today, let's memorialize, and honor, all who risked a great deal for our United States of America. Here are some special haiku I wrote, a drawing made by Sarah and a beautiful photo by Sarah's G-dfather and Uncle who lost a different battle -- to cancer. Let us commemorate and remember the commitment of so many and share our thanks and appreciation.

Memorial Day
Today, time to remember
Lives of many lost

To all men, women
Thank you for protecting us
Forever in debt

Thanks to those of you
Risking your lives to protect

For red, white, and blue
Colors continue to sore
Time to remember

You're special people
With the biggest hearts of all
Thanks, infinity

To all the men and women
You mean a great deal

Much love and appreciation to all of you, men and women, and moms and dads, and everyone who dedicates their lives to protect our country. You are a special kind of people, selfless human beings who are looked at in the highest regard, for all that you do, sacrifice, and continue to risk each and every day, and we thank you to infinity.

You are forever in our hearts and we at Mommy’s Point of View want to say THANK YOU!!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jackson’s Story of Life with MPS

I met a mom, Carrie Dunn, recently at our children’s parent teacher association (PTA) meeting. She stood up to talk about her son Jackson’s health and an event the school was hosting to help to raise awareness for the cause.
Jackson (on the left) was diagnosed with a disease called Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS). It is a genetic lysosomal storage disease (LSD) that impacts 1 in 25,000 births and is caused by the body’s inability to use specific enzymes to break down and recycle materials in cells.
While the disease may not be apparent at birth, signs and symptoms develop with age as more cells become damaged by the build-up of cell materials. Jackson was diagnosed at the age of three.
There are numerous types of LSDs and the disease differs from patient to patient and symptoms vary in severity. In most cases a child receives a recessive gene from each parent.
For Jackson, he has MPS II, also known as Hunter Syndrome, and it is so rare that it effects 1 in 100,000 males. This form of the disease is also severe, progressing and life limiting.
Affected individuals will MPS may experience brain disability, cloudy corneas, short stature, stiff joins, incontinence, speech and hearing impairment, chronic runny nose, hernia, heart disease, hyperactivity, depression, pain and a dramatically shortened life span.
While there is no cure for MPS or related diseases, medical advancements are making great strides in helping to manage the disease symptoms. Currently there are enzyme replacements on the market and gene therapy, among other options. Bone marrow transplantation has also been considered successful for many; however few MPS patients qualify for this high-risk procedure.
My heart goes out to Carrie, Jackson and their entire family, and the many families coping with this life-threatening disease.
Carrie has a “Courage Page” on the website of The National MPS Society where she chronicles Jackson’s experience while also fundraising to support medical costs for her son, and towards future research. Jackson is currently on an enzyme replacement therapy to help with symptom management and disease complications.
Please join Mommy's Point of View, and others, as we help to elevate awareness for this disease and to support Jackson and his family. Donations are always welcome. Every little bit of attention and funding goes a long way.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Arts and Crafts with Nature

The weather is getting warmer and being outside when the sun is shining is a great time to take a stroll with the kids to explore and have fun with nature.

A few years ago, I decided to do just this when Sarah and her classmates were encouraged to volunteer and develop a poster or diorama around one or more books as part of a reading series with the Barbara Bush Reading Foundation. There was a contest for a chance to win some amazing and celebrated books and CDs on tape, for finalists from each school and then the final winner.

In thinking about some of her favorite books, Sarah decided she wanted to focus specifically on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

First, we sat down and discussed what she wanted the poster to look like.  Sarah did a diorama the year prior for another activity and decided to try the poster approach this time around.  We pulled out a yellow lined legal pad of paper with pencils and started to draw as we discussed and planned ahead.

As we were talking about items she wanted to use and include, I encouraged her to consider some things in nature that could help with telling this story visually.

She loved the idea and grabbed a bag and her coat, and out we went. 

We strolled outside and down the block and Sarah started to quickly pick up branches, which would later become the planks of the bridge that goats would try to get across.  We then came across some pebbles and rocks that were not part of any one's landscaping and Sarah selected the ones she liked most and placed them into the bag. These stones would help to show what the land looked like, dull and sad, before the goats would seek out greener pastures for food.  We also stumbled across some odd mossy looking things that fell from the tree above and gathered those curious to know what we could do with them, and to see if they would last and not dry out. Fortunately, they lasted and would become part of the new, lush surroundings that the goats fed on.

