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7 Tips to Successfully Introduce the New Puppy to Your Young Children

Came across this gem today as I was posting articles to Pinterest. As a dog owner and advocate of the family pet, I really liked how the author talked about meeting the dog’s needs as well as the kids’ benefit to helping with the new pet, like reading books, keeping the area free of debris, taking turns, assigning chores, etc. I read lots of good articles about this topic but this one jumped out at me as one that really thoughtfully summed up the steps to take and the reality of having puppies and kids.

Enjoy,

Katherine

 

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8 Tips for Step Parents

Good Afternoon,

I believe I have the two BEST step-parents in the entire world.  It absolutely goes without question that I am their child and they love me as if I were their own.  It has not been easy or fun at times, but the hard work and commitment to our family and to each other has been 100% worth it.

Let me make clear the statement, “not easy or fun”.  I was not easy or fun.  The truth is that I was rotten.  I pulled out all the stops when it came to bad behavior.  My parents both remarried the same year and in a matter of months I went from being the oldest child to the third at my mom’s house and the oldest at my dad’s house, with a step-mom who had no kids and had never been married.  It was a little rough.

Let’s fast forward a few years and get to the part where we are a happy family.  Most importantly, I’d like to explain how we got here.  As I mentioned, it wasn’t easy and it took several years, almost 10, to patch up the old hurtful feelings and move on.

The list I have compiled contains the most important aspects of bringing a family with step-parents together.  Read it, digest it, and use the strategies offered.

1.  Time.  It is unrealistic to build a solid relationship or to patch up the past quickly.

2.  Communication.  I believe communication is the key to successful relationships in families and otherwise.  Talk it out, share your feelings, listen to others, and match your body language to your words.  Be explicit and clear with your words and motions.

3.  Plan.  Whether it’s moving in, talking to the kids about marriage, changing the rules, or anything else, thinking ahead and making a plan of action will relieve lots of stress in the moment.  Family meetings are a great way to get everyone on board and committed to the plan going forward.

4.  Be Flexible.  Taking things one step at a time will help to reduce hurt feelings and push-back regarding a new plan.  If things don’t go well the first time, re-evaluate and try again.  Assess the situation from your families’ perspectives and needs and go from there.

5.  The Other Parent.  Be respectful of your child’s other parent.  Talk about them in a neutral or positive light in the presence of your child.  Do not argue, bicker, or bring up old baggage out of respect for your child and the relationship they have with that parent.

6.  Collaborate.  The most important member of your team is your child.  The other members of that team need to collaborate in order for your child to succeed.  Make that happen.  Extend an olive branch to grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, ex-spouses, etc.  Put your pride aside and do what’s right for your child.

7.  Commit.  It takes a huge commitment of time, effort, and heart to make it work.  Juggling all the components listed above while living it day-to-day is difficult.  Commit to your kid, commit to yourself, commit to your partner, and focus on the future of your new family.

8.  Goals.  Set some guidelines and goals to help you along the way.  Make a plan of action and go for it.  Start small and take baby steps in the beginning.  Personal, couple, and family goals are all good components that help keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

Looking back on the first few years as a new family and knowing where we are now, I never thought it possible.  I look back on the time spent trudging through the mud together and think of how awful it felt in the moment.  How angry I was, the horrible things I said and did, and the silent treatments I thought would really work.  Thankfully they didn’t work.  We were in it together and we stayed in it together.

Image  My step dad and dad walking me down the aisle.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Living with Celiac Disease

Good Afternoon,
Today I bring you a guest post from a dear friend living with celiac disease.  She is very involved within the celiac community and has great suggestions as well as product recommendations.  A big thank you to Katie and her family for sharing their experiences and wisdom.

I am a mother that has celiac disease, and I am raising two young boys who at this time do not have celiac disease.  Of course, I realize that it may come on at any stage of their lives.  I was diagnosed with celiac disease 7 years ago and for the last 3 years I have been the VP of Programs for the Denver Celiac Sprue Association.  This has resulted in my planning all of our chapter meetings, gluten-free picnics, and I am the person in charge of the Incredible, Edible Gluten-Free Food Fairs that we put on in Denver each year.  The Denver CSA has a membership of over 700, so I am always around people with Celiac Disease, people living with gluten intolerance, or talking with parents of children with celiac disease.  With my experiences, I know how hard it can be to have the disease.  I believe it would be even harder to have a child that is the only one in the family with the disease.  I am always happy to help, if I can, with your situation.  My e-mail address is vpprograms@denverceliacs.org

