Saturday, February 28, 2009

9 Tips for 2009: This Year’s Resolutions and the Troubled Economy


Inspired by stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, D’ette Corona and Barbara LoMonaco

Everyone makes resolutions: The new year motivates all of us to improve our habits, and holds the promise of a clean slate. But after January passes, many of us may beat ourselves up for letting resolutions fall by the wayside -- which is why now is precisely the best time to renew commitments you’ve made to yourself. While most years, our resolutions are primarily about things like diets, being on time, becoming neater and similar issues, this year many resolutions have a different feeling. Set a household budget. Start recycling. Save more. If these sound familiar to you it is because this year, more than most years, the resolutions are related in some way to the troubled economy.

Here are 9 tips for 2009 for surviving and thriving in turbulent economic times:

Simplify. As Mary Davis writes in her story “Resolutions for Sale,” we all have items from previous resolutions that never panned out: exercise equipment still in its original packaging, organizational gadgets collecting dust. So why not make a buck or two and have a “Resolution Sale”? Sell all of your unwanted and unused items, make some money, and simplify your life for the better.

Go green.
When going green, little changes can make a big difference for the environment -- and your wallet. Ashley Sanders writes in her story “I’m Not a Dirty Hippie” that her husband was apprehensive about going green at first, but got on-board once he saw the savings benefit. “After a lot of testing and trying, we began to find products that we could not only use, but that were more affordable than the products we previously used,” Sanders writes.

Count your blessings. List-obsessed Sarah Jo Smith shares in her story “A Daily Practice in Gratitude” how even the most sincere resolutions can turn sour. “I planned to write down three things a day that expressed my appreciation and love for the things and people around me.... [But] what started as a positive exercise turned into a mental list of countless complaints and worries,” she writes. However, after an emotional encounter with a stranger, Sarah realized there was much more room in her life than she previously allowed for gratitude. In the face of financial worries and other daily stressors, remember your gifts -- you’ll likely discover the strength you need in life’s intangibles.

Don’t exceed your needs: Try downsizing! Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution story contributor Harriet Cooper had a size problem -- with her home. Saddled with double the house space she needed, she realized there was a lot going to waste. Cooper was also unhappy with her home’s “double identity” -- one side that guests saw, and one side that she actually lived in. In her story “One House, Two Faces,” she writes about selling the house and moving into a smaller one. With her savings, she bought herself two years of freedom to explore new job possibilities. What’s more? Now, her guests get to visit a relaxed hostess who is happy with her (smaller) home, just the way it is.

Put the unnecessary items back. Single mom Rebecca Jay tried to save money, but every month she was living paycheck to paycheck. So she invented a game that she and her son could play to save money at the grocery store. At the check-out lane, she and her son perform a “Cart Check,” pulling out items they really don’t need. When her son puts something back, Jay rewards him with the savings. In her story “Check the Cart,” she recalls how this game not only helped rein in impulse spending, it taught her son a valuable lesson on personal finances in the process. What a great legacy to pass on to a younger generation!

Find financial peace. Kristine Byron likes to look at what she spends, rather than what she saves. In her story “Spend, Spend, Spend,” Kristine resolves to save money by cutting out certain things, but recognizes all the ways she gets to “spend” time doing something else. “As I have pledged to save on lavish meals dining out, I have vowed to ‘spend’ more time entertaining at home,” she writes. When you make resolutions to save, you can also resolve to “spend” more time with your family and doing things that you love to do...for free!

Work with those you love. Working with someone you love might seem scary at first, as B.J. Taylor describes in her story “A Leap of Faith.” But when her husband needed her to work at his company because of financial setbacks, she stepped up. The two agreed to sit down and talk every six months about what’s working and what’s not. Though challenging at first, the couple has worked with each other now for 15 years. Could it be possible to go into business with your loved ones?

