What Parenting Really Looks Like {In Pictures!}

Parenting can be exhausting. Photographer Danielle Guenther broke it down in portraits. Check out her “Best Case Scenario” photo collection. Here are a few of our favorites!



Spin Cycle


Parenting is exhausting!


Hold Please!




When mom gets sick "She got the bug!"








My personal favorite! (and I even wrote a post about it)



More on TodaysMama.com:

Mother & Daughter Genetic Portraits

Elderly Kids Portrait Series

Two Brothers Recreate Childhood Pictures as Gift for Mom


Caldecott Medal Reading List Printable

Want a reading challenge for the whole family? Read your way through the Caldecott Medal winners!

The Randolph Caldecott Medal annually recognizes the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children”, beginning with 1937 publications.

Last summer on our frequent trips to the library I decided that we’d try to read every Caldecott Medal winner on the list. It was perfect for bedtime stories and a family summer reading goal.  Truth be told, it took us a little longer than a summer between travel and trips to the library, but we completed each one and found so many new storybooks and illustrators that we love.

Read Your Way Through the Caldecott Medal Winners

We made it a point to read about each illustrator and author and to talk about the different style that each book was illustrated with. One of our favorites is “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” illustrated by Erin Stead. The illustrations were created by hand using woodblock printing techniques and pencil. This book was the first that she illustrated and it won the Caldecott Medal in 2011.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Other Favorites:

Want to read the Caldecott list with your family? We’ve made you a handy little printable to help you blaze through the titles. Just color the spine of each book you finish and before you know it you’ll have read the entire list!


Caldecott Medal Reading List


Creative Commons License

Printables by Juliann Law for Today’s Mama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://www.faboolous.blogspot.com/.


The One Sentence That Gets My Kids to Take Responsibility

“I ______ ” Fill in the blank.

I call them “I Statements”.

The thing I’ve found with sibling spats at my house, is that is usually takes 2 (or 3) to tango.

I, like most other parents, tire of being sidelined by kids bringing their latest laundry list of sibling complaints.  Their sentences are filled with the words: he, she, they, and what they did to ME!

I started to make my kids back up and begin their sentences with the word I.

How to get your kids to take accountability

I pull them all in the room together and they all talk about their part. Say it with me now “I (fill in the blank with what YOU did).”

Sounds too simple right? The accusing is gone. They are on the spot to only tell me about their own actions (and it’s pretty easy to fill in the gaps when one of them isn’t telling the truth).  It’s also easier to be honest when the person next to you is owning their role and actions. They’ll try to say “I . . . am really mad because so and so hit me.” We back up and I tell them to start over. We’ll stay there until they’ve filled in the blank with their own actions.

At first, you would have thought I put poison in their mouths and paralyzed their tongues. Those sentences taste bad. They are hard to spit out. They make it hard to speak for kids and grown ups alike.

We’ve had to work to get those sentences to come out and to come out quickly. Sometimes it takes time and a lot of reminding them to stop and work through it but the more they do it the easier it gets and the quicker we resolve things.

If they go off track, I literally just remind them to say “I” and then fill in the blank with what they did.

The other sentences that use the word “I” are just as important. “I’m sorry. I did this _____ to you.” Those sentences can be equally hard to spit out.

Starting a sentence with the word “I” might be one of the most important things we can teach our children. For relationships, for careers, for parenting, for taking responsibility and for advocating for yourself – the word “I” matters.

It’s not about taking blame, it’s about owning our actions and moving on. I’ve noticed over time that it’s become easier for my kids to not only own what they’ve done, but also to accept it, even laugh about it, and move on.  Sometimes we laugh (a lot) because when children actually say out loud what they’ve done, they actually realize how ridiculous it sounds (especially for school aged kids, my pre-schooler still struggles with this piece). We’ve had many moments where my oldest says what he actually did to his sisters and he starts laughing (embarrassed) because hearing the words out loud actually illustrates how ridiculous the behavior is.

