Moming through the Pandemic – Erin: Stay-at-home mom of two

Well Momfaming friends, it’s been a while. In order to catch you up on my life let’s rewind to February of last year…

  • I went out to dinner to celebrate my 35th birthday with my 3 best friends…little did I know this would be the last time I would step foot in a restaurant
  • I took Ryan to his Physical Therapy appointment…not realizing it would be his last in-person therapy
  • We went to our local Gigi’s Playhouse for Ryan to play with some friends…having no idea that it would be his last chance to see other kiddos
  • Oh yeah…and I found out that I was pregnant with my second child.

To say this past year has been difficult is a gross understatement. Moming through a pandemic is something I never imagined I’d have to do and it is anything but easy. Since I know a lot of others are in the same boat, I decided I should share some of my experiences and hope others can relate (or commiserate?!)

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I am Erin, the other half of the Momfaming Duo. I have a spirited 3 year old who is rocking an extra chromosome (Ryan) and now I also have a 3 month old “pandemic baby” (Lincoln). I found out I was pregnant with Lincoln a few weeks before all of the craziness began. I remember when I was finally telling people I was pregnant everyone’s response was “at least all of this will be over by the time you deliver”; boy were they wrong! Every single one of my prenatal appointments as well as my delivery were during the pandemic. I wouldn’t suggest being pregnant during a pandemic, but I’m glad I was because now I have another amazing boy to add to our clan.

I am also a “retired” teacher turned stay at home mom and I never once questioned that decision until the pandemic hit. Being a stay at home mom during a time like this is a whole different ballgame!

How has life changed for you since quarantine began?

Well, we basically don’t leave the house. All of Ryan’s therapies have turned virtual and we have stopped doing any activities with the kids outside of the house (besides for playing in our yard and walks around the sub). The only person outside of our house that we see is my mom so we occasionally go to her house too. When the weather was nice we saw a few friends outside a handful of times and I am hoping to be able to do that again come spring.

Not leaving the house has definitely changed my stay at home mom parenting style. We used to make sure we had something fun to do outside of the house at least a few days a week to keep us sane (even if it was just running to the grocery store). We also tried to get together with friends for play dates as much as possible. Without being able to do those things we have had to come up with different ways to stay occupied. In the summer we bought an inflatable pool, swing, and slide to have in our yard so that Ryan would have things to do. Now that it’s too cold to go outside for long periods of time we have had to become more creative; like dance parties, baking, and an indoor basketball hoop! It hasn’t been easy, but we are making it work (barely)!

What is something positive that has come out of having to quarantine?

My husband has been able to spend more time with the kiddos. As a stay at home mom I was already present for all of the milestones and funny stories throughout the day; now he is able to join in with that too. He is working from home most of the week so he is able to come down and play with the kids while he’s taking a break as well as eat lunch with us.

It’s been so nice to see his and Ryan’s relationship flourish because of this. Ryan used to only come to me for things, and now he’ll go to his dad too. Sometimes he’ll even take something away from me to bring to his dad because he’d rather play it with him. Although that stings a little, it’s also very nice to see (and even gives me a break every once in a while)!

What is the hardest part about it?

There are so many things that have been hard about quarantine; not seeing friends, not getting any alone time, not getting to see Ryan with kiddos his age, not being able to introduce Lincoln to anyone, and not being able to just throw the kids in the car to run some errands. Without a doubt the hardest part for me, though, is having to decide between Ryan’s health and his development.

Like I said before, Ryan has Down syndrome so he used to have PT once a week through the school district and had also just started private PT and Speech through our local hospital. I was also going with him to a class once a week where he was socializing with peers as well as learning the classroom routine. Once everything shut down, that included all of his therapies. He would continue virtual PT and OT and in the fall we began virtual preschool.

Trying to get a 3 year old (especially one with Down syndrome) to sit at the computer for PT, OT and/or preschool has been quite the challenge. It is a constant battle and I know that he is not getting anywhere near as much out of it as he would be if he were attending in person. He has made some great progress during quarantine (he started walking) but I also know that things are moving slower than they would be if he could be face to face.

On the other hand, Down syndrome is considered a high risk group when it comes to the coronavirus. Because kids with DS are immunocompromised and have low muscle tone they usually have serious side effects if they get any respiratory illness. We have been very lucky with Ryan and haven’t encountered these issue at all but we do not want to risk it. Ultimately we decided to keep him at home because we know that is where he is safest, but I still feel guilt every day that he is not getting the support he needs to develop his skills.

What have you learned about yourself during this time?

That I can do anything life throws at me and no matter what I can put on a brave face for those around me. Living through a pandemic while pregnant and then with a newborn and toddler is TOUGH and although I have been super frustrated and even sad some days my kids would never know it. I have always prided myself on the fact that I have a lot of patience, and boy was that tested this year. Did I have as much as I thought I did? Probably not. But no matter what was going on in the outside world (or even my head) my kids lived as normal of a life as possible through all of this.

What surprised you the most about your child(ren) during this time?

Well Lincoln has only known this way of life (poor kid) but it really surprised me how much Ryan apparently thrived on socializing with other people. Since I am a stay at home mom he has never been in daycare so I would never have labeled him as a social kid. But now that he does not see anyone besides mom and dad (and occasionally grandma) I can tell it’s affecting him.

