All posts by Brittney Piescik

Blog-spotlight: Grace

Grace Elizabeth is my middle child who is always a light in any room she enters!
She is frequently described as “effervescent”! She is silly, chatty, and makes everyone laugh.IMG_0964

Grace is 11 years old now and is in a 6th grade Middle School program at her school. She is super jazzed about the brand new music class she is taking this year… Band! She signed up to be a percussionist where she is learning lots of new things while simultaneously contributing to her class with her existing piano expertise. She adores music!

IMG_1133In the afternoons, she keeps busy with her role as the laundry girl of the household, homework, piano practice and I often find her chatting on FaceTime with her sweet little cousins or other friends. She is super helpful and is always the first person to jump to action when she sees a little need she can fill.

One of Grace’s favorite things to do is grab a HUGE (at least I think it is) bowl of ice cream and plop herself down in front of the family iPad to watch a movie. She loves to draw (and is very good!), loves to sit in her ENO, loves it when her room is super clean, and all things “fluffy”. She is refusing to grow up and has continued to maintain this idea for some time now… she wants to stay a kid forever! 🙂 I think I can live with that!
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Trucks, Basketball and more!

IMG_2262I thought it would be a good time to give an update on my son, Corban! He is 5 1/2 years old now and bursting with tons of never-ending, happy energy.

He started a new school this year and is loving his teachers and new friends there. As many of you know, he was born prematurely weighing in at 2 lbs. Since then, he has looked and developed at about 1 1/2 years behind his peers, but is otherwise healthy and happy! We have held him back one year in school and he seems to be fitting in nicely with his K4 classmates, on most days. 🙂 He receives speech and language therapy twice a week and is just about to pick up occupational therapy in our ongoing effort to help him catch up.

Corban still loves anything with wheels… cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes, trucks, etc. He can ride a bike without the help of training IMG_2241wheels like a pro all over the driveway! He can also spend quiet moments in his own little world just driving his toy cars all over the furniture and floors. He loves to sit with my husband watching “Daddy shows” which are usually all about cars or motorcycle races. He is outgoing and friendly and is usually upbeat and happy! He loves basketball and insists on playing basketball with a full height hoop. I just make sure he has his bike helmet on because he’ll just throw the ball as high as he possibly can, which is never close to the hoop, and it often falls right on top of him! He is one determined little guy!

IMG_0990Corban is my little afternoon buddy. He keeps every visit to the grocery store exciting and every car ride, to pick up the girls from their many activities, full of sweet songs and conversations. He’s my little back seat driver… he knows his way around town better than his sisters! For example, if I tell him we are going to the park and then if I take a different route than usual, he will immediately ask why we aren’t going to the park. Or if we pass a road that leads to a place we visited weeks ago, he’ll remember that place when we simply just pass that road again!

He still delights in the little things that are new to him and I’m so excited about enjoying the fall and holiday seasons that are upon us through his eyes!

 

 

Teaching Kids about 9/11

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Photograph by The Associated Press

There’s a country song that asks “Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?” [Alan Jackson]

For some of us, myself included, you can remember the exact time and place you were when you learned of the 9/11 attacks. I was in my 7th grade classroom, language arts, with my teacher, Ms. Trujillo. The class was startled by my social studies teacher, Mr. Villafana, threw open the door and yelled. “Turn on the TV, there’s been an attack in New York City!”

Now, my twelve year old brain didn’t fully understand what was going on when my teacher turned the television on and we saw the twin towers burning. I remember feeling one thing… terrified. Throughout the next few weeks, we watched constant, media coverage about the tragedy, the lives lost and the war that was to come. We wrote poems about it, created 1,000 paper cranes to signify peace, and discussed it in our classes.

Now that so many year have gone by, I wonder whether or not children the age now that I was then understand 9/11. Do they know the significance in the eyes of the American people, or do they just know it as a day that everyone talks about… a lot.  I found this article by Dr. Barbara Greenberg, titled “Explaing 9/11: How to talk with your kids about the terrorist attacks.”

Here are a few things that Dr. Greenberg recommends:

1)      Sit down with your school-age kids and give them a history lesson: facts about the attacks

2)      Explain that we should and will do our best in the future to resolve conflict peacefully

3)      Allow your kids to ask questions, but spare them the gruesome details

4)      Explain that 9/11 was not a usual event, reassure them

For more tips on teaching about 9/11 to your children, click here to view the full article.