From a professional perspective, have you ever been in a meeting or worked with someone where something has gone wrong and the person who “dropped the ball” just can’t raise their hand and say “hey, this is what happened, how can we fix it”? Ever tried to have a conversation with someone who has mastered the art of deflection and passive aggression? Nothing gets solved.

How much faster does something get fixed when someone admits that it’s broken and how it broke?

Owning our actions is important.

The moment I knew it had worked forever? When my husband and I were in a silly argument in front seat of the car and all of the sudden the voices from the back seat started saying, “I _____ fill in the blank MOM!”



5 Top Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

We’re excited to work with PediaSure Sidekicks this summer to help parents maximize the nutrition that growing bodies need.

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93 percent of kids don’t eat enough vegetables and 60 percent don’t eat enough fruit. PediaSure recognizes this nutritional challenge, and that’s why we’ve created the PediaSure SideKicks Fruit & Veggie Smoothie mix for parents and kids who need a quick, easy and delicious way to help get the nutrients they need.

We’ve pulled together some of our top tips for dealing with picky eaters. Please share your strategies in the comments section below!

Top Tips for Dealing With a Picky Eater

Top Tips for Picky Eaters

If my 5-year-old could, she would eat chips and candy for every meal, every day. Here are some of our top tips for picky eaters:

  • Keep Trying! “Susan B. Roberts, a Tufts University nutritionist and co-author of the book “Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health,” suggested a “rule of 15” — putting a food on the table at least 15 times to see if a child will accept it. Once a food is accepted, parents should use “food bridges,” finding similarly colored or flavored foods to expand the variety of foods a child will eat. If a child likes pumpkin pie, for instance, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots. If a child loves corn, try mixing in a few peas or carrots. Even if a child picks them out, the exposure to the new food is what counts.”  NYTimes.com 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make
  • Shop Together: Let them help plan the menu and shop for foods. We love taking our kids to the farmer’s market in the summertime. Bonus? They have so many samples it’s a great opportunity for your kids to try new things.
  • Easy Access: The healthiest foods often require the most preparation. Every week I chop a variety of veggies and have them ready to go in the fridge. This little tupperware dish is my favorite thing ever.  The weeks that I do this, the kids eat what’s there. If I don’t have it ready to go – my kids definitely eat less fruits and vegetables and end up going for crackers or treats instead.
  • Embrace Butter: We’ve been so told for so long that a low fat diet is where it’s at. We’re fan of high quality healthy fats around our house. We especially love Kerry Gold Butter. Dress us their veggies, their muffins, their everything with a little bit of the good stuff.
  • Dips: Tossing out a little dish of ranch or hummus definitely gets my kids eating more crunchy fruits and veggies.
  • Sneak in Some Extra Nutrition: The PediaSure Sidekicks are PERFECT for this. The smoothie mix is made from real dried strawberries, bananas, apples and sweet potatoes. You can mix it with any milk (cow, soy, almond etc.) You can even add it to yogurt, sneak it into cereal, or bake it into muffins. It’s perfect to fill in the gaps!

PediaSure Fruit & Veggie Smoothie


* Post Sponsored by PediaSure Sidekicks

PediaSure SideKicks

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: 5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Reading This Summer

Power Up and Read: Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

The first thing that happens when I start summer planning is that I start to make book lists and plan read-a-thons. We hit the library weekly and usually stop by the bakery on the way home.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

I LOVE the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. My kids range in age from K-6 and there’s something for everyone in the challenge. They’ve gamified the experience so that kids are excited to check in online, see how many points they’ve earned, and earn points for their school.

5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Reading This Summer

Find Out More!

Sign up for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Find more Scholastic Resources to keep your kids reading all summer long!

Learn more about the Energizer® Instant Win Game

Follow @Scholastic on Twitter

Like the Energizer® Bunny on Facebook


Power Up and Read Energizer Partnership

This year’s challenge theme is “Power Up & Read,” encouraging kids to read all summer long and unlock 12 original short stories by bestselling children’s authors as kids reach reading milestones. Scholastic has joined together with ENERGIZER® to power the Summer Reading Challenge and encourage families to find innovative ways to discover the power and joy of reading. Parents can sign up kids beginning May 4, 2015 and runs through September 4, 2015.


