It’s summer, and although not all of us have the convenience of living close by a beach, many of us still make the time to visit at least one beach destination with our family over the hot months of June, July or August. However, if your family is anything like mine, a day at the beach with kids can sometimes not go as smoothly as hoped.

Whenever one has small kids in tow, even the best intentions of a breezy, low key, relaxing day can become… well… complicated (to say the least).

Today we welcome back Teresa McCarthy to share some great tips for making your family trip to the beach fun (and maybe even relaxing!) for both the parents and kids.

Surviving the Beach with Children

12 Tips for Family Beach Trips

Guest Post by Teresa McCarthy

My family lives in a great beach town on Long Island. Residing blocks from the water provides the perfect backdrop for summer vacation plans. Most of us in town try our hardest not to “cross the bridge” (aka leaving Long Beach) on beautiful summer days and instead head down to the beach as often as possible. However, we all know, going to the beach with children can be somewhat daunting—especially with multiple children or without another adult to accompany you.

I love when others share with me what’s worked for them in challenging situations, so here are a few tips I’ve learned through observation and in talking with other “beach moms” through the years. There are even a few tips below that I’ve figured out on my own!

1. Get to the beach with your feet!

With no car, the frustration of looking for a parking spot is instantly eradicated and you are limited to packing only what you can carry. Whether walking or biking, make your kids a part of the process using a bike trailer or wagon, or (if able) by having them pedal themselves.

*Added Benefit: All that foot power also makes for fantastic naps for all!

Surviving the Beach No. 1

Our bike trailer bit the dust during Superstorm Sandy. Now my kids have to pedal themselves to the beach.

2. Less is more at the beach.

Imaginative play is endless on the beach, especially with natural inspiration. With the help of friends, my daughters have invented a few of our favorite “beach games” and activities. For example: a jelly fish collection contest, the sand bakery, design-your-own mermaid tail and splash in the hole!

Beach Tip No. 2

My daughter Anna with friends showing off their fantastic seaweed mermaid tail.

3. Make your kids help carry their sand toys and snacks.

Schlepping is good for a kid’s soul and even better for your back!

4. Sit (aka park) your gear as close to the lifeguard stand as possible.

The lifeguards will get to know your kids and in turn your kids will know that they are trusted adults.

*Added Benefit: If your child ever gets lost or disoriented when coming out of the water, they know to go directly to the lifeguard chair!

5. Boogie boards make great sand sleds down the lifeguard hill.

Be sure to get the ones with the slippery bottom surface.

6. Baby powder in a tube sock works wonders!

I call it the Magic Eraser for the human body. Keep a tube sock filled with baby powder and knotted at the top in your beach bag. Rub over children to instantly remove sand from feet, bums (during a diaper change) or the entire body (should it be needed). My kids love to apply it to each other.

7. DON’T FORGET! Beach days can be any day of the year…

… as long as you’re dressed appropriately.

Beach Top No. 7

My kids and their cousin in February during the annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash.

8. Divide and conquer.

Find at least one beach buddy! A friend or group of friends provides good adult and child socializing and helps when the need arises to make runs to the snack bar, bathroom or a dip in the water. (Strength in numbers, right?)

9. Splurge on durable sand toys.

And (just as important) don’t forget to label them.

10. Dig a hole!

The possibilities are endless and—trust me on this!—provide hours of entertainment.

11. Bring a book.

One of my life’s mottos no matter where we are!

Beach Tip No. 11

Left: Me reading! Right: My mom, a retired children’s librarian, is never without a book either!

12. Don’t forget a little cash and a cell phone.

In Long Beach, you can order take-out and have it delivered to the beach! There are NO excuses to end the beach fun!

Leave a Comment: What works for your family at the beach? I’d love to hear your favorite beach advice and add it to our summer repertoire!


 

Teresa McCarthy Head ShotTeresa McCarthy resides in Long Beach, NY and is the mother of daughters Gracie and Anna. A former children’s librarian, Teresa is a stay at home mom who dabbles in the family business (the operation of 5 bowling centers) whenever she can. Additionally she volunteers as president of the pre-school PTA, is a Girl Scout troop leader and assists with many community fundraisers and events. Teresa is grateful for her supportive husband Jack and to live just a quick boardwalk bike ride away from her parents.

 

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#Guilt

Something all moms typically experience at some point. Today we welcome back Valerie Young—our NAMC Advocacy Coordinator and our Policy Blog Author and Editor—to Mothers Central as she shares her perspective on the “undeserved, counter-productive” feelings of guilt.

Valerie’s outlook is thought-provoking, highlighting many points you may never have considered as a “guilty mom.” Reading her insight below may not only change your own outlook on guilt, but quite possibly turn you into a policy advocate!

I Don’t Believe in Mommy Guilt

By Valerie Young

It has not escaped my notice that women with children often express regret about their performance as mothers. 

I remember coming back from my own partially paid maternity leave, and for two months, driving to drop off and pick up at 2 different day care centers, doing my work, running the household, rocking the baby, mothering the 4 year old, and feeling like a total failure at everything I did. (Yes, I had a husband at home, but he left early for his office, and came home late, getting in his hours and pushing for professional advancement.)

