Happy New Year….Set realistic goals for yourself and help your children do the same.

goalsI am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to write five to ten goals I would like to accomplish in the new year. I also encourage my kids to set some goals too. My six year old actually accomplished all of her goals this year. Just to give you a sense of what I am talking about, I will share her 2013 goals with you:

– Get a puppy (June 2013 – his name is Max)
– Get an iPod Touch (After wishing for this for 2 years, Santa came through this year)
– Video games (on the iPod Touch)
– Money (gifts for birthday and Christmas)

At an early age, it is useful for kids to think about what they want to achieve. As a parent, it is interesting to listen and learn what is important to them.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

PS- I also really liked these “practical” goals for younger kids: (Source: Children’s Medical Center blog)

Kids, 5 to 12 years old
1. I will drink water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
2. I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
3. I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week.
4. I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
5. I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
6. I’ll be nice to other kids. I’ll be friendly to kids who need friends or who may have a hard time making friends – like someone who is shy, or is new to my school.
7. I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
8. I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.

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Laughter is the best medicine…Try laughter yoga :)

30485512f35612816cLogo 2I feel so energized today. Still on our family vacation in India and had the opportunity to do a laughter yoga session at the local park in New Delhi.

Laughter yoga started in India less than 20 years ago when Dr. Kataria (the father of laughter yoga) was writing an article about “Laughter – The Best Medicine” for a health journal. He discovered many modern scientific studies, which described in depth, the many proven benefits of laughter on the human mind and body. For more information on laughter yoga and laughter yoga clubs in your area, go to www.laughteryoga.org

Laughter yoga is a breathing exercise where you pretend to laugh without purpose and it makes you feel happy and good. You don’t have to stretch your body into different traditional yoga poses, but just laugh and do what feels comfortable for you. Good hearty laughter gets rid of stress and worry. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It’s the same sense of overall well-being you get when you finish a workout.

Parenting life lesson: Whether you are doing laughter yoga or laughing for another reason, it will lift up your spirits and generate positive energy. If you’re happy and less stressed out, your kids will benefit and be happier too. Ho…Ho…Ha…Ha…Ha…

Make it a day filled with laughter!

Receive with gratitude, but give with love.

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My grandmother passed away earlier this year. She was a very important person in my life who was very passionate about cooking and making sure people were well fed. She always cooked for others with a great deal of love and I have many fond memories of her.

In honor of what would have been her 102nd birthday today, I went out to give meals to those less fortunate during my vacation in India. Even though she is no longer physically on this earth, I know this would have made her very happy.

Teach your children by example. By showing them ways to give to those who are less fortunate, they will develop a deeper understanding for the many blessings they have.

Merry Christmas!

5 “favorite” tips when traveling with kids

Travel PhotoI could mention so many things, but these are a few of my favorites:

1. Ziploc Bags: They are good for packing and keeping everything in order. A Ziploc bag with your child’s name on it for underwear, another one for socks, t-shirts, etc . It makes it easy to find what you need when you get to your destination. Also good for snacks and soiled clothes if someone happens to get sick on the plane or in the car.

2. Extra set of clothing in your carry on bag: I am not saying the airline is going to lose your luggage, but it is good to have just in case.

3. Wipes and Tissues: I don’t care how old your kids are, wipes and tissues are always good to have in case you can’t wash your hands, there is no toilet paper in the bathroom, etc. It is always good to be prepared.

4. Take your Meds and Thermometer: Don’t forget to take your own adult prescription meds, but also have a Ziploc bag with a thermometer, children’s Motrin, adult Advil, bandaids and Neosporin. If someone gets sick or hurt, you don’t want to be running around looking for these things. (Remember to take prescriptions meds in carryon and all liquid items in your checked in luggage.)

5. Google and print out some helpful info from internet
– Google “fun facts for kids about (insert your destination)” and “best places to take the kids (insert your destination)”
Trip Advisor: big fan of traveler reviews for top restaurants, things to see and places to stay
– Frommers/Fodors book: I also go “old school” and take a current book for my actual travel destination from the library. Since they get dated so quickly, it does not make sense to buy an actual copy.

Review your travel documents (passports and visas) on an annual basis.

PassportsIt used to be that one could travel between the US and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean with an official US birth certificate or driver’s license. As of June 2009, everyone needs a passport.

For US passports, they expire every 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors under 16. If you or your children don’t have a passport, it is a good idea to get one now. You don’t want to be under time pressure to get one when you are actually going somewhere.

You may be traveling with your family over the holidays so review your passport and visas to make sure they have not expired.

We are traveling this year to India for the holidays. I realized a little over a month ago that my visa had expired. Long story short, I had to mail in the visa application and I just received my passport/visa back two days before I was leaving to go on my trip. Needless to say, it was making me sick thinking of the possibility of my family getting on the plane without me if I did not get my visa back on time.

Lesson learned: Check your travel documents on an annual basis and make sure everything is in order. It will save you time and remove undue pressure of getting these docs updated under a restricted timeline.

10 Tips to Keep Parents Sane over the Holidays

Stay Sane

1. It’s ok to say no : Everyone knows the holidays can be hectic. My husband always says “Less is more”. You don’t have to justify why you can’t make it. You just can’t – end of story.

Wait a minute… I just had a funny Marcia Brady flashback – Click here to go to the utube video clip (and yes, Doug Simpson is Friedrich from the original Sound of Music movie)

2. Order online : This is a no brainer and I have posted about this before. Amazon Prime is the way to the go. Many items will be at your door step within two days and you will never even have had to leave your home.

3. It’s not about the gifts : Don’t make this holiday so commercial. It’s not what it is all about… Keep Christ in Christmas. Go to your “new toy” closet (you know you have one) and give gifts to those who are less fortunate – Toys for Tots, church drives, etc.

