My Peaceful Christmas Season

christmas nativity

I turned my shopping cart down the aisle in the big box craft store and felt tension immediately creeping into my neck.  It was September and I was staring at trees, lights, ornaments and wrapping paper in an explosion of green and red.  That tension was a sign that I was bracing myself for the stress that usually overcomes overs me in regards to the holiday season.  Only this year it was already starting in September.  The stress was also known as Christmas.

The holiday season is often a silent scream that is aimed at adults, often times moms who seem to often orchestrate the magic that surrounds the holidays.  TV commercials, Facebook event reminders, school events all become reminders of the traditions and magic that should be created each year.  As a mother and wife I took that responsibility on, to make the season magical for my loved ones.  Pinterest and Instagram brought the expectations to a whole new level these past few years.

christmas

I can sit and reflect on past years where gifts, stockings, hosting parties, decorating the home, taking the perfect photos, all left me feeling empty and breathing a sigh of relief on the December 26.  But this year as I sat at a recent MOPS meeting, watching a video about this exact stress, I decided that this year Christmas would be different.

Christmas is about love coming down to Earth.  It is the story about a mother and her baby.  In particular I am reminded of the verse “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke, 2:19).  I look at my three beloved children and am reminded every day of how quickly they are growing.  About how limited my time of actually having them under my roof really is.  It is all fleeting moments and I am determined to not let the stress take over my holidays anymore.  Instead I have made a conscious decision to limit our commitments, and choose family and quality time this season.

nativity

My husband and I have decided to focus on three festive events this Christmas season.  Beyond that we are not stressing about fitting everything else in.  If we can squeeze in a few extra events, great!  If not, no big deal.  We actually took out our calendars over Thanksgiving and scheduled in activities to make sure that time was blocked out.

meadowlark

For our family, the first event we chose was experiencing the lights at Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, Virginia.  This spectacular display of holiday lights that you can walk through has been on my list of things to do for 10 years now.  By strategically planning our time we were able to accomplish this event and were lucky enough to pair it with a visit with great friends.

meadowlark

If you are planning on going to Meadowlark make sure to go online and purchase your tickets earlier in the week.  The time slots do sell out on the weekend.  There are often discounts offered weekdays through Certifikid or their Facebook page.  Dress warm as you will be outside for an hour or so.  We brought the stroller which worked well for our 17 month old.  Even though it was 7, his bedtime, he was so distracted by the beautiful lights that he was fine.  At the end there is a stand to purchase hot cocoa, smores supplies to roast by the fire, and popcorn.  If you are looking for a good quick dinner before or after, try Church Street Pizza.  It’s delicious, in particular their white pizza and meat lovers.

How do you manage the holiday stress?  Are you starting any new traditions this year?

 

Continue Reading

Flying with Baby: What to Pack in Your Carry On

flying with baby

 

With the holidays upon us, traveling is inevitable.  And traveling with a baby, especially flying, is tricky.  But traveling light with a baby, hahaha, it doesn’t exist.  There are extra car seats, strollers, luggage, possibly a pack and play.

However you can still maintain some sense of packing light when it comes to your carry on.  Gone are the days when you could go for a two-week trip in Europe with only your backpack,. Just embrace the fact that if you can get all essential baby items in a backpack you are golden.  This does take a little planning, a little practice, and some trial and error.

WHAT DO I PACK IN THIS SUPER IMPORTANT BAG?

Lucky or unlucky, I have flown a lot with kids during these last 12 years.  I find a backpack to be the most practical bag to use, and I have actually had the same REI bag since 2006!  It is our designated travel type diaper bag, as it leaves our hands free and fits nicely under the seat in the airplane.  Th.ere are lots of pockets and has worked well even when carrying my baby in the ErgoBaby.

ITEMS FOR COMFORT:

  1.  Swaddle blanket-  These are perfect for keeping baby warm, wiping spit up, as a scarf for mom, and as a cover for nursing.  They are super lightweight so is definitely a space saver.
  2. Small toys-  Toy keys, a music toy like the baby Einstein music box, Sophie the Giraffe, some stuffed animals, or any other special lovey.  It is a good idea to have some variety to keep your baby well entertained for the flight.
  3. Pacifier and clip-  Go ahead and bring several pacifiers, even if your baby is not the biggest fan.  It is a good idea to have the pacifier attached to a clip so that it won’t fly out of their mouth and fall onto the dirty airplane floor.  They easily could roll under a seat to never be seen again!
  4. Dropper Stopper-  This is a smart idea I wish i had years ago with my first two children.  attach it to any toy your baby is playing with, and then strap it to your wrist so that you are not bending down every 5 seconds to pick the toy up off the floor.
  5. Extra clothes-  Do not attempt to fly without some extra clothing in your bag.  One piece jammies are a great option because they take up less room, keep their feet warm, are easy to change a diaper in that teeny tiny airplane bathroom.  It may even be worth it to stash two pairs in there. You will be amazed at the messes that can occur when traveling.

