Category Archives: Uncategorized

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times: A day at the playground

One of the Daily 10 for infants is "Take Your Baby Outside" and one of the Daily 5 for toddlers is "Do something physical".  Going to the playground/park is a wonderful way to get outside and to do something physical for all little kids.   And it is packed with brain and nervous system building experiences.  Plus, it's just tons of fun.  Most of the time.

Today, it was the best of times for both AJ and me at the playground.  It was almost 60 degrees and there were lots of kids there.  I watched my 2 and a half year old AJ go up to several kids at different times and say, "Hi.  What's your name?  Want to play with me?"  Most of the kids said yes and off they went onto a new adventure together.  There was a super sweet little 5 year old boy who made a special point of asking AJ to ride with him on the bouncy car and the tire swing and then pushing her slowly on the merry go round because she asked him to.  His equally sweet little 3 year old sister asked AJ to make a train with her down the slide.  Since AJ had never had anyone ask her to do this with them, she didn't know what to do.  I helped her put her legs around the little girl and hold on to her waist.  Down they went, laughing and giggling together.  I heard AJ tell the little girl, "we're best friends!"  The next 5 times down, AJ knew exactly what to do.  Another little girl who looked to be about 3 came up and wanted to play train slide too so AJ showed her how to do it and all three little girls went down like a train several times.  It was fantastic!  All of the moms were smiling and laughing.   It was the best of times.  Then...

AJ was following her sweet little friend up the ladder and accidentally got kicked in the face.  Lots of crying and sorrow ensued.  He felt bad and she felt bad.  I held her and gave her kisses.  The sweet little boy apologized and all was well again.  More laughing and playing.  Moms on the little horses.  Kids running and screaming in glee.  Until . . .

AJ tried to imitate a much older kid who was swinging on the top of the little slide and then going down.  Even though I told her not to do it, she tried.  And fell squarely on a hard metal piece of equipment.  That one hurt.  After more hugs and kisses, she was back up and at it again.

Even though it scared her to go fast, her little "superhero" friend and his sister (along with several other kids) were on the merry go round and she wanted to join in the fun.  There had to be 6 kids on there (a couple of older ones too) and AJ asked them to "go slow".  To my surprise, not one kid balked and they all agreed to go slowly because AJ asked them to.  When one little boy tried to go too fast, the oldest boy dragged his foot on the ground to slow down the merry go round and told the other boy to slow down because AJ was scared.  That was really sweet.  I was super impressed with all of the kids, especially him.  Eventually, they started going faster and faster and AJ was enjoying the speed.  Until . . .

She let go with one hand and went reeling off the merry go round.  After scooping her up and checking to make sure she was ok, I gave her lots of hugs and kisses but there was no consoling her.  She was tired and it was time to go.  When we got to the car and she was still crying, I asked if she was ok.  She said between sobs, "I'm not a superhero."  I told her that she WAS a superhero because she faced her fear and rode the merry go round fast.  She wasn't buying it and said, "I am NOT a superhero." and wailed again.  The only thing that would help was a packet of fruit snacks. As we drove home, she said, "Momma - I miss my friends!"

What a great day!

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Computers for Kids at the Library? Really?

Our library has a fantastic section for little kids.  There are not only tons of books, but also fun play areas with neat games including a puppet stage/puppets, fun puzzles and little tables with places to color.  There is also a bank of computers with kids games on them.     I understand that computer skills are essential in today's society.  We have several computers and tablets in our house and I am a big fan of technology.  But not for babies and not for tiny kids in the library.  To be fair, there are usually many more little kids with their moms and dads reading, drawing or playing with the puzzles than there are at the computers.

I'm not sure I understand why we need to have kiddy computers at the library.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no tv for kids under the age of two.  Where do computers fit in to this equation?  I don't know but there are so many other places for tiny kids to be distracted by electronic media that I was hoping there would be an"electronics free zone" at the library.

I know that my 2 and a half year old daughter gets distracted when she hears the roar of one of the computer games and she wants to go over and see what the excitement is about.  Without that, she would be looking at books or playing with the other brain building things they have at the library.  It seems like another place for wonderful growing brains to get needlessly distracted by electronics.

I am very interested to hear what you think about computers in the library.   Weigh in with your thoughts.