Once we were home and at the table, Sarah emptied her bag to study her findings. At the age of four she didn't have the thought process to see how they would all play out together, but with the blueprint we created, I could guide her while she placed everything on the poster.

Knowing that this project was happening and Sarah was still thinking her ideas through on what to do, I decided to take some pictures of goats during a visit we took to a local farm where a number of goats lived. Knowing that there were three goats in the story, I made sure to capture images of three goats of different shapes, sizes and colors to represent each in the book.

With the photos printed out and the nature elements we found together, it was time to put the project together.

Since Sarah was still learning how to write, I wrote out the title in block letters at the top and she  colored them in however she wanted to.  Then, we went to our blueprint and drew out a mountain.  On the left side would be the dry lands with no food available for the goats.  On the right side would be the plush greens they would travel too.  In the middle of the poster was the bridge that was armed by a mean troll.

Sarah and I had so much fun working on this project together and building in elements from nature.  It was important to me that Sarah have a heavy hand in the creation of this so she learned that her voice and participation are incredibly important, and that this is part of her learning. 

Thanks to nature not only did Sarah create a really fun project that she played a big part in, it helped her to appreciate what nature has to offer and help her to express her ideas. The great news is that Sarah's project was chosen as a finalist for her school and she went on to win five new books for her home library.

All in all, this was a joyous experience and one I encourage parents to experience with their children.  You will be amazed at what you can find in nature that can provide inspiration, motivation and excitement. 

How has nature inspired you to create? 

Did you like this post? Please share it on Facebook or Twitter, Digg, Stumble Upon, etc.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Getting Crafty with Kids: Sarah's Creations

Last night Sarah was busy at work creating. She walked into my office with such pride on her face and showed me clothes that she had made for her stuffed animals out of colorful construction paper. Apparently, she first tried to make a paper lantern and when that didn't work out she found another use for her creation and transformed it into something completely different.

Ironically, earlier in the day unbeknownst to Sarah, a young girl was featured in the news as being an intuitive designer using paper to make gowns, mimicking those from award shows worn by celebrities.

There is no coincidence here, but it's pretty cool.

It's amazing how our children can just put their mind to something and be untainted in their thinking when they put their mind to something they want to do. 

Sarah could have easily ripped up that piece of paper and started all over again from scratch. Instead, she chose not to waste the paper find another creative use for it.

I am so proud of Sarah in remembering the importance of recycling, which we often talk about, and that her active imagination churned out something fun and unique. She was so happy with her result and I couldn't help but be excited with her on her accomplishment.

Children have an ability to see things with such purity because they don't have too much experience with negativity and they aren't as impacted by the "coloring inside the lines" mentality at such a young age, unless guided otherwise. 

It is a joy to watch children and their thought processes. It reminds me of the times when Sarah was a baby and toddler exploring her way with arts and crafts with me trying to guide her.  I realized that as much as I wanted to control what she was doing, filling in the empty space that bothered me and not her, seeing in my mind what was right versus wrong, I had to let her find her own path and know that there is no right or wrong in art.

So long as no one gets hurt and the paint, markers and art supplies don't land on the furniture there is freedom in creation and we need to stand back and let our children explore and try without our sometimes judging influence.

As someone who enjoys arts and crafts, it makes me smile seeing Sarah develop and create innovations based on her visions and thinking. Sometimes she amazes me with what she comes up with. I think many times had I influenced her thought process what she would have come up with would have been completely different.  It's wonderful to witness the stirring inside her developing mind.

It's important to provide our children with the tools to learn and grow; however we must let them try on their own, as what they may create may be well beyond our sometimes tainted thoughts of what we think should and shouldn't be.

There is so much we want to control in this world. When it comes to our kids we just need to let them be free.  With that freedom comes fun and confidence.

I decided tonight to tell Sarah about the little girl that made the clothes with paper and also showed her some of the designs. She was intrigued and amazed.  Instantly she thought, "I want to try that," said Sarah. So, as I put the final touches on this blog post, she is now with paper in hand and tape galore creating away.  I can't wait to see what she makes all on her own.

Inspiration comes from all around us.  Let's continue to encourage and motivate our kids and expose them to the world around us to explore, and try, and fail, and have fun all on their own, with our support.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Childhood Aging Disease Progeria: Laura's Story

Earlier this month, 17-year-old Sam Berns, who many knew as a spirited and gutsy kid who was full of life, passed away from complications of a premature, rare and accelerated aging disease called Progeria.

