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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Creating Beautiful Christmas Traditions that Last a Lifetime


By: Catherine L. Pittman © November 2009


Download Our FREE Holiday Music Sampler Album


Image courtesy of Dreamtime
by Usikova
Christmas is truly a magical and enchanting time of year, where holiday traditions never fade with time.

It is filled with beautiful sights and sounds: A candle glowing in a frosted window, hanging stockings on a festive mantle with care, hot chocolate, eggnog and hot buttered rums served after an evening of caroling, neighborhoods filled with colorful, twinkling lights.  The warm feeling of joy we feel when giving gifts, snowflakes dancing merrily in the air, romantic sleigh rides and sneaking a kiss beneath the mistletoe. These are just a few of the charming time-honored traditions families have to celebrate Christmas and break away from all the hype of the holiday.

Some of my most precious moments in time from my childhood are my memories of our year end holiday festivities.  We helped our friends celebrate Hanukkah, and they helped us celebrate Christmas.  My parents created our own custom traditions and I cherish the memories of to this day.  Some have been passed down to the next generation, and we have created a few of our own with our children along the way. 

Creating your own special memories will help make your holiday joyful, less stressful, and revive your family's festive spirit, bringing you closer together.  Here are some favorites that with a few tweaks can be adopted by your family to make them all your own.  They are sure to make your Christmas merry and bright, and chase old Scrooge away!

Deck the Halls
Decorating your home for the holidays doesn't need to fill you with the humbugs. Trimming your Christmas tree, mantle and windows can be a fun family tradition. When I was young, my parents gave their three daughters a pair of special ornaments each year, infusing a tradition that kicked off our holiday festivities, and were given to us when we left the nest. I still have many of the ornaments to this day. 

Back then, bazaars and craft shows were not the popular events they are today. You don't have to buy the standard glass globes each year at the local store. Make it a tradition to attend an annual holiday show and purchase unique ornaments, or if you are crafty yourself, have an ornament making party with your children and neighbors. As your children look at the tree from year-to-year, the ornaments of Christmases past will mean more to them and you'll find yourselves sharing stories of each ornament. Look for a holiday event that also supports a local school, charity or holds a food drive.  It will help teach your child the gift of giving to others. Change it up and select a theme for the ornaments.

As you deck your halls, don't forget to involve your children in helping with the windows, exterior lights and mantle.  While the kids can't hang the outdoor lights, they can help you decide on your "theme" and flip the switch when it's time to unveil this year's theme. Decorate your mantle with boughs of holly and your favorite manger scene, caroler characters, holiday village, snowmen, reindeer or other festive d├ęcor. My sister's family began collecting a Christmas village for their mantle, adding a new piece each year. I have a friend who collects train cars for his Christmas train set that they place around the base of their tree each year.  They take great pleasure making an annual trek to find unique train cars to add to their collection. My other sister collects nutcrackers that she places throughout her home.

Cookies for Santa & Friends
There's nothing like filling your home with the scent of Christmas cookies and baking.  This is a fun activity to involve your kids in, and makes great gifts for co-workers, neighbors, friends, and, of course, Santa!  Choose new recipes each year, and maybe select one that you traditionally prepare every year.  My mother use to make my dad's favorite icebox cookies every Christmas, as well as her pumpkin bread.

Host a yuletide or caroling party and invite your neighbors and their children. They will enjoy spending time with you and have a cup of eggnog, hot buttered rum or hot chocolate along with your handmade baked goods.  Take homemade cookies and bread to the local homeless shelter or nursing home, so they can share in a holiday treat along with their meal.

Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Image courtesy of Dreamtime by Anastasia Bobko
Gift Giving
It's important to teach children the great joy one receives when giving gifts, and not just focus on what Santa will bring.  One of the most magical things about Christmas is it is the one time of year mankind tries to put aside their differences and help those less fortunate.  With so many families loosing their home and job right now, it is vital we bring hope and joy to those in need.

One tradition I embarked on when I was a teenager, was participating in the Sub for Santa program.  Today, there are many local stores and charities that offer giving trees or other ways to help bring Christmas to those who have no home, have lost a parent or whose family is suffering from a loss of income.  Take your child shopping specifically for another child, or donate gently used toys, books and clothing that your child no longer uses.  Your little one will find it an uplifting tradition and benefit as much as the child your family will help.

