Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year at Home

New Year's Eve just might be the most overrated night to hit the town all year.  From inflated prix-fixe dinners, to the challenge of finding a sitter, to the worries over how much other drivers on the road have been "celebrating," this night out can loose its luster once you become a parent.

But keeping a youngster up until midnight (on purpose!) doesn't sound all that great either, so family celebrations at home require a bit of creativity.  Here are some ideas for a fun, yet reasonably sane, family New Year's Eve celebration.

  • Change the clocks--make it "midnight" at 9 pm (hey, it's already 2012 in Greenland at that point).
  • Make some fun New Years Eve crafts, such as water bottle or paper plate noise makers, decorate your own party hat, make a clock out of a paper plate, do a family time capsule or come up with family resolutions or goals for the New Year and post somewhere you will see it every day.
  • Get all decked out in your very best New Years Eve outfit, even if you are at home, and enjoy a night of dancing and just being together.
  • At dinner time, talk about goals, plans, hopes, and resolutions, both individually and as a family.
  • Get out those picture albums, baby books or albums online and talk about your favorite moments of the year.
  • Teachable moment--give new calendars to the kids.  Great opportunity to talk about the days of the week, months of the year, etc.  You can also go through and write in important events like birthdays and the last day of school.
We wish you all the very best this New Year! Happy 2012

Thursday, December 29, 2011

teaching an attitude of gratitude

The gifts have been unwrapped and the dust is settling.  What better time than this week to engage the kids in showing their appreciation for the goods?  Even before they are able to write, kids can get in on the thank-you game.  Here are a few ideas:
  • For toddlers, take a photo (with your phone if possible to make it easy to email) of your child enjoying their gift, tell them to "say thank you" when you take it to drive home the point of the exercise, and send it to the recipient.  You could even have them hold up a sign that says "thanks"
  • Encourage your preschool-aged child to draw a picture of themselves with the gift to send to the giver
  • Skype in for a videochat to express appreciation to friends and family who do not get to see your little one often.  This personal thank you, although not formal and written, can be very meaningful.
  • For emerging writers, make your own fill-in-the blank thank you cards that require very little writing (just the recipient of the note, the gift, and the child's signature) to be completed by your child
  • Growing up, the rule at our house was that cash, checks, and gift cards couldn't be spent until a note was sent--that's a good motivator to get older kids to get their notes written.
Whatever you do, engage your child in an age-appropriate discussion of how it feels to choose a gift for someone, and how great it feels when you find out that they liked it.

An attitude of gratitude is a great gift for you to give your child in this season of giving.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Healthy kid-friendly breakfast recipes

Are you tired of preparing the same ole breakfast every morning for your kids? I know we are! At our house, it is either a blueberry Nutrigrain waffle with fruit, peanut butter toast and sometimes if we are feeling a little daring that day, cheese omelette and turkey bacon.

Although, most of these are somewhat healthy and have the much needed protein our kids need to function at school, it is always nice to have other healthy alternatives to serve your little one in the morning. So we found a couple of recipes that we thought you might like, that are easy and jammed packed full of yummy nutritional goodness! Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! So let's make it count!

The recipes below were found on We hope you will try them over the holiday break! We definitely are! Can't wait to hear what you and your family think of them!

Mini Mushroom-&-Sausage Quiches

1 dozen mini quiches

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour


  • 8 ounces turkey breakfast sausage, removed from casing and crumbled into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup 1% milk


  1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Coat a nonstick muffin tin generously with cooking spray (see Tip).
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Add oil to the pan. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with the sausage. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in scallions, cheese and pepper.
  3. Whisk eggs, egg whites and milk in a medium bowl. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the sausage mixture into each cup.
  4. Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a rack on top of the pan, flip it over and turn the quiches out onto the rack. Turn upright and let cool completely.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Individually wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat, remove plastic, wrap in a paper towel and microwave on High for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • A good-quality nonstick muffin tin works best for this recipe. If you don't have one, line a regular muffin tin with foil baking cups.


Per quiche: 90 calories; 5 g fat ( 2 g sat , 1 g mono ); 105 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 9 g protein; 0 g fiber; 217 mg sodium; 108 mg potassium.