Some may remember Sam from an HBO documentary he was featured in called "Life According to Sam," which documented his life living with the disease.  He also spoke at a conference in October 2013 sharing personal stories and experiences all while inspiring and encouraging others to live life to the fullest.

Sam proved that despite life’s obstacles, if there was something he wanted to do or be, he was going to do it and not let the disease be his limitation.

Sam was 1 per 8 million of live births that lead to this extremely rare genetic disease also known as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. Symptoms  of progeria resemble aspects of aging, which start very early in life and can include wrinkled skin, fragile bodies, small faces with larger heads, recessed jaws and pinched noses, limited growth and full-body hair loss. Children with progeria typically live to their mid-teens to early twenties.

While children with progeria have normal mental and motor development, it’s some of their physical and internal challenges that make it difficult managing with the disease.

Recently, I spoke with a mom of a child with progeria, Laura Penny, who knows all too well what it’s like experiencing the challenges of raising a child with this life-threatening disease.

Laura experienced a healthy pregnancy with her daughter and did not exhibit any issues until her 38-week ultrasound when doctors saw the amniotic sac wall coming apart and was forced to deliver baby Zoey right away.

It wasn’t until Zoey’s eight week check-up that abnormal symptoms were concerning for both the doctors and her parents. After numerous tests over the course of several months and visits with specialists and geneticists the diagnosis of progeria was given.

For progeria, there are no approved treatments to cure the disease or even to slow it down.

With that in mind, Zoey’s parents knew they needed to find resolve somehow and arm themselves with information, and most importantly support, from others who understood what they were going through. 

Zoey’s pediatrician Dr. Nancy Mallon in Verona, NJ directed Laura and her husband to the Progeria Research Foundation. This is where they also met and connected with Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns, Sam Bern’s parents, who started and run the organization. It was here that they started to network and meet other families going through their very experience.

For Laura's dad, John Marozzi a business man who runs his own company, he felt helpless on the sidelines watching his daughter going through this pain and struggle. With little promise in current medical advancements, John knew that money needed to be raised to put towards his granddaughter's care and treatments. With support from The Progeria Research Foundation, and countless others, he helped bring to life a group called Team Zoey.

Now, four years later, after the alarming diagnosis and fear of the unknown for their child, Laura and her husband now have an established network of supporters both friends and family, and funds being raised to help Zoey and other children with progeria. 
Zoey is a very happy, smart and boisterous child who loves to sing and play. Despite progeria, she is a funny girl who is full of life. While she does have some physical limitations she always finds her own way

of getting around. She goes to pre-school, which she loves, and balances her schedule with necessary medical appointments yet always finds time for favorite activities including arts and crafts, dancing and more.
Everyone who meets Zoey, falls in love with her.  She is a free spirit.  While she does get tired frequently, she rarely wants to sleep and is a high-energy spirit whose enthusiasm is infectious. 

Zoey’s parents were anxious to get her into a clinical trial, as they could not sit by and do so little medically while the disease took hold of their child’s life.

“We will never stop fighting for progeria. It’s tiring, it’s hard and it’s emotional,” says Laura.

In July 2013, their prayers were answered and Zoey began taking three drugs as part of a clinical trial called Triple Trial Expansion. 

In addition, Team Zoey became the New Jersey Chapter for the Progeria Research Foundation. They often hold events to raise funds to pay for Zoey's medical expenses and for other new children entering the trial.

Next week, Team Zoey is hosting a Spin for Life event on February 9. People can sign up for 30-minute time slots or spin for longer, fundraise and/or donate. To learn more about the event or take part by way of donation, please visit here.

Every little bit counts in the fight against progeria. Mommy's Point of View has already signed up with a donation. Please join us in the quest for necessary research for this disease.

Disclosure:  The company I work for, Green Room Communications, does pro bono public and media relations work to support Team Zoey and this important cause, progeria. Please know, I have not been paid to write this blog post, but want to disclose that we are in connection with the organization to support and raise much-needed awareness.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Following our conversation with Sarah tonight, who asked about Martin Luther King Jr. she asked to decorate this picture in his memory and to share with her friends at school tomorrow. I asked her if I could share with you, and she proudly agreed.

It's moments like this that are learning opportunities to educate our children on history.  It matters for us to share Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy with our children; however young they are, to keep his memory, commitment and dedication alive to pave the way for equality.

In memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition, here are some Haiku I wrote to commemorate this incredible human being who was loved by many and inspiration.

