Tuesday, May 23, 2017

To Technologoy or Not To Technology, That is the Question...

I'm sure many parents struggle with this in the technological age we are living in, and even more so if you're a work at home parent of a stay at home only child that no longer naps. This is my current dilemma and the fact that I am somewhat addicted to technology and the work I do involves technology probably doesn't help either.

It was so much easier for our parents when we were kids. Perhaps it was because I grew up on a street with other kids my own age, we played at each other's houses and only came home just in time for dinner. Of course I grew up in the suburbs in the Midwest on a dead end street with a park right across from my home. I can't say that where we live is really that much less "suburban," but it definitely doesn't have that same feel and with that comes less freedom for my child to explore and discover on his own. Some of that may be attributed to his age, but neighborhoods don't feel as "neighborly" as they once did.

So if I can't send him out on his own and if I can't be connected to the internet at the local park, what's a work at home parent to do? While I'm writing this he's actually interrupting me repeatedly for help with an art project that I thought would keep him occupied long enough to get this post done...wrong! Trips to the Dollar Store for art supplies are a regular occurrence just to get him away from technology and keep him occupied (somewhat anyway). I recently read an article that kids should not be allowed any technology before they turn one (oops!) and after that they should only be allowed up to an hour a day (another oops!). Ultimately we are all doing the best that we can, but there is an alternative to mind numbing toy review and surprise egg videos if we parents need some uninterrupted work time......

I am very happy to say that since attending a PBS SoCalKids event that focused on programming curriculum and their Ready to Learn Initiative, I know that if I do choose to turn on the television, then PBS Kids shows are the way to go.  So much time, energy, and thought goes into make their shows that my son's brain is continuing to expand and he is actually learning life lessons and various subject curriculum while watching.  I had the pleasure of learning about "Ready Jet Go!" and the fact that there is an actual JPL Astrophysicist on staff that not only contributes to the show's curriculum, but she is making sure that the science represented is scientifically based.  I learned that the whole production process for an eleven minute episode takes nine months from outline to finished product! In order to create an entire season, they are working on multiple episodes at one time throughout the year.

While I was learning all of these cool things, my son was in the back of the room with other kids on tablets to keep quiet and occupied. But when I found that that he was actually exploring various PBS apps that taught him new things that he was so excited to share with me after the event ended, I was looking forward to downloading the same apps for his tablet when we got home. The most interesting moment, however, was when we were watching a clip from "Ready Jet Go" and all of the kids stopped what they were doing to watch the scene and listen to how it was made, showing that they were not completely zoned out in the tablets.

Another cool element I had no idea about was that PBS Kids also has home based curriculum that kids can do to accompany what they learn in an episode. The activities can be found through their lab on their grown-ups site: http://grownups.pbskids.org/.  I know that my kid learns better when he's doing it hands on, so that fact that the lessons in each episode can be reinforced with activities that we can do together is awesome.

Ultimately, I don't need a researcher to tell me that too much technology is bad for my child. I can definitely see for myself when he has been exposed to too much on any given day (or week): his attitude changes, he is more difficult to communicate with, his patience is very limited, etc. I have resorted to "technology cleanses" for up to two weeks at a time when I feel like it's something that will benefit him and our relationship. Now that I have learned about the PBS for grown-ups site, at least I have a go-to for activities I can have him do that will not only be fun, but educational as well. Since the event he has gotten really excited about Astrology and Science, so I do let him enjoy the "Ready Jet Go!" app as part of his daily hour and he's even teaching me some things too! And since we cut the cord with cable TV, it's awesome to know that he can stream any PBS show at anytime on pbssocal.org/kids or through their video app.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For all the "Stay-At-Home" Mompreneurs (or Dadpreneurs)

As I get ready to send my little guy off to preschool in the morning, I am beginning to reflect on what these last three years have been like as a stay-at-home mom who used to have a part-time job, then started a business, then started helping out with our new franchise, and then signed on as a consultant for a direct sales business.  It really has been difficult to juggle everything and not drop a few balls here and there.  Who am I kidding, I've dropped more than a few.  But we've made it out alive and I have to say that getting six hours of "free" time a week is going to feel like an amazing stay-cation...I may actually get some work done on one of my three businesses too!  I figured that through all of this, I can definitely provide some helpful advice to other parents out there just beginning the journey of stay-at-home entrepreneurship.

