Are You Ready for Summer?

Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. Have you planned your summer adventures yet? Check out these helpful products to help you and your family stay safe (and have fun) this summer!

  • BabyBanzBaby Banz Sunscreen Lotion Spray — Baby Banz has made it easier than ever to protect your little one’s skin from the harmful rays of the sun. They have created an amazing sunscreen perfect for young ones ranging from crawling toddlers to growing teens! The sunscreen is formulated with SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection and is PABA free for peace of mind! Simply point and press and the convenient spray emits a continuous, angled spray for maximum coverage. It’s never too early to establish good skin care habits!
  • Baby B’Air — The FAA-approved Baby B’Air Flight Vest is a safe solution for lap-held children while traveling in an airplane. The Baby B’Air is the perfect solution for all babies, securing them safely to their parent so that both the baby and parent are comfortable and there is no squirming or potential for baby falling. The Baby B’Air is worn by the infant like a vest. Constructed of 100% cotton and comfortable to wear for baby, the Baby B’Air is used by simply connecting it to the seat belt of the adult. The baby can then be held, fed, and even changed while both parent and child remain securely fastened in their seat. For more information, visit babybair.com.
  • PuddleJumperPuddle Jumper Life Jackets — The fun lasts longer for kids in the water with a Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Life Jacket. The comfortable design allows children 30 to 50 lbs. to move and swim freely in pools and lakes and at the beach, without the life jacket riding up around their necks. Each PFD is Coast Guard-approved and can be used as a learn-to-swim aid. They come in lots of different colors and styles.

What are your family’s must-have summer products?

Acceptance Defies Stereotypes by Ellen Stumbo

I love the energy that kids have after school: running, smiling, hugs to parents, stories of the great adventures that took place at recess. They squeeze in every minute of fun with friends before going home.

One afternoon, two little boys from my daughter’s class posed for a photo as they hugged side by side. When my daughter noticed the camera, she wanted to join in. I was about to tell her that the photo was only for the boys, but one of the little boys noticed her and said, “Come on, Nichole!” He waved at her to join in and then put his arm around her too. Soon, a few more kids joined in the photo.

It might seem like a regular happening, just a group of kindergarteners getting their picture taken with their friends … and it was! But it was also more than that. My daughter has Down syndrome, and this everyday happening reminded me that disability is inconsequential to friendship. Some people say that little kids don’t notice differences, which is why they accept everyone. I don’t think that is true. I do believe that little kids do a much better job at accepting everyone, but I also know they notice differences, they just don’t care about those differences the way adults do. They have not been touched by cultural expectations or norms. The beauty in that moment was the fact that she was one of the kids. She was included, invited to join in. She was one of the kids, and nobody cared if her speech is hard to understand or if she is delayed in some other ways. They just knew she was part of the group.

Those kids in that little group of friends were defying a stereotype, all of them. And I was so proud of them!

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

What to Do with Leftover Plastic Eggs?

Using Leftover Plastic Eggs

Have your kids already emptied all their eggs, scarfing down jelly beans and sweet tarts left and right? We try to dole out candy gradually, but with a potty-training three-year-old I’ve been going through it quicker than usual.

I keep finding empty plastic eggs laying on the floor. While I hate not to just save them for next year, we don’t actually fill our own baskets – all the eggs we have came from church and preschool hunts. But tossing them – even in recycling – seems wasteful.

So I scoured the web and found all kinds of fantastic ideas for using up those empty egg shells! Here you go!

It seems like there are a ZILLION ideas out there! Now I’m excited to go play with our empty eggs.

Have you ever done anything fun with your leftover plastic eggs?

Real Life Solutions with Dr. Linda Mintle

Q: My husband is very anxious about the birth of our second child. He is feeling the economic pressure of our expanding family and worries about everything. He is making me anxious because of his state of distress. What can I tell him to calm him down? I know God will provide if we are faithful.

A: You are so right. God is faithful and promises to provide for our needs. Maybe this study published in Pediatrics will help him realize he needs to trust and let go of worry. The study included 32,000 children and found that the psychological distress of Dad during pregnancy did impact child development. Specifically, fathers were given a screening questionnaire regarding their mental health status during their partner’s pregnancy. Later, mothers were asked to also fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s development. Controlling for a number of variables, a link was found between the fathers’ mental health and their children’s later developmental problems. Dads who scored high on anxiety and distress when the mom was 17 to 18 weeks pregnant had children who were more disruptive and anxious at age 3! We don’t know exactly why this is, but maybe the mental health of the father later impacts his parenting, or maybe his mental health impacts the mother’s mental health, or maybe there is a genetic link. The point here is that the mental health of the dad, not just the mother, impacts the developing child. So let your husband know that his anxiety and distress could be affecting your child. It is time to trust God to meet your needs and let go of worry. Your new baby is too important and you want to give him or her the best start possible.

Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed therapist and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. She is a national speaker and bestselling author with 18 book titles currently published. Visit her website at drlindahelps.com.