Response to “The Seven Best Gratitude Quotes” by Melanie Greenberg PhD

We are always looking for any excuse to encourage gratitude! That’s why we were so excited to find this article about how just thinking about things you are grateful for can be beneficial to you.

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, life coach and expert on life change. Greenberg published an article titled “The Seven Best Gratitude Quotes” in Psychology Today in November 2011. The article discusses some tactics to “develop a gratitude practice to open your heart and rewire your brain.” Here are some of our favorite things from the article!

1) Regularly expressing gratitude can soothe distress and broaden our thinking patterns so to develop a more expansive view of our lives.

2)  Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, reminding us that we are part of a larger universe with all living things.

3) Meditate on the things that help you or give you pleasure in your life.

4) Keep a gratitude diary with images and writing that depict things that you are grateful for.

5) Gratitude can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity and compassion which further open our hearts in more positive ways.

6) “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

7) “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Children’s Party Ideas for Snacks

Kids these days seem to have way more allergies than ever before. If your child has food restrictions, you probably already know what to serve and how to adapt meals to get rid of the offensive ingredients. But what if you’re just having a birthday party and want everyone to feel welcome?  Here are some childrens party ideas for foods that everyone can enjoy without worrying about going home sick.

Gluten Free Birthday Party Foods

The birthday cake; it’s a rare treat for a kid with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten insensitivity.  Conservative estimates say that only 1% of the US population has full-blown celiac disease, but an even higher percentage has a non-celiac gluten intolerance, which can be part of Crohn’s disease or a stand-alone condition.  Basically, these kids can’t have anything with wheat flour in it and even white flour is made with wheat.

Ditching the cake is one idea, but most grocery stores now have a gluten-free section with birthday cake and frosting mixes just like the regular baking section.  Unfortunately, if you’re stirring with a wooden spoon that’s been used for regular recipes, the gluten can cross-contaminate the gluten free cake and cause a reaction in the most sensitive kids.

If you’re serving a child with very severe allergies, make sure their parents are aware that the cake wasn’t prepared in a gluten free kitchen. Some kids’ reactions are so bad that their parents would prefer to not take ANY chances.  Consider enlisting the help of the parents of extra-sensitive kids, to ensure that the cake is safe enough for them to eat. Some communities have gluten free bakeries that can whip up a cake with frosting and themed decorations just like any other bakery.

Birthday Party foods for Gluten Free and Dairy Free guests.

Here are a few snack ideas that are generally gluten free and dairy free.

  • Fruit kabobs
  • Corn tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • A veggie tray (Hummus is a nice nondairy dip)
  • Nuts (that’s an entirely different allergy)
  • All-fruit popsicles
  • Fresh berries
  • Popcorn (avoid butter and caramel for dairy free kids)
  • Trail mix (be sure they’re labeled gluten free, oats sometimes carry gluten)
  • Olives and pickles

Feeding a bunch of kids was probably a lot easier 25 years ago and catering to the dietary needs of other people’s kids can be a drag. Imagine having dietary restrictions and always having to decline goodies and treats at parties? Serving up safe snacks for children is the ultimate act of hospitality. Being able to eat whatever you want is one of the joys of childhood and when you serve safe party snacks, everyone will have more fun.

Baby Shower Ideas: How to Encourage Thankfulness

Baby showers, as sweet as they can be, may come with a little bit of stress. As a host, you’ll probably feel pressure to ensure everyone feels welcome, well-fed/watered and comfortable. The mommy-to-be will most likely feel slightly self-conscious as all eyes in the room watch her open a plethora of gifts. Will she like everything? Will she say “thank you” enough? Will she need to use the restroom 800 times during the shower?

Here are a few pointers to make your job as a host a little easier:

Choose an easy, breezy theme

There’s no need to go all out with a shower highly customized to match a specific children’s book or the popular animal of the season (everyone remember the owl?). Keep decorations simple with a few vibrant accents, fresh flowers and balloons—all in colors the guest of honor will love, of course.

Make RSVPing a no-brainer

If you want to get an accurate head count, make it as easy as possible for guests to RSVP. It may not seem very personal, but you’d be surprised how many people would love to simply text a response to your mobile number or send a quick email. Think about including those as options on your invites.

