Author Archive

Fun Placemats to Make: ‘Let’s Sew Together’

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Want to make a handpainted skirt, dollhouse pillow or world-map quilt with your little kids? Me too! I’m obsessed with beginning sewing project. You know, the ones that are so easy an intelligent monkey can do them. This book, Let’s Sew Together: Simple Projects the Whole Family Can Make, hits the spot, and my kids are already picking out summer projects for us to do together. Author and mom of four, Rubyellen Bratcher, has been blogging about her DIY adventures on Cakies for years. Now she’s written this book filled with sewing, crafts, play and educational ideas. Super cute.

She’s let us run an excerpt from Let’s Sew Together below so you and your little ones can make reversible placemats. Find more sewing projects from Parents, too!

Cheerful Flip ’Em Placemats
These placemats not only protect the dinner table but will also make you smile when you see your child’s artwork and your handiwork together. Mix or match fabric and embroidery on opposite sides so you can flip ’em over for a whole new look.

Skill Level: Sew Quick

Basic sewing supplies (needles, thread, scissors)

Eight 14″ x 18″ (35.5cm x 45.5cm) pieces of lightweight cotton fabrics for 4 placemats (use contrasting or coordinating fabrics for each side)

Four 14″ x 18″ (35.5cm x 45.5cm) pieces of cotton flannel fabrics (to give weight to the placemats)

Fabric markers

Embroidery hoop

Embroidery floss in colors to match fabric markers

Seam Allowance: 1⁄2″ (13mm)

Finished Measurements: 13″ x 17″ (33cm x 43cm)


• The placemats can be adjusted to fit your table. We have a vintage farm table, which is significantly smaller than regular dining tables, so these placemats are a wee bit smaller than the norm. A traditional placemat size is 13″ x 19″ (33cm x 48.5cm). If desired, adjust the size of the placemats to work best for your dining table, adding 1″ (2.5cm) to the width and height for the seam allowance.

• To make coordinating cloth napkins, cut out large fabric squares, fold the edges under by 1⁄4″ (6mm) twice, and topstitch in place. You’re all set for a lovely family dinner.

• Have each child design his or her own placemat for family meals—perhaps with a favorite fruit, favorite animal, or simply colorful shapes.

1. With fabric markers, have your child draw a design on one corner of each placemat. (Leave the reversible side plain.) Be sure to let the design dry completely and iron to heat-set the designs in place.

2. Place the section of the placemat with the design in an embroidery hoop, and embroider (page 20) some parts of your child’s design to give it more dimension.

3. Place the front and back fabrics together with right sides facing, place the cotton flannel on top, and sew around the perimeter of the placement, leaving a 3″ (7.5cm) opening for turning. Clip the corners, turn inside out, and press. Repeat for each placemat.

4. Topstitch 1/4″ (6mm) from the edge around the entire placemat.

Have a cute dinner together!

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What Do Your Kids Need to Know About Death? Keep Reading!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Whatever you want to know about death and dying, journalist Patricia Pearson explores the answers in her new book, Opening of Heaven’s Door. Ever heard of living relatives seeing visions of their deceased loved ones or receiving messages from them? Pearson believes these stories–and she’ll tell you why. She visits hospital nurses, dying soldiers and so many more people, including her own relatives, to bring you solid information on this vastly interesting and under-reported topic.

How do you explain death to your small children? And anyway, why do people die at all? Should your kids visit a dying loved one? Keep reading my Q&A with Pearson below to get some insight. And then go out and buy her new book!

KK: What is death, do you think?
PP: I think death marks a return of consciousness to a place we have been before, and that we recognize as a truer home. I hear this over and over from people I interview who have had Near Death Experiences. As one of them put it, “I felt like I had been lost for centuries and had found my way home.” How do you explain such a powerful feeling during a NDE unless it’s grounded in a deeper reality?