When Your Kid Won’t Go Outside

_mg_1368-bees

 

In the car yesterday afternoon, my 5-year-old daughter made a big deal out of the fact that there were yellowjackets on the playground and she just left them alone. Granted, this is the preschooler view of how things happened. But she named off several of her classmates who apparently insisted on hovering around the insects. I praised her for being brave and thought maybe – MAYBE – she was turning over a new leaf.

Libbie’s always been wary of bugs, but a few years ago she was stung badly when she picked up a watering can that was filled with wasps. She can’t even confront a ladybug without vast amounts of tears. Her 3-year-old brother is her hero when he deposits dead ladybugs into his heating vent.

But Libbie’s playground tale gave me some hope. And then we got home. I shooed the kids outside as it was over 80 degrees and gorgeous. They were outside approximately 4.87 seconds before I heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Libbie ran back inside, crying that there was a bee right “near the front of the porch” and thus she couldn’t possibly be outside.

I’m sure you know that little ones need outside time like a fish needs water. It makes a huge difference in their behavior. And while I know my highly sensitive little girl isn’t making up her fear of bugs, it’s hard to be understanding about something that seems so trivial! My solution of “ignore it and go somewhere else” doesn’t seem to resonate with her.

Many online searches suggest a trip to the library, studying bugs and teaching her that they are harmless. But what about bees, which she knows are not actually harmless?

Do you have any great tips that will help us get her outside this summer?

photo source: Mike Baird via Flickr

 

Keep on Swinging by Ellen Stumbo

Photo: Generationbass.com

Photo: Generationbass.com

When my husband was a little boy, he boxed his dad on the living room floor. His siblings and mom gathered around and watched as the skinny little boy with the red boxing gloves took on “El Luchador.” My father-in-law stood tall on his knees, and with exaggerated moves, he ducked the punches or swung back like an inflatable punching bag.

After swinging those punches hard, my husband would stand there, panting, red boxing gloves resting at the sides of his body. Then, when my father-in-law least expected it, Andy would start swinging the punches again, eventually conquering “El Luchador.”

On our wedding day, as my father-in-law performed our ceremony, he told us about the little boy who wouldn’t give up and kept on swinging, and he said, “Many things will come into your marriage and try to tear you apart, but don’t give up. Just keep swinging, never at each other, but at whatever is trying to bring you down.”

And I’ve never forgotten that analogy.

Recently, we’ve been battling mental health issues with my middle daughter, who we adopted from Ukraine four years ago. She has cerebral palsy, and she is getting to an age where she is aware of her disability, and she doesn’t like it. But more than her obvious disability, the damage, pain, and hurt that she endured the first four years of her life living in an orphanage have really started to show in the way of behaviors, fears, anxiety, depression. She has attachment issues, and she has post traumatic stress. Parenting her  is the hardest and most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do.

The truth is, often times I don’t know what to do, except for one thing: to keep swinging. In the safety of our marriage, our children can find peace and comfort, so we swing at the challenges that threaten to crush our daughter, and we keep swinging. Because she’s worth it, and because that’s what parents do, we keep swinging on behalf of our kids.

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Believing: Leading Your Children to Experience Christ’s Resurrection

I bet many of our ParentLife readers have led their children through Truth in the Tinsel at Christmastime, haven’t you? It’s an ebook from our friend, blogger Amanda White, that helps you create an ornament with your child for 25 days in December – while talking about the Advent Scriptures.

This year, Amanda released an ebook called A Sense of the Resurrection. In it, she leads parents and teachers to guide their children through 12 experiences helping the little ones grasp the meaning of Easter. As Amanda says, it’s not as easy as Christmas. Parents are scared of telling their kids about blood, sin, crucifixion, murder. But as Christ’s resurrection is the absolute central truth of our faith, it’s important to start teaching it to children as early as possible.

A former children’s minister for a large church, Amanda is well-equipped to help parents through these sensitive topics. The projects she describes are to do as a family and most will decorate your home for the Easter season (a canvas, an incense jar, etc.). Children will use their five senses to experience the Holy Week and Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

 

We’ve long been a fan of Amanda’s work and featured her in ParentLife and HomeLife magazines. I do not believe you will regret for a second spending the few dollars to purchase this book and work through it with your children!

This post was not sponsored, nor will we make any money if you buy it through these links. Just wanted to bring the resource to your attention!

Using Photos to Teach Feelings by Shara Lawrence-Weiss

Cameras and coffee

Research has demonstrated the wonderful effect that real photographs can have on a child’s ability to learn. Children with autism are often drawn to real images: the colors, vibrant imagery, the facial expressions, and more.

While running various workshops at Bookmans Bookstore, the YMCA, MOPS groups, and mom groups, it became clear to me that many parents are unaware of how effective photos can be. A simple project can lead to activities that enhance understanding, empathy, learning, and the retaining of information.

Tell a story:
Take photos of your child helping someone else: a person or animal. Print the photos in color and put them in order (up to about 10 images). Laminate each one or cover in contact paper. String the images together, in order, to create a visual story. Look at the photos together and talk about what happened. Who did your child help? How was he/she affected? How did your child feel, knowing that someone was being helped through their actions?