 

DIAPERING ESSENTIALS:

      

 

  1.  Diapers Pack alot of diapers, more than you think you will need.  A good rule to follow is about 1/2 times as many as you think.  It is always better to have more than you need.
  2. Travel wipes case–  I like the one from Huggies, but there are several on the market.  It is easy to refill, is small and thin, and has a great strap that can attach anywhere.
  3. Diaper rash cream–  We ran into a big problem years ago after a long flight to Alaska, and my baby had the worst rash.  We had to run around through the airport trying to find diaper rash cream before almost missing our next flight.  Find a travel size and toss that in your bag.
  4. Diaper wet bag–  These are great to put a dirty diaper in, wet or soiled clothes, and can also be used for wet bathing suits once you get to your destination.  I like the type with two sections, as it can easily be brought with you to change a diaper with a clean and dirty section in the bag.

FEEDING:

  1. Bib– I personally like the silicone bibs that can easily be wiped and cleaned up.  Just make sure your baby does not have an allergy towards it, as my youngest child did for several months.  This one bib will last you the entire trip since there is no need to throw it in the washing machine.
  2. Spoon with travel case–  A spoon with a case is great when you can’t get to a sink to wash it during the flight.  Honestly a plastic baggie would work just as well, but this is a cute option.
  3. Bottle-  If you are formula feeding, go ahead and prefill with the amount of water you will need.  TSA will just need you to take the bottle out and run an extra test on it.  You can also ask the flight attendant  for a small bottle of water as soon as you board, so that it is ready when you need it later on.
  4. Formula dispenser – This is extremely useful when trying to make a bottle mid flight.
  5. Squeeze pouch baby food-  these are the ultimate in convenience and don’t know how I lived without them while my first two were little.  They make eating on a plane so much easier, just make sure it doesnt’ explode when you open it.
  6. Puffs-  The entire container may take up too much room, so go ahead a fill a smaller container with the puffs.
  7. Wet Ones-  The antibacterial wipes are good for cleaning the tray table, seats, arm rests, and anything else.  The sensitive skin ones are good for items like toys that will end up in your baby’s mouth.
  8. Infant Tylenol- You just never know when fever is going to strike.  Keep it in a baggie so that it can be removed while going through security.

MOM ITEMS:

  1. Earbuds-  You may get lucky and your baby falls asleep for a while.  Go ahead and try to watch some of that movie, listen to music, or even an audio book.
  2. Phone-  This seems like a given nowadays, but make sure you have some books and magazines downloaded on there as well.
  3. Wallet-  Another essential, make sure you have it tucked somewhere you can easily reach.
  4. Shout wipes–  There is no doubt that babies are messy, and these little wipes are great for getting out stains.
  5. Baby birth certificate copy-  It is not a bad idea to keep a copy of the birth certificate in your bag in case the airline requests to see one in regards to the age of a lap baby.
  6. Extra t-shirt-  If you have extra room toss a shirt in your bag.  Babies get sick, throw up happens, and it’s usually on mom.

Happy Travels this holiday season.  What do you travel with?  Have I forgotten any essential items?

 

 

Continue Reading

Video Games to Help Improve Executive Functioning

video games

A little extra screen time spent on video games can actually help improve executive functioning in children with ADHD.  The following post contains some of the best choices in gaming for your child.

Executive function, the skills we need to plan, organize, and regulate behavior, can naturally be developed by the use of games.

video games

Go and Play Your Video Games!

Honestly in the past this was something I would NEVER say to my children.  But then I started looking at what was the allure of video games? Why do children with ADHD seem to love video games, to the point of missing meals and not going to the bathroom?  The utter concentration employed during the game, the ability to fail at a task and keep trying until they beat that level.

Games contain the ideal ingredient for motivation.  They are attractive, take a realistic amount of energy and the chance of success are good. The feedback is immediate as are cognitive rewards. So then I wondered, How can this  translate to completing homework for students with executive functioning difficulties?