First of all, I want to mention that starting a business, whether it's signing on to an already existing direct sales company or becoming a franchisee, or mostly starting something from scratch that requires a great deal of consumer education for acquisition, it's going to take more time than you expect to see the dollar signs come in, no matter how great the business model is. The most important thing is to start as small as you can financially, especially if there are no other funds to fall back on. Babies and kids are always going to need more things than you think they do, and things like cloth diapers can easily become an obsession and get out of control.  But I digress..invest as little as possible to get the ball rolling out of the gate to test the market, your sales abilities, as well as find out if this is going to be something that you really want to do.

On that note, whatever business you are getting in to to either create an income for your family or supplement another income, you have to really love it.  You cannot just be in it to chase dollar signs.  This is going to be a business that you are going to take time away from your child to do. You will lose massive amounts sleep in order to get things done.  Nap times and bed time will sometimes be all you can look forward to in order to get to that project that's sitting on your desk (that also happens to be covered with stickers and temporary tattoos).  If getting to projects or responding to emails for your business starts to become something you dread, it's not the business for you.  Of course that sounds like a no-brainer. But there is a big difference between going to a job you greatly dislike day in and day out just to get a paycheck and finding as many mini moments as possible throughout the day in between cooking, cleaning, laundry and hopefully playtime to get five minutes of work done.  If you're not happy with what you're working on, you will put it off and it will not get done.  It's a lot easier to get distracted at home by an adorable little munchkin than it is in a cubicle when you're already there.

Along the same lines, know your limits and be realistic.  There really are only twenty-four hours in a day and you do need to sleep.  Don't set yourself up for failure by assuming you can complete forty hours of work while being a full-time parent at home.  You probably won't even be able to get twenty hours of work in.  And you cannot beat yourself up over the fact.  Find ways to work your business into your time with your child.  Try to get into a business that markets to parents in your similar life stage so that you can reach out at playdates and playgrounds, do work while you're not really working. If you're in direct sales, find some other moms who are as well and schedule a time for everyone to get together, each one brings a friend who isn't in direct sales, and allow each business owner some time to share while the kids get to play. Also understand that not every week is going to be the same, commitments to home and family will change and the first thing you may have to sacrifice is your "work" time.

Most importantly, remember why you are going out on your own to create income for yourself and your family as opposed to working a full-time job and paying someone else to raise your child.  Being a stay-at-home mom really is one of the hardest and sometimes feels like the most thankless job there is. There are no benefits, sick days, weekends or vacation time. And when you throw being a mompreneur into the mix, there is even less time for you. But understand that your child getting to see you day in and day out is priceless.  No one will ever love your child the way you will and no one can raise them to be who you want them to be, but you.  Once the money starts to come in and you have a bit of a cushion, don't be afraid to hire a sitter here and there to give you time for you, or hire a cleaning service to at least take that off of your plate.  Just don't lose site of the goal of spending as much time with your kids as you can while they're little. It really does go by way too fast.

For those interested to know a bit more of the specifics, I started Video Baby Books after my son was born when I realized that as a professional filmmaker I was sadly only capturing my son's milestones on my cell phone and I wasn't "in" any of the videos.  Knowing that I couldn't be the only one with this issue, I sought to create a business to help parents like myself that really wanted professional level documentaries of their families.  My husband and I opened a Menchie's Frozen Yogurt in Valencia, CA this past April and not having our family time has been difficult. I recently signed on to sell Neal's Yard Remedies (NYR Organics) a certified organic health and beauty line out of the UK. I seek to live as clean and pure as possible when it comes to what we use on our bodies and this company has so many amazing products that selling them turned out to be an obvious choice.  Feel free to check out my online store at: https://us.nyrorganic.com/shop/francinekozlovsky