Another tradition our family has done in more recent years:  drawing names for the annual holiday shopping. Some call it "Secret Santa." While we are not as large a family as some, it does make holiday gift giving fun to concentrate on one special family member.  For large families this is particularly beneficial, as it is far easier on the holiday budget to buy a few gifts for just one person than the entire family. It adds a touch of mystery all wrapped up in love, and colorful paper and bows.  You can add a touch of humor too, by creating a theme for one of the gifts that each person must shop for in addition to standard gifts.  One year we held a sock exchange along with our regular gifts, and found ourselves quite amused by the variety of funny, funky socks we found for our gift giving. Another year it was pajamas, which really produced a lot of laughter!

Our family always read a holiday story on Christmas Eve, and our parents had us open one special gift that night.  Typically, it was our holiday pajamas, though not always! I remember a Christmas teddy bear or two, as well as new holiday storybooks. On Christmas morning, each person opened one gift at a time by going around the room, and we each had to guess what was in the brightly wrapped package.  It was always fun to try to guess what the present was before ripping open the paper.

The Sounds of Christmas
Whatever traditions your family decides upon, don't forget the music of the season!  One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the songs and melodies.

Each year, our family would find and add a new holiday album to our collection of music.  Over the years, we've found some special songs, some funny, some that are so beautiful they bring tears to the eyes. We often create a compilation of our favorite songs and put them on a CD to

play whenever we have guests over during the holiday or give as a gift to friends. These days, you don't necessarily have to buy an entire album to create a great compilation, since you can now download single songs from web sites or full albums.

It seems Scrooge has done away with caroling! These days you don't often see caroling in the neighborhoods, which was one of our favorite holiday traditions. When I was young and involved in Job's Daughters, we often caroled at local nursing homes and hospitals, and in the case of nursing homes, we brought treats. Many folks in nursing homes have no family or their family is far away, and they truly love to have young people around to share the holidays.  Host a caroling party with your neighbors and family.  You'll find it a wonderful tradition! 

As you celebrate the birth of the Son of God this Christmas, add a little spice and magic to your holiday festivities.  Traditions all have to start some place, and there is nothing wrong with adding your own touches to time-honored traditions to bring magic into the holiday and make memories for your children that will last a lifetime.

Wishing you and your family a Christmas blessed with the magic of the season… 
Love, Joy and Peace. Always.

Catherine



About the Author

Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for the family's business, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at www.nwhappeningsguide.com as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.





Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Appy-bies" - The Best Baby Apps for Sleepless Parents

By:  Catherine Pittman © 2015
Download our FREE album sampler!  www.pitterpatterproductions.com 

There is no greater blessing than the birth of a new baby! Whether you and your spouse have already been blessed with a little one or expecting your first child, today's technology provides that extra helping hand parents need to take care of their little angel.

In the new age of technology, parents purchase products and stream lullabies through the power of their digital devices. Now, even your cell phone or iPad has made being a parent simpler than ever before. Hundreds of apps are available for use while traveling or at home-- all designed to make a parent's life easier! You'll find everything from lullabies to the nearest baby-changing venue for when you are out and about.

This article will focus on apps that deal with everyone’s favorite topic: helping baby sleep! While there isn't an app to help your baby sleep through the night or take routinely, scheduled naps, parents will find these apps help you manage getting your little one to sleep!

Baby Snooze
For newborns, there is nothing more relaxing than the sounds they experienced while still in the womb. This app will help your newborn baby feel right at home by reproducing the calming noise of a mother's steady heartbeat, low-frequency "whooshing" heard only while in their mother's womb. (iPhone)

Best Lullaby Collection Free - Best Lullabies for Kids from Around the World
When your baby can't sleep, there is nothing better than the time-proven tradition of lullabies! The lullabies in this free app will sooth your little angel to sleep. Parents can set the time interval or let it sing until baby falls asleep. 16 soothing lullabies, including, (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)

Lullaby for Babies
Lullabies are an age-old tradition and now it has a new-age twist with the use of apps! This lullaby app offers a pre-set timer, choice of songs that is sure to calm and sooth your little one to sleep. (Android)

