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How to Raise A Life Long Learner

Fostering a strong love of reading and learning starts before you even give birth. It’s known that baby can hear you talk before they’re even born, so reading to them while you’re still pregnant gives them the comfort of hearing your voice and their first stories. As children reach toddlerhood, it will get more challenging. As a baby, you’re able to sit them down on your lap and read full books. When they get older, they start to flip pages and yank the book out of your hand. It’s important to continue reading to them

From day one, babies are fascinated by life in general. Everything they see is brand new. It may seem mundane to us, since we see those objects all the time, but to an infant, it’s all brand new and needs to be explored. From the youngest age, infants start exploring by putting objects in their mouths. As they get older, the way they learn changes and as they learn to talk they will start asking questions about everything. The best way to encourage them to learn is to answer their questions, encourage exploration, take them out to show them different things and find fun ways to teach them about every day life. Silly songs, fun games, nursery rhymes and even good educational TV shows are all good ways to get your child interested. As they get older, there will be topics they are more interested in than others- make sure to take notice and gently push them towards gaining as much knowledge as they can on those 1-2 subjects. At a very young age, their brains are sponges. It’s the best time to teach them second (and even third) languages. Teach them multiple languages for basic words. Learning is great and it goes further than a classroom. Take young nature lovers on hikes, trails, to the park and to local landmarks. Take them on tours of various caves, caverns and other “field trips.” Make sure they know that life is an adventure, it’s a constant learning experience.

No matter how crazy an interest seems to you, or how mundane, build it up. If they are interested in the strange, paranormal or mystical help them make a collage to show different mythical beasts. There are books about cryptozoology creatures (some of whom have been proven to have actually existed). Take them on a hike through the woods. Take pictures of some of the bugs, reptiles, animals and plants- then go home and print the pictures. Look up any you don’t recognize and create a collage or a small book and have older kids write the names and descriptions. You could even let your child make a presentation on the solar system if they’re interested in space. Remember, the skies the limit with what they can do and the more you encourage, the more interest they will build with exploring and the more they can start to think creatively.

 

I have spent the last 30 years fascinated by life. If I could, I would happily live in school. I love everything about it. From the time I was four, I started reading. By first grade, I was reading at an advanced reading level and was reading everything I could get my hands on. I was that child getting in trouble for reading during class and reading ahead of the class. My friends and I did more than play “house.” We played ghost hunters, we set “traps” to catch evidence of animals (I remember setting up some string, dirt and a carrot to “catch” a rabbit), we played investigators- there was never a dull moment when my friends and I got together. Even now, I write all the time. As a child, I had a huge folder filled with poetry and now I have a whole virtual folder with fantasy drafts. My mom fostered a true love of learning in me and I developed the creative side of my brain naturally. I see it in both my kids now. My seven year old loves reading, books and nature. My two year old is already a story teller with a very strong imagination. We take them to the library weekly- last year, my seven year old won a giant stuffed Macie Mouse with a book.

Tips to Instill a Constant Love of Learning and Natural Curiosity

  • By far, the worst thing you can do is silence your child. By silencing your child when they ask (what may seem like endless) questions, you are teaching them to blindly accept and not look further. You need to be able to explain to best of your knowledge (and to their developmental ability).
  • If you don’t know, give them the resources to look the answer up themselves. If they ask you “why” and you don’t know why, look it up with them. Don’t just dismiss their questioning.
  • Make sure they have an endless supply of books- all different topics to read at any point and never get mad at them for wanting to read. If you don’t have the budget to buy every book, take them to the library regularly and let them research all interesting topics on Google.
  • Begin very early by reading daily to your child- even when your toddler grabs the book out of your hand, try to finish by making up the rest of the story.
  • Take them out on nature hikes, through the woods, to playgrounds and parks and just out in the back yard
  • Take up small hobbies to teach them about the world around them- making up little stories or songs, photography, even researching can be a fulfilling hobby.
  • Teach them to craft- there are sewing machines made specifically for children, teach them to knit or crochet, make jewelry, teach them to cook or bake then help them make up their own recipes- there are tons of options to inspire creativity and the more they find enjoyable, the more they will love to learn.
  • In good weather, take lots of pictures then look up everything you took pictures of and read as much as you can about everything.
  • The best way to teach them, is by example. Let them see you studying, researching, writing or doing other hobbies or crafts. Let them help you in the kitchen. Show them how much fun learning and creating is.
  • Start them young by reading and singing to them daily and as they get older, have them join in and have them to read to you or make games out of making up the silliest song.
  • Make sure they go to school on time and have all the supplies they need. Even though school is only one way of learning, it is still vital- they are there most of the day during the school year.

