Monday, July 30, 2012

Lucas learns Geography!


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Friday, July 27, 2012

Preparing for a Trip to Croatia with Lucas!

 We have a long plane ride coming up in September, and we are concerned with how Lucas will handle the transcontinental flight, and then a connecting flight to go see my parents in Croatia. It will be approximately 12 hours of travel time because of the layover. Now, generally, Lucas is a pleasant child. He has fun and readily accepts most of the situations he gets stuck in. But extremely long air travel is a completely different situation. Here are some ways that we are going to try and help Lucas through this flight so we can all have a great experience together!

1. Use that tablet
We have found on previous, shorter, flights that using a tablet is the most engrossing thing we can do with Lucas. There are so many things that you can do with a tablet, and it truly does take the place of so many other physical implements to keep a toddler busy. Instead of packing a multitude of books, music, crayons, coloring books, and other toys, parents should definitely have some sort of tablet. There are coloring applications, eBooks, educational and fun applications, a variety of music and video options, and a number of screen-based options that drastically reduce the amount of space you need on a plane to entertain your children.

2. Get them sleeping
There still are many things you have to bring to keep your child comfortable and able to relax on the plane. We will most likely be packing a plane bag that will include a blanket and a small pillow for Lucas, along with his select stuffed animals that we know make him happy! By introducing many aspects of his relaxation routine, we are hoping that this helps keep Lucas content and helps him fall asleep. We also may skip his earlier nap in the day in order to guarantee some peaceful sleep while we fly!

3. Make them move!
A transcontinental flight is an extremely different experience from the standard continental flight in the U.S.  Unless you are flying from New York City to San Francisco (for example), you cannot really mimic the hours in the flight. Our plan is to bring him to the bathroom with us every time that we go, and make sure to keep him moving. The ability to move around the cabin should help keep Lucas from getting to antsy and restless.

Overall, we are quite excited for our first trip to Croatia with Lucas. Lucas has not yet seen his grandparents’ house in Croatia, and they can’t wait to introduce him to the family homeland. It will be a unique experience, and one we cannot wait to share with Lucas! Just one more month to go!

Happy Parenting!

Damir

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank you!

A great big thank you to Tracy from TracysNook.com for this great review for one of our newest books, "Luca Lashes and His First Haircut"! Much more to come soon!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Laid Back!


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Friday, July 20, 2012

Giving to charity


It is easy to consider yourself blessed as a parent. If most of your needs are met, you tend to try and meet most of your child’s needs before they even “need” them. We had decided, as parents, that since we meet so many of Lucas’s needs on our own; we wanted to teach him about charity. Last year, for his second birthday, we decided that we would use his birthday to throw a charity event, and not have people bring gifts for Lucas. Charitable giving can teach children valuable lessons, and here are a few.

1. The Spirit of Giving
Children are, by nature, quite giving and charitable. How often have your own children surprised you and wanted to give something to make someone else feel better. It is important to nurture this gift that children have, so that they maintain this spirit into adulthood. Children become empathic and have stronger relationship skills when they have some understanding of the spirit of giving.

2. Be an Example Yourself
Modeling charitable behavior is important if you want the spirit of giving to be truly learned. Children learn best when they see their parents modeling behavior. Giving of your time for someone else, volunteering at a soup kitchen with your child, or simply having your child see you give some change to a homeless person are just a few of the ways that adults can model charitable behavior.

3. Use Allowance as an example
Many children are given an allowance, some weekly monetary reward for good behavior or “just because.” A great opportunity to teach your children some charitable behavior would be to designate the allowance into thirds: 1) Spending money; 2) Saving money; and 3) Giving money. This gives your child a lesson in the value of money, and you have a chance to have a meaningful discussion as to what charity to support or cause to donate to.

It was mentioned earlier that we do a charity fundraiser for our son’s birthday. We discussed the charities as a family and decided to support two organizations that are close to our hearts.

We were deeply affected by a death in the family from CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), and have decided to do all we can to help in fundraising for this organization, which aims for education and raises funds for a cure. The money donated here is used to support families dealing with a loved one that has this disease, and to help find a cure for the “blood” cancers.