Almond-Honey Power Bar
8 bars
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour (including chilling)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds, preferably golden
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal (see Note)
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, currants, apricots and raisins; toss to combine.
  3. Combine almond butter, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly, 2 to 5 minutes.
  4. Immediately pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary). Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; cut into 8 bars.
Tips & Notes
  • Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature.
  • Ingredient notes: For this recipe, we like unsweetened puffed multi-grain cereal, such as Kashi’s 7 Whole Grain Puffs.
  • Almond butter can be found at natural-foods stores and large supermarkets, near the peanut butter.
  • Turbinado sugar is steam-cleaned raw cane sugar. It’s coarse-grained and light brown in color, with a slight molasses flavor. Find it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets or at natural-foods stores.
Per serving: 244 calories; 10 g fat ( 1 g sat , 5 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrates; 15 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber; 74 mg sodium; 313 mg potassium.

Breakfast Mini Pizzas

1 serving
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons prepared marinara sauce
  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin, split and toasted
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 2 slices pepperoni (optional)
  1. Preheat oven or toaster oven broiler.
  2. Coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add egg and cook, stirring often, until set into soft curds, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread marinara sauce on English muffin halves. Top with the scrambled egg, cheese and pepperoni (if using). Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes.
Per serving: 265 calories; 10 g fat ( 4 g sat , 3 g mono ); 223 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g added sugars; 16 g protein; 5 g fiber; 598 mg sodium; 308 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (28% daily value), Iron (16% dv), Magnesium (15% dv)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Activities to do for your toddler and your Preschooler

If you are a parent of two, three or even 10 children (bless you); we know it can be difficult to find at home activities that are enriching for ALL of your children.  For instance, you may find yourself wondering what in the world can I do with both my 1 year old and four year old today that will provide them each with great learning experiences. 
You may be worn out from the all the holiday hustle and bustle, the local indoor play areas, and then there is only so much Disney channel you can take. So what do you do? Especially, during such a long holiday break.
Well, we have some ideas and hope this will help you beat the boredom blues. Scavenger hunts are a fav at our house. You can hide objects around the house, leave clues everywhere and see if they can find the secret treasure together. You can make it as easy or as difficult you want, depending on your children’s age. This activity is a great bonding time for your children and it also develops critical thinking skills.  
Other activities:
·      Tea parties. Have your kids invite all their stuffed animal friends and babies and put a blanket on the floor as it is easy for your littlest one to interact there. With this activity, you are using your imagination, all the while developing social and language skills.
·      Building with blocks. Use all those boxes from Christmas or old shoes boxes if you don't have Legos or buiding blocks. This is a great way to develop fine motor skills, while encouraging your toddler to stack blocks. It is also an opportunity to help your children learn how to take turns. A hard lesson to learn we know!
·      Reading. Have your oldest read your youngest a short picture book while you are preparing dinner or right before nap time. It is a wonderful way to help your oldest with their reading skills and another opportunity to expose your youngest to books, while helping build their vocabulary.   
·      Outdoor fun in your own backyard! Blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk, rolling the ball back and forth between child to child, chasing each other or pushing each other in the swing. Get out and enjoy the fresh air!
We know that it can be difficult for your kids to find that common bond or want to share with their little brother, sister, cousin or friend, so we hope that these activities can encourage you to try something new with ALL your children.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't be too quick to clean up the mess on Christmas morning

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly."

-Andy Rooney

We're taking our own advice and enjoying the wonder of Christmas with our families. 
See you back here on the 27th--we'll have some ideas for things to do while the kids are home, along with some new breakfast recipes to try out on those lazy mornings at home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feeding the Reindeer

Our family has had a tradition of leaving food outside for Santa's reindeer ever since we were introduced to "reindeer food" in preschool.  This concoction of grains, cereals, and glitter has drawn Santa's flying fleet for years--they enjoy it so much they linger long enough to accidentally drop a bell from their tack into the area where the feed was left! 

This year our daughter's class made Reindeer Food at school.
The label reads as follows:
Sparkle, Sparkle
Make it bright
Light the way on Christmas night
Santa's sleigh will appear
With gifts and joy and Christmas cheer.

Inside this fancily painted potato chip can with googly eyes, pom pom nose, and craft stick antlers was the special blend.
Here's a closer look.
This year's mix even included some flakes of faux snow, so it is really special!
I sure hope those reindeer like it, because my daughter sure will be disappointed if she doesn't get another bell for her collection.
It's worth trying at your never know what might happen!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Favorite Holiday Tunes List

Don't you just love riding around in your car this time of year and listening to your favorite Christmas tunes? Whether you are looking at Christmas lights in your neighborhood or running your holiday errands, there is just something about Christmas music that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It may even bring back some favorite holiday memories with your family?

This month, we have talked a lot about making memories with your family and starting traditions. We also posted some ideas of maybe even burning your favorite Christmas songs on a CD and listening to them at home with your kids or while riding in the car?

So here is our list of Christmas music we are listening to this year. Some traditional and some new. Let us hear what your favorites are!

