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As a self-labeled non-crafty mom, I have always joked my daughter is destined to wear store-bought Halloween costumes. And so far, that has been the case.

For her first Halloween, she was Elmo. Her second was delayed due to illness, but our lovely neighbors arranged an impromptu trick-o-treat session once our little Curious George was feeling better.

Next up was Foofa from my least favorite children’s show. Last year’s costume was easily my favorite to date – Strawberry Shortcake. She was a hit everywhere she went in that one.

I could have probably attempted to make many if not all of those costumes. I just didn’t feel like it. My attitude has always been, why bother when I can buy one? I always search for, and usually find, great deals on them.

When my daughter’s obsession with tigers began, I knew what was coming this year. And I was concerned I would not be able to find a suitable costume. You see, we live in Florida. It is rarely cold here on Halloween. Tiger costumes tend to be full coverage and fuzzy.

She would swelter in anything I could find in a store or online. So, for the first time since becoming a mother, I decided to try my hand at making my child’s Halloween costume.

The centerpiece is an orange t-shirt with black stripes. I didn’t even need to take to the web to look for a tutorial. I simply headed to the craft store with my idea. Bought a shirt, orange tights and some black fabric paint. All for around $15.

She’ll also be wearing a black mini-skirt and a few store-bought accessories: tiger ears, paws and a tail. I sewed elastic straps on the paws so they can fit over her shoes.

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Lastly, there will be a little face painting involved. Whiskers and a black nose. Easy, peasy!

This idea could be modified for a number of different animals. Zebra, obviously. But also cheetah, leopard, giraffe…

Halloween is still several weeks away. You’ve got time!

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Over the summer, we redecorated my preschooler’s room. It was a fun project. And as I shared with friends the results I had one tell me, “I think it is so cool you let her choose. My mom never let me decorate my own room.”

Personally, I can’t think of a single reason NOT to allow my child to decorate her room. There is so much in her world she has no control over. So many situations daily where she cannot choose.

She wants to be independent. She pushes for it every moment of every day. Her bedroom should be her special space. Her sanctuary. The place she can’t wait to escape to after a long day. We all need that.

It was a successful project. Here are some tips I gleaned from our experience:

Lastly, the project should be fun. For both of you. Enjoy watching your child express herself. My daughter was thrilled to have the ability to design her own space. And she proudly shows it off to anyone who comes to our home.

I can’t give her all the independence she wants. Not yet. But this was one easy way I could help her feel in control and demonstrate she matters.

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The other day, I was finishing off a canister of Pringles potato chips (lightly salted, of course). It’s one of my few guilty pleasures. As I prepared to throw the empty canister in the recycle bin, it occurred to me – there had to be something we could make out of it.

I took to the Internet and began to look up tutorials on making a kaleidoscope. The ones I found did not meet my criteria, as they were not simple. I looked around my house and tried to think of an easier way with fewer steps.

What I came up with is not perfect, but it was fun and my preschooler loves it.

What you will need:

What to do:

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“It’s so pretty!” my four year old exclaimed as she looked through it. And it only took about five minutes to complete. That is my kind of craft!

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As parents, we wish we could shield our children from difficult things. But adversity, pain, loss – those are part of life. They affect us all; we cannot avoid them.

Nor can we keep our children from experiencing them.

Our young daughter first learned about death last summer when our cat was hit by a car. She was three and did not fully comprehend. But now, at close to five years old, she is facing the expected loss of her beloved grandfather.

This time around it isn’t sudden or unexpected. And she has a much stronger grasp of what is going on.

I am by no means an expert in this area. But I believe in following my gut in all parenting matters. And these are the things my intuition has told me were best for my child in this situation:

Being honest – My husband and I are strongly against the use of euphemisms, especially when it comes to death. We keep things at our daughter’s level, but do not try to skirt the issue. My dad is going to die. Soon. The better she is able to understand this, the better she will be able to deal with it.

Communicating openly and often – I work to create an environment where my daughter feels she can talk to me about anything. This situation has been no exception. I talk to her about my dad’s dementia often. I do not hide my emotions from her.  She would sense my sorrow whether or not I let her see the actual tears. So I choose the latter.

Following her lead – While I give my daughter many opportunities to discuss what is happening, I do not force it. When dealing with difficult situations or topics, I have found it works well to offer small bits of information at a time, then stand back and allow her to process it. When she is ready, she comes to me with questions and we discuss further.