As kids work through levels of the game, they learn what mistakes they made and to not do them again.  They know the goal, or endgame.  The child needs to develop their own strategy to beat the level, and they receive immediate feedback.

When it comes to homework, the resistance for some children with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties may be the lack of clear short-term goals with purposeful objectives. There is an absence of immediate feedback and reinforcement.

super mario bros wii

 

Video games such as Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii help to exercise working memory skills, one of the key executive functions.

zelda

 

Legend of Zelda

Players attempt to save kingdoms, battle monsters and follow a story line. They use flexible thinking, planning and working memory skills as they navigate the game. They need to solve puzzles, learn how to master swordplay and deal with other characters. All of this goes on with distractions in the background.

minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft is a video game that your child can customize. Players must figure out ways to use virtual blocks to build communities. They also must mine the materials they need to make tools, food, clothing and whatever else they need to sustain their environment. Multiple modes of game play give players a chance to see how different plans pan out. If one doesn’t work, players can rebuild from scratch.

 

portal 2

 Portal

Portal is set in a 3D world called Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Players work together to get around obstacles that keep characters from getting out of Aperture. Tasks get harder as players improve. They range from putting an object in the right place in order to open a door, to getting through multiple portals in a short time. Schools often use Portal 2 because it’s a fun way to think about spatial reasoning and basic physics.

scribblenauts

 Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is much less action packed than some other video games. But it uses critical reasoning in a unique way. Players have to solve the spatially oriented obstacles the hero encounters as he goes through the levels. And they do it by literally writing the solution and having it appear. Players can write simple things, such as “ropes.” Or they can write crazier things, such as “Yeti the snowman-like creature on a lawnmower.

 

sim city

SimCity

The object of SimCity and SimCity Creator is to build a civilization from the ground up. Players have to plan and anticipate what the city will need as it evolves. A society that begins with hunters can quickly grow into one that needs factories and school. Players need to know zoning laws and municipal codes as they build. They also must use problem-solving skills to find ways to meet the challenges of supply and demand.

Computer Games

There are a number of computer games thought to help develop certain specific brain functions such as memory and attention. Here are some online sources of “brain games” to consider:

Fit Brains

Lumosity

Managing fantasy sports teams requires executive skills, along with task initiation and time management.

OVER TO YOU

Does your child struggle with executive functioning? Do they love video games?  What are you thoughts on the topic, I would love to hear.

ENJOYED THIS POST?

I send out blogs like this often, offering my expertise and useful tips for parents about all things related to child learning, ADHD,  reading instruction.  and the occasional recipe or DIY project.

If you sign up for my email updates, I’ll send exclusive content straight to your inbox!

P.S. PASS IT ON

Like this post? Share the love and send this to a friend who might enjoy it too!

 

Continue Reading

Why is my child so Angry? ADHD and anger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a child or student who can get angry, frustrated, or even explosive? Maybe they often need help calming down.  Children with ADHD can have frequent meltdowns and need lots of help and coaching to get back on track. I am super excited about the download I have created and am ready to share with you.   From many years of teaching children with special needs, and parenting three children, I have gathered 10 tips and resources to help calm the angry child.

[emaillocker id=”212″] [/emaillocker]

 

ARMED WITH KNOWLEDGE

I really believe in trying to be proactive before big problems arise.  This means becoming better at catching the “build up” or knowing what the “triggers” are for that child.  It is best to be educated as a caregiver and have concrete strategies you can easily put in place.  This download can be hung up in your kitchen, classroom, anywhere that allows you to glance quickly and remind yourself of some things to help.  This can be hard in the heat of an argument.

Below is a resource which may be helpful to some of you.

 

The Explosive Child by Ross W Greene

 

Remember that outbursts are always the result of the child needing something. The reasons vary and there are many layers involved with teaching and parenting an angry child.

 

Continue Reading

Homework Help for the ADHD Child- Part 2

Starting homework

Getting any child to start homework can be hard, but getting a child with ADHD to start can sometimes seem impossible.  They may be wanting to play video games, watch TV, run around outside, but at some point they need to start.  Try to ask the question “What do you hope to accomplish today?”  instead of “You need to start now.”  Question 1 requires an actual answer and is constructive, where as question 2 can easily be answered with “No”, and a possible tantrum.

Ask leading questions that force your child to think about the big picture and problem solve.  Asking “Did you study for tomorrow’s test?” may very well lead to a fight.  Instead you can ask “What should we do first to get ready for tomorrow’s test?”  Or you may ask “What events this week might get in our way of studying and homework?”  This forces them to use executive functioning and plan out their time.