We were lucky enough to see my brother, sister in law and niece and nephew over Christmas and he was a completely different child. He loved playing with his cousins as well as being around different adults. It was like a weight was lifted off his shoulders and his frustrations seemed to go away. This makes me even more excited to be able to get together with friends again!

What are you most looking forward to doing once life gets back to ‘normal’?

Getting a break from being a mom! I can’t wait to just go out with my friends (without the kiddos) and talk about normal things (in between complaining about our kids and our husbands) while sipping some wine and eating some good food. I never realized how much these nights away gave me the restart I needed to continue to be the best mom and wife I can be.

What is something you began doing during quarantine that you will continue to do (or hope to) once it’s over? Why?

Asking for help. Even without a pandemic I can’t do it all, nor should I have to. As a stay at home mom I feel like there is a lot of pressure to do everything yourself instead of asking your spouse to help because they have been working all day. Well now that we have two and are living through such a stressful time, I have realized I just can’t do it all myself. Some days I need my husband to take one of the kids while I deal with the other one, and other days I need him to take both while I collect myself. And that is okay. Pandemic or not; stay at home mom or not; I need help and I am now not afraid to ask for it!

Anything else you want to add?

I just want to make it clear that I know that in the grand scheme of things we are extremely lucky. We have not lost anyone close to us to this horrible virus nor have we gotten sick ourselves; we have a safe house to quarantine in with everything we need to keep us comfortable; we have not lost much income due to things shutting down; we are able to buy enough groceries to stay healthy; and we have each other and two pretty amazing kiddos to keep us company while we are stuck at home. So although this was one of the hardest years of my life, I know that others have had it MUCH worse and my heart goes out to them every day.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: What is Down Syndrome?

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month which is very exciting in our household because we love getting to share what Down syndrome is to anyone who will listen. When we were told our son, who is now almost 2, had Down syndrome we had to do a lot of research because we didn’t know a lot about it. That research led us to understand that technically “Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 [and] this additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome” (according to the National Down Syndrome Society). But to us, Down syndrome is so much more than that…

To us, Down syndrome is:

  • watching my mom get a tear in her eye when Ryan finally calls her “ga-ga”.
  • hearing my dad say that Ryan was “chosen for the perfect family” and “that he will teach us so much.” when we told him.
  • having everyone stop me in a store just to say “hi” to Ryan.
  • immediately having a club of strangers who are also part of the “lucky few” and feeling connected to them in a way other people can’t understand.
  • celebrating like crazy when Ryan meets a milestone he has been working so hard on—and even FaceTiming “ga-ga” so she can celebrate with us!
  • listening to my 5 year old niece tell me how lucky I am that Ryan is my baby–and knowing how right she is!
  • looking into Ryan’s eyes and realizing that he understands people in a way I never will.
  • seeing Ryan’s smile light up a whole room.
  • having the most walkers at our local Buddy Walk and realizing that our support group is absolutely amazing.
  • receiving all of the uplifting articles about people with Down syndrome from everyone we know.
  • dealing with normal day-to-day ups and downs of a typical toddler; because he is first and foremost, a toddler.
  • advocating for Ryan so that he can live his best life–whatever that entails.
  • not wanting to change a thing about Ryan because he is “down right perfect”!
  • feeling like the luckiest mama in the world because Ryan is mine!



But don’t just take my word for it…come back and check out our Mom of Fames all month to hear what other moms who have kiddos with Down syndrome have to say! And please, if you know, tell us what Down syndrome means to you and your family!

What To Do When a Friend Loses a Parent

Six months ago my dad passed away (it still takes my breath away to say that). Before this, I didn’t have much experience with death. My dad’s best friend passed away when I was in college and both of my grandfathers passed away shortly after college; and these obviously affected me, but nothing prepared me for my dad’s. I want to write about dealing with the grief of losing a parent along with having a toddler but I’m still not ready to do that (I promise, I will, though).

Instead, I’m going to talk about what I learned. I learned that some of your friends will be extremely supportive, and others unfortunately won’t. My dad’s death was fairly sudden but we did have some lead up time to it and in that time (and the time following) I really learned what friends I could count on. I had several friends who offered to watch Ryan (and did) so that I could be at the hospital; I had other friends who ordered or dropped off food for us to eat; and I had friends who would check in every day to make sure I was doing okay. And yes, I had friends who did all of this…and even more! I also, unfortunately, had some friends who did not even mention the passing to me. I was later told this was because “they didn’t know how to handle the death of a friend’s parent”.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s very hard to understand before you have personally gone through it, so I can’t completely fault them for not knowing what to do. Now that I have gone through it, though, let me help you support your friends if and when they go through the same. 

Here are the 5 things I would suggest you do if a friend loses a parent:

1. Say Something (even if it’s not perfect)

Shortly after my dad died I was reading It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerney. In it she talks about the stupid things people said to her after her husband died. A lot of the things were awkward and some were even funny but after hearing it all she concluded, “It’s okay for us to stumble for words when we’re faced with death and sickness and grief; it’s okay for stupid and awkward ones to slip out where we’d hoped sweet and comforting ones would have appeared. You may be the person who says the wrong thing, but that’s better than being the one who says nothing at all.” (McInerney, 232).

This really hit me. I never know what to say at funerals or if someone is going through something hard and, likewise I honestly don’t know what I wanted them to say to me. But I wanted them to SAY SOMETHING. I had a few people say things to me that weren’t the most articulate or even helpful, but I appreciated that much more than the silence. Acknowledgement can go a long way so just remember that when someone you know is going through something hard.