Giving her choices – As it gets close to the end, I have agonized over whether it would be best for my daughter to see my dad. Finally, I decided to let her choose. I explained clearly the condition he was in, and gave her the choice of whether or not to visit him.

Involving her in plans – I took my daughter to the columbarium to help choose the actual space where my father’s ashes would be placed following his death (the overall location had already been selected by him). I also asked her how she would like to see her BaBop remembered at his memorial service.

You are never ready to lose a parent, even when you have a lifetime to prepare for it. Waiting for my dad to die has been one of the most difficult things I have ever faced. Helping my daughter prepare to lose one of the most important people in her young life has made the situation even more heart wrenching.

Have you had to address the topic of death with your young child(ren)? If so, what worked best for you?

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Photo credit

We started our daughter in a preschool program for a few days a week shortly before her third birthday. As an only child, we felt it was important for her to have regular interaction with her peers, develop critical social skills and prepare for the structure and expectations of school.

The past few years she has loved preschool. Last spring, she asked me if she could go every day. I told her this school year, when she entered voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK), she would. She was excited.

But as the summer was winding down, she suddenly began to express negative feelings about school. One night over dinner, she announced, “I don’t want to go to VPK!”

“Why not, sweetie?”

“I don’t like school.”

“You’ve always liked it before. What is different? Are you concerned about expectations being higher this year?”

“No. I just don’t like it.”

My husband and I were puzzled, and gently pressed to try to get to the bottom of her newly developed apprehension. Eventually, she confessed it was due to fact the two girls who taunted her last year on the playground will be in her classroom again.

My heart tore into a million tiny pieces. My four and a half year old is afraid to go to school because of little mean girls. I’m tearing up as I write because I am so distressed this is happening to my daughter, and at such a young age.

We have talked to her about how to respond if faced with the same behavior. Read books about dealing with bullies. I’ve written a letter to her teachers explaining the background and her anxiety.

We are looking at ways to help foster the friendships she does have at school, to ensure she is not isolated and has allies in the classroom as well as on the playground. We’re focusing on building her confidence and making sure she knows she is loved, appreciated and respected for who she is.

And every day this school year, my daughter will receive a note with her lunch that reminds her she is our treasure – courtesy of Lunchbox Love® for Kids. I hope she has more good days than bad. But when the latter does occur, I’m crossing my fingers an extra dose of love can help turn things around.

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Earlier in the year, when I was looking ahead to this summer, I hoped to be able to strike a balance. Between enabling my four year-old daughter to simply play and be a kid and engaging in structured activities.

She spent about half the summer just hanging out, with no schedules or expectations. Not unlike the carefree summers I remember from my youth. I offered her many different activity options. And we did a lot of fun things together. Sometimes, she chose to just be home.

The other half was spent at various camp programs. Which she loved. And I enjoyed having much-needed time to complete various work projects. I did not like how camp mornings were just as hectic and rushed as school mornings, however. That got a big thumbs down.

Looking back, 2013 will go down as the Summer of Sickness for the Ross family. After going the entire school year without being sick, my child was ill four times this summer. And lost nearly four pounds from her tiny frame.

The first week after school was out, all three of us were sick and I developed pneumonia. And the final week of summer break we were all struck down by a nasty virus. At one point, my husband was running a fever over 104 and hallucinating.

My father continued to decline and I had to start preparing my sweet child for the inevitable loss of her beloved BaBop.

Those are not the things I want to remember about this summer. And I hope when my daughter looks back on these past few months, what she will recall is how she…

In life, there are always good times and bad. But I want my daughter to be able to remember the summers of her childhood fondly. And I look forward to creating more memories next year…

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This summer we undertook a special project – redesigning my daughter’s room. I wanted her to have her own space, and everything placed in her room to date was something I had selected.

She chose an ocean theme and selected all the items for her new space. One of the purchases was a fish mobile from Amazon. Shortly after hanging it in her updated room, I got an idea.

There were a number of items she had created I felt would make a perfect mobile for her new room. They matched the theme, she was proud of them, and putting them on display as a mobile would be fun and easy.

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What you will need:

Pieces of your child’s artwork

String

Scissors

A hole punch

A thumbtack

Instructions:

Decide how you will arrange the artwork.

Lay it out on a table.

Cut a long piece of string.

Punch holes at the top and bottom of each piece of artwork.

Beginning at the bottom, tie the string to the last piece of art.

Then loop the string through each hole in the remaining pieces.

Be sure to leave enough room between art pieces for movement.

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Determine how long the string should be from the ceiling and cut accordingly.