Give gifts of yourself.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on the people you love, just spend time doing things with them. In his story “A Commitment to Play Dolls,” Timothy Martin recalls his decision to play with his four-year-old daughter for an afternoon. “I still thinking playing with dolls is dumb,” writes Martin. “But my four-year-old daughter, Emily, loves them. She plays with her Barbie dolls every day. Since I want to be a good father, and because Emily and I don’t get to spend much time together, I resolved to learn.”

Celebrate the old. While everyone else may be resolving to try something new, don’t forget to remember your old treasures. Dayle Allen Shockley writes in “Let’s Celebrate the Old” about all the many items, principles, and people that she celebrates every new year. “I enjoy making new friends, but old friends who have shared my pain and sorrow, celebrated my joys, and remained steadfast when trouble came knocking; they are the ones I will celebrate most in the New Year,” she writes. In 2009, which old pleasures are you thankful for? Life can be improved just by recognizing the wonderful gifts we already have.

And remember, improving yourself is not exclusive to the month of January; it’s a year-round opportunity.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, D’ette Corona and Barbara LoMonaco) is published by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. For more information, please visit chickensoup.com.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Video Games for Little Ones (and Didi & Ditto Giveaway!)

With four boys in our house, you can bet that video games are a popular pastime here. We do have house rules to limit playing time, and we try to balance game time with outdoor activities, especially with our five-year-old twins. They’re allowed to play games that are age-appropriate for them -- none of their teenage brothers’ games -- and they play only on the Nintendo DS (a hand-held player) and the computer, where they can be supervised. Following are some of the games they’ve been enjoying lately:

Petz Monkeyz House (Nintendo DS)


In this game, kids adopt a pet monkey, which they get to name, feed, play with, and dress. Various breeds include the capuchin, tamarin, orangutan, ring-tailed lemur, squirrel monkey, marmoset, and more! As they take good care of their pet, they can watch him grow to adulthood. Players eventually get the ability to adopt more than one monkey, and their monkeys even have babies of their own! The Petz series also includes Petz Dogz Pack, Petz Catz Clan, and Petz Horseshoe Ranch.

Big Bang Mini (Nintendo DS)


This game is a lot of fun because kids get to whisk the stylus at the screen to send fireworks shooting up into the sky against cartoonish enemies who shoot out stars when they’re hit, which the kids collect, while evading falling debris. Big Bang Mini reminds me of the old arcade game, Space Invaders, which I played as a kid! It’s a fast-moving game that moves kids through nine different worlds, adding new abilities along the way.

Didi & Ditto Preschool: Mother Nature’s Visit
(Windows and Macintosh)


Didi and Ditto are adorable brother/sister twin beavers who are trying to get ready for a visit from Mother Nature. One of them has to make sure that Zolt, a sneaky purple wolf, doesn’t mess up their party plans, while the other gets ready for the festivities. Players get to pick which beaver will watch Zolt and thwart his plans. In doing so, they play games that involve letter and number recognition, counting, classification, identifying shapes and sounds, and more. In addition to this preschool version, there are also Didi & Ditto games for Kindergarten and First Grade.

Would you like to win a copy of Didi & Ditto Preschool and a Winx Club Optical Mini Mouse (an adorable little computer mouse designed for children’s hands)—a $37.98 value? To enter, visit the Kutoka site at http://kutoka.com/_en/index.html and find the name of another product they make. Leave a comment with the name of the product on this post. For optional additional entries:

2) Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. (The code is on the top right side of this page.) Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

3) Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

4) Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

Enter by midnight on Sunday, March 8, 2009. One winner will be randomly selected from the qualified comments received on this post.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Leslie S., who won the Didi & Ditto Preschool game and Winx Club mini mouse for her kids!



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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Helpful Tips for Handling Sick Days


You just know when your child isn’t feeling well, but how can you know when coughs and sniffles mean it’s time to keep your child home from school? Or when to call the doctor? Since school-aged children get up to 10 colds a year, it can be a puzzle for many parents.