Teenagers are a bit trickier. They are often pushed for perfection- perfect grades, athletic abilities or test scores. By high school, school starts to feel like work. The best way you can keep encouraging is by not putting a lot of pressure on them for perfect grades. If their test scores aren’t 100s, don’t stress them same with athletics- if they don’t make the winning shot for their team, don’t get mad. Remember, life is a teaching experience. They are most likely on a sports team because they love the sport, in musical theater because they love performing- not because they are trying to be perfect and seeking perfection is the number one way to burn out.

What Can I Do Today?

One of the first things you can do, is turn off all electronics for a set time daily and go out and play. Even your own electronics- go and play pretend with your toddler, go on a hike with your elementary aged child. Collect costumes and create a costume closet so when your kids play pretend, they can ake believe in costume as well. It doesn’t matter how small or how big it is, get out and start encouraging your child. Show them new ways of doing things (if you can’t think of anything, research it first).

 

Sit down tonight and write your kids’ names out. Under their names, write what they’re good at, their strengths and weaknesses and what their interests are. Then look at all the interests and list five different ways to encourage those interests, build up the strengths and either strengthen or hide the weaknesses. After you have those figured out, start introducing those to your kids in fun ways. Above all, remember to make learning an adventure and life fun.

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Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Pregnant

I have had a total of three pregnancies- my first ended at 28 weeks with a partial abruption and severe pre-eclampisa. She was only 1lb 11.5ozs and 13 inches long and spent a total of 8 1/2 months in NICU. She’s now a small but healthy 7 year old. My second was relatively uncomplicated but we lost her. She was born at 36 weeks due to me going into a painless labor and I wasn’t allowed by the doctors to go into labor. She died of a condition called Anencephaly (absence of the skull) and lived for 3 hours after birth.

My third was totally complication free and she was born at 37 weeks (once again, due to the complications of my oldest) and was 7lbs11ozs and 21 inches long- they told us she would have been a 9-10lb baby if she was born term.

I had each baby at 23, 25 and 27 years, I’m 30 now so I have spent almost my full adult life being called “mommy.”

I read all the books, blogs and joined all the support forums I could find. What to Expect was my bible through my first pregnancy and through her early years but nothing could prepare me for the almost 9 months of hell I was in for after having my baby.

When I was 22 and newly married, I found out I was pregnant. I was young, naive and even though I knew it was a huge sacrifice, I had a glorified image of pregnancy and motherhood. I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park and that I wouldn’t have near the freedom I had before but I still imagined taking the baby to baby and me classes, taking her out in cute little outfits with friends (since most of mine, at that time were also pregnant or new mommies) and late night cuddles. I thought of play dates and hanging out with friends would simply end up taking place at kid friendly places instead of bars. I had no idea what the dark side of pregnancy involved. I had heard of conditions like Pre-Eclampsia but the thought never crossed my mind that it could happen to me.

I decided to sit down and ask myself what 30 year old me wished 23, 25 and even 27 year old me knew. I was able to come up with a quick list of six major things I wish people had told me

  1. Take folic acid- lots of it. I didn’t realize how important it really was. I did make sure my pre-natals had it, but that was it. After dealing with Pre-E and losing another baby to Anencephaly, I joined a support group for people who lost babies to the disorder and that was when I read about folic acid and how vital it is to healthy pregnancies. I also learned about the MTHFR and after asking for a simple blood test, I found out I had a more severe form of the lesser mutation- which means my body only processes about 7% of the folic acid I eat.
  2. Swelling all over to the point where you do not look human IS NOT NORMAL. Don’t call Labor and delivery, go in to the ER to get checked- especially if swelling in the hands and face comes with headache and lightheaded or any other sign of high blood pressure. Pre-Eclampsia is serious, but can be managed if it’s caught early on.
  3. Lay off the baby books- especially if you have a preemie- seriously, cut it out. If your baby doesn’t develop by the books (either advanced or behind) they will stress you out more than help- it’s nice to know what “normal” development is, but if you start playing comparisons, it will make you lose your mind.
  4. Go ahead and complain about the morning sickness, crampy feelings, bloated feeling, headaches, mood swings, exhaustion and everything else- being pregnant sucks and it’s ok to not enjoy the symptoms- it’s the end result we all want.
  5. Do not freak out after being given the epidural. It doesn’t make all feeling go away- just the pain. With my first c section, they had to put me under as soon as she was out. I thought it was about to wear off in the middle of the c section. I always assumed that I would be totally numb and that I wouldn’t even feel the surgeon pull the baby out. My second two c sections went smoother because I knew what to expect.
  6. Enjoy the last little bit of freedom- the sleepless nights do not last long (be a few months, they WILL sleep through the night) but that small window of time in between feels like an eternity- and there will be times you will wake up freaked out in the middle of the night because your baby sighed and you thought they were choking- that is normal.

