Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Money Matters

I am a stay-at-home-mom and I believe that part of my job is to help save my family money and to take care of the bills. So I am always on the look out for easier ways to manage and save money. 

A big help for me is my "money folder". It is a 3-ring binder with the following: Yearly Calendar, Weekly Planner, Checkbook Register, Bill Tracker and Address Book. This folder helps me stay on top of bills, schedules and keep track of our money. It's very convenient having everything in one place instead of all over the place.
  1. The first thing in my 3-ring-binder is a Yearly Calendar in a page protector. On this calendar I circle all the dates of the year that we are going to receive a paycheck. This helps me decide which bills are paid with which paychecks.
  2. Next I have tabs and for my first tab I use my Weekly Planner Pages to keep track of detailed information for school events, appointments, family functions, etc. I transfer this schedule to a monthly dry erase calendar I keep posted in my kitchen for everyone to see. This way my husband can't say "You didn't tell me!". If he does, I just point to the board. =)
  3. I don't know about everyone else out there but, as soon as I got a debit card those little checkbook registers that come with your checks last me about a month. So, my second tab is for my Checkbook Register sheets.
  4. My third tab is for tracking my bills with my Bill Tracker pages. Here I keep track of when I plan to pay a bill, when it is due and the amount. Once I pay the bill I note how and when I paid/mailed it.
  5. The last tab is for my Address Book sheets. I bought alphabet tabs for this section and print my own sheets to list my contacts and their information.
  6. Add a 3-ring-binder pouch to keep all your coupons in.  They will be easy to find for your next shopping trip.
You can find all the documents I discussed under the "Money Matters" tab above. Feel free to use them to create a "money folder" of your own.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Organizing School Papers

All the paper work and art work that comes home with my kids can be overwhelming at times.  So, I knew I had to find a way to organize it all.  I found what works for me and maybe it can work for you too.

1.  Artwork Display:  For all artwork that we would like to display but can't fit on the fridge, I made a display with 4 nails, 12 clothespins and some twine.  In my kids toy room I chose a wall to display their artwork from school.  I decided to make two rows (one for each school age child).  Each row was created by using two nails and stringing a string of twine (or yarn) from one nail to the other securing the ends with knots.  Then I used the clothespins to hang their artwork.  To make it a little more colorful you can paint your wooden clothespins or buy clips in a variety of colors. 

2.  School Bins:  We have small plastic bins for each child.  The bottom of the bin is at least the size of a 8" x 11" piece of paper and deep enough to hold several papers.  I let the kids pick the color of their bin.  My kids chose dark bins, so we used masking tape for name labels.  I tucked them away in cabinet that they have easy access to.  At the end of each school day we go through their book bags and put all worksheets and artwork (that's not put on display) in their school bin.  I go through their bins every once in a while and toss unneeded and unwanted papers to avoid an overflow of papers.

3.  School Folders:  Keeping track of all the informative papers sent home can be a hassle, especially if you have kids in different schools like me.  So, I created a folder for each child and put their name on it.  I use the plastic/durable portfolio folders with two pockets and 3 fasteners inside.  I like to use page protectors in the fasteners for Lunch Menus, Class Schedules, School Contact Information, etc.  I keep all the folders neatly together in a magazine file right on my desk.

Each day when my kids get home from school we go through their book bags and decide what goes where.  My house is less cluttered and I'm less stressed.  Mission Accomplished!     

Friday, August 27, 2010

Citrus Chicken

Tried the recipe below tonight with peas (frozen, steam bag of course) and rice.  It was very yummy but, I think I should have cut the breasts in half, length-wise, like stated in recipe.  They would have cooked more evenly and faster. 

"Orangy Grilled Chicken," Healthy Recipes Kids Love
By American Heart Association (Serves 4-5)


1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tblsp light brown sugar
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar or plain rice vinegar
1 tblsp olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves


  1. In large airtight plastic bag or glass baking dish, combine all the ingredients except the chicken.
  2. Add the chicken and turn to coat.  Seal the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Discard marinade.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill on medium-high.
  4. Grill the chicken for 15-17 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center, turning once.  Watch the chicken carefully so it doesn't burn.
  5. To serve, transfer breast halves to plates.

School Behavior Chart

When my son began to have a difficult time in school last year I developed a behavior chart for my son (click here or go to "Printables" page) to encourage good behavior at school. We hung his chart on a wall.  Every day that he did well in school he got a sticker  to put on his chart (I found 180 motivational stickers at our local Dollar Tree). Each day he got a sticker he got a privilege of his choosing (30 min. of video/computer games, extra time outside, etc). After he earned a certain number of stickers he was given a reward (toy, book, special time with a parent, etc). 

I also created a behavior chart for the teacher (click here) to fill in and send home each day.  I added clipart of cartoon characters that my son liked to personalize it.  This chart helped made sure the teacher, my husband and I were all on the same page when it came to keeping my son on track at school and at home.  These charts really helped us and I hope they will help you too!

Easy Steak Dinner

Being a busy mom with 3 little ones at home, I am all about an easy, kid friendly dinner.  So, I am on the search for recipes that can be made quickly and taste yummy.  When I find one my family enjoys, I will share it here with all the busy moms and dads out there.

We tried this one a couple of nights ago.  It was super easy and delicious!  Even the baby loved it!

"Steak Night", Healthy Recipes Kids Love
by American Heart Association (serves 4-5)

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless sirloin steak
  • 1-2 medium garlic cloves, halved crosswise
  • 1 1/2 tsp canola or corn oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tblsp light soy sauce (I used regular)
  • 1 tblsp sugar (you could try light brown sugar)
  1. Rub both sides of the steak with garlic.  Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet and swirl to coat the bottom.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Put the steak in the skillet and sprinkle with half the salt and half the pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Turn and sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes for medium rare, or  until the desired doneness.  Transfer to a cutting board.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients.
  3. When the steak is done pour the vinegar mixture into the skillet with the steak, scraping to dislodge any browned bits.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, stirring constantly.
  4. To serve, cut the steak into 1/2-inch slices.  Place slices on plates and spoon the sauce over the steak. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What they didn't tell us...

I have found out over the years that there are a lot of things that my Mom didn't tell me about motherhood.  So, I wanted to tell you, so that you don't have to find it out the hard way.  Here are the top 5 surprises I've had, so far:

1) Your children all have distinct personalities and all respond differently to the same type of discipline. So, you may have to adjust each child's "punishment" accordingly. For example, I thought I had parenting down pat when my first son responded well to time-outs. But, when my second son came along, he just laughed at time-out. He literally laughed while he was in time-out. You could imagine my confusion and lack of confidence at that point. However, after much trial and error I have found what works for him.

2) Kids are smarter than  you think. My son, at 3 years old, told me that his Dad said he could do something if it was okay with me. So, I said that he could do what he asked.  Well, turns out his Dad told him he couldn't.  I don't fall for that any more.

3) You will see, clean and smell a lot of things you never thought you would. Most moms could earn a nursing degree with the experience they gain from parenting.

4) Only you can speak up for your child! You cannot trust the pediatrician or teachers to know and/or do what is best for your child. You are your child's advocate and only you know what is best for your child. Listen to your parenting instincts and ask questions!

5) Parenting is a lot harder than anyone expects. You will have to repeat yourself over and over again.  You have to go above and beyond. You will be pushed to the edge of your sanity and you will still have to hold it all together for the sake of your children.  There are no breaks in motherhood.

But, although motherhood is full of surprises, it is all worth it when you hear your kids say "I love you Mommy!" with a kiss and a hug.  Can life get any better?