That’s why the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and Triaminic® have partnered to create "Sick Day Guidelines: Making the Right Call When Your Child Has a Cold." Some 22 million school days are missed each year in the U.S. due to colds, which are also the leading cause of doctor visits and missed school and work days.

Read on for useful information to help you make the right call on your child’s next sick day.

Parents Want to Know

If you’re unsure when to keep your child home from school, you have lots of company. A nationwide study conducted for Triaminic® found these important results:

• 83% of parents worried that they might have sent their child back to school too soon at least once
• 78% said it would be useful to have Sick Day Guidelines
• 79% said it’s important to have information to help them understand the type of medication or treatment their child needs

Should I Keep My Child Home or Send Him or Her to School?

Consider keeping your child home if he or she:

• Has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
• Has been vomiting
• Has symptoms that prevent him or her from participating in school, such as:
o Excessive tiredness or lack of appetite
o Productive coughing, sneezing
o Headache, body aches, earache
o Sore throat*

*A minor sore throat is usually not a problem, but a severe sore throat could be strep throat even if there is no fever. Other symptoms of strep throat in children are headache and stomach upset. Contact your pediatrician as your child needs a special test to determine if it is strep throat.

Keep your child home until his or her fever has been gone for 24 hours without medication. Colds can be contagious for at least 48 hours. Returning to school too soon may slow the recovery process and can unnecessarily expose others to illness.

Please note: These tips should not take the place of medical advice from a doctor or pediatrician. Parents should also be aware of guidelines specific to their child’s school.

Does My Child Have the Flu?


The flu is serious! Call your pediatrician at the first sign of flu symptoms, which typically come on suddenly, including:

• High fever
• Chills
• Head ache, body aches, ear ache
• Nausea, vomiting
• Dry cough

If you’re unsure about the best way to treat your child’s cold or flu, ask your school nurse, doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider.

How Do I Make My Child Feel Better?

• Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and put limits on TV watching
• Encourage fluids, such as water, soup, juice and ice
• Help your child relax by reading him or her a story and giving him plenty of TLC
• Consider using a cool humidifier
• When used as directed, children’s cough and cold medicines help relieve cough and cold symptoms while your child is getting better. Read and follow the directions carefully and give the exact recommended dose for the child’s age. Do not use over the counter cough and cold medications for children under the age of four in the U.S.

How Can I Prevent My Child from Getting a Cold?

• Teach your child to wash his or her hands frequently using plenty of soap and warm water. Proper hand-washing should take about 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
• Teach your child to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their sleeve
• Keep the child’s environment tobacco-free
• Try to minimize the time your child spends with other children who have cough or cold symptoms
• Pack easy-to-use products like disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers in your child’s backpack to use when he or she is at school
• Keep an annual well-child exam to follow changes in your child’s health
• Keep all of your child’s immunizations up-to-date (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines now recommend a flu vaccine for most children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday)
• Serve a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Giving a daily vitamin may be recommended by your pediatrician
• After your child is feeling better, clean all surfaces; wash the bedding and air out the room
• Keep surfaces like door knobs, phones, remote controls, toys, and keyboards clean
• Always make sure to consult your school nurse or doctor if you have any questions

If your child is four or older, and you decide that he or she could benefit from an over-the-counter medication, Triaminic has a new product called Thin Strips that are a convenient way to help ease your child’s cough and cold symptoms. Each strip has a pre-measured dose of medicine that dissolves quickly on the tongue so parents know their child is receiving the correct dose each time. To receive a coupon for $1.50 off Triaminic’s Thin Strips, click on the image below:


NOTE FROM SUSAN: The above information was prepared by the National Association of School Nurses and Triaminic. A very helpful friend in the medical field suggested some great additions to the above recommendations:

Coughing and sneezing: Public health officials now suggest sneezing into our elbow/arm area. If we use our hands, we infect others as we shake hands, touch objects, etc.