Monday, April 27, 2015

Really Awkward Milestone Reached Reading Fairy Tales Before Bed

We reached a new milestone, yay! I get to read my little guy actual stories that have more words than pictures on a page. Story time is a chance to expand his horizons and vocabulary.  I thought timeless classics were the way to go. Of course our collection has some of my childhood favorites, The Giving Tree and Where the Wild Things Are. But I thought fairy tales would be a definite must, until I read them to my son.  How are these timeless classics, seriously??  I find myself having to improvise quite a bit, switching out words and elements of the story to make them more suitable for a child.  But regardless, the story lines still are pretty amoral.  One of the only ones with a moral that I like is The Boy Who Cried Wolf because I can talk to my son about the importance of telling the truth. Although I make sure that the wolf scared off all the sheep as opposed to massacring them.   Other than that one and maybe a couple of others, I can't really find many redeeming qualities about them.  What do you think?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: This lovely story teaches children about trespassing (at least it's not breaking and entering I guess), eating food that they find, destroying someone else's personal property, and sleeping in strangers' beds.

Jack and the Beanstalk: Believing swindlers, lying, repeated theft, taking advantage of a stranger's kindness, and ultimately murder will lead to your very own "happily ever after!"

The Princess and the Pea: Labels are everything.

Puss in Boots: Lying, impersonating, trickery and ultimately murder will lead to success!

Rumplestiltskin: Children are great bargaining pieces and if you succeed at the impossible, you get to marry someone you just met.

Rapunzel: Theft is okay if it's for a pregnant woman, and again, children are great bargaining pieces.

The Hare and the Hedgehog: Trickery and lying is fine if the person your tricking or lying to has a big ego. 

The Twelve Dancing Princesses: Magical trickery is the only way to get ahead and daughters are to be given away as prizes without their consent.

The Little Mermaid: Just depressing on all fronts.

Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, The Ugly Duckling (and quite a few others) Looks are EVERYTHING!

Why are these timeless classics? What do you read to your little ones?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What About Those Moments that Cannot Be Captured on Film?

I recently read a lovely blog post from an empty nester's perspective on what should be documented past the usual first couple of years of milestones in a traditional baby book.  It got me thinking about what I already know I am going to miss as my little guy continues to grow.  And unfortunately, there are certain things that cannot be captured in a photo nor on video, so I realized that I am going to have to resort to a blog post in an attempt to try and capture feelings and emotions of those special times we share.

As my son is a full on toddler, the nursing relationship we now have is very different than when he used to nurse as a baby. It's no longer about nourishment, but provides us with a special quiet bonding time before and after sleep.  Whether it's reading a book before bed time, or when he's slowly waking up, these moments of just me and him are so very special for both of us. Sometimes I'll do something that will give him the giggles and I'll have to just keep doing it because I love that sound so much. We look each other in the eyes and just spend that time enjoying each others company without the rest of the day's distractions.

I am going to miss the time we spend playing silly games at home that have no rules or sometimes simply do not make any sense.  He likes to tell me "mommy go hide."  I'll quickly take off to one side of the house with him following close behind, laughing all the way.  We will do this over and over again because he finds it so entertaining.  I have tried to teach him the proper way to play hide-and-seek, but the concept of covering his eyes fully and not following me until he has counted to five still is beyond him.  The fact that he tells me exactly where to hide every time probably breaks all the rules of hide-and-seek as well. 

Even though watching the same movie over and over again can be somewhat redundant for an adult, I'll never get tired of seeing his smirk and the glint in his eyes when we both look at each other right before one of his favorite scenes is about to happen. If I happen to be in another room when it comes on, I definitely know what scene is happening based on his giggles and laughter.  He tells me "Xander find it funny," an expression he also uses for a certain book he likes me to read relentlessly.

Sometimes out of the blue he'll tell me "take my hand, mommy." Sometimes he'll ask while he is eating, or when he wants me to go with him to another room in the house, or sometimes it's to go down a big slide or climb up something at the park.  Holding that little hand in mine provides me comfort and joy, just as much as I know it does for him.  Along the same lines, he'll tell me "baby me, mommy," his terminology for when he wants me to carry him somewhere. Even though he is getting heavier and more difficult to carry, I'm sure he'll stop asking before I stop being able to do so.