Personal experience and tricks to dealing with celiac disease while raising kids 

  • I need to eat gluten-free but my husband and children do not.  We do picnics at the parks often and I have noticed that I have gotten sick more often lately.  The only thing I can think of is that I am feeding my kids wheat at the same time that I am eating my gluten-free lunch.  I have started waiting to eat until after I am done feeding them and have felt a lot better lately.
  • Initially it was difficult dealing with this much gluten on a daily basis but I have gotten used to it at this point.  I always just make sure to make the gluten-free meal first and then deal with the wheat separately.
  • If we make cookies, cakes, muffins, pizzas, etc. I always make them gluten-free so I can eat these treats with my family – we do not even have regular flour at our house anymore.  It makes it easier than making two of everything and I have worked at it and found recipes that everyone likes now.
  • There are so many great gluten-free products on the market now days that it makes things a lot easier.  Some of my very favorites are Rudi’s and Udi’s breads, Pamela’s Pancake Mix, Tinkyada pasta, Schar USA products (can be found at Walmart), Chex cereal, and Think Thin protein barsThe Last Crumb Bakery has amazing gluten-free flour called Cheatin Wheat that I have used for several years with all of my favorite recipes and it works great!
  • It is always great to have support so if you have not already, look at joining the Denver Celiac Sprue Association. We have events throughout the year and it is fun to talk with others going through the same things that you are.

    6th Annual Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food Fair™

  • If you are a parent of a child with Celiac Disease, the Denver Celiac Sprue Association also has Cel-Kids and Cel-Teens group that puts on gluten-free events for the kids.  Check out the website for more info

Lots of families share Katie’s story and are living with Celiac disease or have a gluten-free diet.  If you have questions, please contact me through this blog or leave a comment below. 

If you know someone who is living gluten-free please share this blog with them. 

Good Luck,

Katherine

Ways to Foster Honesty through Conversation

Listen to your kids

Listen to your kids (Photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi)

Good Afternoon and Happy Halloween,

So many newsworthy events have been happening lately.  The East Coast weather is on everyone’s mind, the elections are in their final days, and the holidays are just around the corner.  These three things don’t usually have much in common, but as I started thinking about this week’s post all three came to mind for the same reason: talking to your kids honestly.  There are numerous situations where you just wish your kids would stop asking questions, or you hope that they don’t notice something, or you thought they had forgotten about a certain topic.  Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.  Today I would like to offer strategies that help you talk to your kids in a comfortable way when you are in an uncomfortable situation.

Communication During a Crisis

The goal of communication during a crisis situation is get the most information out with the least amount of effort.  There are dozens of different types of crisis situations.  You may have time to prepare and plan, or you may have to act at a moment’s notice.  Being mentally prepared can help in all crisis situations.

  • Talk in an assertive but non-threatening way using the simplest words possible.
  • Keep your voice at the lowest volume possible when giving directions.
  • Give directions in short clips instead of a long train.
  • Give information about the situation that is honest and to the point.
  • Allow your kids to tell you their feelings and ask questions, if there is time.
  • Identify with their emotions in yourself, “I am also feeling scared.”
  • Give them honest reassurance.
  • Model behavior that shows leadership and logic

Communication about Adult Matters

Kids are smart and curious.  They want to know about the goings-on in their parents lives.  Over the past several months there has been lots of conversations about the elections, the economy, women’s rights, finances, health care, etc.  Kids are barraged with ads on TV, mail at the house, conversations they overhear, and billboards all over town.  It is not surprising to me that they are interested and curious to know more about these topics.

  • Decide what information is appropriate for your child to know.
  • Allow them to ask questions in an environment that is non-judgmental and honest.
  • Allow them to have opinions that differ from yours.
  • Ask them follow up questions to further the conversation.
  • Talk about adult topics in simple ways.
  • Relate information back to their personal experiences like earning an allowance, being sick and seeking medical care, incentives that are important to them, etc.
  • Talk to them about what it means to be president and how our country is different from other countries in this way.
  • Encourage conversations about character and what it means to be a leader.
  • Practice the, “no thanks,” conversation to have with phone and door-to-door solicitors.

Communication around the Holidays

Holiday time is usually very stressful.  Tension and anxiety are high, positive communication breaks down and behavior tends to follow.  Lots of families have had a tough year financially.  Hosting guests for the holidays and the spirit of giving can add to the feeling of being overwhelmed.  Having a plan in place to talk to your kids about these things now can save you time and frustration later.

  • Talk to them about budgets and money.
  • Reinforce behavior with conversations and reminders of expectations.
  • Practice conversation starters to use with guests as well as follow-up questions.
  • Practice honest ways to show appreciation towards others, especially in uncomfortable situations.
  • If you give to charities, talk to your kids about why you choose that charity and why it is important to give to others.
  • Start conversations about family traditions, what they mean, and how they got started.

Building a relationship with your kids that is both open and honest is a huge job.  What it boils down to is showing what honesty looks like through your actions towards them and others.  Kids are going to ask lots of questions either way, having those questions directed towards you is the goal.

I would love to hear from you! 