1. Jingle Bells by Michael Buble-really anything he sings, we love!
2. Blue Christmas by Lady Antebellum
3. Step into Christmas by Elton John
4. Please Come Home for Christmas by Grace Potter
5. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer by Shelby Lynne
6. In the Morning by Jack Johnson
7. Baby It's Cold Outside by James Taylor and Natalie Cole
8. Mistletoe by Colbie Coliat
9. A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
10. Maybe Baby by Sugarland
11. Christmas time is Here by Vince Guaraldi Trio
12. Joy to the World by Faith Hill
13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by the Carpenters
14. Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Jackson Five

Friday, December 16, 2011

Living Each Moment

We are fans of Anne Voskamp's blog It is a rich source of inspiration and a calming place to visit during an otherwise hectic day.

She recently shared this quote, always important but especially so today, as we move into the last weekend before Christmas.

"But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this.
I did not live in the moment enought.
This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.  There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1.  And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.
I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed.
I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."
-Anna Quindlen

Thank you Anna, and Anne, for this reminder!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All-time Favorite Holiday Movies at Franklin Theatre

For our local friends, don't forget to check out Franklin Theatre for showtimes of your favorite holiday movies starting this December 21st, with A Christmas Story until New Years Eve, with The Polar Express. So if you need an outing or two while the kids are on break, or if you just need an excuse to get away from your out of town guests, go to The Franklin Theatre for some yummy popcorn, hot chocolate and a great holiday movie. Happy Holidays!

A cardboard box turned into a sleigh ride, a boat and more!

With a little help from the UPS man, and the cardboard box from Pottery Barn Kids, my girls were entertained for at least an hour, while I prepared dinner tonight. Amazing what a plain ole cardboard box can do to keep your kids busy and productive.

In our past posts, we have talked about the importance of keeping your child's toys simple and how the more simple they are, the more your child is encouraged to use their imagination, social, language as well as critical thinking skills. For example, tonight, my girls pretended their beat up Pottery Barn Kids box was a sleigh, and then after they had their fun on their sleigh ride, they imagined they were at the beach and their cardboard box, was their "boat." So while I was preparing dinner, and the girls were having fun on their sleigh ride or in their boat, they were laughing, talking, and having fun thinking of so many ways or things they could turn this ordinary box in their latest adventure.

Lesson I learned? Don't throw away every box you get in the mail. You never know what this box can teach your child as well as you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Grinch on Christmas

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"

-Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stocking Stuffer ideas that are inexpensive and educational

Moms and Dads, you don't have to fill your kids' stocking up with loads of candy or just random toys that you might find at the end of an aisle that just screams, "buy me!" Yes, we have all succumbed to the impulse-buy items at the register or at the fancy holiday displays. So this time we thought, why not just think simple and educational. You know, something our kids might actually use instead of finding them crammed in their car seats or at the bottom of the barrel toy bag. Well, here are some of our favorite stocking stuffers that will never go out of style and that will be easy on the wallet too.

1. Fun pencils, notepads or travel magnadoodles
2. Stickers or story sticker books (great for fine motor)
3. Silly putty (another great way to develop fine motor skills)
4. Cardboard books, wonderful for those tiny hands to hold and to learn to flip pages
5. Magnetic Letters and Numbers, so inexpensive and a good way to expose your child to letters and numbers
6. Paper dolls
7. Stories on CDs
8. Sensory balls
9. Bubbles
10. Sidewalk Chalk
11. Bath toys
12. Plastic wands for pretend play
13. Deck of cards, Uno, Old Maid or Matching games
14. Lacing cards or beads
15. Small art tools, like crayons or watercolor paints
16. Fun Band-Aids or boo-boo packs, with their favorite characters on them

Monday, December 12, 2011

Five-Minute Christmas Ornaments

Want to make a cute gift in 5 minutes?
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Line a pan with foil.
Take some hard candy peppermint candies, unwrap, and arrange them in a circle on the foil.
Pop the pan in the oven for a couple of minutes, just until they melt into each other to stick together (watch this process-it may go faster than you expect!).
Remove from the oven.
Cool completely.
Add a ribbon to hang (green is cute!).
Voila-a 5-minute Christmas gift for a teacher, grandparent, neighbor, or friend.

photo from

You could even get fancy and make one large enough to use as a photo frame, or in the shape of a heart.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Dickens of a Christmas, and an at-home alternative

Want to feel like you are walking through Charles Dickens' neighborhood?  Want to tell old Scrooge to lighten up?  Or feeling like Scrooge and needing to catch the Christmas spirit?