I cried in my boss’ office as I handed in my resignation. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” I said, “I just can’t seem to get it organized, I just can’t make it work, I’m so so sorry.  It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault….”

I too had guilt and regret about my own performance as a professional and mother. However, not any more.

Today’s mothers’ guilt goes beyond forgetting to sign a permission slip or losing your temper at the end of a long day. What I’m talking about, really, is assuming responsibility for the perceived hardships we or our children are experiencing, and chalking it up to our own inadequacy or personal failing. I now believe for the most part that these guilty feelings are wildly undeserved and counter-productive. And furthermore, we should stop the guilt!

In many important ways, we didn’t craft the culture we exist in, and it wasn’t designed with our best interests in mind. Earning money is the most socially valued activity, and those with access to significant cash wield the most influence and have the most power. Few women, and fewer mothers, find themselves in this position.

“Our work ethic rewards long hours,
rather than productivity, or efficiency, or creativity.”

~
With time as the currency, those who do lots of unpaid work, like caring for children, just can’t compete. And let it be know, it’s women who do the vast majority of child care, who are culturally and socially assigned to it, expected to do it, and are encouraged to do it, in our advertising, how our workplaces are set up, and how our laws are drafted. Thus, women spend the most time raising children and caring for them, blunting their ability to engage in the preferred and valued occupation of earning money.

The “Boss Lottery”

In spite of huge changes in our society, with women now being the better educated gender and increasingly accepted in job sectors previously reserved for men, a pay gap of about 20% remains. Child care, which mothers absolutely need if they are to work, has never risen to a national priority. Necessary changes to the workplace, which must be in place if women are to be able to direct their own lives, support their families, fulfill their potential, and raise their children, are not forthcoming.

  • Whether or not a woman still has an income when giving birth depends on the boss lottery.
  • Whether or not she can breastfeed the baby depends on the boss lottery.
  • Whether or not she can take a day of paid leave when she has the flu, or take her child for shots and a well-child checkup, depends on the boss lottery.

Our vast knowledge in this stunning technical age has taught us two very important things: 1.) What happens to children in the first months of life imprints them forever and contributes overwhelmingly to their education, income, health, and success in later life and 2.) Societies in which women share political power, influence, and income equality are more democratic, have a higher standard of living, better health, stronger economies, and peace.

However, none of this is indicated by the reality we live in.

The reality is women (even the most successful women) still earn less than men, occupy fewer legislative seats than men, have access to less wealth than men, and are economically punished for bearing and raising the future generations, the producers and consumers, the citizens and soldiers, the human beings upon which every other human transaction depends. The line between women, motherhood, and our poverty rate being twice that of men over age 65 is straight and short.

When I think back to the day I resigned from my own job, tearful and filled with guilt, I now recognized why it was so hard…

The people in charge are not the ones bearing and raising children. The hours-driven work culture, the importance placed on income, the utter disregard for the care of others, our notions of what power and leadership look like – none of these favor the woman with a baby on her hip and a toddler wrapped around her legs.

Sure, I chose motherhood, but I didn’t realize when I did what the consequences would be.

And I’m not willing to allow to pass unchallenged a society where we limit, constrain, and disadvantage those who do the very thing on which we all depend for our continued survival.

#NotGuilty

~

Leave a Comment: Do you allow yourself to feel mommy guilt? Have you ever looked at your guilt through the lens of policy and societal expectations? Help us welcome NAMC Advocacy Coordinator Valerie Young back to Mothers Central by leaving her a comment and sharing this post with others!

WIWAdThis is an original post contributed by NAMC Advocacy Coordinator Valerie Young.

Learn more about Valerie and keep up-to-date on important policies that promote family economic security and the well-being of family caregivers by visiting and subscribing via email to the (Wo)man in Washington blog, liking her on Facebook, and following her on Twitter.

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We inadvertently become researchers of life and motherhood when we study our own as well as other mothers’ experiences and journeys.

This is the concept behind our monthly Faces of Mothers’ Center series featuring interviews with different Mothers’ Center members across the nation. Today we are introducing you to Mothers’ Center alumni member Heidi Atlas.

Heidi and her husband Brad live in Oceanside, New York and have two daughters—Ariel (age 25) and Chelsea (age 22). Heidi has been an English teacher for 30 years. When her oldest daughter was just an infant and she had time off teaching as a new mother, Heidi discovered and got involved in her local Mothers’ Center group. “The conversations I had at my Mothers’ Center with other mothers in exactly the same moment of life as me were wonderful.” says Heidi of her early experience with the Mothers’ Center.

In addition to having taught English, Heidi is currently the Co-Director of the Long Island Writing Project—a group seeking to improve writing, reading and learning in area schools. She loves traveling, teaching writing, reading fiction, gardening, walking and hiking. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Heidi even more…

Heidi Atlas -RMInterview

Heidi with her husband Brad and daughters Chelsea and Ariel.

Q: What three words best describe you and why?
A: Compassionate. Reflective. Open.

