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."



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Tips from a Five Year Old

Happy Halloween from our family to yours.

Today I decided that safety tips were going to come from Sarah.  This week she had an assignment sent home from school asking for her perspective on what it means to be safe during Halloween.  It was a great conversation that I am pretty sure empowered her.  So, instead of sharing this mommy's point of view, I am sharing Sarah's.  She had some good ideas, and many times it's important to make sure our children truly do understand the rules.

With this approach it was less about telling her what to do but instead for her to feel empowered and to tell us.  As a result, Sarah's tips now reside here and on EmpowHER.  Take a look and enjoy!

This was a great exercise and reminder that we need to let our children be active participants in dialogue and to also know that they do understand what we tell them and that they feel the idea is as much theirs as it is ours.

Here's to empowering our children to be strong, smart and creative, and to be leaders.

Happy Halloween
Letting children take the lead
Sharing their ideas

Safety in numbers
Hold an adults hand to cross
Don't eat while you trick

Being safe is key
Let the kids share their viewpoint
Empowering them

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This mom is EmpowHER'd

While away on vacation this month with my family I received and email from the popular women's health website EmpowHER.  They are great resource for information specific to women, have a community of women just like us, and provide valuable insights and tips to help us take action in our health, life, love, and more.

The email I received was in response to me signing up for an opportunity to blog for their site.  Loving to write and wanting to expand reach to many more readers beyond Mommy's Point of View with suggestions and tips and ideas it was an opportunity I could not pass up.

I was chosen. 

In the middle of our first ever Disney vacation, I was jumping up and down with excitement for this new adventure I had just learned about and new journey that lied ahead. 

Don't you worry. I will never abandon Mommy's Point of View. This is my other baby besides Sarah. She was and always will be my inspiration for keeping this blog alive and well. And, it continues to be a place for solace and community, and so glad to make new connections and relationships.

Thank you for continuing to support Mommy's Point of View, sharing your thoughts and ideas, and joining me for the conversation.

Here is my first blog for EmpowHER that I wanted to share with you. It's about my health experience. I chose to share about my life with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Thank you for the company and being a part of this community.  I aim to continue to provide you chuckles, advice, tips, important health information, crafty ideas, and more.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fun at The Crayola Experience

Last month I signed up with the following blog entry for a chance to win a complimentary, fun-filled day at The Crayola Experience for my family. I was asked to share why I thought it would be a great chance to win, and then didn't hold my breath.  If anything, it opened my eyes to a place that was not already on my parent radar as a kid-friendly place to consider for Sarah.

To my surprise, I was randomly selected as one of ten winners to receive admission tickets along with a $50 gas stipend for transportation.
Most adventure or activity type places such as The Crayola Experience including Great Adventure, Sesame Place, Hershey Park or even Disneyland, have a cost for entrance that can seem a bit high, especially for big families. However, if you plan ahead, seek out any promotions in advance, consider carpooling with friends like we did, and bring along food and snacks, you can save money in other ways and still have an enjoyable time that is fun and memorable. 

When I stood in front of The Crayola Experience all I could do was smile. I was ready to be a kid myself.  That's the beauty of being a parent. While you still have to be responsible here you too can unlock your youth and relive fun memories and experiences.  
I love arts and crafts so you can imagine that I was in it with Sarah every step of the way drawing on computers watching my designs dance around on walls and making wall art on paper plates with melted crayons.  
There was so much to do. Let's see, you can:

- Draw messages on computers that danced on walls (left) 
- Develop personalized crayons and wrappers
- Create markers of one or two colors
- Take and print images from photo booth (above)
- Make personalized puzzles (below)
- Design a paper car with melted crayons that dries in seconds 

And, there was so much more.
Lest I not forget to mention, there is also a nice size jungle gym that gives parents a rest and the kids a chance to run around and be crazy. In fact, when I needed a mental break while Sarah was playing with her friends in the gym area I sat down at one of the many tables and made a treasure box with tissue paper squares and glue and took a much-needed moment to chill out, not think, and breathe doing something I enjoy.

Certainly bring your camera to capture the fun memories and activities you will do together with your child. Also be prepared to come home with a baggie, provided as part of admission, filled with lots of arts and crafts projects done onsite.

With four floors of interactive and unique attractions there is certainly something to meet all of your family's wishes and interests.  

A cool part of the exhibit was learning about the history of Crayola and how the crayons are made.

It was pretty neat.