This weekend Franklin, TN hosts Dickens of a Christmas, complete with live music, vendors, and characters in period dress.  Details are here.

Wanting to go back in time to your own Christmases past? Nothing brings back memories like music.  If you haven't already, make a Christmas music playlist to listen to with your iPod or burn on a CD.  Mine features an eclectic mix of Andy Williams, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Harry Connick, Jr., and Frank Sinatra.  We may not get the white Christmas we're dreaming of, but we can make the music part of our tradition.

Tasty Treat Recipe for you or to give as a gift

This wonderful holiday is all about baking and just enjoying the yummy goodness that goes along with it. So we thought every week, we would try to give you a fun recipe or two and maybe throw in some craft ideas to do with your children. Believe us, it will not be complicated. We embrace simple and kid-friendly projects. Have fun and happy baking!

Reindeer Munch
You can give this as a gift in a festive container or leave our for Santa’s helpers
Cooking time: 20 minutes
2 cups bite size square shaped rice cereal such as Chex
2 cups thin pretzel sticks
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts (or soy nuts)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup candy-coated milk chocolate pieces such as M&Ms
12 oz vanilla flavored candy coating  or white candy melts
Make it:
1.       In a very large bowl combine the cereal, pretzels, peanuts, cranberries and candy pieces; set aside
2.       Chop candy melts, in a medium microwave safe bowl, melt according to package directions. Pour over cereal mixture, and toss to coat.
3.       Spread mixture on a large piece of foil. Let stand until set (about 30 minutes). Break into bite size pieces. Make 12 cups (24 ½-cup serving).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How do we prepare for Christmas?

Last week at Brentwood Methodist Church
the sermon was on the topic of getting ready for Christmas.  The Scripture reading from Luke 3 emphasized the need for giving at Christmas as part of understanding the gift of Christ.  Such sacrifice is far beyond the understanding of young children, but it is never too early to impart an expectation of giving.

Ages two, three, and four years are especially "me" focused, as children are figuring out who they are and their place in the family dynamic.  But they do understand what matters to them--their toys, their TV shows, and their favorite foods are second only to their people.  Without going into all the details, it is possible to explain to very young children that some people do not have the things they enjoy, and that it is good for those who do have those things to share with those who don't.

My own daughter was so inspired by this sermon that she asked to go to Target and get a couple of toys to donate to the Last Minute Christmas Store at 61st Avenue Methodist Church in Nashville, which allows selected families to "shop" for items for children for free.

She had money for this purchase because of an allowance system promoted by Dave Ramsey, author of many books on personal finance and host of the Financial Peace syndicated radio show.

When she gets her allowance, she receives $3 to spend (which we let her spend on pretty much anything, giving her the opportunity to discover good uses for her money, like buying a pack of cool pencils to share at school, vs. not so good uses, such as a $3 lollipop that never gets finished), $1 to save for something in the future, and $1 to give.  After four months of hoarding her "give" money, she was able to pick out a couple of Barbies for a child who otherwise would not be getting a doll for Christmas.

Last Monday we also took advantage of an opportunity to give a donation of food to Second Harvest Food Bank in exchange for free admission to the Frist Center for Visual Arts.
This offer is good for the remaining Mondays in December.  It was a great opportunity to have her go through the pantry, bag up her favorite foods, and then see the incredible Egyptian exhibit, complete with a real live (well, not exactly "live"...) mummy and a gorgeous exhibit of religious paintings from the 15th century called "A Divine Light" on loan from Bob Jones University.

No matter where you live, there are many opportunities to teach the giving spirit of Christmas.  And as you teach your children to give, you give them the gift of generosity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Memories

One year, early in my marriage when our children all had four feet and fur coats, I decided not to decorate for Christmas.  I was knee-deep in coursework and research projects in graduate school, my sweet husband had a new job traveling extensively, and dragging out the boxes of ornaments and decor just seemed like one big thing I could scratch off the "to do"list.  I purchased a beautiful centerpiece of fresh evergreen and red roses from a local florist, plopped it in the middle of the kitchen table, and considered it Christmas.  I felt smug, as if I were outsmarting all those crazy decorating people with the trees lashed to the roofs of their cars, those same trees that would soon be creating more work by dropping a daily dose of stray needles embedding themselves into berber carpet (yes, this was the late 90's).

Fast forward a couple of weeks to dinner with my mother-in-law.  She had all of decorations up for her own enjoyment.  She pointed out the things that she had accumulated over the years, many as handmade gifts from family and friends.  She then told me a bit about some of her interior design clients who had asked her to help with their holiday decor, and told me her philosophy: "It's all about making memories."