Time Management

Kids with ADHD have alot of trouble estimating time. They may think it will only take them 15 minutes to get ready in the morning, where in reality it can take closer to an hour.  How many mornings are spent screaming hurry up when the grown up realizes they are going to miss the bus, but they think they’ve got it all under control?

It is a good idea once they finish the task at home, regardless of how long it took, to actually discuss with them the length of time.  Then discuss what were the events that caused slow downs and strategies to help minimize those the next time.

     The long term assignment

It’s only a matter of time before the first long term assignment for school comes home.  Again this can be challenging due to the organization and time management required to be successful.  The key is to help your child break down the assignment into manageable chunks.  A tangible reward such as several Pokemon cards at each milestone can help turn abstract time management into something concrete.

 

Talk with your child

The biggest thing to remember is that you are on the same side as your child, remind them of that.  You are not the enemy and you really do want them to succeed.  Help them to put words to their feelings.  If you notice they are very frustrated doing math homework, you can say “I see you are getting frustrated while trying to figure that out.  What can I do to help you?”  You may get screamed at, but try your best to keep your cool.  Sometimes just your physical presence is enough for them to know you care.

For more ADHD resources see ADHD and the new school yearADHD 504 PlanHomework Help Part 1

Continue Reading

The Ultimate Fall Lactation Cookies

Honestly I didn’t think I would be eating lactation cookies 13 months into my third baby’s life!  I’ve been going back and forth about when to wean.  But this past weekend he came down with a fever, a really really high fever.  Like 103.9.  He didn’t want to eat.  Would not drink water.  And was so lethargic.  But he would nurse, and nurse, and nurse.  And to quote my dear friend it was “Nursing for the win!”.  I knew he was getting nutrients and staying hydrating so it helped me to worry a little bit less.

However the problem was that my supply of milk had really diminished during the last couple months as nursing sessions decreased.  So my body was trying to keep up with the sudden demand, and I was struggling.  So I dug up my favorite lactation cookie recipe, and gave it the perfect fall boost.  Pumpkin and chocolate.  I also threw some all spice and cinnamon to really kick it up a few notches.  Honestly I had never tried this combination in a cookie until last fall.  My friend made the most amazing cookies that I seriously hoarded in my bedroom and wouldn’t share with my kids.  Or my husband.

The great thing about my recipe is that they are actually pretty healthy for you.  And it makes a really large batch so it actually lasts a couple days in my cookie loving household.  I actually encourage my kids to eat them since they have a pretty great nutritional punch.

Don’t worry, the milk ingredients won’t affect the other people who eat them.  But they will help a nursing mama.  I usually eat three the first day, then 2 each day after and then magic, milk supply increases!

 

The milk enhancing ingredients are Brewer’s yeast, flaxseed, and fenugreek.  All of these items can locally be found at Wegman’s or MOMS Organic.   They can also easily be ordered from Amazon.  You can usually find flaxseed and fenugreek at places like Walmart, Target, local food store.  The oats in the recipe are also an ingredient to help milk supply, so having all 4 in one recipe should be golden.

So go ahead and make some for your family, yourself if you’re nursing, or a a new mama who needs a special treat.  Experiment with different add ins such as nuts, chia seeds, spices, let me know how they turn out.

Make sure to Pin this recipe so it doesn’t get lost in cyber space.  Pinterest seems to be the only way I can keep track of awesome new recipes I want to try.

 

Print

Pumpkin chocolate chip Lactation Cookies

These work!  These lactation cookies really help boost your milk supply thanks to key ingredients.  They are freezer friendly, delicious, and a breastfeeding mama's best friend.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 36 cookies
Author Nicole

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brewer's yeast (main ingredient for milk production)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 8 capsules fenugreek empty and discard capsules
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla or orange extract
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

    2. Mix flaxseed meal and water; set aside

    3.  Stir together flour, brewer's yeast, salt, baking soda, fenugreek, chia seeds, all spice and cinnamon, set aside.

    4.  Blend coconut oil, sugars, and pumpkin puree well.  Blend in eggs.  Stir in flaxseed mixture and vanilla, mix well.

    5.  Add dry mixture.  Mix until combined.  Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

    6.  Scoop 2 Tbsp of dough, 1 to 2 inches apart on a silicone lined baking sheet.  You may want to flatten dough slightly.

