Elf Down! Someone Call 911

By Meredith McKay

Some of you have found great luck with using the magical Elf on the Shelf to keep your children on their best behavior. I on the other hand, have not.

The other night, my usually well behaved 3 1/3 year old daughter, Mia, was having a temper tantrum of gigantic proportions. You know the ones when your child is overtired, gets upset by everything and anything, follows you around the house and throws herself on every dirty or clean floor in your house while not listening to a word you say.

At this point I had enough and placed Mia in timeout (the staircase in our living room). As she slid down the stairs on her back in hysterics, I spotted “Cheeky Francis,” the name of our Elf on the Shelf. Quickly I picked up the shifty-eyed elf and held him in front of Mia and said,

“I hope Cheeky Francis doesn’t tell Santa about your tantrum!”

As quick as a wink, Mia grabbed Cheeky from me and tore his cute, sewn together little hands apart and threw him down the stairs. I stared in awe at Cheeky’s lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs and couldn’t help but giggle inside.

Elf down!

I picked up our still smiling elf and asked, “Are you okay?” to show Mia my concern for her destructive Incredible Hulk-like behavior.

She yelled, “Mama, Put him back down, Put him back down!”

It was then that I realized this infamous elf doesn’t hold any power against my precious yet precocious girl.

About a half hour later, Mia apologized to me and asked in her sweetest voice if I would bring Cheeky Francis to the hospital to be fixed. I panicked inside because I don’t own a sewing kit or even a needle and thread, but still I said, “Yes.”

So that evening, as I regretted never being a Girl Scout, I did what any unprepared Mom would do: I carefully wrapped Cheeky Francis’ hands together with some gauze and put him high up in our Christmas Tree.

I will be sure to not put our Elf on the Shelf in low places anymore!

If you have the Elf on the Shelf, does his magic work on your children and what is he named?

Tricky Turkey Tradition

By Meredith McKay

Mia’s preschool sent home an adorable project to complete as a family and return to school. We were given a “naked” turkey and needed to disguise him so he won’t get eaten for Thanksgiving!

The Naked Turkey

Mia and I went through many disguise possibilities: a ballerina; a pink flamingo; and a silly clown before finally settling on a Carmen Miranda outfit. Mia loved putting the fruit stickers on the turkey’s head, coloring the wings and adding the fancy sparkles to his costume. Mia proudly returned her turkey to school and told everyone that her turkey is disguised as Carmen Mirando – yes Mirando!

Turkey in Disguise

I plan on doing this project every November; it will be so much fun to see how we disguise the turkeys over the years.

I must give props to some awesome disguises done by Mia’s classmates: Cottonball covered Snowman Turkey, “Turk-ish” Princess Turkey and even a Kim Kardashian Bride Turkey!

Diary of Starting Preschool

Written by Mommy (Meredith McKay)

August 25:
Mia, today was your last day Debbie’s home daycare. You’ve been going there since you were 6 months old. Mommy took it very hard, and as we drove out of Debbie’s driveway you asked me why I was crying. I didn’t want to upset you and tell you that on Monday you would no longer be spending 5 days a week at Debbie’s comfy and familiar home. You would be going to Preschool, a building full of adults and other children that you don’t know yet; to play, learn, eat, and nap with. So I quickly responded, “Mommy is sad because summer is over.”  You said, “But Mama, it will be back.”

Mommy cried off and on for the next couple of days. I don’t do well with change, and this is a big one.

August 29:
Today was your first day of school, and you were so excited that I could barely get you to pose for a picture. Mommy and Daddy brought you to school. We helped you put your new backpack, lunch bag, and nap mat in your cubby. You didn’t cry, but let me know, “I’m gonna miss you”. I reassured you that I would be back.

Mia on her first day of preschool

Day 2:
You had a great day at school. At dinner you showed me how you raise your hand and say“Here” when your teacher takes attendance.

Day 3:
Rough morning…Mommy brought you to school. All the kids were playing outside. When I left and walked by the play area, you tried to climb the chain link fence. I saw your tears but I promised you that I would be back later. Mommy made it out of the school parking lot before breaking down in tears.

Labor Day weekend, a long weekend away from school, and I’m all ready dreading how your Tuesday morning drop off will be.

Day 6:
You started crying at home when I enthusiastically announced, “Mia, you’re going to school today!!!”  Through the tears you wailed, “I’m gonna miss you.” Mommy brought you in to school and as I was leaving, you ran ahead of me and tried to leave the building. Your teacher reassured you that I would come back later.