2. Offer to Help (in a specific way)

After my dad died everyone said “let me know what I can do to help”. I so appreciated that but to be honest with you I rarely cashed in the favor. I could barely think straight so I had a hard time coming up with ways that people could help me (even though I probably could have used their help). What really helped was when someone said something specific like, “I’m going to call during lunch so you’re not alone with your thoughts”, or “lets go for a walk and talk about it” or “I’m going to drop off dinner in a few minutes, I’ll just leave it on the porch so you don’t have to host company”. Thinking of specific things you can do for the person is so much more helpful when they are in the heat of grief. 

3. Send Something (if you can’t help)

Obviously not all of my friends live around us or were able to help directly because of their schedules. Many that couldn’t specifically help, though, sent something instead. Whether it was a meal from a local restaurant, a gift card to a meal delivery service, or just a donation to the charity we belong to, it all really meant something to us!

4. Show Up (if you’re able to)

Whenever I saw a friend show up at the funeral I would cry. That doesn’t sound good, but I promise you it was. Just having a support system the day of the viewing and/or funeral was essential to me making it through it (even if those friends were crying just as hard as I was!). So make sure you show up if you’re able to, you never know how much your friend is depending on that!

5. Check In After the Funeral (and even 6 months later)

Dealing with the death of a parent is hard, there is honestly no sugar- coating it. Once the funeral is over, it’s out of the minds of many, but definitely not out of the family’s. It’s not something I want to talk about all of the time but just having friends check in once in a while makes me feel better. Especially on the days that it’s obviously tough, like birthdays and anniversaries; I had several friends check in on me on Father’s Day and it really made the day easier. I know we’re all busy with our own stuff, but really try to think about your friend and check in occasionally. You never know when they’re having a rough day!

Seems easy enough, right? Let me know what helped you through the death of a loved one, I’m sure there are things I missed.

10 Fine Motor Activities I Made Using $10 Worth of Items from the Dollar Store

Last week I was so excited when we received the catalog for the local teacher store. I was happily going through it and circling things I could get for Ryan to play with/learn from this summer (once a teacher, always a teacher). That is until I started adding up how much all of it would cost and it was beyond crazy (think—over $100)! So I decided that I would make my own activities for him instead.

For those of you who don’t read momfaming regularly (and you really should!) Ryan is a 20 month old with Down syndrome. I only tell you that second part so that you understand he is not working on things that a typically developing 20 month old usually is (all of these activities can be made more challenging, though, if your kiddo is ready for it!) Our big goal for the summer is WALKING. Besides that, though, I really wanted to work on his fine-motor development. This is where the dollar store comes in! I was able to come up with 10 different activities using $10 worth of items from the dollar store (as well as a few things I had laying around the house). Check them out below!

$1 Store Items: 1. Tweezers, 2. Pipe Cleaners, 3. Straws, 4. Mixing Spoons, 5. Pompoms,
6. Cheerios, 7. Play Dough, 8. Playing Cards, 9. Watercolor Brushes, 10. Pool Noodle

  • Pompoms & Water Bottle – Have your child pick up an individual pompom and then put it into the water bottle. This will really help them practice their pincer grasp as well as the direction “put in”.
  • Straws & Water Bottle – Same concept as above but with straws instead of pompoms. I bought the straws with a spoon scoop so that they were a little bit thicker than regular straws. Once your child gets really good at it, you can move on to thinner straws for more of a “pincer grasp” challenge.
  • Pompom Scoop – Put a bag of pompoms in a bowl and have your child use a spoon to scoop them up and put them in another bowl. This will help their wrist movement and also prepare them for self-help skills like feeding and stirring!
  • Noodle Pieces & Spoon – Cut the pool noodle into 1 inch thick slices. Then have your child put the slices onto the long spoon. I had to hold the spoon for Ryan but my hope is that he will eventually be able to hold the spoon in one hand and use the other hand to put the noodle pieces on.
  • Tweezer Practice – This concept is a little advanced for Ryan but it is the perfect fine motor practice for those who are ready! You can have your child use the tweezers to pick up pompoms, straws, cheerios or any other small objects you have laying around the house.
  • Card Slot – I used an empty oatmeal tub but any container with a lid will work. You need to first cut a slit in the lid (big enough for a playing card to go through—-I made the opening a little thicker to start and then I will make another one that is thinner once Ryan’s ready for it). Then have your child pick up a playing card and put it into the slot. Once he/she gets the hang of putting it in horizontally, turn the tub so that the card has to be put it in vertically instead.
  • Water Painting – Have your child use a watercolor paintbrush, dip it in water, and “paint” with it on a piece of colored construction paper. Once he/she has practiced a lot and has good control of the paint brush (and you’re ready for some messiness!) let him/her use some paint instead of the water!
  • Play dough & Straws – Put a piece of play dough in front of your child and give them a handful of straws that you have already cut in half. Instruct them to put the straws into the play dough and then ask them to take them back out. Again, this works on the pincer grasp as well as following directions. It also helps to get the child used to the movement involved in using a fork or spoon and bringing food to their mouth.
  • Play dough & Pipe Cleaners – Same idea as above this time using pipe cleaners (also cut in half) instead of straws. To add another element to this give your child a handful of cheerios and see if he/she can put the cheerios on the pipe cleaners. Once he/she gets the hang of that, just use the pipe cleaners and cheerios without the play dough for lacing practice.
  • Play dough Practice – Kiddos can work on a lot with just a hunk of play dough sitting in front of them. As they manipulate the dough they are working the muscles in their hands which are needed for fine motor control. They will also stimulate their creativity by making the play dough look like whatever they want it to!