I deeply care about my students, the state of education, and the issues which affect our world today. Likewise, I am constantly thinking, questioning and reflecting on the issues and concerns I have in both my professional and personal life. Additionally, it is important to me to always remain open to new ideas and different ways of thinking and seeing.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories as a parent?
A: Some of my most joy-filled and proudest memories as a parent were attending my daughters’ concerts in elementary school. I worked in a neighboring school ten minutes away, and I’d leave work to hear Chelsea sing in the chorus and Ariel play flute in the band. In second grade, Ariel had a solo in a production of Really Rosie — I was her biggest fan. In sixth grade, Chelsea was Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and watching her belt out “I want a wedding in a big church, with bridesmaids and flower girls!” was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Q: What do you remember most about your Mothers’ Center experience?
A: Of course I enjoyed my group participation with the Mothers’ Center when my daughter was an infant, but one of my most cherished Mothers’ Center experiences came years later. When my oldest daughter was entering 5th grade, I was asked to join a mother-daughter book group made up of five Mothers’ Center members and their daughters.

“My favorite and most cherished experience
was our Mother-Daughter book group.”

~
Our group met monthly or bimonthly in each other’s houses and we became dear friends, reading young adult novels like Are you there, God, It’s me Margaret, Esperanza Rising, and Homeless Bird. Together as mothers and daughters we’d talk about the book and life, and even occasionally cook ethnic foods related to our month’s reading. The girls and mothers bonded, separately and together, sharing the many experiences girls and mothers go through during those challenging teenage years. As time passed, the girls moved on to different colleges and different parts of the country. Yet, us mothers still continue to meet and the girls still remain connected on Facebook and through occasional visits when schedules allow.

Mother-DaughterBookGroupA photo of a more recent Mother-Daughter book group reunion.

Q: What is one of your biggest challenges as a parent?
A: When my daughters were younger, I was always so worried about their safety. It was so much easier to drive them to CVS a few blocks away than to live with the fear of whether they knew how to cross the streets carefully enough. It’s always been difficult for me to let go and give them their freedom to venture out and make mistakes, without wanting to protect them and make it easy. The CVS trip is a metaphor for all of life’s trips, I suppose.

Now with my kids in their early twenties, I must accept that my children’s values and beliefs might be somewhat different than mine. I have to remind myself to accept them fully for who they are and embrace the people they have become.

Q: How has having children changed you?
A: Having children has definitely made me see the world through the lens of a mother. I believe I am a much more empathetic teacher, as a result of having my own kids.

“Parenting made my life so much richer and fuller,
and I really didn’t expect all that.”

~
My children have made me so happy, so terrified, so proud, so scared, so thrilled. The reality is, I never imagined I’d enjoy motherhood so much and adore my kids the way I do!

~

Thank you Heidi for your honest responses and for allowing us to share your personal experiences on life as a mother on Mothers Central.

Leave a Comment: Please help us give a warm welcome to Heidi. Do you relate with any of her struggles and successes in motherhood? Let us know in the comments section below!

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What would be the most important wisdom you would pass down to your child(ren)?

Each month we ask this question to our members and look for a reply via a letter to their child. Today we are thrilled to welcome Olivia Treubig’s response.

Olivia is a recent member of the Midshore Mothers’ Center in Massapequa, New York. She is a writer, artist and photographer with a Masters Degree in Childhood Education. She is currently the mother of two young girls and is joyfully expecting the birth of her third daughter in July. Additionally, Olivia enjoys writing about her parenting experiences online via her own blog Mindful Mothering.

Today, the wisdoms that Olivia shares with us might surprise you… in more ways than one. Creatively written in a rhythmic voice, let’s listen to Olivia’s passionate and poetic message.

Olivia Treubig

Dear daughter, please cry…

If that is what you’re feeling, let those tears run ’til dry.
As they stream down, let me hug you through this time.

Dear darling, I beg you not to strive for constant happiness.
Do not think you are a failure when you realize that life is full of pain,
for that pain will be your greatest treasure trove to derive golden gain.

Dear darling likewise, do not strive for pain,
for it will arrive in its own time.
(Know it will also pass in its own time.)

Dear love of mine, I promise that those times you’re down
will not cause you to drown.
Promise in return, that when you feel that pull down,
you’ll call me to come around.

I will travel miles across towns, and spend hours on the phone,
just to help you find your way home to yourself.

On your darkest, foggiest, stormiest of days,
we will sit together in the grey, under an umbrella,
soaking in the rain, until the sun shines again
and your smile soothes your pain.

Dear daughter, in speaking of your beautiful bright smile,
know it is your truth, your spirit, and your joy when it lights you up—
sparkling and fresh, like the morning dew.

However, I know its nothing new,
that we sometimes use our smile to cover our pain.
Will you promise to never do this with me?
(Yet if you do, I’ll forgive you again and again…)

Dear darling, you see, there is no level too deep down
that I haven’t already seen with my own eyes.
Let my arms comfort you when it’s your turn to be deep in sobbing cries.

I am here for you.
It is my gift to you and it is deep and true.

Wherever you go, whatever you do.

Any problem you ever face, you are never, ever alone.
There is no mistake you can make that will forbid you from my arms.
There is no harm you could cause that would keep you from my words.
We will cry, will will sigh (or figure out how to do better next time).
For you are mine, my daughter, my kin—
never to be erased by any sin.