Days 7 and 8:
Daddy drove you to school without Mommy. Everything went so smoothly. I think this is the answer to the morning drop offs, and now Mommy feels silly for even second guessing my decision to send you fulltime.

Day 9 [September 12]:
You are 3 today! You lead the whole school for the Pledge of Allegiance and proudly waved the American flag. Mommy, Daddy, Grammy, and Grampy arrived at snack time with cupcakes for your class. Your classmates sang “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed the cupcakes. After the celebration you were not going to let any of us leave the preschool without you, so Grammy brought you to her house for your special day.

Leading the Pledge of Allegiance on Your 3rd Birthday

Days 10-15:
Daddy has been dropping you off every morning and Mommy picks you up after work.

Day 16:
After Daddy brought you to school, he sent Mommy a text that said, “Wow! The saddest thing ever. Mia chased me down the hall crying real tears. Made me tear up a little.” Now you know how I feel Daddy… 

We are now going on the fourth week of preschool and it has gotten easier for you, and easier for Mommy and Daddy. You are getting used to the routine and have made many friends. The teachers have told me that sometimes during the day you miss me, but it quickly passes and you have a great day. Mommy wants you to know that, “I will be back,” just like the summer!

Keeping Your Family Safe with the Latest Recall Info

By Meredith McKay

We all know that drop side cribs are no longer considered , what about other products?

While pregnant and researching all the baby gear, I quickly became aware of how very common recalls are for car seats, cribs, toys, clothing and many more products.

And it’s not always just the cheapo brands that are recalled or unsafe. More expensive, high-end brands like Maclaren, phil&teds and Britax have been involved in recent recalls, just to name a few.

I signed up for a great email subscription service to notify me of recalls from The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  These are the emails I read first to see if I own the unsafe item.

The email news releases include a picture along with the identifying information of the item. This visual is especially useful because you may recognize a certain toy or Pack’N Play in your child’s daycare or perhaps the car seat that your baby’s Grandparents lovingly bought for their car.

Dorel’s Alpha Omega Convertible Car Seat is one of almost 800,000 seats affected by recall.

Although it is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product, I always check before buying or selling anything on Craigslist or Ebay. If you have a concern, ask the seller for item’s specific model and serial numbers.

Children’s products are just one category of many for recalls. Foods, medicines and cars are constantly in the news for being recalled. To sign up for recall alerts in consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics and environmental products go to Recalls.gov. They even have a mobile app, which comes in handy when shopping for new items or for used items at yard sales.

Some recent recalled children’s items:

Strollers Recalled by phil&teds USA Due to Risk of Injury from Brake Failure

Fisher-Price Recalls to Repair Little People Builders’ Load ‘n Go Wagons due to Laceration Hazard

Other helpful websites:

•    To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go here or call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270 for the hearing impaired.
•    U.S. Food and Drug Administration
•    Kids with Food Allergies
•    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
•    SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.
•    Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database details and rates the safety of children and adults health and beauty products.

Does David Yurman Design Medical ID Bracelets?

By Meredith McKay

On New Years Eve 2009, my 1 year old daughter Mia developed welts all over her body. I rang in the New Year at Lowell General Hospital’s emergency room.

Allergic reaction on Mia's face, back and legs.

The ER doctors suspected she was having an allergic reaction to the Amoxicillin she was on for strep throat. The next day, I got a second opinion from a Pediatric Allergist, and he also concluded the reaction was most likely from the Amoxicillin. He told us that Mia should be considered allergic to Amoxicillin and she should not risk taking it again because the next reaction could be more severe.

Recently, a coworker told me his daughter’s softball team was playing a game in Everett and one of her teammate’s face began swelling. The ball field was located next to the Teddie Peanut Butter factory.  She was highly allergic to peanuts and the air/particles coming out of the factory was causing a reaction. Luckily her parents were there and able to get her to the hospital for treatment.

After hearing this I started to worry about what if something happens to Mia when I’m not around? How would she inform anyone that she is allergic to Amoxicillin? Instantly I thought of the old stainless steel medical bracelets.

Mia will be attending camp this summer, so I went online to check out Medical ID bracelets for children. I was hoping to find something cuter than the chain link ones I remember. Pleasantly surprised, I found out that Medical ID bracelets have come a long way. They are now made for adults and children in a variety of styles and materials.

