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


Cookies and Fall! What a winning combination!

Fall is a time to sip hot chocolate and stroll around the neighborhood in the evenings.  It’s the time to pull out the old flannel pajamas and your warmest bedroom slippers.  It’s the time to take drives out into the country and smell the fresh air.  It’s the time for crafts and walking through the pumpkin patches.  It’s also the time to bake!

Feel free to send us your favorite Fall recipe to share with other parents and friends.  Harry Pierre & PeTunia would love to see a photo of their little Puddibee – Puddlesworth Imagination Believer – baking and using their imagination!

Happy Fall and Happy Baking!



1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup canola oil

1 egg

1 ½  teaspoons  vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon milk

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, but both are very good, especially the walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degree.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Using mixer, mix well pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and egg.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and salt.

In a bowl, dissolve baking soda with the milk.

Add both the flour mixture and the baking soda mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  Mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Using a cookie scoop (about 1½ tablespoons) drop spoonful’s of the cookie dough on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake between 9 – 12 minutes, depending on oven.   Allow the cookies to remain on cookie sheet cooling for two minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


CHILDREN’S BEDTIME ROUTINES… making treasured memories

When it comes to bedtime routines with children, every parent has their own opinion.  Some are on the go and a strict bedtime routine isn’t part of their day, and others see it as a sacred ritual.

For two of the co-creators of Harry Pierre & PeTunia, they were in each of those categories!

Quote Read to Tucked in

I was in the latter category.  From the day I brought them home from the hospital, I looked at their schedule and the bedtime routine as a strict ritual.   If we went out, we had to be home by 7:15 P.M.  If my two daughters were heavily involved in play, I would set the kitchen stove timer for five-minutes, and when the buzzer sounded, it was time to put away the toys, and take a bath.  After bath, and brushing and flossing teeth-time, we would put on their choice of two pajamas.  One daughter had a favorite nightgown she wore to threads, and would then move on to the next nightgown which she wore to threads, as well, but the other liked choices, and isn’t that the norm with children – being totally different from one another? After bathing, we would go downstairs to sip a very small cup of less-than-hot-decaf tea with milk, rock in a rocking chair, and return to bed to read our favorite story – okay, two or three times reading the favorite story.  And I quickly learned that the way I read the stories and poems was much different than how my husband read it to them.  Because one daughter loved the extra words and silly phrases he would interject, while other one would come to me crying that Daddy didn’t read it right!

After the bed-time story, we said our prayers:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

May Angels watch me through the night, and wake me in the morning’s light.”

Then they would say their little blessings for their family, and their dogs, of course, and toys sometimes, and once in bed and snuggled in well, we would end it with:

“Goodnight, sleep tight, and our love will carry us to the morning light.”

They got a goodnight hug and kiss, and then I would stand by the door of my youngest daughter because I knew I would be called in for just “one more kiss!” This would be between 8:15 – 8:45 P.M., and then my husband and I would have the remainder of the evening alone.

The other co-creator of Harry Pierre & PeTunia, Gladys Vargas-Ruiz, on the other hand, having three sons and then a daughter, got tickled with my schedule because where I looked at bath-time as a scheduled ritual; she and her husband worked their children in and out of the shower like speeding bullets! She was a very busy lady, on the go all the time, and according to her there were times where some of their bedtime routine was done on the way home.  She, as well, loved reading to her children so I’m sure she read bedtime stories, but the question remains, “Where did she read them at?” 🙂  She also had special bedtime prayers, too.  One of her bedtime must-haves was for all her children to tell each other “goodnight” before crawling into bed.  She laughed when she heard I rocked my daughters until their legs entwined with mine.  I didn’t bother telling her how devastated I was when my oldest untangled her legs and firmly, but compassionately, said around ten-years-old, “Mom, I think I’m too old for this.” Oh, my stomach pangs thinking of her walking away that evening!

Her children, like mine, have fond memories of all they did at bedtime.  Were our routines as different as day and night? Yes, but what worked for me, would not have worked for her, but she devised one that worked splendidly for her and her family.

We both believe the most important thing about a bedtime routine is spending time with your children – regardless of how you do it – and putting them to bed at a decent hour so they get plenty of sleep, and finding a way to wind them down to feel happy and safe so they may sleep in peace and wake in joy.

Every parent and every child is different.  What works for one doesn’t work for another, so if you are having difficulties at bedtime and it’s more like a battlefield instead of a tranquil experience, change it up a bit.  Children really do work better with routines, so maybe you’re not structured enough and he/she needs more structure and longer sleeping hours.  Maybe you have too much structure and not enough choices.   Maybe you’re not giving them enough time to quiet down or trying to quiet them down too abruptly.  Maybe you can add a little warm decaf tea with milk and a few minutes of rocking! Whatever you choose, be consistent. 