Easy enough, right!? Now run—don’t walk— to your local dollar store and get started! It’s going to be a long summer if your kiddos don’t have anything to do!

Have you figured out any fun, easy, and cheap activities to make to keep your kids busy (and learning) throughout the summer? Let me know in the comments!

10 Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

One of the worst parts about having a toddler is…feeding them! Have you ever made a meal and they won’t even try it!? Or they take one bite and say “eww”!? It’s beyond frustrating and makes mealtimes some of the worst parts of your day. Now that summer is coming lots of kiddos are going to be home for that dreaded lunch time too! You’re going to need some new ideas, STAT!

Here are my favorite easy toddler lunch ideas. Most of these are just the main course so they’ll need some sides to go with them. Those are usually easy, though–slice up some fruit, grab an applesauce, or warm up some microwave veggies (have you ever seen these!? They’re the easiest things in the world!) and your meal is all set!

Let me know in the comments what your kiddos love to eat for lunch–we’re always looking for new ideas! And tell me your best story about their refusal to eat…because, after all, misery loves company!

1. Crescent Roll Sandwiches

We got the idea for these from my sister in law and they are some of our favorites to make! They’re so easy that once your kiddo is old enough they can even help you! You just need a tin of crescent rolls (we use the Annie’s brand) and whatever you want to put inside. We have made cheddar cheese & turkey, pizza (mozzarella & pepperoni) and mozzarella & turkey. You just have to unroll the crescent rolls, put the ingredients inside, roll it back up and cook it in the oven for the amount of time it says on the tin.

2. Quesadillas

Ryan loves many different variations of quesadillas. Sometimes we do just cheese, and other times we throw in turkey, chicken or taco meat. It’s also a good way to sneak some veggies in by adding peppers, onions, mushrooms, or any other veggie you have in the fridge. I also love using Street Taco tortillas because they are the perfect size for a toddler!

3. Hot Dogs

This is pretty self-explanatory but paired with some yummy veggies or Broccoli Tots they are the perfect meal for a toddler. Just make sure you cut them into bit size pieces–they are a very common choking hazard in young children!

4. Eggs/Omelette

This is another super simple lunch that can include most of the major food groups. I prefer to make omelettes because it’s so easy to throw in some meat, a veggie and cheese (I try to use leftovers from the night before so that it’s even easier). It cooks in less than 5 minutes and I make it with 3 eggs so that he can eat half today and have the other half for lunch tomorrow!

5. PB&J Pancakes

Pancakes is always a fun meal! Again your kiddo can help once they’re old enough and it usually makes lots of leftovers. To make it even more fun the next day I use the pancakes as “bread” and throw some peanut butter and jelly on it. It sounds weird, but trust me, just try it! To make the pancakes a little healthier I use Kodiak Cakes because they have more protein than regular pancakes.

6. French Toast

As you can probably tell by now, we love breakfast for lunch! French toast is the perfect lunch for a toddler because it has protein from the eggs and dairy from the milk you add to it. It can also be cut into strips so that they can easily feed themselves. With a quick veggie and/or fruit on the side it’s delicious and nutritious! And just like with pancakes, I sometimes put peanut butter and jelly on it and Ryan can’t get enough!

7. Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I love this because it tastes just like regular pizza but it also gives him a serving of veggies without even trying. Not only is the crust made with cauliflower but I also choose one that has veggies on top! It’s also perfect because I can make one pizza and we both have lunch for a few days! We love this one that comes frozen in a 2-pack from Costco.

8. Leftovers

Again, no explanation necessary. If they liked dinner, feed it to them again for lunch the next day! It doesn’t get much easier than that!

9. Deconstructed Sandwich

This is one of my go-to’s if I don’t have much time and/or I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while. It’s all of the stuff you would put into a sandwich, but without the bread! So a little lunch meat and cheese and I usually give some crackers on the side for a little crunch!

10. Grilled Cheese & Soup

Who doesn’t love this combo!? Grilled cheese is super easy to make (did you know if you put mayo on the bread instead of butter it gets crispier!?) and soup just adds a nice side to either eat or dip the sandwich into! Ryan hasn’t tried the traditional tomato soup but he loves chicken noodle, broccoli/ cheddar, and minestrone!

To My Friends…Thank You for Making This Easier!

When I first learned that my son, Ryan, has Down syndrome there were so many different thoughts going through my head. *Will he be okay?*, *Will he have friends?*, *Will he be included?*, *Will he be happy?*

After we found out that he was otherwise healthy, one of the biggest concerns I had was about the support we’d receive. I have a great group of friends but this is something we had never experienced before so I didn’t know how everyone would handle it, including me. It’s a lot to deal with when you find out your child has special needs; you definitely need your support system to help you through it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing about him, but having friends that love and support us makes it so much easier. 

