10 Apps You And Your Kids Will Love

When I was in high school I opted to learn how to type as opposed to learning how to use a computer. At the time, computers were big, clunky machines that you needed a working knowledge of HTML and codes to get much out of. “What will I ever need a computer for”, I said. “Now typing, that’s something I will always use”! Ok, ok. I was obviously not one of those people who had much vision about where the world was headed.

It’s strange to think that our children will never know a world without computers. But I suppose many of our parents thought the same thing about us and television. I’m not generally a huge fan of technology for young children and have written before about waiting until after age 3 to introduce television to our kids, but I have let them play with a few iPhone apps and now that I also have an iPad, and the kids are a little older, I’ve broadened my range of what they play with and I have to say, some of the apps out there are pretty terrific.

My Top 10 iPhone and iPad Apps for young children

Peekaboo Barn

$1.99 (although there is a very good “lite” version for free as well). This was the first app I ever tried and it was perfect for my kids when they were younger. Even at age 4, they still really enjoy it. Your kids will love opening the door of the barn with a tap and calling out the names of the animals shown (and later, reading the name as well). I also like it because the illustrations are charming. If your kids like this one, they’ll also love the other versions Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest which both have more exotic animals than the barn version. All are formatted for both iPhone and iPad.

Doodle Buddy

FREE. This app is so simple, but it entertains my children for ages. simply using your finger, you can draw with chalk or glitter, paint with a paint brush, add stamps with sound effects and drop in textured backgrounds. They’re perfectly happy using it on my iPhone, but the iPad gives you a bigger screen on which to create.

Doodle Kids

FREE. Developed for both the iPhone and iPad. This one I especially love because it was actually invented by a 9-year old boy. Crazy, I know. Each time you move your fingers across the touch-screen you are drawing using randomly sized shapes in a rainbow of colors. Triangles, dots, flowers – each time you place your finger on the screen it changes. Place two fingers and you get a different ombre color as a background on which to draw. Shake the device and the screen clears. What you can create is actually quite beautiful and hypnotizing.

The Velveteen Rabbit

$3.99. iPhone and iPad compatible. My kids and I absolutely love this one. As you may know, we’re huge reading fans in our house and The Velveteen Rabbit is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s unfortunately still a little wordy for my 4-year olds, so I was thrilled to find this app because it made this beautiful story come alive for my kids in a way I hadn’t yet been able to achieve. What’s especially wonderful about this app is that it has three ways to use it: the first is a recording of the terrific Meryl Streep reading while we watch the beautifully rendered animated drawings. The second is simply the illustrated book which you can read aloud to your child as you scroll through the pages. The third, and I thought most inventive, was the ability to record your own voice so that your children can scroll through the book and hear mommy or daddy’s voice. My children were completely captivated, even while watching it on my tiny iPhone screen. I highly recommend this one!

The Adventures of The 7Wonderlicious Girls

$5.99 For iPhone and iPad. This is an app created by a mother whose mission is to empower young girls to think beyond limits, to be self-confident, adventurous and bold, to appreciate the differences in others, to have a passion for learning and so much more. From her website: “Using role models that your daughter can identify herself with is important in early childhood. We selected 7 girls of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds enabling your girl to connect with one or many of our characters. Hopefully they will inspire the next generation of confident women.” The illustrations are sweet and colorful and each page is a stand alone short tale with questions you can ask your children to encourage their thinking process.

Spot The Dot

$3.99 iPad only. This is the newest app I’ve downloaded and it is spectacular. Not surprisingly, since it is created by David A. Carter who is a modern master of pop-up books. This app uses bright colors, geometric shapes and simple hide and seek tasks that gradually get more difficult. Plus, I love that each time you use it the hidden objects are in different places so it doesn’t get boring. My kids love this one and ask for it repeatedly. Your children will learn color identification, build memory skills and exercise their visual tracking and hand eye coordination.

Paper Town Friends

$1.99 for iPhone and iPad. If you liked paper dolls as a kid, you’ll love this charming dress-up app. 6 animal friends all in need of new wardrobes. The best part? Everything looks like it’s made of paper (as you choose an item to wear, each one even has a “paper” sound effect). It’s very simple, but both my son and daughter get a kick out of dressing and re-dressing the figures. You can also save them to your iPhone camera roll if you wish.


