Monday, February 29, 2016

Moms Need “Me Time”

Written by Shelle Lenssen
Guest Blogger

Last week my daughters were sick. Not horribly sick, but their colds turned both girls into cranky little bears. Neither slept well for a couple of nights and both were clingy and needed extra “Mommy Time.” My six-year old spent her time curled up under a blanket, reading books with me and watching movies. My two-year old was especially difficult and woke up several times in the night, only wanting to be comforted by me. I appreciate snot-filled, sweet snuggles as much as any mom does, but at 3 a.m. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I dutifully met my daughters’ needs, and grew more annoyed and irritated in the process.

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Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I just broke. I needed a break from the whininess and clinginess of my daughters. I needed a break from being their everything and needed to take care of myself for a couple of hours. Remember how during pre-flight safety briefings, the flight attendant instructs parents to put on their oxygen masks before helping their kids? Well, it had become clear that I had neglected to put on my oxygen mask. So for a few hours, I passed the parenting baton to my husband and took a nap. It was glorious to be alone and catch up on sleep. No one bothered me, asked for anything, or demanded my attention. In short, it was exactly what I needed.

I emerged feeling refreshed and better able to parent. I was more cheerful and eagerly spent time with my daughters and had kind words for my husband. The attitude of the whole family changed when I took care of myself. In theory I know I am better able to serve my family when I take some time for myself, but in practice “me time” often becomes an afterthought.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

In the days following, I made an intentional effort to do some little things for myself. I downloaded a new e-book, met a good friend for a walk on a sunny afternoon, listened to a funny podcast, bought a new pair of shoes, and spent some quiet time remembering to be grateful. The proverbial oxygen flowed through my beaten body and I became the kind of mom and wife I like to be. The girls and I had impromptu dance parties in the kitchen, my husband and I shared inside jokes and played footsie under the dinner table, and I didn’t snap when the toddler asked for an extra snuggle before bed.

This past week served as an excellent reminder to me. As much as I think I’d like to be a Mommy Martyr, sacrificing every piece of myself for my husband and kids, when the rubber meets the road, I need to take care of myself. I’m happier, which in turn makes my family happier, which is really the best for all of us  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Importance of Reading for our Children


Written by Eileen Wacker ©

I often think about the importance of reading for children. I believe to my core that education and exposure to different things make a difference in our world. What kids read influences their view of the world and their place in it. Books have an impact on the person they ultimately become. An education is the greatest gift we give to our children and reading is critical to almost every facet of learning. But the whole ‘learning to read’ and ‘loving to read’ journey is inconvenient at best.

Reading causes a lot of friction between moms. At a recent back to school night, all the moms’ eyes are drawn to the reading stars chart. Whatever the teacher is saying is white noise. And I always notice where my child is first, but then like a computer, I calculate where all the other small humans fall in. It’s not all my fault. We have been told that all kids learn to read at their own pace and we should not worry. But then there are ladders and star charts and other indicators of a child’s success. This keeps moms up at night.

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At a Girls Night Out, one of my friends was going on and on about how much her child loves to read. She’s at a point where her son is hiding all his reading. It’s like a reading marathon every night at their house. I looked around at all the other moms’ faces. I wondered if I should tell her, “You’re are most definitely a buzz kill. Enough with the voracious reading chronicles! We don’t come to these dinners to feel like we are not doing enough and need to get home to find a tutor. We come to feel normal and have authentic conversations about our challenges and small successes. Save your Facebook fabulous for your thousand social media friends. ”

Then there is the friction at home. My four kids are decent readers now but it’s a huge battle. The reading journals were tough. My son said, “Reading is stressful when you’re not the reader type.” Yet he has an insatiable appetite for non-fiction books about athletes.  I had to learn to back off and let him pick his books, not push the suggested reading list every summer.