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Ever Hear Ice Singing? Take Your Baby Outside and Build Her Brain AND Yours

Like much of the country, it's been exceptionally cold in the Midwest for several weeks.  As a result, we haven't been able to go outside every day and that is hard on everyone - my little 2 year old daughter, our dogs, and me!  This weekend it seemed to be a little warmer so we bundled up, leashed up the dogs and headed out for a walk around the ponds.  I always know that our walks will be brain building for my little girl, but today, it was brain building for me too!

As we got closer to the first pond, we both started hearing an unfamiliar noise.  AJ asked me what is was and I told her that I didn't know.  She asked if it was the froggies under the ice.  (I thought that was pretty clever of her.)   It was a good chance to talk about what happens to frogs during the winter.  (I will be looking this up to make sure I gave her factual information!)   As we got closer to the frozen pond, the sound sort of radiated over the ice and I realized that it was the ICE making these sort of singing noises.  I've hiked around frozen lakes quite a bit but never heard this before.  I told AJ that it was the ice making the noise.  We both stopped and listened.  She said, "The ice is making that sound?"  I told her that we would look it up when we got home.   As we walked around the other two ponds, we heard similar "songs" which were slightly different at each lake.  Really wonderful and interesting sounds.  AJ started to say, "That's the ice."  whenever we would hear it.

It was getting cold and I was looking forward to going inside and having a cocoa.  I also wanted to look up this ice sound to understand it and explain it to AJ.  No can do.  We walked past the cat tails and it was a must stop.  AJ picked out the one that she wanted and told me to get one too.  We both broke open the tops and watched in glee as the seeds blew through the breeze (and stuck on her freshly washed coat).    Our dog, Issac, finally sat down to watch the whole thing.

I finally had to pick AJ up to bring her in.  Once we got inside and fixed some warm cocoa for ourselves, I set out to learn more about "ice singing."  There were lots of descriptions, but the one that really grabbed me was written by German Andreas Bick on his website Silent Listening (http://silentlistening.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/ice-recordings-updated/#comment-970).  He and his readers provide some fascinating video and audio of ice songs.  It is a must read.

"Take your baby outside" is one of The Daily 10 for parents to help build our babies' brains.   Sometimes, if we pay attention, it helps build Mom and Dad's brains too.  Plus, it's a lot of fun.  Go outside with your baby today - the opportunities to build her brain are unlimited and the memories you create are priceless.  Blessings!

Learn more about The Daily 10 by reading the book Time You Can’t Get Back:  What Every Parent Needs to be Doing During Baby’s First Year

Order your copy today!

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The Emotional Gifts of Reading to Your Baby

Thanks to baby reading expert, Caroline Blakemore, who wrote today's post.  Caroline's refreshing thoughts on the brain benefits and emotional benefits of reading to babies are a good reminder for all parents who are working to give their babies the best start in life.  Enjoy her post and remember to read to your baby every day!

Since the publication of our book, Baby-Read-Aloud Basics, it’s become obvious that there is something very Sacred about the time and space set aside for reading to your baby. Beyond the many enduring academic benefits that result from reading aloud to babies and toddlers (see our website, Readtoyourbaby.com), there are a host of equally important benefits that are now emerging in the field of brain research that involve the baby’s life-long emotional well-being.

 

One of the gifts that come through reading to your baby and toddler is the gift of your attention or your presence. When you look your child in the eyes before, during and after reading, you’re nonverbally saying, “I adore you. You are the most important thing in my life at this moment. I honor you and consider you to be a Sacred Being. I’m attending to whatever you need, and will honor those needs.” Isn’t this what every infant, toddler and child needs — a parent who is vitally present to his or her needs?

 

According to the research of Dr. Daniel Siegel, M.D. in his books Mindsight and The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive, many problems develop later in life when babies don’t “feel felt” right from the start. Not only children, but all of us, at least at times, need to “feel felt”. That is, we need those who are closest to us to give us their undivided attention.

 

However, increasingly I’m observing parents who give more attention to their smart phones than their babies. I see moms or dads with their babies right next to them, not even glancing at them, yet totally rapt in the spell of their cell phones. An imbalance of attention away from babies might result in various adverse consequences of which we can only speculate based what we know of the benefits of attachment. This doesn’t mean we can’t use our cell phones, but we can develop awareness to make sure that we’re not giving more attention to our phones than our babies.