  1. How do you teach your kids about honesty?
  2. What are some situations where you felt you did or did not handle the conversation correctly?
  3. How do you mentally prepare for uncomfortable conversations?

Also, I have started an account on Pinterest just for my readers.  I invite you to check it out and follow me as I add helpful pins for all areas of parenting.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Playing with a Purpose

Good Afternoon,

A few weeks ago the family for whom I nanny asked me to start incorporating more academics into our daily routine.  Their daughter, who just turned 4, is really starting to get excited about reading, writing, and general academic concepts.  Although I have been sneaking in academics all along the way, this request really got me thinking about how to add more focused learning into casual play.

I have concluded that you don’t have to change the type of play, just your focus.  I love Pinterest especially for all the amazing ideas people put up for specific learning techniques.  There are tons of ways to introduce math, reading, and writing concepts to your child and people keep inventing more each day.  I also love that parents can go to a website and access lots of these ideas the instant they are stuck or need more strategies to help their child.  Never before have so many wonderful and unique ideas been at our fingertips.  But I am left asking why?  Parents can easily add academics into everyday life without spending money, and even without referring to a website like Pinterest for ideas.  Here’s how.

Focused play is the idea that you are introducing or teaching concepts through casual play with your child.  You don’t have to get super creative or spend lots of time, energy, or money inventing new ways to learn common concepts.

Steps in Focused Play

  • Before engaging in play with your child, set a goal or concept you would like to focus on.  It is much easier if your choose a very specific goal or concept.
  • Communicate with your child that you would like to work on _____.  “While we play with these blocks I want to work on counting.”  This reinforces the goal for you and introduces the concept to your child.
  • While playing ask age/level appropriate questions related to your goal.  “How many blocks do you have in your hand?” or “How many purple blocks are on the table?”  Keep the questions focused and relate them back to your goal or concept.
  • Keep a mental note of how your child does.  Does your child understand your questions?  Do they know how to respond correctly?  Are they responding with the correct answer?  Are there areas that could use some extra work?
  • Don’t force focused play.  I believe that we achieve the best learning when a child is ready, willing, and able to learn.  If they are not interested in what you are trying to introduce, take a break and try again another day.
  • Always praise your child for trying, participating, or accomplishing the goal.  This will earn you points towards another focused play time later as well as make your child feel like they did a good job.
  • Match concepts with those being covered in school.  This will give your child a double dose of the same ideas and allow them to learn in different settings, from different people, and in new ways.

Parents know what activities and toys their children love.  Use that to your advantage and make up new games and ways to play with the same favorites.  Lots of times this is fun for the child and the parent!

How do you incorporate news ways to learn into everyday play?  Chime in below with your ideas.  Have questions specific to your family or situation?  Ask away!  Questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas are always welcome. 

For more great ideas on focused play, check out these links:

Incentives
Displaying Kids Artwork

Improving Academic Skills

20 Indoor Activities for Kids

Good Luck,

Katherine

 

Working Out with Children (Guest Post)

Good Afternoon,

Today I feature a friend of mine as my first guest poster!  Leslie St. Louis has some great first-hand experience as well as some strategies for getting back into shape or starting a new workout routine post-baby.

On a beautiful Colorado fall day,  I gracefully bound up the rugged trail, leaves crunching satisfyingly, my ponytail bobbing jauntily. Meanwhile my two precious toddler daughters are holding hands, grinning from ear to ear —  too satisfied to even make a sound.

And if you believe that, I have some great nutritional and cleaning supplies to tell you about too!

Before kids, this is the scene I envisioned that justified plunking down way too much money for a super-duper, highly-recommended running stroller. As with nearly everything in parenting, the reality was far different than the dream. Instead, I have finally come to accept that I paid nearly $500 for a water bottle carrier or large diaper bag holder.
I’ve tried Stroller Strides: Yes, I did get a workout, but it was the upper body kind from holding my daughters and pushing the stroller, attempting to catch them as they jumped out, strapping them in while they threw a fit, or picking them up again and again and again.
I’ve tried bribery: How many times can I run around this lake while tossing in various treats and toys and reminding them that if they are good we can go to the park? One and a half times, it turns out. But on the upside, that last half lap of screaming is always the fastest!
I’ve tried peer pressure: I entered three “stroller friendly” races. The stroller is always fine, it’s just the children inside. Last fall, I even did Run the Rocks with friends who also brought their children. Pushing the double stroller, I knew I had made a mistake after we depleted all snacks and stopped for two side-of-the-road diaper changes within the first 10 minutes.
In the past, when I’ve thought about all my stroller troubles, I always tended to blame myself or wonder what was wrong with my children. Lately, I have come to realize my girls are just a lot like me – they would rather be moving than sitting.
I’ve also come to realize that while there are times I can integrate my children into my workouts, I need to find ways to stay fit on my own. A few things that have helped me:

Pick a Goal
Last summer, a few friends invited me to do the Dirty Girl Mud Run with them. Knowing that I needed to be able to run 3 miles and complete mud-laden obstacles along the way was motivation to find ways to stick with a workout program.  Without this goal I don’t think I would have looked into the child care at my gym, bought a workout deal off groupon or researched bootcamp groups on meetup.com. When I felt too busy or too tired, the reality of my goal helped keep me going.