She went on to explain that, when her kids were young, each year they eagerly awaited the unpacking of certain ornaments, Nativity sets, and sculpted Santas.  The unwrapping and display of these objects were part of the tradition, as much as the sounds of the Christmas records they played each year without fail, the Santa's Whiskers cookies she baked every year, and the boiled custard and the special little cups that held it.  This redundancy, year after year, became "Christmas" for her family, and created the memories that live on. 

Ten years later I uphold the traditions religiously--the nativity set from the 1970's that can only be described as possibly too grand, the Advent box from Target that holds a daily treat, the carolers on top of the piano, the crystal pine trees that have graced our dining room table without fail.  These items are not expensive or especially valuable to anyone else, but for us they are touchstones that take us back to Christmases past. 

Yes, there have been years for high shelves, a tree behind a baby gate, and a bit more caution when toddling toes and curious hands threatened to literally break the camel's back, but I like to think that I am "making memories" each holiday season.  Not decorating for Christmas?  Bah humbug!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teacher gifts: Dos and Donts

Well, we have talked about our favorite toys to give this year, books that are must reads and then seasonal activites to do with your family to get you in the spirit of Christmas, but what we haven't talked about, are our children's wonderful teachers. Teachers work so hard to give our children the best and most positive learning environment. Some get to school before some of us even think about waking up and then there are some that are the last to leave. They work tirelessly day in and day out to prepare for our little darlings so in the spirit of giving, let's make sure we show our teachers or even caregivers how much we appreciate them. We would love to hear what your favorite teacher gifts are and if you are a teacher, what do you like to receive each year. We know that it is not all about the material things, but we do think that our teachers deserve to indulge or be treated with something special. To get you started, we have come up with some of our favs: make a donation to an education related cause in their honor, gift certificate to go out to eat, a handwritten note or homemade cards, personalized notepads or stationery, fun napkis, guest towels, or a beautiful journal or planner. Some of our not so favs  (we have been guilty of doing them a time or two) and these are just our opinions:  coffee mugs, things with apples on them, smelly lotions, perfumes or candles, picture frames or candy. Let us hear from you! Please!

Make Everyday Count!

As you are counting down the days until Christmas or for some of you, how many more days you have left to get your shopping done...try to slip in a little math by helping your child count down the days on the calendar until Christmas. It is a fun tradition to start and at the same time a great way to help your child recognize their numbers and the concept of time.

For a visual, make a paper chain with one link for each day remaining until Christmas.  By removing a  link each day, children can visualize the big day drawing near.

Again, this season is all about making memories and starting traditions with your family. So as you are counting down the days, you could even try to plan something special to mark each day until Christmas. For example, bake cookies for Daddy or a neighbor (simple recipes to come!), or make homemade cards for friends or your child's teacher.

So let's make every day count! Tis the season to be jolly!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Family Traditions...what are yours?

As we are putting up our festive Fall decorations, and trying to figure out how we can find the energy to drag out the Christmas ornaments and test those never-ending strands of lights, we are quickly reminded that the spirit of Christmas is not just to check off some to-do list or go through the motions of the holiday festivities, but what it is really about, is slowing down and trying to create memories in your home that you and your children can cherish for many years to come. Everyone’s traditions and memories are different and that is what makes them so special.
When I think of my childhood Christmas memories, I immediately think of my Grandparents and how they made this special holiday so memorable. I remember baking and decorating cookies with my Aunt and cousins at my Grandma’s house. Then, I used to always look forward to riding around with my mom and dad, looking at our town’s gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations, while listening to fun holiday tunes.  I also remember the cozy feeling of getting into my holiday pjs after a warm bath and curling up on the couch with hot cocoa, to watch Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Then, as I got older, I looked forward to the traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service at my church, and then having a yummy meal afterwards, with my whole family.

It is really the simple things that we remember and cherish, even as adults. So when you are thinking about creating family traditions in your home this holiday season, remember it doesn’t have to be elaborate. You don’t have to go, go, go all the time to entertain your child. It is your time and what you believe is special.
We would love to hear what your favorite childhood memories are or what kind of family traditions you have created with your family? I know for me, I have carried the tradition of baking with my girls every week, and then just snuggling up with them each night to read them a Christmas book or watch their favorite holiday show, like Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph.

There are other ways to create family traditions like doing holiday crafts together, like Christmas cards or ornaments, setting a certain date and time to decorate the tree, or maybe even volunteering somewhere to really encourage your child and teach them about giving and not just receiving.

