Life is busy.  After school is busy.  Keeping up with activities after school is busy.  Coming home after work is busy.  Having a routine after school can help ease the day, and stay organize.

When my children started Preschool, I had a colorful note on the front of the refrigerator that read:

  • A Mommy hug and kiss
  • Wash hands
  • Snack time (I loved snack time! It was a great way to talk and cuddle)
  • Empty backpack
  • Give Mommy all important papers
  • Lunchbox (place it beside the sink)
  • Homework
  • Place backpack by the backdoor
  • Let’s go play!

It stayed for Preschool and Kindergarten, and the beginning of the year in First Grade.  Everyone’s schedule is different, so you would have to write your list to suit your lifestyle, but helping them establish a routine early in the game – especially with giving you papers to sign – helps everyone.  I know that being so young they don’t usually have homework, but I thought giving a page of age appropriate work from a workbook, something to get them in the groove of doing a few minutes of “homework” a few times a week would be beneficial for them, because I knew in due time that it was coming!

Many times, my oldest daughter wasn’t keen on going outside to play after homework, but she loved cuddling and reading an after school story.  And my youngest daughter, she loved to watch a show and just relax by herself for a little while.  Then they would go outside to play!

Many people add items on their list all the way to bedtime.  Whatever brings peace, joy, and happiness to your family, that’s the list to make!

Good luck to another school year! Every year is a little stressful at the beginning, but the older they get, the faster it flies by.  Before long, they’ll be teenagers and you’ll have a Senior on your hands!

–Debbie Caldwell


My husband recently accepted a position in Florida.  After having lived in the Los Angeles area for the last 20 years – raising children, building a life, deep friendships, a company – it wasn’t as easy to leave as I thought it was going to be.  But the thought of living on the beach, something that I’ve always desired, and the opportunities that surrounded the relocation, we welcomed the new adventure.

Welcoming the move, and ignoring the anxiety of moving, are two different things.  My fabulous Italian Language Teacher – or ex-teacher, I sadly say – told me that in Italy, the land of many proverbs, they have a saying to some people that annoy them for you don’t want to wish them harm… you just say, “We wish you to move on a rainy day!”

Like if moving isn’t torturous enough!

When I first found out that yes, we were going to do this, other than grabbing a glass of wine, I realized I had to start DE-CLUTTERING.  I had always tossed out things here and there to make room for the new, but my Spring Cleaning is really dusting.  Maybe rearranging a few sweaters, washing a couple pair of sneakers, possibly cleaning out my china hutch or under the bathroom sinks.  Other than that, I really ignored over the years what needed to be cleaned out – drawers!  Starting in the kitchen.  I had kitchen cooking gadgets that I had no idea what they were! I’ve had friends that sold kitchen “helpers,” so I guess I was thinking of them when I purchased these oddly shaped pieces of plastic, but they still left me dumbfounded.  But after learning I was moving, every time I opened a drawer, I would not shut it without saying, “What have I not used this year?”  or “What do I love and what do I like?”   

 Next is, LOVE.  You see, with this move, I’ve realized something – I don’t want anything around me except the things that I love… really, really love.  I want things that make my heart sing a glorious melody.  I don’t want any substitutes because I don’t want a corner to be bare, or a cabinet empty.  LOVE everything in your life – around you, beside you, whether a shirt or a serving tray or a picture frame.  Let looking at it make you breath in joy, and exhale peace.  Just love it!

Next… RELEASE THE OLD.  I’ve had to take a good look at things I was keeping of my mother’s and her mother’s, maybe even her mother’s, and there were items that I had memories of them loving, but many were dilapidated, shredded, broken, or crumbly.  And I had to ask myself, “Is it time to let go?”  You see, memories we can take from one state to another.  From one side of the world to another.  Do we need to take up the space with non-fixable items that causes clutter in our lives? Would they really be upset with us to know that we discarded an old shredded book, or a hair net, or a razor, or a smelly bedspread, or stained dishtowels, or even a piece of furniture? No, I don’t think they would.  A friend once said that she had to ‘release’ her mother’s dining room table, her grandmother’s bed frame, and her grandfather’s credenza, because she simply after decades of storing them – not using them, but storing them – that she had nowhere to put them in her new downsized condo. “The guilt with releasing family items makes you stay up all night, and the next night, and the next,” she sadly said.  They wouldn’t want us to feel guilty.  So, RELEASE if needed.