 

Other recent research shows that between six to twelve months babies literally read our lips for information about the sounds they hear as they listen to us read and speak to them. So clearly babies are giving us all their attention as they gaze into our faces. Seeing our eyes and smiling faces look back at them helps create brain cells in the very malleable infant brain, instill a sense of comfort and safety, and develop future empathy and kindness in the frontal lobes of the brain.

 

Presence is the basis of bonding and attachment. Being present is equally shared between mom and dad, and is easily accomplished throughout the day when you relate to your baby through feeding, bathing, holding, diaper changing, and reading aloud. When you read-aloud you and your baby are deeply attached through gazing at and listening to each other. Only this face-to-face presence gives babies the information they need to develop strong language and relationship skills. This ongoing act of presence introduces and secures a closeness that will form the basis of a life-long bonded relationship. You’re not only giving one of life’s most treasured gifts to your child, but to yourself.

 

CAROLINE BLAKEMORE

Caroline started and worked in two private schools before a thirty year career as a public school reading specialist in San Diego County.  She also taught briefly in the education department at Cal State San Marcos. Coauthor of Literacy Centers for the Primary Classroom published by Pearson, she and Barbara Weston also wrote Baby Read Aloud Basics published by Amacon. The basic principles of literacy and language development for babies and toddlers can be found on her website, Readtoyourbaby.com. Presently Caroline is a literacy consultant, spiritual director, writer, artist and grandparent to her five grandchildren, all of whom were brought up being read to every day.

 

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He Speaks 4 Languages at Age 11: Genius? Nope.

I was having a glass of wine with friends when we began discussing kids learning a foreign language.  One of my relatives is an 11 year old who speaks 4 languages.  Everyone was simply amazed.  Wow - he must be gifted.  Well, he might be; but knowing multiple languages at a young age is commonplace in other countries  and he lives in Europe.  It is assumed there  that kids can learn multiple languages and they do.  It is amazing to us in America because we don't routinely expect this level of learning from our children.  We should.  I'm not speaking specifically about kids learning multiple languages at a young age (although that is wonderful), but I am speaking about encouraged learning at a young age, particularly helping build your baby's brain during the first year.  It is easy to do simple things and establish a learning lifestyle with them during their first year of life and continuing it throughout their life.

I was discussing the concept of a "learning lifestyle" with a friend and she laughed saying that kids wouldn't need that once they started school because they would be learning at school.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As parents, we are the primary influence on our kids learning and development - or should be.  Of course, kids learn a great deal at school, but that doesn't mean they can't also be learning more at home.  Innovating your baby doesn't stop when they turn 2.  It is a way of life that helps your kids throughout their lifetime.

Just as we need to be talking to our babies all the time using all kinds of words to help their brains develop; and as we need to be reading to our babies every day to give them learning that can impact their future academic success; we need to think about how we can continue this habit as the years go by.  There is certainly a large body of helpful information for fun toddler learning activities starting with Pinterest and Facebook.  You can find tons of wonderful information for things to do with your kids.  That can sometimes take time to sift through.  One of my goals for Innovate Your Baby and Innovate Your Toddler is to provide parents with a simple easy to remember set of daily principles to apply throughout the day as they interact with their kids (and to share with parents, grandparents and caregivers to apply as well).  For babies, this is the Daily 10 which incorporates things like, read to your baby, talk to your baby in his language and yours, sing to your baby, take your baby outside.  For toddlers this is the Daily 4 or PARC which includes doing something physical, artistic, reading and counting.  Common sense?  If it were, more parents would be doing it all the time.   True innovation makes things simple.

If you have an infant, start reading to them every day and talking to them all the time.  If you have a toddler, start taking advantage of every opportunity to count with them.  Count down with them as the microwave timer counts down.  Pick up the little rocks you see as you leave the office building and count them with your little one.  Look at the planes in the sky and count them with your toddler as you say "Whoosh -there goes the plane - look at his jet trail."   Babies' brains have an enormous capacity to learn.  Establish a fun learning lifestyle with your little one today and expect him to learn big things.  You won't be disappointed.

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Bathtime is Fun (and Brain Building)!

