Every moment spent with family is an opportunity to create a great memory. Traditions make it easy. Attend an event, play a game, or take a walk– do something fun with your kids and then do it over and over again each year.  Now, you’ve created a family tradition.  Make it a great Saturday!

Create an evening routine each night with your kids. Routines create structure which breed security, trust, and closeness. Make it simple: After the dishes are done, play a board game or cards, do a puzzle, play outside, draw and make up stories to go with the pictures–spend 30 minutes together. Knowing when your special time will be each night feels good– both for you and your kids.

Question: My son is almost 3 and in full time daycare. He has struck up a friendship with a kid that is always in trouble, lashes out, acts out–everything our boy is not. I see my son bring out the best in this boy. I see genuine friendship and kindness in both when together…I know my job is to keep him safe.  Am I wrong to let them be friends?

Amy:  First off, I am touched with the loving nature of this question—It’s so heartwarming to see a Mom consider not only the well being of her child, but also the well being of another. I am proud of this mom’s concern for others. Before I jump in, here is a bit of background:

I believe we have a job as moms. Our job is to keep our kids happy, healthy, safe, and cozy. I review this parenting strategy at length in the Balance MAP, yet suffice it say that it provides direction, for both you and your child, while it increases the cooperation and the enjoyment you share with them. Yet, you can’t do it all alone – you need a Support network.

One of the most important partners you will have raising your son is his teachers or in this case, your childcare provider. Start there. Get an explanation of what is going at day care. Discuss the impact of this friendship on your son and his development. How is he affected by playing with the other boy? Do they in fact play nicely together? I would ask specifically how the day care handles this child.

Although your child sounds like a lovely role model, I would like to suggest that your day care is also actively helping to reshape and redirect the other boy’s attitude and behavior. It is dear that you want your son to be the catalyst for goodness and a role model. Your childcare provider will help shed great light on what is happening throughout the day.

The most important point here is that you need to be able to count on your day care to provide a happy, healthy, safe, and cozy environment where your child thrives. You can’t always be with your child and you need to have partners you trust who are extensions of you.  Work with them to create the right environment and healthy relationships for your child.

In addition to talking to the day care, you should use this opportunity to explain to your son about friendships and healthy relationships.  Make sure he is clear on acceptable, unacceptable behavior, and what to do when he experiences unacceptable behavior (go to the adult in charge).

I want you to feel great about dropping your son off at day care each day– your peace of mind is important and something you must nurture.

Trust your instincts and follow through with your support network to help you keep your kids happy, healthy, safe, and cozy. You are your child’s greatest advocate.

Summer is coming! As excited as we all are for a break in our routines, summer also adds a bit of stress to our lives – especially for working moms. Gone are the schedules that brought security, and guided you through the day.  Summer brings new responsibilities like swim lessons, baseball, all sorts of camps and now the stress of managing your family’s “free time.” Depending on your schedule, your kids may have tons of free time and think that they are going to fill it with cartoons. Help!

Well what if I told you that your first solution to make every day Mother’s Day is a daily checklist and here’s why.

A checklist is a powerful tool. It is a list of tasks that you need your kids to complete before they head out the door each morning, providing daily structure, which all children crave. It orients your kids to what is expected of them each and every morning. Think of it as their personal step-by-step guide to morning success. Who doesn’t want that? Kids love to feel successful. Your morning checklist shows them how!

I’ve used our morning and afternoon checklists for close to a decade. I was determined to enjoy the morning with my kids so my solution to manage the most crazy making time of my day was to create a support network—my kids!

Our kids are capable of so much, we just need to set them up for success. The morning checklist does just that.

You can download our summer checklists for free by clicking here. We’ve included one for kids who are gone for the day, maybe at camp or daycare, as well as for kids who typically stay home during the day. Some of the tasks are:  do my morning chore, write in my journal, and put on sun screen (Americans now have more cases of skin cancer than any other form of cancer)

I love these checklists and so will you!

Make it a fun summer day!

It’s spring cleaning time but fortunately there’s no need for a broom or Windex. Now is a great time to weed through all of the responsibilities that are getting in the way of enjoying your life, while raising your kids.