STAY ORGANIZE.  A spiral notebook with built-in folders will become your best asset during a move.  Every page for every phone call you must make to all gas and utility companies, phone, electric, and water companies, waste collections, landscapers, exterminators, insurance, moving, mortgage, and escrow companies, pet transporter, pet hotels, veterinarians, post office, doctor’s and opticians, DMV’s – take notes.  Lots and lots of notes with your new address being on the first page.   Don’t try remembering all you must do and all that you have done.  That notebook will become your best friend! Also, do not forget to take with you – in your possession, not in your menagerie of boxes – your Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, Marriage License, and Car Insurance and Title, (might as well keep your home insurance papers with you, as well) so you can apply for your driver’s license and tags.  Most states only allow a short amount of time before requiring such duty, forgetting the stress that you are under as you try to rummage through countless boxes to find these items.  If moving out of state, or out of country, keeping them with you will alleviate a lot of headaches.

KNOW THAT THE BOXES WILL BE THERE TOMORROW.   My youngest daughter, who came with us and transferred to a great, and local, university that offered her specialized degree, politely told me those words.  I am one that wants it all done yesterday.  And I will work from sunrise to almost the next sunrise to make it happen.  That’s not the case with moving, especially across country.  “You just got to take it in chunks,” as a friend suggested.  They both are right.  Take time to go to a local festival and meet the local people, or go on a Date-Night to a movie, or go to a popular Happy Hour! Just know that all is well, and it will be better than yesterday.  

If you have ANIMALS, please know that they, too, show signs of stress.  Our dogs and cats did.  Especially our cats.  So be sure to give them lots of extra love, and be patient.  Also, keep with you their shot records.

Last, know that saying goodbye to your friends, and especially your all-grown-up child is as hard as it sounds.  Excruciatingly hard.  My oldest daughter is recently married to a wonderful young man, she’s on her career path, and doing great, but that didn’t make it any easier.  Regardless of their age they are always your babies.  BUT, thanks to modern day technology, it makes it a lot easier.  Not as good as a hug, but easier.

So, if you have to move, just stop and breath.  It is very overwhelming, you do not have to be unpacked and settled overnight, and your friends, and children, and family, will always be your friends, children, and family, regardless of where you live.

Love doesn’t disappear because of the miles between us – it widens the road.

–Debbie Caldwell

IF TEACHERS COULD TALK… what they really may say

I used to love helping out in my daughters’ classrooms when they were elementary age.  I think many parents do enjoy it.  I loved watching the teachers work and I loved helping the children.  I also probably overextended my welcome on some occasions, too! But throughout the years I developed close relationships with many of their teachers, and I have had the opportunity to speak with many that weren’t their teachers over the years.   Speaking one-on-one with them gave me an idea of what each would possibly say if they could really talk to parents! 