For me one of the most critical things we can do as parents is leave pleasure reading as free form. Our kids are overscheduled and march through their routines like little robots. We have to take reading back to the enjoyable adventure it is meant to be and not have some structured matrix of how to have assured reading success. If we do this then the reading nook becomes the place where fun goes to die. Kids love to be the heroes in their own stories and read about reluctant or non-traditional heroes in other stories.

I also love the messages of children’s and YA books. Most children’s and YA books have children/tweens/teens facing a challenge and then overcoming that obstacle. We need more of that spirit in our children. Trying things that have no guaranteed outcome. And, if there is a hovering adult in the story, he/she is usually the bad guy. The children/tweens/teens solve their own problems, not the helicopter parent.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Sometimes I’m surprised and rewarded as I’m driving. Between my four kids activities and social commitments, I’m in the car about five hours on Saturdays. Today my 12 year-old daughter and her friend had a party at the beach. I’m fine to be invisible as this is when I get to hear them talk about stuff they care about. Her friend said, “My favorite thing is to know the back story. Like, I want to know why the missing foot is important to the story.”

These moments remind me that my goal is to fret less about reading standards, charts and measures. And my challenge is to come up with ways to enable my children to read all the books that they want, and continue to be the heroes in their own adventures.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reading is a Gift

Written by Kenna McHugh
Guest Blogger

I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.” JK Rowling

Reading is a Gift

My mother, a single parent of three children, never had time to read to us, although she viewed reading as important. So I was never a reader, but rather a TV watcher and moviegoer. This limited my knowledge about history, cultures, and life. I never knew what I was missing until I started reading to my daughter, and I discovered the benefits of not only reading to her, but also of being a reader myself. 

Shortly after her birth, my mother, now retired, stressed the importance of reading to my daughter, her precious granddaughter. She felt guilty for not reading to me. It worked and every night I read to my daughter until she read out loud and eventually on her own. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Now, my daughter is 15 years old and never without a book. She devours books. She knows more about the world, mythology, and history than her friends and classmates. As a result, she has a high grade point average, is well-behaved, very literate and writes wonderful and meaningful prose. 

When she was an infant, we used to curl up in bed, and I would read board books to her like “Goodnight Moon,” “Run Away Bunny” and other titles. When the first Harry Potter movie was released, I didn't see it because my daughter was just a baby. But, when the second movie was released, my daughter was two and told me she wanted to see it because she had seen the first movie with her babysitter on a VHS. 

We saw the movie with a friend of mine and her ten years-old daughter. My daughter sat in the dark movie theater, riveted to the movie screen for over two hours. Only the spiders were scary to her.

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For several days after, my daughter talked endlessly about Harry Potter. So, my husband bought the first book and started reading it to her every night. The first time he read to her, she looked up at him with her big eyes and said, “There is more in the book than the movie.” 

Clearly, she understood the magic of reading a book. I was hooked too. I told my husband, “I want to read Harry Potter to her every night.” 

I read every Harry Potter book out loud to my daughter. To this day, I share this love of reading with my daughter. We are closer and connected.

So, I tell my friends and family when they hear of a good book or bestseller, pick it up and read it for pleasure. See if their world doesn't change or they don't notice the benefits of being a reader. And, always read to their little ones until they can read on their own. It is truly a gift.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Determination Wins Out

Written by Shelle Lenssen
Guest Blogger

Determination Wins Out

Literacy statistics are scary. I think of myself as fairly on-the-ball when it comes to early childhood education and read to my daughters almost daily, but these numbers give me full body shivers.  

Here’s a sampling:

--Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 - 4 times more likely to drop out in later years. (National Adult Literacy Survey, NCES, U.S. Department of Education)

--78% of juvenile crime is committed by high school dropouts. (National Children’s Reading Foundation)

--60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. (U.S. Department of Education)

-- More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage. (National Institute for Literacy)

Those numbers should be enough for me to spend 20 minutes a day reading nursery rhymes to my 2-year old, or sounding out words in a first-grade reader with my 6-year old. After all, when I look at my sweeties, I certainly don’t see future crime-committing high school dropouts. I don’t see prison inmates or grown women struggling to earn an income. I see future astronauts, artists, teachers, doctors, engineers, writers, musicians, etc. Through my parenting lens, I see only good things and positive futures for my daughters.