B.) Reach Out & ReadIncreasing literacy in younger children a cause we believe in, part of the reason we decided to write the “Luca Lashes” series. This organization is dedicated to promoting literacy by using the relationship between pediatric doctors and parents. As different developmental milestones are reached and require doctor visits, participating doctors in the “Reach Out and Read” program give out age appropriate reading material for parents and children to enjoy. Doctors and nurses using this program discuss the importance of literacy with their patients. There are more than 4 million families currently being served by the “Reach Out & Read” program.

Our son’s 3rd birthday is approaching in August, and we have decided to make this an annual fundraising event! Last year, we were able to raise $1,200, let’s see what we can do this year. Our goal is to be able to provide a portion of proceeds from book and app sales to further support our charities.

Happy Parenting!

Damir

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Surreal Experience


Last Tuesday, July 10, 2012, I had my first experience with live television here in Chicago. Luca Lashes LLC was invited to introduce a series of ways to help children conquer ‘firsts’ and turn fear into fun! While this was just a five-minute segment, it was also the first opportunity we’ve had to promote our eBooks and apps on television (a nationally re-broadcast cable station, no less)! You can imagine how nerve-racking the night before was. My anticipation was so great, it was hard to relax and fall asleep!


Finally, the day was here and I jumped into it with excitement. After taking the time to be physically prepared and energized with breakfast, I got on the road to head to the studio. I kept going over all my notes, and trying to get my head straight to mention all the things I wanted to mention. I saw the building, and the reality of seeing that big sign had me feeling more nervous. I wanted to get some pictures, so I pulled out my smart phone to grab some pictures of the sign. The security guard looked at me, slightly worried. Driving up to the security gate, I told him I was there for an appearance, and he told me was initially concerned, not knowing why I was taking pictures!

Now it was time to get inside and get prepared. For those of you that don’t know, WGN Studios has been making television programs since 1948. In 1961, they began producing the most popular locally produced children’s show in television history, “The Bozo Show.” Like most children in the Chicago, I had grown up on the Bozo show. My mother had tried to get me onto the Bozo Show over 7 times during my childhood. Being in the studio that represented such a big part of my childhood was an amazing moment. As I was led to the “Green Room” (literally a green-painted room), I was able to see the Bozo Studio, and even take pictures with the original “Bozo Buckets”. 

After having this moment of enjoyment, I had to prepare for the segment. Once again, butterflies were in my stomach. My sister was with me, and we were getting our table ready, when the production assistants came and told us that our segment was being moved to a different part of the studio. We packed up, palms sweating, and dealt with this last minute change. We were able to walk by the newscast going on, and marveled at the fact that live television was being produced right in front of our eyes. The table was ready, and the segment was coming up next!

WGN’s Dina Bair performed the interview, and was so professional; you would not have guessed we had never met before today. The segment went well, despite all of the nerves, panic, and excitement that accompanied the entire event. Thank you to all who helped to make the event memorable, and I am looking forward to the next appearance!

Happy Parenting!

Nicole




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Monday, July 16, 2012

Does your toddler play piano?

Jazz baby!

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Introducing Gardening to your Children

 Gardening is one of my favorite past-times, and something I learned by watching my two grandfathers, both expert gardeners in their own right. My parents are both over 70 and still garden as their main source of exercise and pleasure. This family-induced experience has cultivated my love of the outdoors and my passion for fresh fruit and vegetables.  I am already teaching Lucas about the garden and have him help me water the garden whenever I can. There are just so many great lessons to learn from gardening that truly do help sustain life!

1. Lifelong benefits
Being around a garden seems to truly affect people. Science even shows that that adults who were influenced by some proximity to gardens as children are more likely to garden for themselves later. Having a garden as part of your life increases exposure to healthy foods, and is a great way to maintain some moderate strenuous activity into adulthood.

2. Social and Interpersonal Skills
Gardening is a very calm activity, as typically worked at by more than one person at one time. In my family, we worked on our garden as a family quite regularly. Sometimes my friends would come and help too, and we would quietly work together towards accomplishing our goal. Gardening was a great way to work on interpersonal skills and teamwork in a quiet way, which emphasized empathy and calmness. Gardening, to me, was also a great bonding experience between grandparents, parents, and children.