A website I came across is Lauren’s Hope that explains why medical alert IDs are so important:

“Medical alert bracelet and medical alert necklaces for children can provide the information needed to save your child’s life in case of emergency.  If your child is out of your care for a sporting event or even a birthday party, an allergic reaction or blood sugar episode can occur.  Having the information about her medical condition is the first line of defense when emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene.

Allergies in children can range from food to medications to environmental, and should always be taken seriously. If a child is on any routine medication, such as for asthma control, this should be noted on a medical ID bracelet for your child.  Diabetes and other chronic health conditions also need to have a medical alert bracelet.”

There are plenty of pretty styles for girls and fun styles for boys at Lauren’s Hope:

Allerbling’s bracelet starts at $5.00 and can be customized by charms indicating allergies to bees, peanuts, wheat, shellfish, dairy and more!

Fiddledee IDs carries silicone bands for asthma, autism, diabetes, epilepsy and food allergies for only $2.50,  as well as charming medical ID bracelets:

Hope Paige Medical has a huge selection of bracelets in different materials such as rubber, rope, leather and even these “slap” bracelets that kids love for $7.95:

HAH Originals medical ID & alert bracelets feature some beautiful designs in a variety of gorgeous styles for around $41.50:

N StyleID offers a wide variety of children and teen medical bracelets designed with young people in mind! Colorful, durable, light-weight, and interchangeable for under $15.95. What could be more fun for them, than to choose which band to wear for the day:

So, until David Yurman designs a medical ID bracelet, I’m sure I will find one that Mia will love wearing!

Out of the Mouth of Babes

By Meredith McKay

My 2 ½ year old daughter is extremely verbal and has some strong opinions. Recently, I decided to take the advice of many friends and write down the insightful, amusing and memorable words spoken by Mia.

Any regular notebook or journal would not work for me because I have so many random ones around the house that never get used. I would need a special book designated just for journaling “Mia Quotes.” So I researched online to check if there is such a book for this specific purpose.

Amazon.com brought me to Words to Remember: A Journal for Your Child’s Sweet and Amusing Sayings by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

“From their first words on, kids have an uncanny ability to string together funny, charming, and sometimes oddly brilliant sentences. As parents, we often find ourselves proclaiming, “I’ve got to write that one down!” That’s what this little journal is all about. Conceived by writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Ida Pearle, this keepsake book provides a beautiful and convenient home for the bon mots of the binky set.” Amazon’s Editorial Review.

I immediately purchased this 80 page book which includes a few cute quotes by children and some subtle illustrations. I’m thrilled to finally have a special book dedicated for jotting down Mia’s musings, along with the date and details of how she said what she did.

Even if I am not able to write what she said in the journal immediately, I type the quote in a list app. on my phone and transfer it when I have the time.

A few of Mia’s recent quotable gems that I need to put in the journal are:

•    “Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Daddy.”

•    “Mommy, I’m sorry you were fresh.” Her response to me while she sat in a time-out.

•    “That Grampy, he’s a nice, nice man!” she said, after my Dad had dropped off some homemade beef stew.

•    While watching Queen Elizabeth II leave Prince William’s wedding in a horse-drawn carriage, “She’s on a horsey ride, she’s going to go round and round.” (Referring to the coin operated kiddie ride she loves).

See the similarity? Me too!

I’m looking forward to capturing Mia speaking her mind through the years (maybe not the teenage years) and will eventually pass the book along to her.

What is the funniest, cutest or most embarrassing thing your child has said?

Not Enough Time in the Day

By Meredith McKay

The past couple of months have been hectic to say the least. I changed jobs within my company, needed to get trained and settle into my new position. During this transition that awful stomach bug went through everyone in my house and even reached my extended family. It was weeks before we were all feeling back to normal. Then it was time to bring Mia for a tour of preschool tour and decide if I should enroll her part-time or full-time.

These aren’t major life interruptions and decisions, especially when I compare my issues to other Moms who juggle much more all while taking care of a disabled or chronically ill child. So I do not want to come off as though I am whining or complaining about my life at all. It’s just that I have been extra busy lately and have been lacking on my research of everything that has to do with 2 ½ year olds.

So I decided to create a list of things I need to focus on, research and get answers to:

1.    Toddler behavior: Mia has been testing her limits with me. She has learned the word “NO” and says it in a very fresh voice. Her terrible twos have set in, and I don’t feel properly prepared for these tantrums. What do I do when timeouts aren’t working? How should I be handling discipline because whatever technique I’m using now is not the right one?