  •  I am going to love and protect and teach your child, but it is impossible to love him or her as much as you do.  He or she is very special, but you have one or two children, I have 20 – 30, but I promise I’m going to do the best I can, and from past experience, you may be impressed by the end of the year.  And, you really don’t have to critique my every move or offer your constant advice for improvement.  Though I appreciate your input when needed, it is a valuable trait that I did go to school to learn how to teach children.
  • I know your children loves playing with his or her favorite toy when he or she is at home, but this is school. Toys must be kept at home, because just think – if every child brought their favorite toy to school every day, how much time would that take out of their educational hours for me to tell them to put it away?  And please, I’m already considered a bad guy most of the time, it’s okay for you to be the bad guy, too.  Don’t always put it on me to tell your child, “No toys allowed in the classroom, other than on designated sharing days.”
  • Please talk to me. Help me understand why all of a sudden your child is misbehaving or not doing his or her homework.  Without sharing too much intimate details, it’s okay to tell me in confidence that you and your spouse are having marital difficulties and one has moved out of the home.  That you’re expecting a new baby or an aging relative that snores loudly has moved into your home.  That you have returned to work or changed jobs or the other parent is working longer shifts.  Help me not only read between the lines, but see between the lines, as well, so I can be the best teacher I can to your child.
  • An apple a day does make me feel better! Being acknowledged, even with a homemade card brings a smile to my face.  A few cookies given to me after school means the world to me.  Just thinking of me, the person that spends so many hours a week with your child, in such a kind way makes my heart smile.  I do deeply appreciate it.
  • We can work together to help build common courtesy manners with your child. Encourage them to say thank-you, please, and you’re welcome, not only to adults, but to other children, also.  Help them see that bullying and rudeness is wrong.  But please don’t yell at me if I try to do this.  My classroom runs more smoothly when the children are kind to each other, and kind to me.  So it does help to know you are encouraging them, too, because it won’t work if only I am encouraging kindness and respect.  You and I, we’re a team!
  • Figure out a way to label all your children’s items she or he brings to school – pencils, crayons, markers, backpacks, and notebooks. It makes it easier for the child to spot what is his or hers.
  • It’s okay to say goodbye to your child, and leave. I know it’s hard when they’re upset you are leaving them, especially in Preschool and Kindergarten, and even First Grade, but it really is easier and less confusing if you will give them a goodbye kiss, and leave – not linger.  I promise they will be okay, and if not, I will call you.

As parents, we all want our child to be at the top of the teacher’s list, but where we want that list to come down in a column with our child’s name near the top, the teacher must keep that list in a long horizontal row, treating all children the same.  And, I heard that they deeply appreciate parents making an after-school appointment with them to share any concerns you may have with them or their teaching style.  Many were sad when parents would run to the Principal’s office or discuss what they deemed wrong to other teachers and parents before speaking to them first.  After meeting, if you still see fit to speak to the Principal, then so be it.  As a parent, that is certainly is your right to do so.

These are just tidbits of advice.  We, as parents, know that parenting is a learning process, and when parents and teachers, and Harry Pierre & PeTunia 🙂  come together with the same goal – encouraging children to love themselves and others while learning new things and using their imagination – it’s a beautiful thing!

–Debbie Caldwell



Traveling with children is an adventure, and traveling with a child requires a creative imagination!  I had four children: three boys and one daughter.  Overtime, I figured out how to entertain each one of my children.  My oldest son, I would give him a pillow and a blanket, and he immediately fell asleep; he was definitely my easy traveler.  My second son, he we would cry on every trip.  He disliked being in his car seat, which forced us to take more breaks.  This was definitely a challenge! My third son, he talked the entire trip.  Falling asleep was far and few.  He always had the “What-if…” questions and scenarios.  My daughter was an easy traveler – she entertained herself with anything.

I would like to share some of my travel tips that were helpful on my trips. 

Traveling in the car was definitely easier; I had more control of stops and potty breaks when needed.  I mapped out our destination with the best route and travel time, and went to my local auto club to pick up maps and entertainment books for the location to where we were traveling.  We used travel games that the whole family could play on the trip.  One of the greatest inventions was the mobile DVD player, with headphones! It certainly made our trips easier and quieter.