As moms, our most valuable resources are our time and energy. We have to cherish and protect it. Why? Because saying, “Yes” to someone or something means you have to say, “No” to someone or something else– there’s only so much time in a day. Balancing means learning when to say, “No” to insure that you have reserves for the relationships you value most; you, and your family.

We are all dancing as fast we can to meet the infinite needs of our families, stop for a minute to reflect on the following questions. “Do my actions make me feel happier and more successful? Who is losing in my dance to meet everyone’s needs?” If you are comfortable with your answers, your priorities are reflected in your actions and you are on the right track. If you don’t like your answers, change things! It will mean disappointing people, yet those who value you will applaud your decision to make a stand for your needs. Keep in mind, success and happiness for you and your family is your goal and striving to integrate and balance it all takes discipline each and every day.

Recently, a mom shared with me that her greatest challenge was taking care of herself. I suggested that she say, “No” to any extra request of her time and energy until she started to schedule time for herself– no exceptions. She was aghast! The truth is that each of you will have well-intentioned, wonderful people asking you for your help or your company– help to cook, bake, pick up, lead, ecetera, for the rest of your lives. Why? Because you are capable, clever and high achieving women. It is however, up to you to say, “Thank you, I am so flattered you thought of me, but I’ll have to pass.” Or try “Thanks for asking, I’ll take a rain check this time, but maybe next year.” Or how about, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I need to put a premium on my evenings with my family.” All you have to do is say “No”…nicely.

Like most things, practice make perfect, so choose a phrase or make up your own and use them! Print them out and memorize what works best for you so you will be ready for any request and respond respectfully and confidently. Having clear purpose and priorities will keep you focused and disciplined to achieve your goals. When you gracefully (this will come with practice) and confidently start declining requests, you send a powerful message that you value your time and energy and the people sitting around your dinner table get first dibs!

Traveling with kids:

Car Trip – Save time and money by having breakfast in the car.  We love Costco muffins, drink yogurts, grapes, bananas, etc.  All of these options are portable, easy to eat, and healthy.

If the drive is longer, we drive through the night.  Consider having a quick dinner on the road and then settle your crew in for the night.  When your kids wake up in the morning you’ll be eight hours closer to your destination and ready for breakfast in the car (see breakfast ideas above).

Packing Your Car (Mom and Dad):

  1. Books on tape/CD
  2. Hook up a DVD player, or lap top computer –Red box DVD allows you to return wherever you end up. Just find a redbox.
  3. Car snacks:
    • Bagels,
    • Granola Bars,
    • grapes, Clementines
  4. Bring: trash bags and napkins
    • Water only; I’m not a fan of juice! Ideally, not much water. We pack a jug and cups so water can be monitored and keeps bathroom breaks to a minimum.
    • Extra empty sippy cups for the young ones
    • Extra diapers, wipes for cleaning up, and changing
    • Make sure you have a change of clothes for little ones handy in the car, or in your baby bag. All it takes is one spilled drink to spoil a car ride.
  5. The Buddy System: Assign an older child to a younger for packing and entertainment while on the trip. Our mantra has always been “Big Takes Care of Little!”
    • Write out a list of contents of their backpack and suitcase. Let the buddy help your younger child pack both.
    • Review the pile of clothes before they go into the suitcase.
    • Review the backpack to ensure nothing is left out.
    • Have the kids put their backpacks by the front door when they are completed and you then work your magic and sneak in your “surprises” (we’ll talk about this later).