2.    Outdoor activities: Mia is fortunate that her Grampy and Grammy live at the beach, so we spend a lot of time there on weekends. But it’s a different story on those hot summer week nights. Our townhouse does not have much of a yard and although there are many playgrounds and parks near us, we can’t head out every evening. Some nights, there is just too much to do around the house. We have a pretty nice deck so I’m thinking of getting a small sandbox or water table. Of course, before I buy one I need to research to find best sandbox/water tables for toddlers.

3.    De-Cluttering and organization: Mia will be starting preschool in the fall and I need to get organized to ensure smooth mornings. She currently goes to a wonderful home daycare and I’m so lucky that Debbie prepares Mia’s breakfast and lunch everyday. Come September, I will need to not only get myself ready in the mornings but also feed Mia and get her out the door dressed with lunch in hand! I know the best system for me will be to get our outfits and lunches ready the night before. In order for this to happen, I need to start getting organized and put a routine in place now. By the Fall, I want organized closets for easy outfit planning, kitchen counters that are free of paperwork and mail in order to easily make lunches and breakfast so we can quickly get out the door.

My list could go on and on but there aren’t enough hours in a day!

Do you have any tips to offer Moms who are trying to manage their time, children and home life?

Mommy Needs a Time Out!

By Meredith McKay

Mia in her favorite t-shirt from Weekend Threads.

Does it seem as though it’s always the weekend for everyone but Mom? It’s always the weekend for my toddler, Mia, and NEVER the weekend for me. Even on the weekends! Being a full-time working Mom, I try to fit in as much quality time with my daughter in the evening and on weekends, which leaves hardly any alone time for me!

I love my daughter more than anything but lately I’ve been longing for an evening out with girlfriends, an afternoon at a spa, time to shop for myself where I can browse and actually try on clothes. I’m lucky that both sets of Mia’s grandparents willingly watch her whenever I ask, but they have better social lives than I do, and often have prior engagements.

Many of you may be in the same boat and while we dream of some free time, we’re stuck because we don’t know any babysitters!

Whether you’re a couple looking for a relaxing night away from your children, a single Mom or your husband/significant other works different shifts, you will eventually need a babysitter to watch over your precious babes.

Figuring out where to find a babysitter can seem like an intimidating task but I did a little research and found a few places you can look.

Family. This is probably the first place you should start if your family members live close by. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings and cousins are great candidates. Although they are trusted family, they might need to brush up on their skills and you might want to gently ask them that they sign up for a Family and Friends CPR class offered by Lowell General Hospital.

Ask around. Just yesterday, a friend posted to 684 of her Facebook friends: “I need a babysitter for the days I work from 4:30-6, if anyone knows someone let me know.” So far she’s received eleven responses from friends offering to help, suggesting a sitter or recommending their teenage children. The best thing about sitters recommended by friends is that the trust factor is built in– if my friend trusts this person to care for her kids, then I most likely will be happy with the sitter as well.

Friendly Neighbors. A neighbor or friend might be happy to watch your little one, especially if they have children of their own that would benefit from a playmate. How about your neighbor’s responsible teenager? I’m sure they could use the extra money and perhaps you could even offer to pay for them to take a Babysitting Basics Class + CPR held monthly at Lowell General to get tweens and teens ready for babysitting.

Start a Babysitter Circle with friends, neighbors and other school parents. Do you know another young family who might be willing to watch your kids in exchange for you watching theirs? I heard of some local neighbors who do this trade off with great success. After the children are settled and ready for bed, one of them comes over while their spouse stays home with their own kids. They next time that couple wants to go out; you’ll do the same for them. This saves a lot of money and everyone enjoys knowing they will be repaid the favor.

The Internet. Going to an online babysitting agency seemed a little scary to me, but a coworker told me she’s had great luck with it. Although I have not personally used these services, I was very impressed when I looked at Sittercity.com and Care.com.

Both sites allow you search for the right sitter according to your family needs and specifications, then read babysitter profiles and reviews, see references and even run background checks. I love that pictures are provided and you can search for sitters who are non smokers, CPR certified, have their own transportation and even narrow it down to the time of day you will need them. Both sites are fee based but may offer a free trial membership and be sure to check these sites for a promotion code before signing up for the service.