Baby Shusher
Every parent has at one time or another, spent hours shushing baby to sleep. If you're one of these parents, then this app is just what the doctor ordered! If your baby’s crying is loud, the “shusher” grows louder, and when baby’s crying grows softer the “shusher” subsides.  It automatically adjusts based on your baby's level of crying, engaging your baby's natural calming reflex. Parents, grandparents and caregivers can even record their own gentle shushing sound! (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android)

Zodinplex
This company offers a variety of lullabies, music box sounds, and other free relaxing sounds. Some of their baby apps include: Good Night Lullaby for Baby, Baby Sleep Lullaby Music Box, Lullabies Relax & Slumber, Water Sounds & Nature Sounds, and more. (Android)

Sleepy Sounds
This little app has it all: white noise, lullabies, nature sounds, a calming night-light, and you can record your own music and sounds. (iPhone, Android)

Sleep Pillow Baby
Featured on ABC, CBS, and several radio stations, this little collection of sleep sound suites of four categories includes: Lullabies, Melodies, Nature, Human Sounds and more. (iPhone, iPod, iPad)

Baby Sleep Instant
Parents long discovered that low, monotonous sounds, such as a shower, washing machine, ocean sounds, fans and similar sounds are effective for helping babies fall to sleep. This app contains common household sounds, heartbeats, music box sounds, ocean and water sounds and more. Parents can select the sound and set the timer.(Android)

Baby Monitor 3G
While this particular app isn't used to help little ones toddle off to sleep, this app is for use while baby sleeps! While there are several different monitoring apps available, Baby Monitor 3G has unlimited reach, will work on any network, including WIFI, 3G, Edge and CDMA, and works on any IOS device. This App requires two devices: One stationed in your little one's room and the other located with the parent, grandparent, babysitter or nanny. Parents can also talk to their baby from another room by simply pressing a button, snap photos remotely, see live video to check on your little one--parents will hear every noise due to the baby voice booster. Since we all take our phones and typically a laptop or iPad when we travel, it is perfect for visiting family and friends! (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android)

Whatever app you use to help your little angel find restful sleep, we recommend not placing your device too close to your baby. Our last tip: if using your phone, place it on airplane mode to mute any alerts while the app is in use!



About the Author
Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for the family's business, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. All of our music is available for download at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes (under artist Catherine Pittman) and our website.  Catherine also produces The Northwest Happenings Guide, a guide to events and attractions in Oregon and Washington, and available at www.nwhappeningsguide.com as well as Amazon.  The 2015 guides are available in both print and e-book formats.



Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Daddy's Guide to Lullabies

© 2014 Catherine L Pittman

As a dad, it is important to teach you child life skills so they can thrive.  When your child is well rested, he or she will thrive and you give him or her the wings to fly. 

Music to Bond By
Bedtime is an opportunity for little ones to bond with their daddy. Music as part of your baby’s bedtime ritual is encouraged and beneficial to your little one.  The sounds of music begin teaching your child the world of language, and scientists have proven that singing lullabies can lower your baby’s blood pressure, calm and soothe them, strengthen bonds with their parents, and improve their sleeping patterns.  It is a powerful catalyst for healing, learning, creativity and development.

All of that from one simple song? 

A resounding yes!  Nick Picket, a researcher who published an article in the journal Psychology of Music, said: “ There is something inherently special about music and singing.” Both mom and dad should sing lullabies and bedtime is the perfect opportunity for song and swaying dance.

Music and dance create an incredible bonding opportunity for dads.  Through the power of music and movement, your baby will learn more about you and will feel the warmth and comfort of your arms.  Spending the time to dance and sing to your baby is beneficial for your child and will strengthen the bond between you and baby.

How to Start
When baby comes home, begin introducing lullabies at your baby’s bedtime.  If you feel uncomfortable singing without some type of “accompaniment,” there are plenty of lullaby or karaoke CD’s that you can hum or sing-a-long with.

There is nothing wrong with continuing your lullaby bedtime ritual long after infancy. While one day lullabies will be left behind as your child’s music curiosity evolves, enjoy the time spent with your little one singing lullabies.