FREE. Without having to pay anything, downloading this app gets you 12 classic children’s stories. A recording of each book plays while words are highlighted to allow early readers to follow along. MeeGenius also has many more books which can be purchased for between 99¢ and $2.99. The developer claims to allow you to personalize the books so you can read them with the names and places changed, which I know my kids would get a kick out of. Perhaps I am a dope, but I can’t seem to get this trick to work for me. Regardless, I like the app a lot – it’s a great way to carry a bunch of books along with you if you can’t actually carry any!

Splish Splash Inn

99¢ This is a really sweet, simple app that’s perfect for little ones learning to count. Open this app and you will find a bright, happy and somewhat retro underwater hotel where a tap on each numbered door brings forth a corresponding number of sea creatures (one shark, two turtles etc.).

My First Tangrams

$1.99 (there is also a free “lite” version with 4 puzzles if you want to try that out first). iPad only. I expected my daughter to love this app because she has a real knack for puzzles, patterns and spatial relationships. But it turned out that both my kids loved this one and even whisper encouragement to each other as they try to figure out where the pieces of the puzzle go.

As my children are only 4, they do better with apps that are more about creating, reading and figuring things out as opposed to games that need them to compete with each other. These have been some of their favorites so far. What apps do your kids like? I’d love to learn about new ones!

Enjoying Every Moment

I had hoped to have time to craft a brilliant piece of writing to tide you over until after the holiday weekend, but the craziness of my week seemed to have gotten the better of me. I may not have written as much as I had hoped, but I did manage to spend more time than usual with my children and had some special one on one time this week. No matter how down or unappreciated I might feel from time to time, the shrieks of joy that accompany my offer of time alone with mommy instantly brighten my day.

ice creamOur son chose to spend our afternoon eating ice cream, shopping for every imaginable piece of clothing that had a skull and cross bones on it, going to the bookstore to read for a while and riding an old fashioned trolley (on which the conductor sweetly allowed him to twice ring the bell and call “all aboooard!” into the microphone). He was overjoyed. And frankly, so was I.

Our daughter, then decided that this sounded so great that she wanted me to duplicate the day with her. And so we did. She, too, had strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles but the trolley was on a break and we ran out of time before the bookstore (and she chose mermaids over pirates). But we had a great time talking and sharing time together without the distraction of her having to compete for attention.

I adore these two. And I am eternally gratefully for the time I get with them. Even when they drive me batty I know that I am truly lucky. And I know that there will come a time, in the not too distant future, when my son’s eyes won’t sparkle with excitement over time alone with mom and my daughter will no longer lift my hair to tell me the secret “you are the best mommy in the world”. For now, I try to drink it all in and treasure the moments I have here and now. All too soon they will be foggy memories.

So, with this in mind, I decided to take our family away for a last minute weekend trip. The four of us together for the whole weekend without classes and softball games and computers to distract us from each other. I’m sure we’ll have some not so great moments, but I plan to roll with it and just enjoy 3 days with the 3 people I love most in the world.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday weekend. I hope you are spending it with people you love. I’ll be back to writing again after the weekend. If you are able, I would so appreciate your votes over the next few days. My blog is hanging on to the 13th spot in the Top 25 Parents With Multiples blog competition – I can use all the help I can get! Many thanks to those of you who have already voted (you can vote every day until Monday)!

Go The F*ck To Sleep. Can You Relate?

Have you seen that unauthorized .pdf yet of the “children’s” book that went viral on the internet recently? Yes, it’s actually called “Go The F*ck To Sleep” and the illustrations and rhyming verse are very much like your typical children’s night time book except that a sample page reads like this:

“The wind whispers soft through the grass, hon. The field mice, they make not a peep. It’s been thirty-eight minutes already. Jesus Christ, what the fuck? Go to sleep.”

My guess is that anyone who’s tried to get a toddler to go to bed at the end of a long day can probably relate. We hopefully haven’t said it directly to our kids, but I certainly have muttered the “f word” under my breath on occasion.

This book was supposed to have a modest printing this Fall of 10,000 copies, but in the last weeks it has become such an unexpected internet sensation that the publisher is printing more than 20 times that number and pushing up the release date by 6 months.

Even the Washington Post had an article about the book a few days ago entitled ‘Go the [Expletive] to Sleep,’ a parenting zeitgeist in which the author of the book, says:

“I wrote it as a reflection of my own personal reality. I wanted to write about the way that I felt and be honest about it. … I think our generation talks so much about parenting, you almost can’t get away from it. But there’s a certain lack of honesty in a lot of it.