I would rather you cry in my arms then cry all alone.
I would rather pick you up from the dark alleys you accidentally wander down,
then to find out you are no longer around…

This may sound extreme, so let me be very clear what I mean.
Do not mistake my words here as saying, “do as you please.”
I am raising you to be kind, to follow rational order and to be morally sound.
Yet, I know there will be times when your world will still crumble down.

Dear darling, I am raising you to…

help others, have manners and find your true voice,
to give back to your community and make the right choice.

x
These are the things I hope you will hear me go over
in the tiny lessons of our each and every day.

I realize life is not a rosy playground where all bad things just go away—
even if you do your best and try your hardest.
It is true, I will always hate hearing about the bad,
and will always continue to pray for the good.

But the deeper truth is,
even though I pray to God each day to protect you,
the world is painted not only in the white light I envision,
but in shades of grey and red and blue.

You will be angry, sad, disappointed and confused.
But darling, no matter what—I am here for YOU!
It is my biggest job as your mom
and the one I will always value the most.

Leave a Comment: Do Olivia’s creative and poetic words of wisdom resonate? Please help me give a warm welcome to Mothers Central guest Olivia Treubig by leaving her a comment and sharing her letter with others!

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Every family, every parent, every mother has different experiences, different career aspirations and different ways in which they prioritize their time. To help better recognize and commend these differences, we are highlighting the lives of mothers in the workforce by asking our members questions exploring:

  • What led them to stay active in their careers
  • What support they utilize to help them navigate their way
  • How this has impacted their mothering experiences

Check out our past Work/Life interviews here. Today we are highlighting Michele Munsil, a mother and member of the Mothers’ Center of Fort Collins (Colorado) who works professionally as a physical therapist.

Michele MunsilMichele and her husband Jef with their child Even (nearly 3-years-old).

Q: Give us a quick timeline of your career path.
A: I graduated from the University of Colorado with my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2008 and started working at an area hospital weeks later. With my new degree and my new job, I was absolutely positive that I was on my way to curing everyone in northern Colorado of whatever ailed them. After 3 years of long commutes and long hours, my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family.

“We both agreed that this next step
would be much easier if I could
obtain a job closer to home
and that afforded me more flexibility.”

~
I was fortunate, quickly landing two part-time jobs only a few short miles from my home. Then, only weeks later, we discovered we were expecting our son. I happily worked both jobs for the duration of my pregnancy, but once Evan was born became torn… I loved my career yet had always envisioned myself staying home with my children. In the end, my husband and I decided the best thing for our family would be for me to return to one of my jobs. I now use my professional skills working two days a week as a physical therapist, while spending the rest of my time home with my son. For me, this works out perfect. I feel as though I have the best of both worlds.

Q: What is the key component of your support system?
A: As in all aspects of my life, my husband has been the primary support that keeps me going. However, my coworkers are also a very important a part of my support system. They have provided more support than I even knew I needed. The women I work with are all working moms who have been doing this much longer than I. It is wonderful to know that they’ve all been where I am and not only did they make it through, they’ve managed to raise great kids.

Q: Looking back at your motherhood and career path, describe your hardest and best moments.
A: My worst moment was when my son was 4 months old. I was in the middle of a treatment and got a phone call from the nanny saying that my son would not take his bottle. I could hear him on the other end of the phone crying. He had only been going to the nanny for 3 weeks at this point, and hearing him cry was almost more than I could handle.

“The mom in me wanted so badly to run out
of that treatment room and straight to his rescue.”

~
My best moment is every afternoon when I pick up my son after work. He smiles, calls out “Mommy!” and runs to give me a hug. Additionally, I feel refreshed from having an “adult” day, and my son is excited to have me back after a day playing with the nanny and her children.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?
A: Though to some degree I’ve known it all along, the more time I spend as a working mother the more I learn I can’t do it all. In fact, not only can I not do it all, the reality is… I’m the only person that expects I can do it all.

~

Each woman steps through their life differently. We thank Michele for fearlessly sharing her own experiences and work/life journey with us at the Mothers Central blog.

Leave a Comment: Please help me welcome Michele Munsil to Mothers Central by leaving her a comment and sharing her experiences with others using the social media icons above this post.

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As a trained graphic artist and a self-proclaimed “creative individual” myself, I’ve always hoped I could pass my own spark of creativity onto my kids. Today, Brooke Campbell—a member of the Mothers’ Center of Central New Jersey and a licensed Creative Arts Therapist—is here to share some fun ideas to help us all bring creativity to our kids’ summer schedule!

10 Family Activities to Spark Creativity~

10 Activities to Spark Creativity in Kids

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Guest Post by Brooke Campbell

Children are inherently curious and creative. One of the many jobs a parent takes on is to support and foster this creativity. However, as children grow older, self-consciousness slowly creeps in and can become the downfall of our creative spirit.

As a licensed creative arts therapist and a mom of two little ones, I am constantly thinking of parenting with attunement and creativity. Not only is it something I strive to teach others from a professional standpoint, but it’s also something I implement personally with my own kids!