Sequencing:
Take photos of your child going through the steps of getting ready for the day. You could also take photos of a swim lesson or grocery shopping experience. What do you do first? Second? Third? Next? Last? Laminate the photos and string them together or place them on a flip ring. Talk about the steps with your child to help with sequencing. This will assist in reducing the stress of daily “have to’s” and errands — something that many children with special needs become frustrated by.

Colors or Feelings:
Take photos of your child wearing blue, green, red, orange, yellow, white, etc. Laminate the images and turn them into a game. “What color are you wearing here?” “Red, yes!” You can also write the color names on the back of each photo, prior to laminating them. When you say, “Red, yes!” flip the photo around so your child can see the word on back and associate that word with the color. Do the same thing for “feelings” images: sad, happy, frustrated, excited, joyful, lonely, and so on. This will help to build empathy in your child.

shara.jpgShara Lawrence-Weiss is the Owner/Founder of Personal Child Stories. Shara is a mother of three with a background in education, early childhood, journalism, freelance, nanny work, and special needs.

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Originally posted on ParentLife on June 16, 2011.

What a Baby with the Flu Taught Me about Mothering

joshua10mos

My youngest child, Joshua, was diagnosed with the flu last week. He is 11 months old and usually a fount of joyful grins and babbles. When he started running a high fever, I knew something was up. He had suffered an ear infection not two weeks earlier, and I took him back to the doctor to see if the antibiotics had never eliminated the infection. No, his ears were OK. Probably just a virus.

And then the next night we were at urgent care, getting my 103-degree baby diagnosed with the Real Deal Flu.

My daughter had pneumonia when she was 3, but other than that my kids have been ridiculously well. With three kids, we have none with tubes, only a handful of ear infections between them, no food allergies, and no broken bones (yet – I do have two sons!).

Nothing had prepared me for the ordeal of watching my baby suffer through true influenza. For days he ran that 103 fever that could not be brought down with medicine. He was lethargic and just lay against my chest for long spans of time. His little lungs struggled for air as he panted against the fever. It was heartbreaking. Not knowing what he needed drove me to insanity.

Yet it’s the bad times that bring us closer to the One we need most. Here are the two things I learned most from our experience.

  1. God gave us maternal instinct. My husband is a wonderful, attentive father, but he leans toward the “not worrying” side of most things. It’s something I love and hate about him! The Bible says God created us – male and female – in His image, which I think implies He has what we consider masculine AND feminine qualities. Mothers are given a dose of maternal instinct, a smidgen of the knowledge that God has of His children’s feelings. I was pretty sure something was very wrong with Joshua. I was right. Sometimes you have to trust your instinct (and truly, it’s can’t hurt to err on the side of caution when it comes to our kids’ health).
  2. Jesus loves our children more than we do. I was honestly afraid to put Joshua to sleep a couple of nights, not knowing whether I should take him to the emergency room for breathing treatments. What if he stopped breathing during the night? What if he was struggling for air and I couldn’t tell? I had to force myself to retreat to my own bed and remember that Jesus loves my child much more than I do or could even fathom. Trusting Him with our children is the hardest thing we can do and yet one of the most crucial parts of parenting.

Joshua is thankfully recovered for the most part, but the experience has made me take a step back. Do crisis situations do that for you? 

jessie71413

Jessie Weaver is a stay-at-home mother of three young children in Chattanooga, TN. She blogs personally and for ParentLife and writes for HomeLife and ParentLife magazines often. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Stage Your Own Winter Olympics at Home

Snow Fight
source: barnabywasson

I take it that in most parts of the country, the snow is getting really, really old. We had some last week, about three inches, which for Tennessee is EVERYONE STUCK INSIDE OH NOOOOOO worthy. My daughter’s preschool was closed, the school where my husband teaches was closed, and we were as stir-crazy as mice in a maze.

If you’re still buried under snow, you have my condolences. And maybe your kids are already tired of playing in it. But if not – or if a few new ideas might get them back out there – this would be a great week to have a mini Winter Olympics for your family.

Start It Up

Bake some gold medal cookies for prizes, announce the times to the household, and even consider having an Opening Ceremony. Everyone can wear their most patriotic outfit; the winner can choose which event is first.

Let The Games Begin

Here are some ideas for potential events.

  • Snowball Shotput – Make a row of evenly sized snowballs. See who can throw theirs the farthest or closest to a certain target.
  • Snow Hurdles – Make 5-8 basketball-sized mounds of snow. Participants must jump over each one without disturbing the snow. Fastest time wins.  (Idea from Spoonful.)
  • Snow Sculptures – Everyone gets 10 minutes to come up with the most elaborate or realistic snow sculpture. Get a neighbor to judge.
  • Tic Tac Snow – Draw a grid in the snow and play tic-tac-toe with twigs for x’s and pine cones for o’s. (Idea from Parents.)
  • Luge – Dig out your inner tubes from the summer stuff and use them to ride down a good hill.
  • Snow Dancing – Get creative! Points for best costume, jump, or musical interpretation.

Closing Ceremonies

Award medals and treat everyone to a hot chocolate bar or a hot meal from the slow cooker. Don’t forget to take pictures as you go along!

Let us know in the comments if you have any more fun event ideas!!