“A lot of people’s self-image is caught up in their desire to see themselves as good parents, anything that pierces that image is very different,”

And so I wonder, is this true? Are parents feeling that there’s a lack of honesty in the parenting information they receive? I get so much feedback from parents thanking me when I post something that is more raw and, I suppose, really honest. I think we all want to feel understood and when someone has a less than glowing feeling about any part of parenting they feel as if they must be the only one. So, I guess when someone writes “The flowers doze low in the meadows / And high on the mountains so steep. / My life is a failure, I’m a shitty-ass parent. / Stop fucking with me, please, and sleep” there are many of us that can relate.

What do you think? Have you seen the book? Do you think The Washington Post columnist is right and it is a sign of the times? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Keeping Calm When You Want To Explode

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person
and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose,
and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
~ Aristotle

This Aristotle quote is a favorite of mine, and I have often kept it in the back of my head when trying to teach my children the concepts of emotional intelligence. Like so many things about parenting (or life, in general), words are easy, but action is so much harder.

I don’t think of myself as an angry person. Generally, I feel as though I am accommodating and understanding and very empathetic. I also have noticed that I can have a hairpin trigger; on occasion my anger has surprised and, frankly, disturbed me.

I was saying to one of my sisters-in-law the other day that the aspect of parenting that most surprised me was how exposed your triggers become. Once I became a mother I began to see that there were aspects of my own childhood that I never considered to be painful or upsetting but which are suddenly scratched raw by something seemingly inconsequential that my children or husband does.

My kids were out of school for a few days the other week. By day three I found myself physically and emotionally exhausted; my patience was worn thin and I was so angry so often that both my children and I had our share of crying by the end of the day. After the kids finally went to bed, I managed to have an argument with my husband where I had such intense anger that I shocked myself (and perhaps, him as well).

Where was all of this anger coming from? Why would I get so unreasonably mad at a 4-year old over something that was completely normal for a 4-year old to do? Yes, raising twins can be exceptionally difficult at times and yes, I am aware of my low tolerance for chaos and noise, and yes, my daughter is in an exceptionally difficult “testing” phase, but the fact that she wouldn’t stop needling me while I tried for the 10th time to explain the rules of a game to her whining brother shouldn’t cause me to explode. It really shouldn’t. But it did. And I know that there is more to it than just my being tired or overwhelmed. I know this because the amount of anger I felt was disproportionate to the act committed.

So, I lay in bed this morning and I thought about my pent up anger. What am I angry about? It’s certainly not that my daughter kept interrupting me. What exactly was happening? I decided to dissect it.

  1. I asked her a few times to please wait until I was done, but I wasn’t being listened to (HUGE trigger for me from childhood).
  2. I was being pulled in two directions at once as I was trying to talk to our son, and was being distracted by our daughter who also wanted my attention. Thus, I wasn’t able to pay attention to either of them properly (being needed in two places, not able to give either my full attention for me equals not being able to do something well. This is a HUGE childhood issue for me. Interestingly, I was also triggered because by not being able to pay attention to either of them fully in that moment, I felt I wasn’t listening to them which brings up my own issues! I know….crazy).
  3. Having effective methods for handling my children’s behaviors has become a protective method I developed. The sense of satisfaction and reassurance I feel when I say or do something and they respond favorably calms me and makes me feel in control. When they don’t respond to my bag of tricks I feel lost and as if I am free falling (loss of control, HUGE childhood issue).
  4. I am sensing a pattern here.
  5. The combination of these three things increases my stress level greatly and I become flooded. When I’m flooded, I can’t think clearly and I am primarily thinking with my primitive brain. I simply react to make the stress stop. I act like an angry child. I threaten, I raise my voice, I slam a door, I throw something. Then I collapse in tears because I know this is not how I want to be. I apologize, I attempt to explain without blaming them, I ask for forgiveness and always, always receive it.
  6. I start again to try and do things better.
  7. The process starts all over.

The process starts all over again because I still have those triggers. Usually I do handle myself better, but even one time of losing it is one time too many. How do I stop the triggers from controlling me? How do I keep my patience and my calm?

When Mommy Needs A Time Out

I actually don’t believe in time outs; but I do think everyone, grownups included, needs to cool down on occasion. Here are some of the things I use to keep my sense of calm. It takes a lot of practice and I believe calming methods need to become part of an every day ritual, like meditation – especially if you are as tightly wound as I am. Many of these ideas I am teaching to my own children as the reality is, we have the exact same emotions our children do – we just have had more years of practice regulating them.