So to my friends (and family)…thank you for:

Loving and including Ryan

One of my biggest fears was that Ryan wouldn’t have meaningful relationships with my friends’ kids because he was different than them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. My friends are amazing at loving and including Ryan. He is invited to every play date and party and while he is there they make sure he is treated just like everybody else (if not better!) Everybody comes over and makes sure Ryan is doing okay and if he can’t participate in something (because he hasn’t reached the milestone yet) they make sure he has something else that he can do. He loves being around people and it is so fun to see him interact with the kiddos and other adults.

Always asking about him and his development

Along with Ryan’s diagnosis comes weekly therapies (occupational and physical) and extra doctor’s appointments. My friends always seem to remember to ask about how he is doing in them and what he has accomplished during them and it really means a lot. Sometimes I don’t feel like having OT and PT every week. I feel like the house always has to be clean and some days it just really disrupts his schedule. I know he needs it and he is thriving because of it, but it can honestly get really frustrating. When my friends ask how it’s going or cheer because Ryan met a new milestone, though, it really reminds me of my priorities and eases my frustration.

Still sharing your kids’ accomplishments

Another one of my fears was that my friends would feel bad bragging about their kiddos to me. I didn’t want the fact that Ryan was reaching milestones later deter them from telling me all the cool things that their children were doing. Luckily, my friends are very open and let me know when a new milestone has been reached. And just like they celebrate with us when Ryan succeeds, I love to celebrate with them!

Going to fundraisers

One of the most generous ways my friends have found to support us is to donate to the Down Syndrome Guild. Whenever there are events that we invite them to, they show up without question. Our first event was for World Down Syndrome Day last year. I invited everyone on a Monday (when it was on Wednesday) and somehow we had over 30 people show up just to support Ryan. It was so amazing to see and really made us realize how lucky we are to have these people in our life.

Having the difficult conversations

Most of my friends’ kids are under 5 so I’m not sure we have crossed this bridge yet, but it is definitely coming. Eventually (probably sooner rather than later) their kiddos are going to realize that Ryan is different. They’re going to ask why he looks different or why he acts different than other kids his age. I know this isn’t going to be the easiest conversation for them to have and I want to thank them in advance for having it. And I know their kids will be just as supportive and kind as they all have been because they’re all amazing moms (and dads) and are raising amazing kids.

Ryan is one lucky little boy to have you all in his life and I am one lucky woman to have you all as friends.

So…thank you from the bottom of my heart!


Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom

I have been a SAHM for 18 months now and I think I am just finally getting the hang of it (almost!). It’s a tough job with no “clock out” time, little adult interaction and no pay. Although this can be frustrating at times, it is also the most fulfilling job in the world with the added benefit of getting to see your child 24/7. Just like any job there are good days and there are bad days. I’ve found that by doing these 5 things I have a lot more of the good ones:

Have a schedule…but don’t be afraid to break it!

We all know that kiddos thrive on schedules. I have tried to have Ryan on a schedule since he was a newborn (well really he had me on one then!) Now that he’s old enough to understand the schedule a little bit it is even more important though! We try to have a plan each day and honestly just having that plan makes the day go by quicker.

Right now our schedule looks something like: wake up, play, breakfast, songs, OT or PT (with the therapists or just with us), nap, lunch, play (or outing), nap, dada’s home—thank goodness!, dinner, play, bed). Some days we have swim in the morning and OT or PT in the afternoon but that gives you a general idea of what we do each day.

Even though we have a schedule we are not afraid to break it if something else will work better or we have the opportunity to do something fun. Now I try my best not to mess with Ryan’s naps, but anything else is fair game!

Enjoy a “Mom’s Night Out” whenever possible

SAHMs are with their kiddos ALL day long. As amazing as that is, we also need a little time to ourselves. I think it is SO important to be able to get out and enjoy yourself without your kiddo sometimes. I try to plan a night out with friends at least once a month. I am able to just chat, eat without interruptions and not worry about a little one and everything he needs for a few hours. I feel so rejuvenated afterward so I think it’s just as important for Ryan as it is for me! It also gives him a little time with his dad which is also great for both of them!

Plan an outing at least once a week

I try to plan something fun (outside of the house) to do each week. Whether it’s going over to a friend’s house, going someplace cool (like the zoo), or just heading to Target and lunch (mama’s favorite!). I feel like this helps make the week go by faster because it is something we can look forward to and it also helps Ryan’s development. He loves being around other adults and other children and his curiosity is so peeked when we go someplace new!

Pick up the phone

Being home with an 18 month old and 2 dogs can get a little lonely. Don’t get me wrong, they are all near me ALL the time, but none of them are the best communicators. This makes adult conversation so necessary throughout the day! So if your friends call PICK UP THE PHONE (obviously when the toddler is occupied and you’re able to). Or if your child is asleep, call someone just to talk! I have found the days are much more bearable when I am able to talk to friends throughout the day and not just wait for my husband to get home to have adult interaction. (I think he appreciates it too because then I don’t bombard him with questions and thoughts the second he walks in the door!)

Accept help

I had a very hard time with this (and still do sometimes)! I think stay at home moms think that since we are not “working” we shouldn’t need help throughout the day. But guess what, we need help too! If someone offers to help so you can run some errands (without a toddler whining) or so you can go to a doctor’s appointment SAY YES!

I also have a bad habit of thinking that since this is my “job” that I have to continue to do everything once my husband gets home. Again, this shouldn’t be the case! So if your husband gets home and offers to take the responsibility over so you can do something (or regain your sanity), SAY YES!