Energizer® and Scholastic are partnering to create the “Power the Possibilities” campaign which gives moms the tools they need to unlock their child’s talents, fuel their ambitions and set them up for future success. Starting May 4, 2015, parents can buy any specially marked pack of Energizer® brand batteries to scratch for a chance to win one of thousands of prizes that will power discovery and learning.

Prizes include a family trip to New York City, a Scholastic Study Corner Makeover, a tablet with Scholastic apps, a library of Scholastic books and more! Everyone who plays can also download free digital stories for their family.

5 Things I Didn’t Expect About the End of Elementary School

I’ve pre-mourned this day since he walked through the doors of the kindergarten. I knew he’d leave this building some day and I think I’ve been dreading it since he was 5.

Let’s face it, I was pre-mourning the fact that he’d leave my house and go to kindergarten since the day he was born. I literally looked into his tiny newborn face and said to myself: “One day he’s going to leave me and go to kindergarten.”

5 Things About the End of Elementary School

Nevertheless, here we are, about to close the door on the elementary school experience and walk through that big wild door to Jr. High and the for reals teenage years.

Now that we’re here, I’m surprised at how I really feel.

I can see a little bit of the man he will be.

I can see glimpses of his grownup face in there and little glimpses of his grownup self. He had to do an exercise at school the other day where he had to spend a set amount of money and had to prioritize how it was spent on schooling, vehicles, housing etc. He bought a minivan, well, because that’s sensible since he wants 4 kids. But he also bought a house on the beach {in a sensible town in North Carolina}.

I like his brain. I like who is he becoming.

He’s a good kid with a good heart and a growing sense of humor. I like the things he’s interested in and the way he thinks.

I’m also still realistic. I know that he’s going to get deeper into this thing called being a teenager and that I’ll likely wonder where he went and if he’s coming back. I want to take a snapshot of now.

We can watch Jimmy Fallon together and laugh.

Jim Gaffigan too.

Sometimes he wanders down from bed later at night to catch my husband and I watching a few shows. He knows he can linger around a little longer and takes full advantage. I fell asleep on the couch last night to the sound of my husband and son laughing at Jim Gaffigan on NetFlix. He gets the jokes. That’s kind of cool.

He’s ready.

He just is. I can tell that he’s outgrown elementary school and that he needs more. More out of school, more out of friends, more out of life.  He’s ready to get moving.

I’m going to be OK. I think.

It’s exciting to watch your kids progress. I don’t want to freeze him. He doesn’t want to be frozen either. I’m OK.

{I’m not going to lie either. I just counted how many more summers he has left at home and had a small midlife crisis.}

The next phase of pre-mourning? High school graduation.

On Raising a Loser

We just wrapped the 5th grade Student Council elections at our school. Needless to say, there has been quite a lot of drama . . . from THE PARENTS.

Raising a Loser: Vote for MY KID!

Without going into too much detail we have some parents that are fired up because a teacher tallied his class results early. You can imagine all of the speculation and over-dramatization that has occurred in a  school fueled by parents who want their kids to win {at everything}.

I’m sure some of it was worth an eye brow raise. {I’m trying to justify you a little bit here over-dramatic parents}

Out of a grown woman’s mouth: “I don’t get it. Somethings not right. So many of the popular kids didn’t win.”

Hey guess what? I thought I was cool too, and then I got beat in the 8th grade elections by a girl who dressed up like Barney. Barney. The big purple dinosaur. Take those stripes my friend.

There have been moms on phone calls, calling the principal, emailing the teacher, in short, throwing fits. And guess what that translates into? Bad behavior in your kids at school – modeled by YOU.

Whether you think you are right, wrong, or justified, you’ve just taught your kid something big.

Yay parents! You win at showing your kid how to be a poor loser. Someone who values status more than people. Someone who seeks popularity instead of kindness. Someone who doesn’t know how to lose well.

You’ve just Bush-Gore-d the 5th grade elections and called for a review of the hanging chads. Go home all ready.