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However, there are days when vomit covered bedding needs washed for the third time, a work project runs late, dinner burns in the oven, and the toddler screams through her bath. On those days, it is much easier to tune out, put on a kid’s show and let the children veg out in front of the TV for the evening. We’ve all learned along the road of this Parenting Journey that the easy choice isn’t always the right one.

And so we read. In a kitty voice, I read That’s Not My Kitten to a giggling 2-year old. My husband patiently sits with our frustrated first-grader as she sounds out tough words from her newest Fancy Nancy book. He also gives her an enthusiastic high-five when she finally gets it. We read in the car on long road trips and during the 20-minute drive to school in the morning. With our 6-year old, we go over sight words, spelling words, and vocabulary words. With our toddler, we sing silly songs and read the same book together over and over and over again. Our girls have a book nook in one corner of the living room and some nights, dozens and dozens of children’s books are strewn about as they both sit amidst the pile, flipping through their favorites.

Our reading routine may not match that of other families. The real point is we’re trying, and we’re going to keep trying.  The numbers tell us that reading is much more than enjoying a good book and quality time together; it also improves the futures of our children.

Oh, the Places They can Go

Tina O'Reilly
Guest Blogger

Oh the Places They Can Go!

Children need to develop the ability to read for survival in school and adult life. Children need to learn about new subjects and read helpful information, including academic research, consumer products, and medical information. If a child doesn’t learn to read, he/she won’t be able to absorb written information easily.

With the birth of the internet, came endless opportunities for reading. At one-time there was a perception the internet would be the death of books. Thankfully that prediction proved wrong. The internet is an enormous source of information and data, but hasn’t replaced the connection a child has while reading a physical book.

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Children reading can be an exciting activity. Children experience joy when they delve into a new world. Pick out books on subjects they enjoy so they’ll stick around and stay engaged. They should perceive reading as a pleasurable activity rather then a chore. Books are a source of fascinating tales and useful information for the right reader. 

n essence, books help your child with the development of their language skills. Hearing you speak the words and phrasing aids in their development of the spoken language and soon they’ll be able to express themselves verbally.
Reading out loud to your child teaches them proper grammar. I
A book, the school library and the web opens doors to so many places. Your child can learn about the earth, space, the stars, or dinosaurs. They can read about magical places with dragons and witches. Just think about the places their minds will go.

Books teach your child about places and people all over the world. They can learn about history and their heritage. Reading doesn’t need to be a solitary activity. Family members can join in the fun reading to your child and, in turn, get to share precious moments with your child. Do you have older children? Encourage them to read to your younger ones to strengthen their bonds.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Storytime at the library is a great time for your child to learn socializing skills. They can talk to other children about the story being read to them. Focus on the fun. Grab a special treat afterwards.
Reading ebooks can improve your child's hand-eye coordination as they click through the pages. They click forward and backward, not only learning motor skills but gaining valuable computer skills. Just be careful they can only reach child-friendly sites. 

Watch in amazement while your child experiences the love of reading. Books will nurture your children, and provide endless enjoyment for you too. Make the most of all the books and resources available to you and your child. Their little minds absorb information! Encourage them to reflect upon the stories as they read. Before long they’ll develop a creativity all their own.