Anti-bacterial wipes: Many doctors are now discouraging the use of anti-bacterial wipes. None of them can kill all the bacteria (only straight bleach will do that). Therefore, only the weakest bacteria are killed by the wipes, and the most resilient bacteria survive. This is why we are seeing more and more “bugs” that are drug-resistant these days.

Hand washing: It’s important to teach kids (and adults) the proper way to wash hands. We should wash for at least 20 seconds and use friction on our hands and fingers as we wash. Have you ever watched surgeons scrub for surgery? They really scrub (with a little brush) and wash for several minutes.





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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

5 Important Things You Can Do to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power


Your baby’s brain is phenomenal! With more than 100 billion neurons, they would stretch for 62,000 miles if laid end-to-end. But most of the connections between these neurons must be established within the first eight months of life so that the foundations for lifelong learning are set in place. Parents are vital players in this complicated process by providing early, positive and rich experiences during baby’s first year. Following are 5 things you can do to help boost your baby’s brain power!

Hold your baby. You cannot spoil a baby by holding him too much in the first six months of life. Forming an attachment with your newborn baby is the first and most important influence on brain growth. Proper brain development can occur when you meet your baby’s needs for comfort, nourishment and love. If these needs are not met, the resources usually dedicated to brain growth will be used for basic survival. So, keep your baby close and, yes, spoil him!

Read to your baby. It’s never too early to read to your baby! Sharing books with her helps to encourage the development of language skills and promote later literacy. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t comprehend your words. She’s learning to understand the rhythm of language, acquiring listening skills, and lengthening her attention span.

Go face-to-face with your baby. Vision is the least developed sense at birth. A newborn is only able to see about 8-12 inches in front of his face. Studies have shown that babies are fascinated by the human face—its soft contours, dark eyebrows, and different lip and eye colors. A beard or mustache is especially intriguing. And babies look longest at their own mother’s face. So, get in your baby’s face to help him develop good vision!

Introduce your baby to sounds. Talk to your baby throughout the day. Sing silly songs to her and play gentle music. When she gets past the newborn stage, show her how to squeak a toy, pound the floor or jiggle cereal. Introduce her to all of the wonderful sounds in the world for optimal hearing development.

Give plenty of tummy time. All babies should spend supervised time on their tummy to strengthen the muscles in their neck and upper body. One minute of tummy time three times a day is good for a newborn. As your baby grows, you’ll pick up on his cues that tummy time can last longer. Rub his back, talk to him and rattle a toy. Or put baby on your belly and let him look into your face. (Tummy time should always be supervised to avoid the risk of suffocation, and babies should always be put to sleep on their backs.)

By doing these 5 activities with your baby, you’ll establish a close bond with her, and promote the development of her language and motor skills, vision and hearing. Your baby’s brain will love it!


Adapted from Boosting Your Baby’s Brain Power, by Holly Engel-Smothers and Susan M. Heim (Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press, 2009).



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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Day at the Hospital


Austen, one of my five-year-old twins, came home from Pre-K on Friday and said that his eye was bothering him. We didn’t see anything visibly wrong with it, and he didn’t remember injuring it, so we decided just to watch it. As the weekend passed, his top eyelid got more and more swollen and purple. By Monday morning, he could barely open it.

I got him to the pediatrician at 8:30 that morning, figuring we were just dealing with an ordinary eye infection. Instead, he said, “I’m afraid it might be periorbital cellulitis. I’m calling the hospital to have him admitted.” Yikes! The doctor explained that if it wasn’t treated, it could permanently harm his vision and even spread to his brain. Unfortunately, the hospital right across from the doctor’s office and closest to our house no longer treated children, so I had to take Austen to a hospital across town where he was admitted.

It broke my heart as Austen had to undergo three attempts to insert an IV, as well as a CT scan. And then the waiting began while they dripped antibiotics into his veins and waited for the test results. Fortunately, the blood work turned out fine (no signs of a massive infection) and the CT scan was clear, too. Still, they said, they wanted him to spend the night and have 24 hours of antibiotics, so they sent us up to a room on the pediatrics floor.