Know Your Triggers.

Dissecting your anger as I did in this instance is so helpful in understanding where your triggers are. Once you know your triggers, you can help yourself by either not putting yourself in those situations or asking for help if you can’t avoid them. If you can’t figure your triggers out yourself, ask someone you trust or a therapist for help.

Express Your Emotions.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to narrate your feelings. Way before you lose control, check in with yourself. Notice if you are getting agitated, anxious, short tempered. Verbalize this – even with your children. “Mommy is getting really frustrated right now. I feel it in my stomach, it’s getting tight. I am feeling hot, that means that I am feeling mad”. This isn’t a warning to your kids, you are simply offering this information in a descriptive tone. Just giving voice to your feelings begins to relieve some of the tension. It also helps your children begin to be able to notice where anger resides in their bodies and to then be able to express their anger in a more acceptable way.

Deep breathing.

This is an especially effective method if you get overly anxious (as I do), but it works any time your brain is flooded. Any type of deep breathing is good medicine. However, if you can learn the 6 second method it can be exponentially more helpful. Putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest, fill your belly in the first 3 seconds (letting your stomach expand), then your chest in the last 3 seconds. When you exhale, do it through your mouth and use the 6 second rule again: release the air first from your upper chest in the first 3 seconds, and then the air from your belly in the next 3 seconds. It’s actually the out breath that regulates your brain when you are flooded and you can sense your body calming itself as you breathe out. Begin teaching your children deep breathing as a way to calm down as early on as possible. My kids use it regularly.

Know Your Limits.

My tolerance level is pretty high. Both for pain and for stress. I can take a lot. This is a good thing in many ways, but it also works against me because if I am not paying attention I don’t notice that I am getting overloaded until it is just too late. I keep trying to handle the situation on my own, getting more and more stressed, and then I explode. However, when I am centered and paying attention to me (and not just to everyone else) I will notice that I am getting anxious or that a situation is going to go badly soon and I can call in the reinforcements or I can simply remove myself for a moment to collect my thoughts. Being a mom of twins means needing to keep 50 plates spinning at once, but don’t pride yourself on being able to do it all – ask for help before you become a weeping, frustrated mess.

Recharge Your Batteries.

I know I am way more patient and way better at keeping my triggers in check when I have had enough sleep and have eaten well that day and have had a little time to myself. I know, you are thinking, “Yeah, I remember those days. That was before I had children!” So if you can’t get all of those things in (I know I can’t) then find at least one thing that helps keep your batteries charged up. I make sure to get a little down time during the day where I am alone and no one needs anything from me. It’s a priority that I’ve set and I make sacrifices in other areas to get that. I would happily trade it for 10 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep; alas, I think it may be years before I get that. Find your daily thing. Maybe it’s catching up on the phone with a friend, a therapy appointment, exercise, a quick cat nap…whatever it is that makes you feel like your best self that day, DO IT. Your family will thank you.

We will all lose our tempers and have moments when we are far from our best selves. For me, the key is to own those transgressions. I always talk to my children afterwards and explain that grownups make mistakes sometimes and that it’s not ok for anyone to yell at them or to make them feel sad. If it happens, I tell them, the person needs to apologize. I know that when our son says to me “calm down, mommy” that he feels safe expressing himself and entitled to ask me to act in a better manner. I am not a perfect parent, but every day my children teach me how to be a better one.

What about you? Do you ever lose it? What works best for you when you feel like your emotions are getting the best of you? I’d love to know your advice!

The Way We Were

“Memries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget”
~ Barbra Streisand, Way We Were

I recently joined a Facebook group made up of alumni from the grade school I attended from nursery through 8th grade. I remember this school in very foggy detail – only a few scraps here and there: gluing tiles onto a roof of a bird house I made, an older child laughing at me for not understanding that “half” was the same as “half of a whole”, learning to count to 10 in Japanese, the school cook’s divine Apple Brown Betty dessert, wearing my mother’s purple, silk slip as a dress to school and being told I couldn’t play in the yard because I was dressed too “fancy” – strange the things that stick with you.

Stranger, still, are the things you have no memory of. On this Facebook page there is a large group of people who are about 6 or 7 years older than I am and apparently there had been a male teacher at the school who had psychologically and sexually abused many of the students. To make matters worse, once it was discovered, the school did a lousy job of handling the situation and simply fired him without telling parents, teachers or students what had happened. Once the students who had been subjected to this man graduated, there was no one left to discuss the matter. In effect, the memory was erased from the school.