3. Healthy eating and nutrition
There is a simplistic argument here. Children who are raised with a maintained fruit/vegetable garden tend to maintain the healthy eating habit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables regularly. As my wife often says, there are few people who eat fruit like my family does. I simply do not feel regular or normal without eating fruit throughout the day. The benefits of making fruits and vegetables the centerpieces of your diet are too numerous to mention here, and gardens help establish a healthy pattern from childhood into adulthood.

4. The Science of Gardening
Whether people realize it or not, gardening is an act that triggers active learning in the field of science, specifically biology. There are numerous scientific theories that explain why an effective garden needs sunlight, water, fresh dirt, and fertilizer. Parents and teachers can use gardening as a great way to have children experiment with and learn from nature.

Gardens have always been a part of my life, and I hope that I pass on that love to my Lucas. I have seen gardening do something for the older members of my family that truly amazes me, and that is to keep them young. Gardening is such a great reminder of the cycle of life, and one of the truest learning experiences anyone can enjoy!

Happy Parenting,

Damir

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

10 Chores Toddlers Can Do

Our friends over at Housekeeping.org have written a great blog on ways a toddler can help with some small chores around the house. Chores are a great way for children to learn how to be tidy and organized, and a great way to make a household come closer together.

Happy Parenting, 

The Luca Lashes Team!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Value of Staying Hydrated


Summer has stamped its arrival with some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen in quite some time. Here in the U.S., it has consistently stayed over 90 degrees in the Midwest for over 2 weeks now, with temperatures and humidity reaching dangerous levels on multiple occasions. This is my first experience with a heat wave of this length that I can ever remember. Now, more than ever, it is important to stay hydrated and drink as much water as possible. Here are some of the benefits of hydration I found that I thought could help us parents, especially in these hot temperatures!

1. Physical benefits
Drinking enough water and staying hydrated supports your physical health in a variety of ways. It helps to lose weight, have fewer headaches, and helps in alleviating low back pain. It also improves joint pain, and improves skin quality (acne and wrinkles). Blood pressure is also reduced, and drinking enough water also lowers cholesterol and helps keep your digestive system regular.

2. Mental benefits
Hydration also can help a person concentrate and stay focused. Healthy benefits of water-drinking also include decreased stress, less mental fatigue and improved mood.

3. Specific to children
Water has none of the health problems associated with sugar-drinks, additives, sweeteners, acids, or caffeine. It can help behavior management with children by reducing the effects of dehydration, which include distraction and irritability.

4. One additive that helps
Municipalities across the world use the additive fluoride to distill and clean tap water. This additive, also found in most toothpaste, is important for oral health and has been shown to help prevent cavities. People who drink a lot of bottled water may be missing this additive, and should drink a few glasses of tap water every day as well. 

In short, parents should thoroughly understand the value of drinking water. If a glass of water becomes so commonplace for children, they should develop the healthy habit of drinking water regularly and establish this behavior throughout their lifetime. This is definitely a better alternative to drinking fruit juice, milk, or even worse, soda. I don’t know about you, but really cold water is the only thing that really quenches my thirst anyways!

Happy Parenting!

Nicole

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Inside a Bouncy House!


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Friday, July 6, 2012

Creating a lifetime love of Swimming

 One of the most important things for me, as a parent, was to raise a child who loved being in water, swimming and playing as often as possible. When I was a child, my mother was afraid of the water. She did, however, send to swim lessons at the local pool. Sadly, the swim instructor’s way of getting me over my mother’s fear of water was to push me off the diving board. I do not think that this appropriate, and while the shock may have forced me to learn something, it is not necessarily the best way to encourage a lifetime love of swimming and being in the water.

For Lucas, I have tried really hard to make sure that he enjoys the process of learning to swim, and to just relax in the water. The first thing I tried was to get Lucas in a bath or in a shower as soon as possible. In the shower, I would take him with me and sit on the floor of the shower. We would play with toys and I would wash him with a soapy towel, being careful not to splash his face but wet enough to enjoy the feeling of warm water falling on him.