Finally, around 5:30 that evening, a pediatric ophthalmologist showed up to check the eye. “It just looks like a bad stye to me,” he said. “He can discontinue the IV and just have oral antibiotics and an eye cream.” Poor Austen, exhausted by the day’s ordeal, fell asleep in the hospital bed while I waited for the admitting doctor to clear us to go home, which wouldn’t be until around 7:30. At last, we were allowed to leave.

We headed to the pharmacy around 8:30 to get the antibiotics. After the day we’d had, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they didn’t have the medication! We had to go to another pharmacy to pick it up. We finally arrived home, exhausted and starving, around 10:00. What a day!

I’m pleased to report that Austen is doing great today. He’s responding well to the antibiotics, and his eye is starting to look better. He’s full of energy…and I’m exhausted! But we’re very grateful that everything turned out well, and it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.



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Friday, February 20, 2009

Book Review: The MTM Party*Print Guide


I’ve always been a reluctant hostess because I was intimidated by the thought of planning a party. But now that I’ve looked through Nicole Gates’ book, The MTM Party*Print Guide, I no longer have that excuse! Her book has some great ideas for hosting get-togethers. They call Nicole the “Queen of Theme” because her party ideas are all centered on a unique theme. Some of my favorites include the Fondue Fantasy (I love fondue), the Picasso Party (for my kids) and the Spahhh! Party (for my gal pals!). Other party themes include:

Chocolate Tasting Party
Polynesian Paradise
Strawberries, Salsa & Sangrias
Amateur Wine Tasting
Sunset Safari Party
Book Exchange
Movie Night
Dessert Buffet
Spring in Bloom Brunch
Tailgater’s Challenge
…and many more!

The ideas in this book cover all the bases, from games to food and drinks and even party keepsakes! If you’re stumped for ideas for your next gathering, I recommend that you get The MTM Party*Print Guide to stimulate your creativity! You can read more about Nicole, a certified party planner, and her book at http://mtmeventsbynicole.com/. Her book is also available on Amazon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Everett, the Incredibly Helpful Helper: Book Review and Giveaway


One of the biggest challenges in parenting is getting our kids to help out around the house. Our family is typical, and that goes for my five-year-old twins as well as for my teenagers! Timing is everything. If I ask them to do something while they’re in the middle of an activity they’re enjoying, I get ignored or an “I’ll do it later” (which they proceed to forget about). Sometimes, it takes a little bribery (“You can have a snack if you pick up these toys”) or threats (“No TV until this mess is picked up!”). Parents must constantly change their tactics to motivate their kids to help out.

My boys and I recently read a fun book about helping called Everett, the Incredibly Helpful Helper, by Sue-Anne Morrow (Abbeville Press, 2008). Everett is a great role model for kids because he loves to help out! However, his parents start to wonder if all this helping out is really what they want. After all, Everett’s attempts to help make breakfast result in spilling a bowl of eggs on the floor. His efforts to feed the dog end up with dog food spilled all over the floor! When Everett helps his dad with shopping for groceries, he knocks over a tower of apples and a stock boy holding a box of bagels! I must admit that Everett’s parents had much more patience with him than I would have in the same situations, so I guess they are good role models for me, too. My children and I really enjoyed reading this book, and it opened up an opportunity for us to talk about helping others and being part of a family. The colorful pencil drawings by C.G. Williams are very charming, too.

Would you like to win a copy of Everett, the Incredibly Helpful Helper? I have two copies to give away! To enter, go to the Abbeville Family website at http://abbeville.com/family.htm and leave a comment on this post with the title of another Abbeville book that you’d like to read.

For optional additional entries:

- Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

- Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

Two winners will be randomly selected from the qualified comments on Monday, March 2, 2009, so enter before midnight on March 1st.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to Christy G. and JInxy and Me, both winners of Everett, the Incredibly Helpful Helper!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Great Video: Twin Powers!