So it makes sense why I have no memory of this man or what happened; I was only 6 at the time of his firing. But what about all the other memories that I’ve been reading about that I have no recollection of? Why don’t I remember Manny or Rudy, the teachers everyone seems to have loved? Why don’t I remember our principal losing her leg in a car accident? Why don’t I remember our greasy haired math teacher being mean to a boy in our class who probably had some learning disability now that I think back on it? My memories of the school itself are good ones, although few and far between. I think I was so self-conscious and so worried about how others saw me that I was not paying attention to much outside of myself. I was never bullied, but I remember feeling lonely and sad and left out often. I remember wishing to be more popular with the “cool kids”. I look at photos of myself from those days and see an awkward, shy kid and I wonder to myself about how my own children will experience elementary school. What will their memories be?

I know I can’t protect them from everything, all I can do is equip them with tools to protect themselves once they go out into the world. I know children, in general, tend to be self-absorbed; I hope that I have learned from my own behaviors enough to not pass the addition of being self-conscious on to them. I want them to be proud of who they are, to be confident, to be sure of themselves. I’ve heard research often quoted that when Kindergarteners are asked who is the smartest kid in class, 100% will say themselves. But just a few years later this percentage drops dramatically. What happened in those few years to strip a child of his confidence? Mostly what happens is school.

We’re in the throes of our search for an elementary school for our kids. We’ve been remarkably blessed to have them at a wonderful preschool where their creativity and individuality is nurtured and where each child has a voice and knows how to use it. They’re off to a great beginning, I am doing my best to keep them on the right track! I hope I am teaching my children to be kind, confident, assertive and to think for themselves. I hope they will run the gauntlet of their school years and come out on the other side as I somehow did, relatively unscathed. My schools years weren’t perfect, but no one’s are. I think I am going to stick with my Barbra Streisand version of memories and simply remember the laughter.

Parenting Seminar: Emotional Intelligence, Compassion And Resiliency

Last year I attended a lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center here in Los Angeles on Attachment Parenting. While this isn’t a parenting philosophy I adhere to, or at the time knew a lot about, the lectures given by Sir Richard Bowlby and Mary Hartzell, plus an additional workshop by Betsy Brown Braun on the special type of attachment twins develop both with each other and their primary caregiver, were fascinating and I learned a lot (you can read my summary here).

Next month there is a new lecture at The Skirball entitled Using Emotional Intelligence To Raise Compassionate And Resilient Children. Now that is totally up my alley and I’m excited to be attending. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, I thought you might be interested as well. Here are some of the details:

“In this seminar, participants learn to help their children become emotionally intelligent and find ways to express their feelings authentically and appropriately.

Dr. Daniel Siegel is the creator of Mindsight, a powerful and creative way to train the mind to see itself. In doing so, practitioners develop a transformative level of self-awareness, understand their inner lives with more clarity, and re-wire the brain to create more compassion and understanding in their relationships.

Through a keynote presentation and multiple workshops, participants will learn how to use Mindsight with their children to help them discover their feelings as a source of strength. Techniques for cultivating resilience and well-being will be explored. The seminar will also enable parents and caregivers to strengthen bonds with children, leading to stronger families and communities.

Designed for parents, expectant parents, mental health care practitioners, and teachers, the program includes the keynote lecture and two ninety-minute workshops.”

Dr. Dan Siegel, for those of you not familiar with him, wrote (along with Mary Hartzell) an amazing book called “Parenting From The Inside Out” and also founded the Mindsight Institute which is an educational center with “a scientific emphasis on the mind and well-being, [which focuses] on the growth of healthy people who can nurture a more compassionate society”.

In addition to Dr. Siegel as the keynote speaker, there are also a dozen amazing workshops offered out of which you get to pick two to attend! Among the topics being offered are:

  • Sibling Rivalry: Teaching Children Empathy For Their Brothers And Sisters (taught by the terrific Dr. Pamela Varady)
  • Raising Emotionally Healthy Twins (taught by the great Dr. Joan Friedman)
  • The Father’s Unique Role In Family Life
  • Learning To Set Limits And Create Healthy Boundaries For Life
  • The Healing Power Of Imagination: How To Transform Stress And Anxiety Into Joy And Success

All this for $50 ($40 for Skirball members)! For details on all of the workshops and how to register, please click here. I’ve already registered, I hope if any of you plan to attend you’ll let me know!