Here are 10 actives which can help you free the creative spirit in your children and continue to spark their creativity over the summer months.

ACTIVITY #1: Our Family Rocks

Make a fun collection of personalized rocks which reflect your family’s uniqueness

Our Family RocksProject Details: Begin by pre-cutting magazine images of symbols, words, and items that best represent your family. Take your family outside and collect rocks. Have your child(ren) choose which magazine cut-outs describe “what makes their family rock.” Consider how old your child(ren) are and engage them in a conversation about what makes your family so special. Place the cut-outs onto the rock (white glue can be placed on the back of the magazine paper to secure onto the rock) and paint with Mod Podge over the paper. Feature your completed rocks around the house to remind you of what makes your family rock.

Materials Needed: Mod Podge, Scissors, Magazines and rocks

ACTIVITY #2: Our Family Shield

Create a “family shield” reflecting your family’s interests, memories and goals

Family ShieldProject Details: Work together as a team with you child(ren) to create a list of your family’s values, interests, and favorite memories. Then compose your family’s mission statement or slogan (a statement of what is most important to you as a family). Sketch an image of a shield onto a large piece of poster board and add images and words to decorate the shield. Explain to your child(ren) that a shield represents a form of protection and discuss the importance of keeping your family values safe. With the remaining poster board scraps, cut an 8-12 inch long strip. Form it into a ring by taping the ends together. Secure it to the back of the shield to serve as a handle.

Materials Needed: Poster board, markers, crayons, scissors and tape

ACTIVITY #3: Create your Own World

Build a unique sandcastle world

Create Your Own WorldProject Details: Sand play is a fun and creative way to express yourself and engage with your family members. Start with a container full of sand and have your child add water in the container to create a small world of their own. Use a shovel to mold the sand and add objects such as stones, sea shells, and miniature figures. Get a glimpse into your child’s inner world by taking on the role of observer and watching as your child creates a sand world which represents their own personality.

Materials Needed: A large container (the bigger the better), water, sand, bucket, shovel and miniature objects to place inside

ACTIVITY #4: Family Improvisation

Spark imagination through role-playing and dramatic enactment

Family ImprovisationProject Details: Improvisation is a great way to tap into our imagination and encourage team building and communication. Gather everyday household items (for example: keys, sunglasses, a mixing spoon, baseball hat, a bowl, back pack etc.). Ask the following questions to determine your role-play scenario:

Who are we? Where are we?
What are we doing? What is our problem?

Once you have your answers, have fun improvising with your family (for example: your family can role-play being baseball players on a bus going to the game when the bus breaks down.) Take turns determining the answers to the who, what, and where questions above.

Materials Needed: Various household items

ACTIVITY #5: What are You Feeling?

Build emotional intelligence and encourage problem solving by creating “feeling-face masks”

FeelingsProject Details: Make a distinct mask to reflect the five core emotions we all have: happy, mad, sad, scared, and frustrated (add more emotions if wanted). Take one paper plate per emotion, and draw a “feeling face” visually depicting each emotion. Add the title of the emotion to the top of the plate. Tape a popsicle stick to the backside of paper plate mask. NOTE: The use of feeling masks are very effective during transitional periods, such as after school when a child has a lot to share about their day.

Materials Needed: Paper plates, popsicle sticks, markers, crayons and tape

ACTIVITY #6: Give your Family “Props”

Help shape inner strength & courage with imaginative play by making the intangible, tangible

Give your Family Props AcitivityProject Details: Think of items that could symbolize and support your children to express bravery and help shrink their worries. Start by noticing what worries your child(ren) or makes them nervous (for example, feeling scared of an upcoming test or nervous about making a team). Find props that help your child(ren) “see” their worries downsized (for example, pretending to shrink worry and send it away with the wind, or digging a hole and placing the worry inside). Next focus on bravery by locating props that might encourage and empower them (for example, look for an item that resembles a cape and pretend to have superpowers, or make a magic wand made out of a paper towel roll or marker which could allow them to grant wishes). Place your “props” in a box.

Materials Needed: Household items, box and your imagination

ACTIVITY #7: Create a Summer Memory Book

Capture your family memories together

ScrapbookProject Details: Have each family member pick a role as: photographer, artist, writer, and/or story teller. Once these role are established, start creating a memory book documenting your favorite moments from summer. This is a lengthier project which can begin at the start of summer and conclude once fall rolls around.

Materials Needed: A notebook, art materials such as markers or crayons, photographs, tape and/or glue

ACTIVITY #8: The Art of our Family Nature

Create a collaborative family art piece from objects of nature

Family Nature ArtProject Details: Walk outside as a family and explore your backyard or a nearby park. Select pieces of nature to include in your collaborative artwork. Each family member takes a turn adding his or her chosen nature object to a poster board or canvas. (Make sure to focus on the process over the product. More than anything, your kids will appreciate your ability to remain present with them throughout the activity.)