Help Mommy-to-be:

Make saying “thank you” less of a chore for the guest of honor. Pre-order a set of thank you cards and put all of the envelopes out on an entry table that your guests will pass as they arrive. Have each guest write her own name and mailing address on an envelope and toss it in a decorative box or bowl. Ta-da! That’s all of the “thank you” cards addressed for Mommy-to-be.

We have a beautiful selection of thank you stationery—find a style to fit your shower colors.

Raising Thankful Kids

 Although children can be taught to say “Please” and “Thank you” at a very young age, many of those children may not feel truly grateful or understand the concept of feel thankful towards receiving that new gift, or at having family members visit them from out of state, or any other scenarios you could think of where you would expect your children to show a grateful and thankful attitude. Fortunately, however, it is quite easy to raise a grateful child. This article focuses on some easy tips for parents on how to encourage thankfulness in their children’s behavior.

Children Learn By Example

   It is important to remember this: all children learn by example. Even if your child has not quite mastered his pleases and thank yous, you can teach him by your example. Say, for example, that your child has been given something simple like a snack during his play date. If he doesn’t say “Thank you” on his own, you might consider saying “Thank you so much!” for the gift that your child has received. This will teach him that saying his thanks is the appropriate thing to do because he saw you do it. If you are especially enthusiastic about your thanks, your child will undoubtedly be paying attention. He will learn to be grateful to those who do kind and helpful things for him.

    Keep this in mind: although you may be tempted to tell your child that you didn’t hear him say thank you, refrain from doing this. Expressing his gratitude likely has not become a habit yet. However, by seeing you express your gratitude, he will quickly learn that it is polite to not only feel gratitude, but show it as well.

Encourage Thank You Cards

    Teaching your children by example is an excellent idea, however, another wise idea that will teach children to be grateful is to encourage kids to write thank you cards. This can be started at an early age, as soon as they are able to write fairly well. To make this an activity that kids want to participate in, you could consider letting your kids pick out some cards or stationery that they like and ordering it for them. You might also consider encouraging the kids to decorate their cards or stationery after they’ve written their thank yous. This will make writing their thank yous a lot more fun for them. By beginning this practice at an early age, not only can you make this activity a habit, but you’ll also be teaching them to be more grateful about the gifts they receive during the year.

Allow Your Child to Be an Active Participant in Gift Giving

    When other children’s birthdays and other gift giving holidays come around, it can often be difficult for your child to understand that the cool new toy you’re purchasing isn’t for them. It is a lot easier to go shopping for other children with your kids if you make them an active participant in gift giving. Ask them what kind of toys that cousin Sally would like. Let them help you pick out a gift. Ask their opinions about gifts that you would consider purchasing. Not only will this distract your kid from the fact that they aren’t getting anything, but it will also make them more involved in giving gifts. It will also teach children how awesome it feels to give gifts, not just how awesome it feels to receive them.

   By following this (any any other tips you might come across), you will be able to successfully raise a grateful and polite child. By simply leading by example and encouraging good habits in your children, your children will soon begin mimicking your good behavior and learning habits that will make them into thankful, polite beings. Not only will this behavior reflect well on you and your children, but what they learn will be able to help them for years to come.

Gem Mining with the Kids

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Wednesday morning, we skipped school and work, packed up the car and headed to the North Carolina mountains. My parents-in-law live up there and wanted to visit a new gem mine store that recently opened in Brevard, NC. Brevard is a sweet little mountain town full of quaint restaurants, gift stores, and toy stores.

It was a gorgeous day… I think the temperature was in the 60s! We kept asking ourselves if it really was still July.

One we arrived, the owners of Crystal Mountain Gem Mine brought in buckets of sand, rocks and hidden gems from their various mining spots in the region. They have a 52-foot long indoor water flume that runs along the length of the store that water streams through. All we had to do was sit right down and start sifting through the muck and mire to find the rocks and gems.

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Grace, my 11 year old daughter, was thrilled. She had a blast finding big chunks of colorful gems and rocks with her Nana by her side. Corban, my 5 year old son, sat in Daddy’s lap and they had fun scooping and sorting together. Emily, my 15 year old daughter, had fun too… shopping! So, it was a win-win for them all and no boots required!