KK: How should I answer this question for my little kid?
PP: Children become aware of death at about the age of 5. Often, what they fear about it is the prospect of separation from their parents. I have some atheist friends who made a point of telling their kids that heaven doesn’t exist, and that death is a natural end. I wouldn’t do that. I think it was crucial for my daughter to be able to envision a place of reunion, because that’s really the issue for them. Being reunited with the people they love.

KK: Why do people die?
One of the things that comes up a lot when you interview people who’ve had NDEs is that they were told to return to their bodies because it “wasn’t their time.” That suggests to me that we are all here to fulfill a purpose of some kind. From that perspective, death isn’t a tragedy for the person who dies: It’s a completion of their purpose. Time to go home. Children sometimes ask why God would cause pain for their family. “Why did so-and-so have to die?” But if you can explain to them that this led the person toward joy, they can feel a little better about it. In 2008, my daughter lost her beloved hamster, our dog, my sister (her aunt) and my father in a handful of months. She was reeling. Being able to believe that they weren’t suffering, and that she would one day see them again, helped her in really critical ways.

KK: What happens after death?
People across cultures and belief systems report a similar experience when they have an NDE. They merge into what some call ‘an ocean’ of light. But it isn’t just a visual light. It is also experienced as a profound, comforting love, and as a kind of wisdom. It is a sentient light. Some people report having a life review. But what is interesting is that they don’t feel judged. Instead, they emotionally experience the impact they had on other people. It’s like they shift positions, and feel what others in their life had felt. So I guess that reinforces the wisdom of telling our children: Do unto others what you would have done unto you.

KK: What is heaven?
Personally, I think it is that experience of merging into a sea of Light, of being reconnected to the divine. I don’t think it’s a place where you go and play golf, or that only Christians can enter, or that is reserved exclusively for well-behaved people! Over the centuries, children have been made just as anxious about Hell as they have been more recently about Godlessness. But people I’ve interviewed who’ve had NDEs speak of encountering unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness. If you read interviews with children who’ve had NDEs, they’ll describe feeling safe, protected. I think we need to tear down the barriers between religions and see that we are all children of the same God.

KK: Should young children be invited to visit a dying relative?
This was a big question for me, when my sister lay dying. Would it be better, or worse, for my kids to see her, since her condition deteriorated so quickly. I didn’t want to distress them, but in fact, in the end, she was so calm and radiant that they were less frightened of the process of dying than they might have been if I’d sheltered them. They were able to say goodbye in their own way.

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Parents of Preteens Need This New Book, ‘Middle School Makeover’

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Are you suffering through life with a sullen preteen? Or do you have a mom friend who is going through it with her middler schooler while your sweet 5-year-old still hugs all over you? Filled with tips and research, a new book could be a huge help. Popular educator and blogger Michelle Icard has written Middle School Makeover, out today, to help you and your child survive through this emotional time. You may have heard of her website, Michelle in the Middle.

Keep reading to find out from Michelle why these preteen kids are so moody and tips for dealing with them. Also, Michelle says we parents of young kids can lay a foundation now for a sane preteen parent-child relationship later.

KK: Why do kids get so prickly right around the time they start middle school?
Poor middle schoolers. They get a bad rap for their moodiness and attitude (and it’s true, they have both in spades), but the reason behind these prickly changes is really quite wonderful.

At about the time kids start middle school, between ages 10 to 12, they hit a developmental stage in which they must begin to develop an identity apart from their parents. Ultimately, this is what every parent wants, but it’s a messy project! When kids feel a pull toward independence – the very pull that will motivate them to do great things like go to college, get a job, and live on their own one day – it creates a lot of conflict in their daily lives. That pull toward independence is accompanied by self-doubt, fear, anxiety, excitement and pride. The “prickliness” that rubs parents the wrong way is a by-product of all these emotions coming out at the same time. As a parent of two middle schoolers, I know how frustrating it can be to deal with kids who act irrationally, but it helps to know that developmentally, they’re coming to terms with being their own person and that’s a complicated process.

KK: What can we parents do when our kids are younger to help create a lasting and trusting bond that can weather adolescence?
 I have two tips.