You truly can help your baby develop their brain anywhere.  The bath is a great example.  Sure, you need to get baby clean but you can also take a few extra minutes to give baby some fun learning experiences too.  (Of course, you can't do all of these things with tiny babies.  For them, you have to do much simpler things like texture of the washcloth or bubbles or colors.  Safety needs to also be top of mind - never leave a baby unattended in the bath).  Try some of these fun things and your little one may actually WANT to take a bath:

  • Magic.  You can buy special colors that work in the bathtub similar to food coloring.  We use thoroughly washed dish soap bottles and fill them with a small amount of water and a couple of drops of color.  That can be magical to a little one to watch the drops go in and the color distribute through the water.  Tell them, "red" or "blue" or whatever the color is.  Let them shake up the bottle.  The real magic comes in when you help baby add a little red to a cup and then a little blue.  Poof - purple!  Magic!  Kids love the magic and you are helping them learn their colors in the process.  Ask them to say the color with you.  Depending on their age, they may or may not be able to do that but you should continue to say the color when you make it.  This helps them make the association and they are taking it all in  and processing the great information.
  • Letters and words.  There are some very inexpensive foam bath letter, number and word cards available.  What you can do with this is almost unlimited but here are a few ideas:  Line up the numbers on the side of the tub and count with your little one.  When they are older, ask them to help you find the numbers and put them on the side of the tub themselves.  You can do the same things with the letters.  Help them spell simple words like duck and ball.  Help them spell their name and let them help find the letters and put them on the edge of the tub.
  • Bubbles.  Again, this is age dependent and you need to be certain to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for bubble use.  It's fun to play games with your little one like making a bubble beard and being Santa.  You can put plastic dishes in the bath and help your baby serve up dishes of anything with bubbles.  We use our plastic frying pan and sauce pan and make different food orders with our bubbles.

It takes some extra time, but kids love it when you get in with them and play (learn) together.  Make it a point to get in the bath occasionally and your little one will love it even more.  You can help your baby develop their brain almost anywhere and the bath is rich with opportunities.   Break out the bubbles and your silly side and have fun learning with baby in the bath!

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Time You Can’t Get Back: The 12 Months That Make All the Difference for Your Baby

2013.  A new year!  A fresh start.  Most of us make resolutions or set goals for ourselves for the new year.   Sometimes we achieve them.  Sometimes we don't.  At the end of the year, whether or not we did seldom makes an indelible impact on our lives.  For a newborn, however, that same 12 months can make all the difference in setting a brain building foundation for the rest of their life.  Research tells us that parents can do very simple things with their babies which can impact their vocabulary, intelligence, and academic success later in life.  It's not rocket science and any parent can do it by modifying the time that they already spend with their baby (as well as by engaging caregivers, grandparents, siblings and anyone else who has regular ineractions with baby).

The single most common comment I get from parents who have read my book or heard me speak is something to the effect of "I wish I had read this when my child was a baby - it's so easy and I wish I would have done it with them."   The truth is that we hear a lot about the latest app or the newest video aimed at babies; but we don't read about the easy things parents can do every day like talk to their babies.  Now, all parents talk to their babies; however, the research shows that kids whose parents talked to them alot, in adult language, using all types of words, had better developed vocabularies, better academic success at age 9, and even higher IQ.  Simply by having their parents talk to them.   I recently read the quote "true innovation makes things simple."  Talking to your baby all the time is a perfect example.  It's one of those really simple concepts that all parents need to be doing during baby's first year, but just need to be reminded to do it.  All the time.

Another really simple thing parents need to be doing with their babies during the first year is reading to them.  Most parents read to toddlers regularly; but not all do.  A fewer number read to babies less than 12 months of age.  When we read to our babies (or give them other enriching experiences), we are giving them information to make sense of and categorize into their amazingly fast growing nervous system and brain.

The number of easy opportunities to help your baby's brain and nervous system develop are infinite and simple.  You don't need an app or a video.  You do need to spend a few extra minutes doing the things you already do in a different way that engages your baby more.  Innovately simple.  Not many parents do it.

If you made new years resolutions, good for you.  Blessings on achieving them all.  If you have a baby, take advantage of their first 12 months to set a foundation for the rest of their lives.  It is the most massive time of brain and nervous system growth and time you can't get back.  If you know parents of a baby, send them this article.  They will thank you for it.