We look forward to hearing about your traditions and how they are special to you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Breakfast (or Lunch) and a Movie

Can you imagine taking a three year-old out for dinner and a movie?  Can we say "not fun!"?  Little ones tend to be morning people, for better or worse.  So here's a great alternative:
The newly refurbished Franklin Theatre ( in downtown Franklin, TN, will be showing "Elf" this Saturday morning (Dec. 3) at 10am (as well as Thursday Dec. 1 at 2:00 and 4:30).  What better way to start your weekend and get you in the mood to be merry than a Christmas comedy with your family.
You could head over early for cinnamon rolls at Merridee's (, or hang around afterwards for lunch at Franklin Mercantile (
Or just burn off that popcorn walking around downtown. 
If you are still working on that Christmas wish list, a trip to Main Street Toy Company ( should offer plenty of inspiration.
Either way you can take in all the decorations and festive charm that seeps up through the sidewalks in this charming downtown.
If you are not local, go to a theater near you, and just make it a day of family fun at the movies! Or rent a favorite holiday movie of yours, pop some popcorn, and enjoy some snuggle time with your little ones.  Making memories!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Something you want, something you need...

I was making the round through my online news sources and reading the comments on an article found something that stuck with me.  When asked how she kept things "even" amongst the children in her family, this mother replied they each got four gifts: 
something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.
Love this!
We've added a couple of new pages to the sidebar over on the right for quick reference.
Here's a link to a list of great classic toys.  You probably saw some these under the tree when you were a kid, and there are reasons why they are still around!
Toy Ideas!
And here are some great places to shop for toys that are off the beaten path (brick and mortar and online options).
Toy Resources
Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Daily 15

As we are approaching this busy holiday time of year, let's remember that it is still all about the simple things that are children need most. Not the extravagant toys, fancy clothes or shiny new bike, but simply, your time. Once again, our friends at Williamson Parent reminded us of this so we thought we would share it with you. It is your daily 15...15 things to do on a regular basis with your children.
1. Take a walk together
2. Cuddle on the sofa
3. Say "I love you" often
4. Read together
5. Maintain a loving bedtime ritual
6. Talk at breakfast, at the dinner table, in the car
7. Listen but don't lecture
8. Refrain from judgment
9. Have a catch
10. Give lots of hugs
11. Go on one-on-one dates or outings
12. Cook together
13. Volunteer together
14. Get down on the floor and play, work a puzzle or play a game
*15. Tell them about you and let them know you are not perfect!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.  ~W.J. Cameron

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks...

We came across this very timely article in one of our favorite local magazines, Williamson Parent. It is titled, "Experience the Season of Family and Friends." It is short and sweet and just full of just good ole fashion ideas of raising thankful kids and instilling gratitude. We know this time of year is can go by in a flash, and it is so easy to forget why we celebrate these special holidays. So we hope you will put down that holiday to-do list for just a moment to read this article and remember to give thanks.

Experience the season of family and friends.

Giving Thanks PDF Print E-mail

Written by Susan Day   

Raising Thankful Kids
While America toils in discontent, NOW is the time to remind ourselves what we should be thankful for: our lives, our health, our children. Yes, the economy is bad, but children don’t really understand these things. What they DO understand is Mom’s and Dad’s stress. Or that this year things aren’t quite as easy at home as they were in the past. Finding ways to raise thankful, empathetic children is harder than ever. But two easy steps you can take are in giving thanks audibly on a regular basis and in encouraging empathy. Learning to say, “Thank you,” comes from parents modeling this to their children. Empathy is a bit trickier. No matter how many sermons you give on “poor, starving children in the world” when your children don’t eat dinner, the quickest way to get kids to tune out is to lecture them on how they should feel. What we CAN do is encourage them to think about other people’s feelings. Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D., author of Raising Ethical Children (Prima Lifestyles) says that in talking with children, it works best to ask them to respond to the question, “How would I like it if the situation were reversed?” Whether the issue is not bothering to write a thank you note to grandma for a birthday gift, or speaking rudely to a friend, asking, “How would you like it?” is a powerful question, far more effective than any parental pronouncement.
Instilling Gratitude ...
We live in a “me, me, me” society that makes it easy to get sucked into a black hole of thankless living, says Drew Leder, M.D., author of Games for the Soul: 40 Ways to Find Fun and Fulfillment in a Stressful World (Hyperion). Because of this, gratitude is counter cultural. For children to be grateful for what they have, parents need to begin early — as soon as verbal interaction begins — and continually reinforce it throughout adolescence. This is an ongoing operation that requires constant support and encouragement.
The bottom line, Leder says: Our children learn from everything we say and do. If we cheat, they’ll cheat. If we lie, they’ll lie. If we complain about all the things that we don’t have and choose to ignore what we do, then so will our children. Ingratitude is contagious and we risk raising ungrateful children if we’re not careful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let's Get Messy!