When I left The Crayola Experience I kept saying that I wished we could have spent more time on the fourth floor.  I especially loved the melted crayons to apply on paper cars. They dried so quickly I kept wanting to do more. If only we weren't so tired from our full day of activities. To do again, I would start on the top floor and work my way down. 

Here are suggested tips for your visit:
  • Plan ahead
  • Visit Monday through Friday versus weekends as crowds are less
  • Seek out any promotions in advance
  • Consider carpooling with friends/family
  • Bring along food and snacks, and water
  • There will be so many things your kids will make and be able to take home. Therefore, no need to visit the gift shop if you are looking to keep your trip budget-friendly.  You will have many keepsakes from your visit.

Expect to be tired after your visit to The Crayola Experience but if you pace yourself and get there early it can indeed be a fun filled day. I do suggest that if you are at all able to visit Monday through Friday that is certainly better as the crowds are much less than the weekends.

One request I would like to suggest for The Crayola Experience is that they have a "rest area" for parents whose children need a nap and a place that we can bring blankets for them to lay on to take a cat nap or come down from the high if necessary before proceeding with doing more.

All in all...this was a fun experience and look forward to doing it again. Thanks Crayola!

Disclosure: "The Crayola Experience Tickets for Admission and the Gas Card were provided by Crayola."



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: Never Forget

Sarah's drawing of the Twin Towers
Tragedy struck us
On September 11
Must never forget

Cherish family
And friends who are special to
Thankful for living

Share this history
Keep the memory alive
Time to remember

The World Trade Center
Had a life all of its own
Work, play, fun, and more

Hug our loved ones
Remember, never forget
Be sad, be thankful

Those whose lives were lost
Forever in our hearts
We will not forget

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Happy Jewish New Year - Helping Kids to Believe

A tasty treat of apples and honey
is a great way to toast the New Year,
that and a glass of wine too.
To all of you, my faithful readers, and your loved ones who celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah -- L' Shanah Tovah -- Happy New Year.

I wish you and your families a prosperous, happy, and healthy new year filled with renewal and forgiveness and the great start to many things grand.

The start of Rosh Hashanah is my favorite time of the year. I have to admit that this year I am a bit caught off guard with it starting at the beginning of September and during the first week if school. Not exactly the best way to go into the holiday, a bit stressed.

What I most love about this holiday is that it's like a restart button. You look at the past year of life and reflect on what you did, what you said, who you hurt literally and figuratively, what you did for your community, and the way you treated yourself.

The latter is often an offense many of us commit.

We often hear the phrase that we must love ourselves before we can love others fully. This couldn't be more true. While we may not love everything about ourselves it is this time of year to forgive ourselves for being so hard on ourselves and give ourselves a break.

This is a lesson that regardless of religion should be taught to children so that they can grow up with confidence.

I know all too well that it is easy to hard on oneself. However, in order to admit, then forgive and move past it, you will always be stuck. We are human. We may not love everything about ourselves, but we can certainly be nicer to ourselves.

While many look at the World's New Year in January as the time for reflection and new beginnings, as Jewish people that time is now for us.

From a previous blog post on Mommy's Point of View I said, "It is a significant time dedicated to reflection, thoughts for change, memories of the past personally and historically, and commitment and plans for fresh starts personally, professionally, and in local, national and global communities. It's also a time for family gatherings, special meals and sweet tasting foods, especially apples and honey to celebrate this joyous New Year."

Further, "Jewish people commit to resolutions, but don't call them resolutions. For example, wanting to lose weight, quit smoking or start exercising are important life-altering behavioral changes, but on this holiday our commitments run deeper and involve change that centers on righting the wrongs we have done to others, and to ourselves, and to establish new paths for growth, change and Jewish learning moving forward. It's as if we get to the meaning behind how we feel, the anger we have against ourselves, and the emotional and physical commitment to make a change."

Therefore, it is my job to look in the mirror to be honest with myself, be happy for whom I am and who I have become, and to be the parent I am and wish to be, and to love me. It is also time for change all around. It could be getting more involved in your community, making a new friend, apologizing to someone for how they have been treated, or asking yourself for forgiveness and starting a new.

As parents we have a great responsibility to help our children to understand what it means to believe including traditions, values, and history to help them start on the path to their own spiritual connection.

I look forward to continuing the education with my daughter on the traditions I grew up with and those I have come to love and appreciate and own in my adulthood, and creating new memories with her to have for years to come.

I wish you a sweet and joyous new year, prosperity, love, happiness and, most importantly, good health.