Materials Needed: A bucket to place nature items into, any nature objects which appeal to you and your family, firm paper (such as oak tag, poster board or canvas), hot glue gun and/or glue, and perhaps paint, markers and crayons

ACTIVITY #9: Family Garden

Nurture and grow a family garden

Family GardenProject Details: Getting outside and playing with dirt is fun! Select some flowers, plants, and/or vegetables, soil, and pots to build your garden. Make sure your child(ren) take on an active leadership role by encouraging them to pick which flowers or vegetables to use and then allowing them to make decisions such as where to place the pot or garden. As an additional activity, you can create a planting decoration.

Materials Needed: Gardening materials such as potted flowers, plants, vegetables, soils, pots, water can, gardening gloves etc.

ACTIVITY #10: Family Picnic

Have a fun, picnic-style family feast (inside or outside)

Family PicnicProject Details: A family picnic is an activity that is simple and fun to do. Have your child(ren) choose what foods should be offered and even create a menu listing of items being provided. Include your child(ren) in making the meal and consider baking dessert (maybe cookies or cupcakes) as well.

Materials Needed: Sheet, blanket or table cloth (to eat on), food and beverages of your choice, paper plates, napkins and eating utensils, paper, pencils and crayons (for creation of menu)

~

Leave a Comment: Which activities might make your summer schedule? What other activities can you share with us that spark creativity in your children?


 

Brooke Headshot

Brooke Campbell is a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Registered-Drama Therapist, and Board Certified Trainer with over a decade of clinical experience with diverse populations such as: trauma, cancer, addiction, autism, and mental illness. As a member of the Mothers Center of Central New Jersey, she has lead groups for center members such as: Creative Drama for Mamas and Raising Resilient Girls over Good Girls. Brooke is a wife and the mother of two little ones under three.

Connect with Brooke professionally via her Creative Kinections Facebook page and Twitter.

 

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Main Friendship Graphic

How are you at nurturing your own friendships? Do you give yourself “time off from motherhood” to help maintain and grow your friendships as life gets busier? I know I personally can struggle with juggling both my life as a mother and my own friendships.

Today we are happy to welcome back Mothers’ Center member Teresa McCarthy as she shares her friendship experiences and priorities…

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The Importance of Feeding Your Friendships

A guest post by Teresa McCarthy

My mom use to say: To have a friend, you have to be a friend.

I have been blessed with wonderful friendships and am surrounded by extraordinary women. In fact, I’m lucky enough to have always had at least one, deeply connected girlfriend during every stage of my life. Different women have come into my life at different times and I will be eternally grateful for their love, support and friendship.

Yet more and more, as lives change, people move and our experiences begin to take different paths, maintaining my friendships has gotten somewhat “geographically challenging.” And (back to my mom’s expression) how can one be a true friend, when they are physically so far apart from that friend?

For me, it is important to nurture the in-person relationship, regardless of whether a friend is around the corner, across the country or beyond our nation’s borders. I often find that just sitting in my girlfriends’ living room, having a cup of tea (or wine) together is where I have the best conversations, make the most connections, giggle uncontrollably, and (on many occasions) share some tears.

“These are things that can’t happen over Facebook,
via text messages or even on a phone call.”

I need (and love) to be immersed in my friends’ current worlds—to walk around their neighborhoods, to see how they’ve decorated their living space, and to stumble upon old photos of us together from years ago. In fact, I need it so much that I will travel (and luckily sometimes my girlfriends will also) to gain this needed time with friends.

Friendship Trips

My friends and I… well, we’ve stopped waiting for a formal wedding invitation or organized reunions and have started to make our own “reunion” dates. For all friendships—local or long distance—finding meaningful time together (outside of our everyday harried lives) truly feeds our friendships.

Typically, I’m a pretty conservative spender, but I splurge on traveling and experiences with my friends (with or without our kids in tow). It takes a bit of work to coordinate child care (along with a leap of faith that a disaster won’t befall any of us while separated) however, if manageable I always recommend child-free girlfriend trips.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to have three such experiences this past year!

Friendship 1My friend Stephanie and I in California visiting another friend Brigid last summer.
We laughed, talked and ate for five days and nights straight!

Friendship 2

A spa day turned to an overnight NYC getaway with friends Erin and Michelle last winter—complete with
an outdoor hot tub, dinner, a few bars, a yummy brunch and lots and lots of talking!

Friendship 3A trip to Dublin, Ireland I took this spring to visit my friend Lucy and her new baby.
We essentially had a 2-person, 4-day Mothers’ Center discussion on everything from college savings to
breast-feeding mishaps, packed with tons of giggles, hugs and reminiscing.

The Benefits of Giving Ourselves a “Motherhood Break”

As a Mom on-call 24-7, I’ve realized that I need a physical break every now and again (something I never admitted to myself in the early days of motherhood). As an added plus, taking time away has provided me with me some amazing, uninterrupted time to read. (I read three novels alone to and from Ireland!)

I’ve also realized that time away from my family is not just good for me, but for my husband, my mother and my mother-in-law (who are all supportive and encourage me take time with friends). They love the special alone time they get with my girls when I’m away.

Teresa's Husband on Facebook A Facebook post put up by my husband Jack last July during my trip to California.