Strength and endurance
Never giving up the fight
Standing for the cause

Martin Luther King
Courageous and powerful
Inspired nation

Making an impact
On the world we live today
For equality

Man of many words
Who had a fighting spirit
Big voice, equal rights

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Hanukkah

Wishing all of you, my readers, and your loved ones who celebrate the festival of lights, a Happy Hanukkah.

The decorations are out inside our home. The lights are ready to go on inside, versus outside.  The table is adorned with menorahs both old and new, passed down from loved ones and bought along the way, a plethora of dreidels to spin and play games with, and arts and crafts projects to create and enthuse, as we begin to celebrate.

Getting this all set up has become a favorite pastime for Sarah and me each year. She gets so excited when I bring out the bin from the garage with our growing collection of old and new keepsakes.

Sarah asked me the other day, “mommy, why don’t we have lights on our house?” She has seen so many on other’s homes covered in white and rainbow colored lights over the years. I explained to her that Jewish people don’t put up lights outside their homes but instead conveyed that our most important lights are those of the menorah, which we light together for eight nights inside our home, and can be seen outside by others.

Before the age of eight, I don’t remember much about the holidays nor lighting of the candles for Hanukkah. My mom was on her own raising three kids doing all that she could.  It wasn’t until our family grew and my mom remarried, that I really became engaged in learning more about my religion, thanks to the teachings by my step-father.

We didn't have much more than the menorah lights as decoration around the house. It wasn't because we were without, it was because there was no need for more. That’s all I knew so I never expected and wanted for anything more. Something about that "really old" menorah, that my parents still use to this day, forever connects me to this holiday. I have such happy memories standing in the kitchen wearing a napkin on my head singing the prayer for the holiday lighting the colorful wax candles. Something about it was so simple, yet spoke volumes.

Funny enough, every year, my mom and stepfather would take my sister and me in the car and drive us around what we called “the rich neighborhood" to see the elegant trees, magnificent wreaths and homes emblazoned with lights.  It was always a great sight.  I appreciated that my folks recognized the splendor of these lights for another’s holiday, even if it wasn't for our own. Together, we appreciated the splendor of it all and always looked forward to doing it each year.

Therefore, after having Sarah I felt that I wanted to introduce some of our own traditions to start her on her way to learning more about her religion. I wanted so much for her to love it as much as I do. So, by adding in some decorations I think it has helped with engaging her early on in her life about what these traditions mean. Not only does this approach put us in the mood, but it also lifts our spirits each time we walk into the dining room when we see something that warms our heart or brings a sparkle to our eyes.

A personal favorite that I treasure most and keep out year round is a yard sale find I found years ago for two dollars – a beautiful unique, teardrop-shaped menorah made in Israel.  The owner either didn't know the gem he had or wanted to make sure someone who bought it would appreciate it. Well, the latter is indeed very true.

Another favorite for me, and Sarah as well, is this handmade menorah from her first ever Hanukkah, which I made out of paper and used her footprints to resemble the flickering candles. To this day it always brings a smile to my face, and if you can believe this, it helps to ground me and remind me of life’s simple pleasures.

As parents, it's our job to help guide our children, especially as far as religious and spiritual beliefs go. Therefore, when Hanukkah comes around for us, especially as my daughter starts to gain a better understanding of this holiday, it seems as if more needs to be done on my part, and her daddy’s, to help her see its value, especially beyond the gifts and glamour.

I admit that I often go overboard a bit on presents. However, one thing is true, I never lose sight of doing what I can to help others. And, that selfless act of kindness is what I continue to teach Sarah day in and day out. Therefore, this year, in lieu of one night of presents Sarah agreed to a suggestion I made to take that gift and donate it to PJ Library, so that another child can benefit from the amazing books and CDs they provide children every month for an entire year at no cost to the recipient.  I am so proud of Sarah and feel that it’s never too early to teach our children to give back and help others.

So, as the lights burn over these eight days and nights, dreidels spin, fried food gets eaten, and time is spent with loved ones, let's be reminded of the efforts made in our history to create the freedom we now experience today. And, let's celebrate with the lights of the candles as they flicker and be reminiscent of what has been done for us, and what we need to do moving forward to help others.

Eight days and eight nights
The candles flicker and glow
Freedom and giving
Happy Chanukah!!!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Supporting Our Veterans

Honoring all who have served our
country, sacrificed their lives and time
away from their families to protect us.
Sarah's grandfathers, great grandfathers and great uncles all reported for military duty to protect our country over the course of many decades long before she was ever born.  They were dedicated to their country and committed to their job in keeping us safe.