How to Raise a Loser

I’m the parent of a loser. Literally one of the MANY kids who left school dejected that day because they didn’t make it into the next round of the student council elections. I let her skip her dentist appointment and got cupcakes. But we talked about why losing is great. It takes bravery to run and to put yourself out there. It takes strength to hear that you didn’t make it and to go and congratulate the other kids with a smile on your face. And most importantly, it takes a strong loser to move on and try again. Because that is life.

I don’t want to be the jackass parent that pickets elementary school student council elections, but bigger than that, I don’t want to raise the jackass kid who goes and does the same.

Life is full of loss. I’d venture to say that we all spend more of our lives dealing with loss than big wins. Things don’t work out how we plan them. Life isn’t fair. Things change.  Life moves fast. We’re constantly adjusting.

Who wins? It’s the kids who can adjust, the kids who can take their blows and get up again the next day, the kids who thicken their skin enough to take on this big wild world, it’s the kids who know how to lose that win at life.

I want to raise that kid.


Top 10 Baby Names For 2014

Top 10 Baby Names of 2014

 The Social Security Administration just released the top ten names of 2014.  Noah and Emma for the win!

Welcome to James and Charlotte – the only new names added to the list!

Is your child’s name on the list?

Top Ten Baby Names of 2014

image: Social Security Administration

Want to see how your child’s name has trended over the years? Check out the SSA’s “Rankchange” tool. My own name has been on a steady decline. Wake up America! It’s the coolest!

Twins? No, they don’t run in my family.

Fun fact. I always wanted twins. Of course, this was prior to any pregnancies and the idea of getting two babies for the price of one pregnancy seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Turns out, I love being pregnant. I don’t get sick. I lose all the hair on my legs so I essentially don’t have to shave for 9 months. I have an adequate birth canal (my doctor’s words, not mine). I get to eat what I want without worrying much. So, I come out on top with the whole pregnancy thing.

I had no trouble getting pregnant with my oldest son. Our second pregnancy was just as easy. And then I miscarried. After that, we had trouble getting pregnant. Testing commenced after I gave it a year, a year that was essentially living in 2 week increments. I went through crazy emotions of whether I would be a mom of an only child, whether I should keep hoping, whether I should take the casual advice of “just relax”. Our fertility challenge wasn’t as difficult as most but that year was excruciatingly painful. I was angry. I was sad. I was doubtful.

As for the testing, all came back normal. One of the tests required that I take a fertility drug. My blood was drawn before and after. The doctor informed me that there was a 7% chance of getting pregnant with twins on the drug. I scoffed and thought that we’ve been trying for a year when there was apparently no problem, why would it work now? And it was just one cycle. Nah, 7% was nothing.

When the pregnancy test came back positive, I was elated but incredibly scared. I looked forward to my first doctor visit  and prayed that I would hear a heartbeat. I was terrified that there wouldn’t be one. My doctor told me the heartbeat looked strong. Both of them. I sat up and asked if he was joking and looked over to see two tiny flutters on the screen.

Excitement began to build as we looked forward to the ultrasound at 18 weeks that would tell us the gender of our babies. Baby A was a girl. Little tears of happiness slipped out. Baby B was a girl. A few more tears. Then the doctor came in to re-measure and asked me how old I was. I knew that was not just a casual question. I knew he was going to come back with news. He did. He poured statistics and risk factors over us as we sat there like deer in the headlights. He told us that baby A had a 7% chance of having Downs Syndrome – that same percentage of the chance of having twins. People were clamoring to find out what we were having but we were still trying to sort out all the information that had been placed before us. It left us in a daze. That fog dispersed once we had some time to process everything and rely upon what our hearts were telling us which was that everything would be okay. What that meant, we weren’t sure but it would be okay. We chose not to have an amniocentesis and never second-guessed that decision.

At 29 weeks, the girls were still being monitored for growth by the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists. The doctor again came in with news. Baby A’s growth was in the fifth percentile. A recommendation of steroid shots and the possibility of an early delivery was thrown about. At 29 weeks, I was scared to think of delivering both girls early. Remarkably, I was calm throughout the appointment. I felt prepared to handle decisions considering our previous experience with the amniocentesis. My husband was on the same page. We discussed things at length and together with the doctor, we decided to wait two weeks for another growth scan before proceeding with any procedures. Two weeks later, Baby A’s growth was back within a normal (albeit small) range.