Reading is critical for all aspects of your child’s learning. Grab a book and experience a lifetime of enjoyment.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mom’s Code Chronicles #3: Best Part of Waking up


Getting four kids up and out every day is a reckless endeavor my younger self never imagined and I’ll never master it. Today, my morning started with my teen daughter announcing, “I’ve decided to skip track team tryouts. I don’t want that time commitment right now.” It’s junior year, the worst possible time to quit a sport. I experience an exquisite moment of pain.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Then, my little girl comes down the stairs, looking upset. She can’t find her shirt for tonight’s choir performance. I washed the shirt last night and watched it walk upstairs, but now it’s disappeared. I hug her and say, “We need to go but I’ll find your shirt and bring it to you. It’s okay.” Her face falls lower. “Miss Leighton has three rules: a good night’s sleep, our shirt for the 7:30 rehearsal, and a good breakfast. I’m in trouble.” My youngest is a gentle soul who never gets in trouble, yet dreads the thought of it.

I turn away as my tween ties his sneakers. My impatience is justified. He spends more time tying his shoes than on his entire hygiene routine. We are late so I stop at the Burger King drive thru. My son fist pumps the air. “Mom, they have fries and cheeseburgers all day. Can I get a large fry, plain cheeseburger, and Sprite?” I yell, “No soda!” like it will magically make this breakfast healthier. My frowning little girl says, “I’d feel better if I drank Orange Fanta.”  My mom standards are below sea level and it’s not even 7:30.

My teen daughter says, “This family is so embarrassing! I don’t want to get out of the car with a Burger King bag. Is there a Whole Foods bag somewhere? At least eat breakfast, not fries, People!” She points at her little sister. “And F.Y.I.! Your teeth are going to be orange in your choir performance.” She continues, “Fine! I’ll have the mocha drink thingy and tater tots.” Her brother points out, “Tater tots are no better than fries and the Mocha Frappe has more sugar than Sprite.” I check to see if my ears are bleeding. I say to my little girl, “Here’s an Orange Fanta. Please eat a croissant.”

Before I can cancel my workout or reschedule a meeting, the school nurse calls. She says, “Miss Leighton sent your little girl from the choir rehearsal, concerned that she’s tired, upset about a missing shirt, and has a stomachache. Did she have Orange Fanta for breakfast?” Stress breaks over me like an unruly wave.

I can’t get my day on track after this. I’m fifteen minutes late for everything and forgetting things. When I pick up my teen daughter a half hour late from school, she says, “You’re late. I have a ton of homework and will be up all night; then I’ll fall asleep in study hall and someone will take a photo of me sleeping and post it. Then everyone will post comments like RIP. I’m facing total humiliation.” I’ve been milking a Starbuck Iced latte all day and never finished it. I offer it to her, not saying anything, wondering how she gets from ‘A‘ to total humiliation in 10 seconds.

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I head to the choir performance in the same faded sundress I put on at 6 a.m. My husband slips in at the last possible second, sits, and holds my hand. The choir kids come out and sing like angels. My little girl looks happy. I exhale, thinking, “There is no place I would rather be right now.”

We get home to three kids fighting. No one fed the two dogs. The kitchen is a mess. The TV is on and no one is doing homework. I say, “Please stop fighting over who has the right to enter whose room. And let’s get on the homework, guys.” On TV, a song about the best part of waking up is playing. A pretty mom is standing alone on a boat dock, waves lapping around her with a breeze blowing through her hair. She’s savoring a cup of coffee.

For some reason, I yell, “This is false advertising! No mom sits down and savors a morning cup of coffee, alone. It takes me all day to finish one coffee! Is there a house burning down behind her? I didn’t think so. It’s not real!” My son pats me on the shoulder. “Someone get mom a glass of wine. She’s yelling at the TV.” I squint my eyes at him and say, “You, go study your Spanish!” Then we start to laugh. My little girl walks over, hugs me, and says, “Mom, you know what the best part of waking up is for me? It’s you.”

The essence of being a mom is keeping it all basically on track despite the chaos. And I leave a little room in my soul for a happy, thankful moment every day. Because every morning when I wake up, I know I wouldn’t trade the mayhem and magic, for anything.