Laurie Berkner

Laurie Berkner, The Dinosaurs and Me

by Jennifer Shakeel

One of the greatest joys in what I do is getting to talk with really cool people that are doing what they can to help children. Be it help them grow, learn, understand or overcome something in life.

Recently I was able to chat with one of my favorite Kids Rock Stars, can I say my kids were beyond excited, the one and only Laurie Berkner.

Hopefully you enjoyed the audio clip from our interview, now get comfortable and get inspired by a very busy mom and super talented artist!

How did you decide which songs would become books?

The decision was actually made along with my editor – another AMAZING person that I get to work with as part of this project.  When I was pitching the idea to different publishing houses I had written descriptions of about 30 of my songs, what each one meant, and what in my life had inspired me to write them.  When Christian Trimmer from Simon and Schuster read those descriptions – along with the lyrics – and listened to each of the songs, he chose three that he thought would make great picture books. I loved his suggestions and agreed that they would work well visually, and the decision was made.

How is your program “Music In Me” going? I read that you started the pilot program about a year ago in a few NYC schools?

It’s going really well!  Laurie Berkner’s The Music In Me is a curriculum I developed for “me and my grown-up” style music classes that kids ages 1-4 and their caregivers take together.  I’ve been training teachers, and we have classes in New York City as well as some in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The program is not in schools yet but there has been interest in having me modify the curriculum to use it in the classroom as well.

Earlier in your career you drew inspiration from your daughter and the things that she was doing. Now with her being older where do you draw inspiration from?

I actually started my career in kids’ music almost 10 years before my daughter was born, so while she was of course a great source of inspiration – especially when she was younger – I’ve written many more songs based on the kids I taught music to, my own memories of being a child, and things I hear kids say on the bus, on the street, in the grocery store, etc. I still write most of my songs that way.

READ More on An Interview with Laurie Berkner – Queen of Children's Music

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Family Promise Event

Houses for Change a Family Promise Endeavor

by Jennifer Shakeel

In 2015 alone, more than 2.5 million parents and children will experience homelessness. That is 1 out of every 30 children in this country.

Homelessness is the number one ignored epidemic that our country faces. Ignored because most people fail to realize that in the blink of an eye it could be them… it could be their children. How many times have you driven or walked by a homeless person on the street… or a family sleeping in a car and thought, “They must not have worked hard enough,” or something along those lines?

The fact of the matter is, the homeless population is made up of people from all walks of life. On a typical night in the United States of America there are more than 578,000 people homeless. For right now I want to go back to the 2.5 million that makes up families. In most states across our nation there are a variety of shelters and programs that in design are there to help those that end up homeless. But did you know that the majority of those programs don’t help families as a whole. Often families are broken up into a couple of different shelters based on the make-up of the family and the ages of the members.

Family Promise is one of the rare organizations that not only strives to end homelessness but that does everything they can to keep the family unit together, regardless of how that family is made up. Meaning single dads with kids… single moms with kids… kids that are over the age of 12 can stay with their parent(s)… grandparents that are raising grandkids… caregivers of children. Family Promise is an interfaith based organization that will help the family unit stay get back on their feet.

READ More on Fighting Homelessness in America – Family Promise

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Christmas Tree

by Lori Ramsey – real life parenting with a mom with 6 kids

The holidays are upon us and as a big part of the year, we decorate our homes for the festivities. For parents of smaller children, especially crawling babies and toddlers, this can be a bit of a challenge. We go from having a safe childproofed home to having decorations and holiday items that can be a hazard to the little tikes. As parents we have to decide is having a fully decorated home worth the extra safety risk to our little children.

For me, it often wasn’t and when mine were little I took on the holiday decorating with a whole different approach. I was a stickler for childproofing the home. I had outlet covers cover plugs and outlets, I had safety hinges on all cabinets. I had latches on doors and gates blocking danger zones and stairs. I realize how difficult it made our lives to have this stuff in place, but it also gave me breathing room to know my little one had a safe environment to explore. But when it came to the holidays I had to put a halt on many of the traditional decorations.

You need to make a decision if you choose to put up a traditional on the floor Christmas tree you have a couple of choices. You can either stay with your child every single moment to keep them from grabbing the ornaments, biting at the electrical lights, and knocking the tree over onto themselves or you can block it off. Put the tree in a little used room and keep the child out of it unless you are with them.

Or do like I did and do something different. When mine were little, I chose not to use the larger Christmas tree and instead we purchased a smaller tree that we set upon a table out of the child’s reach. All our décor existed high enough we could enjoy it but little hands couldn’t grab it.

As you can imagine, we went through about eight years where we did this just to make it easier on me. I’m sure there are parents out there who claim they can teach a child not to touch the tree, but with smaller children and curious toddlers, you’d better be right there with that constant need to slap back little hands or with the quick, “No-nos.” I chose not to go that route. Instead of it being a negative experience for our family, we kept the lower part of the home clear and child-proof and just decorated from about three feet and up.

READ More on Holiday Décor and Kid Safety

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Thankful boy
Thanksgiving was never really meant to be only one day a year. It should be held in our hearts every day. As parents we are thankful for our kids and thankful for all those who have touched our lives and whose lives we touch.