Happy New Year. L'Shanah Tovah.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hurry Up, Slow Down, Smell the Roses

Sarah running around the apple
orchard to catch up with her cousin...
No need to rush!
Rachel Macy Stafford, mother of two, shared her epiphany recently on the overuse of two words in an interview with The Huffington Post. She explained that she used to utter the words "hurry up" regularly to her youngest, free-spirited daughter who took her time doing nearly everything, as she desired each experience to the fullest. These words were conveyed by busy mom Rachel so often that she didn't realize how much and its impact until one day her little one asked innocently if she needed to rush since mommy always asked her too.

As you can imagine Rachel felt crushed.  I then started to think, about "how many times I uttered this or similar phrases to my daughter?"

As busy parents we often burn the wick at both ends doing, obviously, way too much in a day.  As a result, our children many times may suffer the consequences of busy and packed schedules. This is especially likely of families with more than one child.

I saw the headline on Rachel's story when it first came out but chose not to read it at the time. However, it didn't stop me from thinking about it over and over again. I kept thinking do I utter words similar to "Hurry up" to Sarah so often that she will feel stressed by it? I realized that while I don't say "hurry up" I instead say phrases such as, "come on we have to get going" or "are you done yet." They are just as damaging if used too often. However, I noticed that I didn't convey these words all the time. That I did know. Still, I felt a pang of guilt thinking that maybe I am rushing my daughter through life.

With such packed schedules including fun activities, grocery shopping and running necessary errands and, for me, being a full-time working parent, it's easy to get caught up in saying any or all of these aforementioned phrases to our children and forget that they have shorter legs and can't walk as fast, they like to look around and discover and explore, and can easily be distracted thus slowing them down.

We may not see it this way, but uttering any of these phrases can become like an addiction.  It's what we begin to say to nearly every action our kids make. We have also heard of the phase, "stop and smell the roses."  But, because we hear it so often we may tend to block it out and it loses its meaning.

Let's be honest, not every day can be a walk in the park.  Life happens and we have to move with it. And, young kids don't really understand the consequences of being late or missing appointments. However, we can help by applying some strategies to help us better manage time so we don't feel harried and rushed or the need to push our children to move faster.

While there are indeed moments when I let Sarah set the pace, I painfully thought of the many times I held her hand and willed her to walk faster just so we can get onto our next task.

I thought about my times in a public restroom with Sarah either at Target, pharmacy or a restaurant saying to her, "are you done yet" and a recent conversation with my sister recently regarding her own children that I decided to go back and read Rachel's story in it entirety.

Young kids don't really understand the concept of time or how long it takes to do things or to get to places.  So, since life is not slowing down anytime soon it likely would be best to institute some strategies for both parent and child.  Let's be honest, thinking that we can slow down life to "smell the roses" literally and figuratively all the time is not very realistic.  However, we can build in approaches so that we are not asking our kids to rush and help them understand that there is a time for lollygagging and there is a time where a schedule is important to stick to.

So, instead of beating ourselves up, let's consider some of the following approaches to help us to somewhat slow down, or at least give our children time to enjoy life, smell the flowers in between, and take their time when time allows.

After leaving a Target Sarah wanted
to play with the big ball structures,
and I let her.  A few minutes of fun
I could make time for.
1. Establish time for strolling, exploring and discovering
2. Set alarm clock to give kids more time to get ready at their pace
3. Explain concept of time with children and the importance of meeting  schedules and that there is a time and place for taking it all in
4. Make a concerted effort not to say phrases that involve "rushing"
5. Determine if too much is on your daily "to do" list. Can some tasks be removed to allow for more soaking up in between?
6. If doing a task must involve taking the kids along consider ways to keep them occupied (e.g., while sitting in the cart during grocery shopping) so you don't feel rushed and they can enjoy time too

Patience is not something that comes easy for me. However, I am going to make a much more concerted effort to try these ideas. I admit that crazy, hectic, busy me isn't always fun to be around. I am going to do my best to try to slow it down, smell the roses literally and figuratively and not tell Sarah to rush. 

Starting today, I am pledging to try to slow it down, carve out more time for my daughter to process and explore, cut back on too many tasks in one day and be mindful of not using "rush" phrases and be more sensitive in my communication.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Growing Up, Gaining Independence, and a Tooth Fairy Visit

Ironically Sarah showed off her missing
tooth during a visit to her new school.
Sniff, sniff...she's growing up
This week Sarah lost a tooth.  She didn't realize she lost her tooth until her teacher noticed it was missing.  It was likely lost during lunch time eating. Sarah likely swallowed it.  Thankfully she did not seem bothered by the fact that she could not hold the missing tooth or worry that if she didn't have it the tooth fairy would not come.