As I approached 37 weeks, I began contracting. My husband was taking the bar exam at the same time. It came time for us to schedule an induction as my doctors felt delivering between 37-38 weeks was ideal for twins. I opted for 38 and they said I was their first patient who wanted to actually wait longer when pregnant with twins. My husband took the bar exam and didn’t check his phone. I didn’t go into labor. We made it.

Now came delivery time. Or, induction time. I made it to 38 weeks so off we went to the hospital at 4 am when I waddled my way up to Labor and Delivery. Most of my pregnancy, I assumed I would have a c-section. Although I knew it was safe to have a c-section, I preferred the recovery of a normal vaginal delivery. For several weeks leading up to delivery, the babies had been in a great position – both head down.  The doctor admitted that there was a chance of delivering one baby normally and then having to deliver the second by c-section. I was willing to take the chance.

I’m good with pregnancy. Delivery? Not so much. I freak out. Seriously. I shake and my teeth chatter and the nurses think I’m cold but I’m not, I’m just scared. I got my epidural and I felt that something was happening but I waited because I didn’t want to bother the nurse. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer and called the nurse. She checked me and told me not to push. It was that close. My husband hurried to put on scrubs and they rush me to the operating room (standard practice for twins). During labor, I need my husband to be near me so I can tell him what to tell me. They told him, “You can’t stand there. You can’t stand there either.” Finally, we have a somewhat close proximity to one another and there are about 20 people in that room with us. For all that organized chaos, there was a stillness and peace when those little girls came into the world. Our first beautiful baby girl was delivered and about twenty minutes later another beautiful girl joined us. For all my fears, and all the uncertainties throughout my pregnancy, the delivery couldn’t have gone any better.

I always wanted twins.

The photos in this twin birth story were taken mostly by my husband. You can find him on Instagram @brandons_lens. Some photos were taken by me. You can find me on Instagram @ohhbetsy.

twin birth story - 37 weeks

Twin Birth Story - monitored

Twin Birth Story - monitor

Twin Birth Story - flip flops

Twin Birth Story - Waiting

Twin birth story - prep

Twin Birth Story - off to OR

Twin Birth Story - Delivery

Twin Birth Story - 3:38

Twin birth story - baby A

Twin Birth Story - Baby A

Twin birth story  - 4:02

Twin birth story - baby B

Twin birth story - baby B

Twin birth story - proud dad

Twin birth story - babies and mama

Twin birth story - big brother

Twin birth story - bathing

Twin birth story - heart

Twin birth story

twin newborns


Twin birth story - bed



Twin birth story - bili blanket

Twin birth story - bili blanket


Do THIS to Save 5,800 Gallons of Water

Did you know that donating a bag of clothes has the potential to offset 5,800 gallons of water by reusing rather than producing new?

There’s a brilliant organization called Schoola that makes your donation easy AND powerful.

Schoola #PassTheBag

Check this out:

Schoola is an online consignment shop that sells gently used kids’ clothes. What makes Schoola different is that for every $5 spent, $2 is donated to schools!

Reduce your consumption of brand new goods

Reuse kids’ clothes from top brands that are built to last

Recycle funds back into the school programs that keep kids growing

One Bag of Clothes…

Reduces water consumption by avoiding new clothing production – up to 5,800 gallons per bag!

Reuses loved pieces that are too-soon outgrown

Recycles funds back into school programs that are experiencing budget cuts

Schoola #PassTheBag

I literally just cleaned out my son’s closet the other day and there were still clothes with tags on them. There were sweaters and button downs in practically new condition (because obviously mom was the only one who thought they were a good idea).

Schoola: #PassTheBag

Here’s what you can do:

Questions? Check out their FAQ

I’ve requested my bag. Will you? #PassTheBag

*Post sponsored by Schoola {full disclosure: we think it’s pretty cool whether it was sponsored or not}