1. Don’t tie discipline to judgment. Kids pull away from their parents in middle school when they fear their parents will judge them or harp on their mistakes. With so many new situations coming at middle schoolers, they have reason to worry about looking inexperienced, foolish or just wrong. So kids tend to hide what they’re going through to camouflage their blunders. When kids understand from experience that they can make mistakes without judgment, they are more likely to talk with you about those mistakes for your guidance. This doesn’t mean that children don’t need consequences. Of course, they do. It simply means you deliver them unemotionally and without tying them to a reflection on your child’s character.

2. Kids who have had no practice in independent thinking prior to middle school will be confronted with a lot of social decisions they won’t know how to process, so they’ll likely end up going along with the group rather than thinking critically about options. Parents who let their younger kids practice making decisions, respectfully disagree, and make mistakes without humiliation earn their kids’ trust during the tricky middle school years and set up their kids to be better decision makers, as well. So let your younger child choose his own outfits, pick the restaurant for dinner from time to time, and decide how to organize the stuff in his room. His wacky choices may drive you a little crazy sometimes, but you’re setting yourselves up for a huge payoff down the road.

KK: What are the most common kid behaviors for parents to be aware of as they approach middle school? MI: Parents should expect kids to cocoon more in middle school. I can remember when I was in middle school, and when the weekend rolled around, I barely wanted to leave my room. I’m grateful my parents gave me time and space to recharge my batteries, explore my own thoughts and catch up on much needed sleep during this time. It can be hard for parents, though, when kids emerge from their rooms, if all they want to do is hang out with friends – either in real life or by text and social media. Realize that this, too, is normal. Developing an adult identity is a social project. Middle schoolers need to learn who they are in relation to their peers and that has to happen through interaction.

Also, be prepared for wild swings in your child’s maturity. One minute your little girl will pull out her dolls from the back of her closet, the next she’ll be sneaking on make-up before school. Establishing your adult identity is not a linear process. Support your child by letting her play with her younger and older identities without judgment.

KK: What’s one of the hardest parts of this age for kids? For parents?
For kids, I think it’s being under constant evaluation by their peers. Every adolescent must complete a major construction project to become an adult. That construction project includes building an adult body, brain and identity. Remember walking the hallway at your middle school with all those eyes scrutinizing and evaluating your construction project? Were you developing too early, too late? Were you immature, too grown-up, a spaz, a geek, a nobody? I think the hardest and most exhausting part of being in middle school is wondering all day long, hundreds of times a day, “am I normal?”…and not knowing the answer.

From an adult’s perspective, I think one of the hardest parts of parenting a middle schooler is realizing that your child is at the mercy of a new social order and that your influence over how kids treat each other in the middle school social world is very limited. It is painful to watch kids fumble their way through this, and our instinct may be to “fix things” but it’s much more important to teach kids to fix their own social problems than to do it for them.

KK: What should we parents do to help?
Piggy backing on this idea of not fixing things for our kids, one of the biggest paradigm shifts in parenting middle schoolers is that parents should evolve into the roll of “assistant manager” in their kids lives. Think of the best manager you’ve ever had and the qualities that person possessed that helped you be successful. Usually people list things like: having consistent communication, setting clear expectations, respecting my family life/personal life, giving me more responsibility, etc. Micromanagers are counter-productive to achievement but assistant managers are a great catalyst for success. Parents who learn to let go of the need to control their kids’ environments, social interactions and personalities find themselves happier and more fulfilled, as do their kids.




Michelle Icard is the creator of social leadership curriculum used in middle schools across the country. Visit her website for straight talk and practical tips on raising adolescents. Her book Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years, is available on Amazon.



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‘Reasons My Kid is Crying’ Will Give You a Big Belly Laugh

Monday, May 5th, 2014

I’m on vacation in Nicaragua this week for my birthday. I brought my husband, and my sweet angel babies are home in New Jersey. Nothing makes the heart grow fonder like a little R&R.