Sarah's teacher called me during my work day to tell me about the lost tooth and I was so excited. 

What is it about a tooth falling out that is such a big deal?

When our children lose their baby teeth it's like a rite of passage.  Fortunately, Sarah's first tooth did not come with much tugging and pulling (yuck and yeah).  She just experienced a bit of pain for a few days as it was uncomfortable.

Well, our children are growing up and a lost tooth is part of the growing process. While thankfully there are 19 more teeth to go in Sarah's mouth, there are still many more years that she will allow me to hold her, hug her and envelop her in my arms. baby is growing up.

Today is also Sarah's last day of pre-school and next week begins Kindergarten. 

You can bet I will be that parent balling her eyes out as my child gets on the bus filled with happy and sad tears.  I will be happy of course because Sarah is so excited to start a new chapter and grow up.  Sadness may also ensue me as my little girl is growing up and blossoming and moving on in her development.

I am so incredibly proud to be a parent and especially to be Sarah's mom. While I have a lump in my
throat ready to well in tears, I know that Sarah growing up is necessary and inevitable.  She will always be my baby, but I am always going to do what I can to make the journey to growing up fun and enjoyable.

So, after Sarah wrote a note to the tooth fairy telling her that she believed in her, she tucked it under her pillow and fell to sleep.  And, as you can imagine, the tooth fairy arrived last night. She left Sarah a lovely note and great thanks for taking such great care of her teeth. She assured Sarah that her lost tooth made its way to her and that it was in good hands. Also inside was a new toothbrush, toothpaste and a cute little box for Sarah to store her future teeth, those that she doesn't swallow.  Also included was a dollar bill signed by the tooth fairy herself for Sarah to use to do whatever it is that she would like.

Let's just say that when morning came Sarah was beyond excited on all levels. While she couldn't really read the letter, when I read it to her she beamed.  She was so happy to know that even though her tooth was lost, it was found. And, she loved her new treats. Sarah, who had just been to the dentist recently for her check-up, with yet again, a clean bill of health, was so proud of what she accomplished.  She was happy to hear that the tooth fairy was impressed with how well she kept her teeth clean too.

Our little ones are growing up and it's hard to see them change but it is wonderful to see their independence.

There are many fun ways to make cleaning teeth fun and enjoying the changes that our little ones are going through.  A while back on Mommy's Point of View I shared about a book called Melvin The Magnificent Molar and have to say that this book was a great foray into the discussion about teeth with Sarah and became a staple in our regular reading time.  It's a book I encourage. We have been reading it since Sarah's first dentist visit in her first year.

Would love to hear of your creative ideas on how you introduced The Tooth Fairy to your children.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Affordable Summer Events In Your Neighborhood

I don't know about you but with summer in full swing and school out of session I seem to enjoy checking out the local free events and cost-effective activities in my neighborhood more and more with an opportunity to experience so much fun especially with my daughter for little to no money.
 You may be surprised at what and how many events are going on in your own home town this summer that are many times free to participate in or have a reasonable cost for entrance that are really neat to check out.  
Because many families travel during the summer months and kids are in camp businesses sometimes experience a decline in attendance and therefore try to build in promotions to drive traffic and crowds.
What is especially great is that a lot of these activities cater to parents who work full-time and who may not be able to participate in day time events.  For example, some towns conduct local fairs and carnivals, big and small, that take place on nights and weekends and include rides for the kids where you can purchase tickets per ride or pay one price for a wrist band for unlimited rides. 
We have been to a couple of parking lot carnivals already this summer, all on a whim, deciding pretty much at the last minute to check them out.  I especially like that you don't have to commit to anything in advance. Depending on your mood and that of your children along with the weather forecast are all factors in whether participation in an event is going to be worth it.
The best part of summer is that for families who are on a tight budget and don't necessarily have memberships to places they would like to visit, local museums and zoos many times provide reduced rates in the late afternoon and/or evening hours to lure in people, especially with the hope of making them possible future members. You are never committed to anything in these instances. No contracts have to be signed.  
This is an excellent way to learn about the offerings in your neighborhood without the sometimes costly membership fees, and just looking for something inexpensive to do this summer without any commitments.
Local museums, for example, such as the Garden State Discovery Museum in South New Jersey host lots of summer evening hour activities including an initiative called $5 after 5pm, where non-members can benefit from the 1/2 price discount to participate.  The museum also instituted a new program this year that includes a 9-week free concert series called Groovin' & Grubbin', which takes place every Wednesday through July and August. Attendees are also able to enjoy popular local food trucks with various menus that are a fraction of the cost of going out to dinner, and another option for a fun night out and way to experience local fare.
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to check out this museum, and received a stipend of up to $50 to use towards the food trucks. We got to try food from Philadelphia's Mary's Mobile Diner, a family run business with mother Mary and daughter Rebecca on site to attend to customers.  We also had the fortunate pleasure of some sweets from Lil Trents Treats, based in Camden, NJ. Other vendors included J-Dogs: The Original Carnival Theme Caterers, the museum's premier food supplier.