Time away from being a Mom and taking the time for occasional girlfriend trips allows me to:

  • Have something really exciting to look forward to
  • Create new memories with old friends
  • Give myself the space to relish important people in my life
  • Miss my kids in a healthy way
  • And return home reinvigorated and enthusiastic to start being “Mom” all over again

Without a sister of my own, most of my girlfriends turn into family members pretty quickly. Life is ever-evolving though—circumstance and geography DO change. As we graduate from one phase of life to another, my friends and I may not share the same living space or common experiences any longer.

I used to resent this reality. Now I try to embrace it as a welcomed challenge. To have a friend, you have to be a friend. I know this… and believe wholeheartedly in my own mother’s words.

So in the spirit of summer vacations, I encourage everyone to take a trip with just your girlfriends. Start small or big but at least get the ball rolling to re-connect with someone special that you’re missing.

I wonder who I’ll visit in 2015?

Leave a Comment: When was the last time you took a “Friendship Trip?” What are you doing to help maintain and feed your friendships as life changes?


 

Teresa McCarthy Head ShotTeresa McCarthy resides in Long Beach, NY and is the mother of daughters Gracie and Anna. A former children’s librarian, Teresa is a stay at home mom who dabbles in the family business (the operation of 5 bowling centers) whenever she can. Additionally she volunteers as president of the pre-school PTA, is a Girl Scout troop leader and assists with many community fundraisers and events. Teresa is grateful for her supportive husband Jack and to live just a quick boardwalk bike ride away from her parents.

 

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2014 Miles For Mothers

On Saturday, May 3rd the NAMC kicked off our 5th annual Miles for Mothers 5k, Walk and Kids Fun Run fundraiser on the new Long Beach Boardwalk. The event took place on a beautiful morning with a record of over 150 race registrants. It was the perfect day to honor mothers… just take a look!

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Those visiting the boardwalk were greeted by professional soccer club players from the NY Cosmos. Additionally, Sportset of Rockville Center set up a fun obstacle course for the kids and there was music to pump everyone up provided by DJ Chef.

NY Cosmos, DJ Chef, Kids Fun

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The boardwalk was lined with business supporters and event sponsors who provided participants a chance to see their services and products.

Walk2

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Dan Guererri (of Geneva) and Ruth Albright (a 50-year old mother of Wyandanch) were cheered on by the crowd as they became the official winners of this year’s men and women’s 5k Run.

2014 Miles for Mothers Run Winners

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And of course, the event was filled with loads to do for kids and families including face painting by Party Couture, a raffle filled with amazing gifts and—one of the highlights of the morning—the Kids’ Fun Run.

2014 Miles for Mothers Walk Image 4

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What better way to celebrate 100 years of Mother’s Days than by helping raise funds which underwrite a 39 year old program that puts moms first by supporting them wherever their walk through motherhood might take them! We couldn’t have asked for a better day or a better way to honor mothers.

A big thanks goes out to all those who helped in making the event a success by donating time, running, and/or participating as a vendor or volunteer.

Group_M4M

Did you miss the fun this year?

Save the date for the 6th Annual Miles for Mothers event on Saturday, May 2, 2015 and consider donating here in memory of a special someone.

The NAMC is a non-profit organization creating a community of women, who through mutual support and public advocacy, explore, enrich and value the maternal experience. We focus our work in three areas:

Motherhood • Work/Life • Advocacy

Your donation helps us encourage positive change and support mothers everywhere.

* A very special thanks goes out to Long Island photographer Flo of Pictures for all the terrific photos featured today on our blog.

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What would be the most important wisdom you would pass down to your child(ren)?

This month we are joined by Mothers’ Center member Brandi Walerius who’s sharing what she hopes to pass down to her children in the form of a letter.

Brandi is a member of the Mothers’ Center of Greater Toledo and helps to lead Greater Toledo’s Executive Mommas group—where members can meet other working parents, network and learn from each other while also getting support through the joys and frustrations of working and mothering. Brandi is a human resource and business consultant who operates her own firm Black and White Consulting. She also writes about her motherhood experiences and some of her favorite local businesses on the website Sunny Social Network.

Without further ado, here are Brandi’s beautiful, inspirational words which she hopes will become second nature to her children as they journey forward through their lives …

Brandi Walerius and Family

Brandi and her husband Denny with their two children Dylan (age 6) and Blake (age 1).

To My Children,

You both stole my heart the moment you entered this world, and continue to capture it every single day. Dylan and Blake, you have introduced me to a deeper unconditional love, an increased vulnerability of how precious life is, and a fiercer need to protect the ones I care for. And, oh I wish I could follow you around every second of your days and protect you from the evil and bad that may creep in… I know I cannot.

What I can do though is share some words of wisdom and repeat them enough they become your mantras in maneuvering this crazy world we call life.

Celebrate the little things. Life can be a struggle sometimes, but we need to find the joy in the journey and appreciate anything, small or large, that puts a smile on our face.

Beautiful things happen in life when you distance yourself from negative things. I pray daily that I’m providing the foundation for you both to choose to surround yourselves with positive things and positive people.

Always be a little kinder than necessary. Character and how you treat others is important. Always be kind. You never know how your smiles, words of encouragement, or helping hands can impact someone’s day.

Be the first rate version of yourselves. You both are unique with your own personalities, different interests, varying characteristics and you both couldn’t be any more special. Be who you are. Have passion for what you do. Don’t compare yourself to others.