As a mother of twins, I laughed out loud at the following video about twins and their superpowers! If you've always wondered whether twins really have their own language or feel each other's pain, this clip will answer your questions. This video was created by Eric Ruhalter, author of The KidDictionary: A Book of Words Parents Need but Don't Have. If Eric's book is as entertaining as his video, I highly recommend it!



Visit Eric's website at http://thekiddictionary.com/ for more information about his book!



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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fun Mail-Order Gifts

Many of our family members and friends live in different states, so we’re always struggling for gift ideas that 1) won’t cost a fortune and 2) can be tailored to everyone’s hobbies or interests. Here are two options that fit the bill perfectly:

Bookworm Baskets

There are very few people who don’t enjoy getting a new book. Bookworm Baskets combine the gift of a book with related items that form a theme that’s tailored to your chosen recipient. For example, there are Bookworm Baskets for children, people who are sick, housewarmings, birthdays, congratulations, weddings and as thank-you gifts. Here are a couple of examples:

The Peter Rabbit Basket includes The Tale of Peter Rabbit board book, an 11-inch collectible plush Peter Rabbit (packaged in a keepsake display box), and Beatrix Potter Stacking/Nesting Blocks (10 learning blocks, featuring colors, numbers, shapes and characters). Great gift for the expectant or new parents!

The Tea Lover’s Basket includes the book, The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide, a “Tranquili-tea” mug, a Tea Time Music CD in designer tin, organic herbal tea (5-pack), honey sticks, tea pot sugar cookies, tea candy from Bali, vanilla tea cookies and green tea.

The Olivia Basket for kids includes a hardcover edition of Olivia by Ian Falconer, a 9-inch Olivia plush pillow, an Olivia backpack clip, and an Olivia Sleepover Kit (flashlight, paperback mini-journal, accordion-fold scrapbook, and two sheets of mini-stickers).

Tricia at Bookworm Baskets has offered a 10% discount to readers of this blog! Go to their website at http://www.bookwormbaskets.com, make your selection, and enter the code: shop10 during the checkout process. I promise that this gift will be a big hit!

Sock Grams

For only $9.95 to $11.95, send a cool Sock Gram to your favorite person! Each Sock Gram package includes a fun pair of socks, a personalized greeting card, a packet of Medi-Spa Foot Balm (or stickers for the kids) and gift wrapping! There are socks for the whole family: men, women, kids and babies. I just love the unusual assortment of socks they have. For example:

Animal socks (such as cats, butterflies, dogs, pigs, frogs, goldfish, hummingbirds and many more)




Occupation socks (teachers, nurses, lawyers and medical)




Holiday socks (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Hanukkah)




Sports socks (bowling, golf, racing, skiing and more)


They also have floral socks, music socks, toe socks, humorous socks, food and drink socks, and plenty more! You can browse their selection and order your Sock Grams at http://www.sockgrams.com to ship anywhere with the United States, U.S. Territories and Canada. This unique gift is one they’ll never forget!



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Friday, February 13, 2009

Love Yourself So That You Can Love Others


Happy Valentine’s Day! My column today will be taken over by someone who was much wiser in the ways of love than I am: the late Leo Buscaglia, author of the book, Love. Following are excerpts from his book on the importance of learning to love yourself before you can fully love others. I hope you’ll give yourself a big hug today…and every day! And, parents, please impart this wisdom to your children:

“To love others you must love yourself…. Loving oneself does not imply an ego-centered reality.… Loving oneself does mean a genuine interest, caring, concern and respect for oneself. To care about oneself is basic to love. Man loves himself when he sees himself with accuracy, genuinely appreciates what he sees, but is especially excited and challenged with the prospect of what he can become…. To love oneself is to struggle to rediscover and maintain your uniqueness. It is understanding and appreciating the idea that you will be the only you to ever live upon this earth.… Even you are not totally aware of the wonders which lie dormant within yourself…. The trip into oneself is one of the grandest, most enjoyable and longest lasting…. Loving yourself involves appreciating the value of you above all things… If you try to be like anyone else…you will always be second best. But, you are the best you…. When you realize you are the best you, you will accept the fact that others are the best they…. When you love yourself, you will love others. And to the depth and extent to which you can love yourself, only to that depth and extent will you be able to love others.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helping Kids to Understand Their Feelings with Kimochis