According to Jordan Blau, Director of Marketing for the museum, "we are help encourage new visitors and members."
Kelly Lyons, the veteran Museum Director said, "Food trucks are hot right now. So is dinner and a show...we are serving the needs of the community." By combining these two approaches gives families a chance to enjoy these activities together.

David and his son Ethan, playing
hockey with Sarah
While on site I spoke with a dad David and his son Ethan (11 years old) pictured left. They enjoy the $5 for 5 option as they can decide last minute to attend and can come for a short visit and get a lot out of it as the weekdays are much less crowded than the weekends.

Many parks around the country also have free concerts where local bands play and community vendors of all different types can generate exposure and new client interest. All of this sounds like a win/win to me.  Not only can we find some great things to do with our families not far from home but we are also doing so with our neighbors and supporting the local community.

Have fun exploring this summer without having to get on the highway or driving miles and paying for extra gas to get to a fun, cool destination.

Happy Summer!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Family Time at the Dinner Table

Sarah came home from school one day with this drawing
of her family at the dinner table and it made me smile.
I read about it many times in countless parenting magazines, online sites and blogs how important it is for families to find a meal time in the day to sit down all together and eat and converse.

Once my daughter got older, when her meals no longer involved my boobs, and when she was on our dinner schedule, I made it a habit to make sure that we all sat down together to eat and talk.

When living in an apartment our dining table was always covered in boxes with products that Daniel was writing reviews about. So, we sat at Sarah's little table and chairs outside the kitchen.  It doesn't matter how small or big your table or space is. It's the time together that matters most.

Dinner time is a staple in our family.  While morning and lunch time are not regular for us all to be at the table at the same time, dinner is truly our bonding moment.  With busy work schedules, extracurricular activities, and sometimes business travel, and if only one of us is available to sit with Sarah then that still indeed happens.

The time together at the table, whether in the kitchen or dining room, depending on our mood, and which one is cleaner to set, has become our time to unwind, learn of each others days, play educational games, and even talk about history and tell stories.

Tonight was no different from any other night. Because of the plethora of discussions we have had to date, and the many stories we have shared and educated Sarah on over the years, I was not surprised at all when she asked tonight, "Daddy, please tell the story of the lady who chose to sit in the front of the bus."

Right then and there I knew I had to blog about this experience as it was further reinforcement that this special time together is imperative and so incredibly important, and valuable.  Tonight was not so much for the story about Rosa Parks and the incredible strength she embodied as an advocate for civil right but more so that we have open dialogue with our daughter and we discuss many topics and historical moments.

Our dinner table has become a solid ground for open communication, learning opportunities, chances to be silly, and more.

Daniel and I have felt very strong about being honest with Sarah about life.  While we don't elaborate on some things in great detail so as not to scare her, being five and all, but to raise her to be comfortable asking questions, talking openly and freely and to know that her parents are here to listen and share perspective and know that she has a voice a the table.

We are also Sarah's teachers.  We don't rely on just what she learns in school and we feel it is our responsibility, and desire, to share with her what we know, and want to educate her, in a setting we have created as comfortable environment and setting welcome for discussion.

It's incredible to watch our children grow up.  We laugh at the things they say sometimes amazed at what they know and remember.  Tonight was an incredibly proud moment because to Sarah life is not just the silly, pretend stories, but the stories of life past, present and future.

Here is to many more nights at the dinner table. I look forward to the many more conversations, learnings and stories that lie ahead as we raise Sarah to think for herself, ask question, and inquire to want to know more.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

Sarah's Flag of Independence and Fireworks
As we get ready for our Fourth of July celebrations across America it's important to take a moment to recognize and be thankful for the freedom and independence that we have, and the sacrifices made in generations past to help give it to us and to keep us strong.

In honor of today, here are some special Haiku to commemorate and a special drawing by Sarah.