Flying required more planning.  I needed more time and certainly more patience.  When booking the flight I preferred the Red-Eye and made sure the kids did not nap the day we traveled, which made sleep easier on the flight.  And, they were dressed in warm comfortable clothing.  Another option was finding flights that had one layover.  I know it sounds crazy, but it was a break in the flight.  Each of the kids would have their own backpack with its contents being snacks, a book or two, a drawing book, pencils, crayons, and a card game like Uno.  We also packed extra clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, gum and lollipops.  The gum or lollipops were for take off and landing, and of course my kids always needed to chew and suck on the lollipops! The second greatest invention was the Game Boy.  They had to share the game; each one had thirty minutes to play.  This was a great way to teach them time, time limits, and sharing.

They each carried a journal; I would have them write daily about their vacation.  My kids were not happy about this because they were on vacation, not school! But I still have their journals today.  Whenever they would say, “Are we lost?” My answer was, “Of course not, we are on an adventure!”

My children are now adults and when they travel they pack their own backpacks exactly how I taught them when they were small.  They are never lost, and always on an adventure.

Children remember what you teach them so remember to make your trips fun and memorable!  Here at Puddlesworth Café, we welcome your travel tips, too!

Gladys Vargas-Ruiz

TO WORK OR NOT TO WORK? Battling the Criticism of Stay-At-Home-Parents vs. Working Parents

Shall I continue working and put my children in daycare at six-weeks-old? Can we make ends meet on one income? If I stay at home, what will my working friends think of me? If I return to work, will my child care option hold my newborn as much as I will? Will I lose my identity if I stay at home? Will my partner not look at me the same? Can I still work 40-plus hours a week and feel like I’m a hands-on parent?

The questions are endless, if not gut-wrenching.  It is fearful waters, but we must tread them or we will sink.

I recently heard a parent say some things about another parent who opted to take a different parenting lifestyle road than the first parent.  There was zero respect for that other parent, which made me think of the long ago road I took during those important years.  It was sad to see that after all this time that the road is still bumpy, and the respect that each deserves, is still missing.

Many years ago, with a supportive husband, I made the decision to step away from the workforce and stay at home when my oldest daughter was born.  Three years later, my second daughter arrived.  I wish I could say that there were no struggles, but there were plenty.

There are many emotions that a stay-at-home parent must endure that no one else understands, not even your supportive partner, except for other parents that choose to experience what you are doing.  I remember the first time I was asked what I did for a living since I made this decision.  I had worked from the time I was 13-years-old – from babysitting to my then last employment in outside sales – but I didn’t know what to say.  I looked at my young daughter and said, “Domestic Engineer.”

Being a stay-at-home parent can be lonely.  It can be scary, not to mention the fear of a now “one income” home.  It is a learning process.  So what do you do? You find that support system with other parents that chose to do what you did.  You also find the time to stay in contact with friends that chose not to do what you did.  You go to playgroups with the children, and you make time to go out with your friends, including evenings with your partner.  You go to child seminars where they usually have daycare available, and you also make time to go to seminars that appeal to your ex-career, or future career.  You take a special interest class that works around your partner’s schedule.  You stay as active as you can in their schools and your community to help prevent being so lonely, because it can be a lonely journey.  But if it is the right one for your family, then never hold your head down that “You’re not doing anything with your life!” 

Little did they know everything I experienced contributed to the woman I am today, and I have no regrets.  I would not have changed those precious years I spent with my daughters, all I’ve learned and accomplished throughout the years, or the relationships I made with other parents – some lasted a couple years, some longer, and some decades.  Throughout those “non-working” years – I laugh at that because I never worked so hard in my life – I met other women with careers in medicine to law to accounting to engineering to a newspaper reporter to a waitress that were doing what I was doing.  We had different backgrounds, but the one thing we all had in common was battling that stigma – that we were not doing anything with our lives.

I did not like the title, “Stay-At-Home-Mom” because my life wasn’t about just being at home: cooking and cleaning and shopping.  I was never home! I had my children in artistic playgroups when they were babies, and starting around 18-months-old they were in museums, at exhibits, on nature trails, science centers, treasure hunts on picnics, and education days at the zoo, and the list goes on and on.