Hang from ceiling with thumbtack.

This project took us no more than five minutes to complete, and we both love the results. The mobile hangs prominently in her room, and the items spin slowly as the ceiling fan or air conditioning turns them.

Her new room is fantastic, but I think this personal touch is my favorite design element. To see it in action, check out this video!

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This time last year, my daughter was interested in two things – dance and gymnastics. I told her she could choose one for the school year. She chose dance.

I signed her up for a class. Ballet and tap. She loved it initially. Then, about halfway through she began to ask to quit. She wanted to do gymnastics after all. I explained she had made a commitment, and needed to stick with dance until the end of year Showcase.

I promised she could take gymnastics this school year.

She did stick with dance, loved performing on stage at the showcase and excitedly said she wanted to continue on, forgoing gymnastics. So I registered her for class. Now fall is upon us, and she has changed her mind. She does not want to return to dance.

She wants to take gymnastics. “To learn something new.” I know I promised. And I need to follow-through. But there is something holding me back.

Fear.

Dance feels safer to me than gymnastics. I worry about my child getting hurt. Especially since she has epilepsy.

The two greatest dangers for her are heights and water. If she were to have a seizure while up high, she could be very hurt. Gymnastics includes things like the balance beam and uneven bars.

She’s been seizure-free since April. But one could occur at any time, and we have been told my doctors to always take certain precautions.

Dance also seems less competitive than gymnastics. I know my child will learn to compete, and there are many pros to it. But does it need to start at four years old? And would it be better in a team sport environment?

She will have a lifetime to compete and compare herself to others. One of the things I loved about the dance studio she went to was that their focus was simply on helping children learn and love dance.

It was a very supportive environment. And I don’t know that gymnastics won’t be that way. I just have a sense it will be different.

But I can’t hold her back because of my fears. Life is full of risks. Dangers. Some I can protect her from. Or at least prepare her for. Many I cannot. But I also can’t hold on tightly her whole life.

So much about motherhood is letting go.

So I’ll be checking out a couple of places and plan to sign her up for classes. Because I promised I would. What I can’t promise is that I won’t worry.

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I started the summer off with pneumonia. It was the sickest I can ever remember being. Fortunately, I did not have to be hospitalized. But it took weeks to recover.

As any women with children knows, there is no such thing as a true sick day when you are a mom. There are too many responsibilities; little (and big) people counting on you. And you can’t call in sick to your family.

But it is important for you to take care of yourself and get better. Here are some coping strategies:

When I first developed pneumonia, I could not even get out of bed. But once the medicine began to kick in, I was able to employ some of these tips to ensure I got the rest I needed to get back to being healthy.

Many of these are activities you likely engage in regularly with your children. When you are not at your best, they can be lifesavers. Don’t be afraid to rely on them.

How do you handle being sick?

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As I have mentioned, my four year-old daughter is currently in to fairies, particularly Tinkerbell. So when she saw a copy of Disney Fairies magazine (Did you know there was such a thing?) in the grocery store recently featuring her favorite fairy, she began to beg.

No, this wasn’t during THAT trip to the grocery store. She had been very good on this particular visit, and in general over the past few weeks. So I said she could have the magazine.

Once we got home and I had put away the groceries, we sat down together to read it. She loved the stories and games, and went absolutely nuts over a craft in the issue.

We had a play date scheduled later that day with her best friend. My daughter breathlessly announced she wanted them to make the craft together. Fortunately, we had all the materials already.

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What you’ll need:

Construction paper – colored and white

Scissors

A pencil

Glue

Glitter glue

(In addition to glitter glue, my daughter and her friend chose to color their bookmarks with markers)

Instructions:

Choose two different colors of construction paper, cut into squares.

Draw a mushroom cap on one piece and cut it out.

Trace the same shape on the other paper and cut that out.

Draw circles on the paper you want to place on top, cut them out.

Glue over other mushroom cap piece.

With the white paper, make two identical mushroom stem shapes.

On the upper part of one, draw a line about half an inch from the top edge.

Spread glue on the area above the line.

Lay the second stem on top of the first, so it’s upper part attaches to the first stem.

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Glue the double stem to the mushroom cap.

Decorate as you wish.

The reason the finished product (above) looks so different from the in process photos is because it was FAR too chaotic during the play date to get any photos. I had to go back and take some for the purposes of this post.

My daughter is very happy with her bookmark, and uses it to save the page she is currently using in her new journal. I’ll be telling you more about that soon…