Creating Memories Your Kids Will Treasure

A friend sent me this video about a dad’s documentation of his daughter’s life through a series of letters, videos, photos and more. It’s very touching and made me tear up a bit – yes, I cry at commercials sometimes. But then I began to feel a little guilty. I mean, how many of you have even started that scrapbook you’ve been meaning to make? Or printed out the photos you uploaded onto KodakGallery? Have you kept a journal of all the funny things your kids have said? Yeah, I haven’t done such a great job, either.

But I want to. It frustrates me that all my parents have are a few, loose photos of my childhood. Of course I know they were in their 20’s and traveling all over Europe full of thoughts of starting a commune and probably without enough money to buy film for the camera anyway. But still. We all want to feel that our every giggle and smile was a momentous occasion. I don’t want my kids to look at me and wonder why I didn’t document their early years. I have excuses for not having these albums done. I’m busy. I don’t know where to start. I have to make TWO of everything! But really, those aren’t good reasons. With digital cameras that download instantly to lap tops and phones that take great pictures and videos, my husband and I actually have thousands of photos stored on my desktop.

But there’s the problem. There they sit. We look at them now and then, but they deserve more. And by “they” I mean both the photos themselves and our children! So I began to think about all the ways a very busy parent can put together some terrific memories for their children – even if you’re not as tech savvy as Sophie’s dad in that video.

5 Great Methods To Create Memories And Keepsake Treasures

self portrait BScrapbooking

My fantastically creative friend, Jackie, made me a set of photo scrapbooks about a year ago. She documented doing them on her blog, My Submarine To The Future. Now, you will notice that I said someone else made them for me. That’s right, I couldn’t get it together to do my own. But I am not too proud to ask for help. If someone does something better than you, why not ask for their expertise? It doesn’t always have to cost something, often people will trade services.

Online Services

KodakGallery and Blurb are just two of the many online services which guide you through creating your own printed photo albums. It’s extremely simple and quick. How Fast Time Flies has beautiful backgrounds and fonts and lovely page lay outs. They seem a bit more expensive, but are more unique. Really, once you set your mind to it, it can be done in under an hour. Note: these services make it very easy to make duplicate albums. If you have twins (or any version of multiples) it is a must, in my opinion, to make more than one album. When your twins leave home how are you going to decide which one gets the “Babies’ First Year” album? Make two. Trust me.

Listen To Me

Taking videos of your kids is terrific. I can watch baby videos of my kids for hours. Once they began to get more verbal, I began to also record just their voices. There is something deliriously sweet about hearing their little voices telling a story or singing a song. It’s easier, as well, to hide the fact that you’re recording so your kids don’t begin to “act” for the camera. I usually use my iPhone voice memos app which you can then download onto iTunes and then, in turn, download onto a CD to give the kids when they’re older. If you’re as tech challenged as I am, here is an excellent, simple explanation of how to download your voice memos onto your computer as they don’t automatically download when you sync up your phone. If you don’t have an iPhone, a simple tape recorder will do and you can keep a treasure box full of all the tapes to listen to. My kids love to listen to themselves “when they were babies”.

Beyond The Baby Album

Obviously, photo albums filled with photos of your children are great. But what are some other ways to create memories of their childhood? What about taking photos of all your children’s artwork through the year and creating a photo retrospective of their creative genius? This is definitely on my To Do list. Or make a photo book for them when mom and dad go out of town – I made one and filled it with photos of who will be taking care of them, what they will be doing and also pictures of mom and dad so they can say good night. It’s a great way to help them through the event, but also a great keepsake later on. My kids still love to read the one we made the last time we went out of town without them (sadly, that was almost a year ago).


dream bookI credit my daughter with this one. When my kids wake up and we have a few minutes to snuggle, I often ask if they had any dreams. Talking about dreams helps kids understand their importance and, perhaps, will encourage them to remember more. It also helps you decipher some of the things your kids may be struggling with or thinking about. One morning our daughter had dreamed of something that scared her, so I suggested she draw a picture so we could talk about it more. She said she wanted to make a “Dream Book” so I simply folded some paper, made a colored construction paper cover, stapled, and voila: a dream book. I know, I know, it’s not the most beautiful thing, but what is beautiful is seeing her drawings and writing down the fascinating dreams she shares with me. As long as I can keep her interested, we’ll make more. I look forward to pulling them out and sharing them with her when she gets older.