I am definitely going to miss the surprise and pride I feel when my little toddler says a new word or phrase for the first time.  I'm sure there are going to be plenty of firsts throughout his life that will give me a similar feeling of pride, but there is something about hearing a word for the first time, probably miss pronounced, but said with such confidence and excitement.  I find myself having to repeat what he just said to let him know that I not only heard heard it, but want to encourage him to continue to expand his vocabulary on a daily basis.

Another thing that cannot be captured, that I know I will definitely miss, is the way my son wraps his arms around me and lays his head on my shoulder when I take his sleeping body out of the car.  There is such a sweet innocence and tenderness in his quiet, sleepy body that makes me want to hold him like that forever.  Even when I have been looking forward to nap time all morning in order to get some much needed chores done, I will try to hold onto that moment for as long as I can.

The "terrible-two's" really can be a trying time.  And as I've heard from others who have come before me, the wrath of a "three-nager" may leave me longing for a good 'ole two-year-old tantrum.  But there really are some wonderful moments right now that I wish to remember forever.  Hopefully the photos and videos I have captured, and journal entries I have made will at least document a fraction of the beauty that has been.  I have learned that looking forward to each new milestone is a surefire way to miss out on just how wonderful the "now" really is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year's Resolutions From Another Perspective

Every time New Year's comes around, my Facebook news feed is flooded with resolutions about everything under the sun.  Some people write about how they plan to better document time with their families.  I understand that documenting your little ones can get overwhelming, but it is extremely important to do so. I cannot stress that enough.  I started thinking about what I may do differently the next time around, but then wondered, what if there isn't a "next time around?" What if my little guy is the only addition we're going to have? What would I have done differently had I known from the get go that this was going to be the only time I would experience all of this?

I definitely would have documented my pregnancy more, that's for sure.  I saw pregnancy journals online and in bookstores and wondered at the time why I would want or need to track the changes I was going through, the cravings I was having, and the emotional roller coaster I was on.  If I am lucky enough to go through this again, I don't even think I would have the time to do this with chasing my little guy around. Your first pregnancy really is the best time to focus on yourself and what your body is going through.  I definitely didn't appreciate that I could nap if I needed to. It was such a surreal experience to grow a human for what seemed like nine interminable months, but now it all seems like such a distant memory that went by so quickly.  If I never get to go through it again, I am definitely saddened that I can't recall so many of the details that were such a huge part of those awe inspiring nine months.

Additionally, having had the opportunity to create prenatal chapters for some clients' video baby books, it has made me realize that wish I had captured my husbands reaction when I told him we were expecting.  I wish I could have captured other family and friends on camera when we shared the news.  I also wish we had done a creative gender reveal video. If there is a next time, I will have to make something unforgettable, and it will be, because it will be captured on film.  If I don't get to have my "next time," I hope my video baby book business helps others not have this same regret.

If I knew I wasn't going to have another child, I would have hired a birth photographer and videographer. Labor was so intense, but also so amazing, beautiful, and inspiring, that I really wish I had better documentation of the day.  I definitely also wish I had written out my birth story in more detail closer to the day I had given birth.  Waiting until a month afterwards I think some of the details got fuzzy.  Having had the opportunity to interview brand new moms and document their birth stories for them makes me realize just how much I have already forgotten.  As much as I wanted my husband to turn off his helmet cam because I thought I'd never want to see myself going through that experience, I am so glad I have at least that to remember the most beautiful day of my entire life. 

If I knew my munchkin was going to be the only squishy baby that I would ever have, I would have done a professional newborn shoot.  I love seeing everyone's adorable shots with props and wardrobe, but now that I have had the opportunity to be behind-the-scenes of some of these shoots, I cannot get over how undeniably precious those photographs are. Knowing that the best newborn photo shoots take place within ten days of birth, that newborn "look" is gone in an second when most don't even realize they've missed it.