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It’s cold out, but there are lots of great things to do!

I love the winter.  I think it's because we spent so much time in Colorado when I was growing up.  The mountains provide great opportunities for winter fun - skiing, hiking, sledding.   It's hard to stay inside, even when it's cold out.  Even if you don't live in a "mountain state", there are still tons of wonderful things to do with your little ones outside.  Don't let the cold stop you from taking advantage of these great brain building opportunities.  Plus, some fantastic kids snow wear is on clearance now in the stores.  I saw a snow suit set (snow pants and warm coat) for only $30 - it had been $110!  It will keep your little one comfy cozy and not break the bank.

Bundle your baby up and take him out in the snow.  Kids are fascinated by snow and love to see it, taste it and touch it.  Depending on your child's age, there are lots of great experiences to give him:

  • Touching and scrunching snow.  Even tiny ones will be interested to touch snow.  Put a small amount in their hand and tell them that it is snow, that is is cold and it is white.  If you put too much in his hand, it may be too  cold and he'll cry.  He may cry anyway.  That's ok.  Move on to something else or go back inside if he's really unhappy.
  • Making snow angels.  Do you remember doing this as a kid?  It's fantastic!  If your tiny one is walking, you can help her plop down in the snow and move her arms and legs.  You can do it as well to show her how.  It's great fun for big people too.  Take a picture of that tiny snow angel next to your big one.  It's a guaranteed smile generator if you're having a challenging day.
  • Tasting snow.  It's fun to taste snow.  My daughter who is 2 and a half constantly wants to go outside to "taste some snow, Momma."  For tiny ones, you can put a small amount in their mouth and tell them that it is snow and it is cold.  Some babies will like this, some will not.  Go with what works for you.
  • Looking at icy wonders.  Nature provides some beautiful art during the winter months and kids love seeing it.  Find frozen branches and point them out to your child.  Explain that the water froze on the branch when it rained/snowed.  Let them touch it.  Find pretty ice patterns and point them out to your child.  Explain what ice is.
  • Catching snowflakes on your tongue.  Most babies won't be able to master this, but it's still fun to try.  Show your baby how to do it and watch them try to imitate you.  It's a blast for kids and parents.

As you give your baby more and more new experiences through textures, colors and temperatures, you are helping him categorize the new experiences into his rapidly growing neurological system and brain.  Even if he is too little to talk, he is still having the experience of new sites and sounds.  One of the most important parts of any activity is talking to your baby and explaining what is going on.  Use all kinds of words.  Reserach shows that talking to your baby all the time is one of the best things you can do to help build their brain.  Always remember to bundle up warm and toasty and closely supervise your little ones outside.  Head outside and have fun!

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Toddlers and Tablets – Part 2

In part one of Tablets for Toddlers? we discussed the things parents need to consider when deciding if their little ones should be using their tablet (or smart phone or pc).  We continue that discussion here with a look at alone versus assisted use  of a tablet and finally ergonomic issues.

Alone versus assisted

There are some wonderful opportunities to help your toddler learn using apps.  But you have to be there playing along with them to get the biggest value from it.  I know that most apps purport to teach your child all on their own, and maybe some do; however, there is no substitute for a little time with mom or dad helping junior learn with the tablet.  I mentioned the art app and helping little ones learn colors, shapes, etc.  There are variations of this with almost every toddler app.  I found one last night where kids choose the right clothes, hats and shoes for a doll who tries out various professions.  On it's own, it might be entertaining, but with mom or dad talking about the colors of the clothes, the professions and what they mean, asking questions that cause the little one to think; it becomes more of a learning experience.  And it sets the stage for junior to think about what you have discussed when she is playing with the app on her own.