Next, my husband and I would begin the process of bathing Lucas every night. Lucas was much more comfortable in a bath, rather than sitting on the floor of the shower. He played with his bath toys and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of bath time. Thankfully, this has continued even three years later!

At the age of 3 months, Lucas’s pediatrician had said that it was OK to start bringing him to a public pool. We began with the process of going to our local indoor pool, and playing with Lucas as we held him tight. We began these adventures, and tried to extend the length of time we spent in the pool each time we went. Our local pool was part of a health club, and offered classes so we were very interested in looking into this.

At 6 months, Lucas and my husband enrolled in a Parent/Baby swim class, where parents were taught how to get their babies used to being in the water and some simple moves to begin the process of learning to swim. Our son was one of the happiest children in class, as we had already begun the process and were well on our way to having Lucas enjoy swimming as much as we did.

After this, it became apparent that we needed to do something to keep Lucas in the water, as he was enjoying himself tremendously. We decided to have Lucas take private lessons with an instructor at the local pool who was used to teaching infants and toddlers to swim. He has been taking these lessons since 9 months old, and each time becomes more and more confident in the water.

I hope that starting him early has helped Lucas enjoy being in the water and swimming as much as I do. It has been such a joy watching him grow and learn every day, and I can’t wait until he has self-sufficient in the water so that we enjoy swimming together even more!

Happy Parenting!

Nicole

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How do you handle bedtime?

 Bedtime happens twice a day in our house, and it seems that each time has a different result. We have a lot of practice in inventing stories, singing songs, recapping our day, and other assorted rituals. The one thing we have found that has always worked with Lucas is to emphasize ritual and to respect his sleep area. Our strategy is simple.


1. Start with a bath
We wanted to get Lucas used to always feeling clean and refreshed before bedtime. From when he was born on, our goal was for him to associate a nice warm bath with going to bed. We also add some aromatherapy oils that claim to make the bath experience a calm one. One never knows the truth in those claims, but since it has had no detrimental effect, we still believe in using aromatherapy. Lucas gets to play with toys in the bath and gets to relax in the water as he is bathed.

2. Calmly get dressed for bed
As Lucas has gotten older, he is taking more of an active role in picking his pajamas and getting dressed for bed. We try to keep him calm throughout the process, and try to give him as much control over what he wears. Hopefully, this works to help Lucas understand that he is in charge of his own bedtime and his own comfort level.

3. Story Time!
Our next step is to blow out the lights together as a family, and all sit together. We count to three, the lights go out, and Lucas automatically goes to turn on his nightlight, one of those famous “night-turtles”. As the stars light up the ceiling-sky, we begin our story time. When we were just starting this process, we definitely sang more songs and lullabies, but as Lucas has started talking and become imaginative, this has turned into Mommy and Daddy making up stories. Lucas comes up with the topic, and we tell a short story to go with that topic. On particularly exciting days, story time usually becomes a daily recap, or a story is wrapped around those days’ events.

4. Official bedtime!
Finally we have reached the point of actually going to the bed. Since Lucas is still sleeping in a crib, we help him go in the crib and carefully arrange his chosen stuffed animals around his pillow. We give our last kisses and hugs to Mommy and Daddy, and then the blanket is put under his chin (per his specification, of course).  A final good night, and “buona notte”, and we leave his room.  

5. Not asleep yet?
In using our monitor, we do watch and listen to Lucas as he falls asleep. He does sometimes have a tendency to get wound up and not fall asleep right away. Some of the most fun things we hear coming out of his mouth happen at this time. Sometimes he recaps his day to his animals, and sings them to sleep. If this exercise winds up lasting too long, however, we go back in his room and say “That’s enough now, time for bed…” We hear a soft “ok”, and then he is officially asleep.

In our process here, it is obvious we use a lot of rituals to get Lucas to bed. We have never really read any books on healthy sleep or changing his sleep habits, as our method has seemed to work for Lucas for almost 3 years! Of course, we are blessed with a child who does love to sleep, and can’t imagine the opposite, where he chafes at the entire process. Let us know other methods you have used, and let us know what has worked or not worked for you!

Happy Parenting!

Nicole
            

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Wedding Season brings out the Dancing Machine!


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