Some of these loved ones are no longer with us while others continue to be a special part of her life.

So, today on Veteran's Day, and every other day we say THANK YOU!!!

Thank you for your bravery and commitment to helping our country.

Let us also take a moment to say Thank You to all the men and women that continue to fight for our country and to protect us, and who sacrifice time away from their families and loved ones to do their jobs. 

Not only is today Veteran's Day it is also the month of Movember, a movement dedicated to men's health that started back in 2003 in Australia to create awareness around preventable diseases such as prostate cancer. During this month men grow mustaches for the cause to show their support and to encourage open dialogue around men's health topics.

Prevention is ever more important especially for veteran's who served time in Vietnam. Their risk for prostate cancer is heightened due to their potential exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange while on military duty. 

Should a diagnosis of prostate cancer already be given, men are encouraged not to see this as a death sentence, says Oliver Sartor, MD, Tulane University. In a conversation I had with Dr. Sartor during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, he mentioned that there has been an evolution in management of this disease over the past two decades. Along with existing and new treatments, new approaches to disease management including the sequence of treatments is being studied to demonstrate benefits and positive outcomes for patients. What may seem grim is now promising for patients.

Like any disease, condition, illness or syndrome, men need the support of their loved ones to help them on the journey to good health especially should a scary diagnosis come about.  Even when patients are on the road to recovery with a treatment regimen, the support of friends and family is incredibly important to the individual who is the patient. 

I recently shared on EmpowHER the role loved ones play in standing behind the men in their lives as they need the support and encouragement to keep going, continue treatment, and fight to live a good life.

Check out the story here:

My husband is in his late 40s and you can bet I worry about his health, especially as he moves closer to the age where risk is elevated especially for prostate cancer. So, maybe I nag him every so often to make sure he gets his flu shot and annual check-ups, and encourage him to seek medical attention if something seems out of the ordinary. 

My dear friend Don has an uncle with prostate cancer. With family support and a treatment regimen his uncle is managing with the disease well because he is not going at it alone.  In his honor his uncle, Don started a team in conjunction with Movember education efforts called Mo Folks.  He and my husband, among others, are Mo Bros, growing their mustaches. I am on the team as well as a Mo Sista supporter for the cause. 

Want to join
our team?  Want to join the cause? Every little bit counts. If you want to make a donation do so by visiting this link below.

Together, let's stand behind the men, and especially veterans, we love and encourage them to take their health seriously and also be there to support them when times may be tough and our strength and love is what they need most to help them through one step at a time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cut Out Noisy Toys to Improve Kid's Learning

When we become parents for the first time, many times some of think we need and want as much as possible to arm and stimulate our children to grow and develop at a rapid pace.

What's the rush?

How many times did we buy an activity center, musical swing, electronic toy, educational video, and so much more, to find that the money was not well spent because our child was disinterested and did not get the experience out of it we hoped they would?

I can say that about a number of purchases I made as a new, first time parent.

Let's just say the $200 Baby Can Read! video and book series was burned money. While I know that teaching our children about words and reading is important, isn't it just as good to spend time with them reading the books they like and enjoy without having to plunk down so much change to get them reading in a flash?

Again, what's the rush?  And, is it really necessary?

After too many infomercials and advertisements we become convinced that more needs to done to educate our children, even before they are school age. And, let's admit that when we hear another parent say that their child is already doing something ours may not be, we will do everything possible to try to advance them.

Children have been born for centuries and had so much less stimulation and they developed well without all the "stuff" being sold on the market.

I am sorry to say it but it's true.

I admit, I relied on a number of resources to engage my daughter to stimulate her brain development. Sometimes, many times it was to engage her when I could not.

There, I said it.  I sometimes relied on toys to entertain my daughter when I could not be her entertainer or educator.

When we do spend quality time with our kids it's amazing how much they learn and accomplish when we just converse with them, play with them, and given them pots, pans, and plastic containers to bang on or stack.

Nowadays, many of us are working long hours or both parents are working; therefore, leaving even less time to spend with our children.  Therefore, time spent with children is less than it was ten to twenty years ago and as a result we tend to rely on these interactive toys to engage our children when they are not in school or when we cannot give them our undivided attention.

With so many toys on store shelves it's no wonder we get sucked in to buy them because they are pretty, colorful, fun-looking, and appear to be engaging more than we are able to be.