Read to your child as long as you can.  It’s such a special time for them.  I’ve met families that as the children aged they went from picture books at bedtime to appropriate aged novels, reading a chapter a night, and did so until the children were in their very early teens.

Having children think they are the center of your world and making memories before they drift off to Sleepland could be one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. 

We all learn from each other, so we invite you to share what works best for you and your family!

–Debbie Caldwell

THE BIG BAD PARENT Will you seize the moment if it means your child will be embarrassed or even get in trouble at school… or will you not?

quote if we think before we act“Should I get my child to take responsibility for something that was his fault? But he’ll get in trouble at school if he admits to it.  He learned from it, so we should just move on.  I don’t have the time to deal with it.”

I recently heard a parent ask this question, and well, it disturbed me, and for more than one reason.  One, as parents, regardless of how much trouble our child will get into when taking responsibility for his/her actions, it has to be done.  Because, children just don’t “move on” if they are not guided to be accountable for their actions.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will not happen again, and possibly on a larger scale.  We have to be sometimes, The Big Bad Parent.  Two, regardless of age, what is the opposite effects of them not taking accountability? Think about it…

If a child writes on the wall at school and you learn your precious offspring was the Picasso, are you going to just point your finger and say, “You know that’s wrong, don’t you do it again! I don’t have time to deal with your mess!” and hope it won’t happen again?

Or, are you going to take the time to take him/her to the school office, make them tell the Principal what they did, and if possible, that you want to buy the matching paint, take him/her to their masterpiece and make them repaint it, on top of doing extra chores to repay you for the paint money, ask the Principal what chores can he/she do around the school for at least a month, plus whatever punishment you think should be placed upon them at home?

Which one would you choose?  I believe most parents are good parents and would choose the latter, but not all would do so.   

Why? Could it possibly be tarnishing the child’s image? Or, it may bring others to look poorly at your parenting skills? Or, you don’t want your child embarrassed in front of the other children?

Isn’t that too bad?

A little embarrassment with children taking responsibility goes a long way.

Years back when my youngest daughter was in grade school, a “friend” suggested if she and another girl wanted to be cool, they had to write with her on the bathroom walls.  So, they did.  Even though she may not have realized what she and the others were writing, she did know it had to be carried out as if it were a James Bond secret mission – thus, if anything has to be done that secretly, then it’s wrong.   And, since they’re no 007’s, they got caught.  Lucky for her, I left that morning to go to an out-of-town conference, and as her teacher politely put it, “I thought, ‘Great, she goes out of town and all hell breaks loose!’”

When I returned, I went to the office to see if her painting the walls were allowed, but by then “all was taken care of” – maybe from their end, since she and the others were suspended for ONE day, but not from our end.

A few very special television recordings she loved and would occasionally watch – deleted.  An upcoming birthday party invitation – a gift was given, but she was not in attendance.  Her room and closet – super cleaned.  Weeds around the bushes – pulled. “I will always respect school property,” – written 50 times, three times that week.  Her hand written, and hand delivered, apology letter to Principal, and I believe her teacher as well, if memory correctly serves me.  And, it was quite a while before she could go over to a friend’s home to play, because she had to rebuild that parental trust (and never again to one of her “art buddies” homes either).

Last, but not least, disappointment.  I made sure she knew we loved her, but her actions were very disappointing to us, as well as to her teacher, and to old Mr. Joe, the custodian that had to clean and paint the walls because of her and her “friends” choices, which led to their actions.

And, that was another perfect opportunity to again discuss that we have the choice to choose our thoughts, and every thought has an action, and every action has a consequence.

Were those the correct ways to discipline? I have no idea.  We’re only parents, we’re not perfect, but they were though, the best we could do with the knowledge we had at that time.  All I knew was that her actions could not be ignored.  She was in 5th Grade, and if she was old enough to hold a pen and secretly take it to the bathroom to write and draw on the walls, then she was old enough to take responsibility for her actions.  If we did nothing, what would she be doing with friends in 10th Grade? 

There are going to be moments in your child’s life where you will have the opportunity to help them take responsibility for their actions.  Jump at those opportunities! Seize the moment to help them understand while they’re young, that their choices and actions affect us all.  It has a trickle-down effect to everyone around them, even strangers.  Regardless of age, there is no one that can do or say something that is wrong without it not only affecting others, but possibly hurting them, as well.  And being one that believes in “What goes around, comes around,” some people may say “Kharma,” their actions, if ignored, may just come knocking at your door one day.  

We all have different ways to guide and discipline our children, but our end result should be the same – teaching character, responsibility, and kindness.  If we work together to help children understand the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, grow confidence and self-esteem as a result of doing so, just think how happy they will be as they grow into healthy, successful, responsible adults!

Life is what we make of it, so let’s make this life a grand one for our children!      

–Debbie Caldwell

Harry Pierre & PeTunia Puddlesworth

…enriching children’s lives, one story at a time…