If I knew that my little guy would be the only newborn I would get to experience, I definitely would have tried harder to enjoy the newborn stage. I know it's really hard for new parents to find joy in the sleepless nights and zombie-like days filled with worry, doubt, fear and confusion. But watching a new life learn about the world on the outside from such an innocent and unaltered perspective is truly inspiring. I remember an extra speedy grocery shopping trip with him in the early weeks and someone commented to me that she missed the "newborn cry." At that moment I thought she was crazy. That cry was making me crazy at the time. But now I understand, and I miss it too.

So in 2015 my resolution is to unplug more, appreciate each little milestone my son accomplishes, take the time to mourn the passing of previous stages, and document everything as much as possible for myself and for him.  This very well may be my only opportunity to capture a two year old and all his silliness and mispronunciations, and I'm not going to miss it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Being a Parent Can Be Scary, Don't Prepetuate the Fear in Others

I wanted to do a post on milestones, but from a different perspective, one of anticipation and how others affect your perception of what is to come.  As my son moves on into toddlerhood, I've noticed that parents that have BTDT (been there done that) tend to feel the need to give me advice on what is on the horizon, but most often in the most non-conducive fashion: PLAGUED WITH FEAR!

I think back to the time when I was pregnant when I was looking forward to my son's birth with the typical uneasiness of venturing into the unknown abyss.  I had done a lot of research on labor and birth and watched numerous videos online.  I was nervous, of course, but really excited about the day I would finally get to meet my little guy.  But for some reason, anyone I met who had already had children felt the need fill my brain with horror stories of labor and birth.  I heard about a catheter not working and then the eventual C-section cutting into the bladder, I heard about hours upon hours of ineffective labor that resulted in a C-section, I heard about the horrible pain I would feel because I was planning to be unmedicated, I heard about the tearing and everything else that would make any pregnant woman run for the hills, wishing she never got pregnant in the first place.  So much of having a positive birth experience is about mindset, so why would someone who already went through it cause another parent-to-be so much anxiety? Just stop.  If you've BTDT and you see a pregnant mom, wish her a fast and easy labor or just say "congratulations."

Right before I had my son, the next fear tactic that was thrown upon me was about all the sleep I would not be getting and that it was important to sleep now.  Well, anyone who as ever been pregnant should know that the last month or so that is obviously impossible. Comfortable sleep and an always full bladder make for very difficult full nights of sleep. Instead of telling the parents how hard it will be and what a struggle the transition is going to be, offer to bring by some food once baby arrives.  Offer to take baby for a walk in the stroller so that the parents can get some sleep.  Or even offer to pay for a cleaning service to clean their home, that way they can catch up on some of the sleep they were told to get before baby arrived.

Of course there are numerous other milestones that I looked forward to, read about and researched, that seemed like so much fun that were only dampened by another parent's horror story: "My baby rolled over unexpectedly and fell off the bed", "My child started crawling and got into everything, I can't take my eyes off her", "Once my child started walking, he took to running quite quickly and takes off all the time" etc.

I remember thinking that I couldn't wait for my son to talk because I was so interested in what he would have to say.  Now he doesn't stop talking, ever.  Other parents would always respond with, "careful what you wish for."  Well, even though sometimes it can cause frustration for both of us when either I can't example understand what he's asking me for or I can understand it and I'm not going to give it to him, there are so many more times when he will repeat something I say that is just so awesome to hear from his mouth.  Or he'll say something brand new that I don't even know where he picked it up and I'll have no choice but to smile.  When my little guy asks be to re-read the same book for the fourth time because "he finds it funny" what else kind I do but oblige?