I wish I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, and possibly fix some of the things I feel I did wrong. Since I can’t change the past, I do try to share these tips when the topics come up. I’ll push the subject of folic acid or full body swelling when I’m talking to a friend who’s newly pregnant or trying to conceive. I have many other lessons I have learned in my 7 years of being mommy, but these stick out the most as the pieces of advice I wish I had listened to most.

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US Birthrate and Fertility Rates Dropping, Many Possible Reasons

I have been reading about the US’s declining birthrate along with the older generation reaching retirement age. The people they quoted acted worried about a smaller working population vs larger retired, disabled and sick/aging population. They named everything from women now choosing to put off having kids leading to a decline in fertility rates to Planned Parenthood and similar resources that help women plan out and prevent pregnancies. Paul Ryan even went as far as saying he did his part and had three kids.

What are the main reasons that keep coming up in discussions where choosing to either put off or avoid having kids is the subject?

The top reasons seem to be lack of good, affordable healthcare- even a lot of people working full time with degrees seem to have trouble affording the costs of paying insurance, deductibles and copays. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a decent insurance, the US has a higher mortality rate for both pregnant women and babies than a lot of other developed countries.

The costs associated with having kids also plays a huge role- it costs over 200k to raise a child and most of the time daycare for one child alone will cost over 20k a year. I know we were looking into daycares locally (low cost of living area) and decided not to because it would literally eat my whole paycheck. Daycares are also getting to be less trustable. They offer assistance, but also now allow random women to put in to run day cares out of their homes.  It’s frequently on the news about daycare providers harming kids, having drug paraphernalia and dangerous items (knives etc) out in easy reach and occasionally, they have gone as far as having children die in their care. This happens at the shady lower cost as well as higher, upper scale daycares so can you really trust daycares?

Maternity pay/leave is another higher up on the chart- most places do not pay adequately nor do they seem to give long enough leave to make it worth using. If you get pregnant while working in a lot of different places, if you already have temporary disability insurance, and have been working for over a year you can get paid 6 week leave. If you work less than a year and are not paying into it prior to getting pregnant, you’re out of luck unless the store also has maternity leave benefits mapped out and you’re eligible.

High costs of rent and cost of living in general– Couple that with the next on the list, stagnant and low incomes and you have large numbers of people who can barely pay back their astronomical loans while paying all other bills and you have the recipe for holding off on having kids. The costs of living continue to climb while wages are staying the same overall.

Women now have the option to have kids or not– this is a huge factor I’m sure. Women now have the options of birth control, they can go to college and focus on their career instead of getting married and staying home and not every women who grows up is forced by society to have kids (or be outcast).

But with the positive, negative can come in as well- women have choices now and there have been studies linking later maternal age can lead to infertility and other complications.

There have also been suggestions that fertility rates are dropping some maybe due to environment and others may be due to the later start dates for starting families and having kids but there have been studies that as a whole, rates are dropping.

There are many different opinions, ideas and reasons that people are holding off on having kids and that may not be a bad thing. Our population right now is aging, but after that generation leaves, won’t it start to even out again? Gen X started having less kids than the boomers did and now we’re down to a birthrate of 1.8 as of 2016. It is no longer needed to have a lot of kids to ensure the survival of your family’s genetics and it’s no longer that cheap to raise kids.

What reasons do you think I have missed?

 

 

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This has been both a great and stressful week

My daughter started second grade last week(I still can’t believe she’s already in SECOND grade- when did that happen??). While getting in the routine, I was a stereotype of the stressed out/hot mess of a mom I always tried to not be.

Day 1- we got to school on time, drop off went smooth then my 2 year old and I went home for a bit then back out to Starbucks to celebrate. As we were leaving, a woman pointed out that her shoes were on backwards.