Star-Spangled Banner
Waving strong; red, white and blue
American pride

Fireworks, parties
Celebrate America
A time to rejoice

White stars and red stripes
A toast to our freedom

Have a wonderful holiday!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

A special Happy Father's Day T-shirt, to the special
daddy in our lives who loves T-shirts.
A special message from Mommy's Point of View to all the Dads, daddy's, papa's, father's, and pop's, today and every day, and to the single moms who are both mommy and daddy. With your help we have the most amazing children in this world that we are fortunate to parent and love incessantly. It's these qualities that a dad possesses that makes you a special personal indeed.

A DAD is someone who is...

Dedicated and helpful and actively participates in parenting duties and daily responsibilities, and who loves their children with all they have

Awesome and committed to making their kids lives fun, playful, and enjoyable while being supportive when life's daily stresses come about

Dependable and passionate with kids hugging and loving them, and of course, chasing them around the yard giggling, splashing in the pool, helping to keep them safe, and being active with them inspiring them to grow
There are also special Dad's out there who are not always able to be with their children who are either away for work, in the military, or not in close proximity due to other circumstances to be as much of an active participant. Most importantly, children just need to know that they are loved and cared for by these special individuals.
Therefore, on Father's Day and every day, let's reach out to the special men in our lives and hug them, Skype with them, send them special wishes, and tell them how much they mean to us.

Here are some haiku to commemorate these amazing individuals.

Happy Father's Day
To our amazing men
And single moms too

Awesome and loving
Dedicated and helpful
Cute, adorable

To our daddies
Those here and in heaven too
Love you very much

Dads, you are special
Love you with all our heart
You make (made) a difference
Hope you all had a wonderful Father's (Dad's) day!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Opportunity for The Crayola Experience

In our house we love to color with crayons, markers, paint and chalk.   We even love to exercise this activity when out to dinner, in the car and even at doctor's appointments where waiting time is inevitable.
So, when I was approached recently to write a blog as part of a sweepstakes to help promote The Crayola Experience, my curiosity was piqued.  To win a possible opportunity to take my daughter who loves arts and crafts to a place filled with color and fun, I was intrigued to learn more, and enter for a chance to be chosen.
I can only imagine what it would be like for my daughter to experience this incredible place where tools for creation are a big part of her life. 
I will admit that before now I can't say I knew there was a place called The Crayola Experience.
This place has four floors of interactive and unique attractions, which is especially great for youngsters who learn best by doing and touching and exploring.  Even better is the fact my husband and I love science and the chance for our daughter to discover the magic of color while learning of the chemistry and technology behind it seems rather cool. 
As a parent, now knowing this, I am certainly interested. 
The costs for entrance are reasonable especially if you plan to be there for a full day.  I have already signed up on the website for newsletters and to keep an eye out for future promotions.
I would love the chance to customize an authentic crayon label and wrap of my daughter's choice color and then call it the family crayon. 
Certainly with a preschooler the Color Playground seems like an excellent way for kids to get exercise and much-needed run around time.  Of course, it's always nice to be able to come home with something, and seeing that children have the opportunity to create art onsite is also appealing.
The first place that my daughter would likely want to venture into once onsite would be Marker Mania.  I mean, my kid is often covered in markers from tracing her hands and getting all consumed by this medium.  She would likely be in awe.
And, to watch this experience in the eyes of a child can be so rewarding for us as parents.
I am excited for the possibility of winning a chance to take my family to this unique, fun, colorful place and to share with you what our experience was like.  Should I not win, I can indeed see this being a future activity for us all to enjoy together.
Disclosure: "The Crayola Experience information has been provided by Crayola."   

Monday, June 10, 2013

Raising a Strong, Confident Girl Without Labels

Don't mess with Power Ranger Sarah;
she has power
As a mother of a daughter I have always been hyper-sensitive and aware of not having my child be put into categories or having certain expectations of her just because she is a girl. 

If she wants to like princesses, go for it. 

If she wants to love Spiderman and other superheroes, I encourage her passion.

If she wants to like My Little Pony, so be it.

Loving her blue bicycle
And, if she wants to have a birthday cake with Power Rangers on it, then I support her interests, fully.

If she wants a baking kit, tool set, dollhouse or blue Thomas the Train bicycle I will not question her desires and will aim to provide balance and reality in her life fully supporting her interests. 

Just because my daughter is a girl she should not be expected to just like pink and purple and wear only dresses.  If she wants to dress up as superhero I will be the first, along with her Daddy, to support her wishes. 