4. Send out “Happy New Year” cards : So many people stress out about getting their cards out before Christmas because they don’t have the perfect picture where everyone is smiling. I personally really enjoy getting cards with the kids and family on them, but you don’t have to send them out before Christmas. In order to remain sane, you may need to send out Happy New Year cards or don’t send any out at all – who says you have to?

5. Have the kids make gifts: Make Rainbow Loom bracelets, pictures, ornaments, etc. It will keep the kids busy and out of your hair while you are trying to get things done at home. Who doesn’t like to get a handmade gift from a child?

6. Give gift experiences : How many gifts can Santa really bring? I have posted about this before for birthday gifts. Gift cards are an excellent choice for massages, restaurants, movies, ice cream, carousel rides, Chuckie Cheese, nail salons, etc. They are a useful and practical gift the person on the receiving side will enjoy and will not take up a lot of space in the house.

7. Break down your “things to do” list : We all have huge lists of things to do, but breaking the list down into small bites makes a list of twenty items seem doable. I take a piece of paper and write down three things I have to get done and it helps me focus. Once I have completed those items, then I tackle the next three items on my list. Try it. I really think it helps you feel you are in control and getting things done.

8. Ask for help : Car pool, get a babysitter, have your significant other/grandparents watch the kids while you run around to get everything done.

9. Be satisfied and enjoy the present moment : Enjoy the smell of your holiday wreath and/or Christmas tree, cookies baking in the oven, watching Christmas shows on TV, holiday lights, the sparkle in your childrens’ eyes because they love the holidays as much as you do. That is what it is all about. Enjoy the moment!

10. Laugh and have fun : Laughter is a great stress reliever. Enjoy the holidays! If it’s not “perfect”, there is always next year!

Tell your family and friends you love and care about them often.

LIRR Train massacre Life is very precious and can change in a blink of an eye. Embrace every moment and tell your loved ones how you feel about them. It’s hard to believe this past weekend was the 20th anniversary of the Long Island train massacre. While I was not on the train that day, that is my train station and the incident hits very close to home.

The wreath in this post is a reminder of the six innocent people who were fatally shot as well as 19 injured on December 7, 1993. They were aboard a 5:33 p.m. rush hour train from Penn Station when a crazy man pulled out a gun and started firing at passengers.

The point of this parenting life lesson is not to make you sad, but to remind you that you never know when you could be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Many of these people were on their regular commute home from work, but that day some of their lives were changed forever.

So pick up the phone, write an email/card or drop by and pay a visit – the holidays are a perfect time to tell that special someone you care about them and love them. It’s nice for them to hear it even if you think they already know.

Take the time to enjoy the lights and decor of the holiday season with your family.

Christmas PhotoI absolutely love this time of the year! It’s so much fun to drive around and look at decorated homes and store fronts in the area where you live.

The picture in this post is near my home and I wait with anticipation every year to see it. It makes me laugh and smile with a childlike giddiness!

Every year, I try to map out 5-10 holiday decorated homes in my area. If you need help finding them, either google “decorated holiday or Christmas houses” in your area or wait for the listings in the local newspaper as it gets closer to Christmas. My husband and I enjoy this “holiday tour” as much as the kids do.

If you are visiting NYC, check out the holiday store windows. They are all really good this year. I can’t say I have a clear favorite – www.mommypoppins.com has a really nice description of what the decorated windows have to offer.

These are the eight holiday windows worth seeing:

1) Bloomingdales (59th and Lex Ave)
2) Barneys (61st and Madison Ave)
3) Bergdorf Goodman (58th and 5th Ave)
4) Tiffany and Co (57th and 5th Ave)
5) Henri Bendel (56th and 5th Ave)
6) Saks Fifth Avenue (48th-49th and 5th Ave)
7) Lord and Taylor (38th-39th and 5th Ave)
8) Macy’s (34th and 6th- 7th Ave)

PS – Don’t forget to stop at the Lindt chocolate store between 54th and 55th on 5th Avenue to enjoy some good chocolate to give you more energy to keep you going.

Have fun! YOLO (You Only Live Once)!

Holiday shopping : Buy games which promote time with the family.

Game PhotoIt’s Cyber Monday. I realize that, but you all know what you need to do. Look at your holiday list, find deals, shop online and spend more time with your family.

My blog post focus for today is to share with you my top 5 favorite family games:

1) Table Topics – set of 135 clever questions cards that ask a different question, from lighthearted fun to thought-provoking. No rules, just great conversations! (I have multiple versions of this game – I bring it out at family/friend gatherings, road trips, wine and cheese parties – it is always lots of fun and you really get to learn wonderful things about family and friends)

2) Apples to Apples – game of hilarious comparisons ( We just played multiple rounds of this game at Thanksgiving. It’s great fun!)

3) Sorry – excellent board game that is simple to learn and play, but is also fun for people who like complex strategy. ( Always an “old school” favorite. It is a simple and easy game to play in a reasonable amount of time. )

4) Yahtzee – The object of the game is to score the most points by rolling five dice to make certain combinations. ( I love this game because it is so compact and easy to take with you when you travel. When I was a child, we used to play this game at the beach. It is also a great game for teaching math skills.)

5) Monopoly – I think everyone knows this game . One goes around the board buying properties, building houses and hotels on your properties and trying to drive other players to bankruptcy. (It is great for teaching math skills using the play money, but the game can take forever to play. You can always put a time limit on it.)

During this holiday season, think about purchasing an actual board game vs a $25 gift card to purchase online games. You choose: Load games on an electronic device and have your child sit in a corner to play video games by themselves or interact and play a game with others? Family time is precious. Enjoy the gift of time. Play some games and laugh with your family and friends!