What Should I Sing
Babies are attracted to lullabies and rhyming in particular, but any kind of music can be sung to your little one.  Whether you prefer Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, “ or the Beatle’s “Blackbird,” your baby will enjoy the comfort of your voice and arms as you slowly sway and softly sing. You can hum to your favorite classical music, make up your own words to your favorite classical song, or sing along with your favorite popular song.  Anything and everything works. 

Don’t be afraid to belt out whatever tunes strike your fancy, whether you sing off-key or in perfect pitch, your baby won’t know the difference.  All baby will love is being crooned to dad’s favorite or silly tunes.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune or dance on beat; you are showing your baby the joy of music and beginning his or her language skills. You gain bonus points using rhymes and dancing!

Don’t be afraid to change the lyrics.  You can sing, “Baby now it’s time for bed” to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down.”  Changing “baby” to your little one’s name in a song can help grab their attention and motive them to do what you would like your little one to do!  Selecting a special daddy’s bedtime song that just the two of you can sway to each night can become your ending “bedtime boogie” song that signals it’s time to go to sleep. A song such as "I Love Rock-n-roll," can easily become your child's "I love going to bed" song.


The most important thing you can give your little one is your time.  Savor baby’s bedtime while you sing and sway, and hold your baby close to you.  It is time well spent!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spa-licious Gifts for Mom

Spa-licious Gifts for Mom
© 2009 Catherine Pittman

All women like jewelry, flowers and chocolates, but nothing is more unique or priceless than a day at a spa. There is nothing quite like an afternoon of being totally pampered and spoiled with facials, pedicures, manicures and massages with scented oils. It is a "spa-licious" gift for every mom.  While moms love their children with all of their heart, a day at the spa is a gift that fulfills the need every mother has: a few tranquil moments of time cocooned in a pool of relaxation without interruption.

If your mother is like so many of today’s modern women who constantly scurry from one place to another, shuttling kids around and always on the go, then she will appreciate a special day of pampering to sooth her worries away.

There are plenty of day or weekend spas available to spend a relaxing time in a white robe and slippers with lots of pampering. Spas offer a variety of services such as body scrubs, hot stone massages, manicure and pedicures, facials, steam rooms, and luxurious body oils that make the skin sing.

You can never go wrong when you include yourself in the gift by treating both you and mom. Many spa packages include lunch or offer specials for two. There are spas available to fit every budget. You don’t have to find a spa that provides it all if your budget doesn’t allow you to splurge for the big package. 

The gift of a wonderful facial, manicure or pedicure is just as appreciated as the “big package.”  Daughters can treat themselves and their mom to a facial and lunch that won’t break the piggy bank--- and you’ll find the experience is a great way to bond.

If your mother is one of those moms who is impossible to get out of the house, then try bringing the pampering to her.  Massage therapists, manicurists and pedicurists can be found who will come to her home to give a little pampering care. 

If a spa or massage therapist is out of your budget, there are many wonderful home spa gift baskets and kits that offer a collection of pampering products to tickle the senses.

Gift baskets are also an easy gift to make for kids and dad to surprise mom.  The home spa treatment is just what the mom ordered, along with a few quiet hours from the outside world and kids.  The typical gift basket includes bathing products, rejuvenating clay masks or facial peels, body lotions, bath oils and candles and towels to help create a "spa-licious atmosphere. "

The most important thing of all is to give mom Mother’s Day off.  Treat her to an in-home spa and dinner at her favorite restaurant or prepare and cook a special meal of all her favorite things. If there are children around, take charge of them for the day to give her a well-deserved moment of time. Give her this day as peaceful downtime, and it’ll recharge and re-energize her.

Whether her day at the spa is home made or a gift to a day or weekend spa, give her a spa-licious day of pampering to let her know you love and appreciate all she does.



About the Author
Catherine currently resides in Oregon and is the owner, songwriter and main vocalist for her children's music production company, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has specialized in original award-winning music for children from newborn through kindergarten since 1992, and also produces the Happenings Guides and Playgroup Playbook books, available in print from Create Space or ebook format through Amazon.com. Download our FREE music sampler!  The sampler includes songs from all of our current and soon-to-be released albums. Our children’s music is available for download at: CD Baby, Amazon.com, and iTunes.



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