Day 2- I overslept and my husband got to work late because he dropped her off (so we could take less time getting both girls ready)

Day 3- I backed into a pole and damaged my bumper as I was pulling out of the parking lot at her school

But that day, I got accepted to a website to write and signed the freelance contract.

So that day was both good and bad.

Days 4 and 5, I had to work but they both went smooth in all ways possible.

 

This week is starting off weird but decent. I had a severe arthritis flare up yesterday and barely made it through the day, but I got all my orders shipped and managed to make it through the day without my car. Today I’m off and am taking advantage of the time to catch up on writing- both updating here and the second job. Once I get into a full routine and used to the schedule (and get my car back) I’ll have everything down.

I know it’ll be looking up soon.

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Not sure if this is a fail or success

My girls and I decided to attempt bath bombs this afternoon. They had fun mixing and making a mess, they loved using one in the bath but they turned out nothing like they were supposed to. They crumble in my hand and I’m having to keep them in the mold until used. I think I know what I did wrong and we still have stuff for more, but would it be a success since they had fun or a fail since it didnt work right?

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I never thought a bowel movement would excite me

I was always beyond disgusted about the whole concept. I still can’t say p**p without gagging but my 7 year old was born and we began a battle around a year with constipation. She’ll get so backed up at times, she has been hospitalized. There are times she’ll be so constipated, she’ll cry while doing it. Now, even though we do have medication help (Miralax), she is able to without the tears- and she’s now going on her own without prompting. That itself seems to be an accomplishment since I’ve seen quite a few kids with her condition who aren’t potty trained at all.

My youngest is the opposite, any animal cheese or milk and she’ll have diarrhea. We are finally getting the hang of her (more expensive) diet, and it’s paying off.  She’ is now having more solid and less runny blow outs.

 

If you had told me when I was 20 that in 10 years, I would be monitoring and discussing poop with anyone (doctors etc), I’d have said you were out of your mind. I guess having kids changes things. I still almost puke when I smell vomit, but I can clean it up and deal with (kids) puking on me. I also can change a diaper (lost a job because I couldn’t change diapers- well, wouldn’t) and my oldest was my first diaper changing experience (and how I learned that boys aren’t the only ones who can pee straight up in the air…)

 

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This coming June I’m taking my first ever paid vacation from work

Since I’ll have a full week off, I have decided that the month of June I am going to try to do one post a day and come up with either 1 post or one article to submit to a magazine or blog every day through June.

Coming up with ideas shouldn’t be too difficult.

I have 11 more days in this month and I’ll be brainstorming topics (privately) and I’ll try to come up with 30 varied posts.

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Rules of my home

No matter how old you are or who you are, nobody is to lick the cat

There will be no throwing of chairs or any other objects at the cat

The cat is to be pet on demand and fed every time someone goes into the kitchen. The cat food is FOR the cat, it is not meant for human consumption.

No licking windows

No licking walls

No licking anything

These are the rules for all whom enter my home, no exceptions- even the tiny people who live here.

I never thought I would have those rules until I had kids… I never even thought I would have to say “dont lick the cat.”

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A few things 30 year old me wishes 22 year old newly pregnant me had known.

I have had a total of three pregnancies- my first ended at 28 weeks with a partial abruption and severe pre-eclampisa. She was only 1lb 11.5ozs and 13 inches long and spent a total of 8 1/2 months in NICU. She’s now a small but healthy 7 year old. My second was relatively uncomplicated but we lost her. She was born at 36 weeks due to me going into a painless labor and I wasn’t allowed by the doctors to go into labor. She died of a condition called Anencephaly (absence of the skull) and lived for 3 hours after birth.

My third was totally complication free and she was born at 37 weeks (once again, due to the complications of my oldest) and was 7lbs11ozs and 21 inches long- they told us she would have been a 9-10lb baby if she was born term.

I had each baby at 23, 25 and 27 years, I’m 30 now so I have spent almost my full adult life being called “mommy.”

I read all the books, blogs and joined all the support forums I could find. What to Expect was my bible through my first pregnancy and through her early years but nothing could prepare me for the almost 9 months of hell I was in for after having my baby.