Feelings are very abstract concepts, so they’re difficult to describe to children in a way that they will understand. If you sit down with your child and say, “Let’s talk about our feelings,” he’s likely to decide that playing with his toys is much more fun. That’s why I really like the concept behind Kimochis. They give kids a toy plus a way to learn about feelings all in one!

Kimochi (pronounced “key-mo-chee”) means “feeling” in Japanese. Kimochi toys are plush characters with pockets where kids can tuck little pillows that express their feelings. Each pillow gives the name of an emotion on one side, with a drawing of a face expressing that emotion on the other side. Each Kimochi comes with three little emotion pillows, but you can also get extra pillows that express different emotions, along with a blank one accompanied by a washable marker so you can create your own emotion! (My kids and I wrote “silly” on ours!)

My five-year-old boys have the “Bug” Kimochi. First, I must say how impressed I was with the quality of it! It’s beautifully made and velvety soft. The “Bug” even has little pockets on each side where a child can tuck in the wings to transform him from a butterfly into a caterpillar! They love to play and sleep with their friend, Bug.

The other Kimochis are adorable, too. There’s a really cute purple “Huggtopus” (that looks like an octopus, of course) and a character called “Cloud,” with a head that turns around to reveal a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. And each Kimochi comes with a “Feel Guide” for parents, which gives tips from child communication expert Ellen Pritchard Dodge, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, about how to explore feelings with your children through the use of Kimochis. I think this product would be especially helpful with children who are on the quiet or shy side, but all boys and girls would benefit from it.

You and your kids will fall in love with these wonderful characters. I encourage you to visit http://www.kimochis.com to learn more about them. And make use of their special Friends and Family discount to receive 20% off your order! Just enter KimochiFF1 when you’re checking out.



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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Milkshake: The Kids’ Band That Parents Love to Rock With, Too (Giveaway!)


If you’ve got preschoolers and you own a TV, then you’ve certainly become acquainted with the hit band, Milkshake! Led by singer Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl, the band’s mission is to create great rock music for kids. My twins and I have been listening to their most recent CD, Play!, and our opinion is that they have definitely fulfilled their mission! As soon as the first song, “We Got a Band,” starts up on our car’s CD player, we’re singing and bouncing around to the music. These are not your typical kids’ songs, a la “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” These songs are so cool that even adults love to sing along! And I do…

Even better, I’m going to spread the joy around by giving away a Play! CD and two Screen Play DVDs by Milkshake. Play! has songs about pirates, superheroes, bowling, baseball and even bowling! And it contains three bonus songs that Milkshake created for the show, ToddWorld. The Screen Play DVD has videos (both live-action and computer-animated), backstage clips and footage of their performances. They’re both great entertainment that the whole family will enjoy.

I encourage you to go to http://www.milkshakemusic.com to read more about the band and their music. You can sign up for their free newsletter, hear clips of their songs, read lyrics, look at pictures, get news of upcoming concerts, order merchandise, and more. They’re having a limited time offer right now where they’ll give you a free Milkshake Beachball Baseball if you order through their Google Checkout store.

For the giveaway, I will randomly pick three people from the qualified entries to win either a Milkshake CD or a DVD. To enter, visit the Milkshake website and come back here and provide in a comment the title of one of the songs on the Play! CD. For optional additional entries:

- Put a button for Susan Heim on Parenting on your blog. Post a comment with your blog’s URL.

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter or post it on your blog. Leave a comment with your Twitter name or a link to the post.

- Subscribe to Susan Heim on Parenting via email, RSS or as a Follower on Blogger. Leave a comment with your subscription method.