 

Ergonomic issues

I believe that childhood ergonomic overuse injuries will be one of the biggest problems for kids in the coming years.  Many adults who rely on heavy keyboarding for work and have experienced the problems, and perhaps permanent nerve damage, of repetitive motion injuries, already know that carpal can be life impacting.  Adults already have developed bones, ligaments and nerves.  Children do not.  I am not aware of any study that examines the impact of continual electronic device usage with poor ergonomics and its effect on developing bodies.  I developed a corporate "Office Ergonomics" program when I was an executive with a telecom corporation after we saw huge numbers of our employees impacted by painful (and costly) overuse injuries at the computer keyboard and screen.  It isn't difficult to use proper ergonomics (hand and body positioning), but you have to know how to do it.  If you have children using any type of electronic device, I encourage you to learn about proper ergonomic positioning, buy the proper accessories to help keep your children's bodies safe, and make sure that they do what they need to do to avoid an overuse injury.

Addiction

Finally, there is the issue of addiction.  As I mentioned in part one of this series, it might sound funny but it isn't if your child is experiencing it.  And you are dealing with it with them.   Many adults are addicted to their games, smart phones and other electronic devices - truly.  A lot of kids are too.   It's important to observe your toddler and their reaction to their "game" or "art" or "show" and take the necessary steps to insure that it is not becoming an addiction but rather a small component of their overall day.  How do you know if you have a problem?  If your child constantly wants his "game" and throws violent inconsolable fits when he doesn't get it, you might have an issue.  If you can't distract him from the "game" to do other things, you probably want to think about if this is good for him or not.   You know your child better than anyone and you know when it is a problem.

 

Summary

We live in an age where there are electronic tools to help us with almost everything, including helping our children learn.  Tablets and the apps that go with them can be a good resource for you and your children if used the right way.  I am continuing to experiment with apps for my little girl but I still haven't decided if this is something that we will continue to do going forward.  Take some time to think about the best ways to use your electronic devices for both learning and entertainment.  And, above all else, keep you family safe.

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My Beautiful Mother’s Day – Early

One of the Daily 10 with Innovate Your Baby is to "Take your Baby Outside" and we do that as often as we can.  My little AJ has learned to love the outdoors almost as much as I do.  While she is no longer an infant, she still isn't quite 2 years old.  Yesterday, while we were playing outside, I got the most beautiful Mother's Day present early.

We had been playing (and working) outside for about an hour.  AJ picked the not-quite-ripe blueberries, said "blueberries" and ate them.  "You try, Momma?"  She negotiated her way through the tunnel that the asparagus rows make.  She ate some dirt before I could stop her, and she smelled the fragrant peonies and patted the buds like she pats her dogs and cats.  While I was pulling weeds and thinking about all of the things I needed to get done that day, she found her ball and was kicking it around.  When she disappeared around the corner, I followed her and we played ball for a while before she ran into a chair and started crying.  She asked for "warm milk" which is her term for breast milk and what she wants when she gets hurt.   We sat down on the patio and AJ had warm milk.  She was more startled than hurt, but for a little person, that's enough to need reassurance.

It was a calm morning and about 70 degrees.  As I held AJ, I watched a momma goose and her babies swimming around the pond.  I gazed at the lovely purple, yellow and pink of the iris and peonies.  Our little cat Missy joined us on the loveseat and our big cat Simba sat under the table.  It was very quiet and peaceful.  I thought for a minute about the long list of work I had to do both for the business and for our home.  Then, I looked at my sweet little girl with her arm around me and her eyelids starting to flutter.  I knew I had a short window to try to get her up the hill, into the house, and in her bed for the nap.  Then, I thought about all the years I had tried to have a baby and couldn't.  I remembered how much I had longed to have a little son or daughter in my life and how I dreamed of moments just like this one.  AJ's eyes were now closed and she was breathing slowly and peacefully.  I pulled my coat up over her and decided to stay right where I was.  This moment would never come again.  I enjoyed watching a pair of great blue herons flying over the trees and the lakes.  I listened to meadowlarks, swallows and robins singing their spring songs.  I smiled as a pair of swallows flew really close to us trying to let us know that we were too close to the nest that they build every year by the patio.  I kept looking at the sleeping face of my little girl and it warmed my heart beyond description.  I realized that moments like these are the best part of life but that we miss them so often because we don't take them.  We all have so much to do every day.

AJ (and Missy and Simba) and I stayed there  for over an hour with AJ sleeping peacefully nestled up against me.  I soaked up the feeling of being with my little daughter and the wonderful peaceful setting.  After a while, AJ began to stir and then looked up at me with her huge blue green eyes.   It was the best Mother's Day present I could ever have imagined.

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