When I was 22 and newly married, I found out I was pregnant. I was young, naive and even though I knew it was a huge sacrifice, I had a glorified image of pregnancy and motherhood. I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park and that I wouldn’t have near the freedom I had before but I still imagined taking the baby to baby and me classes, taking her out in cute little outfits with friends (since most of mine, at that time were also pregnant or new mommies) and late night cuddles. I thought of play dates and hanging out with friends would simply end up taking place at kid friendly places instead of bars. I had no idea what the dark side of pregnancy involved. I had heard of conditions like Pre-Eclampsia but the thought never crossed my mind that it could happen to me.

I was asked the question “What would 30 year old me go back and tell newly pregnant 22 year old me?” so here are a few pieces of advice I wish I had listened to or received when I was pregnant, especially when I was pregnant with my two older.

  1. Take folic acid- lots of it. I didn’t realize how important it really was. I did make sure my pre-natals had it, but that was it. After dealing with Pre-E and losing another baby to Anencephaly, I joined a support group for people who lost babies to the disorder and that was when I read about folic acid and how vital it is to healthy pregnancies. I also learned about the MTHFR and after asking for a simple blood test, I found out I had a more severe form of the lesser mutation- which means my body only processes about 7% of the folic acid I eat.
  2. Swelling all over to the point where you do not look human IS NOT NORMAL. Don’t call Labor and delivery, go in to the ER to get checked- especially if swelling in the hands and face comes with headache and lightheadedness or any other sign of high blood pressure. Pre-Eclampsia is serious, but can be managed if it’s caught early on.
  3. Lay off the baby books- especially if you have a preemie- seriously, cut it out. If your baby doesn’t develop by the books (either advanced or behind) they will stress you out more than help- it’s nice to know what “normal” development is, but if you start playing comparisons, it will make you lose your mind.
  4. Go ahead and complain about the morning sickness, crampy feelings, bloated feeling, headaches, mood swings, exhaustion and everything else- being pregnant sucks and it’s ok to not enjoy the symptoms- it’s the end result we all want.
  5. Do not freak out after being given the epidural. It doesn’t make all feeling go away- just the pain.
  6. Enjoy the last little bit of freedom- the sleepless nights do not last long (be a few months, they WILL sleep through the night) but that small window of time in between feels like an eternity- and there will be times you will wake up freaked out in the middle of the night because your baby sighed and you thought they were choking- that is normal.

As of right now, those first three pieces of advice are the most important things I wish I had known. I know I could never know, but I feel that if I had known to start taking folic acid before we started trying, our middle daughter would be here with us- about to turn 5.

After my kids were born, there are things I wish I had known.

1. My social life would die. I always had an active social life from college on out- but between location differences between my friends, weeding out the bad influences and age differences between our kids, I have lost touch with most of my old friends. Lack of time tends to get in the way of meeting new people in similar situations (although, working moms with working husbands and busy schedules may not be the types I’d want to meet when it comes to play dates and getting kids together). It’s not bad losing social life- If your old friends were bad influences (into drinking/drugs/etc) but it does rub off on your kids as they get older and have a lower interest in being around other kids.

2. Don’t let your kid sleep in your bed with you. Even just one night. Our 7 year old fell out of her big girl bed two times in one night when she was 3. We allowed her to sleep with us that night. She’s now 7 and we still can’t get her out of our bed (we could, but she actually panics at the thought of sleeping alone). We know she’s spoiled, but fear and anxiety is real and is a real problem when part of a child’s special needs is that they have trouble communicating with others.

3. Having special needs kids changes how you interact with all areas of your life. I’d love to take her to parties and to movies- and sometimes she does great. Other times, we will spend the full night in the bathroom with me trying to calm her down. We do not know how she will react to any given social interaction and sensory overload is a real problem. It has taken me 30 years to know and handle my own issues (loud noises- mainly, loud crowds, she has the same)

I recently read about one business starting a sensory sensitive day and I’m going to have to try taking her. I want to get her around more “normal” developing children, but other special needs kids tend to get on well with her- either way, she’s starting to take interest in socializing so we need to nurture it.

 

I may create a continuation of this post when I think of more. I know there are probably a lot of things that have slipped my mind. What are some things you wish you had known when you were newly pregnant?

 

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In 2 days I will have a 7 year old

I never believed when people said time flies by, but my tiny little doll sized baby will soon be 7. She’s reading, telling time and knows the days of the week. She knows which therapies she has on what days and reminds us on a regular basis.

I don’t know how her future will look, it’s 50/50, but she is already showing herself to be more intelligent than people give her credit. She’s kind, sweet, goofy and loving and I’m so lucky to call her my daughter.