Three winners will be randomly selected from the qualified comments on Saturday, February 21, 2009, so enter before midnight on February 20th.

CONTEST CLOSED. Congratulations to rosannepm, winner of the Milkshake CD, and ky2here and Christy G., winners of the Milkshake DVDs!



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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Parenting Books for Specific Parenting Issues

Most parents are overwhelmed by the variety of parenting books available. As a parenting author, I’m the first to admit that the choices can be daunting! It often helps to consider what problem you’re trying to solve. Are you a new mommy who is feeling a little overwhelmed? Are you worried that your child lacks self-esteem? Are you raising a teenager who is making you wonder why you ever signed up for this parenting gig in the first place? The list below consists of books that have crossed my desk recently that address a specific issue related to parenting. Read the following if you are parenting a . . .

New baby:
The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties, by Jenna McCarthy


If you’re contemplating parenthood, pregnant or have recently had a baby, you’ll love reading—and relating—to author Jenna McCarthy’s journey to parenthood. You’ll laugh your head off at Jenna’s adventures and observations. Reading this book is like sharing the ride with a best friend who will make you feel completely normal because she’s crazier than you!

Colicky baby:
The Colic Chronicles: A Mother’s Survival Guide to Calming Your Baby While Keeping Your Cool, by Tara Kompare


One in five babies has colic (unexplained crying for hours at a time), and inconsolable crying is the number-one trigger for shaken baby syndrome. No wonder it’s important to have strategies on hand to minimize colic’s impact. The fact is that you may not be able to get your baby to stop crying, but there are things you can do to keep your cool and not feel like you’re going insane. This book will help you ride out the storm of colic.

Negative thinker:
Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility, and Happiness, by Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D.


Do you have a child who thinks the smallest of problems is a major ordeal? If your child is overly critical of himself, becomes easily frustrated, won’t try new things due to fear of failure or always expects the worst to happen, this book will teach you how to help your child develop positive thinking habits and raise his self-esteem.

Unmotivated child:
Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Achieve, by Janine Walker Caffrey, Ed.D.


Unlike generations before us, today’s kids have rarely lacked for anything. But we’re learning that we haven’t necessarily done our kids a favor by giving them everything that we never had. Today’s kids frequently lack the drive and self-motivation to achieve things on their own. Often, they’re content with doing an average job and have to be pushed to aim for doing their best. This book shows parents how to get their children to be excited about seeking out opportunities and learning new things.

Teenager:
The Agony and the Agony: Raising Your Teenager Without Losing Your Mind, by Betty Londergan


It’s the rare parent who can escape her child’s teenage years without plenty of angst and frustration. It seems like, overnight, your sweet elementary-school kid morphs into a defiant child whom you barely recognize. This book takes readers through the various stages of parenting teens, including denial (ages 12-13), anger (ages 14-15), depression (ages 12-18), bargaining (ages 16-17), and acceptance (age 18). Practical solutions and real-life anecdotes are extremely helpful in helping parents get through the teen years.

Set of Twins:
It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence, by Susan M. Heim


(Did you really think I could put together a list of parenting books without including one of my own? No way!) If you’ve got twins, you know that issues arise that aren’t faced by parents of singletons. How do you foster your kids’ separate identities? Should your twins be in the same classroom? How do you breastfeed twins? In It’s Twins, parents of multiples tackle the important questions on raising twins from birth through the teen years with plenty of tips, tales, tricks-of-the-trade, trivia and more.

Of course, the list of books above is nowhere near all-inclusive. You might be raising a special-needs child, a shy child, a headstrong child, or one who is wise beyond his years. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available today to help us with most parenting dilemmas. But it's also important to recognize that every child is different. A technique that works for one child may not work for another with the same problem, so it’s often helpful to get the perspective of several authors in order to find the solutions that work best for your family. Feel free to list some of your favorite parenting books in the comments section of this post!



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