Once you find your perfect sitter, enjoy your night out – I know I will!

How do you find a babysitter you can trust?

Local Supermen

By Meredith McKay

This is Matthew, he will soon turn two and he is living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Spinal Muscular Atrophy is the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two and is an often fatal disease that destroys the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement, which affects crawling, walking, head and neck control and even swallowing.

Matthew is the son of my very close friends Courtney and Paul, whose strength and courage I greatly admire.

Matthew enjoying Sesame Street Live.

I have wanted to write about Matthew, his family and SMA for a while but I did not know how to begin, if the family would want me to, and how to even explain this awful yet common disease.

Recently, Courtney had begun asking her Facebook friends for prayers for another local family dealing with the SMA diagnosis of their infant son, Coby. Like many hundreds of others, I have been reading his mom Lori’s daily updates on her Facebook page. Because of this awful disease, Courtney and Lori have become friends and support one another as only parents of children with SMA can.

When I looked at Lori’s page last night to check on baby Coby’s day she had posted a column written by Nancy Taylor about Coby. I asked Nancy for permission to reprint her column for my blog on Merrimack Valley Moms – she quickly obliged adding, “anything to spread awareness for this disease!”

By Nancy Taylor
A column I wrote for Coby ♥

It will be in Thursday’s edition of the Billerica Minuteman with his photo.

This was one of the hardest, most important columns I have ever written and it is dedicated to a little boy that I have never met. I first laid eyes on Coby Quinn Kulis when a friend posted a link about his story on Facebook.

Coby Quinn Kulis

Coby is five months old and suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a progressive genetic motor neuron disease involving the nerves and muscles. The body does not produce a particular protein, which enables the motor neurons in the spinal cord to survive. It is the leading genetic killer of infants and toddlers and statistics show that this disease affects one in every six-thousand births. There are four different types of SMA, type 1 being the most lethal in children under the age of two. Coby has type 1.

Often times muscle weakness is evident at birth and diagnosis usually occurs within the first three months. Coby came home with hospice care before he was three months old, and his prognosis gives him very little time.

The symptoms of the disease are gut wrenching. They include difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, and often times result in the insertion of a feeding tube. In pictures, Coby looks like an average little baby, and that is one of the most difficult parts of the illness. Often times SMA patients are observed to be bright and sociable and their intellectual activity is normal.

I wanted to write this to raise awareness of this horrible disease, and to share with you a little boy who at only five months old may be too young to speak, yet has spoken to so many.

Lori and Dave are Coby’s parents. They are going through something that nobody should ever have to go through, and they are doing it with amazing strength and grace. He is their first and only child.

Lori and Dave Kulis holding their Superman Coby

The world of technology has allowed us to follow their journey through this dreadful disease, and by doing so, you cannot help but be captivated by this little boy and his family. Through Facebook Lori keep’s us updated on Coby’s day-to-day condition. She shares the good days and the bad. She shares his restful nights. She shares his struggles to feed. She shares pictures when he is peacefully sleeping on his daddy’s chest and there is truly nothing more beautiful.

So many of us have come to feel a connection with this family. Everyday when I wake up, I check on my little buddy. I want to see how his night was. I want to know how they are doing. I want to make sure he is still ok.

Coby will get his wings soon. That is the unavoidable and harsh reality of this disease. I want this family to know that while none of us could ever really know what it has been like living through something like this, we join you in your mission to raise awareness. In Coby’s short time here, he has taught so many of us, perfect strangers even to hug tighter and love harder and for that we are eternally grateful. Coby’s parents have nicknamed their little fighter Superman and it suits him perfectly.

Every night Lori plays the lullaby “Godspeed” by the Dixie Chicks for Coby. A line from the song says “My love will fly to you each night on angel’s wings.” To say it is a moving song is an understatement.

Lori and Coby snuggling

To find any positive in all of this sadness, researchers in The International Scientific community agree that of all neuromuscular diseases, SMA is the closest to developing a treatment or a cure. If only we could freeze time for precious little Coby. Thank you Lori and Dave for sharing your precious little gift all in the name of finding a cure. God Bless you all, and Godspeed little man. ♥


There is an upcoming local fundraiser, “Shamrocks for SMA.” All proceeds from the event to benefit families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Please join us for some pre-St. Patrick’s Day cheer for a great cause.