Spiderman would be proud
to have Sarah on his team
While she may have a pink room, she also chose blue drapes. Along with her stuffed animals of dogs, monkeys, lambs and fairies, there are a whole host of super heroes, and more.

Additionally, while my daughter likes to wear dresses, she will layer them with a whole host of colors that don't match, according to me, but she seems to like and miraculously makes it all work together.

It's this creativity and personal choice that makes me smile.

As her parent, I am responsible for her safety not her personal desires and interests. As a human being she has thoughts and ideas. Who am I to tell her not to dream and experiment?

So, you can imagine my annoyance when a piece of paper came home with Sarah today from school asking that the boys where button down shirts and the girls wear dresses for their preschool graduation.  While Sarah may wear a dress, I am disgruntled that this had to be included as a recommendation.  If my child wants to wear pants then she will wear pants.  I adore Sarah's teacher and intend to say something tomorrow during our parent/teacher conference.  However, I don't like that a teacher, especially, let alone others are categorizing our children.

It's the same thing as saying that a quiet child is shy or a loquacious kid is loud.  Putting children into categories closes their minds to a certain way of being, and they start to become what others "label" them as.

As parents, and teachers as well, we should be encouraging kids to be themselves, and discover on their own what that really means for them, including what they like, versus being told what to like. 

So, for example, when my child says she wants to get herself dressed in the morning for school, she knows that as long as her belly and tush are well covered and the outfit is seasonally appropriate,  she can wear whatever she wants. 

Happy child with messy
hair equals free spirit

I find this all rather ridiculous.  As I write this I think back to when Sarah was a little girl and her hair was short. Even when she wore pink people still called her a boy.  Some strangers would even have the audacity to ask me how come her hair wasn't long.

I mean...really?

What is wrong with people?
I could have willed Sarah's hair long but it just didn't grow fast.  There weren't enough bows or headbands to please Sarah and the natural messy look was her preference.  So, I went with it. I let my child do what she wanted and didn't force her to look the part others expected her to be.

The nerve of people to speak out on what they are thinking.  But, it doesn't stop them.  It's like an illness and a sick sense of responsibility that if they don't say something then they are doing a disservice. 

The reason...because there are incredibly ignorant societal standards that we have become victim to.

That, and people are just nosy and think they are right and want to be up in your business.

This is not far from the truth for celebrity fashion designer Rachel Zoe and her son. It just so happens that her son has long curly locks. Apparently a story that ran today says there are people criticizing her saying that she should cut his hair.

Enough is enough.

If my daughter wants to bake a cake, I will teach her.

If she wants hammer nails into wood and make a bird house, I will show her.

If my child wants to do what makes her happy I will fully support her and ignore the stupidity of labels.

Let's just let our children BE whoever they want to be and do whatever makes them happy.

Life has too many parameters in it.  As parents we can choose to ignore them and some of us have. 

Rachel Zoe, ignore what the critics are saying.

And, I will continue to expose my daughter to life's great experiences without gender parameters just because others says it's so.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thanks to All Who Fought for and Protected our Country

Credit: Sarah
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 risked their lives to protect our country, which helped to give us the freedom we have today, and every day moving forward.

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 their 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 especially impacted by their parent's bravery to fight for our country.  

Today, let's memorialize, and honor, all who risked a great deal for our United States of America. Here are some special haiku, and a drawing made by Sarah, to commemorate today.

Memorial Day
Credit: H.D.B Photography
(a.k.a. Sarah's awesome Uncle Harold)
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.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thermometer Conundrum

All I can say right now is, REALLY?

Can it be possible that for nearly a week maybe Sarah hasn't been sick with a fever?

This is unbelievable.

Last night I was on the phone with my mom, who has also been worried as well about Sarah, and she said to me, "is it possible that the thermometer is not working?"

In that moment I thought, is this even possible?

Then, I thought back to the days at the beginning of this insanity when Sarah coughed during the day and mostly at night for a few days. It was so bad that her daily allergy therapy wasn't helping at all. We tried a recommendation from the doctor since cough medicine is not recommended for children under the age of six.  We tried a natural liquid supplement called Zarbees, and it worked like a charm. The coughing stopped.  Some liquid honey and zinc did the trick. But, the fevers continued.

She was sick.  This was not her allergies.

I also remembered that I was somewhat out of it as well for a few days this week.  Adding to my allergy regimen helped initially but then my symptoms changed and nothing else I took helped.

I was sick.  Lightheaded and achy yet no fever.  This was not my allergies.