“Just be the best YOU there is.”
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Be a lifetime learner. Let every experience and every person you encounter be your teacher. Never stop learning and never stop growing. Explore the world and always be ready to evolve.

Be happy – whatever that may mean for you. Define your own happiness. Know that you deserve it and can create it for yourselves. Choose happy every single day, and be in love with your life as this is the highest level of success.

Dylan and Blake, I hope that you both will experience the overwhelming love and joy that I have experienced because of the two of you. Live your best life.

Love you to infinity and beyond,
Your Mother
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Leave a Comment: Do you relate to any of Brandi’s words and wishes? Please help me give a warm welcome to Mothers Central guest Brandi Walerius by leaving her a comment and sharing her letter with others!

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Are you interested in submitting a guest post letter?

We’ve been asking our members across the nation to respond to the question:
What would you tell your child in a letter?
Get more details and read other guest post letters here.

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Today we are happy to welcome Barbara Speedling to Mothers Central. 
Barbara is a Quality of Life Specialist who has earned a reputation for helping caregivers think differently about the people they care for. Over time, she’s applied her understanding of human behavior to education and training programs designed to support leadership and organizational development, cultural intelligence, and empathetic approaches to care and treatment.

In addition to her professional involvement, Barbara is a resource to families in her community, volunteering her time and talents to caregiver education and support.

Today, Barbara’s courageously sharing her personal story with us to help tackle the topic of addressing your own family’s age-related concerns.

Talking To Mom And Dad

Talking to Mom and Dad

Guest Post by Barbara Speedling

Here today, gone tomorrow… Growing up, this was all I was taught to understand about the process of aging or dying. Granted, it’s not an easy conversation topic to have with anyone—especially your own parents.

Most likely you’ve experienced difficult conversations with your parents—from puberty, to choosing a college, or maybe to starting your own family or moving away. Whatever difficult conversations you’ve faced so far, one topic we often don’t consider until it’s too late are the conversations that impact end-of-life decisions.

As a Quality of Life Specialist, I know how hard these conversations can be. The truth is, beyond my day-to-day professional activities, I’ve also personally experienced the necessity of addressing these difficult topics with my own parents and siblings…

I grew up in an environment in which the discussion of sensitive issues was largely avoided. My parents were loving and supportive, but both were squeamish when it came to discussing things like issues of health or life and death.

Having been raised equally by my parents and the nuns in my elementary school, talk of what happens when you die (in terms of whether you ascend or descend) was okay, but we never talked about what should happen in the days and months before you get to that point. In the environment of my youth, aging and death was just inevitable. No one talked about the process of aging or dying at any age. It was as if “here today, gone tomorrow” was all we needed to know.

Fast forward to my life as an adult…

In the last five years of my mom’s life there were many times when issues of safety or unhealthy living had to be addressed. My sisters were equally squeamish about such things and deferred to me because of my work in long term care.

“Talking to your parents about age-related
concerns can be difficult, at best.”

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Even with many years of experience in working with families in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, talking to my own parents about things that I thought were dangerous or unhealthy was not easy.

For instance:

On several occasions when I’d attempted to address the fact that my dad continued to smoke in the house while my mom was suffering from serious pulmonary and cardiac illness, both my parents were defensive, shrugging off my concern.

I believe this response was motivated by my mom’s unwillingness to put further restrictions on my dad. She felt he had given up a lot of his freedom to care for her. My dad felt because he limited his smoking to the basement, he wasn’t doing any harm. Both refused to admit that the smoke permeated the whole house on some level.

Later, when my dad was dying of cancer, my sisters and I had many struggles over his care. Like my mom, my dad had never wanted to talk about health decisions or funeral preferences. While my siblings and I were raised in the same home by the same parents, we are all still very different adults. Because we didn’t have the opportunity while growing up to talk about sensitive issues, we never developed the necessary skills to be collaborative as adults. Instead, we each held to our own opinions of what should be done and never really had a mature conversation with each other or my dad.

No one wants to talk about the process of aging or dying at any age. Yet experience has taught me over and over again that there are too many risks involved in not talking openly and honestly about issues of safety or advanced health care decisions.

Talking to your mom and dad—opening up the line of communication to address these difficult conversations may feel complicated now, but can be a big help in the future.

It’s true, aging and death is inevitable. But don’t we (and our parents) deserve more than just “Here today, gone tomorrow?”

Leave a Comment: Have you addressed end-of-life conversations in your household? What strategies have you successfully implemented? Help us welcome Barbara to Mothers Central by leaving her a comment and sharing this post and our upcoming webinar with others!

Barbara

Want more information on addressing difficult
topics with your own aging parents?

Consider joining Barbara Speedling on Tuesday, May 13th from 1-2 p.m. during our NAMC webinar: Talking to Mom and Dad—Addressing Difficult Topics with Aging Parents as she offers advice on: how and when to begin end-of-life conversations and advanced planning; what to do if your parent has Alzheimers, dementia or a history of mental illnesses; where to find education and support resources; and more. NAMC Webinars are FREE to members and open to non-members for a minimal fee so register now!

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