But saying that…

I cannot tell you how much respect I have for the parents that chose not to do what I had done.  There are parents out there that would love to be a stay-at-home-parent, but could not for fiscal reasons.  There are some that chose not to interrupt their careers, knowing their children with their parenting and qualified appropriate childcare would be just fine; that it is not the quantity of time you spend with a child, but the quality.  These are the same people that after the commute from a long day at work, they still have to go shopping, cook, wash clothes, help with homework, clean, take the animals to the vet, and spend quality time with not only their children, but their partner, all before bedtime.

They should not be judged for their choice, as a stay-at-home parent should not be judged for theirs.  

Looking back, I would be lying to you if I said that all was a glorious walk in the park.  It was not.  I had to experience unfamiliar emotions while still putting on the “happy mommy” face.  I was very strong and independent and stepped into a world that was deemed to be the opposite, and nothing could be farther from the truth.  It took my strength and independence to be a stay-at-home-parent and raise the strong and independent women I have raised.  And whatever road they choose, which may not be the road I took, will be the best road for them and their families, and they too, will raise strong, independent children.

I believe our society puts so much on our shoulders that we lose our strength, our identity, and our independence if we choose to leave the workforce.  Even when you choose to work from your home, or part-time, there is still that stigma of “being weak and not power-driven.” If you choose your career “over your children” our society throws verbal stones at you for “being selfish and putting your children second.”

So which is right? Neither. Both are wrong.

You can raise strong, independent children if you choose to be a stay-at-home-parent, and you can raise strong, independent children if you choose to be a working parent.

Both have pros and cons, but the one thing I do know is that with parenting, and I’m repeating myself, that it is not the quantity of time spent with your children, but the quality. 

So instead of criticizing or judging a fellow parent, please know they are probably doing the best they can with the choices they have made.  And it is THEIR CHOICE.  Parenting is a learning process.  We can never assume we know everything about the subject, and none of us should assume our children are better than another child because his/her parents made different choices than you. 

Love your children unconditionally.  Stay active in their lives, hug them, kiss them, ask questions, meet their friends, their friends parents, stay involved with their schoolwork, their play, their passions, and their imagination, and let them know they are the sunshine in your life.

And if you’ve experienced any extra weight on your shoulders for the choices you’ve made, please feel free to share your experience with us.  Parents helping parents’ makes parenting a lot easier!

–Debbie Caldwell


NAGGING OR TEACHING… are we nagging our children or teaching responsibility

quote-nagging-2Are we nagging our children when we think we’re teaching them responsibility?

It’s easy to do.  And being the parent we think we’re right.  But are we?

There is a difference between teaching responsibility and nagging.  Sometimes, we get frustrated with them because we see the negative in us emerge through them.  Is that their fault?  Of course not.  Is it ours? Not always because we don’t realize what we’re doing.

Parenting is a circle of hit and misses.  But it’s the misses we must pay attention to, and if we’re lucky, we will learn more about ourselves as we go along – if we’re willing to put aside our ego and acknowledge, “Okay, let me retrace my steps, see what went wrong, the words I used, the actions I used, and start over.”

We all want our children to take responsibility for themselves, starting at a young age.  When they start crawling, that’s the time to start teaching responsibility.  You can never start too early!  Have a small basket nearby and crawl with them to toss their toys into the basket at the end of the day.

But as they get older, it can turn into nagging.  Do they even listen to us if they feel like it’s nagging?  Probably not.  It’s frustrating when you think you’ve taught them, and showed them by your actions, to take responsibility for everything from homework to cleaning up after themselves and they still do not do it for one reason or another.   We as parents feel hurt and frustrated because we’ve tried everything.  Maybe switching gears a little may help.