 Top "Being Thankful Quotes"

It isn’t what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart. ~ Author Unknown

Each Day I am Thankful for Nights that Turned into Mornings, Friends that Turned into Family, Dreams that Turned into Reality, and Likes that Turned into Love

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone. ~ Gertrude Stein

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao Tzu

Take time to be thankful for everything that you have. You can always have more, but you could also have less.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. ~ Saint Basil

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. ~ Cicero

You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you ~ Sarah Ban Breathnack

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself. ~ Walter Anderson

Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end of having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

READ More on 25 Thankful and Gratitude Quotes

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by Stacey Schifferdecker


"Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day"
Robert Caspar Lintner

Giving thanks and saying grace before Thanksgiving mealWhen people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I always say Thanksgiving. I don’t know that deep down Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday, but I feel sorry for it. There it is, sandwiched between the candy, costumes, and trick-or-treat of Halloween and the gifts, glitz, and glamour of Christmas. How is a simple, mostly non-commercialized holiday like Thanksgiving supposed to compete?

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Teen Texting

Text messages to friends and online IMs are nothing new when you have a child in the home. These forms of communication are a great way for them to keep in touch on the go. While plenty of good comes from them, you’ll also find that not everything is as it seems. In some cases, what looks like a simple mistype or random letters or numbers could be something far more sinister. Since even good kids can make bad choices, it is important for parents to know the internet slang of today and to keep up with it as it evolves.

Red Flags

Some of the internet slangs are red flags something are up. If you see the following they mean your child is likely up to something they are concerned that you need to know about.

12345 – Parents Reading Screen.

9 – My parents are watching me.

99 – My parents are gone.

Code 9 (CD9) – My parents are around here.

KPC – Keeping parents clueless

MOS – Mom over shoulder

PA – Parent Alert.

P911 – Alert Parents!

PAL – My parents are listening

PAW – My parents are watching

PIR – My parent is in the room

POS – My parent is over my shoulder.

If you see these texted or on an instant message chat, it is a good idea to pay close attention to what your child is doing. It means there is something they don’t want you to see. It is a good idea to open up with them and hold a dialogue and to feel out the situation. Don’t instantly jump to accusations or cause an unnecessary rift, but use this as a chance to get things out into the open with each other. That way, you can build on trust and ultimately work on strengthening the bond between you so that if something does happen, your kids will talk to you.

Texting Sexual and Romance Items

Most of us want to believe our kids aren’t at that age where they are meeting up with people for physical relations. Unfortunately, there is plenty of internet slang out there that is designed to help them communicate their desires. Be sure to look out for any of the following:

READ More on Internet and Texting Slang Kids Use that Parents Should Know

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Dad and special needs son

Tips for Special Needs Parenting

by Joy Burgess

Parenting always comes with challenges, but the normal challenges that come with being a parent are often compounded for the parents of children with special needs. Just a few of the common challenges for parents may include:

  • Coping with the physical and emotional demands that come with caring for a child with a disability
  • Becoming educated about the child’s disability
  • Advocating for essential school accommodations, placements, and/or interventions
  • Researching and finding effective resources and treatments
  • Paying for interventions and treatments that may not be covered by the school system or health insurance
  • Getting to all the appointments with therapists, school personnel, advocates, and medical providers

Of course, these are only a few of the many challenges that special needs parents deal with each day. Some of the biggest challenges that parents face are not the most obvious ones, such as dealing with a special needs child’s challenging behavior, staying organized in the chaos, and nurturing your marriage. Here is a closer look at these specific challenges and some helpful parenting tips that will help special needs parents meet these challenges head on.

Challenge #1 – Dealing with Challenging Behavior

One of the most stressful parts of parenting a special needs child is managing challenging behavior. However, it is important for parents to understand that this behavior is a form of communication from children with special needs, often because these children are not able to communicate in other ways. Parents must realize that this behavior indicates a problem in learning – the problem is NOT in the child.

Managing challenging behavior requires that parents listen to what their child is trying to tell them. It’s important to avoid confrontation when possible while keeping a consistent approach. Special needs children generally do not use challenging behavior to manipulate parents. In most cases, there’s a reason this type of behavior is happening.

Although there’s never one solution for dealing with the child’s challenging behavior, there are tips that you can try. Try using these tips consistently to better deal with the challenging behavior that often comes from children with special needs.

  • Tip #1 – Record Incidents of Challenging Behavior – Start recording incidents of challenging behavior in a journal. Write down as much as you can about the incident. What happened before the incident? How did the problem start? How long did it last? How did you get your child calmed down? This can help you to look back to see if there are any contributing factors or patterns that seem to result in the behavior.
  • Tip #2 – Encourage Exercise as an Emotional Outlet – Kids and teens with special needs need to have a healthy way to let out their emotions. Exercise is an excellent emotional outlet and can help kids get rid of some of their overload of anger or stress. Try to build exercise into every day if possible. Many parents find that this reduces the occurrence of challenging behavior.
  • Tip #3 – Try Using a “Break Card – For older children, try using a “break card” to avoid a meltdown. These cards give the child the ability to communicate that they want to leave a situation that they find unpleasant. These cards can be used at home, while out and about, or even in school. Giving a child this ability to communicate often stops a problem before it begins.
  • Tip #4 – Keep Calm – When challenging behavior occurs, an important parenting tips is to keep calm. Calm, assertive body language and instructions are important when dealing with this type of behavior. Adding more emotion to the situation will only cause confusion and escalate the situation.
  • Tip #5 – Take the Volume Down – If your child is shouting or getting aggressive, take the volume down. Keep a neutral face and lower the pitch and volume of your voice. In most cases, kids will quiet down so they are able to hear what you are saying. Shouting back will only make the problem worse.
  • Tip #6 – Focus on Good Sleeping Habits – Sleep makes a huge difference in the behavior of any child, but especially a special needs child. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. A meltdown could occur simply because a child is overly tired. Kids with special needs should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

READ More on Special Needs Parenting

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