    7.  Bake for 9 to 10 minutes.

    8.  Once cooled wrap in plastic wrap and place in container in the freezer.  Eat at least 2 cookies the first day, and one each day afterwards.  They can be rewarmed quickly in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

*Recipe altered from Dinnernowdessertlater.com

Warning: Consult with your doctor before making and eating this recipe.  Discontinue use and consult with doctor if there are adverse reactions.

 

Continue Reading

Ten lessons learned about parenting in Northern Virginia

  1. There will be traffic.  For real, there is traffic ALL THE TIME.  Ask anyone about their first impression of the area and they talk about the traffic.  But here’s the thing, you get used to it.  For me it took a couple years, but I did and found ways around it.  Regardless of how close a playdate or activity may seem, give yourself an hour.  I’m not kidding, it could be three miles away and take close to 45 minutes.  It helps to avoid rush hour, which around here is like 6 hours.  That means roughly 6:30-9:30 am, and 3:30-6:30 pm.

2.  Number two kind of goes with number one, but it is to make the WAZE app your best friend.  Download it now onto your phone and never leave home without it.  If you have never used it, I swear it is genious.  It is like a crowd sourced, real time traffic, program to give you directions to your destination.  There will be several route options, toll options, time estimates, accident updates, pretty much everything you could think of.  So go download it now, and start using it!

3.  There is so much history around that it is almost hard to not see a historical marker on a drive or hike.  We are so fortunate to live in a state that has places such as  Old Town Alexandria, Mt. Vernon, Fredericksburg, and Manassas just to name a few.  There are tons of great sites and attractions in these locations, but a quick tour of any local area will leave you with a history lesson and probably an opportunity to walk where George Washington may have been.  Case in point, our first rental house in Lorton was across the street from the Pohick Church where George Washington used to attend services.  How cool!

4.  There will be allergies, and lots of them.  Even if you are someone who has never suffered, I would say start the allergy medicine and buy some tissues.  Some people say you get a free pass your first year here, but everyone I know seems to be pretty miserable at various points throughout the year.  The glass half full take on this is that Virginia is beautiful and so many flowers, trees and shrubs bloom with the most amazing vibrant colors so get your cameras ready.

5.  You would be hard pressed to find a more patriotic place to live in the country.  Everywhere you turn there are reminders of our brave men and women who protect our country.  Flags fly proudly all year long, not just on holidays.  Our children recognize the fact that freedom often comes at the price of a deployed parent, and are proud to talk about their service member parent.  Odds are if you aren’t connected to the military, then your neighbors are and you will be there for them at the drop of a hat.

6.  There is an endless variety of activities to have your children try.  Now sometimes it’s nice to not have a crazy schedule, I’m the first to admit that.  But it’s also great to know that if your child asks to try gymnastics, or soccer, or horseback riding, that a quick Google search can locate an option that won’t be too far away (use WAZE!)

7.  The schools are pretty great.  They can be big, sometimes huge, but are pretty great.  When looking for a home near a great school, make sure to check the Virginia Department of Education site.  You are looking for the school report card section.  This quick fact sheet on each school will give you some important information when trying to figure out where you want your children to attend school.

8.  There are wineries.  Lots of them.  And there are wineries that are kid and dog friendly.  Now that’s a pretty awesome combination if you ask me.  One of my favorites is Barrel Oak Winery.  It is a pretty quick hour drive that makes you really feel like you are out in the country and can escape the hustle and bustle.  Ask for the kid scavenger hunt when you get there, this will keep the kids busy for a while.  There is plenty of space for the kids and dogs to stretch out, make noise, eat food, and overall have a great time.

9.  You will never have to pay for a museum visit if you don’t want to.  I didn’t realize how amazing this perk was until we visited Chicago and had to pay an arm and a leg to get into a pretty great museum.  That’s because we are totally spoiled with the Smithsonian Institute Museums.  There are so many options, events and exhibits that you could live here for years and still go experience something new each time.  You do have to plan whether you will drive or metro into the city.  That’s a whole other topic, but weigh the options to see what would be best for your family.

10.  There are lots of ways to connect with other mom’s, but you do need to put yourself out there.  I wasn’t so great at this 10 years ago.  But I’ve become better now that I have three kids, a husband that travels, and a dog and cat to take care of.  I really can’t do it all, believe me I try.  But I need my mom’s, even if its just for a quick chat at the bus stop.  So try to figure out one way you can connect, and come back to read some surefire ways you can start to grow your tribe.

Continue Reading