Maybe it’s the way we’re speaking to them.  Instead of, “Didn’t I tell you no T.V. until your homework is done!”  Ask questions.  “I know you were excited about staying on schedule with getting your homework completed by 6:00 P.M., how is that coming along?”  Instead of, “We’re not leaving this house until your bed is made, how many times do I have to repeat myself!” (No question mark because in our mind, it is a rhetorical question!), ask, “I know we agreed your goal was to make your bed every day this week, how is that coming along?”

It’s very important that they SEE US take responsibility, as well.  We really shouldn’t tell our children to keep their room spotless if we’re not going to do the same.   Keep their bathroom spotless, if we’re not keeping ours that way.  It’s not always that the child is hardheaded or rebellious, sometimes – and this is difficult as a parent to say – it is us.  It’s what we’re doing, or not doing, or it is the way we are presenting it to them.  And how we react to their actions, speaks volumes to them, especially when you do keep everything spotless and do everything right, and expect them to follow.

Every child is different.  So are parents.  When we focus on our responsibilities, and ‘show’ them we did, and even say, “It feels so good to make the commitment to myself to go to the gym four times this week, and actually do it! I did it, and it feels great!” There’s a very good chance soon thereafter your child will follow in your footsteps for his or her own goals.*

The main thing is that we as parents never stop trying to guide and help our children anyway we can.  As parents we have to be creative because every child is special and unique, and so are we! Their actions aren’t perfect, but are ours?  As long as we keep searching for what will work for that special individual child, then we need to pat ourselves on the back, because we deserve it!

Debbie Caldwell

*There are developmental problems that should be addressed by a professional, such as ADD, if you feel you’ve exhausted every avenue and still having issues.


“Mommy, what is Thanksgiving?”

“Daddy, why did the Pilgrims leave their country?”

“Why do we eat turkey?”

We all have been asked these questions from the children in our lives. But how do we shorten the long version in words that they can understand about this holiday of giving thanks?  

How about:thanksgiving-free-clip-art-222074127304

“Today, it’s 2016, but way back in 1620, we had our first Thanksgiving!

Many people from England wanted to pray to their God, but their King did not want that.  He wanted everyone to go to the same church – the Church of England.  If they did not go to this church they would get in trouble and go to jail.

Some of the people were sad and angry.  They wanted to pray the way they wanted to, not the way they were told to, and they wanted to respect their church, which they did not, so they decided to leave their home country, this King, and his church.  They got on a ship named the Mayflower and traveled across the ocean and arrived in Plymouth.  Because of this “pure” freedom, they were called Puritans… also, Pilgrims.

They were scared, because everything was so different for them.  The Native Americans were already in Plymouth and living off the land.  They could see that the Pilgrims were having a difficult time.  So being kind and thoughtful, they helped them build homes, shared their food with them, and taught them how to grow their own food.  They became great friends!

The first winter was very hard for the Pilgrims.  Over time their food grew, and their friendship with the Native Americans grew, too.  Having this new friendship and sharing so much together, the Pilgrims wanted a grand feast for the Native Americans.  With all their new food and their new hunting skills, the Pilgrims had a beautiful dinner with their new friends – a dinner of thanks and gratitude – a thanks-giving dinner.

That was our first Thanksgiving!”

And that’s that! Close enough?

Depending on the ages of the children, you can incorporate the correct definition of Puritans and the difference between Puritans and Pilgrims, along with the feast lasting three or four days, where Plymouth is on the map, and what year the United States made it a national holiday – 1941.

Questions to spark the imagination may be:

* What kind of food do you think they had at the first Thanksgiving (remember… grown from seeds).

* What did they drink?

*What decorations for the table did they use?

*What did their homes look like?

*The Pilgrims were grateful for the Native Americans and their kindness, what are you grateful for?

*What pictures do you think the children drew for the Native Americans?

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends.  It’s a perfect day to think about life’s blessings.

Harry Pierre & PeTunia and their creators wish you and yours a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving! We are grateful for each one of you and the joy that Harry Pierre & PeTunia bring to children, encouraging kindness and respect, and the beauty of friendships.

–Debbie Caldwell