Flash forward, to our thermometer conundrum...our Safety 1st thermometer, our second after the battery went on the first, has been very reliable.  The reviews were excellent on the product and we relied on those numbers to treat Sarah over the years.  It's quick, and easy to use.

So, why should I think that if the battery is working okay to think that there should be anything wrong with it?

Well, it's possible.

Sarah is one of the few preschoolers still willing to get her temperature rectally.  If you can believe this, since we were been house bound for over two weeks Sarah would often drop her drawers every hour or so just to get her temperature taking in the hopes that it would be down, and she could go back to school, have play dates again, and going to birthday and graduation parties.

After seeing three pediatricians this past week it was decided that blood and urine tests needed to be taken.  When all but one of those results came back negative or normal, we were all stumped.  We are awaiting the Lyme Disease test results still.

A fourth pediatrician from the same practice then suggested that after the Memorial Day holiday should Sarah's fevers not dissipate, that we should pursue autoimmune testing.  I held my breath and said "okay" and left it at that again wishing and willing Sarah's temperature to go back to normal.

Sharing this news with friends and family, a friend of ours who is also a chiropractor, asked if he could see and treat Sarah to see if there was anything at all that he could do. He thought that maybe she might have inflammation causing the fever and maybe an adjustment would help. I was extremely skeptical about this approach but after sharing my concerns around this method of care Daniel and I discussed it and agreed that his approach, which did not involve cracking necks and pressing on muscles, was worth a shot.

At the start of the session Sarah's temperature was taken, through an approach I had never seen before, in which thermal images are taken. Sarah's reading, to the right, of her neck and upper spinal column included some green coloring (cool) spots and several intense red (hot) spots that are considered moderate to severe.  As a result, she experienced her first-ever adjustment with a cool tapping machine that didn't bother her at all.  She was very good about it, which brought me relief. Something was up indeed. The red spots meant that something was off.

After coming home we wanted to gauge Sarah's temperature. To our chagrin, the thermometer displayed 101.

As you an imagine Daniel and I threw our hands up in the air and said, "What is going on?"

So, you can imagine that when my mom mentioned the possibility of the thermometer not working accurately I felt like an idiot.

How could I have not thought that the thermometer was wrong, or faulty?  Why?  Because it is still working?  There was no reason to believe that it was inaccurate.

I sent Daniel out to get another thermometer.  We were getting to the bottom of this, no pun intended here, as I was not letting this get past me now. We gave it a try, and no surprise, it was a full degree under where the Safety 1st thermometer was.  Still, it was telling us that Sarah had 99.5, which is not her normal body temperature. This means something is still brewing.

I then decided to get yet another thermometer as I was skeptical about the CVS brand. Sorry to say, but true. I picked up another digital thermometer that was solar operated called the SolarTherm Speed Thermometer, which was also highly recommended by a leading women's magazine. 

Both the CVS brand and the SolarTherm were a degree, at least, lower than the Safety 1st. They were not identical but closer in readings.

I wanted to rip my hair out of my head.

How, as a parent am I to rely on a product and find that I can't seem to trust any of them to do the job I need it to do?

As a result, today I decided to call a family member who is an infectious disease specialist and shared with him the saga we have been experiencing. And, knowing him, had he had any major concerns he would have been at our house right away or coordinated an appointment with a fellow infectious disease expert at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  Instead he said that it's likely that after two weeks Sarah is fine.  Because Sarah's demeanor was that of a healthy, active, and rambunctious child he was skeptical to think that there was anything serious going on. He didn't feel that it was necessary to take Sarah through more testing that could also be painful when it's possible that the virus she had has likely run its course.

At that moment I didn't necessarily feel clarity but I felt relief coupled with frustration.  While we are now going with the new thermometer's readings, which still show Sarah as 99ish, we are still stumped when the Safety 1st showed Sarah at 100.5 tonight.

At this point,  we are done with this so called fever and moving on to make the most of the rest of this weekend.  You can bet it included a jaunt to our local ice cream shoppe for a special treat.

Parenting is such a hard job. And, not being a medical expert makes it even more challenging. Because Daniel and I work from home we had the luxury of being extra cautious keeping Sarah out of school to prevent her from getting others sick and to get her on the mend with lots of rest and fluids.

I am throwing my hands up in the air with this situation.  What an incredibly frustrating situation.  I don't even know what to say. I still feel like an idiot.

What thermometers do you use and stand firm behind (not an intentional pun)?

Halloween Candy for the Troops

While we all recover from over indulging in too much candy during Halloween, still the candy is in our homes staring at us willing us to...