Recently my son and I were at an indoor playground where my son was very nicely playing with an older boy.  The other child's mom asked how old my son was and when I told her he was two her response was "enjoy it, three is really hard." Now what if I was already having a really difficult time with the "terrible twos?" What if this Norman Rockwellesque interaction was the one time my son wasn't throwing a fit? How would I feel if I had only even worse days to look forward to? Please, parents, every child is different, even ones in the same household.  Let me learn about the trials and tribulations of a "threenager" all on my own. As I've told other parents, with each new milestone, it just gets better and better. Of course each developmental stage has it's challenges, but the developments that are causing those challenges also make for really fun times.  Enjoy every stage, both the good and the bad, because whether it is good or bad, it will be over before you know it and you will be mourning the previous stages when they're gone.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Dedication to My Little Guy--Who Won't Remember Our First Three Years :(

After recently reading a scientific based article about how childhood memory fades (link on my Facebook page) I started thinking about all of the wonderful things that my son does right now that he will have absolutely no recollection of, fading even as soon as the next four years or so.  It made me realize that we owe it to our children to not only track all of their milestones, but also their personality and the things that they do so that, in the future, they'll have an even better understanding of what made them who they are.  Toddlers, despite having a bad rap (terrible two's, threenager) they do some pretty awesome things during these extremely developmentally dense years.

So this blog post is dedicated to my little guy and the top 10 adorable awesome things that he does that I don't want to forget, but more importantly, I want him to know about. Of course am working on getting video footage of all of them, and you should too! Photos could never do these things justice. (Of course there are more than 10 adorable things, but these are my absolute favorites)

1. I want to always remember how my son shows excitement through his entire body.  When he is happy about something, he screams with such joy and echoes that feeling stomping both his feet very quickly. There is no second guessing that he is thrilled about what just happened or is about to occur.

2. When my son gives hugs he started saying "baby baby," so now that is the term we use for requesting them, ie "Can I have a baby baby?" He will then wrap his arms around our neck and say "baby baby" in the most adorable voice. I will be very sad when he no longer does this.

3. When my son doesn't like what someone else is doing, whether he knows them or not, he will tell them "no no" while shaking his forefinger.  He will do this to our dog, our cat, and other animals out in the world, as well as other children and adults. I am not quite sure why he doesn't like what they are doing sometimes, as it isn't always affecting him, but perhaps he just likes to maintain some sense of control of the situation.

4. When my little guy says a new word for the first time he will out of the blue repeat something that we've said, and it's absolutely no big deal to him. However, when we ask him to repeat the word after that, he usually won't.  Similarly, I love the way my son says certain words. Anyone outside our immediate family would have no idea what he is saying, but we understand his dialect and its ever changing nature certainly keeps us on our toes.

5. My son loves to run around holding up his diaper on either side. I have absolutely no idea how this started, but he gets a kick out of it, as so do we, quite possibly why he keeps doing it.  He'll also sometimes squat a little and make it more of a "duck walk."  He loves to do this while chasing me playing "Hide & Seek." For some reason he loves having me hide and startle him when he comes around looking for me.

6. I love how my son loves to sing while playing any musical instrument.  He yells "la la la" loudly while he plays his xylophone, tub piano, or anything else he can get his hands on.

7. The way my son will "cheese" for the camera is so adorable. If I ever want to get a photo of him smiling, the last thing I can say is "smile" because he will lift his head up, squint his eyes, and throw on the biggest, silliest grin you could ever imagine.

8. I think the way my son eats, both with his hands and with utensils, is so cute, especially when it's a food he loves. It's difficult to get this one on camera because as soon as I bring it out to film, he notices and poses.

9. The way my son absolutely loves our cat, even though she would prefer to have nothing to do with him, is so charming. He started signing "cat" not all that long ago, but more recently says "meow" as he does the sign.  Sometimes he pinches a little part of his cheek and says meow quietly, while other times he'll pinch a big piece of his cheek and say "meow" very loudly.  He'll walk up to the sleeping cat and make kissing sounds throughout the day.

10. Sometimes my son just wants to snuggle up in our bed. He will lay down on the pillows and pull the blankets up over himself. He may not even be tired or want to rest, it's just comfortable for him.

What are some of the adorable things your little one does or did that you don't ever want to forget? Do your best to capture it on film.  You owe it to your little one. As much joy as these things bring you, it will bring them even more being able to watch it years from now.  A number 11 for me could be watching my son enjoy watching himself in the videos we've already taken of him. We ask him who is in the video and he points to himself and says "me."  We even have videos of him watching videos of himself. Equally as adorable.