As easy as these ideas may be, I know that the biggest road block for anyone is time. For me, I have found that the only way I can do anything that isn’t a spontaneously created moment with my children is to schedule it into my day. If I really want to get an album done, I promise to dedicate a set amount of time on a particular set of days. Once I’m into it, I realize how much fun it is to do. And once I have the actual product, it feels amazing!

What about you? How do you record your memories? How do you find the time? I’d love to hear some of your ideas – share them below in the comment section!

I Remember Momma

Mom & Dad-photobooth010Mother’s Day is right around the corner. This will be the 4th year I’ve spent celebrating my own motherhood. Being a mom has changed me in immeasurable ways from my physical body, to the products I buy, to my relationship with my husband, to the way I react to other people’s children. I think it is fair to say that becoming a mother has touched every aspect of my life.

Once I had children, I realized that I was moving in a divergent direction from almost all of my friends who were, of course, not stay at home moms to newborn twins. I began to seek out new friends who could relate to where I was at. I was hesitant at first, expecting SAHMs to be women so happy to be baking pies and talking about baby poop that I couldn’t relate. But what I found was that motherhood was changing all of us, and that all of us (or at least most of us) were in need of this collective sisterhood where we could confess and complain and gush and learn. Most of all, learn.

When I think about my amazing friends who have taught me so much, I also think about my own mother who had me when she was just 24. The first of her friends to have a baby and without the benefit (or perhaps, hindrance) of the multitude of child rearing books and services we have now, somehow my mom figured it out. Actually she more than “figured it out”, my mom worked full time, cultivated her marriage into a deeply loving commitment that has lasted over 45 years and has always made me feel loved and secure.

I’m sure it wasn’t always easy. She traveled throughout Europe with almost no money and a toddler in tow, was in and out of countries where she didn’t speak the language, she handled my father’s descent into a drug induced nervous breakdown, raised a spirited daughter who definitely had her own way of doing things, worked at a job she never cared for, which allowed my dad the freedom to write, put up with our menagerie of rescued animals…and somehow managed to be the grounded anchor our family needed.

glam susanWhen people ask about my mom, I often get stuck describing her. Perhaps because what makes her so special are so many qualities I wish I had. My mother has a great sense of humor and genuinely laughs right along with my husband when he lovingly teases her. I wish I had that skill. My mother never went to college, but can hold her own discussing art, literature, film and more with the intellectual crowd she and my father circulate in. I wish I was that confident. My mother has no airs about her; she is genuine, down to earth, real. And she expects the same back. She can spot a phony from a mile away. I’m still working on this one. My mother is deeply generous, truly kind and a great friend. I give her all the credit when I am even remotely close to that type of person.

Even with all the “stuff” that comes up between mother and daughter over the course of a lifetime, I know I will be lucky if I am as good a mom to my children as she is to me.

On Mother’s Day I will be with my husband and children here in California. My mom will be in New York with my dad. My heart will be in both places.

Competition, Jealousy And Sibling Rivalry

My 4-year old twins compete about almost everything. It does not make a difference whether you try to level the playing field so that “everyone is a winner”; they will still find something to compete about.

“I am going to the bathroom first”
“I got to the top of the stairs first”
“I have more candy than you”
“I have a higher fever than you”

Yes, it’s that ridiculous. And it’s not just winning or having more than the other, competition for mommy’s affection and attention is paramount in their world. Getting to sit next to me, having me sit on their bed (as opposed to their sibling’s) at bed time, getting buckled into the car seat by me instead of having their nanny do it, all of this and more is argued over day in and day out. All of this leads to a lot of whining, yelling, poking, name calling and crying. And that was just today.

Siblings will fight, what can you do?

I’m an only child, so the concept of “typical sibling behavior” is a bit foreign to me. And I find the chaos and noise that accompanies it quite stressful. You can’t expect your children to be best friends all the time, or even expect them not to fight, but I do think we can teach them to be civil, kind and respectful of each other. These are some of the things I use in our house to handle the issue of sibling battles:

Make ground rules

Hitting/kicking/hurting each other’s bodies is not allowed in our house. This seems like a no-brainer, but children need to be reminded constantly that this is not the way to express yourself. Be consistent about what you will do if a child forgets to follow the rule and does hit etc. We do not do time outs but we do not allow anyone to hurt someone else’s body in our family. If someone needs to be removed it is always done with that explanation followed by the offer to stay close to help with the big feelings. Knowing how you will handle a situation ahead of time makes it a bit easier to follow through rather than having to come up with a solution in the heat of the moment.