“Shamrocks for SMA”
Friday , March 4th.
7:00 PM – 2:00 AM
Claddaugh Pub, Lawrence, MA

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two. However, there is hope for these children. The National Institute of Health recently deemed SMA as one of the closest terminal diseases to be cured. But SMA needs funding, research and continued resources to achieve this once impossible goal.

Here is how you …can help!

On Friday, March 4, we will be raising funds and awareness for SMA at The Claddaugh Pub in Lawrence, MA. The night will include live entertainment, prizes and fun. Nationally recognized Irish band, Inchicore will open the evening and we will cap things off with local fan favorite Corduroy.

Tickets are being sold for $10/each but any size donation would be very appreciated.

All proceeds from the event to benefit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. FSMA is a a non-profit, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. Federal ID# 36-3320440.

We hope to see you all on the 4th!


Love is in the Air

By Meredith McKay

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples.  If a special Valentine’s Day “date-night” isn’t possible, or if your children are your significant others, you can still celebrate and make it fun for the whole family!

Use your hands and get dirty… (with crafts)!

Instead of getting or giving flowers and chocolate, get crafty with your kids and make handmade heart shaped photo frames.  Put your favorite snapshot in the frame.  The memory will last a whole lot longer than flowers and candy.

Mia has a head start on her Valentine’s Day heart frame this year!

For more easy to do Valentine Day Crafts check out Disney’s Family Fun.

Set the mood and get spicy!

Create a Valentine’s Day menu that everyone can help prepare, whether it’s late lunch or early dinner.  And don’t forget to set a beautiful table with your prettiest dishes, candles and fresh-cut flowers.

Even my “go to” dinner of pizza can be made special.  I plan on baking these with Mia because we heart pizza!

Miniature Whole Wheat Pizzas

• Frozen whole-wheat pizza dough, thawed (available at specialty stores like G.B. Russo International Grocery), 2 cans refrigerated commercial pizza dough or refrigerated biscuits tube
• Tomato sauce
• Shredded mozzarella cheese
• Sliced black olives for eyes
• Rosemary sprigs for eyelashes
• Sliced red bell pepper for mouth

Directions: Preheat oven to temperature called for on the package of frozen pizza dough, refrigerated commercial pizza dough or package of refrigerator biscuits.  Separate the pizza dough into six parts and roll into circles. With a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out a heart shape, if possible. Or open the refrigerator biscuits and separate. Taking one biscuit at a time, flatten them as much as possible, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

With the rolled-out dough, take a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cut out a heart shape.  Spread tomato sauce onto the dough, sprinkle generously with mozzarella cheese. Construct the face with olive slices for eyes, position rosemary spikes as eyelashes and curve the red pepper into a happy smile.

Once your pizzas are built, put them in the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Recipe from mlive.com; photo by Press Photo/Paul L. Newby II

A Valentine’s Day menu wouldn’t be complete without…

Photo from Tasty Business

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Recipe from California Strawberry Commission

2 pint baskets California strawberries
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Finely chopped toasted almonds or pistachios (optional)

Directions:  Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Rinse strawberries and pat dry with paper towels. In separate small, microwave-safe bowls (such as custard cups) melt chocolates, one at a time, in microwave at 50-percent (medium) power, allowing 1 1/2 to 2 minutes each. Stir until smooth. (If not completely melted, microwave a few seconds longer.) Or, melt chocolate as package directs. Holding strawberry by stem end, dip into chocolate to cover about three-fourths of berry; dip into nuts, if desired, and lay on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining strawberries, chocolate and nuts. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Makes about 8 servings (3 strawberries per serving). For details on how to create Double and Triple-Dipped Strawberries go to California Strawberry Commission Recipes.

To see more kid friendly Valentine’s Day recipes ideas including heart shaped meatloaves, check out Kids Cooking on About.com.

Cuddle up and watch a movie.

Even if you aren’t heading out to the theater, you can still end Valentine’s Day with a movie or special program.

I always go to Common Sense Media for the Best Movie Recommendations for Kids.  I love this site because not only does it allow you to view the best movies selected by age range (from 2-17), but also by different categories and themes (holiday, animation, hidden-gems, Disney, fairytale, robot, friendship etc.)

Mia loves Dora the Explorer so I have programmed my DVR to record Dora’s Valentine’s Day special, “The Grumpy Old Troll Gets Married” airing on Nick Jr. at 9am.  We will be ending our Valentine’s Day with a wedding…how exciting!

What do you with or without your children to make Valentine’s Day special?

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