No matter what kind of week we have, this boy makes being a SAHM worth it! Whether you’re also a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, what have you found helps you have a better week? Let us know in the comments!


How to Start a Book Club

Last year when Lisa and I were discussing our New Year’s Resolutions I mentioned that I wanted to start a book club. A teacher at work was always talking about hers and it seemed like it was so much fun. I felt like it would be the perfect mix of reading and socializing; it would give us an excuse to get together once a month and it would also push us to read more (both things that I wanted to do!).

Lisa immediately agreed that I had to start one and we began planning! I’m pretty sure this was the only resolution I kept last year but it I’m so glad that I did! If you are thinking of starting your own book club (which you definitely should) read on for my suggestions. Now, I have only been doing this for a year so please let me know what has worked for you and your book club, too!


1. Choose Members Wisely

Once we decided that we were going to start a book club the first thing we needed were members. We had 3 requirements for members of our book club. The first requirement was obviously someone who liked wine. The second was that they needed to like to read. The final requirement was that they had to be fun—who wants to hang out with someone every month if they’re not fun!? We decided to ask 3 of our friends (who we met either in college or through our college friends) who met all of these requirements.

Once we had our first meeting and other people started hearing about our book club they obviously wanted to join. We decided to keep it small because working around 5 schedules is hard enough, we couldn’t imagine working around more. And also, the more people you have the more expensive it would be to provide food and wine. We may allow other members to join eventually, but our group of 5 is perfect for now!

2. Set Ground Rules

Before we even started the book club we came up with some rules. First of all we all discussed the types of books we did NOT want to read. This included genres such as fantasy, historical fiction and smut (I know, bummer). We figured that we wanted everyone to at least have a chance of enjoying the books so we wanted to weed out the genres that didn’t appeal to us right away. Next, we decided that each month one person would be the “host”; they would be responsible for choosing the book, hosting the other members, and providing the food and drinks. Lastly, we talked about how serious we were going to be about the club. Ultimately we decided that we were more concerned with the gossip and wine (obviously) than the actual literary elements of the book. Now don’t get me wrong, we still discuss the books, but that definitely only amounts to a little bit of the time spent at our book club.

3. Serve (lots of) Food and Wine

Please refer to the above paragraph. The wine (and food) is the most important part of our book club! It is up to the host to decide what kind of food to serve and how much of it to have. When I hosted the first month I wanted to do something super creative and have all of the food make you think of something in the book. Unfortunately the first book we chose was not an easy book to do this with, so I just opted for a regular (boring) spread. The types of food we have enjoyed at our book club include: pizza & salad, a charcuterie board, appetizers, catering from the local grocery store, and an assortment of Trader Joe’s favorites. And of course…lots of WINE.

4. Be Flexible

This was an interesting year for the members of our book club. There were 2 pregnancies (and 1 baby so far—congrats, Lisa!), 2 houses bought and renovated, and 1 death (of a very close family member). This meant that we had to be super flexible. We had to reschedule a few times because people didn’t have enough time to finish the book, we skipped December all together (because…holidays), and we even had book club at a wine bar instead of the host’s house (that was under construction)!

After all of the above we needed a little break, so this month we decided that we would all read a book of our own choosing and share with the group whether or not we would suggest that they read it too. I’m sure we’ll go back to choosing one book for everyone to read but for now this is working for us. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives and you have to be understanding and flexible if you want to keep your book club an activity everyone looks forward to instead of something else that we HAVE to do each month.

5. Get Creative

Once I decided to start the book club I did the obvious thing anyone would do: I hopped on Pinterest and looked for cool ideas. Now, I am not a very creative person but I was able to find a few cute things that I could provide for the members of our club. First, I decided on the motto of our book club – “reading between the wines”. It seemed like the obvious choice for our group since the wine is more important than the books (see above again!). I wanted to commemorate this motto so I made book marks for everyone (yes, they’re laminated…I was a teacher!)

I also found cute socks that say “our book club reads between the wines” at John’s Crazy Socks. This was not only perfect becuase of the quote, but John’s Crazy Socks is an organization run by a man with Down syndrome and his dad so my money was also going to a good cause! I’m sure there are much cooler things that people have done for their book clubs but these two things were easy and fun to do/find and the other members seemed to really appreciate them!

I hope after reading this that you decide that a book club is just what you and your friends need in your lives. I also hope that these suggestions help you once you decide to start one! Please keep us posted and let us know if you do start one and what you found helpful! Also, if you want a copy of the bookmarks, email us at and I will send them along! Happy reading (and drinking)!

Activities To Promote Cognitive and Physical Development: Part 2

If you have been following Momfaming you know that my son Ryan has Down syndrome and because of that qualifies for Early On. This service is provided through our school district and includes an Occupational Therapist and a Physical Therapist coming to our house to work with him each week. These wonderful ladies give us so many great ideas and activities to help promote his physical and cognitive development.

Ryan is 16 months old (today, actually!) but is not necessarily working on milestones for a typical 16 month old. So to figure out if these activities are developmentally appropriate for your child, focus on the concepts they are working on as opposed to their specific age. So if you have a baby that is working on goals such as sitting up, mimicking, or using signals, check out my first post here. If you have an older baby (or toddler) working on things like standing, walking, or a pincer grasp you’re in the right place! Read on for the activities I have found the most helpful and Ryan has found the most fun! Let me know in the comments some activities you do to help your child meet these milestones, we’re always looking for new things to try!