Does your child immediately gravitate to the first mud puddle they see and make the biggest splash? Or if you have a mobile 1 year old that likes to dump the dog’s water bowl all over the nice clean floor or fling their food at you during dinner time? Oh yes! I am sure we have all been there and done that. So when you are just about to lose it, remember they are learning.  I recently read an article that said kids learn to understand the world from what they see, touch and taste.  So when they are playing with their food, they are discovering different textures. Then, when they are splashing through mud puddles or splashing water all over the walls in your bathroom, they are learning cause and effect. So why not join in! Let them experiment with the water in the bathroom. Get all different size containers for them to pour water into and different size and weight objects to discover float or sink. If they want to play with food, fill a Ziploc bag with pudding and let them squish it and for the older ones, you can practice “writing” their letters with their finger. Less mess, but fun!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Kids spell love T-I-M-E.  ~John Crudele

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Fun Fact

Did you know....

Children laugh about 400 times a day, while adults laugh on average only
15 times a day.

           Make sure you laugh today. It will make that 2 year old meltdown go away or whatever stress you may have. Then, if that doesn't work, indulge in some chocolate. Works everytime!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nashville Nov/Dec Happenings

Nashville Zoo Happenings Join the staff and other Zoo characters for story time during the month of November.Come dressed for the weather. Snacks will be provided. Stories are geared toward 3-5 year olds, but all ages are welcome.
Nashville Childrens Theatre Happenings
Junie B. Jones is back at Nashville Children’s Theatre just in time for the holidays! Room One has lots of fun plans to celebrate the season, like Secret Santa, elf costumes and singing joyous songs. However, Junie B.’s nemesis, Tattletale May, is ruining her holiday glee. To make matters worse, Junie B. draws Tattletale May’s name for Secret Santa! Disaster! Except maybe — just maybe — Junie B. Jones will give Tattletale May exactly what she deserves.

See link below for more details and showtimes

The Frist Center Happenings
Every month, The Frist Center has exciting family events for you to enjoy. So get out of the box and try something new with your children this month.

Franklin Theatre Happenings
The newly renovated Franklin Theatre shows children’s movies every Saturday at 10 a.m. and some Sundays so check out their calendar for movies and upcoming events. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning and then afterwards, walk on over to Sweet CeCes for a yummy treat or have lunch at Mellow Mushroom. Yum! 

Cheekwood Happenings

November 25 - December 31
Let the holidays begin as Cheekwood showcases the sights and sounds of the season with lavishly decorated grounds, artfully trimmed trees, and unique holiday activities. Cheekwood is enchanting, entertaining, and educational this holiday season – celebrate with us! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

If I could raise my child all over again...

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.

~Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

Monday, November 7, 2011

7000 days

I love a good book, and when a friend told me about me about this wonderful book she had been reading by Andy Savage I was all ears...that is, until she gave me the number.  7000 days.  That, she said, is how many days you get with your child at home until they go to college.

I don't know what else she said. I don't even remember the name of the book. All I know is that this is first time in my life that I have really stopped to consider just how finite this active stage of parenting really is.

I flashed back to when my daughter was a newborn, sleeping those days away between feedings.  The whirlwind days that zipped by on vacations that always seemed to short. Then to the long days that blended into sleepless nights and into the next groggy day like stretched taffy about snap when she was sick with ear infections or reflux or what some other kid gave her.  The days she spent with grandparents when I just had to get away, finding peace and sanity in airports and hotel rooms with "the girls" from college or my husband.  And now the days when we rise in the dark, leave home at 7:30, return by 3, and have a good five hours together as a family before we do it all over again, 5 days a week, most of the year.

It's the ordinary day as a mom that I revere the most.  When she was five years old, in our church pre-kindergarten, and off on Thursdays.  We would wake up lazily, linger over waffles, meander over to school by 9:30 on a school day, or wander upstairs to the playroom otherwise.  Playing games, goofing around, the dress-up clothes, the simple lunch at home.  No homework, no "best friend" drama, no report card.  Just tips to Target and doctor's appointments and life, and it has been a blessing.  Each day of it.

As I emerged from the fog of this trip down memory lane, my inner skeptic woke up.  7000 days?  Not possible. So I did the math myself.

If she goes to college by 19, that is 365 days a year times 19 years equaling 6935 days (wow).
Then I thought about it from our perspective here at Hands on Mom, focusing on the preschool years, and figured that, for kids who go to kindergarten by age 6, that's 2190 days (really wow).
A limited time to make an unmeasurable difference in the lives of our children, as only a parent can.