Ideas for backpack include:

  1. Security blanket or toys
  2. Sweatshirt or sweater
  3. Pillows for each child and a light blanket
  4. Games, cards
  5. MadLibs
  6. Legos’
  7. Polly Pockets
  8. Building sets
  9. Metal cookie sheet as desk, have magnetic puzzles, tanograms, etc.
  10. Paper/crayons, markers
  11. Books for reading
  12. Electronic devices: don’t forget extra batteries and a DC converter-plug in any electronics or cell phone on the go
    • Gameboy
    • Walkman
    • IPod
    • PSP
  13. Packing surprises for the road or plane trip (Mom or Dad)
    • Wrap trinkets/special treats in aluminum foil, which makes wrapping a piece of cake.
    • Play a game that on every hour or half hour (depending on the length of your trip) the kids will get to open one gift. Number the gifts so everyone opens the right gift at the right time. Make it fun!
    • Buy gifts at the Dollar Store, or any sale bins- the fun is opening the gift, don’t go overboard.
    • Kids are responsible for their own backpacks.  If they can walk, they can wear them and pack them accordingly.  They can do it!
  14. Before you leave, anticipate what kind of entertainment or equipment you will need if Grandma or Auntie isn’t set up for a family
    • Soccer ball
    • Football
    • Games
    • Sleeping bags
    • Stroller
    • Car Seat

Thanksgiving at home:

  1. Start a tradition of giving your kids a book on the morning of every holiday (I buy one not seven!). Write the date on the inside the cover and write about what you are thankful for, this will become a keepsake for years to come. (Check out our Thanksgiving favorites here!)
  2. Celebrate your children’s artwork by decorating your house with their creations.
  3. Laminate and hang them with sticky tack. This is not only inexpensive but quick and easy to do. We love Mardel’s for laminating (.25 per foot!) if you don’t have one in your area try to find a homeschool or teacher supply store.
    • Store the artwork in a homemade portfolio (2 large pieces of posterboard stapled on 3 sides) in an easy to access location.
    • Label each portfolio with the holiday name to make it easy to find.
    • Consider framing  some of the more special artwork during half off sales at Hobby Lobby. My most favorite wall in our house is covered in framed “Kid Art”.

Preparing for Thanksgiving Day:

  1. Make this time a special one by engaging your kids. These memories will overshadow your feast and last a lifetime. Don’t let the demands overwhelm you!
  2. Include every child by assigning a task for the Thanksgiving preparation:
    • Cleaning – Pick up, dust, vacuum, organize games, etc.
    • Cooking – Assign age-appropriate cooking tasks like peeling potatoes, measure for baking, stirring, opening packages, grating cheese, etc.
    • Setting the table – Kids love to decorate the table. Let them set out the place cards, fill the pilgrim hats, and put ice in the water cups. They can do it. You’ll burst with pride at much they will help you!
    • Engage your kids with fun and easy to make table decorations, remember assign an older child or relative to oversee the little ones (“Big Takes Care of Little”):

Pilgrim Hats Compressed

Pilgrim Hats – Easy to make snack and treat holders. Cut the bottom out of a Styrofoam cup, wrap in yarn and glue on a brim, belt, and buckle. Fill the hat with special treats for each guest at your Thanksgiving table. Materials Needed: Styrofoam cup, yarn, glue, and black and yellow construction paper (for the brim, belt, and buckle).

Thanksgiving Table Place Cards- Cut a square from a piece of Fall colored construction paper. Glue on a Bugle corn chip to be the cornucopia. Buy a bag of “15 Bean Soup” with various dried beans or use cereal like Kix and glue on to make it look like it is overflowing. Write the guest’s name on the place card and place on your table. Materials Needed: Fall colored construction paper, Bugles, Dried Beans or Cereal, Markers.

Turkeys and Hats

No-Bake Thanksgiving Cookies – This is an easy way to make yummy turkeys and pilgrim hats without turning on the oven! Melt chocolate in the microwave and dip large marshmallows in the chocolate. Once the marshmallows are completely covered, place on top (the all chocolate side) of a fudge strip cookie and refrigerate. Use yellow frosting to draw on a buckle. The turkeys are easy too! Take a chocolate dipped marshmallow and sit atop a fudge striped cookie (stripe side up) and spoon a bit of chocolate frosting on another cookie to “glue” on the “tail” of the turkey. “Glue” an upside down candy corn to make the head of the turkey. These are so easy, and fun to make! My 14 year old and 4 year old sons made these together. Materials Needed: Chocolate, Yellow Frosting, Fudge Strip Cookies, Marshmallows, Candy Corn

Make it a festive and inspiring Thanksgiving!


Amy Bio Picture Compressed