The reality is that time spent with our children teaching them and educating them is what helps them to prosper.

So instead of beating ourselves up for not having as much time as we would like to connect with our children, let's make the most of the time we do spend with them and participate in activities that encourage imaginative play, strategic thinking, logic, and so much more.  In our house, our favorites includes playing with Barbie dolls, playing board games of all different kinds, reading together, and having dance parties in our family room.

As a full time working parent I fully understand that time is not always as much as we would like to have with our kids. Every bit of time is important and makes a difference to our children.  We can't expect toys to do the teaching.

I think for a while I just figured that that's what these toys were designed to do.  While they are many times fun and engaging they can be harmful too.  Some of these talking toys sometimes do the thinking for our kids before they have had a chance to think, or get frustrated if a toy asks again for an answer that a child may not have and causes stress when they cannot respond in a quick fashion.

As new parents, we are often excited and anxious to arm our children with all the tools necessary for them to grow and thrive, and become advanced.

However, the tried and true tools for development including blocks, books, balls, arts and crafts, and socialization skills developed through conversation and natural play are what speak volumes to a child's development.

So, when I was offered an opportunity this past month to review a new book about what we can do as parents to help our children develop, with so much less, I was game. 

This new book titled Retro Baby: Cut Back on All the Gear and Boost Baby's Development with more than 100 Time-Tested Activities, I was intrigued. It didn't hurt that it was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. That was a bonus.

While my daughter is now school aged I felt a responsibility as a parenting blogger and to you my faithful readers who may be new parents, to find out how this could be important and beneficial to know about.

Author, Anne Zachry, PhD, a pediatric occupational therapist, was concerned about the impact of the commercialization of baby development. Her solution with this book is to help parents get back to the basics and not be clouded by the sea of toys and unneeded items touted on store shelves or online that boast lighting up, talking and claiming to make our children smarter. 

Retro Baby helps to refute the claims and share the facts about child development while empathizing with parents.

If you think about it, with toys doing so much of the "work" these days as far as talking, singing, dancing, and more, what happens to our children's ability to create in their minds? I don't ever remember a doll talking let alone peeing after she drank pretend milk. It turns out that according to Dr. Zachry these action toys take time away from the sensory stimulation gained from active movement while held or on the floor.

Further, she explores the impact of smart toys and the so called educational television and DVDs that claim our child will be incredibly smart.

This mom is guilty as charged. I got sucked in to believing that more could be done than what I was doing with my child.

Readers will find that just having a few fundamental toys is so much more impactful than the loud, speaking, singing, dancing and "thinking for you" toys.

I remember as a kid what it was like to play with Barbie dolls and imagine for them. Speak for them. Dress them. Engage with them. It was an activity I could do for hours.  I love now that my daughter enjoys her time with this favorite pastime of mine as she spends much time talking with them, connecting, and developing imaginative conversation and play.

Dr. Zachry provides tips and guidance on activities that are safe and stimulating all without overwhelming children.

Her book reminded me of all the incredible opportunities for imagination that can be found right in our homes inside our cabinets, the garage and in plain sight.  Can we say card board boxes, plastic containers, scarves to dance around with, buckets to fill, food to make instruments with, and so much more.  Lest we not forget that there is endless opportunity for counting objects and identifying colors and shapes too.

Our children are in sensory overload with so many toys in catalogs, on televisions, online.  Dr. Zachry's advice helps to set the record straight and share with parents what is really needed, and what is not. 

She could have helped me save a lot of money, and opened up a lot of space inside my home, in my daughter's earlier years.  While my daughter is well past the age of 24 months I think now about the toys in our home over the years that brought little value to her educational development. I have become more cognizant of the toys that come into my home now and do my best to direct my child to items more likely to stimulate her mind and inspire independent thinking.

We think that our children need so much but in essence they need only very little to engage their minds in thinking. Interestingly, with so much around them, they become even more distracted and unable to concentrate, which I am pretty sure is the opposite of what we would want our children to experience.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to review this book as I feel that it has helped to ground me in thoughts for future toy purchases and encourage selection of entertaining tools that will inspire creativity, motivate learning and stimulate ideas and thinking.

Because this book brought me so much insight and clarity as a parent, I am now offering the opportunity to one of my lucky readers to be the first to write a comment responding to this blog post on Mommy's Point of View sharing why you want to receive this book, and it will be yours. I will be happy to send it your way and only ask that you pay if forward and share with others to help them on the path to educating our children now and in the future with the motto "less is more."