Teach Emotional Literacy

Siblings often end up name calling and hitting each other because they don’t know how else to express what they’re feeling. Use reflective (or active) listening to give them the vocabulary they need: “It must be so frustrating when your sister isn’t letting you play with her”, “You must feel really disappointed that Jason didn’t share his toys with you”, “You seem really furious that your brother threw sand at you” etc. Once your children can accurately talk about their feelings this instantly begins to help diffuse the situations.

becoming the parent you want to beCreate Problem Solvers

Teach your children to solve their own problems. It’s hard not to always step in and be the referee, but you are doing your children a disservice in the long run. One of my favorite parenting books, Becoming The Parent You Want To Be has a great breakdown of how conflict resolution should be taught. I’ve been using this method since my son and daughter were, perhaps, 2 years old and it works remarkably well. They’re now old enough that they can often do it on their own with just a little prompting from me. It involves active listening, reframing children’s name-calling, validating feelings, encouraging each child to state their point of view etc. The very basics of it go something like this: when children are fighting I might say “It looks like there is one (toy, seat, cookie etc.) and two children who want it (or two children who have a different idea of how to play this game etc.). What do you think we should do?” If necessary, I remove the object causing the conflict until a resolution is reached. I then prompt each child with “Jamie, can you come up with a idea that will make both Jamie and Eli happy?” When Jamie gives her answer I ask Eli if that idea is OK with him. He can say “I like that idea” or “I don’t like that idea”. If he doesn’t like it, then he’s encouraged to offer an idea. And we go back and forth. If they get stuck, I may offer an idea of my own. It took a lot of practice, but this method has never failed to work for me and often, by the time they go back and forth a few times, one has simply lost interest in whatever they were fighting about. My goal is to get to a point where they can use this method without my involvement.

So, when they’re not fighting how can we help our children like each other better?

my twinsMy kids can actually play together really well, but they also fight. A lot. I know that because they’re twins they spend an inordinate amount of time together. This would be enough to make anyone crazy. Although people tend to think that multiples are automatically each other’s best friends and love to be joined at the hip, it is my experience that as a parent of twins, I have to work harder to cement that friendship. Having children of different ages presents its own challenges and I think these tips can help either scenario.

Encourage Their Bond

I’ve written about this more extensively in a post called Best Friends, Or Just Brother And Sister? Finding ways to increase your children’s bond with each other is vital to building an underlying love for each other. You cannot force friendship, but you can show your children how special is it to have a brother or sister and how important that relationship is. Children who are diametrical opposites may never be close, but they can learn to appreciate the other and to even enjoy the company of their siblings.

One On One Time

Fill up your child’s cup with as much time possible spent doing “special” things without their sibling. This is particularly important if you have twins, but it helps with any sibling pairing. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, any time they get to do something where they don’t have to share with their siblings is a bonus. They not only are getting your undivided attention, but they are also able to share more of themselves because they are not caught up in battling for top dog status. Doing something with each child that is special to them will help your children know that they are valued for who they are as individuals. Siblings of different ages will often have after school activities that are different, just because of their ages; give your twins the same gift. So, even if both love art, try to send them to a class on different days. There is something to be said for that old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Giving your kids some time to miss each other is a good thing.

Dont Compare, Don’t Label

It is human nature to do these two things. We naturally look at two similar things, compare and contrast them and then label them: “this child is listening to his mother while the other one is throwing a tantrum; he must be the difficult one”. There is nothing worse than being compared unfavorably to someone one else. Strangely enough, it is equally bad to be labeled with what we would consider a positive attribute. It’s just as hard to live up to being “the smart one” as it is to live down being “the moody one”. Resist comparing your siblings. Avoid labeling them. There is nothing that will create bad blood faster than these two acts. If you need to comment on what one child is doing, do it without bringing up the other child. There is no need to say, “Wow! You finished your homework so quickly. Your brother hasn’t even gotten half of it done!”

These are just a few ideas that can help create some sibling harmony at home. Do your kids fight? What do you do to keep the peace? I know I can always use new ideas. Did you fight with your siblings? Do you do the same things your parents did to try and put an end to it? I’d love to hear your stories.