So I’m going to leave you with a recommendation in photos for a hilarious new book called Reasons My Kid is CryingOMG. Check this one out.

Can’t wait to see you again on this blog. I’ll be back in action the week of May 12. xx Kristen




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Overparenting Dos and Don’ts By Shimi Kang, M.D.

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Another much-needed new book. The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger hits shelves today. The author, Shimi Kang, M.D., is just amazing.

As the medical director for Child and Youth Mental Health for Vancouver, B.C., Dr. Kang has witnessed the consequences of parental pressure (tiger mom) firsthand. As the mother of three children and a child of Indian immigrants (ones who couldn’t afford to send their kids to special summer camps or music lessons), she also knows that raising kids who are successful and self-motivated isn’t a matter of piano lessons, math tutors or money. It’s about helping your children embrace and rely upon the instincts that come naturally to them.

Check out her scientifically-based book, and see more about what’s inside below. Dr. Kang submitted this guest post that includes Overparenting Dos and Don’ts:

How can it be that the most informed generation of parents in human history are raising children who have poorer problem solving skills than generations prior and higher incidences of anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and addiction? When we hear such concerning facts about our world’s future decision makers, it’s natural to wonder what more could we be doing, what more can we as parents control for? The truth is that, the more we try to control our children’s lives and “prepare” them, the more harm we cause. In our ever-changing, ultra-competitive and socially connected world, overparenting is truly underparenting. Instead, we need to guide our children The Dolphin Way and help them develop skills that will be key to their survival in the 21st-century, skills such as collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking Below are some of the parenting “don’ts” we need to be mindful of—as well as a few essential parenting “dos.”

 Overparenting Dos and Don’ts

The Dos

Set reasonable schedules: Schedule 1 or 2 activities that encourage your child’s natural interests but no more. Eat meals together as a family as often as you can. Children who eat family meals at least five times a week perform better academically and are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems and substance dependencies. Make sure your kids get enough sleep every night (7 to 10 hours depending on age). Adequate sleep is one of the simplest ways to boost health, happiness and motivation!

Encourage role-modeling and free play: Provide some instruction when needed, but also encourage free play and exploration. Play and exploration build neural tracks in our children’s brains that help them become comfortable with uncertainty, trying new things and learning through trial and error. Simply sending your child to play outside is a great start. If they complain of boredom – excellent! Boredom is often a spark for the imagination.

Step back and resist the urge to overprotect: Whether it is bruising ones’ knee or ones’ ego, it’s good for your child to make some mistakes and experience the natural consequences of them. This can be scary for parents, but we have to take some deep breaths and stand back. When our lungs are fully expanded, sensory receptors send a signal to our brains that we are ok and we move out of fear mode. Instead of removing all the obstacles out of your child’s way, allow him/her to occasionally fall over. Of course, you can be there to support and guide them through it. This will teach your child that they have the ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.

The Don’ts
Over-scheduling. We are scheduling our kids and thus ourselves into an endless cycle of activities, leading to personal, familial and financial stress. When we do this, the home becomes a pit stop between activities and is no longer a place of rest or family connection. Over-scheduling leads to all the unhealthy habits of being “too busy” such as eating dinner on the go, chronic sleep deprivation and “socializing” but not social bonding. It is not sustainable and leaves our kids stressed, anxious and “burned out.”

Over-instructing. Research has shown that kids need to learn through play, exploration and trial and error. By favoring instruction through tutors and coaches, we are standing in the way of our kids’ natural curiosity and experimentation. Over-instructed kids have difficulty with critical thinking, are unwilling to take risks and lack spontaneous collaboration and communication skills.

Over-protecting. Yes, the world can be an unfair and dangerous place at times and no parent wants their child to experience hardship. However, exposure to adversity, learning from mistakes, and solving real-life problems is precisely what allows children to acquire the resiliency, accountability and adaptability that will protect them from harm throughout their lives. When parents step in too soon and too often, they stand in the way of their children acquiring these important life skills.

Take our quiz and find out what your parenting style is.

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