Large Motor Practice – Standing

Right now we are really working on standing with Ryan. These are the three activities that we’ve been doing to help strengthen his legs and teach him how to pull himself up to stand:

  1. Standing with Assistance – he starts out sitting in a chair with his knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then he puts his hands onto a walker (or other toy that is the correct height) and he pulls himself up with assistance. I always make sure I’m correcting his feet once he’s up so that he has a sturdy base and each time he goes to stand I say the words “stand up” or just “up” so that he starts to learn the word that correlates to the action.
  2. Keep Toys Out of Reach – once Ryan started pulling himself up to stand without much assistance we started putting his toys (and books) up on the couch or ottoman instead of on the ground. This way if he wants to play with his toys/read his books he not only has to pull himself up, but he also has to stand there while he plays.
  3. Encourage “Cruising” – now that Ryan is continuing to pull himself up and standing to play for a few minutes we are starting to try to get him to “cruise” along the couch by moving the toys he wants to play with a little to his left or right. He needs a lot of support while he moves right now but hopefully soon he will start to do it more independently.

Large Motor Practice – Crawling

Ryan is now crawling around the house like a champ! Now that he is comfortable doing this we are working on crawling onto things. These activities are helping him practice this:

  1. Start with the Couch – I know what you’re thinking, the couch cushion again!? But I’m telling you it works! We just pull a cushion off of the couch and put it on the ground right in front. We then put one of his favorite toys onto the couch where he can see it. When we first started we had to first put the toy on the cushion so he would crawl onto that; then move it onto the couch where the cushion used to be and so on so that he wouldn’t get discouraged. Now that he’s more comfortable doing it we can just put the toy high up on the couch and he crawls to get it immediately.
  2. Crawling Onto Your Lap – once he got the hang of climbing onto the couch I started to encourage him to crawl all the way into my lap instead of just grabbing him and putting him in my lap when he crawls to me.
  3. Finally…the Stairs – climbing up the stairs is eventually the goal of all of this so once you feel your child is ready, make them try it! When Ryan first started I had to really assist him (by kneeling right behind him so he could push off of my legs and encouraging him to put his hands onto the next stair). Then we moved on to helping him bend his knees and lift one leg up at a time (to do this, just gently squeeze the hip of the knee you want him to bend and his natural reflex will be to lift that knee up). He is still not doing the stairs independently but he crawls (with some assistance) up them every time we go upstairs and he is definitely getting better each time!

Fine Motor Practice

Fine motor skills are definitely harder for Ryan to master. Luckily, these activities are fun so he likes to practice often!

  1. Put On/Take Off – we use a toy (like the ring towers below) and I say “take off” and have him take the rings off one at a time (sometimes he just knocks the whole thing over so that they all fall off but I encourage him to do it one at a time because that takes more fine motor control). Then I have him pick up one of the rings while I hold the base out and instruct him to “put on”. I make sure that he is successful by moving the base around until he is able to easily place the ring on it. Then we cheer like he just finished a marathon so that he knows that he did it right. This is also great because along with practicing fine motor skills it also helps him start to follow simple directions.
  2. Put In/Take Out – we started to introduce this concept with a large bin that had several small toys in it. I would have Ryan put his hand in the bin and say “take out” each time he would reach in and bring out a toy. Then we would empty the bin and encourage him to put the toys back in by handing him a toy one at a time, holding the bin under his hand and saying “put in” (if a child is having trouble releasing the toy make sure to rest his/her arm on the bin and it will cause him to drop the toy because of a reflex). After repeating this many times with help he is beginning to independently put toys in when asked. Next step, helping mom clean up!
  3. Practice with Food – picking up food and putting it into our mouths takes a lot of fine motor control. We started to practice this by holding a piece of food in our palm and having him scoop it up with all of his fingers. Now we hand him a piece of food using our pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger) which encourages him to grab it the same way. Right now he is using his middle finger along with his thumb and pointer but that is okay at this point!

Language Development

  1. Give Choices – to add some language to play time we have started to give Ryan choices on what he wants to use. For example, when we are reading him stories we hold up 2 books and ask him to choose which one he wants us to read. He will point to one, so we read it, and when we are done reading we give him 2 new choices. We do the same for his toys but he isn’t always as decisive with this. To help him understand the name for each toy I made him a book with pictures of his favorite toys in it and what we call them (make sure you are calling it the same thing each time so that he can start to associate the correct name with each toy). We show him the pictures and ask him to point to which one he wants to play with and hand him the toy he points to (see picture below).
  2. Use Signs – since Ryan doesn’t have very many words yet we have started to introduce signs. We started with “more” and have moved on to “all done”, “open”, and “want/give”. Whenever we are playing we make sure to make the sign while saying the word several times and encourage him to try to do it himself. If he is having a hard time we will move his hands with ours but we try not to do this too much.
  3. Simple Directions – now that Ryan is understanding a lot of what we’re saying we ask him to follow simple directions. This also reiterates labels for things he sees all the time (ball, mama, doggy, etc.). A game we play a lot is “give the ball to mama” or “give the block to dada” to see if he will bring the correct toy to the correct person.