·         Carve out a few nights a week, stick with it and don’t feel guilty
After signing up for the Dirty Girl, I found a twice-a-week bootcamp that was at a time that worked for my husband to be home. I committed to that class and tried to never_ever_miss.  Even if the house was a mess. Even if one of the girls was cranky. Unless there was a dire circumstance, I tried to assure myself the household would survive if I left for two one hour classes a week. Sure enough, after a few weeks these classes became part of our schedule, and I always felt better knowing I would have those times to reclaim my fitness (and sanity) each week.

·         Find Support
Once you have a goal, there IS a lot of support out there to help you succeed. First, look to your friends and family. After signing up for the Dirty Girl, I found that many of my mom friends faced the same dilemma as me – it is really really hard to actually workout with your children! We started finding parks that had trails nearby and switching off. Some places that tended to work well:

Red Rocks Amphitheater – We would bring picnic lunches and rotate playing and supervising children, then running the stairs for 10-15 minutes at a time. We also used the stair climb up as exercise (see pics).

Clement Park – kiddos play at the park, while moms switch off running around the lake

Home playdates – pick a house and bring a lunch. Children play while one or two moms go for a 20-30 minute run or workout

Besides family and your current friends, some other places to find support (and make new friends in the process):
Meetup groups – ex.  Littleton Playdate Exchange and Active Mammas and Mammas-to-be Denver Club.

Local businesses – the Boulder Running Company has many weekly bootcamps, speed classes or group runs. Most are free or only a few dollars.

Facebook Groups – While both of these are obstacle racing groups, there is lots of mom support on each! Spartan Chicked and Colorado Obstacle Racers.

·         Finally, remember that being a mom is an asset!
Recently, when I was perusing the Spartan Chicked Facebook page,  I read this post:

“Spartan my ass. Not today I’m not. I have 4 loads of laundry in the living room, cheerios all over the floor, dishes that need to be put away, my carport and back porch are covered in consignment and “yard sale” crap, twins with runny noses and a 3 year old who vapor rubbed all her dolls which I still haven’t washed, and my shirt is on inside out. For $119.00 plus an insurance waiver you can come to my house and I’ll give you 3 hours of obstacles, strength, agility, tears, laughter and a boatload of drool….the elite heat starts at 7am.”

There were over 120 likes and I was one of them!

In the past, I often felt bad about buying an expensive stroller we didn’t use or failing to find the magic combination of running with my children. Once I finally gave myself permission to stop trying to get a great workout with my kids, we were all much, much happier.
In obstacle racing, I am often asked to carry barrels of rocks or flip over a giant tire. These tasks are never a problem for me! Compared to juggling two temper-tantrum-throwing toddlers and navigating a shopping cart through the parking lot, doing these obstacles or hauling a concrete slab up a hill is actually pretty easy.
Even when things get messy, loud or downright embarrassing, I try to remember that if I am a mom, I am already “training” every day!

BIO:
Leslie St. Louis lives in Morrison, is married to Tom and has two young daughters, Lucy and Sky, ages three and four. Leslie started obstacle racing in 2011, about a year after her second daughter was born. She was surprised to find she was pretty good at it, and enjoyed the competition. “So much of my energy in my past profession as a teacher, and especially in my current one as a mom, was spent helping and nurturing others,” she said. “Within obstacle racing, I felt I finally had “permission” to be competitive…and within a really friendly community of other athletes too!”

Since her first race, she has lost over 15 pounds, been ranked in the Top 10 point earners among Spartan racers, and competed in five other obstacle races, coming in 3rd in the Colorado Spartan Sprint elite heat, 6th in the Utah Spartan Beast elite heat, 1st in the Rugged Maniac elite heat, 4th in the Survivor Mud Run and 4th in the Warrior Dash. Her two daughters have also joined in on the fun, participating in the Kids’ Rugged Maniac and Spartan Races. According to Leslie’s girls, they win every race!

Leslie just started a community website and facebook page, Colorado Obstacle Racers, where you can find event schedules, pictures, deals, racer reviews, racer stories, trainer tips and workouts. It also a place where local racers (and moms) can connect!

How are you getting back into shape?  Have tips and tricks that you want to add?  Please use the comment section below.  Thanks to Leslie for lots of great information.  If you enjoyed this post please pass it along to your friends. 

Good Luck,

Katherine