I leave you with this beautiful video on the wonder of an ordinary day.  It is 8 minutes long, it is an ad for a book (and this sharing was totally unsolicited), and if you have a beating heart in your body you will need a tissue.

We invite you to comment on your most memorable ordinary days as you take your own trip back in time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Fast Fact

60% of the energy a baby expends is concentrated in the brain.  By the time a baby is 3 years old, they have formed 1000 trillion connections between neurons.
-Univ. of Denver

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grocery Store Games

      Grocery shopping with your child may not be your favorite activity, but with a little preparation and a lot of patience, you can make this shopping trip fun and a great opportunity for learning. On the way to the grocery store, create a memory game like “we are going to Publix and we are going to buy a huge piece of bread that can take us to the beach.” Make your descriptions really silly and elaborate, adding more items to the list and see what they can remember. Let your child help you push the shopping cart for a little while. Give them their own shopping list with pictures and give them clues on where they can find the items. You could play, “I Spy.” “I spy a red fruit that is round and juicy.” “Do you see it?” Have them help you take the items out of the cart or let them help you put the items away when you get home. You can even go as far as sorting the items by type or size depending on the age of your child. So when you are dreading that trip to the grocery store, just remember these simple little games and just have fun! You will be surprised how much you can teach your child in just that little trip to the store and back. 

      Things to Remember:  The grocery store is a rich resource for teaching descriptive words, reading, numbers, math, and memory skills.  It might take a little longer with the wee ones in tow, but you are accomplishing so much more than shopping.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Child-Centered Play

      Playtime is learning time! To your child, fun and play go hand-in-hand with learning. So let your child choose an activity or toy. Let her lead and resist the temptation to correct her or lead her. It is all about discovery and exploring the world around them. Children need to be able to learn to figure things out on their own and learn more complex reasoning skills as their brain develops. So get down on the floor and just play with your child. See the world from their perspective. And as you play with your child today, give them the freedom to roam and the encouragement to experience the world around them…in their own way! 
      Things to remember:  let your child choose the activity, follow their lead, see where it takes them!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Second HOW Workshop coming up!

Our second series of Hands on workshop will be this Wednesday, November 2, Brentwood United Methodist Church, at 6:15. Don't miss! We will be talking about the importance of play, discussing age appropriate toys and books.

Let your children play

While preparing for our workshop this week, which by the way, is Wednesday at 6:15 at Brentwood United Methodist Church, we came across this great video that further emphasizes the importance of play in your child's development. Take two minutes of your time today and watch this video.

Then, remember that when your child is playing with blocks or splashing around in the bath tub tonight, he or she is learning!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

      Happy Halloween! Read your favorite Halloween story, and then do this fun, spooky, goopy Halloween activity. It is a great learning activity that your child will never forget...making Goopy Goo. You can talk about measuring, liquids and solids and mixing colors.

      Goopy Recipe: Pour 2 cups of cornstarch into a bowl and slowly stir in 1 cup of water until the mixture has the consistency of honey. When you try to handle the goopy goop you will find that you can roll it into a ball, but as soon as you stop rolling or manipulating it, it transforms into a liquid. For colored goopy goop, add a few drops of food coloring to make it look icky and slimy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weekend Fall Festivities

Don't forget to check out our seasonal activities page on our blog for fun filled ideas for Halloween weekend, and even some songs you can include on your road trip to and from the Fall hotspots. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Humpday inspiration

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today”
- Anonymous

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let’s help your child develop a love of learning!

     Whether you realize it or not, you are always teaching your child. Scary, huh? Your child is watching you all the time and learning from you every day! Education degree or not, there are so many simple activities you can do, on an everyday basis, to offer your child an enriching day at home. From simply reading aloud to your child before rest time and at bed time, pointing out pictures, acting out the stories, to going on nature walks and finding all different types of leaves or flowers you can count and sort.
      Other everyday activities could be going to the grocery store with a picture list so your child can help you find what you are looking for. While you are rolling through the aisles, trying to keep your busy child entertained, point out the colors you see, what foods are vegetables vs. fruits and then count how many items you collected. Later, when they are ready, you can teach them money concepts. Another activity is when you are cooking, let your child help you measure dry and liquid ingredients. Talk about the steps to the baking process. Then, when they get all ooey gooey, let them play in the bath tub. This is another everyday learning opportunity where they can learn the basic concepts like whether something sinks or floats, and volume of different objects.
      Things to Remember: Consciously or subconsciously, we are always acting as our child’s teacher.