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When we were all done sifting through our buckets, a nice young man named Chris, looked over all our treasures and to our amazement he found 2 rubies in our pile!! If we get them cut and polished they could be worth over $1000! He said it was very rare to find such gems in their buckets so we were pretty jazzed!

After that, we headed to a super cool toy store where the boys had fun with the race track. We walked down the street to a local diner where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Brevard. We were sad to have to get home but we were so thankful to take a morning out of our busy schedules to enjoy a gorgeous day with family!

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Organizing Kid’s Clothing and Toys

With school coming back in session and your little monkey is getting more independent everyday.  They are dressing themselves more.  They are finding their own  You want to encourage that independence.  And yet every time you turn around, your little monkey has stripped of their clothes and has a new outfit on.   You need a way to organize their clothing, so it is easy to access for you and them.

1.  Picture labels:  Toddlers are capable of learning where their clothing and toys belongs; however, a blank drawer front or toy bin doesn’t mean much to them.  Try taping a picture of the type of clothing you want to go in each drawer or bin right on the front.  Then your child will know where to find their shirt and where to put away their socks.  They will know where all the blocks and cars go. You can use word strips for older kids.  If they get embarrassed about that, try putting the labels on the main part of the dresser right behind the drawer, so they are hidden when the drawer is closed but visible when open.

2.  File the clothes:  Instead of folding the clothes and laying them on top of each other in the drawer, try placing the folded clothes upright  like files in a filing cabinet.  In this way, you and your toddler can see all of the clothes at a glance.  This might actually keep your toddler from feeling they need to pull everything out of the drawer to find that one favorite shirt.

3.  Hang out of reach:  Another option is to use smaller hangers to hang each of your child’s clothes up in the closet.  Once again, they can see the options without having to dump an entire drawer out.  You don’t have to spend as much time folding the clothes and they stay wrinkle free.

Toys can also be hung in simple drawstring bags from hangers.  Then you can monitor which toys they have out.  Rather than having all the toys in bins on the ground, you can keep some out of reach.  In fact, some parents find that rotating which toys are at arms’ reach keeps kids more satisfied with their play options.  Each time you rotate, the kids feel they have brand new toys to play with.

4.  Drawers under the bed:  This is an underused area.  Try placing shoes or toys in the drawers.  Kids can access them easily, and they won’t clutter the floor of the closet.

5.  See through containers:  Another option is to place similar toys in see-through containers so that kids know what is in them.  Nothing is worse than finding every toy box dumped out to find that one special doll.

Organizing kids’ clothing and toys allows your child to be more independent finding their own items as well as returning them to their appointed place.  Organization will bring order to the busyness of life with kids.

Writing and Exercising Your Brain

We all know that we need to eat right and exercise. Everywhere you look, people are promoting the newest diet and fast ways to trim fat, but what do we know about keeping ourselvessf242_card and our families mentally strong? That’s right, today I’m going to talk about exercising your brain.

CNN released an article in June called, “It’s time to get your brain in shape.” In this article, Jayatari Das discusses giving your brain an active lifestyle. It states that learning and practicing any challenging skill can actually delay cognitive decline and change the structure of your brain for the better.

Staying connected with friends and family and being a part of a social network can reduce the cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty interesting, right?

I was curious, what kind of “exercise” for my brain wouldn’t interfere with my regular day to day schedule? I found wikiHow’s article titled, “How to Exercise Your Brain.” There’s a wide variety of activities that we can incorporate into our lives to help with our mental health take only a few minutes. Some of the activities include:

1)      Read as much as you can

2)      Increase your vocabulary

3)      Write something

4)      Learn a new language

5)      Post-problem solving

6)      Turn off the television

7)      Do daily crossword puzzles

8)      Switch your dominant hand

There are many more things that you can do, but these I found particularly interesting being that we are a stationery company. So, by reading a letter, writing back and reflecting on your day to day problems, you are exercising your brain. By staying connected with your friends and family, more brain power.

There are so many ways that simply writing a note to someone challenges our brains!

Maybe tonight I will write a letter in a foreign language with my right hand (left-handed) to my sister about my broken AC at the house and have the television off…. Or I will just read a book 😉

CNN Link

WikiHow Link