Foster Independence

  1. Crawling Everywhere – now that Ryan is crawling so easily we don’t pick him up and carry him around as much. When it’s time to eat, we walk into the dining room and tell him to come with us. It may take a little longer but eventually that smiling face peeks around the corner and joins us. We do this as often as we can and he has really started to get the hang of it and follows us pretty easily.
  2. Playing Independently – although these are all activities that involve you playing with your child I also encourage you to allow them to play independently (it is actually a milestone they need to reach!) Ryan loves to sit on the ground and “read” his books or play with his toys even when we aren’t doing it with him. He’ll always make sure we are close and checks in with us but he’s really good at playing by himself.

Secrets of a Daycare Director: 5 Things You Must Do Before Choosing a Daycare

Choosing a daycare for your child(ren) is hard! There are so many options out there, how do you know which is best? What should you be looking for? What should you ask? Should you send your child to a chain? A private daycare? An in-home?

Only you can make these decisions based on what is best for your family but I am here to hopefully make the decision a little easier. Before I became a stay at home mom I was the director of a daycare. I gave hundreds of tours and saw all different kinds of parents looking for all different kinds of things. After giving all of these tours I decided that these are the 5 things you must do before choosing a daycare.

**Soon I will be putting together a list of essential questions to ask while on a daycare tour. It will be included in our next newsletter so be sure to sign up so you don’t miss out!**


When I was a director I HATED when people would do this. It seemed like they would always come when I was either trying to eat my lunch (like poor Ryan is trying to do above) or right when I was trying to leave for the day. Now I say I hated it, but I completely understood why the parents did it. When you call and make an appointment with a director for a tour several things happen. First, she writes it on the calendar where all of the teachers can see it. Then she walks around the morning of and reminds the teachers that a tour is coming and what time. This means that everyone is on their best behavior. The director is prepared for exactly what to say, the teachers are using their sweetest voices, and the children are doing the most engaging activities (because the teachers planned it that way).

When you just drop in for a tour you are able to see a more genuine version of the school. You can first see how the director handles having her day (and probably her lunch) interrupted. Then you can hear the teachers when they don’t necessarily know they are being heard by a prospective parent. And finally, you can see what the kiddos are doing in the middle of a random day. I’m sure most places would prefer a scheduled tour, but if I were you, I would just drop in! (And if they won’t accept a drop in tour, they are probably not the place for you).

When you are touring a daycare or preschool you are obviously looking at a specific room depending on the age of your child. You really should look at ALL of the rooms, though. I was always amazed when I was giving a tour and the parents wanted to skip all of the rooms besides the one their child would be in. I understand you may be short on time, but trust me, this is necessary.

For one, if your child is there for more than 6 months they will probably be going to the next room. It would be a shame to choose a school because you loved the toddler room, but then have to pull your child out because the preschool room is terrible. Also, if your child is there all day they will inevitably be with the other teachers for part of it. The end of the day at most daycares consists of creatively shuffling the kids around so that teachers can go home while ratios are still upheld. This means that your child will end the day with a different teacher than they started with. Don’t you want to meet everyone who will be with them throughout the day and the year?

Every two years a daycare has to renew their license (if the daycare you are looking at isn’t licensed…RUN!). This means that a consultant shows up randomly and makes sure the daycare is following all of the necessary rules. At the end of their visit they write a report to show the violations that were found. Before even visiting the daycare you should check out their licensing report. This is available online and should be very easy to find by googling “daycare licensing reports in ___ (if you live in Michigan, you can find it here).

A few things to keep in mind when reading the reports. First, don’t panic! It is the licensing consultant’s job to find things wrong with the daycare so there will always be at least a few violations. Second, not all violations are created equal. Be sure to read what the violation is before deciding the daycare doesn’t deserve to watch your child. Teachers are only human and sometimes accidents happen. Finally, if you are really uncomfortable about something you read but like everything else about the school, ask the director about it. You will learn a lot from how she answers those types of questions.

In order for you to be comfortable with sending your child to a daycare, you have to trust them. The best way to begin to build that trust is to speak to other parents who trusted them with their own children. Many schools will already have a list of parent references, but if they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask for one. Then actually CALL a few of the parents on the list. Make sure you have specific questions for them so that you get as much out of the call as possible.

Now obviously if they are providing the references, they are all going to be people who had good experiences at the school. This is what you want to hear, though! If you are looking for complaints about the school check out google or yelp. Right now you are looking for people to ease your mind about sending your child there, and a parent reference list is a perfect place to find that.

Each parent is looking at different things during a tour depending on what is most important to them. Along with those, I would suggest you also focus on three things; the teachers, the children, and the equipment. Specifically:

Teachers: The teachers should be engaged with the children. She should be on the ground with the kiddos or in a chair near them. She should also be speaking in a positive way to the students and about the school. Feel free to ask the teachers specific questions about how the day looks in her classroom, what curriculum she uses and/or what she does about behavior problems. The teachers should be prepared to answer questions and the director should be able to monitor the class while she does so.

Children: The children should look happy! Now obviously there will be crying kids every time you walk into a daycare, but the majority of them should look like they want to be there. They should also look engaged in the classroom and the activity that is going on. Finally, they should look comfortable with the teacher and the director.

Equipment: The equipment should look well taken care of. If there are a bunch of broken toys or cracks in the floor it’s not a good sign that the school is staying updated and safe. The equipment should also look age-appropriate. This is important for keeping the children engaged as well as for their safety.